Sunday, November 13, 2005

When Religion Destroys

In today's online AlJazeera, I read an article about how the story of Afghanistan, in media, film, radio, and recordings; had been saved from the destruction by the Taliban.

This sad scenario replays itself, over and over, time and again. Indeed, when the Spanish conquered The Aztecs and Mayans, they systemactially destroyed thousands of written codexes and manuscripts, and thus destroyed much of the history of the new world.

This is sadly, the situation when a group of people are convinced that they are the spokesmen of God. That they are the ones who's job it is, to be enforcers of their brand of morality...regardless of how strict or ridiculous their rules may be. I've lived through this myself, a member of the Jim Roberts Group. Been through my share of religion and rules based upon myth, ancient traditions, and fear.

We are sadly seeing this still in this world today. The fundamentalist religions who preach intolerance, and violence against those they perceive as being nonbelieving infidels. Read and consider. Selah.

Saving the story of Afghanistan

The black and white images projected into the darkened cinema show an Afghanistan that years of war have destroyed.

There is Kabul as a manicured city, lights strung among the trees along the river. Actresses have beehive hairdos, knee-length skirts and cleavage. Boys and girls march together on a sports field. European hippies lounge in the sun.

The ultra-conservative Taliban wanted these images destroyed, torching thousands of cassettes after locking the doors of the television studios and cinemas and turning off the music when they took control in 1996.

That these glimpses of the past can be shown today in Kabul's famous Ariana cinema, itself destroyed in the four-year civil war that preceded the Taliban's rule, is because of great risks by archive staff.

Hidden tapes

At Afghan Film they hid tapes in the ceiling and a secret room, breaking power circuits to defeat Taliban searches.

At the several-storey Radio and Television of Afghanistan (RTA) building, they split up the collection and squirrelled cassettes into the basement and scores of other rooms, pretending the archive had been looted.

"They worked with a lot of danger for themselves, for their families," says Rahman Panjshiri, RTA head of planning and international relations.

"If the Taliban knew that, for example, these people kept some tapes in the basement, they might have punished them seriously or they might have put them in prison," he says.

The Taliban torched two shipping containers of tapes outside the Afghan Film office, although staff had made sure they were only prints of Hindi and Russian films. RTA surrendered 1500 cassettes of foreign music.

First Afghan film

But 14,500 hours of television footage survived, dating from 1978, as did 45,000 hours of radio starting in the 1940s and more than 100,000 hours of film, including the first Afghan movie, Love and Friendship, made about 60 years ago.

Having emerged through all that, the precious store is under threat again, this time from the humidity and temperature changes that destroy film and tape.

Since 2002 the French National Audio-Visual Institute (INA) has been helping to digitalise the footage, a painstaking process that has covered only about 1200 hours of material - an occasion marked by the showing at the Ariana last month.

The slowness of the project, with the radio archives only due to be started on in 2006, worries Panjshiri.

"We want to expedite the process because our archives are now in a very bad condition. Within the next 10 years nothing will be left in the archive to digitalise," he says.

"If we lose these things, it means that we will have lost our culture, our heritage, everything."

History on film

The footage includes pictures of some of the ruinous events from which Afghanistan is only just recovering.

There are the first Red troops to enter Kabul after the 1979 Soviet invasion; the first interview with Babrak Karmal, who arrived in Kabul on a Russian tank and became president in 1979; the daily skirmishes of the war between anti-Soviet mujahidin (1992-1996) that killed 50,000 people in the capital alone.

"Afghanistan is destroyed, Kabul is destroyed, we have these shots," says the head of Afghan Film, Latif Ahmadi. "The wounded people in hospital, bombing in Kabul ... most of the film is in this time, the war time."

There are also images of the treasures of Afghanistan's rich culture that the Taliban destroyed: the 2000-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas, ancient artefacts that had been in the museum, videos of deceased singers who are still popular today but whose recordings were supposed to have vanished forever.

Afghan Film also has rare footage of president Najibullah and his brother who were dragged from a United Nations compound and strung up in the streets of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996.
Rare footage

"We have pictures, only two minutes. It was very, very dangerous because the Taliban did not allow anybody to take pictures," Ahmadi says.

The rarest footage is from the Taliban period, because the government banned television, video and music as sinful.

"They turned Kabul into a very big grave. The silence at that time was like the silence of a graveyard," says the RTA's Panjshiri in his office still flecked by shrapnel from the civil war.
During the war, "it was a very bad situation but the people could say something, we could criticise everybody ... but during the Taliban, if you wanted to criticise for example [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar, maybe they would cut out your tongue".

Panjshiri and Ahmadi went into exile, returning after the Taliban were removed in a US-led campaign in late 2001.

For them, the restoration of the archives is a source of pride, with plans for film festivals, documentaries and DVDs once the footage has been digitalised.

"This archive is very important for the story of the country," says Ahmadi.

"When I tell somebody that before the 24, 25 years' war in Afghanistan we had a culture, we had a high civilisation, the girls wore mini-skirts, nobody can guess that. But if we show some films from that time, they will be very excited," he says.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

whatsoever is good

When I smell the wild flowers
or suck on the sweet nectar of clover blossoms.
pulling the roots of a sassafras plant, just to smell the fragrance.
break off leaves of trees to taste and smell
exploring the senses.

laying in the grass, with eyes closed on a summer's day
just listening to the sound of the leaves in the trees,
rustling behind my head
feeling the sun on face
open my eyes and look at the clouds making shapes.

sitting near the American River, guitar in hand,
trying to reproduce the sound of the waters

late night moonless sky,
with stars painted across the heavens.
the sound of silence,
while looking at the milky way

walking down Riverside Avenue,
in the rain under my black umbrella,
peering across the wide Ohio river bend
and standing there through the long storm
watching the lightning dance on the hills of west virginia

standing within the crowd on 13th street,
watching the apartment building burn down
flames shooting so high in the night.
and thinking about the lonely girl who lived there.
The one who didn't get out. The girl who walked alone
through the high school halls.

