Bringing Down the House
The curtain fell, before intermission. The rusted bar smashed a dent into the stage, nearly smashed the Artful Dodger, and ended our dreams of ovations.
It's been a happy day, Prose friends.
Through shadowed days
hunker while you must,
bear it for a time and dream
of green, barely born,
slipping free from wood in the
fragile sun at dawn: April
I love the scurry scurry pitter patter,
sleep snort beside my feet,
mail alert before the door,
tinkle tags with stair rush,
linoleum nail click, the
eager-for-arrival door leap,
the bowl lap
A Modest Fundraising Proposal
Sanctions are leaving the Russian economy in tatters, and poor Mr. Putin might find it difficult to fund his indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. Granted, it's quite clear that his only desire in life is to treat sovereign nations like spaces on a Milton Bradley board game [everyone: do not explain to Putin that holding Siam locks in the two bonus armies from Australia]. It's also very clear he does not care whether his people can enjoy international sporting events, or fly beyond their borders, or participate in the global economy in any way, or buy luxury goods like, you know, food. All the same, I suspect Mr. Putin might welcome the opportunity to bring some dollars and euros into his treasury; the ruble, after all, might be a couple weeks away from hey-children-make-some-paper-dolls territory. He also really, really, really wants to stick a Russian flag (and perhaps a giant banner of his face) into Kyiv. Unfortunately for Putin, having currency more valuable than used Kleenex and occupying Kyiv would seem to be diametrically opposed goals.
I have a modest proposal.
Putin needs to put himself in the octagonal cage for a pay-per-view MMA bout. Sure, he's 70, but he's a fearsome judo master, and we all know how impressive he looks while riding a horse shirtless (ladies, amiright?). He's just 5'6, and we'll have to cavity search him to ensure he's not trying to sneak in a deadly nerve agent, but Putin's got that crazy dictator willpower, and I'd even suggest a bureaucrat for his opponent: who better to fight than the Mayor of Kyiv? The winner gets all proceeds from PPV sales and control of Kyiv. How about it, Mr. Putin? Call off the cluster and vaccuum bombs; let all those unwillingly conscripted 19-year-olds go home to their mothers. Just fight the Mayor of Kyiv, and if you win, you win the money and the city. I would happily pay $1,000 U.S. dollars to watch the fight, and I'm sure others would, too.
Speaking of which, who is the Mayor of Kyiv, exactly? Let's see... Google... Wikipedia...
Oh. Oh yeah, that'll be fine.
Let's make that PPV buy-in $2,000.
Writer, in the early hours
The morning’s gray. The kettle whistles steam
into the dullness, stillness, piercing through
another winter dawn. Unshaken dreams
still cling to me, my sight and skin, like dew.
The pages hide unfound, unwritten, out
beyond my fingers’ reach. Uncertainly,
I try to catch a scent beside the doubt
I’ve woken with and this still-steeping tea.
But when all’s said and done, that’s what I’ve got:
a foggy dream, this doubt, a morning hope
to hold alongside tea. (That line is not
a real insight: I wrote another trope.)
Stop. Breathe and smell, and sip my morning tea—
my anchor, thing that’s real. Thing to taste, see.
Snow falls into the waves. By the thousands, flakes unify with the water while I sip coffee and watch, separated from the chill by my sweater, the fire I lit upon waking, the tall pane of glass that overlooks Keuka Lake.
I dream of winter because the lake is for summers. It’s not cheap at any time of year to rent a house on a shore: if you’re spending the money, you do it when you can kayak or swim or fish, or at least read a novel in the shade of a tree without the upstate January driving you indoors. My wife and I married within sight of our lake in July 2008; since then, her parents have rented a house on Keuka for a week every summer for us to gather. Those seven days are a highlight of the year because they exist outside of man-made time, without external demands or appointment calendars. There is food; there is love; there is the water. Two million years ago, glacial ice scraped out the valleys that would fill. Since then, the lake has been. Lakes invite being.
