Not a moment too soon

Photo by Alexander Grey on

this diminutive pre-pubescent lad

(one-of-a-kind and everyboy too)

possessed already of that sense of humor that

pops out unexpectedly here and there

midstream when you won’t expect it

makes us laugh every time

singular short pre-man with long stringy hair

terminating in dips of experimental purple

as random-seeming as the words

that pop out of his brain

look close and you’ll make out

the troubled itches of his mind

furtive insecurities scanning his environment

evaluating, secretly navigating

and so when we sit beside him for a second

to see how he’s getting on in his project

(his project is his life)

the unmistakable stench rising up from his seat

makes us want to back the fuck up

but we can’t out him

and we won’t let on

because he knows

and he wonders if we know

and he probably knows that we do

and we wouldn’t for the world

so we mouth-breathe

(management skill in acute care settings)

and hang as long as necessary because

we’d rather give him something we didn’t get

than take the focus off

the man he’s going to be

i like this kid in me

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

–Pema Chodron

Welcome to the Piano

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on

Are you ready to start learning to play the piano? Are you ready to start learning what makes music music? are you ready to begin one of the most enriching activities your brain will ever enjoy?

Let me say a few things, then.

Research shows that playing an instrument engages multiple areas of the brain at one time: the visual, auditory, executive, motor function and creative pathways are engaged at the same time. Few activities create more pathways in the brain than playing a music instrument. It enhances the brain’s ability to learn almost anything else.

You’re going to be building a relationship with the piano. Like any other relationship, this involves a positive, healthy approach and good communication. Your posture and bearing at the piano are not just about good technique and care of the body; they are about the kind of input you give to the instrument and the kind of response you receive.

You’ll be practicing a calm, focused and disciplined approach. You’ll learn to breathe, if you haven’t already. You’ll be unlearning self-judgment, perfectionism, and impatience.

You’ll also be learning some Italian words. The Western development of music included the adoption of this language for the classic terms. Piano actually means “soft,” and is an abbreviation for “piano-e-forte,” meaning “soft and loud,” and was the way Bartolomeo Cristofori redesigned the clavichord in 1700. (People love to abbreviate things.) So, the piano is just a percussive harp: instead of plucking the strings, you’re triggering hammers to strike them. Give a soft touch, the piano will answer with a soft, gentle voice. Give it more weight and pressure, it will answer with a more robust voice. Piano and forte.

Your fingers are numbered 1 through 5 – 1 being the thumbs and 5 being the pinkies. Whenever you sit at the piano from now on, these will be the names of your digits.

You must understand that the piano was made for the human hand, not the other way around. See those five black keys that repeat over and over? Fingers 2, 3 and 4 are the longest, so they will naturally be the ones to spend the most time on the blacks, set back from the front edge of the keyboard.

Your adventure in piano starts, I would say, with those five black keys. Using one finger for each black key, you could play them up and down, over and over and it would sound beautiful. It’s a five-tone (pentatonic) scale of notes, the basis of many songs and instrumental pieces throughout history.

Now you’ve begun. You must sit at the piano every single day, if only for ten minutes, to develop this relationship: to strenthen the muscle memory of your hands, to train your ears…in short, to begin one of the most romantic, satisfying, and healing experiences the world has ever known.

So, let’s begin.

flow river flow

It’s now softly blowing and now and then softly raining

not even very cold; but a winter breeze carries its own frosty edge.

It’s walking weather

Here it doesn’t surprise you at all

isn’t unusual for the wind to accelerate into gales, gusts

for the rain to fall swiftly, urgently

It’s walking weather all the same

albeit with an edge

the element of discomfort

a challenge to accept and enfold into the walk

allowing the energy of atmosphere to infuse itself into you

until it becomes yours

you matching the wind and rain

you acknowledging and answering

gusto for gusto, pluck for pluck

respectful determination to claim your place

I live here, too.

Do you wish you were the horse standing in the corral

somehow patiently ceding the wind, enduring it

your back turned toward the wind with your head to the lee?

Do you wish you were the straying dog

glad of freedom, always looking for a post to pee on

oblivious to rain, even of the coat you wear for protection?

Do you wish you were the songbird now huddled in the hold of a pine bough

waiting out the earth’s fervent lecturing

glad of a brief reprieve from scavenging and watching for every sign to fly again?