The colors swirling, the sounds moving,
for the first time,
watching the world in lysergic amazement.
amazed at what was inside of my head
amazed at the answers that suddenly came over me.
engulfed in feeling that I've never felt before.

and then sitting with electrified friends
in the early dawn, looking down on the valley
viewing the three towns along the river
sitting on the heights,
seeing intense fire paint the sky.
looking into the sun through the morning clouds
and being utterly amazed at the pictures
and colorful forms playing out
on the immense canvas of the sky

pressed up against her.
Not believing that she was here with me.
soft lips, long blond hair,
petite body, and small pert breasts.
always fresh and a delight.
excited at what was to come next.
my high school sweetheart
warmth engulfing me
deep inside her, drawn into her
exploring the erotic,
never to this depth
just for fun

holding him in my hands
this new life...he fit so snuggly
within my two palms.
eyes still mostly closed
soft baby skin, smooth baby smell,
and I loved him from the very first moment
an unbelievably deep love,
a ready made love
and I couldn't explain this feeling
father and son.

standing before an audience
yet oblivious to all around me.
just being aware of the sounds coming
from my throat, and playing through my fingers,
a rush of feeling played down the side of my body
from head to toe
and the band reached a higher plateau,
what is the word for it?
it is hard to describe.
a rush.
but I always feel it when it's about to hit
and then there's the rush.
not quite orgasmic
but close

in the night, seeing the tunnel to God
part of an acid laced encounter
but there it opened up.
the tunnel to the heavens
and my voice quavering
not aloud...but shouting inside of me
shout to the Lord
suddenly aware of His loftiness
and of my lowliness,
and of the connection between us.

my imagination wanders. Inside my huge mind
I see the blossoms...the unfolding
the discovery. Another of my wonders.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

it was autumn [a memoir]

The woods spread out on all sides, and I had no idea how far off into the distance they reached. I was in a clearing, and I didn't remember how I got there. The leaves had fallen, spreading across the ground. Little hills surrounded the clearing. I was not afraid, just confused about how I ended up being in this place.

Suddenly, I was not alone. There she appeared, across the clearing, calling my name. It was my friend Lynnie. She was about my same age...four years old. It was she who brought me here. She seemed to have known the place, was familiar with it. And I was still amazed that this place even existed.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

small treasures

Listening to old vinyl records,
some that I've never heard before.
Old treasures at yard sales,
old books and records,
ones I couldn't afford to buy when they were new.
Now, years later, castoffs no longer needed,
but new to my ears...
art I've been putting off for years...
low hanging fruit on my stack of stuff.
My list of things to see,
with the Seven Wonders of The World.

This lazy Saturday afternoon, I'm enjoying these small treasures.
Not the Mona Lisa, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel...
those will have to remain high on my list of things to see.

listening to:
Cory Hart's "Boy In The Box"

emotional sleight of hand

My thoughts flow freely. And now, back to religion. Le Eternal created us naked. We were adorned in the way God wanted. No Mistakes. God didn't create us with veiled or capped heads, or foreheads and arms wrapped with phylacteries. God didn't create women with a covering from head to toe. Women were not provided with a wig to cover their natural hair. The Creator didn't hide our genitals behind robes.

So tell me why do humans create these idols, these holy things that the priests say we must adhere to in order be to holy unto the Creator? How can a man construe the beautiful singing voice of a woman as being shameful before men and God? How is it, that a woman's glory is seen as something to be hidden?

I wonder at the way we understand this creation. I wonder at how our little minds insist on misinterpreting the signs of God around us. I wonder at why so-called religious men think that our God-given appetite for the delights of the body are a mistake, to be avoided.

I suppose as a person is fooled by sleight of hand tricks, as if it were magic that they see, so we humans succumb to mental and emotional sleight of hand. We are ourselves, or by others. The facts of life are misrepresented or misinterpreted. The ancient Mayans felt that human sacrifice was required to appease their agricultural insure good harvests and to ward off natural catastrophe. So human lives by the many thousands were offered in blood sacrifice on altars of stone. But not only the Mayans, but the Aztecs, the Incas, the Canaanites, the Hebrews when they were worshipping Moloch, and countless other peoples throughout the ages of history. They thought that God required blood to appease his bloodthirstiness. In reality, we didn't know much about God. We made Him up as we went along. We created idols, based on what we can imagine in our own minds. Some gods were horrific and monstrous. Others were simply ridiculous. Yet, great thought structures evolved around the creation of these gods. From the worship of the penis and the fertility of women, to testosterone fueled war gods...from a strict Jehovah to a benevolent Christ, we've worshipped idols.

Caught in the middle of a life based on religion, many discover the truth for themselves, but never break free. Out of fear of a God, or fear of being ostracized by friends, family and their religious community, they remain trapped in the lie. Although, to live within the structure and world of their religion is often sufficient; only within that world can they thrive. But, these religious worlds, are worlds unto themselves. Everything works withing it's structure, but nothing can come in from the outside.

In our modern cosmopolitan world, this form of religious life falls short. When it is possible to step outside of one's world and to see it from see it from another viewpoint, then the fallacies become apparent. The generational lies can be seen for what they are. Then, outside of the narrow religious structure, the real universe can be seen as much more huge than one had previously thought. Then, the idea of God is not bound by the box of dogma, and human misunderstanding. Then, the nature of God is boundless, and not restricted by the feebleness of our senses. Then we can become the part of creation that God intended us to be. Then we can partake of life, fully...without the false restrictions that would bind us, victimize us, or kill us.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

a day dream

[Flying from Chicago to Philadelphia over the weekend, this tale came to me in such a strong way, that I couldn't contain it. I borrowed a pen and a couple of clean napkins from the flight attendant, and began to write. This is my day dream.]

