Friday, November 17, 2017

It's All Annoying

One of the older websites out there is  Am I Annoying.

It's pretty simple. Instead of saying whether the person, place or thing is hot or not, you determine is it annoying or not.

I'll give you a hint.

It's all annoying.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Still Life (Blogophilia 38.10)

As Mary made her way down the cobblestone streets, she could help but notice how Sienna was so different than Upper Saddle River. At home, everyone locked themselves in their faux French chateaus inside gated communities. Neighbors were tolerated at best, with almost no eye contact. Here the streets were narrow and the building ancient, but there was an openness. People here went out of their way to socialize and make people welcome. 
 
The art festival was a lucky find. The villa, as beautiful as it was, was boring. Michael was going to be tied up all day and she needed to get some air. The cobblestone streets in the city center felt like the past calling to her, memories of Shabbat. Arguments put to the side while thanks for the bounty to was raised to Adonnai. The smell of challah filled the senses and she could almost hear Grampy reciting the Kadesh, the low, guttural words booming from his flowing beard. Warmth and nostalgia were good things sometimes.
 
So many years have passed since then. The old fables she left behind to make her way in the world. She met Michael at a cousin’s wedding and they married. Moving from Bayonne to Orange, then to Upper Saddle River as the business flourished. Shabbat became a memory and Temple was only for the holidays. Little of the tradition remained. It took too much time. Time needed to live the life they had chosen. Oh, it wasn’t a bad life. Michael had his tennis and he didn’t mind her painting and museum trips. But there was emptiness to it all. 
 
The tomatoes were beautiful.
 
She had never seen an image like it in all her years studying art. It was a small, simple still life, oil on plank surrounded by a simple frame. But it wasn’t so simple. Splashes of arterial blood seemed to flow down the skin of the fruit and across the straw basket, almost like perverse Easter eggs. Small bits of the effluvia marked the knife on the table, almost as if the cook had stepped away to tend to something else. It was realism at its finest. You could almost reach in and touch the basket. 
 
Too bad Michael wasn’t here to enjoy it. No, his meetings were so much more important. Maybe he would let her buy it? Mary could hear him now. “We too much art on our walls, already.” Bah, all he knew was selling and money. But he was right. If she had her way, she would be Peggy Guggenheim, collecting art and artists. Except she didn’t sleep with the artists, too squirrelly for her taste. 
 
An old man with a broken smile whistled and called her beautiful. The grin couldn’t be suppressed. It had been a long time since that had happened. Sighing, she moved down the wall. The next painting was a bottle of Chianti rendered in a similar style, oil on wood. Definitely no cubist modernism in the place. Glancing at the signature, she confirmed it was the same artist. These food themes were making her hungry. Her ears began to ring with invitations in the odd Tuscan accent. “Mangia! Eat! You don’t have enough on your bones to feed a cat.” Was that Mama? 
 
A produce truck rumbled by, rattling the display walls. The wine began to ripple in the glass. Without thinking, her hand reached to keep it from spilling. It didn’t hurt as she passed through the wall. 
 
********************************************************************************
It was an old kitchen. Warm, welcoming smells wafting from the edges of an old stove. A skillet and pot of water were heating on top. A setting sun dappled the table, chairs flanking either side. On top was the basket of tomatoes next to the bottle of wine. A piece of parchment stuck out to the side. Mary picked up the glass and took a sip as she read the words, In Vino Veritas
 
“Humph”. She thought aloud, “Wine doesn’t give truth. It only makes men fools.”
 
She shuddered. Michael before rehab. Anger and violence followed by periods of temperance and atonement. The vicious cycle worsening over time, ending with the huge fight where they both were arrested. She had a black eye. Never one to back down, she broke his nose with the right jab Grampy had taught to her when she was little. 
 
