I forgot to wear a belt today

I forgot to wear a belt today and lord was I annoyed. I was constantly pulling up my pants, in fact, holding them up at particular moments throughout my day. It was a relentless bug in my bonnet. When I had a belt, my pants sat exactly where they should sit, as they should, and I was free to go about my business. But not today. I was in a constant battle with the level of my pants!

But then someone noted that and said, “Are you saggin’, dude.” And I said, “What?” And then realized that my missing belt made a fashion statement – by me – that I would never make. Look, I’m all about fashion statements, it’s how we physically speak to strangers about who we are. Long hair, short hair, t-shirts and jeans, bangs and rhinestones, fat ties and afros, skinny jeans and speedos, tattoos, caps, hats and mustachios, blue hair, gray hair and hair nets.

But this? Shit, I might as well pluck an eyelash and poke it into my eye so all day I am constantly irritated by the pain and incessant tears.

God bless the dudes that can pull it off – running down the street with the belt line down around the knees, undies flapping, and hopping as if they just crapped their pants, and yet, looking cool, right on, with this new fashion sensibility.

I can’t pull it off, for a host of reasons, the main reason, I will not be annoyed by myself. I annoy myself enough already.

My evolution of running (aka jogging)

I was talking with a good friend who is going through a rough patch on Friday night and he had just gone running and I launched into a helpful little monologue about how important exercise is to his emotional well-being – healthy body/healthy mind – and all that good stuff and it didn’t occur to me at the time that I had not done any exercise myself for months.

I’ve been a runner, which is a serious misnomer, since I was about twelve or thirteen. It’s a misnomer because what I do is not running, but jogging mostly, sometimes just glorified walking. Unless bears are chasing me, or cops (“the fuzz” as they were known then), I really don’t ever actually run. So yesterday and today I did run (jog), inspired by my own words of encouragement or embarrassment for having talked so glowingly about it while not actually practicing what I was preaching.

On my run today I was thinking about the early days and remembered the first time I set out to run for running’s sake, but it wasn’t exactly that even. You see, I had the great fortune of growing up on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, which is a lake smack dab in the middle of the city, part of a string of lakes actually that include Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and the other one, the name of which escapes me and always has for some odd reason.

Back in those days, and this would have been around 1975, very few people ran for the sake of running. Kids who ran track or cross-country in high school ran and other athletes ran but mostly on or around the field. You could sit on a Saturday in summertime and see few if any runners circling the lakes. There were certainly some, but nothing like the throngs that now pack the paths like some circuitous mass journey to Mecca.

I remember my buddy Ben Johnson, two doors down, and I deciding to “run around the lake.” I put that in quotes because we would never have said, “Let’s go running,” and then run around the lake. In the same manner, no one would have said, “Let’s go painting,” when in fact they wanted to “paint the shed.” To “go running” came about later, I don’t know when, at least within my worldview. We weren’t running for running’s sake. We were running to run around the lake.

So we put on our crappy flat-footed Converse All Stars, which at the time had not yet been inducted as the quintessential icon of alt-rock coolness by our neighbors (who lived closer to Isles than Calhoun), The Replacements. They were simply all we had. Pumas, Adidas and Nike were just about to explode onto the scene, but at this point it was the Converse, or a shoe we called Bumpers, or P.F. Flyers to choose from, as far as I can remember. And they all came in only black, white or blue. Mine were blue.

And then we ran around the lake, which set into motion a lifetime of running (jogging, glorified walking) for me. It’s cool to distinctly remember a day almost 40 years ago that was only unique at the time in that we ran around the lake, and yet profoundly changed my life.

I’m still a little old school (although I definitely wear better shoes) in that I tend to be in sweats – real sweats, gray or blue or whatever, the same style as I would have in 75, rather than any sort of tight, bright, modern, expensive running gear. I honestly cannot imagine my butt in those “pants” if that’s what you call what looks like spray-on nylon. Nor do I think anyone else should have to imagine it, let alone actually witness in real-time bouncing down the street.

