Paperback Rider

I climbed on my

pedal powered bicycle

blue helmet like a dweeb

and verily flew down the hill

to the independent bookstore

I climbed off my seat

tied the reins to the post

and ambled into the store

(my bike whinnied behind)


into a store?

into a store

out in the world?

out in the world

the booksellers carried on

their conversation behind plexiglass

as I pumped covid killing goo

and rubbed my simple hands together

eager and clean

eager and clean




I was searching for a birthday book

for my curly-haired friend

(we met in the dorms,

he was clutching The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

I held up Murakami’s new short stories

but it was glossy and unpleasing to the eye and hand

I put it back down

I found instead the Moscow gentleman, written by Towles

a fabulous read I just read

slipped it into a brown paper bag

and was gone

pedalling across town

dodging potholes and pushers

(someone under the underpass was removing the tires of a car)

until I reached my friend’s sunny street



I sat on a rock

and wrote on the brown paper bag:

“Just another paperback book

from an independent bookstore

delivered by a pal

on his pedal-powered bike”

I knocked on his door

and handed him the bag

and the paperback book

had a quick chat

and was gone.


Imagine that!

a paperback book

you can hold in your hand

a bike powered only by my legs

a friend somewhere in the world

and a bookstore filled with books

all still in this world.

Wait, You Haven’t Read Caste Yet?

Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste is so amazing. I’m just returning to it after a fiction detour (I take a lot of those). Check out this quote from a conversation she had with civil rights historian Taylor Branch in 2018, discussing the surge of racist violence under Trump. Branch says, “So the real question would be, if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?”

Leaf vs. Human

who is more intelligent

a leaf or a human?

 

a leaf drinks golden light

cleans air of harmful gas

understands water

and uses all three to make sugar

feeds mama tree

grows in good company

 

a human eats mush

throws applesauce on walls

screams NA NA NA NA

dirties diapers

grows teeth at high moon

NA NA NA NA

trades mama milk for 7-up

gin and tonic

crashes car into tree

 

a leaf does not linger

grows, saves the world

changes colors

and then lets go,

falling in perfect tumble

to the ground

 

a human plants a tree

if lucky

helps a child learn to read

sings at weddings

finds friends

wonders what the hell does it all mean?

begins to shrink

wraps fingers around steering wheels

clings to the bitter end

NA NA NA NA

 

Imagine living like a leaf

knowing which way the wind blows

growing, saving the world

changing colors when it’s time to change

and then letting go,

falling in perfect tumble

flipping slowly in the sunlight

slowmo final flash of color

flickering flipping

down down like a rock lobster

down

singing NA NA NA NA

NA NA NA NA

Hey Jude

Hey Jude

landing on the ground

in good company

Stuff I Think About at 4 a.m.

How do you actually resign as president of the United States? Is it enough to just write, “I hereby resign” and sign it? What if you forgot the period? Or do you have to use an exclamation mark? Can I call you Mark? Are there other verbs allowed under the Constitution? I quit! I hereby Step down? I’m fired? I’ve decided to go in a new direction? Would it suffice to write “I didn’t want this job anyway!” in shaving cream on a West Wing mirror?

Could you, I don’t know, if you hadn’t been banned for life…resign by tweet? What about a post on a social media platform that you just started by Executive Order (where your only follower is Don Jr.)?

What if you took an Ambien and resigned by accident? Are there take-backs?

Is there a presidential big red button or a little hand-held radio, like in “Alone”? Can a president “tap out”?

“I kind of had it made but then I set my own shelter on fire. I’m tapping.”

OK, back to bed.

How Long Will Vote Counting Take?

Breathe Walk Dance

If you are carrying around the weight of the world today, as I am, as the plot takes a terrifying turn with Supreme Court voter suppression and the clear evil master plan to steal the election surges forward…

Remember you need to breathe. If the air is not on fire or filled with smoke, you need to get outside and walk.

You need to put on music and dance, even if it’s your angriest dance.

You need to dust off that guitar or violin or clarinet and just lose yourself in music for a bit.

Not to escape. Ever vigilant. Determined to do everything you can every day to bring the bastards down and save the nation…

But you have to free up that tightness in your chest, a few times a day. You have to stretch with your favorite song blasting.

You have to stop scrolling, looking, listening to it all, for stretches of time, and open a book, and do nothing else. Scratch out a drawing. Pound on some drums.