It was in an instant that she felt it. The force of the realization was overwhelming. Laying in bed, resting, after her typical long day; she was overwhelmed with his presence. These weren't the normal thoughts of him that she experienced. This was a rush of knowledge and emotion...of understanding. She suddenly knew what he'd been trying to say to her these past months. She remembered his words as he explained his life, his feelings, his needs and wants. Through these weeks she struggled with who he was and why their paths had even crossed. But now, this sudden realization, this whirlwind of intimacy, like nothing she had even experienced...she now understood. In the twinkling of an eye, she saw beneath the iceberg tips of his thoughts. She saw the world behind his eloquent words. And tears flooded her eyes as she found it hard to catch her breath. She wondered at this imagination. Was it just her imagination? She saw the sadness and the hurt. She saw the moments of horror and shame. She felt the elation and heights of happiness. She was flooded with his desire. She knew his failure and success. And she wondered. How could she know this? What is this rapture?

He did not see this coming. This was a total surprise. But then, a realization of the inevitable. He never thought the end would be like this; so quick, so abrupt, so final. He couldn't feel the slamming of his body, the ripping of limbs, the crushing of bone. There was no time to feel. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

And as he left the scene, he realized what he saw, and how he, without eyes to see, or nose to smell, or ears to hear. Yet his new senses flooded him with an instant expansion of his being. He was out of a box, no more confined.

He went to her, instantly to her. And he entered her. In the most complete and intense way, his soul intertwined hers. And he knew her. He knew her names. He saw what she felt and understood the colors of her life. All of the shadows and uncertainty were gone. He saw past her eyes, into her very spirit. He saw her life and the delicate balance of the things she carried. He now knew what she meant, and why she had been here, and why their paths had crossed. He realized this would be the only way for him to see past the iceberg tips of her thoughts and emotions. He saw her joy and pain. He understood her struggles and triumphs. He felt her uncertainty and doubt. And he knew her never ending discovery, and how knowledge continually expanded her mind. He saw her happiness. And he spread himself through her and entered every part of her being. He shared his life with her. In an instant their spirits had joined completely. And then he was gone.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

every morning

every morning she bikes to the train station
she arrives, winded from her ride.
cool shades, rough blonde hair,
sweaty and blowing in the breeze.
she sheds her backpack, shrugging it off,
catching the cool breeze against her
overheated body.
I notice erect, braless nipples,
taut against the sweat dampened fabric
of her under armour sports shirt;
some mornings, more erect and sensual then on others.
this morning, it must have been an especially rigorous bike ride.
I look up from The Reader,
we look at each other and say hellos, like every morning;
and as always, I can't help but notice
her erect nipples and perfectly shaped breasts.
She goes on to do her post-ride stretches and cool down,
her leg high on the nearby hand rail
stretching her body, reaching her hands
to touch her toes.
first one leg, then the other.
I put my sunglasses back on
and walk to my spot, preparing to board the train.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

God Hates You

Today's Christians protesting at a military funeral,
bringing an anti-gay message. They say that God is punishing America
for harboring gays. They say "God Hates Fags", "God Hates You"
(read story here)

I am so tired of people being so stupid and so gullible as to believe in stuff that they just make up. I'm so tired of people being so naive, that they believe folk tales and fantastic stories as if such is actually truth. I am tired of how ancient tales are taken as truth...just because they are ancient.

I am so tired of the troubles of this world being directly tied to religion.

Today I read a story about a Christian boy, who was taken as a slave, in Sudan. And his Muslim master crucified him with nails, because he dared to sneak away at night and worship with his fellow Christians. How do we put up with this, in a world that is supposedly enlighted...supposedly beyond medevial ideas.

I'm tired of hearing of Muslims killing other muslims because they don't believe in the correct form of Islam. I'm tired of Muslims thinking that God allows them to murder the people of the world in His name.

I'm tired of exclusionary religious practices by members of various religions, because they are convinced that only their group has a pipeline to God. Fundamentalist Christians against liberal; Orthodox Jews again reformed. Baptist Christians against Roman Catholic, fringe believers with their ignorant understanding of what their religion even teaches. Monolithic belief systems that exclude the rest of the world.

I've been there...I've believed that way. I believed in the voice in the burning bush, I believed in the infallibility of the letters and books of the early church, I believed that God talked to my sheperd. I believed what my shepherd taught me. I believed that my small group were the only ones who knew the truth of God. I had blind faith. Because I feared God and his punishement. I had blind faith because I was seeking for the truth of the universe.

Yet, now...I can't understand the hate that is thrown out, in the name of God. As if the Creator is the hater. And I can't understand how the so-called shepherds, pastors, and teachers, preach such if they were God's oracles.

