She had close-cropped gray hair in a pixie cut. A large woman with broad facial features, her skin tones made me wonder if she was Native American.
I often wondered how long her hair would have been, if she'd let it go. How black straightness could've contrasted against her pastel yellow dress, if time hadn't eroded the darkness.
Every Saturday for years, she was wearing that uniform. Standard waitress attire complete with apron and name tag, "Sue," it read in cheap white plastic. I always wished it had said Alice, or maybe Vera, like from Mel's Diner.
Green memo pad in hand, she'd take our order after bringing him a coffee and me a sweet tea.
"After so many Saturday breakfasts together, I don't even know why I write it down," she said more than once. "I should know what you want by now." She'd smile, and there'd be a gummy, pink glistening where her top two teeth should have been.
Her smile was infectious, even for the old man across from me.
We didn't talk much, ever. Our weekly routine was no exception.
I'd usually have a novel with me. I'd read it on the way to town and as we sat in the booth together, waiting for our meal.
He never asked me about my books.
He never asked me about much, really.
I'd wait to begin turning the pages until after I'd placed my order. He'd get the special, $2.65. Two eggs, any style. Over medium. Two pieces of white toast with apple jelly. Grits. Two strips of bacon. He'd switch it up every now and then and ask for some slices of tomato, and Sue would bring that out on a side plate.
Always black coffee.
He drank Sanka at home. He never ran the percolator after my grandmother died.
That was her machine. He made due with the instant.
I often ordered a western omelette.
A dainty man usually sat opposite the aisle from us, in the olive green vinyl booths. I heard he was a university professor, and that he walked to the diner every day. He would always have his face buried in the paper.
He kept his own jar of sugar free jelly at the restaurant. Diabetes, Sue said. He never spoke to us, unless nodding hello or goodbye counted.
We stayed to our side of the dining room, at Table Number Six, one of the high backed wooden booths. Our seatcushions matched the vinyl of his side of the divide.
Olive, or maybe avocado, was a popular color when that place was redecorated sometime long before Carter left Atlanta for a bigger house in Washington.
The floor was weathered and worn; some of the tiles had actually been eroded by the tides of countless shuffling feet coming in and going out. In some places, what once was white had drifted into a chalky black; buffing and waxing were never a priority at the Grill.
Along the walls, framed photographs of football teams hung. They were faded and some were askew; once vibrant prints had rippled to watercolor hues. Looking at them was like hearing almost-familiar lyrics; I knew I should have known the places and the people.
They weren't my places, and they weren't my people.
But they could have been.
The portraits started along one wall, near the front door of the restaurant. They hung over the high backed booths, almost jammed on top of one another in a semi-straight line that ran the length of the old wood paneling, all the way to the back door. Football teams in uniform were posing, year after year. They started off as children, and the frames grew as the players did, ultimately featuring nearly-grown men posing as undefeated State Champions. Interspersed between the team photos were countless framed newspaper clippings.
Fewer pictures hung above the forest of avocado vinyl booths. The portraits were a man's life story, from boy to champion, told in group photos and newspaper articles. A man's success, from star player to team coach, with a pause for time spent studying abroad in Southeast Asia wearing a different kind of uniform.
An actual trophy sat on the counter next to a manual NCR. It reached skyward among packs of Hubba Bubba and Juicy Fruit. Not a spec of dust discolored its golden shine. Ceiling tiles almost touched the crown of the thing, but they dared not.
The owner's son, from little league to high school through college, had gone on to become the head coach for the very same team with whom he'd won so many years ago.
Instead of putting the trophy in a case at the school, he'd brought it to his father, the small business owner who'd supported him and made it all possible.
His dad always ran the register, and he always did the cooking. A tall man with a white crew cut and glasses, his hair matched his pants, shirt, and apron. Marlboro reds were rolled in the short sleeve of his right arm. Like my grandfather, he was part of The Greatest Generation, but Mr. Webb smiled more.
Every Saturday, he'd ask how my Pop's garden was doing. How the breakfast was. How we thought the Team would do this year. How the Team was doing. How the Team did last night.
