Geezers Three

A few new and a few old favorites from “A Geezers Garden of Verses”

Nervous Man
There was a nervous man,
Lived in a nervous house,
He had a nervous dog
And a nervous little spouse.

He had a little tic,
That twitched in every case,
And when he raised his eyebrows,
It twitched right off his face.

He cursed his nervous habits,
And his life of nervous need,
But dared not change them,
Oh no no!
Who knows where that would lead?

But sometime dreamt a difference,
But somewhere saw a start,
And through his dreams and passions,
Was reminded of his heart.

 

My Body
(Sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean”)
My body lies when it feels healthy,
My body’s a stranger to me,
It whispers of life’s limitations
Oh bring back my body to me.

Ohhh, bring back
Flashback,
Bring back my body to me, to me
Throw back,
Fast track,
Bring back my body to me.

It’s weathered my trials and my troubles
It’s been such a great friend to me,
It promised me multiple lifetimes
But suddenly wants to be free.

Oh bring back
Soul black
‘Scuse me again but
I have to pee.
Bring back, with no slack
Bring back my body to me.

There’s no point to singing this ditty,
You can’t reverse time back to youth,
Life’s good but it ain’t always pretty
Much better when you face the truth.

Ohhhhh, let go,
Go slow,
Beauty is something to stop and see,
Joy knows,
Aches go
Along with the license to see.

 

Trumtpy Dumpty
Trumpty Dumpty
Sat on his Wall,
Trumpty Dumpty
Had a great fall.

All Twitter’s forces
And all the smart set,
Couldn’t find Trumpty
Without internet.

 

Small Complaint
I have this little ear thing,
It makes me kind of deaf.
If you would like to reach me,
Speak not unto my left.

My right-hand side still hears okay,
Except upon occasion,
When I don’t like the things you say
And need a quick evasion.

I have this little knee thing,
A teeny, weeny pain.
It hurts me when I’m walking,
From jogging I refrain.

And swimming, yoga, making love,
Can’t stand that little ache,
My choice is keep on truckin’
Or start to plan the wake.

I have this little defect
I can’t remember words,
Like regiment and labrynthe,
My speech is quite absurd.

I know it’s not dementia,
My mind is like a trap.
The words get trapped ‘tween
Brain and tongue,
And fear to leap the gap.

 

And now for a few old favorites…

I’m a little teapot
I’m a little teapot
Short and stout,
Last night I was Moses
Speaking on the Mount,
Increasingly these episodes
Are what I am about,
Don’t tip me over
I’m filled with doubt.

 

Mrs. Muffet
Mrs. Muffet
Had a fat tuffet
When people commented
She told them to “Stuff it”.
Along came a spider,
Decided to ride her,
She smashed that arachnid
Like a supercollider.

 

Wee Willie Winkie
Wee Willie Winkie
Runs through the town,
Upstairs, downstairs
In his nightgown.

Is anybody watching him?
Where the Hell’s his nurse?
Somebody call 911,
Old age is a curse.

 

Mary had a Nurse’s Aide
Mary had a nurse’s aide
His skin was black and glowed,
And everywhere that Mary went
Her aide was sure to go.

He followed her to vote one day
Which was against the rule,
It made poll workers laugh and say
“You can’t vote here you fool!”

 

Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe,
Her social security
Hadn’t come through.
The government told her
It had no more bread,
She whipped them all soundly
And sent them to bed.

Artificial Intelligence is Neither Artificial Nor Intelligent

We invented it. Right?

So much for the artificial part.

And please don’t insult my intelligence by calling it intelligent.

But, here’s an example of how we might have thought it was both artificial and intelligent. Doctors these days are specialists. We have sooo much knowledge about the human body (slightly less about cats) that it’s impossible for one doctor to spend a lifetime to learn it all. So, there’s one guy who kind of knows about the various parts and the problems the body encounters (he’s called a GP which stands for Generic Problem-solver) and he looks at you and then looks into his phone to get the number of the guy who knows more about whatever you came in complaining about than he does. And then he sends you to him. The economics work because each time a doctor looks into his phone to get a number, he gets paid.

But the GP is at the bottom of the ladder and so he’s kind of looked down upon by doctors who have spent their lives studying everything about index fingers, for instance. You can do a whole post graduate study and research on index fingers to become an indexologist. So, if you’re just a normal person with a sore index finger, the GP will send you to the indexologist and they both get paid. Nice, right? And then up and up through the layers of doctors until you find the doctor who can finally diagnose the problem, that your fingernail needs clipping.

So, this is the pyramid of human intelligence. Everyone knows just their own little bit. And these pyramids have solved a lot of things. But when one person dies or gets Alzheimers his little part of it may disappear.

Think of the actual pyramids. Someone built them, individuals together knew each inch of how they were engineered, but all we have today is a nice pile of stones and a lot of questions. That particular pyramid of knowledge is all top and no bottom.

It’s the same with so-called artificial intelligence. Someone invented a language that would instruct computers to stand on the back of a heaving pachyderm, for instance. And when you give those words to a computer that understands it, they do indeed stand on Dumbo’s back. The computer is then labelled as “pretty smart” by the guy who invented the language and by other humans who think that the guy who invented the language is pretty smart, and Dumbo is well, Dumbo. This is how pachyderms lose their place in the pecking order. But that is not what I’m writing about today.

