Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Regrets.



I'm spoiling to do laundry.
The laundry room is right outside my apartment door.
So it should be a piece of cake, a walk in the park.
Right?
Except for my blonde neighbor next door.
On Tuesdays she's in the laundry room from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., which is when I want to do my laundry. 
In fact, that's the day, Tuesday, when the curled up sheet of yellow paper on the wall in the laundry room says it's my turn to do laundry.
Monday is too early. Wednesday I've already run out of clean shirts.
I'm not a morning laundry person, or an evening laundry person.
It's midday Tuesday or never.

I can look and smell like a slob. No problem.
I've done it before.
Once I went to church back in Minnesota without shaving all week and wearing a long sleeve white shirt with black ridges on the cuffs and the collar filled with dozens of black pills, like fleas.
An old guy who knew me for ten years came up and asked if I was new in the Ward. He was sniffing for tobacco or alcohol or something. The old fart.

But I wanna go out tonight to a coffee shop for hot chocolate and to meet a brainy girl who carries a big heavy book. So I can tell her I've outgrown P.G. Wodehouse.
Darn that blonde, anyways.
She leans way over the machines when she puts things in and takes things out, so I'm gonna have pale blonde hairs all over my clothes.
Gag a maggot!
All she washes are jeans and black t-shirts.
I should say something to her.
But she's a heavy sigher. Sighs like she's ready to pass a bowling ball.
So I'll wait until she's done, if I don't fall asleep first.
Gotta stay mad. Angry is good, when you need to stay awake.
Hope I've got enough quarters. 
There better not be any Canadian quarters . . . 
Why the hell did I ever sell our house on Como Avenue?
It had a bright white washer and dryer in the basement.




Closure.



They locked the bathroom doors at Fresh Market.
I noticed the sign on the Men's Room door last week:
"Bathroom for employees and customers only."
"Ask at Customer Service for key."
Now what do I do for my early morning walk?
I used to be able to walk over to Fresh Market
for a jalapeno/cheddar bagel right at six.
Soon as I got in the door I'd ask myself:
"Is it time yet?"
But my body is sneaky; it would let me shop a while
and then scream:
"Now! Now it's time!"
And I'd have to move fast.
But now, if my body bushwhacks me at Fresh Market,
I may not have time to go all the way to the Customer Service
counter and then all the way to the Men's Room.
So now I shop at night, like a fugitive.
After the day's business is done for certain.
Maybe if I think about it hard enough
and get mad enough
I won't need to take a walk at all.

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The Spirit of Christ

Image result for book of mormon

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil . . . 
Moroni 7:16

I know and act and understand
by light of Christ each great command;
no ignorance can I e'er plead
to mitigate a sinful deed.
O Lord, today give me the strength
to serve thee as I go the length! 

Monday, January 27, 2020

How excellent is thy lovingkindness.

Image result for book of mormon

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
Psalm 36:7

Under thy wings I will gladly trod,
and trust in thee my steadfast God!
And lovingkindness reap from thee
today and for eternity.
Let my delight in thee increase,
that I and mine may live in peace!

The Leaf Counter.

(Dedicated to John Schwartz)

