THE BIRD IS THE WORD

Just what is it about birds? Is it their natural beauty and grace as they extend their wings to soar and glide against a backdrop of sky? Perhaps it is their measured lovely notes as they usher in dawn and bid adieu to dusk? Or maybe it is the way they, just through the process of sheer observation, bring the looker closer to the mysteries of the natural world? It could be, though, that in addition to all of these obvious attributes, I am, with all the predictable messy angst of humanhood, simply envious of birds. All birds, everywhere. Why? Well, for one thing, birds accept their particular beauty; their species driven proclivities; their daily routines and tasks, as predetermined…and not due to ignorant submission or lack of will or power, but because of an innate instinctual drive, which exists free (lucky birds!) from the morass of a mere human’s existential grapplings. Ever since Robert McCloskey’s Mallard family made their nest in the Boston Public Garden, and ever since Mrs. Mallard demonstrated the ease with which Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, fell in an obedient line behind her as they waddled their way through the streets of Boston in search of peanuts, literally just days after they had shaken that off-white keratin covering from their moist wings, my fascination (and jealousy) was established. What, I wondered, did they know–what intuitive knowledge of ebb and flow and rhythm and rhyme and reason–had the birds been graciously granted, that evaded us humans?

By way of contrast, let us peek through the raised blinds of an average human family “nest” on a typical Saturday night (disclaimer: the scene described is fiction; any resemblance to the author’s own life–even if you were an actual witness to the events described–is purely coincidental):

Mom (returning to the nest to feed her young, after a restorative day away from said young, so that she could go winter waterfowl birding without someone needing her gosh darn attention each and every gosh darn minute of the gosh darn day):  “Hi…I am home!  Wow, it is really snowing out there.  Birding was great–just great; I can’t wait to show you the pictures I took of the Snow Geese.  Where is everyone?  Hello…is anyone here?”

Gaggle (well, three- of children):  “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom…hi mom…you are back…how was birding?…the dog peed on the carpet…shhhhh, dad is sleeping….I forgot to tell you, I failed my science test, but it was so unfair….mom, mom. mom, mom…why can’t I play Mortal Combat on the X-Box?  Everyone else plays it, and it is fake blood; the blood is fake…I don’t feel well…uh oh, the dog is peeing on the carpet again; get the dog….”

Dad (from the sofa):  “ZZZZZZZ…….zzzzzzz…….ZZZ….zz…..ZZZZZZZZ……”

Mom (putting her bags down and grabbing some white towels and cleaning spray):  “Didn’t anyone remember to walk the dogs?  How long has your father been asleep?  What’s wrong?  You don’t look so well.”

Dad (disoriented, waking on the sofa, and soon disappearing into the bathroom):  “ZZZZZZZ…what, who, what. where…I’m up…I’m up…hey, mom’s home!  How was the bird thing? Kids were great…just great…wait, I need to go to the bathroom.  Did anyone save me a Ho Ho?”

Mom (on hands and knees cleaning up dog pee, before the puddle starts disappearing under the refrigerator):  “What’s a Ho Ho?  Really (to gaggle), you do not look so well…are you ok?”

Gaggle (cacophony of voices, all speaking at once):  “I think I am going to be sick…me too…the Ho Ho eating contest may not have been a great idea…cupcakes, with cream inside…dad bought us Ho Hos, because we had never had them…I didn’t eat them; too many artificial ingredients…yes you did…just one, because I wanted to remind myself how much I hate artificial ingredients…and he said if we let him nap, we could have a Ho Ho eating contest…which may not have been a great idea…”

Mom (finished cleaning up pee and standing up to efficiently take care of and organize gaggle):  “How many of these Ho Hos did you eat?”

Gaggle:  “Two boxes…I am going to be sick…like now…like right now…I need to get to the bathroom…right now…”

Mom (incredulous):  “Two boxes????  Of cupcakes….???  Are you kidding…???”

Dad (from behind locked bathroom door):  “We had a great day…a really great day!  Did you notice that it’s snowing outside?  I’ll be right out…did you kids save me a Ho Ho?  Tell mom about the Ho Hos….”

Gaggle (opening mouth to answer question put forth by incredulous mom, but, instead, well….):   “sorry…the bathroom door was locked…I couldn’t hold it in….ewwwww….I am so glad I don’t eat artificial ingredients…..I feel so much better now….me too…mom, let me help you clean it up….that’s disgusting….mom, mom, are you ok?”

Dad (finally emerging from the bathroom):  “Did you see the bird?…what a great day, really…what’s that smell…WTF did I just step in….?????”

