Sunday, April 24, 2016

the other night i had this dream

I was at home with the curtains drawn watching TV, the interior of the cabin slightly different from reality but the curtains the same beige, the TV the same. There is a light rapping at the door; I have to turn down the TV to hear it clearly. I go to the door, pick up Josie who is barking wildly, open the door. Outside is a big guy. He looks like the guy in the TV show “Parenthood” who Julia almost had an affair with, and that’s what I am thinking until I realize the guy is a neighbor of mine. I recall some vague time when we met and say to him Oh, you’re so and so, etc., and let him in. He’s come to visit.

I open the curtains, turn off the TV, we sit down. The furniture is in an odd configuration, as in reality, but then everything shifts a bit and a green plush chair with tufts materializes opposite of where my neighbor has sat on the sofa so I sit in the chair. Then the room zooms out a little and it’s as if I am looking at my neighbor from a distance—how did the room get so big? It was never that big. He is still looking and acting like the guy on “Parenthood,” slightly jovial and smiling. Beyond him, in shadows, is another guy and I don’t know who this is, he’s in the background, lurking and pouting, a thin shadow, and then there is a loud noise coming from outside, a jackhammer that sounds a ways off. “Parenthood” guy and I stop talking to listen and say something like Yes, that’s a jackhammer, and it’s coming from his property, they are doing work on or around his house, and oi, the noise, he indicates, but then he’s leaving and we’re at the door—he had a dog with him that stayed outside, a black lab—and there is a large blacktop area around my two garages and I tell him how I paid the woman to just blacktop the drive but then she did all this area up around the garages which should be nice, I say, less mud to deal with and easier to shovel in the winter, but I’m thinking how I never shovel around there anyway.

My neighbor leaves but this other specterish fellow is still around, and then I am in an apartment I have just moved into. I share the apartment with X, from the food co-op in Marquette. She found it, rented it, and it has all her furniture in it and I’m just moving in now after it has all been set up. It’s very nice. Nice furniture. A lot of furniture. Dark polished wood. A lot of glass. Josie and I walk around. It’s a big enough place but there is so much furniture and glass it feels tight and narrow. Everything is bright and colorful and dark polished wood. X shows up and I tell her how nice her furniture is, how glad I am that I just let her move in first, let her set it up, because she did such a good job, and she seems pleased if not a bit smug, too, and I become uneasy, thinking perhaps I’ve gotten into a situation where my environment will be under someone else’s control.

I go into the dining room, which is dark, and flip a light switch, one of many, and there are a lot of lights, a lot of switches. I flip another switch and a set of colored spotlights on a track begin to roll along the ceiling dipping down halfway and then back up, in an arc, and as the contraption dips down it knocks an amber-colored glass off a table and it breaks, so I switch the thing off and go into the kitchen to find something to clean up the glass. All over the kitchen are small colored glasses, grouped by color, but mostly green, an array of sizes, but mostly the size of votive candle cups. The green glass is all around the sink, on the counter, the drainboard, and on a deep shelf behind the sink.

I begin to sweep up the broken glass. X walks by. I apologize for breaking the glass. A teen-age girl comes in. She is X’s daughter, which surprises me—I didn’t know she had a daughter—but we are not introduced. X disappears, the daughter goes into the kitchen, comes out, is looking for something in the dining room. She is thin, has long, straight, light brown hair. I am on my hands and knees sweeping up the broken glass when I introduce myself. I think she is going to ignore me or just grunt some kind of greeting, but she turns to me and says, “Oh, I love your work,” then leaves.

I leave the dining room, come back in. Along one wall is an elaborate shelving unit of iron and glass with attached lighting. I look closely at this shelving, marveling at it. The glass is thick and bubbly, the iron bars sturdy, the attached spotlights bright. On the glass shelves are round glass vases of red and blue and yellow. Long tendrils of variegated philodendron wind around the iron bars and along the shelves. There are people in the room, as if at a cocktail party, every one standing around, small clusters of two or three or four chatting and laughing, but the sound is muted. It is very light. I am looking at the shelving unit. Then I realize, as do others, that a window is talking. The window is at the other end of the room. It is nearly a wall of window, a large multi-pane window that is dark but sparkled with light, as if there are strings of little white holiday lights all around it and behind it. People seem pleased and surprised, perhaps enchanted, by the talking window, but while looking at the window I put my thumb up to my nose, waggle my fingers, stick out my tongue out and say bbbllllllllllltttttt. The window says nothing, or nothing that I can remember, I don’t remember hearing its voice at all, I just know it was a talking window.