I often wonder standing at a red light who looks more ridiculous: Me in my baggy sweats looking like a Rocky wanna-be on his way to sprint up a long flight of stairs punching at the air, or the tall, skinny, rainbow-ed Oompa-Loompa next to me running in place, apparently unable to stop moving lest his legs turn to ice beneath that thin veneer of elastic something or other. It’s probably a wash.

Speaking of ridiculous, I spent a month in a smaller city in Serbia, Jagodina, back in the 90’s. For some stupid reason I got it in my head to go running. Now at the time, this was a place where personal health and exercise had evolved to mostly smoking, drinking and fighting. I took off in purple shorts and a t-shirt (I had not at that time seen a single human being in shorts throughout Serbia despite the fact that it was in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit) and ran by some guys who said something in Serbian, which I did not speak and no longer remember. When I got back I told the people who I was staying with what the guys had said and they laughed. “Fucking purple underwear.” I didn’t run anymore in Jagodina.

Vladimir Hitler (okay, that’s over the top)

Kudos to the Russians for the Olympic intro. God bless ‘em, yes, it was an extravaganza, as it always is. Beautiful and poignant and then, ultimately, please make it stop, super bowl halftime style. But I think they made some recognition of their own not so perfect history, which was good. I’m not sure even we juggernaut Americans would have done so. Some recognition of a not so Pollyanna past which they’ve been prone to as Soviets and now new Russians. Something tells me we would have draped a flag over all of our own ugly past. But there’s still the 50 billion dollar price tag (what happened to that?!), which the Chinese would have parlayed into an Olympic games and then maybe Disney Beijing. Putin’s a megalomaniac, no doubt. And this is his moment. But is it enough? I don’t think so.

But let’s watch the games!

Sadly in the end, Putin will do what Putin wants to do. Shit, Hitler had the Olympic games at his peak and look how that turned out, how history sees it, Vladimir.

But let’s just watch the games!

Fire and Flintstones

I was reading something about the ineffectiveness of various youth programs around the United States and was struck by a thought that rarely enters my mind: oh, t’were it we only had more fire and brimstone! Well-meaning liberals (and some conservatives surely) put their grand efforts into turning troubled and disadvantaged kids around at every corner. And they mostly fail, but that is not for lack of effort. There is such a giant stew of reasons – ranging from rap music to broken homes to lack of jobs to under-funded schools and missing parents – that something like after-school basketball just can’t make much of a difference. The kids spend a couple of hours a week in some well-planned utopia and then the other 165 in reality. And reality sucks for most of those we are trying to help.

But back in the day, see, religion had an iron grip on many kid’s minds. Yes, they were also more likely to be from two-parent homes, the union kept dad working, there was no such thing as thrash metal and Facebook, and watching too much Flintstones was what parents feared most about the effects of the media, but it was the Sunday sermon that often prevented the slide from good boy to juvenile delinquent. The real horror of burning in hell for lifting a pack of bubble gum held some sway back in those days. And while my own opinion is that it was (and is) tall tales long ago concocted by men wanting to control other men, women and children, Jesus man, it worked!

The Blue Light Flickers

Each night I wander
through streets mostly empty
and speak to the lights
at the tops of the poles
radiant and still
measured and steadfast
the voices that passed
reach to my present

How real is that nexus
trustworthy the voices?
Am I just a mad man
who’s made the wrong choices?
Who walks in the night
A ventriloquist of wishes
conjuring dead folk?
Highly suspicious!

Terrorized.
Superstitious.
I walk on.
I watch out.

And in every house
the blue light flickers
casting erratic shadows
broadcasting
transmissions
and jittery realities
belying the stillness
the stilted stiffness
of interest coupled with indifference.

To the history of the dead folk
Hubbard’s among them
first to connect us to
the sound and the vision
Like splitting the atom
breaking the silence
smashing the walls
Severing space.

A fine hocus pocus –
And all the world turned
and focused.

But they’re lonely, the dead folk
The ones that you know
They wish you would listen
Pay a little attention
They know that you’re busy, but, really?
You speak to your gods, you stare at your screens
but find not a moment to say what you mean
to the ones who know you
the ones who know now

if you listen, they will speak
if you speak, they will listen
take time. be quiet. talk. wait.
repeat.