Now here’s the rub. Other humans learn the language that the guy invented but they use it slightly differently to program the computer to jump through flaming hoops, for instance, and then slightly differently again to stand with dogs in a line on their hind feet, and then slightly differently yet again to salt peanuts. In fact, they use the language to get the computer to do so many circus tricks, that they get the Nobel Peace Prize for Ringmasters.

But, and here’s the problem, they change the language the first guy invented just a little bit…a tiny little twist to fit their needs, so that when the first guy said jump and the computer jumped on Dumbo’s back, the second guy has changed it to “jup” and the computer will grab the hands of its partner and fling itself from one trapeze to another without a net. Cool right? Except the guy who got it to jump on Dumbo’s back, way back when, is dead or gone or forgot how he did it. He’s human after all, and he was using pick-up sticks to figure the right probability and they don’t make pick up sticks any more. Either way, the path is lost. But the computer remembers. Yes, we still have a computer that under certain conditions will jump on the backs of pachyderms.

Now, what if you bought one of those computers. And what if the company you bought it from feels that computer does so many things that it‘s starting to confuse people who for the most part are analog thinkers. So, they hire a bunch of people and put them in a call center and they try and teach them all to be GPs.

“I don’t know,” they say when you call and your laptop is stuck between the legs of a pachyderm. But they look into their iphone and transfer you to someone who might know more. So, the knowledge that one guy invented and got a prize for and others thought was cool, and then someone else made a business plan of and sold computers to other humans that did those intelligent things, is now fungible. It might exist or then again it might not.

At some point it was real. At some point it was intelligent. Someone made it jump, but it wasn’t you and the computer you bought to make it jump can’t do it anymore, or only under certain circumstances. But it CAN do operations on the hind legs of dogs to make them easier to train. It’s only artificial to you because you didn’t invent it and you don’t understand it or what it takes to accomplish its tasks, so it is artificial to you, and authentic only to the man who invented it, who has forgotten. It was intelligence, but let’s be real, it’s not YOUR intelligence and it’s not the phone operator/ help desk man’s intelligence even though he was trained to be nice when they told you this and it’s not even the computer company’s intelligence. So, it is labelled artificial intelligence.

Do you follow?

Humans need other humans to put together enough intelligence to do intelligent things. That’s the way it is. Let’s face it, left to our own devices we’ll stick marshmallow peeps up our noses. That’s true artificial intelligence.

Seeing Eye Man

IMG_1557

My little dog Charlo has gone blind. Something called SARDS—Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome. My wife says it’s the paint stripper I put on the landing, he probably got some on his paws. The doctor just says, it happens to some dogs as they age. They can go blind in as little as 2-3 days. He might have been blind for a while before we caught it. We took him on vacation and he started running into things. Perhaps he knew the lay of the land at home, but in a new space he was out of his element.

Now taking him out on walks is a whole new ballgame. He follows the scent trails on a completely empty sidewalk. They mosey here and there and he follows it like it’s gold. Nothing is there to the naked eye. Perhaps someone dropped a half-eaten McDonalds French Fry there in 1979. But he still smells it. My little white lapdog has become a rabid bloodhound.

They say dogs have an amazing sense of smell. Maybe it’s the 300 million olfactory receptors they have in their noses compared to our six million. Or the fact that the part of the dog’s brain that analyzes smells is 40 times greater than ours. They actually have a whole separate passageway for odors. We share ours with our mouth. Either way, his nose is now clearly his sense of choice. It leads him on.

Can he smell cement? He’s blind but somehow he knows the difference between the cement curb that is coming up vs. the asphalt road he is crossing. He steps up to the curb without missing a beat. How does he do that? Sometimes I think that maybe the bottom half of his retinas still work, but I know that makes no sense.

We are now more linked. Instead of just a curious dog on one end of a leash and his iphone zombie owner on the other, we are now focused on the task at hand, like one organism. And it is glorious.  We find the sun, we find the dirt patches for pooping, we follow the most curious trails. How did our neighbor’s yard suddenly get so interesting? There’s a smell trail I can’t see that meanders over towards the rose bush, but if he gets that far, I have to pull him back so he doesn’t poke his nose.

I have taken to giving him instructions with the leash as if he is a horse: pull up to jump the curb when I worry that he doesn’t see it, pull left around that garbage can, since he can’t see that it is right in his path on the sidewalk, etc.

Charlo seems to have no distress or subconscious angst about being blind. In fact, I’m not sure he is fully aware of it.  He still trots along, head held high, taking the lead down the sidewalk he can’t see. On the rare occasion that I’m not watching and he runs into a branch across the way, he simply does a doggy double take, realizes there’s something in his path, picks his way around it and moves on just as confidently.

This mid-winter morning it’s cold and naked and dead. We never walk the block from Prospect St. to Washington on Depew. It is filled with too many food bits and garbage. What is it about this block that makes people want to fling old overflowing refried beans containers from cars? Is there something about the hedges there that hide crap better than those higher or lower on the street? Maybe the neighbors just don’t care here and so are fine with leaving things to rot. If I had an entire happy meal shoved under my hedges, I would pick it up and put it in the trash.

But today, the sidewalk that leads to this block is better cleared of snow, so begrudgingly we turn up it. Of course, the first thing I spy is a full loaf of bread in a plastic bag and think oh my god, Charlo will have a field day. But he misses it entirely and goes nosing about two feet up from it. I want to tell him, Buddy, you’re missing the big bonanza, but he is super busy.

