wandering down an empty street
clouds of leaves about my feet
reminders of a life gone by
and then a sigh
Jimmy Jacks loved action, the adrenaline rush of suspense, the excitement of unexpected surprises. This is why he nearly knocked over the bowl of popcorn on his basketball size belly when his team’s quarterback connected on a deep pass to a wide receiver who dodged a defender and dashed into the end zone.
“Touchdown!” yelled Jimmy as he threw both hands high in the air.
“Ouch!” he muttered to himself, remembering that his seldom stressed body was not accustomed to such exertion. He settled back into the couch and the more cautionary exercise of popping snacks into his mouth, topped off with the occasional gulp of beer.
Ah, this is the life, he thought, then suddenly realized that the popcorn bowl was empty. Loathe to break a sweat or make any unnecessary movement if at all possible, he considered his options.
The dog, who had long ago adopted his master’s sedentary habits and lay asleep in front of the television, was not going to help.
Marla, his most recent girlfriend, was gone over six months now. She’d quickly realized that his sole reason for picking her up at the local bar was to have someone who would fetch cold beer during his sofa sitting sports watching sessions.
What’s a man to do, thought he who had completely committed himself to a life of vicarious pleasure.
“Ow!” Jimmy cringed as his quarterback was annihilated by an onrushing defensive end.
Moral: Nothing ventured, nothing pained.
in the muck of news’ day platitudes
I’ve lost my cheery attitude
midst hate and anger screamed and spewed
what happened to beatitudes
but past these ugly, mindless feuds
beyond behavior simply rude
there is another world that can be viewed
in Nature’s holy latitude
in this world outside our doors
flowers dance, birds sing, and oceans roar
a world that heeds not human news
where souls soar high on gratitude
2016, 2019, 2020
statistically, in today’s world, each of us shares the same birthday with about 20 million other people that’s a lot of birthday candles imagine that everyone in your city has the same birthday as you imagine that 20 million birthday buddies are celebrating simultaneously imagine that you and the 20 million inhabitants of Mexico City are partying and shouting “felice cumpleanos!” or you and your 20 million birthday buddies in New Delhi are greeting each other with मुबारक wow! 20 million people having one huge party Every person you meet singing out “happy birthday!” and you joyfully respond “happy birthday!” this thought made me so warm and fuzzy I decided to try it in my own town not a megalopolis by any measure but the best I can do for now walking down Main Street, I greeted each passerby with an exultant “happy birthday!” Sadly, the odd responses did not live up to my hopes which is why I’m back to a party for one I wonder what my 20 million other birthday buddies are doing tio stib You might also enjoy: Inspiration; Life in Reverse
Most of the small seaside town of Puerto Cielo was still sleeping, but the Bernie brothers had already assumed their positions. In the shade of the overhanging veranda, sitting side by side on the bench outside the entry to the 3 B’s store, they had a commanding view of Main Street. From this strategic location, armed with a cooler full of beer on ice, they could monitor the town’s goings on. And so they did each day, from sunrise until sunset, excepting Sundays when their wives dragged them to church and the beer cooler was off limits.
At their feet, laying dead still, was Lazarus. Nicknamed “Lazy,” the mutt had adopted them mostly because the morning sun on the wood deck made for a perfect place to sleep. There was very little that could stir Lazy from his deathlike slumber.
The brothers were identical triplets, much to their mother’s surprise. In fact, so shaken was she with the news that the expected single baby boy turned out to be three, that she named them all Bernardo. Her logic, which to be fair makes some sense, was that if she called them all by the same name, she would never mix them up.
This practicality turned out to be quite convenient. If someone asked the name of one of the brothers, the response was simply, “oh, that’s Bernie.” However, between themselves, the brothers had adopted the nicknames of Paco, Poncho, and Gus.
The three had turned out to be an enterprising trio, starting the town’s first video rental store, which had done exceptionally well. They’d been practical businessmen, offering video’s that did not conflict with the town’s religious standards, although it was rumored that a special collection of “art films” existed in a secret back room.
The brothers had expanded into other branches of the blossoming IT industry, from computer sales and repair to business networking. By the time videos had disappeared and DVDs and online streaming became the rage, younger family members had taken over the business. 3B’s was now the town’s largest internet service provider, along with cell phone and computer sales and service.
Looking at the three old grizzled faces under their bleached cowboy hats, wearing faded shirts, dirty dungarees and scuffed boots, one would never guess that these were the three richest guys in town.
And so, each with a cold brew in hand, they surveyed their kingdom.
Three wrinkled faces turned to peer up the street, past the rows of crammed together multi-colored buildings on either side, towards the sound of an oncoming motorcycle.
Patrolman Castillo was in a hurry. Having taken longer than usual to shine his knee high boots, adjust his uniform, primp in the mirror, and wax his mustache, he would now be later than desired to reach city hall. He gunned the little motorcycle’s 200 cc engine and it howled like a hive of mad hornets as he steered to miss the street’s ubiquitous water filled potholes. the ones he could not avoid sent a bone shuddering pain up his spine.
The three Bernies watched as Castillo came into view, his cycle thunking with a splash into one last pothole before slowing in front of the two story white Stucco City Hall building across the street.