Sometimes, my grandfather would laugh at a joke the man would share.
How easy it seemed, watching my Granpa talk to that stranger-who-was-not-quite-a-stranger.
How easy it was to turn the page in my novel.
How hard it was to know the man I had breakfast with every Saturday.
How difficult it is to almost know more about the journey of that cook's son, as told in weathered photographs, than I do about that man who lived next door to me for so much of my life.
We didn't talk much.
We never will.
I want to see others do well, just not as well as me. I want to see others succeed, I just don't want them to get there for free. I want to do it on my own. When I make it across that finish line I want the trophy to be mine alone. Offer help as you may like but I will always decline. If I allow you to assist me then I can't say it's all mine. I hate when people do that; take credit where it isn't fully due. I rather you give it all to the other then pretend I did something I didn't do. I want others to like me, I want to be someone they aspire be. I want to be looked up to without being depended on, I want to be the cougar and the fawn. You could say I like to have my cake and I like to eat it too. I like to have the attention of many but only respond to a few. I won't lie to you and say I don't want to be fought over. But I know my worth, I'm a fucking four-leaf clover. So judge me all you want, tell your God that I'm a sinner. Just know that my dirt won't make you any cleaner.
Humidity heavily weighs on me,
as the should-have’s of regret.
Taking space within my mind,
despite no mention of for rent.
Thinking back to last time,
conversation with lack of depth.
I doubt you often think of me,
if you do, I couldn’t guess.
Friedrich Nietzsche: A Life of Passion and Philosophy
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher, poet, and philologist who left an indelible mark on Western thought with his radical ideas on morality, religion, culture, and the human condition. His works, characterized by a provocative style and aphoristic flair, challenged traditional beliefs and encouraged readers to reassess their values.
Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844, in Röcken, a small village in the Prussian province of Saxony. His father, a Lutheran pastor, died when Nietzsche was only four, leaving his mother to raise him and his younger sister. Despite the family's modest means, Nietzsche excelled academically, receiving a scholarship to attend the prestigious Schulpforta boarding school. There, he honed his skills in classical literature, languages, and theology.
In 1864, Nietzsche entered the University of Bonn to study philology and theology. However, he soon abandoned theology in favor of philology, transferring to the University of Leipzig in 1865. There, he discovered the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, whose pessimistic philosophy greatly influenced Nietzsche's early thought.
In 1869, at the age of 24, Nietzsche was appointed as a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel, despite not having completed his doctorate. His time at Basel was marked by friendships with composer Richard Wagner and historian Jakob Burckhardt, as well as the publication of his first major work, "The Birth of Tragedy" (1872). In this book, Nietzsche examined the interplay of Apollonian and Dionysian forces in ancient Greek tragedy, arguing that it represented a fusion of rational and irrational elements.
Nietzsche's health began to decline in the early 1870s, forcing him to take frequent leaves of absence from teaching. In 1879, he resigned his professorship and embarked on a period of intense intellectual productivity as an independent scholar. Over the next decade, Nietzsche produced some of his most famous works, including "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" (1883-85), "Beyond Good and Evil" (1886), "On the Genealogy of Morals" (1887), and "Twilight of the Idols" (1888).
Nietzsche's ideas diverged significantly from prevailing philosophical and religious thought. He famously declared that "God is dead," arguing that the traditional concept of a supreme being had lost its power in the modern world. Instead, he advocated for the development of the "Übermensch," a higher type of human who transcends conventional morality to create their own values. Additionally, Nietzsche introduced the concept of "will to power," suggesting that the driving force behind human behavior is the desire for power and self-assertion.
On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown in Turin, Italy, purportedly triggered by witnessing a horse being whipped. He spent the remainder of his life in the care of his mother and later, his sister. During this time, his mental faculties deteriorated, and he was unable to engage in intellectual pursuits.