Then he finds something, he thinks. He is shaking with anticipation like a drug addict. It is on the grass strip under the snow. He buries his nose in it, digging beneath the slight snow cover into the soil. Noses here, noses there. I can’t pull him back from it, he uses all his energy to plunge his nose into the dirt hole he has created. “Come on, Charlo,” let’s go!”  I’m dragging him by the leash.

Finally he unearths something, it might be…what is it? Yes, I think it is!  He chews it and it crunches. A tiny year-old dog turd. Yechhh.

Since Charlo’s sense of smell has sharpened, so has mine. I lift my nose as we walk, wondering even in mid-winter, does this non-descript hedge bush with tiny leaves have a smell I somehow have been missing all these years? I long sometimes to get down on my knees and follow the invisible trail he is tracking right into the center of the road. He’s certainly a more dangerous companion blind. And I must play my part and be his seeing eye man.

He’s also gained a late yen for adventure. His nose will take him places he would never dream of going when he was sighted. And he continues to find ways out of our yard, even after I have fixed the obvious gaps in the fence. How does he do it? I put him in the yard and a minute later, like Houdini, he appears on the other side of the neighbor’s fence. He never did this when he had eyes.

The beauty of it is, he is out of his old comfort zone, or discovered a new one based on smell. Prior to being blind he never wanted to spend time outdoors. He’d go out and do his business and then want to be back in. Now you take him home from a long walk and he immediately wants to go into the back yard. He’s a true seeker now. More enlightened.  He just can’t get enough of that smelly wilderness.

We rarely walk the dog together, my wife and I. Something about it being a chore, I guess. Although often we are out with the dog and look around and wonder at the world in a way that we never do in any other context. But tonight, we need to be together. A neighbor has committed suicide and we are moody. Of course, some combination of the dog and the will of the leash leads us right to her house. And that’s all my wife needs. She walks up to the door bravely and knocks

“What are you doing,” I ask incredulously. Before she can respond the door is opened by the husband. My wife and he share a long sorrowful hug and Charlo and I are drawn in with hugs and ‘come in’s’ and Charlo smells a kitchen. There are several friends here commiserating, none of whom we know, and before I can rescue Charlo from the kitchen, the 20 year-old son comes down the stairs and stares at us. He is white, drawn. I grab Charlo from the kitchen and make some excuse about him being blind and the son’s eyes focus suddenly.

“He’s blind,” he asks.

“Yes,” I say, “but it’s turned him into a bloodhound. Did you know that dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses and we have only 6 million?”

He looks me in the eye, which is shocking from this young sullen figure, and almost smiles.

 

 

 

Weather – The Last Frontier

Weather-Blog-ImageYou may have thought that space was the last frontier, but I would posit that it is weather. Every day we plan, analyze, prepare, study and predict it. What will I do when I get out there? How will I handle it? It’s at the edge of what we know. And then every day we put on our space suit and embrace it, one way or another. And where I live in New York, it’s always different! If a frontier is the edge of the unknown where there are no set rules, well that’s the weather!

And it may be unpredictable, but if you have eyes and skin, it is hard to be actually deluded about it, unless you’re from California.  I’m from that sunshine state and so have never learned to put my mittens on when it is below freezing. Some ten-year old part of me still expects it to be a balmy 70 degrees every day that I walk out from the house, and for it to stay that way until sometime in late December when it might rain a few drops for a month or so. My John Wayne attitude about snow and mittens follows a direct line from the fact that in Southern California there were no such things.  Sissies wore gloves and snow was cocaine.

Now, as an Easterner, I bore everyone with the phenomenon of weather. “Did you see how cold it is out there? The dogs are sticking to the sidewalks!” People smile smugly, maybe raise an eyebrow and think to themselves, “Fucking Californian.”

You would think that the weather casters would help. My wife listens to the weather report on our local newscast. But you have to take the messenger into consideration. It can be completely different, depending on who you’re watching.

Liberal media says go out without a coat to feel what ten below really feels like. Have empathy for the homeless who have to endure these temperatures without hot chocolate and marsh mellows. You know the ones with the little red sugar sparkles on them that make the already sweet drink just that much sweeter, and don’t forget the white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies that we’re eating here on camera, just to show you that bad weather can be good.

Conservative media says turn up the heat to a comfortable 82 degrees and don’t use the bathroom next to the mud room, I have to get my contractor to fix the frozen pipes problem we always have when it gets this cold, but one of the other 35 bathrooms should be fine.

Social media asks how many likes the cloud that is shaped like a whale has and should we count the likes for the same cloud once it turned into a ship with cannons.

Local media shows commercials for new Big Pharma drugs you could take to make you feel warm enough to smile in a cold snap but not warm enough to prevent frostbite.

Russian media says the weather warmed up to ten below today. Schools reopened.

No help.

So, if you’re from California and live in the east or are just naturally weather deluded, do what I  do. Just get out there and take a walk in it, preferably naked. That’s right. Take your clothes off and get out there. When you do, you will receive sensations on your skin. You will breathe. Your eyes will open wide. This is no video game. This is the real world sending you messages and you are a part of it. Now start skipping. That will help. You might sing a little ditty as you skip. That’s it. Now you’re really alive!  Don’t be embarrassed. This isn’t California.  And life is nothing to be embarrassed by.

