Saturday, August 13, 2016

Beautiful Images

Ok it's been a bit heavy on syrup around here, but dammit these need to be seen.

By the way, that last piece about bullies wasn't finished but I had to work and didn't wanna chicken out of sending it. But that's what "delete post" is all about, I reckon.

Paris Hold 'Em

Years ago, I went to hear fourteen cellists play inside a very old, wondrously constructed cathedral on a little island right in the heart of Paris: One might say that this sacred place was built already knowing that fine acoustics would be an endangered thing - among many which cannot be touched or quantified in standard ways - in the almost thousand years before when it was built.

One of the pieces that was played required one of the cellists just to pluck while the other thirteen bowed. This solo plucker was a young woman - couldn't have been past twenty-five. In her less than 10,000 days and nights on earth, she had crawled, walked and run to do this single thing, to pull that string and strings in a way so defined and mesmerizing that with each touch, giant orbs of tears fell from my eyes. Yes. She was that damn good.

I got there very early and had seated myself in the front pew, but needed to see another human's face during this composition. I turned to see wet faces surrounding me. Everyone. Was. Crying. At the beauty hitting our ears and traveling much further in and around than that Hadron colliding thing could ever do.

Big, burly men weeping - ah, France with your real men who cry! And dozens of toddlers were transfixed. The women's tears were spread out like a full house in poker, but with cards from different decks...

The language barrier was nonexistent. But so was skin, skeletons, past, present and the next moment. We all became a singular worshipping organism privileged to hear this winsome girl do what God had called her to do as surely as angels fly.

When it was over, the applause cracked back in nearly a violent cacophony and that, too, was perfection: Our feeble, our only, heartfelt way to say, "Thank you". As she took her bows, her expression was both devoid of false humility and boastful posturing.

"You are all most welcome", she seemed to say. And we all knew she'd be there making the same sound whether we had come or not. It was the card she drew.

This week in New York, a thirteen year-old boy who, by all accounts, was immature and preternaturally innocent, was teased, bullied and, all of that ignored by the adults who were in charge, could take it no more and decided to end his days on earth. Less than 5000 days here and the ache of being continually tormented too much for his soul to bear. He committed suicide. At thirteen.

I wouldn't want to be one of the teachers or administrators at that school right now. Perhaps some of them are equivocating, denying. It's human to resist the notion that we could have prevented such a tragedy. Even among those who loved him most and cared deeply, the frantic, breast beating sense of helplessness must be greater than any we'd care to compute.

Ironically and maybe reduntantly, the name of the school is Holy Angels.

Wait. All angels aren't holy. I forgot. There are the fallen kinds. And more than one at that: the ones who fell because, although they were exalted, still wanted more. And then the little precious ones who fall, kind of like Icarus, if I may swap myths in midstream...

Dear Danny Fitzpatrick, dear boy.

I don't know the name of that composition I heard in Sainte-Chapelle, but I pulled up kd lang singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" from the Juno awards in Canada a few years ago because I remembered its effect on me.

It's not sloppy seconds. It's over 6:00 long and the tears in her eyes at the end for a rightly deserved standing ovation reminded me of that wonderful day I got to hear an angel play her violin: an angel that this world didn't fail, fleece or fuck over. An angel who got to dance with God while she was still here.

I know you're in His big lap now and that all the pulverizing pain that took you away from us - and whatever you were on your way to becoming, darling - is but a memory.

We'll send your family all the thrown as fast as MLB pitchers' fastest pitches and they'll unfurl, please, God, and wrap themselves around your Mama and Daddy and your sister who found you with a belt around your neck and your suicide note.

And we'll especially send them to the other children being failed by adults around them: the ones who were cruel to you. In years to come, it may be that they have nightmares that no grown up deserves and that would be twice the pity.

How did we get to be a world where disability, where different ability, even where harmless oddity is not only mocked but worse than tarred and feathered and, more telling, where the ones doing the mocking are at the highest levels of political visibility?

"The Black Telephone"

My friend Mike sent this to me and his friend Karen sent it to him and I just think it's wonderful and corny enough to make an appearance here at Casa de Lump in the Throat this week.

By the way, this kind of telephone and the experience the kid had with it was a bit before my time. But in the tricky ways nostalgia has, parts of it feel mighty familiar just the same.

A pax on your house, everybody.


"The Black Telephone"

When I was a young boy, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the polished, old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box.. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it.

Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anyone's number and the correct time.

My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer, the pain was terrible, but there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear.

"Information, please," I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.


"I hurt my finger..." I wailed into the phone, the tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.

"Isn't your mother home?" came the question.

"Nobody's home but me," I blubbered.

"Are you bleeding?" the voice asked.

"No, "I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts."

"Can you open the icebox?" she asked.

I said I could.

"Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger," said the voice.

After that, I called "Information Please" for everything. I asked her for help with my geography, and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died. I called, "Information Please," and told her the sad story. She listened, and then said things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was not consoled. I asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?"

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Wayne, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in."

Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone, "Information Please."

"Information," said in the now familiar voice.

"How do I spell fix?" I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much.

"Information Please" belonged in that old wooden box back home and I somehow never thought of trying the shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall. As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me.

Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about a half-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, "Information Please."

Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well.


I hadn't planned this, but I heard myself saying,

"Could you please tell me how to spell fix?"

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now."

I laughed, "So it's really you," I said. "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time?"

"I wonder," she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children and I used to look forward to your calls."

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

"Please do," she said. "Just ask for Sally."

Three months later I was back in Seattle.

A different voice answered, "Information."

I asked for Sally.

"Are you a friend?" she said.

"Yes, a very old friend," I answered.

"I'm sorry to have to tell you this," She said. "Sally had been working part time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."

Before I could hang up, she said, "Wait a minute, did you say your name was Wayne ?" "

"Yes." I answered.

"Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you."

The note said, "Tell him there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."


Friday, August 12, 2016

from Paula

Dear Everybody,

My sweet friend Paula sent me these today. I usually eschew fuzzy wuzzy mass emails but I'd like to derail that absurd, jaded preference of mine starting this minute...

May you each find at least one thing in this mix to affirms, astound, delight and/or just plain inspire you. I found more than a few.

And next I'm posting anonymous orb photos that are way more than random circular blips on a photo.

Figure after the morbid dead dog posts of late, y'all are due some blissful reminders that there is more to heaven and earth than meets the eye, Horatio. (To paraphrase some really poetic dude whose name escapes me.: )



Thanks also to

Over Yonder

Because I'm someplace where I've only got my phone for the time being, I'm sharing this image in hopes that y'all can see the artist's name better than I. I'll post it as soon as I'm able...

It's from the website "Educating Humanity", illustrating an article on life after death.

Because...well, just because, this reminds me of Mama Dog and Mr. Garry Marshall and why the heck not. I couldn't wish either of them better company Over Yonder.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

For my old Georgia Dog

Warning: Mushy homage to a dead dog, written in hopes that it'll sugar and lemon to the bitter tea of missing her. But because y'all have been so very kind both here and in letters to my website, this'll be all I say about her here.

To my good friends who are seeing me through the surprisingly big pain of her passing, I hope I can return any of your peace, acceptance and patience. I owe you guys. Big time. Waves of You

For my old Georgia Dog

The places where you were each morning are and aren't


Between the bed and the bedroom door, just one arm's length for our first pat of the day.

They've disappeared.

I never knew how you didn't have to go outside right away in the morning like the other dogs, heaving that first piss as if a week had passed instead of just a night.

Somehow you could wait for me.

You'd watch, side-eye style, as if whatever I was making in the kitchen concerned you but, after all these years you never asked for much that wasn't me.

I finally realized that the time I spent on the floor beside you picking the flowers of your endlessly growing undercoat were not for you, but me.

You taught me that roundabout zen of one single surrendered moment at a time thing.

You were tricky - in the way of a mystic.

You feared thunder.

That's why I thought LA would be good for you.

But a couple of times a year, we'd have it just the same and your trembling was almost as unbearable for me as for you.

Even the drugs they said would help were less than if I just stayed beside you, stroking your soft head, promising it would be all right.

Our survival kit:

a loud fan, violin music and my voice rode out the flickering lights of scariness.

I think the first two were for me.

You came with a tall tale:

They said you fell ten feet from a funnel cloud, madly stumbling away from it towards the first person to get you in out of that rain.

This from the folks at the little Dixie diner where we met.

They kept you locked in a shed at night, feeding you scraps during the day, still not claimed for weeks until that night I came by and you just found me first, girl.

Everyone laughed as you sat at my feet, right there in the parking lot as we were leaving.

My friends smiled because I'd just been trying to explain that I had so many animals by accident not by choice.