And the other dead folk – the pioneers!
they broadcast the future
to eyes and to ears
like sneaky disease
slips in through the breathing
bypassing the mind
dissecting the meaning.
Red, Green and Blue
is plenty for you
native man
lotus eater.

And in every house the blue light flickers.

The sky is eclipsed
by a star machine
manufacturing gods, heroes and
heroines, heroin, mescaline,
vicodin, maryjane,
alcohol, cocaine,
fame,
ecstasy, baby,
you’ll be king!
A queen.
A pawn.

An old man stifles a yawn.

Beneath my feet the sidewalk retreats
the oncoming traffic of life in the seats
and the chairs and the sofas
the idle, bystanders,
loungers and loafers
(bumps on a log
lumps in a bog)
extinguishing stories
personal glories
and staring.

A fine hocus pocus –
And the world turned
and focused.

But the others, the headmost,
ahead of the curve
who colonized the minds
of the hoi polloi,
they were as surprised as you and I.
This technochimera
spearheading and primitive
could (high)jack right into
primordial you and I
inventing the gaping maw
and glassy eye.

And each night I wander
through streets mostly empty
surrounded by dead friends
and family just waiting
for us to discern
them from the gods,
the gods from them,
one is unknowable
one is at hand.

Meanwhile…

A man suddenly stands,
stretches and leaves the room

a woman leans back
and lifts her arm

a guy rubs his eye
and contorts his face

and I see in these moments
what they’ll never see
scenes in the movie
starring the man who stands,
the leaning lady and rubbing guy.

Watching and walking
I’m on to the next.

Please don’t shut your curtains
Please don’t look my way.

a stump a storm a stone

A Stump

There’s nothing more sad than a stump.
A hole in the sky where once was majesty.
A disk. A flat, ruined, pointless disk.

A Storm

April is the cruelest month
when days in the fifties
are marched back to February
by eagerly unwanted snow.

A Stone

They combed the beach for agates
gathered whatever they found
they named them all agates
then left them on the ground.

the republicans have been robbed!

Part of me wants to say “Hip Hip Hooray for Rob Portman!” The republican senator from Ohio came out yesterday in support of same-sex marriage – which is gutsy in a party that generally thinks homosexuals are deviants, the earth is seven thousand years old, and all you need are bootstraps to be as fat and happy as Wall Street CEOs.

It seems Rob’s son came out to him and that is what changed his mind. This is all still laudable, but when you are unable to have empathy for any sort of person until there is one of those sorts of people in your own family you might be lacking a sufficient amount of empathy. I’m not even sure empathy is what we feel for our own children considering the absolute closeness we feel with them. The sadness and joy we feel when our own children feel sadness and joy seems closer to some sort of Vulcan mind meld than something called empathy.

Either way, I’ll go with “Hip Hip Hooray!” And add, “Welcome to the enlightenment, the 21st century, and common human decency!”

Thoughts for October 6

Follicle Law

Why are there so many men with square-staches and bald heads? They’ve been proliferating exponentially for the last decade. Where did all that hair go? Why not beards? It’s as if a rule were decreed by the king of these things making it illegal or immoral for a man to have some hair but not all hair, and that upper lips and chins must be covered by a thin layer of whisker.

The Mother Ship

What has happened to Uptown? When Prince wrote about it, quite frankly, it was still rather a dump, but the arrival of the much-maligned Calhoun Square kicked off a renaissance that ushered in the unique, chic and local boutiques. Now there’s an LA Fitness. An LA Fitness. And somehow, like a fleet of alien spaceships, great big blocky condominium buildings with silly names are moored all around the place. I can’t see the sense in any of this. Who, at one point, looked around and thought, “Congestion. This place needs more residents.”

Skinny Little Lovers

Prisons provide weights – apparently so the hardened criminals can develop even more hardened physiques, making them stronger and more dangerous upon release. I propose we remove all the weights, limit the caloric intake to reduce the physical mass, encourage long distance running (within the confines of the yard), broadcast only Lifetime movies with the likes of Valerie Bertinelli and Marcia Gay Harden, serve up 19th century romantic poetry if anyone wants to read, and drip a steady stream of ecstasy into the water supply.