And so, as I again ponder the enviable ordered existence of birds, recalling–for example–how a colony of western Acorn Woodpeckers works as a single industrious unit to store thousands of acorns in carefully drilled oak tree holes, and how both males and females join together to seamlessly raise several young in a single communal nest, I am again  in awe of the innate understanding of complex social structures these birds demonstrate.  It is most certain that the Acorn Woodpeckers’ instinctual communal living model is free from that dreaded mandate of group habitation, the House Meeting, that I was forced to endure during my tenure as a commune-style living participant in my carefree Berkeley, California college days. The endless, and generally unsatisfying clash of agendas realized as the various house members tried to figure out whose turn it was to wash the dishes; whose job it was that week to empty the garbage bins;  who had allowed the Deadheads to set up camp in our living room, so they could drop–over consecutive days–the last 30 tabs of their acid before heading back East; and who, selfishly and without thought to the feelings and needs of the rest of the house members, replaced the communal pan of premium hash brownies with regular old Duncan Hines.  How trivial these concerns seem (other than the hash brownie conundrum) when juxtaposed with the larger goal of species survival, that is paramount to our avian friends.

Finally, speaking of survival, I would like to extend a world of thanks to the gods for my own personal stash of Goose Island, with which I (pretty much) nightly use to soften the hard edges of my own family nest:

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And thank you to the glorious birds everywhere, flying somewhere, so that we as terrestrial beings may see them….and in our minds follow them….and dream:

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(and, yes, these are my actual photos from my non-fictional waterfowl trip:)

LIKE THE NEW YORK TIMES 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2014 LIST…ONLY BETTER…

Or, perhaps, not better, but…you know…it’s a list…and I am on it…and it’s not a worst of list (because those lists I don’t promote but try to sabotage in surreptitious and borderline unethical ways–just, um, kidding)…ANYWAY…THANK YOU, ELEFANT and all of your wild and crazy (pop culture USA television reference familiar to vintage SNL lovers everywhere–I think) Romanian readers!!!!  You are the BEST…:)

Note:  My book is actually #61 (and there are 100 books on the list), but this is how it displayed when I pasted the list on my blog–not complaining–just sayin’…

Top ebooks 2014
Se termină Duminica, 28 Decembrie

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HOLIDAY HEARTACHES: A (brief) HISTORY…part 1(of 2)

The HOLIDAYS–a time of gratuitous cheer, coerced altruism, and copious amounts of good old-fashioned self-loathing and regret–are without a doubt (but not it seems beyond a reasonable doubt) the greatest, most cherished, time of the year! So, in the spirit of fully, if not somewhat dubiously, embracing the holiday spirit, I have decided to relive (I will be pathetic, so you don’t have to–my gift to you, dear reader:) my worst romantic (read: sexual–because, come on, that’s what it’s in fact really about, am I right?) break-ups EVER!  The post is written in two parts, so that you will be compelled to continue reading my blog…or I will kill myself–just kidding–that’s just a bit of whimsical holiday humor…

Number 5:  Prison Break (up):  There is something just so unfair, so completely counter to the average person’s sense of compassion, almost amoral even, about turning the everyday experience of being arrested in a country run by an inhumane dictator and held for four days under the blaring light of a single bare bulb in a tiny cell with a non-working and completely exposed toilet with the other eleven members of your human rights delegation arrested for accidentally stepping foot (a tiny toe, actually) into rebel territory in the highlands of a certain Central American country before being unceremoniously forced to sign a non-mistreatment statement and hastily deported, into a barely digestible memory of deception.  I mean, really, a PETA activist????  You weren’t even a vegetarian!  The next time you take Ecstasy while your incarcerated lover is trying her best to NOT go to the bathroom for four full days and three (bladder) full sleepless nights, try to use that insuppressible burst of libido to, say, declare your undying lust to a horny local congressional representative who might have some sway over the notoriously nefarious police in said puppet run country in which he or she is—by extension, at least–at least one part puppeteer.  You know, just something to think about…

Number 4:  Camper Van Jam:  You know the perhaps overused and slightly cliched saying that life is like the Camper Van Beethoven song, Take the Skinheads Bowling?  Well, that saying just hit the nail on the head in terms of my break up with, well, let’s just call him THE ONE (or ONE, for short).  I met ONE about two days after I was released from prison–enough time for me to become less sleep deprived and more accepting of the, um, asshole who cheated on me (while I was in prison, that’s right, prison), but not enough time to lose my new super svelte look obtained from my 96 hours of enforced starvation–at an alternative (read: Socialist) book store in San Francisco.  I was speaking to a small group about my harrowing experience, which was most certainly part of a larger conspiracy propagated by the powers that be, to, you know, keep women thin–among other things, and…there he was…the coolest guy I had ever seen. He literally and figuratively (that’s right, both) took my breath away! I mean with his thick leather jacket, tight blue jeans, motorcycle helmet in hand, goatee on chin–he was the epitome of metrosexual, and that term hadn’t even been coined yet.  My friend, breathless herself, remarked, “he’s so cool, it’s like he isn’t even there.”  Right on, sister…So, realizing that this was most likely IT, that I would soon be zipping up and down the hills of San Fran on the back of his like-a-Harley-yet-a bit-smaller bike, Dramamine patch glued to my arm, I decided to make it my new religion (in addition, of course, to my strict adherence to the practice of cultural Judaism) to not screw this up (as I had with Number 5, by being unavailable because I was in a Central American jail cell, that’s right, asshole,  jail cell).  I knew from watching lots and lots– hundreds, actually–of after-school specials as a latch-key kid that the surefire way to get his attention was by completely and relentlessly ignoring him–and I took to that plan like–not to yet again speak in cliches–a skinhead takes to a bowling alley.  AND I could tell he was equally smitten because he completely and relentlessly ignored me as well!  Game on….