Friedrich Nietzsche died on August 25, 1900, in Weimar, Germany. His work, initially met with limited success, gained widespread recognition in the early 20th century and became foundational to the fields of existentialism, postmodernism, and critical theory. Today, Nietzsche is remembered as a passionate and profound thinker whose ideas continue to shape intellectual discourse and challenge conventional wisdom.
A Letter to the Past
It was so worth it.
the fear anxiety
all of it.
the first paragraph for
five year old me
no matter the threats
no matter the lies
he's going to die
you are strong
you survived the scars
the second paragraph
to ten year old me
you are so smart
you talked your way out of it
i know it hurts
put you proved you can think on your feet
you got away
the third paragraph
to fifteen year old me
your birthday will be a celebration once more
you will forgive your father
for not listening.
and you will find Dan
a best friend for life
it brought compassion and kindness
the fourth paragraph
to fifty three year old me
you survived everything till now
this too, your soulmate's death,
his slow decline into depression's madness
is a lesson in strength and resilience
the losses can be over come
the best is yet to come
Yes, every one of the traumatic
in your life brought you to this
of peace and delight
as you are meant
to continue as long
as the words flow
The Four Seasonoids--a Fable
There was once a land where winter came each year without fail and seemed to last forever. And in that place, in that winter, it snowed every year without fail.
The Wintones were mysterious beings, only present in the winter. They looked much like snowflakes, and some even doubted they were any different from snowflakes; some even claimed that they actually were the snowflakes themselves.
This confusion between Wintones and snowflakes was easy to understand, for they began their life cycle only after the ambient temperature dropped below so many degrees and the wind blustered to so many miles per hour. The very conditions that make snow happen and cause it to fly about were what caused Wintones to spring to life anew each winter.
And from thenceforward they thrived. The Wintones grew, mated, reproduced, reared their fluffy young, up to 12 generations before it happened.
It had been written it would happen in a heroic poem each generation sang to the next, the last iteration chanted just before the Great Thaw.
One day, the verse went, the temperature would climb up so many degrees, the winds dwindle, and in general the conditions of winter would lessen and become too warm for snow.
This was what the Wintones, as had been written, called the End of the World.
The End of the World was a very sad and tragic time for the Wintones, for they would see their entire civilization—12 generations of achievements, history, culture, loves and loves lost, and way of life crash and fail, all coming to nothing, as if they had never lived—had never been.
Like all great civilizations, they knew that the day would come—the one they taught their young about. It had been tradition to teach their young about the End of the World.
They also taught them that there would be signs.
When the temperature climbed so many degrees, the winds petered out, and verdancy were to sprinkle its entrance into the world, the Wintones would prove to be an excellent source of protein for the newly arrived angels of death: what are called birds.
None survived the temperature rise, the wind-slowing, or the birds' buffet. The ones that did were any remaining homunculi driven into the ground by the dew that sought the water table below. There they would remain embedded and cocooned, destined to return with the next winter season, but with no knowledge of a previous life.
Thenceforward, the seasons would cycle—to Spring, Summer, Autumn, and finally, again, without fail, Winter, when the Wintone saga begin anew, as if—for them—the very first time, ever.
Although every winter’s Wintones perished, their epic poem survived.
I sing of frost and men, and the change to come
And the erasure of all there is
When lives are lost, gone with the frost
And the Wintones, Death, and Earth become one
When winter came again, there was to be written another passage to add.
There are, for any civilization, historic events. One fine, crisp, cold, blustery winter day, a Wintone was blown north. For miles and miles it traveled on the wisps of the wind, into the hinterland regions which became colder and which allowed it to thrive.
Thrive it did, stronger, more resilient, and seemingly invulnerable. It lived by feeding on its favorite food, snowflakes, until discovering something even better—sleet.
Now it was that sleet seemed to alter its genetic sequences, initiating synthesis of the amino acid Lazarine. This allowed the biochemistry that allowed it to be kept alive when it was caught in a spring breeze and carried south to the land of its extinct forebearers.
There, ancient memories, locked in its crystalline skeleton, exploded.
There, where the frozen pond used to be, sat only moving, stirring, rippling what? There where the snow had sat and hung on branches, green foliage grew from the Sun, which was no longer just a bright spot in the haze—indeed, it scorched down.