The chatting and party atmosphere continue. There are glints of light everywhere—everyone is holding a glass of sparkly liquid. I turn my back to the window, but then look over my shoulder and say, “You’re a pane in the ass.” It seems a funny thing to have said so I start laughing, as does a person near me. Then I wake up.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

teacup candles for two: the musical

It’s predictable: Every year I get excited about something new I plan to bring to the farmers market. This year is barely different, except this: I’ve grown two new selves.

Yes, over the winter, though perhaps it’s a lifetime, I have grown two new selves. These selves are not in and of themselves or together the new thing I am bringing to market, though I suppose there is no avoiding their tagging along, which might be for the best, now that I think of it—but I’m trying to stick to topic here lest all these selves scatter and chatter and we lose the point. Have you seen the “Three Faces of Eve”? My situation is not quite like that as Eve’s selves—Jane, Eve, and Eve I think they were called—came out one at a time, messing things up, while my selves stay within, living side-by-side all comfy-cozy inside my head or wherever, each well aware of the others, and their aim is to straighten things out. But who knows? Maybe there are more. Cecelia, Nanette, Barney Googleheimerschmidt. Who knows what they are up to.

Like previous years, I have no doubt that this something new I plan to bring to the farmers market will fly off the table—I can see it. It is so exciting. I’m doing a little dance there at the market because everyone loves this new something. If this self had a name it would be Optimism. But then—and this is unlike previous years—I also have no doubt I will be struck dumb when this new something does not fly off the table. Yes, I can see that too. I’m not dancing but standing there going “Huh. I thought these things would fly off the table.” If this self had a name it would be Reality. Reality is rarely foreseeable, but I have come to understand that one can make an objective analysis based on past experience and blah blah blah blah blah. Fortunately, I now also have this third self, the Omniscient One, who looks down from on high, sees old Optimism and new Reality, and takes pause. Waits a beat. Or two.

You see, I was in Vinnie’s, a thrift shop, the other day, down in the basement which is kind of dark, kind of a jumble, and I was taking a meandering journey through its narrow lanes shrubbed with stacks of junk and treasure when I saw on a low deep dusty shelf all these glass teacups. Rows and rows of glass teacups. Some with raised clusters of grapes and leafs, some with diamond patterns, cut glass, marvelous stuff. I picked one to buy, brought it home, poured beeswax into it (I’ll leave out the irksome part of trying to secure the wick and the technical part of determining the correct size of the wick), and watched it burn.

Oh. People are gonna love these glass teacup candles, I thought.

But no! At the end of the day I’m going to have 50,000 glass teacup candles that nobody loved but me and I’ll be standing there crying you fool! You fool!


OK. If people don’t love these teacup candles, I will. I’ll make a few, see how it goes.

The morning of the day I was heading back to Vinnie’s to buy more glass teacups the song “Tea for Two” popped in my head, began to jive. I sang it all the way to the river, as Josie and I took our morning walk, and discovered one could dance to it, too. What a wonderful song. It stuck with me most of the day, and I didn’t mind one bit.

So with a song in my heart and my feet on the ground, tappity-tap, I went back to Vinnie’s, bought some glass teacups, and I’ll tell you why they are so cool. They burn a long time (test candle 16 hours which would’ve gone longer but I won’t explain that here and now). They tunnel, leave a wall of wax around the flame, but if you just let the candle keep burning eventually that wall thins and disappears so the glow of the flame emerges ever brighter, and, at the end, there should be very little, if any, wax remaining. (But, as I have learned, that has a lot do with how an individual is using the candle, meaning the length of time the candle is burned each time it is lit. Beeswax likes to take it slow, likes to be allowed to burn without constant interruption. And maybe all that needs more explanation but, if so, email me or something.) And then—the empty teacup can be reused with a votive. Or as a vase for small spring flowers. Maybe a nice little candy dish at holiday time. Or, fill it with pebbles and shells collected along the seashore all year long. Or—buy two and use them for tea, there in your oasis.