Now reflect on this. You couldn’t do this without a body. And by the way, how did you get this body? You don’t really know, do you? You’ve just always had it. It seems that everywhere you turn, there it is. So, it must be a repository of some sort.  In fact, it’s a collection. A collection of you. Don’t abuse the privilege. It’s a good collection. It might draw a nice price on Antiques Roadshow. It has problems, yes. But those are there to remind you not to be deluded!

“But I don’t feel well today,” you might say. “I don’t want to strip naked and skip in the weather singing old REM songs.” But this is the challenge that’s been thrown to you, I would say. Get out there and skip. There’s a miracle afoot. Experience it. You have no idea what a part of the universe you are.

Look! A flake of snow! Do you know that flake was made in a little cloud five to ten miles South, Southeast of Minneola and was kept on ice for you until this moment?  That frozen air mass? It was released from the ice cream freezer when Jeremy left the door open on Midland Avenue after he finally found the orange sherbet he was looking for and will be your constant companion until just after you cross Summit Street when you will sneeze and blow it to Ontario.

And where did that that warm breeze come from that is suddenly caressing your face? It started as a sweet little fart from a baby Beluga in the North Sea, rose to the surface West Southwest of Copenhagen and joined other little freshettes of similar origin somewhere North of Ireland where they fluttered through a Dingle forest and now, so scented, blew across the Atlantic to caress you. Small world, isn’t it?

The butterfly that flutters past you in May will cause the tsunami next March. So beware the weather whatever the whether is. Be amazed!

Or move to California.

 

Words to the Whys

WHY I say “Good Morning” to everyone I meet

Mostly to keep other people at arm’s length. It has nothing to do with my sunshine-y personality, it’s protection.

If you return my “Hi” softly, I know you are no danger to me and are surprised that I roused you from your early morning reverie and are just as happy to return to your concerns about the tragedies of fake ewes.

If you match my enthusiasm with your “Hi” back at me, I know you are an equal level combatant (would that be Rust Belt?) and not to be messed with and hope you are either happier, (which I doubt–who could be happier than moi?), or at least more adept at dealing with this world than I am, good luck.

If you say nothing, I begin writing the police report in my head taking note of your physical appearance, so I can tell the sergeant every detail before you mug me.

If you say nothing with earphones in your ears, I laugh and smile and tell you my life story laced with expletives because you are on Mars.

 

WHY you think my house is dirty

I have an arranging style based on nature.

My feng shui template is an unweeded garden that grows to seed and what you’re actually experiencing is art in the making.

It’s easier to find my things when they’re spread out in front of me, not hidden in drawers.

The maid has Tuesdays off, as well as all the other days of the week. In fact I’ve forgotten her name and once tipped her by telling her I didn’t think Valium was as good as a vacuum for getting things done. No wonder she told me my dirt sucks.

You’ve been reading too much Architectural Digest and should start reading more National Enquirers.

I like the vacuum in the middle of the living room like that, particularly with the sprig of flowers I laid on it, besides I’m old and don’t have a trip up to the vacuum closet on the third floor booked until early April.

You have the wrong virtual reality goggles on. Here, take mine.

 

WHY I write this blog

Boredom is a terrible thing and the magic of putting different words next to each other to wrest new meaning from them that I never intended, is fun.

It’s court ordered probation for excessive good behavior.

To write a primer of basic Buddhist principles very thinly disguised as a joke book.

So I will keep from staring at the other 600,000 commuters on this train and wondering how they keep THEIR sanity.

Because I believe in art and its ability to transform and I’m hoping to become a white rabbit.

 

WHY they should build a wall around New York City

It’s not like other cities and should be preserved.

To halt young white flight into this city – it’s like honey to the bees.

Easier for the New York Times to cover the world as they know it

Keep all the 1 percenters and rapists from infecting the Real America

Raise the property values even higher by turning NYC into one big, happy, gated community.

Charge higher tolls.

Arrogance.

Good for tourism–Visit the Great Wall of NY!

Great for Mixed Messages – The Statue of Liberty welcomes you, lighting your path to the  wall, where you are strip searched and tossed back to the sharks in New York Harbor.

 

WHY people suffer so

Birth, old age, sickness, death.

To have compelling reasons to learn life lessons.

To sell more drugs.

Because studies show that complaining releases endorphins into your system and gives you a false sense that you can do something by just flapping your lips.

They have no tools of faith because they think the Devils who speak to them are healthy, bench-pressing role models instead of the bullshit excuses they actually are.

They can’t tell the Devils who speak in their head from the matters of their heart.

They watch so much TV that they think THAT is reality.

Makes a good story.

More Geezers Lost in Verses

More Poems for Second Childhood

Mary had a nurse’s aide,
His skin was black and glowed,
And everywhere that Mary went
Her aide was sure to go.

He followed her to vote one day
Which was against the rule
It made poll workers laugh and say
“You can’t vote here you fool!”

 

FAITH
Faith is not your intellect,
A bit more like a periscope,
High above the drowning waves,
Looking out for hope.

Your mind will tell you seas are rough
And waves come by the score,
Your faith will tell you
Seagulls fly and look I see the shore.

 

ANIMAL FARM
This is one of those days–
Brilliant sun on mountaintops of foliage.
What kind of animal blames the world for its beauty,
Sitting in a room with a bag over its head?