But it won't end. Lies of Life will continue to be taught as the Truth...from father to son. Tied in with family traditions, with justification of jihads and crusades. Men will continue to be gullible, and never seek the answers for themselves...who never even think of what the logical truth is. And even in their fanatical zeal, they will revel and relish in the base animal behavior they practice because they blindly believe that this is God's way. That is his God's reward. That they are entitled to enslave, and burden, and kill, in God's name.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

imitation of life

today I am invisible.
at first I didn't notice it,
then, at the library, I see a person to I am invisible to,
daily on my train commute.
"Hi, don't I know you from the train?" never came out of my mouth
because I still wasn't there.

invisible, because there is no reason to notice,
because in real life, I'm in the background
with the buildings, and the grass and the trees.
not the correct size, shape, age, color for the moment.

sometimes I'm a phantom, coming in and out of focus...
reminds me of an old video by Sting;
"If You Love Somebody",
Marsalis is practically invisible all the time.
he only comes into focus when he plays his sweet sax.

at the dollar store, I become briefly opaque at the check out.
"Hi, how are you today?" asks the check out girl
(appears slightly see-through)
"Fine. How are you doing today?"
(comes into focus)
"I'm doing good." She rings me up.
I look at her badge.
"Have a nice day." she says, making eye contact.
"You have a great day too, Margaret." with a smile. She smiles back.
I am suddenly visible, in the real world, if for a moment.

this imitation
this half life
this place where I meet other people and
we exchange looks at each other's masks;
this refuge from real life that,
for me, isn't real life,
it's a lack of life.
in here, I live the imitation of life
in here, I'm not invisible. I command attention by my mastery of the medium. I build scenes with my words. I construct a simulacrum of the real world; and those seeking their own refuge, their own imitation, they see this mask, and forget, that this is not all of me.

rarely you see my face, my real eyes, hear my real voice.
you think you may know me. But there really is more to me than this avatar.

as a voyeur, I see the real life...the physical life
the interactions on that other plane.
I wonder how is that accomplished?
what is the key? and why can't I find it?

I look at my life circumstances, and the life that has not gone the way I would have expected.
Making the most out of bad situations;
grasping happiness where I can find it;
holding on to it until the last shred of hope flitters away,
 through my fingers.
never learning how to grasp, and hold and handle;
too anxious, too soon, too strong, too wrong,
and then back to the shelter of my inner safe place.
walls rebuilt, defenses laid, back in the high tower.

[mask photographs copyright © 2005 by James McCune and used with permission]

Thursday, August 25, 2005

100 Years

[by Five for Fighting]
- listen -

I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between 10 and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
She feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

15… there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
15…there's never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live…

I'm 33 for a moment
Still the man but you see I'm a they
A kid on the way
A family on my mind

I'm 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life

15… there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself
Within a morning star

15… I'm all right with you
15… there's never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live…

Half time goes by
Suddenly you’re wise
Another blink of an eye
67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on...

I'm 99 for a moment
Dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15… there's still time for you
22… I feel her too
33… you’re on your way
Every Day's a new Day

15… there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey 15… there's never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live

Monday, August 22, 2005

early train

I’m taking the early train again.  James is back in school and starting earlier.  So these are all new faces that I don’t know.  A young EMT boards and sits across the aisle on the upper deck.  I want to make eye contact, to get her attention.  I want to point to my wrist and give a smile of approval…of the claddagh tattoo that wraps around her wrist, like a band.  She doesn’t look around.  She only looks down, at her immediate space.  She begins to put on her makeup, eyeliner, blush, lipstick.  She transforms her herself from plain Jane into Jane.  I wait, looking to see if her glance comes this way.  But she is guarded.  Her glances look shy and she makes no eye contact with anyone.

She takes a wrist watch out of her bag and buckles it on her wrist.  The watch neatly covering the tattoo, hiding it from view.  Then she closes her eyes to sleep.

faux birthdays

Weekend was nice and easy.  I picked up James at the airport last night.  He had a fun time with his mom and aunt.  They won money at the casino,  then had dinner at The Rain Forest Cafe.

“We told them it was my birthday”, James said. 

He and his mom have this game.  When they go to a new restaurant, they always say it is one of their birthday.  Just to see what happens…to see what the restaurant does for birthday folks.  The last time James and I went to Bubba Gump’s at Navy Pier it was his birthday.  About six months too early!  So the wait staff all came and did their birthday song and brought the birthday treat.  It was fun.

So, about birthday at the Rain Forest…
James: ”They brought the best Ice Cream Volcano I ever had!”
Marc: “You mean, the ONLY Ice Cream Volcano you’ve ever had.”
James: “Shutup” <wink>

Saturday, August 20, 2005

morning that lasts all afternoon

James is off in Philadelphia. I'm home alone this weekend, wondering what to do with myself.

This morning started out slowly, groggily. Still too sleepy from late night sipping of Southern Comfort...which really wasn't a comfort. I got up in time to get ready for my doctor's appointment. Showered...and then decided to wear my Harry Potter "Seeker" T-shirt.
Maroon colored with the word SEEKER on the front in gold letters. New blue jeans and walking shoes.

I got to the doctor's office and that was when my day got brighter.
There are a few people in this world who always make me smile...among others, The Smiling Girl, YOU, my children...and my doctor.

The doctor's visit started out good, when the nurse asked me my age.
"Fifty two" I said, and her eyes got big.
"Gee, you look much younger than that", she said.
OK...I think I'll keep this nurse!

I like my doctor so much. When she sees me, it is always with the biggest smile. She always tells me that it's so good to see me. I talk to her on a good level. It is friendly, never condescending, like it is with some doctors. On my first day at my new doctor's office in Chicagoland...the first time I saw her...I was her first also. Her first patient at that office. And she was the first female who touched me "there" in a few years. She always remembers that I was her first patient.

So, my checkup was good. Everything checked out fine. That was a relief. My doc put a big smile on my face, as usual. And, as usual, she kept asking me if I had any more questions. And as always, I never say what is on the tip of my tongue: "Would you like to go out for coffee sometime?" As she put her hand on my shoulder and told me again it was good to see me, I said to myself. "umm, no, I better not ask."

I left the office stepping into a cool morning. The breeze was blowing and I was feeling good about the day. That was when I decided to drive to the Lake Shore. So I stopped and filled up the tank, got a cup of coffee, and smoked half of a cigar, pretending I was getting high. (Shhh...don't tell my doctor. she knows I don't smoke and I don't drink much). I felt good, smiling to myself, and at the pan handler at the stop light.