We have a couple kayaks and a canoe in our garage where we ought to park a car. Between May and October, I’ll hoist the boats atop our vehicles, lash them down and drive fifteen minutes to the public beach, solo or with the family. We admire the various lake houses as we paddle. Our favorites are not the new constructions, whose thousands of square feet dwarf the family cottages they replaced. We prefer the homes that have been here for at least the fifteen years we have, the old favorites.
“I wish we could live in that one,” my daughter said once as our canoe glided by.
“We could have owned a lake house,” I answered. “I started college as a business major on a finance track. Fund managers make a lot more money than teachers.”
“Why did you become a teacher?” she asked.
“People in finance told me to expect 80-hour work weeks, and I knew I wanted a family. A house on a lake is no good if you don’t have time to be with your family. And I wanted to teach,” I added. “I believe in it.”
My own father passed on lucrative promotions that would have uprooted us from our home and schools; he did, genuinely, attend every baseball game and concert. I understood then, as his son. I understand as a father now, and I hope my children will, too.
Regardless, I chose my path. As I told friends at the time I changed my major, I did not want to dedicate my life to earning more money for rich people—I wanted to teach; I wanted to have a family. These were the right choices. There are good days and bad days, but I do not pine for a road not taken. My hours are meaningful and good. The road ahead has unseen twists and turns, and there may be bridges out. Accidents. I feel optimistic, though, that I can continue to glance in the rearview mirror and see a life well-lived. Be a simple kind of man, Lynyrd Skynyrd sang. Be something you love and understand.
A teacher can live securely, not luxuriously. It is still possible my wife and I could someday retire to a lake house of our own through a combination of prudence and luck, but well-lived lives do not necessarily yield dollars. I am at peace with that truth. All the same, as my kayak cuts through Keuka’s waves, I dream sometimes of occupying one of those homes for decades rather than a rented week. I dream not just of summer but winter days, of that coffee and snow on the water. I dream of watching seasons pass over the water a morning at a time so I am part of the cycle of the lake. Of being there.
On The Satisfactorily Unsatisfactory Matter Of Existing. (Excessively Adult Content, Particularly Near The End. Reader Discretion Implored.)
Arthur Schopenhauer postulated in Studies in Pessimism (if you'll forgive my impertinent paraphrasing) that what we generally view as bad or horrible occurrences are actually the 'positive' element to living, that without things like hunger, heartache and misery we would wither away in a sort of lackluster ennui and quickly perish from lack of nourishment, both physically and mentally, and that time is our one real commodity, though we are rarely capable of appreciating it.
"Every evening we are poorer by a day. It might, perhaps, make us mad to see how rapidly our short span of time ebbs away; if it were not that in the furthest depths of our being we are secretly conscious of our share in the exhaustible spring of eternity, so that we can always hope to find life in it again."
I feel a little pompous and ridiculous for entering this challenge. Others have said what I'm going to say much better than I can, as I've already admitted in the intro. I am naught but a puddle feigning depth, reflecting the sky and attempting to view itself as an ocean. There is no vast expanse, no eloquent soliloquy, no all-encompassing wonder or splendiferous awe in my mildly perilous waters. A sink-hole is the best I can manage. You will not drown in my romanticism but you might sprain your ankle.
...Now I'm worried that you may be getting your hopes up with the promise of colorful language in the title, but alack, my depth contains no Atlantis; no paradise of genius awaits. Give up now. Turn back. It is dark and dank and there are feasibly excessively ugly but relatively harmless eels lurking around the bedrock somewhere ready to tickle the toes of enterprising trespassers. But extraordinary? Me? ...Nay. Extraordinarily ordinary perhaps... Contemptibly quotidian? Intolerably mundane? (Oh I'm halfway decent at a passable self-derogation at least. That's a particularly well-honed talent of mine, I'm quite proud of it...)
So I will make no attempt in this piece to portray myself or my life as outlandishly wonderful, I will instead try to make the preposterous case that the bad things in my life, the grotesquely disturbing things, and even the ordinary dull things, are actually sources of joy after-all.
Firstly, to get the fluffy sentimentality out of the way, so that you know I'm not an entirely derelict headcase, and in order to be perfectly honest, the thing I love most about being me is that I am mother to four rambunctious little earthlings. Though I do comprehend how sanctimoniously disfavorable it sounds nowadays, (in the face of responsible precautionary methods to prevent such occurrences no less) to be proud of something so lowly and barbaric as producing four offspring, they are nonetheless the main source of my pride, joy and satisfaction in life.