 

These are the citizens all forlorn,

Who heard politicians tooting their horns,

And judged the celebrity with their scorn,

When out of their greed his service was born;

Who embraced their Google,

That made them oogle,

Ignoring the clarion call of the bugle;

Who loved the market,

That capitalist target,

That wagged the dog,

Unwilling to slog,

Who encouraged the hog,

And the leadership fog,

That lived in the house that we built.

 

 

ALL THUMBS
Phone thumbs
Keep me busy,
Game thumbs
Stay amused,
All thumbs
In iPad city,
That’s why I’m
So confused.

 

Three blind ICE,

Three blind ICE,

See how they run,

See how they run,


They all ran after some immigrants trail,

To stifle America’s Holy Grail,

Did you ever think our democracy’d fail,


From three blind ICE,

Three blind ICE.

 

OUTSIDE/INSIDE

I see the fire,
The lights on the tree,
That mean I’m home,
Cared for, neighborly.

I remember passing
So many of these,
When I was younger
Wondering free.

Is outside, outside
Where I’ll be?
Is inside even
Possible for me?

Now the tree is trimmed
Cheap music plays,
My daughter passes by,
And wonders should she stay.

 

 

Dental bridge work falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
Dental bridge work falling down,
My whole paycheck!

 

PLANET COVER
When our planet
Does one thing,
And we do another
Our knowledge so grand
It’s like taking a lover,
Yet pollution piles up
Like ignorance uncovered,
A tsunami of greed
That we blame on each other.

 

BODY COVER
When our body
Does one thing,
And we do another,
The plan is a picnic
But fate is a mother,
We see the horizon
Too late discover,
Tiny pebbles that stopped us,
And made us take cover.

Doc says we’ll catch it,
Start chemo today.
I’m sailing to Greenland,
The dock of the bay.
At least let me process
And on this bench stay,
I want to see death
From a long way away.

 

WOOD PRAYER
Give me your body,
Sand and smooth,
Varnish with oils
To help me move.
Make a teardrop,
Bow to stern,
And let me
To the sea return.

 

Ring around the moonrise,
Pockets full of moon pies,
Last one, last one,
We all fall down.

 

 

 

 

 

A Geezer’s Garden of Verses

NURSERY RHYMES FOR SECOND CHILDHOOD

I’m a little teapot
Short and stout.
Last night I was Moses
Speaking from the Mount.
Increasingly these episodes
Are what I am about.
Don’t tip me over
I’m filled with doubt.

 

OUR TIME
In our time
We gave birth
To replace ourselves

Not really replace….
Well yes,
Replace,
In other shoes.

That gnawing,
That if only,
That, where was wisdom then,
That.

Now we give and give
And give too much,
Hoping
That the enraptured love
They feel around them
Is enough.

To this time
Move forward,
To this time
Climb the upward path with more,
To this time
Put us to rest and go beyond,
To their time.

 

Hickory Dickory Dock
My iPhone is my clock
Now Time is dead
The battery ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock.

 

LOST AND FOUND
One day you will lose your phone,
It should have been surgically attached
But you put it down to pick up the popcorn
And someone spoke to you excitedly
And that was that.
The crowd closed around you,
Until that moment when
You realized it was gone.

And you either took it philosophically,
Counting the brains lost with hyperbole,
Or you panicked, cut and ran back,
Too desperate to even find the sun.

Then inventory,
How much lost,
A human hurricane,
Insurance can’t replace.

Finally freedom.
Freed from its candy grip
To gaze out the window on mountains
That seem to have come out of nowhere.
Were they there yesterday?
Have I been here before?
Do I live?

 

Mrs. Muffet
Had a fat tuffet,
When people commented
She told them to “Stuff it.”
Along came a spider
Decided to ride her
She smashed that arachnid
Like a supercollider.

 

THIS WORD
This WORD
Has meaning.
No THIS one,
THIS.

It means
My pen still has ink left.
It means I was breathing
Long enough to write it.

It means
You’re breathing too
Reading it,
Want it to have meaning,
Want it to add to your life’s experience
No matter how small
Accumulate difference
That adds up to you.

No matter the definition,
No matter the context,
A signpost in a snow storm,
A way out of engaged behavior
And into the interlacing mysteries
Of head and heart.

This Word defines
You. Now.
Because you’re reading it.

 

HOW WE GET OLD I
How we get old
If truth be told
Is something like
Collecting gold.

For every now,
Distinct, sublime,
Withdrawal’s made
Of precious time.

And when the future
We unlock,
It’s meaningless
Without the clock.

So even worsts
We celebrate,
And breathe them in
And toast our fate.

And then determine
So to change,
Whatever we must
Rearrange.

What fardels bear
Is really care,
To tend to more than
Thinning hair.

 

HOW WE GET OLD II
With thinning hair
And laissez faire
And moles,
They pop up everywhere,

Glass-like skin
And next of kin,
Broken falls
And fuck-it-alls,
And don’t forget the
Memory stalls.

Wheelchair ramps
And IV clamps
I told you not to
Call me Gramps!

And while with smiles
A life we fain
We’re really cursing
Chronic pain.

And sometimes walk
When once we ran
And stand aside
And watch the sand.

And make up
Paranoiac fears
From simply trusting
Our deaf ears.

Losing friends
We make amends
Seek pardon
For our selfish ends.

You too can play
This rhyming game
Just grow in age
And then take aim.

 

Wee Willie Winkie
Runs through the town.
Upstairs, downstairs,
In his nightgown.

Is anybody watching him?
Where the hell’s his nurse?
Somebody call 911.
Old age is a curse.

