Monday Haiku…..every little thing

my memories are

a collection of details,

that would normally
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remain unnoticed.

because it’s the little things that
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i treasure the most.
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i absorb them all,

because it's the little things that

i love about life.
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i memorize them,

because it's those little things that

i love about you.
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Thank You & A Few Hurdles Leapt…

So… this is a short update and a heartfelt thank you to so many of you, who read A Bucket of Glads last week. And if you remember, I wrote about Scout encouraging me ( well.. sort of demanding in her very sweet way ) to apply for a residency at an artist retreat, just north of us.

Thanks to all your encouragement in the comments, to set aside my anxiety about the interview process and go for it, this kinda’ pie in the sky, oh that sounds incredible but… idea that Scout had, just leaped over a few hurdles the past few days.

Thursday I asked MrJ, my supervisor at work about time off,

‘Wow! Hey, just make sure you give me plenty of advance notice.’

Now…if MrJ actually heard me refer to him as such, he’d be blushing through his dreadlocks. Him and I are longtime employees here, and we’ve become trusted friends over the years. About 6 months ago, a few of us vets were so disatisfied with the direction this company was going in, we were about to find other opportunities. One of the owners took me to the greasy spoon on the corner for some cheap coffee in those nice heavy ivory cups, and a heart to heart, and when I was asked what it would take for me to stay,

“I really need a four day work week. I want to focus on my writing.’

It was done the next week, just as I was beginning to blog here on WP. And yesterday I came home to an email from Ms. N, Scout’s friend who is on the board of directors of the Ragdale Artist Residences, and she apparently enjoyed Bucket of Glads as well. She was so reassuring that I had nothing to fear with the interview process, her encouraging words really allowed me to just set my anxiety aside. There is an opening for a tour of the house and grounds this Monday, which is my third day off at work and so far it looks as though it will happen.

She asked me to think of an ‘attainable goal,
something that I would or could accomplish in
the peaceful environment and free time offered
there, and surprisingly I’ve thought of two.

I believe the universe is whispering again
because very early last week, days before
Scout came home with the residency idea and
the bucket of glads, she came home with these;
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pens 001
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These are the world’s greatest, extra fine point,
permanent ink drawing pens. The last I’d known,
PILOT discontinued manufacturing this pen they
named Razor Point, it just stopped being carried
at all the usual outlets I had come to rely on.

I haven’t drawn in many, many years and this pen,
showing up now as it has, represents my long lost
love for drawing, especially in pen and ink.

I’m not sure the whispers could be any louder….

And lastly, to all of you my dear friends, this little blog of mine, that began in March with a very simple idea and very little expectation, is about to record it’s 2500 th comment. I still sit back some days and shake my head in wonder, that I could be writing anything that would resonate with anyone else, but myself.

And on days like this, days that I take a
necessary and grateful step back and realize
how far I’ve travelled in these past few months,
and why: It’s because of all of you.

Thank you all so very, very much.

Friday Prose….. My Conversation with the Sensai

As a kid it wasn’t often that I got to see my father, in fact it was rare. Silently shaved and showered, he even managed to shut the aluminum storm door without the inevitable rattle, start up his ’62 white Coupe DeVille which was parked in the driveway just beyond my bedroom window and leave well before daybreak. The roar of that huge engine never did wake me up, somehow it shifted into park every night without notice too.

With so few happy experiences of the time he was home, it wasn’t long before I just expected his absence, even secretly hoping for it at the foot of my bed during my nightly prayer.

Although it was never adequately explained (precious little was) why he was never home and what he did while he was away, the clues were there. Grease stained workboots occupied several brown, speckled linoleum treads on the basement stairway, the constant low rumbling of the washing machine and my mom dutifully trudging basket after basket of oliveish green pants and shirts up the steep back stairs, hanging them to dry on the clothesline in our backyard. Sometimes she would ask me to keep her company and hand her the wooden, spring loaded clothespins; I would have ten at the ready, one clipped to each finger.