And there you were.

You were almost sitting on my feet, ready for the joke so I rolled my eyes and said, "Fine. Go wait by the car."

And damned if you didn't walk the fifty yards to do just that.

Unless you watched me drive up, I'll still never know how you knew my car in that full lot.

I asked them if I could take you with me.

"Daddy won't let me have no more dogs and nobody knows who she belongs to", was as much of an answer as I'd get.

And even though I wasn't going to keep you, no way, I was calling you Early in my head anyway, and just then, the fry cook said, as I loaded you into my car, "Aw, she's just a good old mama dawg."

I grimaced, knowing that was your name.

Fancy, meaningful monikers be damned.

You were going to be Mama Dog.

The first of many mysteries with us was that I knew you were sick; sick enough to take to the all night vet instead of waiting until morning.

And you were. Very sick. Loaded with a bad throat infection.

And I brought you and all your new medicine back to the house where all kinds of animals awaited our return.

They all loved you right away and that was fine with you - everything was fine with you - as long as I was close by.

You let the kittens chase you and the little dogs boss you and you just smiled up at the horses, perhaps more like them than I could tell. Then.

In the coming days, I put up signs with your beautiful photo on it, convinced someone had to be missing you something fierce.

No reply.

And then one afternoon I was away during a sudden storm - that's when I still left you in the fenced yard when I was gone - I saw the depth of your fear upon my return, your abject fear:

Although I'd sprayed the back door to keep the other pups from scratching it up, you scratched right next to it while that blasted lightning chased you.

I still can't fathom such terror:

You clawed through wood, insulation, wiring and halfway through the sheetrock before I got home to see your bloody paws and hurt nose.

You did that 'I'm sorry' dance dogs will do when they've been hollered at before.

It never occurred to me to fuss at you.

My heart was too busy breaking.

The next week I had to leave town and when I got home, the guy looking after the place told me you'd run away the day after I left, escaped under the fence.

But within a half hour, just as a lump was rising in my throat for reasons I didn't understand, you came running across the wide field, grinning that dog smile you'd be famous for. You never went away again.

And you were there for my fall.

We drove some miles, didn't we, girl?

Three thousand miles with a litter box, through rain and miles and miles until finally we got to the thunder-less land I promised you..

But we didn't know about another kind of fear then, never dreamed it'd visit us, but it did.

And when things got really grim, I would see your eyes looking back at me, through me, really, letting me know you were there for the duration.

I'm so sorry you had to see all that.

And then that time I thought it was ok to stay in a dangerous place so that I would not lose you all, without another place to go, that time his angry hands pressed my face into a wall at the edge of what seemed like sudden death, I saw you watching back, seeming to say, "But if you're gone, then what?"

Fair question. Good enough for us to go..

And we left with the help of angels we couldn't see and one we knew by name.

Even so, you made all landings softer. Every one.

You only wanted those slow walks, the only kind your bad hips could bear, and you only wanted me.

I'm not sure anyone ever only wanted me before.

That's not saying I haven't been loved or even preferred.

But nothing came close to the plain old happy you were just being next to me.

That kitten got big but stayed pesky.

The little frisky dogs slowed down and then all died off.

And your own walk got so slow that I actually thought that if I just kept you at 16 rpm, your years would stretch out into some kind of forever.

But because life isn't that way and because I owe you more, so much more, and because you let me know it was time, I walked as far as I could to the edge of that Bridge with you. And the missing.

Is just beginning...

And because of every noble aspect that you are, I will abide with the best of what you brought to us.

Now, when it thunders, I'll hope that where you are, His holy healing hands are what comforts you.

People lose love in the physical sense every day: It is the nature of our life here in skin.

And I'll see your eyes in every last pet of the day, every time I fill the big water bowl, every time I get the leashes ready for a walk. And in a hundred ways and places you'd be, I'll remember.

I'm not going to say I'll never get a big old dog again.. You lasted years past what they said you would. I'm glad I'm a slow learner. And more so that you were slow at leaving. I didn't save your ashes.

Or get your paw print.

I'll see your smile in a hundred photographs and frame just one.

For keeps.

Happy trails, old girl.

I'll see you across that bridge one day.

Until then, I'll try to remember everything you taught me about how constant love can be.

Happy Things.

.. but first. Al Trautwig.

Envisioning the gasp arising from his solar plexus when karma rings his doorbell.

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