And the birds—for the Wintones the End of the World—now seemed more interested in worms and other vermiform constructs, which were amazing in their own right.
And the liquid water, the verdancy of the limbs, the explosion of growth of the grasses, and the heat from the sky were wondrous to the Wintone who had come back home and who now realized there was much more to life than the lives Wintones lived and the frigid world in which they lived.
It was a wondrous world, a new world, an astounding and stunning new dimension of existence. White was no longer the world’s color. He now knew white was no color at all, now that he knew such things as color existed. Blue water. Green flora. Red berries. But he was a guest here.
No! He was a stranger here. And strangers are soon suspected of all sorts of things.
And so it went, as the Wintone survived his own winter’s end in the frigid hinterland and returned home for the aftertime at the End of the World: Spring.
The beings of Spring, the Sprung, were initially very receptive to the Wintone. They showed him the wonders of their world. He made friends. And they never grew tired of his stories of frost and snow and countless Wintones at play in the wintry bluster. And so it went.
One day, the leader of the Sprung noted that the world was getting hotter. Hotter and hotter it grew, until a great malaise settled on the Sprung. They sought the shade, but the shade was too cool; they came back out but the air was too hot. The leader of the Sprung summoned the Wintone to his palace.
"You have done this to us, Wintone. All was fine until you came. I've been watching, and the sun and the air and the draught have come upon us only after your arrival."
Believing the Sprung leader, the Wintone apologized profusely. "Yes, it must be as you say. For when I first came, all was well and wondrous. Now the wellness has soured and the wonder is all but gone. I should leave you immediately."
"Yes, leave!" shouted the Sprung leader. "Go and never return."
For all of the good faith, kindness, hospitality, and goodwill before, these paled to the enmity with which he was escorted away.
He took to a tepid breeze, back to the hinterland, where he thought about things very seriously. He came to the conclusion that it may have been his fault, but it also may not have been! He wanted to see the leader of the Sprung immediately to share his revelation. Surely the leader would want to be apprised of his epiphany.
When he returned, like the Wintones, the Sprung were nowhere to be seen. Instead, he met the race of Summerites, who welcomed him with open arms and wonder. Again the Wintone enjoyed the camaraderie of these seasonoids, and again they tired not of his tall tales of Wintones and the fair Sprung.
One day, the leaves turned colors, the heat from the sky waned, and the lush limbs became scraggly. The reds and oranges had come, then the yellows, then the browns, and then the falling of leaves that makes the branches and bushes and trees desolate, ugly, and forbidding.
And the Wintone being a stranger, the wary Autumnoids there suspected the Wintone is what had brought the falling leaves and the bird exodus to parts unknown, and the color changes from green to red to yellow to brown where everything lay dead, unable to survive past their entire Autumnal world.
For the Autumnoids, the End of the World was a very sad and tragic time, for they would see their entire civilization—90 generations of achievements, history, culture, loves and loves lost, and way of life crash and fail, all coming to nothing, as if they had never lived—had never been.
To them--like the Sprung and Summerites before--it was the damned Wintone who had brought upon them the end of their world, their history, their legacy, no longer to be but a distant memory.
The Wintone witnessed the disappearance of the Autumnoids, down to the very last one who cursed him. “Murderer. Look what you have wrought! Death. Genocide. Oblivion.”
“I am so sorry,” the Wintone said, but before he had finished his apology of only four words, the last Autumnoid was gone.
The Wintone felt he was the slayer of life, the executioner of entire civilizations, and so he retreated into the water table until the degrees fell by so many and the winds began to bluster. He found himself surrounded by many of his kind--fledglings, certainly--but Wintones for a new world. He forgot about the Sprung, the Summerites, and the Autumnoids. He was happy.
He added a new stanza to the saga, and he was revered far and wide as a great epic poet.
