Monday, January 30, 2012

Y in "the end of January." (Cracking wise, eh?) 
Sorry, Y... We will pile on some farewell gifts to you: a used VHS of "Captain January," with Shirley Temple and Buddy Ebsen; a little silver pendant of Janus, the god of knock-knock jokes; and a wanted poster for Old Man Winter, last seen on Halloween.

Why, as in Yes! We have qualified for month number two. We have spoiled the year. Peed on the lamppost. Rolled in the cold leaf littter. And only four weeks ago it was pristine. Untrodden as the road less traveled by in a Robert Frost poem.  

Bon voyage! 

Thanks for the ice fangs in the weeds around Spy Pond one cold day, and the common mergansers at Sandy Beach off Mystic Lake yesterday, their white sides as white as fresh paint, and the sunset. "Waterloo Sunset," by the Kinks. A guy was strumming it at Davis Square today. I thought it was a George Harrison tune. He agreed it had that same touch of melancholy. Then, for my 45 cents, he played a Harrison tune: "Don't Bother Me." Very nice. (What?) Very nice! 

January shakes its head. Can't hear us against the titanic BLANT of the liner sigalling its departure.

We have boarded this cruise ship before, leaving old January at the pier, waving at us, holding up the scottie dog and waving his ittle paw as we slip the moorings and the steam horn intones several deafening blasts of farewell.

The captain's name is February.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


i'm writing with just my right hand, the left being occupied with holding a cell phone whilst i wait for an apple techie to tell me how to access a Word doc--any Word doc--without going through this Office setup hell involving dumb web sites, surveys, and updates that won't let you see your Word doc. very frustrating. very boring. i never knew till recently  that brits say whilst rather than while. I am whilsting away a saturday night in the worst way...

Well, that wasn't much fun. Apple help guy (real) kicked me over to Microsoft help line (virtual) who told me first that call volume was unusually high--even though I wasn't speaking that loudly--and then that the department of My Problem was closed for the day. So the hell with it.

Speaking of "hell": Had a dream last night in which my son Matt and I were on a game show (this game show element has been appearing frequently in my dreams lately) as a father-son team. We were pitted against two other pairs. One pair was Rudolf Giuliani and Sarah Palin. The other pair, non-celeb, like us. The object of the game was to keep talking coherently on a particular topic and then lob it over to your partner, who then lobs it back to you, etc. I muttered "Baseball and Art" to Matt before we went on. I introduced us, on-air, to the judge. Apparently doing so broke a rule, but the emcee, slightly embarrassed, laughed it off, noting what a spontaneous fellow I was. Then we began, desperately trying to keep alive a narrative about a shortstop who became a pitcher and then someone hit a ball straight up, sky-high...somehow it ended. I don't think we did well, but we were still in the game. Then one of our opponents introduced himself as hailing from Arkansas, and in another burst of spontaneity, I affected a southern accent and said, "The hell you say!" and immediately realized I had blown it as the emcee turned pale and then bright red and said that that was wrong on so many levels and I knew the show would have to go off the air. Feeling ashamed but taking the bailout of waking up, I did so.

So it's come down to telling my dreams, has it? Well, whatever fits. My resolution to pound out a half-hour entry per day didn't gain much traction, diverted as I was by a pair of manuscripts this month, one about Frederick Douglass, the other about Pompeii. Good topics, but wearying and not leaving me with the kind of clean, beckoning half-hour I required, notwithstanding the time I was devoting to reading the Boston Globe comics and other guilt-making fripperies.

Anyhow, the flat rock has come down for its second skip on the lake's surface, even if it took a phone queue and a dream to guide it. So we'll see where the next one lands.

Meanwhile, here's to the pursuit of happiness. May the whistle be worth the whilst.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No idea

So I wrote to my sister, Doris, after the last rust-in-the-pipes entry, that I would henceforth find a half hour in the day, every day, to bang out an entry in this lately untended Almanac. Why? Because I need to exercise my writing voice as well as my extremities, and because the ground is fertile for good intentions this week, in this first blast of cold air that's sending everyone bundled up into the nearest glasses-fogging tea or coffee shop to make an authoritative to-do in our new 2012 to-do books.

10:30 p.m. is late to be doing this tonight, and I don't have a narrative of any kind, except the poor griot's story of: the day, one half a whirl of the planet, with the promise of a waxing moon. My day was full of minor stressors that didn't do more than bare their teeth and utter guttural growls, but still. Let's see: woke up around 6:50 am, lurched around aimlessly, made Matt's lunch (PBJ and an unready banana), drove him to school because it was cold. (Bad dad? Good dad?)  Had an appt. with a pulmonologist who reassured me that the tiny nodules in my lungs are too small and whatever to worry about. Then back home by way of picking up a copy of Huck Finn for Matt, and into a snarl of little tasks and responsibilities--a doctor's appt. for Matt clashing with a meeting on Friday, but whattyagonna do?--a maimed email account that's too full because I hate deleting stuff, especially George McLean's nature photos--dishes unwashed--work that felt a piece of cake yesterday looking tall and stony today.

But the day ended nicely with "Winter Shorts," five one-act plays at Matt's high school including his, in which he plays an earnest, horn-rimmed psychic being dumped by his latest date because of his annoying habit of finishing her sentences and predicting the next minor event. Very funny. He's got good comic chops. Well, that was 1/4/12. And I went over my half-hour.

Monday, January 2, 2012

O is for Pumpkin

O is actually for October, but if you have an orange and black crayon and write it big enough:

O c t O b e r

—you'll color in those O's and make them pumpkins. How could you not? They are starting to appear on doorsteps, porches, front walks, as if they arrived by nightly migration, descending from the mackerel sky, circling over neighborhoods, and choosing individual houses to drop in on. 

They possess a calm, mysterious, spherical noumenon—thing-in-itselfness, if you will. But their essence is hidden. So what do we do? Cut into them, scoop out their wet, stringy insides, carve a face into their rind, animate them with fire, and set them out as lanterns.

Your mother used to admonish you for playing with your food, but pumpkins are different. They don't insist on being food. They tolerate Halloween foolishness like a small dog putting up with baby clothes. They will submit to the imposition of a leer, a grin, a frown, what have you, with the equanimity of the truly round. Even the invasion of a candle doesn't seem to bother them.   They give up their persistent vegetative state by posing as us. (I speak not of the 1700-pound state fair monsters that are more kin to the pump than the pumpkin. Bigger than any pumpkin has a need to be.)

I started this contemplation of the pumpkin in mid-October. It is now three weks later, in early November. Jacks are still riding the doorsteps with gargoyle masks of surprise, anger, craftiness, serenity, and puzzlement. They have submitted to snowhats after last Saturday's nor'easter...

and there's been barely a flake since. Hi, Old Hatch here, no longer in October; no longer in Nooooooovember (get it? No, longer?) In fact, neither Nov. nor Dec. ever got posted. Sorry, Nov., sorry Dec.  I have ridden the time tram over to January, and the number clicked to a 2, irretrievably. It's 2012, which looks better-guarded with those two black swans, fore and aft, escorting the binary prisoners to some unknown rendezvous. January 2, to be precise: 1/2/12, if you must, the sound of soldiers drilling double time. The first step forward into the big white calendar page. New Year's Day doesn't count, except for the inaugural walk in a festive 54 degrees. A cirrus circus. Tomorrow's a cold one, 1/3, and it's already skating out onto the big white pond. Ready?