While driving up I-55, I reflected on the morning. I felt that this was one of those days, when you just know the Creator is ordering your footsteps. Well, that may or may not be true. But it was a good thought. I drove with the windows down, letting the morning air wash over me. I reached Lake Shore Drive and turned south. I drove, looking for The Point.

I turned the car around and began to drive north on Lake Shore, past the city. The beaches were all crowded with thousands of people waiting to see the Air Show. And my good mood began to change. I thought of those thousands, out for a nice afternoon. People out with real families, with real friends. and I thought of me, in the midst of these millions in this city. And I really am lost in Chicago.

Driving on, I shook myself out of that reverie. Still looking at the friends and families on the Lake Shore, regretting the change in my fine mood. My thoughts now running a mile a minute.

So, I continued driving and I decided to just drive north along Sheridan Road, on the Circle Tour.

My mood began to change for the better as I drove. Driving through Rogers Park reminded me of Mt. Lebanon, PA near Pittsburgh and of Pittsburgh's Oakland section. I started to have a familiar nostalgic feeling. I drove past all the big houses in Evanston and Wilmette. I like the drive. But I felt like I'm in alien territory. The million dollar houses. I wonder of the people here. Then I crossed the city limits into Winnetka and instantly the homes are double in size. The million dollar homes are now five million dollar mansions. The only non-Caucasian people I see, are the Mexican gardeners. Earlier I had crossed Kenilworth Ave. Now I thought and found ironic. Perhaps these Mexican gardeners traveled 30 miles from their end of Kenilworth, in Berwyn, here to the wealthy end of the same street, to work for the rich people.

Through the open windows of the car, I smell the trees. It is the same summer smell I knew as a boy back in Ohio. I hear the song of the locusts and cicadas in the trees. I know that sound. It's not from wealthy bugs in the wealthy part of town. They are the same as my bugs. The trees...they are the same. The grass.. just as green. The summer smell just as fragrant. The same in wealthy Winnetka as it is on the South Side of it is in Palos Hills, as it was in Ohio.

I started to think of the places I have been...the people I've met. I think of the trees and grass in the parks and by-ways I have slept in, when I was in the religious cult. And I remember people. Somehow a memory of one and another young man and young woman...behind a super grocery store, in some state somewhere. Memory is dim. I do remember the grandmother. Maybe in her late fifties or her sixties. She was behind the grocery also, with her granddaughter. She had a German accent. She was also looking for food. Searching for the whole foods, fruits, vegetables, dented canned goods, that so many grocery chains dump daily. Food that is past the expiration date, but good enough for today's meal. And I felt like I was intruding. I was a traveler...and this was a regular stop for her. I jumped into the dumpster and retrieved the good items...all the good fruits and vegetables. And I gave them to her. I don't think she could believe it. The look on her face. I think she was prepared to let this strange young man go first, then she and her granddaughter would see what was left. She cried. But there was enough food for everybody.

My thoughts came back to the present. Continuing my drive, I began to see signs for garage sales. Well, what on earth does one find at a rich-people garage sale? I was surprised to find that they are the same. The rich folks with BMW's in their drive way, and a yard sale going on beside their million dollar home; pretty much sells the same stuff for the same price that normal lower-middle class people sell at their garage sales. So, for a dollar, I picked up a copy of the Penguin Classic "EURIPIDES: MEDEA and Other Plays"

I drove and drove. Through all the wealthy north shore towns, determined to just drive all day. Yet, all of these thoughts were milling around in my head. So I had to stop and purchase a notebook and ink pen. I had to write. I checked my email from my cell phone. There was no word from you. Maybe later.

Driving further north, I ended up in Waukegan. I've never been here before. My young friend Sarah told me that it is like Aliquippa, PA. And it is.

The scenery changed. From million dollar mansions to a lower-middle class city. From manicured lawns and front yard sculptures to signs advertising pay-day loans, car title loans, car lots with approval for everybody, even those with bad credit. Such a change in scenery. From towns where the only way the blacks and Mexicans are there, are as a gardener or some other menial laborer, to the town that these people call home.

Today I felt a spectrum of feelings from tired, to extremely happy, to bitter and sad, to satisfied. And all through the day, you have entered my thoughts. I thought of you, on this day of rest, hoping you are indeed taking advantage of the day.

It's getting late. I'm going to drive home now. Maybe I'll rent Love Actually tonight...or maybe I'll just drive some more.

Friday, August 19, 2005

rehearsing for the weekend

Millennium Park, lunch time
the symphony is rehearsing in the amphitheater
the music, soft
a counterpoint to the sounds of the city
and the roar of the air show jets, rehearsing in the sky above.
people rehearsing today...for the weekend.
I guess in a way, I am too.

Sounds of the symphony in front of me,
the lovely French accent of the sales woman, behind me
sounds of wild insects in the park, all around me
the sun is bright
my brisk walk has quelled some of my anxiety
a time for my mind to take a break from thinking too much

I think this is the first yellow apple I've eaten all summer.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

[upon remembering my own Father...there, yet not there.]

wisdom from "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven"
and the movie "Smoke Signals"
by Sherman Alexie

American Indian Thomas Builds-the-fire, story teller and Suzy

Thomas: "How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream? Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often...or forever...when we were little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all. Do we forgive our fathers for marrying, or not marrying our mothers? Or divorcing, or not divorcing our mothers? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth, or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning, for shutting doors, for speaking through walls? or never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deaths...saying it to them, or not saying it? If we forgive our fathers, what is left?"

- AND -

Thomas: So, I told you a story, now it's your turn."

Suzy: " want lies or do you want the truth?"