So I took a job with the Census Bureau. They wanted me to count all the leaves on the trees in the city. When they first gave me the job description, I wasn't sure about it.
"Is this a made up job or something?" I asked my boss, a young woman with deep brown eyes, shiny black hair, and a nose ring. "Some kind of sinecure cuz I'm related to some big shot or my demographics or what?"
"We need to know how many leaves, on average, our trees are producing" she replied crisply. "It's all about climate change and global warming -- we'll compare your count with the next count in ten years to see if the leaves have increased or decreased, and that information will help us formulate new environmental policy at the federal level."
You can't argue with young people -- they think the world makes sense. So I gave her a massive shrug, which almost made my ratty old sweater slide off my slopping shoulders, and took the census forms over to the park. At least it was outdoor work, and the weather was pretty decent so far. The first tree I looked at was a red maple. There were a couple of squirrels in it.
"Now that would make more sense" I said to myself; "a squirrel count might mean something -- and there's a heckuva lot less of 'em to count!"
It took me all afternoon, but eventually I got the tally -- that red maple had 3,335 leaves on it -- give or take a few that blew off while I was adding 'em up. I took the little copper hatchet my boss had given me and made a hack mark on the tree trunk -- so they'd know that tree had been done.
Then I went home to continue my experiments with kombucha-flavored potato chips. 
The next day I went back to the park and started in on a pine tree -- but before I was halfway through I thought I'd better check in with my boss, just in case pine needles didn't count as leaves. I'd left my Tracfone at home, so I just walked over to the little makeshift office the Census Bureau had set up in an old abandoned cider press. It was actually on the National Register of Historic Places.
My boss gave me a great big smile when she saw me. Gosh, young people sure have pretty smiles nowadays! It made me wish I had smiled more when I was young, instead of always pulling at my lower lip when I greeted people. 
She now had a bright red dot right between her eyebrows. I couldn't tell if it was a bindi or a pimple, so pretended not to notice it.
"Hey boss" I said. "Should I be counting pine needles, too?"
"Sit down a minute, will you?" she said to me. I sat, and she went and got me a cup of very hot ginger tea. I hate ginger tea, but if the boss gives you a cobra to put down your pants leg you'd better do it and say 'thanks.' That's what my old man always said, the unlettered buffoon. 
I set the tea cup down on her desk and tried smiling back at her. That's when I noticed how badly my lips were chapped.
"You remind me so much of my grandfather" she told me. "He had a white moustache just like yours, and he pulled on his lower lip just the way you're doing right now!"
"Whoops!" I said. "Sorry."
"No, don't be sorry" she said sadly. "I miss my grandfather so much -- he would tell me funny made up stories in the afternoons, when the sun was too hot to go outside."
She took out her smartphone and turned it off. Then put it in a drawer of her desk.
"Please" she entreated me. "Tell my some grandfather stories . . . "
"Welp . . . "I began, "I'm gonna invent the first kombucha-flavored potato chips here pretty soon. Should make a killing with 'em . . . "
We spent the rest of the day together. I told her about how babies were found under cabbage leaves and that the moon was made out of green cheese. She sent out for lunch for the two of us..
In Thailand, I told her, the people think the moon is a giant rabbit. And down in Mexico they have a peanut flavored ice cream that is incredibly bad -- mothers make their children eat it for punishment. Out in Utah, I told her, all the Mormons are born with horns on their heads -- but they get 'em filed down before the age of eight. If you swallow chewing gum it stays in your gut until the day you die. Out in Africa more people are killed by exploding elephants than by lions, y'see, cuz when an elephant dies its body swells up in the intense heat so fast that if they don't let the gas out quick it expands to twice its size and then ker-blooey! The carcass explodes like a stinky land mine. That's a well known fact.
When she locked up the office late that afternoon her mascara was running a little, and I felt that being a foolish old windbag wasn't such a bad thing after all. I knew she wanted to hug me before I left, but I kept my distance and ignored her body language. Young people should hug young people, and old people should just hug themselves. 
The next day I went back in early, to see if she wanted some more grandpa stories. But at her desk was a burly bald white guy; Ed Asner's doppelganger. 
"What the hell do you want?" he growled at me.  
"Uh, I'm the leaf counter" I began.
"What!" he barked at me. "Not another one . . . you're the third one today to hand me that line. Now get this -- I don't know what the previous tenant of this desk told you, but the Census Bureau don't count leaves -- we only count people! Now get out of here."
And that night I finally perfected my formula for kombucha-flavored potato chips. And I used some of the money I made to track down that brown-eyed, black-haired young women with the ring in her nose, and adopted her as my legal grand daughter so I could tell her more stories , , ,
Like how when I was a kid the summers were so hot that the street asphalt would liquefy and I once saw a whole city bus sink right into the asphalt and people were jumping out the windows while yelling to beat the band . . . 




Sunday, January 26, 2020

Into your heart.

Image result for book of mormon


. . . and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.
Helaman 13:3


What comes into the heart
that goes out with a smile
from the spirit of God
cannot ever be vile.
Peace I must strive for,
to enter my heart,
that all may be well
when God's words I impart.

Photo Essay: Evening fog in Provo.




Blurry branches
that don't move:
cotton lights.



Secure and warm.
Dissolved and indistinct.
A modern family.



Nominated:
Best Carfax Abbey
look-alike.



Muffled light
wilts at
the effort.





The indistinct
feeling that
colors are bleeding.