Well, smile at them and let them go

It’s you that notices after all

who walks here, who breathes your way through;

you all the way home.

The Closest I Ever Came

It’s a fine summer day. The bands are rotating and the music is good. The energy is electric and the crowd is resonating. Children are playing. Laughter rises up like bright flares of light from this table and that. The entire scene is that glorious gradient of sun and shadow from under and around our parasols.

But now there is a distraction. Faces are turned toward the sidewalk behind us and we follow them. Oh, no. It’s him, that peripatetic character whose labors we’ve seen on sidewalks all over town; him and his white chalk describing invective and hardcore dogma of pseudo-christian entrenched battle positions from which no prisoners are taken. He’s hard at work. He might be a little off in the head.

There’s a shadow over there against the wall where a trio of women are standing by, stunned witnesses they; mouths agape, casting mute judgment and scorn on the pukings from mr. chalk’s head. That pretentious vandal, daring to mar a fine day like this with his first amendment rights devoid of music or wisdom.

The half dozen of us are looking and looking, our heads on 360-degree swivels and our eyes like the owl’s as well. Finally we are just looking at each other. The looks on our faces are these: we can’t watch anymore. We can’t just sit here anymore. We must dance. There is good music and little children are dancing. We can’t dance in our seats.

So we rise up and walk over to that little battleground. We begin quietly, keeping one eye on him to see what he’ll do about us, and one eye on the trio standing against the brick to see what they do about us.

Look, you guys! They like it! Haha! they’re nodding, smiling, clapping. Approval.

Photo by Kampus Production on

So, seconded and motion passed and adopted, we turn it up. As we dance, we twist and turn like vandals, our feet grinding up white chalk words as if we didn’t have a clue. We’re acting like naughty, egotistical children.

What is this, exactly? I mean, what would you call it? Point and counterpoint? A song for a song? Is it a demonstration?

I’ve never joined a demonstration. I guess this is the closest I’ve ever come. We’re just dancing to beat all hell. We won’t have it.

Now look what we’ve done: a dozen more have hopped right onto the sidewalk, dancing. We made a party. And where is mr. chalk? Nowhere to be seen.

There is cheering from the sidelines. We’re laughing. It’s a fine summer day.

Border Issues

Foggy on the first day of 2023, which I’ve no reason to expect will be substantially different from 2022 in the general run of things. Presidents come and go, epidemics, this spring’s fashions, hog futures. Demonstrations. Hogs and fogs forever.

Fog comes and goes like the wind, sun, moon, rain. Comes and goes like Canada geese. You don’t pay too much attention to it except when it’s so dense you have to drive the motor car at 32 knots instead of 55. Add a white-out blizzard and you’re down to 20, even 15 in a caravan of cautious pensioners. Finally, you drop down the hill to the south gate of the city and you’re out of the clouds. As if there were a border there and damned glad of it.

Another geese gaggle in the field yesterday. Cheap fowly junket to the south, stabbing at grubbies in the stubble. They’re always Canadian, never any other kind. Coming and going across the border as if there weren’t a border because they can’t see one, the reason for this being that there isn’t one.

Or they’d have special Visa’s. Migrant passes, special dispensations from Rome or something.

Photo by Brian Forsyth on

Descending out of the soup into ten-mile visibility, crosswinds at five knots. Taxiing without a taxi.

“Where you headed today?”


“Nature of your business?”

(Nature of yours?) (Yawn) “Same as last year. Seasonal cycle, blah blah. Survival, perpetuation of the species, a little R&R…”

“Are you carrying any illegal substances today? Weapons, drugs, invasive species? Poached whale blubber? Anything that might upset our fragile economy?”


“Open your flaps, please?”


“Okay, good to go. See you in April.”


Kyle sat in the waiting area feeling understandably anxious. He wasn’t alone, of course. The room was probably full of anxious people. It was a clinic, after all. Not a place you go if everything’s fine and dandy.

But he’d never felt like this before. So it was a different sort of anxiety for him – almost a creeping dread that threatened to undo him at times. The pain had been in his head for two weeks now, launched by a horrific attack of vertigo after getting out of bed one morning. He’d come close to throwing up.