The patrolman kicked out the bike stand and dismounted. Removing his helmet, he ran his fingers through the well oiled receding hair atop his head and gave his mustache a final twirl. Then he adjusted his equipment belt which included everything from a service revolver, flashlight, pepper spray, handcuffs, and ticket book. He hoisted and jiggled the belt about his ample waist, then stopped, took a small bottle from a chest pocket, and liberally doused his face with cologne. Satisfied that he was ready to introduce himself to the extremely attractive new girl in the accounting department, Patrolman Castillo put his helmet under one arm and strutted up the steps to City Hall to make his conquest.
Across the way, a bottle was removed from the cooler and the top popped. The dog’s ears moved and one eye opened. The bottle of beer was put in front of his nose.
Lazarus came back from the dead. Slowly bringing himself to his feet, Lazy watched as a weathered finger pointed towards City Hall. He shook himself awake, then turned and slowly sauntered across the empty street.
With all the patience of a priestly ritual, Lazy squatted beside the parked motorcycle and dropped a steaming load. Not quite done, the dog then lifted his leg on the front tire, leaving a stream of yellow urine dripping down the wire spokes. Satisfied, he retraced his steps to the porch. Here, the dog sat in front of the three Bernies awaiting his reward.
The opened bottle of beer was tilted into Lazy’s mouth. He chugged the entire contents empty in a series of long gulps, paused for a deep breath, then belched. The morning exercise over, Lazarus turned two circles before collapsing in his favorite pool of sunshine and resuming the posture of his namesake.
It was Paco’s turn to make the call and he dialed 911. In a frantic voice, he told the operator that a domestic dispute was happening and gunshots had been fired. He gave the address of the mayor’s house in the west side of town and then hung up.
Patrolman Castillo had made the mistake of stopping their sister, Sylvia, for a bogus speeding violation. When she wouldn’t pay the bribe he really wanted, and screamed abuse at him, he had added harassing a police officer to the charges. The ticket had been tossed by the municipal judge, who recognizing Sylvia’s connection to the 3 B’s enterprise, was not going to jeopardize access to his favorite videos in the store’s back room. Still, Castillo had made lifelong enemies of the vengeful Bernie brothers.
Three new bottles of beer were retrieved from the cooler, tops popped, and the boys waited.
It didn’t take long. The city hall entry door flew open and patrolman Castillo hurried out, adjusting his motorcycle helmet on his head. He stepped around his cycle, slid a leg over the seat and kicked the engine into life. He rocked the bike forward to release the stand, then stopped and looked down, slowly raising his left boot.
Despite the helmet covering his face, the patrolman’s curse could be plainly heard across the street. As the frustrated cop putted off to deal with a calamity that didn’t exist, the three Bernies smiled and clinked bottles for a job well done.
The three B’s were always surprised that Castillo never grasped that he was being played. They’d sent him to investigate a peeping Tom at the town’s bordello, a robbery at the twenty four hour laundromat, and theft of the mayor’s car, all obvious hoaxes upon close inspection.
For his part, Lazarus was only too willing to help out for a tall cool one.
Moral: Never underestimate the power of a cold beer.
Note: This is an excerpt from my current writing project, “The Resurrection of Puerto Cielo.”
I’ve never visited the Statue of Liberty, but before I lost my sight, I often saw images of this one hundred fifty foot tall icon that welcomes all who sail into New York’s harbor. For me, the Statue of Liberty stands for all that is good about America, as put so beautifully by the poet Emma Lazarus-
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, 1883
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door
The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in sections, the copper clad skeleton was erected on a pedestal on what would later be renamed Liberty Island. The pedestal was paid for by thousands of American citizens who donated to a fund raising campaign headed by Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World newspaper.
According to Wikipedia-
Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers, especially when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors. “A young girl alone in the world” donated “60 cents, the result of self denial.” One donor gave “five cents as a poor office boy’s mite toward the Pedestal Fund.” A group of children sent a dollar as “the money we saved to go to the circus with.” Another dollar was given by a “lonely and very aged woman.” Residents of a home for alcoholics in New York’s rival city of Brooklyn—the cities would not merge until 1898—donated $15; other drinkers helped out through donation boxes in bars and saloons. A kindergarten class mailed the World a gift of $1.35 from Davenport, Iowa.
This story brings me to tears, this is my America, the America I believe in, good people working together to build a better world for all. We need a new common vision, a project all Americans can contribute to as we collectively deal with challenges our country has never faced before.
May I suggest for starters, that you consider donating time or money to your local food bank. Millions of our fellow Americans are suffering through intense difficulties and they need our help.
I believe in America’s good. I believe in you!
As the line raced from his fishing reel, the boy grabbed on to his pole with both hands and held on. Far out in the glassy smooth water, a fish erupted into the bright sunlight, breaking the quiet with a giant splash of rainbows as it fell back into the river.
The reel stopped whirring and the boy quickly wound line in. Then, the line zipped away once more. The fish launched itself into the blue sky and danced across the shattered water on its tail. The boy was so awed by this acrobatic display, he nearly let go of his pole, but when the line stopped moving, he wound in once more only to have the reel scream as the fish took another run, pulling line after it.