The meeting at the lawyer was a blur. She agreed not to divorce him if he did get clean. The process took the first time, which she was thankful for. But trauma takes time to heal. Scar over is more like it. She wasn’t scared of him, but they hadn’t slept in the same room since he had gotten home. Did he still care? For that matter, did she?
 
She turned the paper over. In flowery script, was “Spaghetti Alla Carbonara”. The rest of script was in Tuscan. She was fluent in Italian, but the local argle-bargle was confusing. The fading light wasn’t helping. Should she make it? It’s vacation. It’s Friday. Let’s make it Shabbat. Slipping on the apron, she began to make out the ingredients. 
 
The first word appeared to be Guanicale. Bacon? Looking to her left, a ham hock rested on a hook in the wall. Grammy wouldn’t be happy, but the rules were in the way of remembrance. A prayer of forgiveness was uttered as the meat turned into julienne. 
 
A tomato popped from the basket and soon it was diced. An onion, two cloves of garlic and a carrot met the same fate. The skillet was already hot and as the pieces meet the hot metal, the symphony of smells rose forth. Mary was more of a conductor than chef. The vegetables were woodwinds and the meat the brass. The sprints in the room rose higher. In a pleasing, off-key contralto, a melody floated along with the aroma.
 
From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band  
Playing songs of hope  
Playing songs of peace  
They are the songs of every man
 
So, what would be the strings?
 
The next ingredient listed Vino Blanco.
 
“Hmm…The only thing I have is the Chianti and we are breaking rules here, so….”
 
The cork lifted easily. She topped of her glass and added a good measure to the pan. Sizzling liquid swelled up, as she scraped the bits from the bottom of the skillet as magic continued. Opening the pot, the al dente pasta sat, ready to be used. The crescendo continued. Bass tones began to appear, and an egg was cracked over the whole. Laughing, she thought it was the fitting climax to a meal of love.
Doubling a towel to protect her hands, she took the skillet off the heat. Turning back toward the table, she recited the old prayer.
 
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Amen.”
Michael was standing at the head of the table, smiling and sipping his own glass of wine. Shocked, it was all Mary could do to set the heavy pot down without spilling. His arms opened in invitation, which was accepted. Smiling into the stubble lined face, the dance continued as day faded into dusk. 
 
**********************************************************************************
“Signora?” The docent put the smelling salts under her nose. “Signora, are you alright?”
 
The sound was muffled to her. Slowly, the eyes fluttered open, but everything is out of focus. Her hand touched the edge of the divan. Her blouse was loosened, and the air is chill against the bare skin. As her wits slowly come back, she looks up and sees a small Picasso behind the administrator’s desk. It was the replaced by Michael’s worried face. 
 
“What a day. When I got back to the villa, I saw you hadn’t got back.” He knelt and took her hand. “I was worried something had happened. A taxi was waiting across the street, I took it down here. The staff was carrying here into the office…”
 
As her vision blurred again, she gave a prayer of thanks. He does care. Let the celebration begin.

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Pic Guesses- Cubist (in blog), Picasso (in blog), Sketch, Dada, Deranged, Menage a trois, The Maddening Crowd, Bohemian.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tiny House (Blogophilia 38.10)

I want a tiny house
On tiny wheels
With dollhouse furniture
To escape the world

I want to pack up an old, beat up suitcase
Take a bus and look out over the Mississippi
Then look down and see the suitcase missing

Eat Red Beans and Rice
With Beignets and Coffee for desert
Listening to old buskers
Sing from their soul

To be lost in the maze until the swamp runs out
Where the hurricanes thrash hardy inhabitants
Flipping middle fingers in response.

The edge of America.
Is where I want to be.