 

TRENCH WARFARE
Do you fight in the trenches
For anything?
Your well-being, your dreams,
Your life?

Old age tells us
You won’t necessarily have tomorrow
To try again.
It is today.
It is now.

And there are only so many Nows left.
Your excuses are crutches
And that’s the last thing you need
At this age.

What you need are mountains,
Students, life projects
Not the glory of acknowledgement
But of daily sweat, daily accomplishment
Don’t wait.
Tomorrow is not just another day.

 

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack, let’s examine this career path,
Are you going to jump over candlesticks the rest of your life?

In all of human endeavor
This is what you’ve chosen?
Moreover, what about the candlestick?
Does it have any rights in the matter?

 

DEVIL’S
Communion of a special kind,
With nature,
With birds,
With friends,
Comfortable as old shoes.

Younger generations too,
And now we are the elders,
Life changes,
Ambitions tempered,
And still we breathe
The good air,
Share, Converse,
Eat, Sleep
in a natural world
We grow from.
Not one that grows
From us.

 

Diddle, diddle dumpling
My son John’s
Career is selling
Stocks and bonds.
The market’s off,
The market’s on,
Diddle, diddle dumpling
My son John. 

 

GOOD WRITING
Not I,
But written by me.
By me,
I tell you!

I put those words together.
I hypnotized the English language
And in a state it danced
An unaccustomed jig,
So great is my power.

And white paper
Turned to art
As easy as
Seagulls fly.

Or so I believed,
Then read it back,
Chest swelling with pride,
And it stunk.

Like what’s left
on the rocks
After the shells have been dropped
And eaten out.

 

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe.
Her social security 
Hadn’t come through.
The government told her
It had no more bread.
She whipped them all soundly 
And sent them to bed.

 

END
At the end of the world
We danced. Just
An expression of joy
That we had been alive
Though the world was ending,
That the infinitesimal chance
Of our existence
Had flowered.

And now,
No seeds left,
Just the color
Of God;
Beyond the knowledge
Of our inability
To hold on
To the planet
We loved.

 

The Expedient Means of Oz

totoL. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books, dabbled in Theosophy, a religion invented as a kind of bridge between what the world was starting to discover about Eastern religions like Buddhism, and the Christianity that was the prevalent religion of America at the time – the late 1800’s. This is a bridge that Ralph Waldo Emerson and others earlier in the century had started to build between Eastern and Western religions with Transcendentalism. In fact, in 1844 the first English translation of the Buddha’s highest teaching, The Lotus Sutra, was included in The Dial, a publication of the New England Transcendentalists.

One of the enduring delights of L. Frank Baum’s story, The Wizard of Oz, is the reversals that the plot consistently turns on. If you squint hard enough, you can almost see the faint outlines of Buddhist philosophy. Dorothy’s Kansas home is unmoored by a tornado landing in a strange place, Oz. When Dorothy lands, Glenda the good witch, a positive force of the universe, appears and points out that her house fell on and killed an evil force in the universe, the wicked witch of the east. (“When great evil occurs, great good follows.1”)

Glenda bestows Dorothy with the witch’s magical ruby slippers. To get the answers she thinks she needs to get home, Dorothy is told of an expedient means, the wizard of Oz, who is all knowing and will be able to tell her the answers.

What are expedient means? Webster says an expedient is something fit and suitable for the purpose. In Buddhism, an expedient means is simply a method skillfully devised and employed by Buddhas and bodhisattvas to lead people to their enlightenment.

Dorothy starts her journey down the yellow brick road to seek the wizard and on the way, she finds other creatures who complain that they don’t have the answers to solve their karmic problems—a lion without courage, a tin man without a heart, a scarecrow without a brain. Together they decide that the wizard must have the answers and journey to see him.

When they arrive and are faced with the wizard, he is larger, scarier and more Godlike than anything they can imagine. The wizard tells them he will help them when they have proven themselves by bringing him the wicked witch’s broomstick. They take on this quest, and survive the dangers of the witch’s magic and her minions of flying monkeys and guards, vanquishing the wicked witch in the process.

But when they return to the wizard with their prize, he seems just as scary and frightening (and ultimately useless to give them the answers they seek) as before. Until the only being in their group who is not cowed by this wizard, Toto, Dorothy’s little dog, discovers a man behind a curtain and once he is discovered to BE the wizard everything calms down.

Unmasked, the wizard, a little man from Kansas, feels he owes them something, so he gives them each something that bestows the things they say they want on them, proving to the audience that they had the thing they sought inside themselves all along, they just didn’t acknowledge it. He awards the scarecrow a diploma, the lion a medal and the tin man a testimonial and states that where he comes from these things are given to men who have no more brains, courage or heart than they have.

The wizard has a hot air balloon which he has been saving to get himself and now Dorothy back to Kansas, but Toto jumps out at the last minute and Dorothy is left in Oz without a way home.  Glenda comforts Dorothy and reveals that Dorothy has always had the power to return home but that she had to learn it for herself. Dorothy says that she has learned never to go further than her own backyard to look for her heart’s desire.  She had the answer with her all along. (“Never seek enlightenment outside of yourself.”2) She clicks the heels of her ruby slippers and says there’s no place like home and she is home.

Dorothy could have gone home from Oz any time she wanted, all she had to do was click her heels. But instead she needed an expedient means to become aware of the wisdom she already possessed.