I sing of frost and men, and the change to come
And the erasure of all there is
When lives are lost, gone with the frost
And the Wintones, Death, and Earth become one
But the Universe tilts, this way and that
And the erasures that ensue
Follow the frost and verdancy, but renew
And each new young remind us of a world not flat
Silly Little Family
I’m sitting in this auditorium
waiting for my daughter to sing
but I don’t feel like a parent.
I feel like a lost little kid
looking at the happy little couples
with their happy little families
living in their cozy little cottages
with their little mini vans out front.
And the hole in my chest
aches with loneliness.
But then my daughter comes in
walking like a silly penguin
and I chuckle
at our silly little broken family
full of silly little lunatics
who are gonna grow up
to change the world.
The Mystical Number
as the final man
on the diving
has had its fill
and its negative!
take any number
Times the lonely figure
and it all returns in
9 x 1 = 0+9 = 9
9 x 2 = 1+8 = 9
9 x 3 = 2+7 = 9
9 x 4 = 3+6 = 9
9 x 5 ..and on on!
Add a little something
to the back bone
and see what
forms in the
mind and belly
of the beast:
9 + 1 = 1+0 = 1
9 + 2 = 1+1 = 2
9 + 3 = 1+2 = 3
9 + 4 = 1+3 = 4
and more see..?
never cool in
so no sense
- - - - - - - - - -
March 24, 4023
I see that you are intent on making the ascent tonight. Very thrilling!! So I will take us back in time little bit to March 19th for your entertainment. If you check the calendar, you will see that is a Sunday and I should have no business at the Institution. But alas, I work 24/7 and I did go to the Cathedral to prep for the week, and it seems an opportune moment to take you with, in the absence of the Critical 16.
I see you're a little woozy from staying up so late these last few days working overtime yourself; and as there was an ice storm Saturday night, the walk through the parking lot is very precarious in itself-- no worries I will support your grey cells in case of any slip or fall. A walk in the fresh air always does a Mind good. You'll see that we are required to park as far away from the Cathedral itself, so as to not take up prime space from Other Visitors. It's not terribly far, about 300 feet but the wind is howling, the road is unpaved and slick, and both of us frail and vulnerable... paper thin. I had no idea! I myself have lost nearly 10 pounds working these two years at the Cathedral. Sad but true :(
Fortunately, being Sunday, it is not so early in the morning, so instead of pitch black at 7 AM we are comfortably crossing in the dawn at 8 AM. A marginal difference, but the lighting is strikingly different. It is even better at 9 AM. That is when the 16 routinely ascend... It is then that the magnificent stairway which we are now climbing is covered with thin crisscrossing trails of rainbow. It's something to do with the way the long exterior East side windows overlap with the glass rail of the stairwell on the interior. It excites the selected16 to no end, and they lean dangerously over the edge, trying to trace the beams from the floor to the wall to the ceiling, while we do our best to reel them back in.
But we are not so lucky this time in viewing any such supernatural wonders... We have just the plain stairs. A lot of them. I have not yet counted and when I say three flights it seems like nothing... but it's something like 72 steps! Most average adult humanoids are winded on arriving at the top, but the 16 Titans are belligerent and wailing by half way jostling for first place... as you can imagine... and they make this climb every day with us, four times a day....
The top landing affords us a view of the surrounding area. B-- it is magnificent, as everything in this towering stairwell is glass we can see without obstruction to right and to the left. We are in fact surrounded by other Cathedrals! Yes apparently that is the wave of the Future and our precinct is leading the way... The one across the street has a bell tower that reminds us of the passing of our lives at every quarter interval with fragments of the same song; a quarter of the song at quarter after; half at half past; three quarters at the forty-five and the full song on the hour. My associate Larsen knows the tune by heart-- some hymnal, rehearsed on piano, but the words and title forgotten. (Larsen incidentally is on Sabbatical and the replacement is Daniels, who does not know the song but is doing very well at the Institution.)
When we overlook the impertinence of the nagging reminder of the elapsing hours, the chimes are quite beautiful and are in fact (along with the splendid structure of the building itself), one of the perks of working at our location of the Institution. To the far right of the block, just barely visible, is the corner of yet another Cathedral, with a fun house. We take the 16 there once a day, if the weather is nice... for an hour to expend their steam.