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Topic (lost in the maze)-Rutger Siskens
Pic guesses: Dollhouse (in blog), Tiny house (in blog), suitcase (in blog), On the go, well traveled, tiny town, small flat.
The full quote is from the movie Tightrope (1984) (courtesy IMDB.com):
Wes Block: Twenty-eight years ago I borrowed 40 dollars from my father, packed up an old, beat up suitcase, took a bus and came here. I was seventeen at the time. While I walked through the French Quarter, I looked out over the Mississippi and swore I'd never leave.
Beryl Thibodeaux: Ever come close?
Wes Block: Only once. When I looked down and saw that the suitcase was missing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Anathema (Blogophilia 36.10)

  • Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive him and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment.[1]
The canticle above (translated from the Latin) is the end of the “Anathema Formulae”, the original Bell, Book and Candle rite. It is not a long piece, maybe 15 or 20 minutes in length. Like the gallows, it has the finality of the Grim Reaper. It was a public litany, designed to be performed in conspicuous places, such as the town square, for maximum effect, scaring anyone wasn’t toeing the religious party line. Like parents warning their offspring: “Listen you two, I’m against promoting romance. It will only lead to no good.” Rumors of other unrelated character assassinations often circulated through the crowd beforehand to hype the spectacle. Jeers would be hurled at the miscreant, while the crowd silently reminded themselves they easily could be up there.
 
The local Bishop, along with twelve priests carrying candles would recite the words from the missal book, with the sinner’s accusations and attempts at reconciliation brought to the light of day. The chancel bell would be rung at the beginning and a appropriate times during the process. At then end, the twelve would extinguish the candles against the ground while chanting “So be it” three times. The book would then be closed, with an assumption that it never would open again. The sinner was incorrigible, irredeemable and unworthy, excluded (often permanently) from all communion and fellowship of the faith. 
 
Because of the severity of the discipline, Papal approval was often required. The most common reasons were heretical thought, such as doubting Clerical authority, witchcraft, or similar temptations. Was it abused? Of course. The Spanish Inquisition took it to extremes with Auto De Fé’s and other tortures separating parts from the body of any who the powers deemed heretical. Protestant sects have used versions of this to rid their flocks of trouble makers (up to and including the gallows). 
 
The formal rite was dropped officially with the Second Vatican Council (although it hadn’t been performed in at least 100 years). These days, the offender is brought into the office and kicked out without fanfare. Or with a splashy social media campaign, if circumstances require. But we still find people worthy of exclusion. 
 
Who have you deemed unworthy in your life? Do they feel the same way about you?
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Pic Guesses: Witchcraft (in blog), Cauldrons of trouble, Pumpkin Spice, Temptation (in blog), Spellbound, Enchanted, Sin with me,

Monday, October 23, 2017

Graveyard Everlasting (Blogophilia 35.10)