He’d put it down to too much screen time. He’d had that habit for months, if not years. He was usually feeling the pressure behind his eyes if he stayed awake too late, playing on his phone. He liked anagrams, trying to see how many words he could find on a timer.

But this was different. After that initial attack, the pain had set in and not gone away. He’d already swallowed enough Advil to ruin his stomach lining forever.

“Kyle?” called a nurse. He stood up and followed her through. “Hello,’ she said. “My name’s Felicity.”

She took his vitals and made some notes about a sudden onslought of severe disorientation followed by chronic head pain and left him to wait some more. He stared at the poster on the wall ahead of him: “The time is NOW. Schedule your status update today!” Accompanying this text was a cute cartoon physician in a white lab coat holding an oversized timepiece swinging from a fob.

The doctor knocked and opened the door. “Hello, I’m Dr. Kim. How are you today?”

“Oh, I’m okay, I guess,” Kyle heard himself say. The irony wasn’t lost on either of them, but there’s no putting off social proprieties.

“So, you’ve been having some problems with vertigo and chronic head pain?” asked the doc.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Is your head hurting you now?”

“Yes. It pretty much hurts all the time.”

“On a scale of ten?”

“Oh, about a four or five, I guess,” Kyle said. “Sometimes a six or seven.”

“Have you taken anything for it?”

“Yeah, Advil.”

“How much?”

“Hehe, too much. I stopped, through, before I called in.”

“When do you notice the dizzyness? Mostly in the morning?”

“No, anytime I turn my head real quick,” Kyle said.

“Let me listen,” said Dr. Kim. She positioned the ear pieces and placed the steth over Kyle’s heart, listened for a moment, then replaced the scope around her neck and looked at Kyle.

“Our bodies contain clocks,” she said. “Timers, really, with preset countdowns we have no way of discerning. They come with alarms, both soft and loud. Loud ones are for tornadoes, cancer diagnoses, pandemics, and such. Soft ones are for things like this,” she finished, waiving a hand casually in Kye’s direction.

“So, you’re saying I’ve got a soft alarm going off?” Kyle asked with a silly grin.

“I don’t see any tornadoes,” Dr. Kim said, poker-faced. “You’re not struggling to breathe. How many fingers am I holding up?”

“One.” Cute, Kyle said to himself.

“I’ll order a scan,” the doc said, making a note. She looked up at Kyle again. “When’s the last time you had your ticker checked?”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, as I said, we have no way of discerning the status of your preset countdown but we can get a sense of its tempo, timbre and relative dynamic. The record shows clocks tending to skip beats with greater frequency in the latter stages.”

Kyle said, “Latter stages of what?”

Dr. Kim’s poker face stared back. “Life,” she said. “That or plain foolishness.”

Kyle put his coat on as the doctor was preparing to head out. At the door she turned and looked at Kyle.

“The word vertigo is from the Latin meaning to turn. It doesn’t mean turn real fast. You have all the time in the world. Measure it.” She closed the door.

He climbed back into his truck with the scan order in his hand. Somehow he knew it would show nothing.

Once upon a time…

…a cloud of moths fluttered through the air in a busy swarm on a warm summer night. Among them was a moth named George.

“George!” cried out Phyllis, a fellow moth. “Why don’t you ever land anywhere?”

“Why, look at us all!” George replied. “We are flitting here and there, from pillar to post, from porch light to street lamp.”

“Of that we are all aware!” yelled Phyllis. “It is what we do!”

“Then why question it?” asked George.

“Because here we all are but I see you,” Phyllis crowed. “As I look I see what we are about.”

“What are we about, then?” asked George, curious.

“Nothing!” screamed Phyllis. “Absolutely nothing!”

“What ever do you mean?” George blurt out.

“George!” cried Phyllis. It dawned on me while watching you! You want to land! You want to alight! You want to be in a place!”

“Well,” answered George, “Isn’t that what we’re all doing?”

“No!” Phyllis shouted. “We are flitting. We are flirting. We are acting on the notion. But not you! You are looking and seeking. Why don’t you land somewhere?”

Flapping and flopping around a street lamp with his familiars, George now wondered what the answer was.

“I don’t know,” cried George. “I don’t see why I am not landing!”

“Goodness!” went Phyllis, giddily aloft. “Don’t bother about that! Just land for heaven’s sake!”

“But you asked!” George sang out.