“Tea for Two” the original (Marion Harris)
“Tea for Two” violin duet (Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli)
“Tea for Two” accordion duet (Jo Ann Castle and Myron Floren )
“Tea for Two” in Yiddish (Aelita Fitingof)
“Tea for Two” in the movie “Tea for Two” (Doris Day and Gordon MacRae)
Three “Tea for Two”s in one: Oscar Peterson, Johnny Costa, Art Tatum


Sunday, April 10, 2016

cold & snow & the deer ballet with sergei marinoff and ... laura petrie: fouetté fouetté fouetté

In April now here we are and waking up to the sound of snow sliding off the roof schwoosh kerplop & quiet. We are not freezing thanks to the snow, not freezing like those other mornings dawning on a clear overnight with temperatures sliding down about as far as they can go come April; nine, ten, twelve degrees by dawn so we wrap in blankets, sit by the fire, in April, well, nine degrees, it’s cold.

Along the cedars.

Josie goes out first thing as always and now them deer are up close in the yard because, I figure, the short dry grass of the yard and whatever little shoots may be underneath are for the deer nicer than whatever is out there where the grass and flowers are never clipped, just flopping over, laying down to the elements, and them deer this morning—the snowy morning that was not so cold—are near enough to be pets, but Josie is flying, wasting no time, motor turned high and the scene is suddenly little dog sounding like a dead engine rrerr rrerr rrerr tearing flat out against the snow and the deer in the yard in one swift movement going from heads down gnoshing, pawing, gnosh paw-paw to heads up ears up leap pirouette tails up fly, or, is it ears up heads up pirouette leap fly tails up, and maybe I’ve got it all backwards—in memory the deer leap in unison, all happens at once, three deer leaping gracefully away from the cabin westward circling round to the north and east in high long arcs, deep dark fluid against snow-white, silhouettes drawn with a narrow nib, black ink across a milky white Christmas card sky embossed with big fat snowflakes—no two are alike.

The deer stop at the edge of the gully. Josie stops at his own self-imposed edge making an arc now bringing him back to the yard. He sniffs with rapture at mysterious paw circles.

Not even tea yet.

Them deer have left the yard all splotched and messy. I see it when the light comes up—within inches of the cabin the yard has been pawed into a Jackson Pollack. They know when we’re sleeping, I guess, but also I know it’s the Blonde One.

The Blonde One.

The night before we had been watching an episode of Midsomer Murders. These are murder mysteries of the excruciatingly boring kind set in quaint English villages peopled with nuts and snobs, greedy sods, every-day philanderers, blackmailers, and ... murderers. I get a bit impatient but am also hooked, and the good in all this is that I can hit the pause button most any time, haul myself off the sofa, walk away, see what it is that’s exciting Josie, which lately is them deer, though one day it was those wild turkeys. Josie wanted out so I opened the door and out he flew and of course there were two deer in the yard, heads down, gnoshing, pawing, gnosh paw-paw, then heads up ears up leap pirouette now tails up fly, or, is it pirouette leap fly tails up and maybe I’ve got it all backwards—fouetté fouetté fouetté—but the deer spun westward stopping just past the tag alders. Just shy of the alders Josie swept into his arc, rounding second, heading home, when out of the blue north came the Blonde One bounding across right field, cutting through the northwest corner of the infield, stopping on the dime of a neighborhood play where the other deer had been gnoshing, and so very near to Josie, who had come to his own stop to investigate paw circles.

Well now.


Josie looked at the Blonde One and the Blonde One looked at Josie. Nothing much seemed to happen. Josie made a few feints this way and that way. The Blonde One took a step or two forward. Then they just stood there looking around, not at each other, so I called Josie in and we got back to Midsomer Murders. Netflix synopsis of episode 20:
In the village of Midsomer Wellow, someone is killing off the bell ringers of the parish church in the week before a big bell-ringing competition.
At one point I paused, hauled myself off the sofa, looked out the window. There were deer in the yard gnoshing, pawing, gnosh paw-paw.

Live and let live, which may be our motto
but certainly not the motto of Midsomer.