The purpose of the news is to get informed and then act based on that information. The purpose is not to have a heart attack, not to let your anxiety meter burn past red. The purpose is not to lie face down on the floor, defeated. Know when to to turn it off and heal.

We are here now. Take a breath. That’s your breath. The system of your body is keeping you alive for some purpose. The planets are rolling through silent black space.

You or someone near you is healthy. Celebrate that.

Make a nice bowl of soup for someone you love.

But please don’t carry the weight all day, every day, without music, without breath, without dance, without a walk or a ride or a run. Find a tree. Stare at the tree. Watch the breeze move the leaves or needles. Let your two dimensional digital mind unfold, expand, breathe. Let the record in your soul spin. Hear you heart beat.

We are good people. We are angry. We are strong.

We will eventually make the bastards pay and move past these feelings of desperation.

Sending love from Oaktown!

A Simple Epiphany Would Be Nice

And so it came to be that he tossed upon his gilded bed. And an angel visited him and spoketh thus, “Yo, Man, that sh$% you been doing is so f^&$^ed up.” And suddenly deep in his…well, not soul exactly, but his cavernous selfhood, he felt the stirrings of something new and painful yet glorious. And when the fever broke, he called up ol’ Joe and said “Sleepy…er, Joe old friend, I’ve seen the light! I am withdrawing my name from consideration!” And he called upon his friend Joe and Joe’s friends to take leadership then and there of the nationally coordinated assault on covid. The previous “leader” of the effort, found playing Mortal Kombat 11 in the dungeons, was informed of the change with a post-it on his forehead. By the next day, a national mask mandate was in place, the most generous stimulus package yet was signed, sealed and delivered, and the military were sent into every community to deliver high quality PPE to the schools and nursing homes and neighborhood health clinics. And it was good.

Sochi and the Birthday

Sochi knew his mastress’s birthday was fast approaching and wasn’t sure how to tell her how much he valued her presence in his life. Hmm, thought Sochi. I could buy her a nice present, but the main problem with that is that I’m a dog and don’t have any money. And even if I had, say, a wallet, I have paws and wouldn’t be able to open the damn thing. Plus, being a dog, if I had, say, a crisp 100 dollar bill, I might eat it or bury it out back without even realizing what I was doing. Then I’d stare at my paws and have a moment of canine self-hate, which is never productive.

So there’s that.

Sochi stared up at the couch and it called to him. He backed up a few steps and took a deep breath, then scrambled towards it and hopped up on the couch. Success! Time to think. The mastress was still sleeping and so was Josie. I could make something, thought Sochi. Let’s see, what do I know how to make?

Well, I can’t lay an Easter egg. I’ll tell you that right now. I can’t build a nest either. My idea of that is you turn around twice and sit down somewhere warm.

If I could just get off this…He slid over the edge of the couch and then awkwardly leapt to the ground and walked over into the kitchen while he was thinking. He lapped up some water from the bowl. The water splashed against his furry cheeks as he drank and felt refreshing. He really needed a haircut. All this hair.

Maybe I could fashion something out of hair, he thought. But what? A hammock? How strong is dog hair? Leave it to me to give Mastress a dog hair hammock and there she is swinging back and forth in the back yard when suddenly crack, rip, POW! she’s lying on the cold hard ground and it’s all my fault. Sochi up the river. No thanks.

No, that won’t due. Not until I’ve had some time to research the strength of dog hair.

Well, how about a performance? I could work something up. I used to do a little soft shoe…Perhaps a new song? I’ve been working on one about the virus and all this talk of people being in or out of a “bubble.” It goes like this:

Won’t you join my bubble / won’t you pod with me / won’t you join my bubble / and together we’ll be free

The main problem is that when I try to actually sing the song it just comes out as a high pitched bark. The other day I sang a round, thinking everyone was still sleeping, and Josie came out and opened the back door, telling me to go pee.

It wasn’t that bark, Lady. It was a performance, and frankly I can’t take that kind of rejection, or, like the man said, “Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”

Just then Josie appeared, a bit groggy. “Do you need to pee, Soch?”

I’m SINGING over here. Sigh.

Sochi trotted around the corner and padded down the hallway to look in on the Mastress. She sat up when Sochi entered the room. Her eyes were filled with delight.