“You wing-ed silly!” Phyllis returned. “I didn’t expect you to puzzle it out. I only wanted to know why you hadn’t yet done the thing!”

“Stop yelling!” yelled George. “Why don’t YOU land somewhere?”

“Because I don’t WANT to!” screeched Phyllis, who then shrieked in laughter.

Then George, who’d had quite enough of this, saw the truth of the thing. Before him was the street lamp, and the post on which it hung. With his mothy eyes he fastened on a spot. And having fastened on it, he found himself to be there. At which moment the lamp blinked out and the moths flew off.

For all the rest of that warm summer night George watched the stars.

Noodling the Milky Way

Spending time in the recording studio again, after a hiatus of years, is both challenge and reward. The reward is in confirming that I still have the chops, although they need polishing up. But you do that as you work. It takes listening, relaxing, and trusting the process. Fortunately, my recording partner and I are good friends and have worked to build a solid relationship of trust and respect for one another’s respective skills. He’s a recording and sound engineer by training, with experience as a recording artist; I’m a classically-trained musician with experience in the gospel/blues/jazz realm. That makes the old school R&B sound we’re going for entirely within our grasp. But it will end up bending some rules, and that’s a hell of a lot of fun. (Genres are made to be broken.) And because we’ve both experienced the dark side of working with other musicians, we’re happy to be working without ego in the way. That makes the challenge of finding the right elements and creating the right mix worth every mile.

Within a galaxy of music history (stock progressions, mainstream approaches to sound-building, creative experiments, classic riffs), there is a mighty cloud of witnesses; and there are worlds and worlds to keep building as we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before. But as artists we’re still arrogant enough to believe that, between the two of us, we can create a unique sound that cannot be created by anyone else, dead or alive. There simply are no two brains, hearts or souls on the face of the earth that match what we have. Arrogance must be balanced with the humility of remembering that we’re not picking from different root systems from which anyone else has ever picked. Music as a system of organized sound has rules…and the rules can be bent as long as you know what you’re bending.

When I was a child, I thought as a child. I spoke as a child. When I grew up I got all sophisticated and up in my shit. Now that there are fewer years ahead than there are behind, I wish to be a child at heart again, laughing my way through C minor sevenths and E major nines and all possible voicings of ii-vi-V-I just to be able to hit on one or two things that make my soul fly toward heaven.

Mom, look what I made.

oh little town

under winter coldest stars the rural burg

refuge of a toiling caste in remains of a dream

stronghold of brave young mamas

dodging grimey bristled beggars

huddled at night downlane

wornout worker bees quaffing on the cheap

puffing in the alleys, refuge of the sinners

their urchins wheezing new diseases of the world

and yet will any here deign to drop a dime

in a bellringer’s bucket just the same

for that worndown ancient tale

mystery of a god showing up

beyond notice of the sparkly noise

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

in the alleydark as one of us

humana incognita

the quiet consideration

of such a thing

No-Peril Apparel

“A woman should someday write the complete philosophy of clothes.” – Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie

Wear leggings 75 percent of the time and jeans 25 percent of the time.

Protocol for Jeans:

  • any number of rips, tears, or holes will do, provided it doesn’t violate your employer’s dress code and your under the age of 45. After that it just gets weird.
  • reserve at least one pair as your favorite, which you can wear more than one day in a row.
  • tight jeans are an exception to the 15-second rule for dressing (see below).

Ask yourself: is it comfy? is it cute? is it convenient? does it take more than 15 seconds to put on? do you have at least seven of them?

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

Avoid skirts or dresses at all costs, unless called for by wedding events or rare romantic outings.

Avoid high heels, with the same exceptions.

Black is your favorite color. White is generally evil.

You can never have too many shoes. Or slippers. Or comfy boots. Or belts.

Never dress to show off. Always dress to be YOU.

The general purpose of clothes is: 1) to have fun, and 2) to cover the body.

Reserve ugly/frumpy clothes for those days when: 1) you’re in a mood and don’t care what you put on; 2) you have to make a quick trip to the store for something (wear a hat and/or hoodie for disguise).

You cannot have too many clips, ties, pins, loops, studs, dangles, bangles, rings or blings.

Consider your own YouTube channel for try-on hauls. It’s all the rage.

Disclaimer: I am not a woman.