Thomas: "I want both."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

the wheels of life

This day was a pleasant one. This morning I listened to the songs of life. I listened to songs of struggle and pain, of people with more questions than answers.

I listened to the little philosophers and their statements about fathers and families and God...about the shortness of life, the burdens of the years and the yearning to escape those burdens and to be free. Free to love, and think, and live.

This day was a good one, of looking out the windows on a rainy day...and reflecting on the questions and answers, and how I feel about where I've been, where I am, and the road upon with I am traveling in this life.

This day I reflected on the good feeling that is engulfing me...despite all the bad things. Because those things don't rob me of what I'm enjoying.

I thought of my inquiring friend. This day I left off some chains and forsook the bad. I got rid of a yoke, I brushed away some tears and talked to God.

Sunday, August 07, 2005



shorn of her glory
by thirty years of tradition
left with a vail to hide
what God had made

by ideas of men who make the rules
small minds of men who build
a box around the Creator
with a myriad of misunderstanding
they pave paradise
every jot and tittle begets
a new precept by which to rule
slowly grinding...turning tradition
into rules...turning rules
into laws...turning laws
into the voice of God

a teacher once said
“But if a woman have long hair,
it is a glory to her:
for her hair is given her for a covering”

yet she is covered with tradition
and what God had made
is replaced by man's creation.
their millions of rules
become their idol

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Lake Shore

early Saturday morning, the sun is shining low off the lake.
the first runners of the day, off to my right
The Killers on the radio
and sun beams off of the ripples of the calm water.

A bustle has started, city activity that I don't find
out there in hills of suburbia.
It's a feeling that I like...that I wouldn't mind living in.

"what if they had a race", says companion, "where they block off Lake Shore Drive?"
"you know, driving cars like souped-up Hondas,
like in the video race games", he adds.
"they could race all the way up Lake Shore."

I picture it in my mind, as I drive up the shore,
exit at Fullerton, making my way to Halstead.
And I look at the Saturday morning folks with envy
knowing that in my suburban apartment, I'd still be
groggy from the previous late night.

someday, I think.
someday, the city.

music search run - 4-August-2005

my semi-regular, periodic, whenever I can find it, thrift store, music search.

This week I picked up the following on vinyl:

Human League - Human (extended 12 inch single) - 1986- pristine
a. Human (extend version) 5:00
b. Human (A Cappella Version) 2:00
Human (Instrumental Version) 5:00

Jean-Luc Ponty - Mystical Adventures (worn cover, pristine vinyl) - 1982

Joni Mitchell - Ladies Of The Canyon (worn cover, good vinyl) - 1970

The Roches - self titled (good cover, very good vinyl) - 1979

Ronnie Laws - Solid Ground (damaged cover, good vinyl) - 1981

Friday, July 29, 2005

jet plane view [rewrite]

Flying into Chicago at night,
the lights of the city spread out below.
Bright street lights trailing off into the distance,

streets, lit up for the night.

Like holiday lights strung towards each horizon,
their parallel lines getting small in the distance.
The grid, like some kind of game board,
glowing bright amber and white
against the dark velvet surface.
A perfect semetry, broken only by
the black patches of forest preserve,
the meandering river,
the wide curves of the Skyway
and the expanse of black that is the lake.
Street upon street of homes,
as far as the eye can see,
lit for the evening.

Familiar thoughts emerge,
thoughts of evening travel,
hitchhiking from place to place.
Looking out of passenger side windows,
looking into the lighted living rooms
of homes that I passed in the night.
Seeing people talking, conversing,
reading newspapers, watching the tube, living life.

What are those lives? What is in their orbit?
What is their workaday world?
What answers to my questions do they have?

And what of the living room windows?
who are the friends of these people?
more home fires and more small worlds.
each person's sphere intersecting with still others.
All of the thousands of places in this city.

Looking down from the sky from my jet plane view.
The thousands of stories in these lives.

I fly on my route, I see hundreds of cities,
thousands of lighted houses,
thousands of car headlights heading for those homes.

This human machine, repeats all across this country,
and over into the next, to engulf the world with people.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

" a long kiss"

"In the movies, writers are always balling up pieces of paper and staring moodily into the corner as though they were struggling to read a teleprompter. Sheesh. Writing is a completely internal activity. Watching someone write is pointless. Reading is where all the action is. You are moving your mind across someone else's, like a snail, like a long kiss."

--Audrey Niffenegger, Author
during an interview on her book "The Time Traveler's Wife"

Friday, July 08, 2005

God of War

For twenty years, I was a born-again Christian. for 17 years before that I was a Roman Catholic who believed what I was taught as a child. I Changed My Mind. And now I'm frustrated...looking at the present day religious wars from the view of a formerly religious guy.

Humans prove time and again that they are gullible, stupid, ignorant and ill informed.

When people embrace the mythology of religion and let their spiritual naïveté rule their lives and that of their neighbors, they prove how faulted their thinking is.

What is it about religion that shapes people's thoughts to embrace totally illogical ideas?

I am convinced that it is the fear of being eternally damned by a vengeful, wrathful God. Down through the ages, people have submitted to the monstrous orders of the priests and mullahs, because of total fear that they would be lost to hellfire.

The latter day "born again" "Jesus loves you" "personal saviour" flavor of Christianity is a fairly new phenomenon. Throughout the centuries, the Christian faith was replete with stern warnings and punishments for disobedience. But don't misunderstand. Godly violence isn't relegated to just one religion.

Early Jewish leaders routinely committed genocide on whole populations. The Jewish scriptures give detailed accounts of God ordering the destruction of idol worshipers.

The Babylonians killed the captive Jews who didn't bow down to acknowledge Nebucadnezzar as King and God.