“Hello, my lovely beast. How are you this morning? I’m so happy to see you. Come here.”

Sochi shrugged. Birthdays are once a year, he thought, taking a running leap and throwing himself up onto the bed and into her arms. I guess I’ll just keep bringing all this…He moved his paw in a circle, gesturing to his furry face and shaggy body…I’ll bring this all year round.

Happy Birthday Mastress!

Beyond the Square

And then one morning, after covid, after the fires, even after this horrific “presidency,” he woke to sweet, fresh air, dressed for the world, nice pants and everything, and headed off down the street on his bicycle. He rode past strolling, smiling humans and thriving small businesses to his place of work: a building full of people at work. He locked up his bicycle in the courtyard and chatted with Charlie behind the desk, then rode the tiny elevator, with others, to the third floor. Producing a key, he opened a classroom door and began to write a dialogue on the whiteboard. Students of every background streamed in, also dressed for life in the world, and settled into actual desks in imperfect rows and columns. Seyha from Cambodia said, “Good morning, Teacher!” and Ana from Mexico gave her biggest smile, “Hi Evan, how are you?!” Loubna from Morroco followed suit and the teacher paused to acknowledge they had never met in person before and to thank her for how helpful she’d been in the past life, in the Zoom Era. When it was just about time to begin, he looked out at a classroom full of smiling, chatting humans, turned this way and that in random conversation beyond their square of existence.

And it was good.

Becoming Peabody

(Stories for the young of heart)

Mr. Peabody, it seems, was not always a mister, Mister. He was once a boy and boy was he a boy! He was the kind of a boy who ran around half naked and peered around doorways and built castles out of boxes and dreamed of owning a cat.

When Mr. Peabody was a boy, nobody called him Mr. Peabody. Does anybody call you Mr. Peabody? Why would they? They just say, “Hey you!” or “Yo, Little Bobby.” “Hello, How’s my sweet pumpkin head?!”  Well, Aunt Martha called him that, anyway. So, mainly, everyone just called him Jake. Or Jakey.

You’re probably wondering, so, when did little Jakey become Mr. Peabody and how? How does a boy become a man one day? Does he just run around half naked and play and shout and sing until one day they throw a big butterfly net around him and drag him off and say, OK, you’re Mr. Peabody now? Do you have to take a test to become a Peabody?

He didn’t know back then. He was just Jakey back then and the only Mr. Peabody he knew was his father and his mother wasn’t even a Peabody because she was Mrs. Poopyhead.

I’m just kidding! Her name wasn’t Mrs. Poopyhead! Are you crazy? Did you really believe that? That’s terrible. Do you think someone would hold up a nice little innocent baby with a cute little angel face and a little happy twinkle in her eye and say, “Hmm, let’s call this baby Mrs. Poopyhead”? Well, did you?

NO, of course not. You’re a nice person. You were just joking too. Besides, you’re too smart. You know you don’t call a baby Mrs., just like you don’t call a boy Mr., Mister. You call a boy Jake or Jakey or Nico or Gabey or Clark or Samwise or Bilbo or Frodo or Luke Skywalker whatever. You know, kid names.

Wait, I didn’t tell you the mom’s real name! Her name was Mrs. Right. Weird, right? Right, right? Wait, what am I even talking about?

It’s kind of funny because in the romance kissy kissy movies and books they might say, I’m looking for Mr. Right, like there’s one person in the universe that is right for you, but I don’t think that’s right, Mister. I think there might be an animal that’s right for you. Like somewhere out there is a tiger that’s just right for me. I could even call him Mr. Right and I could ride him around town and down the sidewalk and through the park. I could shout, “Ride on Mr. Right!” and everyone would dive out of the way into the bushes with their feet wiggling up in the air and scream “Oh no! Mama mia! A tiger!” but I’d just ride on top and wave and say, make way for me and Mr. Right!

If they said, “You can’t ride him here,” I’d say, “Oh yes, Mister, we have the right of way!”

If they said, “You’re under arrest!” I’d say, “Hey, I know my rights, right, Mr. Right?” and he’d roar, “RIGHT!” and they’d all scatter back into the bushes, feet wiggling in the air.

So little Jakey’s dad was Mr. Peabody and his mom was Mrs. Right and that’s all you need to know about for now, Mister, right? Right!