Focus
is a matter
of opinion.




Fog works
with light:
but no consensus.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Photo Essay: The mountain needs a good wash.

01/28/2020
The mountain
needs a good
wash.


01/27/2020


Sifted mountains
hold no answers
today.




01/26/2020

Layers of
dull
yesterdays.




01/25/2020

Too lofty today
for doing
laundry.




01/24/2020

The mountain
turns its back
on me.








01/23/2020
Where
all men
stand equal.







01/22/2020
The fog
ate
the mountain.






01/20/2020

Gray
is the Switzerland
of colors.


01/21/2020

I dreamt
I was a mountain
in the mist.

01/21/2020
A gauze that wipes away
the blood
of sunset.

Crazy Henry Gets Married.



I hadn't seen Crazy Henry in a while. His iguana had gotten sick. An iguana, I might add, that he insisted was a monkey, not a lizard. So anyway he took the thing down to Guatemala in the hopes that the tropical heat and moisture would cheer it up and cure it of whatever malady it had.

Crazy Henry called to invite me over when he got back from Guatemala. He sure sounded cheery and was definitely not suffering from any kind of malady, so I walked over and gave the old 'shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits' knock on his door.

When he opened the door he gave me a big bear hug, which was something he had never done before. We were close friends, I liked to think, but not very demonstrative. 

"That's called an abrazo" he told me happily. "They do it all the time in Guatemala."

"You about cracked a rib, there, junior" I complained in mock irritation. I was glad to see him, but his apartment smelled different. It reeked of vanilla beans.

"How's the iguana, I mean the monkey doing?" I asked.

"Oh, he died on the way down there" he replied. Crazy Henry did not seem at all sad about it. He paused, rocking back and forth on his heels like a kid waiting to announce that Christmas was almost here, and then burst out: "I got married down there!"

A small brown woman came out of the kitchen and smiled at me.
 "This is Mariana!" he said excitedly. "Mee moo-hare!"

"Mucho gusto" I said to her politely. Her smile widened into a grin; she had a gap between her upper front teeth like the Wife of Bath.

"She owns a sunken pirate ship" he said proudly. "Wanna help us get the gold out of it?"

************************

Turns out everybody in Mariana's village knew about the pirate wreck -- it was right off the beach, and most of it was exposed at low tide. But it was overgrown with sea nettles -- you couldn't get into it without being slashed and stung to death.

"My boss wants me back in two weeks, or else" I told Crazy Henry. "This is just a wild goose chase."

"I've already taken care of it, with good old Yanqui know-how" Crazy Henry assured me. "I'm gonna bring in a school of sea goats to eat the sea nettles."

"Sea goats" I said flatly. I already had a terrible rash from the heat and humidity, and was covered in white zinc oxide ointment. I couldn't take another minute of Crazy Henry's fooling. "I'm gonna go lie down, take a siesta" I told him. "Good luck with the sea goats."

Mariana kindly brought me a plate of warm empanadas as I lay suffering. Then I fell asleep. When I woke up I could hear what sounded like the entire village screaming their heads off. I went outside and saw that the old pirate wreck was completely denuded of sea nettles. And the villagers were streaming out to the wreck with sacks and jugs and tubs and quilts and anything else that would hold some of the treasure. By the time Crazy Henry and I got out to it, the only thing left was a brass bell and the oak steering wheel, both black with age and salt water.

*******************************

Back in the good old Estados Unidos I got a raise at work and Crazy Henry and Mariana ran a food truck that served empanadas. They parked it every week day in front of the county courthouse and did a roaring trade. 

I kept the brass bell and Crazy Henry kept the steering wheel. 
Mariana went to an orthodontist and got that gap in her teeth fixed.
When Crazy Henry brought home another iguana to raise as a pet monkey, Mariana roasted it for Sunday dinner and had me over for a slice. 
"Tastes real good, for monkey" I couldn't help saying to Crazy Henry.


Let them fall by their own counsels

Image result for book of mormon

Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
Psalm 5:10


The counsels of the wicked are a snare unto their feet.
They stumble into chasms whenever they do meet.
But righteous men and women, when they meet together oft,
are guided by the Spirit as they speak in tones so soft.
The arm of flesh, the cunning mouth, how little they achieve.
But humble pleas to God above great miracles do weave.