And so it went, back and forth, the boy lost track of time until he realized that the fish was tiring and slowly it was getting closer and closer, until, with a final backward thrust of his pole, the boy landed the fish on the sand in front of him.
Breathless, the boy fell to his knees and stared in amazement. The fish was half as big as he was and its dazzling gold scales nearly blinded him.
The boy froze, where did that voice come from?
The boy leaned down closer to the fish’s gasping mouth.
Henry’s eyes snapped open.
“Henry, get in here, your dinner’s getting cold.”
He looked down at his pole lying in the grass beside him and the line running limp out into the still water. He stood, picked up his pole and began reeling line in.
The boy smiled, “Coming mama, just one more cast.”
Moral: If you seek to befriend an optimist, find a fisherman.
In 1942, the American composer, Aaron Copeland, was commissioned to write “The “Lincoln Portrait,” a musical tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States. A classical orchestra piece with narration, it has been performed in the years since as a celebration of the democratic ideals that have made America great.
In these current tumultuous times, times when each of us are asked to step up and embrace the primary responsibility of being a citizen by exercising our fundamental right to vote, I offer this rendition of the “Lincoln Portrait” by Tom Hanks as a reminder of all we are blessed with to be able to call ourselves Americans.
“Uncle Dan, I’ve got a problem.”
The blind uncle stopped rocking in his chair and turned his head to face the boy standing on the porch.
“And what is it?” responded the old man in a soothing voice.
“It’s Priscilla, she’s asked me to be her date to next week’s prom,” said the bashful Ernie, a good looking young man of sixteen years who was clueless about girls, even neighbor Priscilla, who he’d known and played with since they were toddlers.
“Doesn’t sound like a problem to me,” replied Dan, “she’s a smart and kind girl, and I’ve heard she’s quite pretty.”
All true thought Ernie, Priscilla was the neatest girl he’d ever known, and so pretty he often found himself tongue tied when she spoke to him.
Perceiving the boy’s silence as confusion, Uncle Dan pushed, “so what’s really bothering you?”
Ernie stammered, then blurted out, “I don’t know how to dance.”
Dan laughed, then cried out, “of course you don’t. But we can fix that easy enough.”
Wide eyed, Ernie replied, “Really?”
“Really,” answered Dan, who then gave his nephew instructions on where to find a box in his bedroom closet. Ernie disappeared, then returned moments later with a small cardboard box. He held it out to his uncle.
“Open it,” said Dan.
Ernie removed the lid. Inside was a pair of brightly shined new shoes, and not just any shoes. These were hand made, sleekly fashioned shoes with leather souls.
“What did you find?” asked the old man.
“The finest pair of shoes I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed the boy.
“Them’s dancing shoes, son. With those shoes on, you can dance all night like Fred Astaire. Them’s the shoes I wore to take your Aunt Winnie out dancing,” said Dan, then added softly, “and how we loved to dance.”
“Really?” asked Ernie, touching the shoes reverently.
“Magic shoes, boy, you put them on and you can dance anything, just let them take you away with her.”
“Wow!” said Ernie, picking up one of the shoes and eyeing it closely. They were truly beautiful shoes.
“Put them on,” insisted Dan.
Ernie stopped, “No, I can’t, they’re yours.”
“Only memories now, son, Winnie’s gone and our dancing days are done. Time for some new feet to use the magic.”
Ernie sat down on the porch steps and cautiously put on the beautiful, shining dancing shoes.
“How do they feel?” asked Dan.
Ernie stood up, wiggled his toes, bounced his feet up and down on the porch.
“It’s amazing. They fit perfectly.”
“Of course they do, they’re magic shoes,” replied his uncle.
With that, Ernie began swooping and swaying, embracing an imaginary partner as he pranced and danced about the porch. Uncle Dan smiled.
Finally, Ernie stopped in front of Dan and asked, “can I borrow them?”
“Of course,” said his Uncle, “but, you must do one thing to keep the magic going.”
“Ernie listened intently.
“Once you start dancing with your true love, dance with her every day until the music stops.”
* * *
In the cool evening air, Ernie looked out as the sky turned crimson. He rocked slowly in the same chair, on the same porch, his uncle had shared with him years ago. Ernie had gone to the dance with Priscilla, worn those magic shoes, and they’d danced every day for nearly sixty years, until Priscilla passed.
He smiled, remembering when his mom had told him those shoes were meant to be a present from Winnie to Dan on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. But Winnie’s heart had failed before they could share that dance, and Dan had never worn those shoes.
Moral: If you are blessed to find your perfect partner, dance, dance, dance until the music stops.
most think the challenge of climbing mountains
is reaching the top
pushing past fear
step by step
to finally stand victorious
in the rare air
above the clouds of ordinary being
surrounded by distant views
of unclaimed summits
with each descending step
the real work begins
returning to the valley of everyday existence
the spirit begins to shrink
for it can no longer be fed
by ordinary life
the real challenge of climbing mountains
is never surrendering the summits of our dreams
to stand alone
bold and free
with only mountaintops
2016, 2019, 2020