But despite it all, despite the fact that I get to wake up to an adorable little beastling jumping up and down on me and saying
"mama! mama please wate up. you have to det up and make mine breakfast."
Despite having staggered out of delectably warm covers (spoiled housewife that I am) and prepared the demanded nourishment,
Despite having witnessed a heart-melting and mischievous smile from the offender and been privy to "thank woos" all round,
Despite the joyful grin plastering my youngest one's face as he hugs my leg "dood-mormim"(good morning) knowing that I'm happy to see him even though he quite obviously has fecal stench emanating from his overnight diaper,
Despite delight welling up in my chest (as I'm dealing with the aforementioned odorous debacle in the other room) upon hearing my eldest son read aloud voluntarily, after all the incrementally good but overwhelmingly flusterating hours I've spent teaching him how,
Despite all of them being graciously sound of body and mind,
And despite having accomplished more than my fair share of the instinctual imperative of sexually reproducing lifeforms...
I am still utterly insatiable.
Oh I've always been a bit too hungry for the various (predictable) intoxicants; Adventure. Happiness. Words. Philosophy. Food. Sex. I always want more than what's good for me. But I suppose that everyone has something. It's like what the fictional character Kenny Ackerman says in Attack On Titan S3:
"Everyone had to be drunk on somethin' to keep pushing on."
In an attempt to break one addiction I invariably move on to another. I've lost 50 lbs of excess fat these past 6 months, but have sprung up other obsessions, possibly worse ones. (My brain is much like this old ramshackle house we're currently trying to escape from, which used to be spider-scourged and after much ado to remove them, in the absence of eight-legged guard-dogs, developed a cockroach infestation last summer...) It is these little troubles and pangs which drive me often to the brink of insanity and disillusionment, but which I appreciate, in my best and least bitter state of mind, for keeping me not only alive but actively living, and granting me the ability to laugh at it all in hindsight.
I don't really know where I'm going with all this (that's the problem with such an alarmingly shallow creature as myself attempting depth perhaps; it gets all muddied. Difficult for us terrestrial lifeforms to do simple things like draw breath, or thoughts, from the abysmal bliss of endless turmoil and existential fear down there...) so I'll end with an admittance.
I feverishly and with earnest disdain for myself wrote a poem the other day. But the subsequent shame and distaste it garnered from my dominant lighter-hearted disposition claimed an ineptitude for describing such slitheringly sickening aspects of my personality and prevented me from keeping it published without explanation. It's disgustingly crude to be sure, but it is honest, at least fleetingly and recurringly honest, to my innermost sanctum. It is also atrociously personal in such a way which causes me to be ashamed and proud of it simultaneously. I derive joy in it's misery. Satisfaction from it's dissatisfaction. Well you can see for yourself. I'll let you see it... Only, if you could find some way to laugh at it (even the smallest of titters would go a long way) I'd appreciate your camaraderie in the endeavor of not taking myself too seriously. Here goes:
My Greatest Vice
I want it all.
Rumbling at the core
With conscience-killing, overweening, brazen craving,
I tasted it;
In mind's sweet glint
I've sweated like a craven bint.
A fatted cat,
And still I yearn.
With dire longing; whims that burn.
Never should I be fulfilled.
Fickle say, or weakest willed...
To want more than what good I've got;
So worthlessly besot...
Yet how can passion be called weak?
My heart clings fast;
My blood un-meek.
From wetted cunt to brain,
I want this want to be insane...
But on it lives if mad it be.
And forces me to see.
Ripped jeans and a sweatshirt,
tapping the cap of the pen,
she sits, stare and paper
vacant, and you wonder what’s
behind her eyes, what plans
or dreams, concentration or
boredom she channels into
the incessant flick of her
pen, purple, as it happens—and
upright now, in rapid, pressed
motion across the page with
ink flowing thick as she
leans over creation itself and
“I’m bad at writing, Mr. Love.”
"You can think. Writing's just a set of skills you can learn, one by one."