After the predawn dispersion, the deer regrouped at the far end of the north field, walking and snacking along the line of trees that top the riverbank. Josie watched from the upper deck, his head thrust between two slats of the railing, and Elliott watched from inside, hunkered down on an ottoman in front of the sliding glass door. One deer was underneath a clump of cedar. Several times she reached up, stood tall on her hind legs, grabbed a bough in her mouth, hauled it down, and after a second the bough would snap back up, shedding its load of snow over the deer.

View From Upper Deck with Deer.

That day I got a phone call from a woman who said she was from the Kingdom Hall of Something or Other and they would have visited me today but for all the snow and I thought quietly to myself “Thank God.”

And that day Vera Caspary’s autobiography was waiting for me at the post office. The first sentence is: A specter haunts my ego. Later, in a fit of laughter, I had to put the book down. In the 1920s Caspary is in her early twenties working in Chicago in advertising. She creates an ad for a correspondence course in ballet. There is great response to the ad—many want to sign up for this one-of-a-kind course—but there is no such course. Not yet. Caspary must create it from scratch including the instruction manual (currently available on Amazon for $196), the costumes, the phonograph records, the ads—she even creates the great Sergei Marinoff, the dance class master. People bought the course, of course, in droves, and it wasn’t long before Caspary would meet those in the dance world who claimed to have studied under the great master himself, Sergei Marinoff, in the flesh.

After reading the pitch, I’m ready to sign up.

It snowed six or more inches that day, a very wet snow, almost like rain, but not. It snowed and snowed and got cold and colder and then snowed and snowed some more.

Fouetté fouetté fouetté.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

principles of cubness 101

What follows is an email from my father written Monday, October 5, 1998, with the subject line: Principles of Cubness 101. I read this now, recovered as I am from a near decade-long crisis of faith, and feel the fullness of its wisdom. I am not at all sure I have “achieve[d] a welcome peace with [my] emotions,” but without doubt I am closer. During my crisis, which just happened to coincide with my first several years here in the Upper Peninsula, I often claimed to be a recovered Cub fan and made much of the fact that it could be done, that the curse, as I saw it, could be eschewed. But, at what cost? Perhaps it is true that we must be lost before we can be found, for I see now that a “recovered Cub fan” is nothing more than a lost Cub fan, and that to be a Cub fan is to be blessed. Today, as a new season begins, I prepare for the fullness of it, the full range of experience and emotion it will bring, and, if not a championship into our midst, at least—we can hope, pray, and ponder—at least that opportunity for an ever yet deeper understanding of what the bejeebers it is all about. And now, my father.
It is gratifying to observe cubness sufferers moving to a deeper emotional and psychological understanding of their condition. Just as Buddhists strive to progress through the beatitudes to nirvana, so cubness sufferers must labor to emancipate themselves from such false and manipulative concepts as “winning teams,” “losing teams,” and “lovable losers,” the expression of which brands their users as neophytes. The phrase “Wait ’til next year” must be understood as not referring to winning or losing but only to the expected coming of another opportunity to enjoy cubness.

It may be trite, but it certainly is true, to say that baseball (perhaps all sport) is a metaphor for life. And cubness is baseball personified. One experiences optimism and pessimism, elation and dejection, hope and despair, joy and grief. No one or group is a perpetual winner. The winners are those who make the most of what they have been given, who work up to their ability. A prime example is St. Mordecai. His true name was Mordecai Peter Brown. As a child he lost two fingers on his throwing hand in a farm accident. But in a 14-year career with the Chicago Cubs, he pitched more than 3,000 innings and had a career earned run average of 2.06.

When cubness sufferers resolve themselves to their condition, they can achieve almost anything. It is grossly inaccurate to believe that cubness stunts physical, emotional or spiritual growth. In fact, when sufferers move beyond the ordinary, they achieve a welcome peace with their emotions. Nor does cubness stifle sufferers’ ability to contribute to society to the full extent of their abilities. Many have created strong presences in varied fields of human endeavor—for instance, Ronald Reagan in politics, George Will in literature, Bill Murray in entertainment.

The 1998 season provided the Chicago Cubs an opportunity to display triumph at its best and for cubness sufferers to ascend to heights of deeper understanding. For that, we should be thankful.

The Eternal Struggle of Spring



Play ball.