But please sit down B-- at the top of the stairs is a lounge. A Persian rug 18x9' and a sofa, as well as a chaise; several opulent plants, the mature expensive kind of palm and jade. Thank you for offering your red cigarette case with scraps of paper to take notes on... I too don't smoke but have always found these packs most convenient for taking along in the breast pocket. I've collected some second hand, as some of the most important people to me have been smokers at some point in their life if not all of their lives. I have had some special relationships, near and distant, across far and recent past, that have made me a better reader than I used to B-- Indeed it's made me The Warp that I am today.
You sit here and catch your breath while I go and take care of a few things down the hall. I'll try to be quick and then I'll tell you a little bit more about this and that. I'll only be gone a moment through these steel double red doors... <3W
♫Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene ♫
♫I’m begging of you please don’t take my man. ♫
“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene…. Jolene!!!!!!!!!”
He screamed at her while pounding a fist against her bone thin chest. One dull thud after another found no response from the small girl. Her eyes were open, pupils appearing to be nothing more than a dot of black left by the tip of the finest felt pen. Soft lips were parted ever so slightly while streams of saliva escaped along the defined lines of her chin. She was not dead, not yet. He could tell by the shallow breaths she stole, but she was damn close, and he wanted nothing to do with the cleanup.
“I’m out, you stupid bitch.” He said as he stumbled to his bare feet, stepping over a couple empty syringes to a stained mattress and sitting down awkwardly. Reaching down he grabbed one worn boot at a time, shoving them on his feet, then standing and running his filthy fingers through greasy hair. His eyes darted about the place as he looked for anything worth taking but he saw nothing. Moving back to the girl, he kneeled and roughly slapped the pockets of the dingy jeans hugged tightly to her thin legs. He found only her cheap cell phone, digging that out, he stood and made his way out of the cheap motel without so much as a passing glance towards the woman. Slowly, the door slid closed behind him before it touched the trim with hardly a sound, then as if from a final judgment, clicked shut, locked from the inside.
The silence within that room seemed palpable, aside from her weak exhales. She laid half naked in the dark, the only light offered by a bulb in the far corner of the room belonging to a lamp without a shade. Her breaths came and went, at times so dispersed that one would believe she had passed, until they would accelerate to a marathon speed, as her body waged war against the dope attempting to murder her. Small, bare breast rising shallowly with each attempt at life while her thin arms laid lifelessly along her side, delicate hands resting beside her black jeans. But the blackest thing in the room cascaded about her hollow, angelic face. Her hair was as dark as the abyss.
♫Your beauty is beyond compare. ♫
“You’re so beautiful..” Lies. “God you’re gorgeous…” Fuck you. “Such a pretty girl…” Go away.
Let me die.
“You could be a model…” Stop. “What a waste, seriously…” Leave me alone. “Other women would kill to be as beautiful as you...” I don’t care. “The things I would do to you…” I don’t want to know. “How much to take you home?” Dope. “Get the fuck in the car…” Help. “Such a pretty little girl…” Please go away.
Let me die.
Beauty, as they say, is only skin deep. But what lies beneath Jolene were the chaotic results of how God, or genetics, ordained her flesh to be. Women of allure are glamorized in life, sought after by both men and women. The latter attempting excruciating rituals and routines to obtain such perfection, and men would throw vast amounts of money, effort and heart ache towards those beings. But woe be to the beautiful if they are born in a broken home. They were crude targets without defenses and Jolene learned that from a very, very early age.
She survived, as humans are designed to do and as many whom faced her trials, her coping techniques escalated from heat, to knives, to drugs. Every aspect of her choices would be tried, judged and convicted by even those that hurt her the most. She had grown to loath the very thing that most envied about her. Just beneath her beautiful skin, she truly believed she was repulsive, and her life decisions reflected such thoughts in a most condemning way.
She had nothing, she had no one.
That is until she became conscious in the hospital bed and a nurse told her she was with child.
Let me live.