The Canaanites, Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas offered what they believed was the ultimate sacrifice to their gods. That is, a human sacrifice. Those cultures had evolved to a point where the sacrifice of corn and first fruits was not enough. Their stern god needed more. Blood. And even more than just the blood of mere animals.

The priestly caste repeated this scene the world over. In history, from civilization to civilization, certain of the people claimed to be the mouthpiece of God. There is the idea that God exists, and that this God only speaks to the chosen few. The sheep-like people blindly believe that their priests are infallible...that they know God and understand His Mind. Never mind that the world's religions, time and again, fashion their God after a very human fashion. They succeed in creating a idol...a God that acts just like humans.

In most religions we see that God pretty much hates the earth and all the things in the earth. Time and again we hear of this earth as being corrupt. We hear how God's kingdom is not of this world. We see martyrs of religion, who die for the promise of the sweet by and by. They are people who die to quench the blood lust, against those they perceive to be the non-believers. People become zealots for religion. Yet in truth, they really understand nothing. They dare not ask the questions that would bring their faith into doubt. They blindly follow; without logic or proof that anything they believe is really true.

Through the ages, people have suffered at the hands of others, mainly due to differences in religion.

Today, the Muslim extremists would not hesitate to nuke America and the West from the face of the earth. They even consider other moderate Muslims, who don't share their extremist views, as being apostate, and really not true Muslims.

They insist that they are doing God's work. They think that God helps them to fight the Jews and the Crusaders. They think they are doing God a favor. They are putting the world through the type of intolerance that the Roman Christian Church did back in the Middle Ages. Yet extreme Islam was also present at that time.

It is troubling, that at the core of all this, the religious fundamentalists and extremists seem to have never really taken a very good look at where their religion came from. Many don't know the origins of their faith, or how it started. Their whole religious experience is based on things taken for granted, things taken as fact. But it is mere stories and myth that are taken as fact. It is blind faith, borne out of religions created for fun or profit....of other religions created from schizoid voices heard on the wind. Still other religions are created from stupid and unlearned members of the priestly caste. The religious intelligentsia, who believe in their own infallibility. An intelligentsia that yields ideas of a flat earth and misogynism and ignorance and backwardness. They worship a stupid, brutish God who is ineffective. These people equate backwardness with holiness...poverty with holiness, "righteous murder" with holiness.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

buying / selling

5:30 p.m. evening commute, Metra

he's not motivated to buy
and not really interested in selling.
just enough for his meager needs
just enough to keep his head above water
barely above water.

she sells what she does not even have
she sell ideas and dreams
she paints those dreams with convincing words
with pictures for the mind

he does not have the means
he does not ever have the time
he looks to the horizon
looking for a treasure, wants to find a windfall
gold is in them hills, his get rich quick plan
and he is buying what she is selling
he is paying for her gimmick

smooth as oil, her words
slipping through his fingers, his riches

Monday, June 27, 2005

invisible me

sometimes, no one can see me.
at times, I run into that invisible wall.
wanting to connect with that person...all efforts get rebuffed.
my clever approach gets turned aside,
and I stand there, feeling like a fool.
I wonder why I ever opened my mouth in the first place.
and then I think, "what's the use?"
"it was a stupid idea anyway".
that person isn't so important to me, so why try?
but inside, the feeling lingers,
I just wanted to be friends.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Summer and The Smiling Girl

It is a nice morning,
sun shining, the start of a hot summer Chicago day.
Reading my book on the train, chitchatting with my train friend;
then the morning turned brighter.
There she appeared...The Smiling Girl

She has just returned from Italy six days ago.
She'd finished her last quarter studying art history
in Italy...the Sistine Chapel, Venice,
all of those historic places in the old country.

Her smile, bright as usual, and sparkly eyes,
her straight brown hair, now to the middle of her back
her body ready for summer.

We walked together catching up on the past few months,
talking about new babies, jobs and small talk.
Coordinating our train schedules.
We part ways on the street, she heading toward the Lake,
me north up Wacker.
"See you later!"

Monday, June 06, 2005

Life in Babylon

When I was his age, I didn't know what I was doing.
age 18...high school first job for 4 months.
Then after three months I became a beauty school dropout.

age 19...a new job...moved to Baltimore...became a Christian.
I moved back to Ohio...another new job.
I quit the Luke, and forsook all to follow Jesus.

age 20...I had left life was what I carried on my back.
I wandered the roads of this country; out, into the highways and hedges
compelling them to come in. I had fled Bablylon and was in The Way.

age 21...when I was his age...I had traveled to just about every State in the union.
I often phoned my mom to assure her I was OK.
I posted her letters to convince her to also leave Babylon.
I searched my soul...and changed my mind.
I left the road and returned home.

By the time I was his age, I'd lived four long years on my own.
I'd experienced the world in a way that few ever do.

age 22...I watched the fall of Saigon on TV.
I returned to the care of my parents...and my home. They helped me on my way.
I learned with patience and baby steps how to live back in The World.
I embraced the system.
I returned to Babylon.

Monday, May 16, 2005


funny how feelings emerge
curious how they flow and grow
but then, no wonder that they die
left on the vine to wither and dry

Monday, April 04, 2005

Debbie and Terry

[A requested public post, from an old friend from Wellsville, OH.]


I am writing this to you in hopes that you share this with all you know. I also hope you don't think about me in this way but always as you knew me before.

I have been doing a lot of thinking since the Terry Shiavo incident and I can say I am on the husband's side (despite the signs of it being done with the wrong intentions). I will be in Terry's situation one of these days with liver disease that has compromised my spleen, kidneys heart and brain. Despite all the medications I have been on, this ugly dragon ( as we with Hep C refer to it) has raised it head and bite me again.