In an old cemetery on the outskirts of town, a buried couple is resting contently. From time to time, their conversation is heard through the light breeze. 
“A lovely night, Mary.” The man had a low nasally voice. “Air crisp with the coming cold. Look at the magical colors in the leaves. And the moon, when have we seen it so full?”
A birdlike voice replied. “It’s beautiful, Liam, so full and illuminating. Almost like our first night together, remember?”
A small chuckle. “Halloween and you were dressed as a the good witch, all in white.”
“And you were the Vampire, ready to bleed me blue.” She turned toward her husband. “You asked for my hand and I gave you my heart. Mmm...such a wonderful night.”
They gazed contently over the field. Liam turned to his mate.
“Mary, may I say I've never wanted another woman?”
“You are still so sweet.” She paused, “I certainly never needed another man. Even old, you were clever and reliable. I'm so thankful we died in each other's arms. I was 87 and you were 89 and I still looked at you like the stars that shine even tonight. But I wonder?”
"What's that, Love?"
"If those above realize we still hold hands."
With a wink. “Like the Cialis commercial?"
There was a long trill.
"Haha, Yes. I can still turn and see your lovely smile over the edge of my box. Our own version of heaven.”
A rustling came from beyond the edge of the brush. Mary whispered.
“I hear something. I hope it isn't that young couple again."
"But that was fun.” Liam said with a smirk. “Didn't it remind you of us?"
"A little too much. They certainly didn’t leave anything to the imagination."
"Neither did we. Consider it karma for our engagement night."
"Hahahahahah.” She twittered. “You’re right. We never did let our love be secret. But I wonder if old Martin was as aware of our tossing over his grave?"
"He was jealous."
"Oh, stop it, Silly”
They fell silent as a boy and girl emerged from the woods. He had ginger hair topped with a jesters cap and dressed almost formally in a blue cutaway coat with a party striped cummerbund over a matching set of trousers. She wore a long black dress that complimented her ample body and a small pointed hat perched over flowing blond curls. 
“Shhh! It IS them.” Mary shifted up as much as she could. “That's a lovely dress she has on."
Liam joined her. "If it is like last time, it won't be there long."
The bony point of the elbow missed his rib cage.
"You really are a dirty dead man.” Turning her attention back to the couple. “ Mmm... He is a nice hunk, though. Like you were at his age."
"Thank you, Love. I kind of miss that."
"Oh, I do, too. But time does go on. Let’s see what happens.” 
A small wicker basket was set on the foot-stone. Opening it, the young woman pulled a wool blanket and spread it just beyond the old couple’s final resting place. But It had not settled when passion took over. The coat and cummerbund soon lay on the grass. Buttons loosened one by one as her ruby lips followed.
“Say, it looks like she's taking the lead tonight.” Mary’s bony hand drifted over to her mates lap.
The fire between them warmed the chill of the evening. Hats released their hair, sending it flowing across bare shoulders. Trousers drifted downstream followed by the black dress, forming a pool of fabric at their feet. 
Ooh, Love, he looks like you in other places, too!” The old woman squealed. “Why I believe this is our great-grandson, Harry. Didn't he grow up to be a handsome lad.”
Ginger Head explored quivering pastel mountains while hands sought soft peaks. Sighs and the scent of flowers surrounded the scene. 
"And he's got my good taste in ladies, if I do say so myself." Liam slipped his arm over Mary’s shoulder to watch the show.
"Thank you, Dear. They really do look like us back then" She said with a wink. “Makes me want to join them"
Suddenly, the girl stopped and pulled back from her lover, putting a hand over her naked breasts.
The boy looked puzzled.
"What's wrong, Amy?"
“Harry, do you hear something, Harry?" 
Slowly, the blond curls turned toward the headstone.
"It sounds like an old couple talking. Talking about us."
The boy sat up, looking like half dressed clown he was. The sweat of their efforts flowed across his belly, dampening the waistband of his boxers. It mattered not a whit. Reaching behind him, he produced a small box. With a grin, he got on one knee. 
"That may be Great-Grandma Mary and Great-Grandpa Liam. I didn’t realize it the first time we came back here, but this is their grave.The family story was he proposed to her in a cemetery on Halloween and my Grandmother came soon after.” 
He opened the box. 
“I wonder if..."
Moonlight reflected from the ring onto their faces. The beseeching look came as it slipped on her finger was answered by a beatific smile. Pulling his face up to hers she looked deep into his starry eyes and completed the sentence. 
"...they are watching?" 
A deep kiss followed as her hand circled slowly over his bare chest.
"I believe they approve.” She kissed him again. “Harry O’Reardon, you are the most wonderful man I have ever known. I love you. The answer is YES! I want to be your wife forever."
Harry and Amy hands clasped together. Two bony hands rose from the ground on each side and embraced the young couple in benediction and love. There was no recoil at the cold hardness, for they knew it was the spirit of their love. The last of the cloth vanished. And as their bodies melded into one, supplications to life echoed off the stones and filled the forest with their joy. They were all free.
**************************************************************************************
The next year, the old couple were still at their place holding hands. The darkening indigo sky welcomed the Harvest moon. Soon, the memory of the prior year came to them. They smiled.
“Oh, Liam Love.” Mary whistled. “It has been a year. I do wonder how Harry and his Bride made out.”
Liam sighed. “I’m sure they are…: He paused “Wait...I hear something.”
As soon as the words left him, Harry and Amy emerged from the woods. Time had transformed the children into striking adults. Dressed in common working clothes, they were no less joyful than before. In her arms was their newborn son, suckling contently. Liam and Mary’s souls filled with pride.
He was carrying the wicker basket and set it down in front of the grave. With a flourish, the wool blanket was spread and a banquet served in front of the double stone. Two glasses of wine were poured and set in front of the grave. Harry then poured two more for him and his bride. Smiling, with chalices held high, Harry spoke first.
“Mary and Liam, we wanted to come by today. It is the anniversary of our engagement and we thank you from our hearts for overseeing it.”
They both drank deeply. Amy leaned over with the baby and kissed the stone. Together they introduced him. 
“This is Liam Charles. We named him for you, Sir. Our prayers to life were answered with your undying love. Your embrace still is with us. May you, and all of us, be blessed for all eternity. And may the same loving spirit follow our son throughout his life.”
They finished the wine and Harry kissed his bride again, one hand in hers, with the other on his son’s soft head. When they turned back to headstone, the glasses on the stone were empty. And they saw the bony hands locked in their own embrace. The fire was warm coals, banked for the long haul. What was asked would be done forevermore.
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Pic Guesses: Pastel mountains (in blog), Soft peaks (in blog), Peaked prism. Magical colors. Fire on the mountain, Paradise.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Eddie's Auto (Blogophilia 34.10)