The original Buddha taught his followers about expedient means by teaching this parable from the Lotus Sutra. A father’s children are sick and beg their father to cure them. He offers them medicine, but because the poison of sickness has entered their minds, they will not take it. “It’s no good,” they say. So he tells them, “I am old and the time of my death is near. I’m going on a trip, but I’ll leave you the medicine, just in case you change your mind.” He leaves, then sends a messenger to tell them he has died. The children, hearing this, grieve and feel like orphans. “If only our father were here, he would tell us to take this medicine. We should have listened to him.” They take the medicine and are healed. The father, hearing they are cured, returns home and greets them. His “death” was an expedient means–a  method skillfully devised to lead people to their enlightenment.

Our egos and arrogance consistently stop us from seeing what is good for us. Without an expedient means, we don’t seem able to accept the wisdom we need to be healthy and happy. The children thought they needed their father’s wisdom to take the medicine. Dorothy and friends thought they needed the wizard to provide the answers. They thought their enlightenment was outside of themselves but it was inside all the time.

Never seek enlightenment outside of yourself. Trust yourself that you have the answers. Don’t blame or point at others for the answers, look into your own soul. At the crucial moment don’t forget the promises you have made. Obstacles that you come upon are expedient means and show that you are doing it right, not a sign that you are in the wrong. Never give up, even if you want to and the flying monkeys are on your tail. The best and most satisfying victories come from the most difficult journeys down the yellow brick road.

“The journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes 12 days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital. “ Pg. 1027 Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

1) The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, pg 1119.
2) “If you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching.” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Pg 3

 

Celebrity Drugs

pillsLiberace
Liberace is the #1 prescribed FDA approved treatment for Ostentationism. Read the patient information leaflet before you start taking Liberace. Common side effects include: Inability to distinguish between heartfelt truth and show, candelabra abnormalities, grandstanding, high rhinestone counts, fur and feather inclinations, multiple rings and fifi fofo. Tell your doctor if you wake up one morning in bed with a gay assistant. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking Liberace as fruitiness count may reach dangerous levels. Liberace may cause fertility problems in males.

Obama
Today I am living my new normal with Obama. Taken as directed Obama is an oral combination treatment for Political Prevarication or PP.  Obama attaches itself to human graft receptors and inhibits their greed, allowing thoughts from the heart to enter the bloodstream. Side effects include: quiet mind, subdued hair coloring, nuclear disarmament and peace in our time. To be taken before tweets, releases or intercourse with the news media of any kind or gender. Do not stop taking Obama unless your health care provider is elected to political office.

Mom
For post-media arousal issues. Taken as directed will increase the flaccidity in your bloodstream and get you down off that 24/7 news cycle ledge. Quiets world-is-ending syndrome and turns apocalypse into apocalypso. First jams, then transforms all news signals into nursery rhymes. Warning: The London Bridge is not falling down.

Zuckerberg
I’m living my best life with Zuckerberg. I feel so connected. I feel so depressed. I feel like I’m missing out on life. Everyone else is having so much fun. Chill out and take another Zuckerberg. None of these feelings will go away, but you won’t care because Karen has a new kitten.

Pfizer
Not feeling so human today? Thinking of being reborn as a porcupine and shooting poison quills at all those assholes? Take a pill. Pfizer can help you be human. Side effects: Loss of salary, loss of sanity, loss of reality, loss of integrity, loss of appetite, loss of expedient means, increased amounts of that floaty feeling for no good reason, just because.

Side Effect
You’ve taken the rest, now take the best! Side Effect has no health purpose whatsoever, but man does it deliver the side effects. Dizziness? You betcha. This is better than your garden variety nausea.  Bulbous nose? Yes sir. Bozo would be proud. Itchy and sensitive skin. You could write a book. It’s so good, it won an Oscar for Special Effects.

Time
Isn’t it about time to ask your doctor about Time? Time delivers neuron clock abductors to your pre-frontal cortex inhibiting sequential relations and creating a time/space pharmacokinetic fantasia.  Not to be used in tandem with any other lifetime. May be used as a predictor of sunrise. Side effects include: late for work, don’t-give-a-shit-ism, I would have liked to be there but I had my own party going on, deadlines are for losers, and mudbaths.  Dosage: as much as you can take and get away with.

Appreciation Ointment
Are you one of a million sufferers living with these symptoms? Negativity, glass more than half empty in fact drained, hate the President, hate your family, hate yourself, hate that annoying little thing your co-worker does every fucking day when she gets to work, hate the basic cubiclivity of modern life, hate the world of assholes, hate? Directions: Smear on your soul nightly and pray. No side effects except greasy palms. Can be substituted for any placebo.

Ask your doctor or other health care professional for Appreciation Ointment, or just go to the store and get some olive oil. Studies have shown that Appreciation Ointment used in tandem with heroin is not advised and can lead to a kind of oily death, having said that you will go out like a stuck pig in a greased lightning contest.

Faith
Just take it and stop worrying so much.

 

My Hotel

skyscraper hotelI have had the opportunity recently to be a guest in a big, impersonal skyscraper hotel and I have to say that it has left me a little cold. Why do we put up with this kind of hostelry? And why does it absolutely HAVE to be so impersonal?