Truth be told, I am really just not sure how or why the whole thing ended so abruptly and with such finality.  Perhaps the reality of finally finding THE ONE on this crazy mixed up planet of ours (or, you know, in a sparsely populated progressive (read: Socialist) book store) was just too much for us…the obstacles just too great…the challenges, inherent in not knowing where each other lived or worked or hung out, were just things that we–in the end and at the end of the day (that’s right, both) proved too much to surmount.  But, I still dream of him and what might of been, and in these dreams I want to sleep next to plastic, I want to lick his knees.  I can only hope that ONE is having similar dreams about me, that of all the women he relentlessly and completely ignored, I am the one he thinks about every day when he gets up to pray to Jah

So, there you have it, my heart decimated on the page, the titillating first part of a tale that no one really ever wants to tell…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS:  may they be free of heartache, filled with eggnog, and sexually satisfying (or, you know, emotionally satisfying, if you are into that sort of thing)…

SOLEMN SERENDIPITY

HENRY BRAUN (1930-2014): POET, ACTIVIST, TEACHER, INSPIRATION…

In this letter, dated August 9, 1988, you are sharing your joy of becoming a grandfather; your poem, To Fat Boy, the Bomb, printed in manuscript form (later published as the back cover of The American Poetry Review); your interest in my young adult life…

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GENEROUS AND GENUINE…

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Thank You, Henry–you will be missed…

HOWL-OUT to POETRY

Last week in a mad fury to try and find my long lost passport–both because it may make the renewal process easier and so I can see once again the official DEPORTADO stamped unceremoniously (yet quite officially:) on the El Salvador exit page (though that, dear reader, is another story)–I found, among other pieces of forgotten nostalgia, piles of poems I had written a very long time ago.  I no longer write poetry, but–as I read through this sampling of my past literary endeavor–I was pleased to both relive some of my most defining moments and to see how time has a way of mitigating that seminal silencer of one’s creative voice–the internal critic.  One poem in particular, an elegy I had written for the great and courageous pioneer of Beat poetry–that freedom fighter for independent thought–Allen Ginsberg, reminded me of the important role poetry has played during several formative periods in my life.

I had the privilege of meeting, meditating, and partying with Allen Ginsberg when I was a student at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, started by Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman, as part of the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colorado.  He was inspiring, generous, uninhibited, and kind…a great teacher who, for that summer at least, I considered a friend.  As Charles Dickens so famously wrote, “it was the best of times…”, well…that is it, actually, as it was the very very best of times.

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Elegy for Allen Ginsberg  

(1926-1997)

 

Eleven years before you died

You told me how you had taken Ecstasy

In the unfamiliarity of your rented

Boulder house. At first you felt odd

As your skin rippled in delight,

But then exalted in the plain sight

Of your naked self reflected

In four mirrored bathroom walls.

 

You marveled at its power

To peel worry like paper

From your anxious mind–and how

Like a lover it took you

Back to your own flesh

Allowing an old man, again, to wish–

 

We went back to the party,

Down the winding wooden stairs,

And you asked me of all the boys there

Who I would most like to sleep with.

“Chris,” I replied, and you answered

with a wistful sigh—he was your first choice too.

 

And when death took you in such normal terms–

Liver cancer, surrounded by friends, at home–

It is said you were writing poems

The entire day before,

Dreaming, perhaps, of the perfect boy

To embody the ecstatic Howl

Of your temporal soul

And touch you immortal as you are, after all.

 

WHAT HAPPENS ON THE PLAYA….part of the story (in pictures:)

 

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PAINTED ON THE VAN NEXT TO US, AS WE WAITED TO BE GRANTED ENTRY INTO BURNING MAN, 2014!!!

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THE MAN!!!!

 

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THE MAN AT SUNSET…

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ONE OF MANY, MANY BARS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT…:)

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BICYCLES AND BUTTS–COMMON SIGHTINGS AT BURNING MAN….