Eddie’s is gone. The place where wayward bound gearheads turned wrenches on hoopties. Gone to the whims of commercial development. Oh, it had to happen. After all, Eddie himself passed on to the great car show in the sky a few years ago. And the wives of would be mechanics and racers were relieved. You see, there’s no such thing as fun for the whole family, you know. 
 
 
We spent our weekends in friends’ carports, 12 packs and parts scattered next to our rusted out hulks. We pounded and cussed at cranky bolts. Screamed when flames erupted out of throttles. Car virgins getting their first hot oil baths were always good for laughs. It was a simpler time. There were no OBD codes to figure out. Engine bays had room to work. A universal joint elbow was rarely required to get to a key bolt. Stuff was done out of pure obsessiveness, some cosmetic, most mechanical. It was how you got to the top of the street pecking order cruisin’ down Roswell Road.
 
A lot of us got our start in one of Eddie’s six bays. He wasn’t much older than us, but he had track experience and enough smarts to know just how far to go. Some of us just wanted our beasts to run. Others wanted to run from the cops. The cops took notice, too. Soon Eddie had the contract for the North County precinct. And he kept it after the city incorporated, too. Multiple generations of Ford Interceptors and Dodge Monacos littered the parking lot, most too broken to resurrect. 
 
This guy:

Would have been right at home. 
 
If this sounds like a requiem mass...well it is. A eulogy to a youth well spent sucking up gasoline and exhaust. A remembrance of the small block Malibu with the two speed Powerglide, The rusted Olds 98 with the propeller in the trailer hitch, the Volvo 144 that would puke its innards every six months like clockwork and all the other four wheel conveyances that got me from point A to Point B. They never were sports cars. I was too practical minded for those. But I enjoyed working on them.
 
Today’s kids are missing out.
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Topic-Dave Coon
Pic-David Schrader
Pic guesses- Hoopties (in blog), Gearhead (in blog), beasts (in blog), cruisin’ (in blog), sports cars (in blog), Little Red Corvette, Shiny, Metal Girlfriend, Shake Stand, Detroit Iron, Bat Out of Hell, Checkered Flag. Concours.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sleepless

I had a dream last night
A dream of you
Perfect in imperfection
Shelled with your scars 
Showing.

Bonded, we snaked alongside
Each other
Giving, taking
And giving again.

I wondered if it were mutual
Through the ether
I find you were sleepless  
All night.