The lobby is muted tones and big, modern design, uncomfortable chairs. It could be the offices of Architectural Digest; it looks way more comfortable in a magazine than it actually is. At the elevator banks, you punch in your floor number and a read-out tells you which elevator will take you there. Inside the elevator, no floor numbers. Whoa! What if the elevator forgets? No human can take you where you want to go.

My room is like the Great Plains as a design statement. Nothing at all remarkable. If I decide to look out the window, I have a beautiful view of other tall hotels nearby and how empty and impersonal they are. Far in the distance, on the ground floor of an impersonal office building, I see a Subway sandwich shop. No one goes in or out, but at least the neon sign is on.

Do we really require this kind of distance from the world at large when we stay in a hotel? Not in MY hotel.

My hotel would not have pictures of sleek modern buildings on the walls. We separate ourselves too much from what makes us great. Are riches and luxury interconnected with not participating in the human experience with other people? Is that what we really want? I don’t think so.

My hotel would have beautifully taken art photos of the chamber maid who will clean your room after you are through. As well as pictures of her home.  In fact, the coffee machine in your room is compliments of her, she has the nice one the hotel bought in her house, and you have a photo of it by your old-fashioned coffee maker, which is reliable and probably makes better coffee than hers.

By the TV there is a button you push to have face time with a person in a homeless shelter on the other side of town. You get to know someone who is homeless, tell them you have some leftovers in the hotel room fridge and to come on over and watch a movie on demand. Have they seen Coco?

The hotel fridge is behind the usual modern dresser like thing, but it was bought at a yard sale and refurbished by inmates who have a knack with old refrigerators. It still has the dent in the side where Flo tried to hammer the door open, after Larry had secretly screwed it shut. It retains those screw holes too. But the inmates have featured these things and in fact painted them red, white and blue–because as you know inmates are so patriotic–and the whole thing could go on a pedestal at MOMA with a little sign about the inmates’ life and not be out of place.

There would be other design touches that made you feel like you are not in an episode of Star Trek. Like an old telephone from 1934 (no one uses hotel phones these days anyway, so does it matter than it doesn’t work?), a bed quilt made by Grandma and a video of her telling you how she made it that plays all day, including the ending where she tucks you in.

In the wellness fitness center and pool on the 42nd floor, instead of an enormous porcelain tile mural of the skyline, which is just a repeat of what you can get when you look out the window, there is a huge porcelain tile mural of Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930 to protest British rule. You can see the number of people who support him, the righteous indignation in their eyes and the ability of humans to be ordinary and superhuman at the same time. That will inspire your next treadmill session.

And on the sound system, to keep the rhythm of your aerobics strong, not Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” but King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech with a saucy bass track underneath it.

At the fancy hotel restaurant, we would have businessman breakfasts, but instead of $7 cups of tea, no refills, and cottage cheese “caprese” salad with 10g of fat, 34% protein and 10 grams of carbohydrates for $16, our Executive Chef better known as “Mom” would sit down at your table with her electric skillet and make you blueberry pancakes and pork sausage.

And instead of giant flat-screen televisions with your choice of ESPN, CNN or local morning news on the wall to help your indigestion, there would be windows on the day-care center we share the premises with. If businessmen want to let their minds wander away from their breakfast meetings, instead of “the News” which they already get in myriad ways on myriad devices, they can watch the machinations of non-device play, the ingenuity of the little boy who builds blocks only so he can knock them down, and the tears when one of them accidentally falls on a little girl. These are the tragedies they should be digesting, not those other ones which make them think, liberal or conservative, that the world is falling apart and forces them to bring their most positive life condition, their reminder that they love their family, and their basic good nature to fend off the bad news. Let them think instead about the little girl who was crying one minute and jumping on a hobby horse the next.

And, in the lobby, since bunnies in nursing homes have been so successful in bringing people together and raising their life conditions and empathy, bunnies.  What businessman can turn his cold heart to the raping, pillaging, merger and acquisition of American business when bunnies are excreting little greasy pellets on his shoes?

The rooms, floors, restaurants and banquet rooms aren’t named for fancy cities, or monuments but have actual names and paraphernalia from Ma’s Old Garage, Gramps’ Back Room and Don’t Look in Here.

In the bathroom, nothing need change. Everyone wants a nice clean towel, a warm shower, a germ-free environment. But the mirror isn’t one of those that magnifies your face so you can tweeze giant nose hairs, it actually makes you smaller and puts you in context with other people. Go ahead. You’re lonely, away from home. Choose your context. It can be your family–download old family photos to the mirror technology and it will place you in the middle of friends and family who are having fun—or see what you look like as an agent of change in a meeting of lawyers, doctors or indian chiefs; or you can go historical and take selfies with pre-installed historical figures – only the heroes – Winston Churchill, Harriet Tubman, Honest Abe.

My hotel would have a selection of great arts performances on its TV and that’s all. No Rachel Maddow soliciting our worst and most sentimental righteousness, suffering with us over legislation that is going nowhere because gun victims can’t vote, no Sean Hannity acting bullishly like he is making complete sense and building a case for the fact that humans should have eleven  fingers, to the cheers of the nine fingered crowd.

My hotel is unique, but it doesn’t have to be. You the consumer, can simply ask for these things. You have the power. Lie. Tell the Marriott that the Hilton has better Grandma tuck-in videos than they do. Fill out the survey form at the Hilton saying that the Marriott has a super secret weapon – a March of Salt mural — and where is theirs?

Because to be honest, I don’t want to go into the hotel business, I just want hotels to be more humanistic.