On good days I only sit and cry because of the pain for a few hours. On bad days my skin hurts so bad I can't even wear clothes. That's not a pretty sight any longer since I have swelling from mid ribs to the crease of my leg. The swelling and pain are so bad sometimes that I can't even bend over to wipe my own ass after going to the bathroom. I can't eat because of the nausea and still gain weight because my kidneys are failing and I bloat so bad my weight changes by 5-10 lbs weekly. When I do eat I have heart burn so bad I either throw up or eat Rolaids like they are candy. The Hep C also causes muscle and bone pain that travels throughout my body. Add the arthritis in neck and spine plus the shot gun's shell still imbedded in leg and ankle, sometimes I can't even sit or stand. What am I supposed to do then? This also caused hepatic brain damage. This acts like small strokes. I get lost sometimes going and coming from places I know like the back of my hand. This morning I forgot how to turn the shower on.

HOW WOULD YOU OR ANYONE LIKE TO LIVE THIS WAY? The liver damage is as the Dr. said in lay terms, only medium. Can you imagine what I'll be going through when it sets in cirrhosis? This is inevitable. That is how this disease progresses. From Hep C to cirrhosis to cancer and transplant if you are lucky.

I don't want my family or friends to see my that way. I already have a living will in place. I had to go to almost strangers because my family can't come to terms with it. Jim said he would respect my wishes but when the time comes he's not sure how he'll actually react. He's having a hard time already and won't come to terms with the fact that I'm dying slowly but surely.

I have already decided that when I start getting really bad that I will divorce him so he won't have to put himself through taking care of me. If something happens instantly and it very well could, I would want him to get another woman and have a life. Use my insurance money if I had any to enjoy himself because he has worked to help me now. I can't commit suicide because I don't think I could do it.

Again I ask WOULD YOU OR ANYONE YOU KNOW WHAT TO LIVE THIS WAY? This this really living?

Thanks for letting me vent to you and PLEASE think about those you love and that love every day.

Debbie Cataldo

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

((A Bright Red Scream))

Just perusing my son's xanga blog today. And noticed one of the blogrings he's got linked on his page. ((A Bright Red Scream)) This Blogring has links to 90 blogs, of youths who cut and self-injure.

The common thread...they are screaming for help...fighting depression, and over all bad life situations.

I see it up close. And can't find the answers or the magic words.

finding him

don't know how to help him
don't know if I can
reaching out useless hands, offering inadequate words
standing by and watching the cut
watching the pain that refuses to be named
he finds release his way
lets it flow out
dancing on danger, flirting with disaster

if I only had magic words
miraculous turns of a phrase
that would heal and mend
to make everything new again.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

religion - journal musings - 8/26/2002

journal musings - 8/26/2002
5:30 p.m. - Metra train from Chicago
[thinking about the rise and fall of religion
both my own...and the world's]

Things that brought comfort
    are now empty husks.
Promises of Life,
    now hollow tales.
What gleamed brightly in younger days;
    now dull, rusted, remnants

"Ignorance is bliss" they say.
    my myopia now gone
    my eyes wide open

Yet, the universe is now larger
The boundaries more far flung.
Before, religious pride sought
    to speak for God
    to act for God
    invoke righteousness in His name.

Oh, how we knew the oracles of God,
written down by scribes and sages.
From father to son, down through the ages
So sure we know the mind of God
    someone told us, convinced us,
    assured us, tricked us.
My truth, more sure than yours;
-and you say the same to me.

Looking at the world
    the ages of mankind
millions believe one way, handed down
    through mists of time
mixture of make believe and lies
    of sleight of hand and
        voices heard on the wind.
The common voices heard by the one
to start a new belief; a new way,
to upset the order of old,
the beliefs of the Fathers.

Repeated--this senario
        time and again

The mind of the fanatic speaks
"You are the evil infidel"
"You dishonor the Fathers"
"you dishonor God"
Intolerance destroys,
removes the sickness from our midst

The oracle speaks
"We must not deviate from the Path
God told me of the Path.
I am His messenger.
I understand the Father
*I* am the chosen one
my family are the chosen ones.
our God is greater than the other gods
our God is mightier than your make believe god.
my God is the true invisible God
your god is made of stone."

the adherent asserts
"Our God accepts our sacrifices
the best of our farms,
the best of our crops
the best of our flocks
the firstborn of our children"

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

a kick to the heart

I looked at her pictures one last time today;
and started taking the advice of my friends.

I took some new steps in my life today;
and moved toward the ones who've looked for me.

I objectively pondered those recent events today;
and realized where we are, where I am, and where I'm going.

I'm listening to a happy song
that is making me smile
I'm reading a good book
that makes me wonder why

what'd the teacher say?
you shall know the truth
and the truth'll set you free?
yeah, something like that.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

men like me - by Nigel Tiptoe

there are men like me who would bathe in your words
who would drink your laughter until drunk
and would drown happily in your bliss

there are men like me who would plunge into you
like a sea-bird into sparkling waves
who would plumb your depths like a wide-eyed, deep-sea fish

there are men like me who would pour out their dreams
to wash away your hurt
who would weather your storms rejoicing
who, frozen by your indifference,
would melt at your merest glance

there are men like me who would love you
who would paint their pictures on your body
who would write their stories into your life
and would inscribe their poems upon your heart

i don't know how many men there are like me
but there is at least one

copyright 2005 by Nigel Tiptoe
(reprinted here with the author's kind permission)

Monday, January 17, 2005

after the winter solstice

long brunette hair
her jacket doesn't seem warm enough
earphones in place
a winter tan
young sparkling eyes
her gaze meeting mine
friendly recognition
we speak for a minute
rekindling our acquaintance
The Smiling Girl