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MY NEWW BFF–MONKEY BUTT–NOT SURE IF THAT WAS HER REAL NAME:)

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THE PEOPLE…

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MORE PEOPLE….AT A BAR…IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT…THAT’S RIGHT…PRETTY DARN COOL…

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THE DUST…OH, THE DUST…AS IT SHROUDS THE TEMPLE OF TRIBUTE AND REMEMBRANCE

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THE ART (THE EMBRACE)…

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THE PEOPLE (LOVING THE MAN:)

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THE PLAYA AT NIGHT…VIEWED FROM A DISTANCE

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A SKYDIVER PASSING THROUGH THE CLOUDS AT SUNSET…

 

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HOME AGAIN…*SIGH*…DREAMING OF BURNING MAN, 2015…

IF PHOTOGRAPHS COULD TALK…BUT THEY CAN’T, RIGHT????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIRTHDAY BURN (BABY, BURN)

Another birthday…yet another year…and as I get older, I become more and more thankful for the one thing I can, without fail, count on, day in and day out, through thick and thin, good times and bad…I, of course, am talking about Facebook, without which I would surely not have the courage–the unwavering conviction–to get up each and every day and face the aging world with the grace and humility that comes with believing…truly believing…that I am more loved and “liked” than I actually, in reality, most likely am.  Perhaps it is with this indomitable sense of self, renewed daily–or hourly–or, sometimes quarter hourly even–through a surreptitious yet almost constant connection to social media that I embark with ease of mind and lightness of step on that end of summer pre-first-day of school scramble, that ritual rite of passage, familiar to suburban moms everywhere:  packing for the week-long trip (no pun intended) deep into the dust of the Nevada desert to attend Burning Man.

Yes, I know I am far from alone.  This convenient way to (ditch my family for a week) embrace my own life, nourish my own heart, understand the self I am, am becoming, will become, was once, then wasn’t, will be again (or something like that; it’s a bit confusing, actually) so that I may return to those who need and depend on me as the very best (albeit unwashed and apparently quite high alkaline sandy) version of myself: recharged, relaxed, and renewed.  If truth be told, I am going more for them than I am for me.  Did I already mention that I will be traveling solo?

In the last month or so, and then again tonight (over a bottle of birthday champagne and a few shots of tequila, but well before the post-Poptarts-and-Lucky Charms-snifter of scotch), I find myself marveling at the vast and varied array of reactions and responses that just the mention of Burning Man inspires. Indulge me, dear reader, on this anniversary of my birth, as I share just a few:

Husband: “Are you going to walk around naked at Burning Man? I mean it’s OK if you do; I want you to enjoy yourself and really let loose, so that this experience is absolutely everything that you want it to be. Of course, most people your age won’t be walking around naked…for obvious reasons…um, very obvious reasons…but this is your time to shine…so whatever you decide, I accept and support you.”

Nephew:  “Aunt Leanne is a hippie FREAK.  Oh, sorry, Aunt Leanne.”

Friend:  “So, I looked up Burning Man…I mean are you going to stay in a hotel and drive to that place in the desert every morning?  I mean…have you looked up any Burning Man lodging reviews on Travelocity?”

Another Friend:  “I will be burning right there with you, baby…right there on the beach…by the ocean…my own private Burning Man…”

College Friend:  “too commercialized for me…the end of August, I will be attempting to track down the mostly isolated Sentinelese tribe, who live their righteous unadulterated lives on an Island, between India and Thailand. I plan to learn their hunting and gathering ways, man, and leave this commercialized plugged-in life behind…I mean why watch it if you can live it…you know what I am saying? If I don’t come back, just know that my animal spirit has found its true home, and imagine me as I imagine myself, collecting coconuts and having sex…lots and lots of sex…with the island natives…”

Husband: “You are not really going to walk around naked at Burning Man, are you? I mean, if you do, that is fine…more than fine…it is so totally up to you. The important thing is that you get out of this experience what you need to get out of it…if you can do that fully clothed, well…great! If you need to remove, say, an article of clothing or two, I applaud your boldness…I mean, when in Rome…though the Romans were generally modest in public…I am sure your c-section scar is barely even noticeable at this point, and even if it is noticeable–let’s say very noticeable, for argument’s sake…who cares, right?  You just go girl….”

Husband: “Bring sunscreen. A LOT of sunscreen. I just read a startling statistic concerning skin rarely exposed to the sun, upon first and even minimal exposure…I don’t want to scare you or anything, I just thought I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the, well, frightening fact that I just read…regarding rarely exposed skin…to the sun…especially, it seems, the desert sun…”

Husband: “I will know if you get naked…don’t ask me how–I will just know…”

Billy Bragg:  (who probably summarized the year best:)

“Whoops, there goes another year                                                                               Whoops, there goes another pint of beer”