My finger would always find the stitched,
red star patch on the shirts, and i would
trace the outline of the stars as they hung
in the warm breeze.. for some odd reason I
really loved that bright red star.

thCAW8DYAN

There are sounds we came to expect as kids, living on our perfect suburban street; an occasional bark from a neighbor’s dog, other kids giggling or the thwack of a baseball bat. The best sound at the end of a hot summer afternoon was the instantly recognizable, come and get it chime and loud generator of the Carvel soft serve ice cream truck, or the blinging bells of The Good Humor Man, which immediately set off an instant kid pandemonium. The sound of vehicles was distinctive and loud in the relative quiet we lived in, and subject to an intuitive body reaction in us kids.

If you heard your dad’s car engine stop in your driveway, you knew it was time to go home for dinner, the Carvel chime meant you had to find your mom, in a desperate run against time and plead for a quarter for that chocolate-vanilla swirl cone.

What ended up in our driveway just after lunch one day, was a vehicle and engine sound that none of us kids recognized. The loud sputtering pierced the Saturday afternoon silence as it sped down the street and stopped short with a screech, announcing itself with a high pitched Beeep, Beeep, Beeep! We all stopped playing, rushed over and out of the doorless vehicle jumped, of all people, my father, who none of my friends had ever seen, wearing the familiar green pants and shirt with the red star patch, smiling like I’d never seen him smile before.

This vehicle was a classic Army issue, Willy’s Jeep painted flat black with no top, no doors or windows except the greasy windshield, torn bucket seats and a stick shift between them and I was told to get in. So I did and instantly became the envy of all my friends and as we lurched out of the driveway, my dad pretended not to notice my mom as she stood screaming at him from the side stoop.

I spent the last weeks of that summer at my dad’s Texaco station, wiping windshields, having my head patted as I pumped gas inhaling the intoxicating gas fumes and listening for the ding…ding… as every dollar rolled by on the pump gauge.

I collected money and got plenty dirty and
if there is a heaven, I’ve already been there.

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The timing of what happened after I resumed school is unclear, but I do remember not seeing my dad for a long time. His sudden, unannounced reappearance on Christmas Eve one year, a holiday my mom revered and he dismissed, loaded with presents and luggage did not turn out quite as he planned, when at the doorway behind him stood a short man wearing an ill fitting suit and carrying a single travel case.

He was introduced to us as Sensei Ushiro, and he bowed profusely as he shook our hands and was escorted to the basement where we were told he would be living, indefinitely.

Predictably, all hell broke loose.

I learned years later that after my few weeks spent at the Texaco station it was sold, and with the proceeds and a plan, my dad moved himself to Okinawa, Japan. There he studied Karate and Judo with some of the masters of the two disciplines earning himself a half brown belt, which in those days under those teachers was no small accomplishment. He convinced Sensei Ushiro to return to the states with him to open a school, a dojo where the discipline could be properly taught by a master, Sensei Ushiro and himself.

Despite his many flaws my dad was decades ahead of his time, the school became known quickly as the epicenter of the sport and garnered some headlines too. I was eventually convinced and coerced to join the school because according to my dad, I was too sensitive, too tentative, afraid of everything that moved. Of course in his delusional, diagnosed violent schizophrenic mind, it hadn’t occurred to him that it was him that I was afraid of, it was his irrational outbursts of anger and violence that was the source of everything I feared. His new chiseled, physical stature and prowess was a source of great pride to him.

For us, the fact that he could now kill a human being with a well placed thumb to a temple, was not anything to celebrate.

It came time to put my Karate training to the test, in a tournament held at the school and attended by hundreds. I hated going to the school every Saturday, I hated the physical contact that often resulted in people getting seriously hurt. I learned well though, I was athletically giftted and when I had my live match in the middle of the dojo with a kid who had become my friend, I broke his nose and he crumpled to the floor, unconscious. The crowd erupted in cheers as I bowed down in respect as is the custom, but I stood over him in shock, nauseated.

I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks as I accepted the half green belt and my trophy. I quit the next day.

I’ve only hit one other person since then. He was one of two twin bullies who terrorized the Brooklyn neighborhood I eventually moved to. The person they happened to be ridiculing that day was my younger sister, taunting the way she spoke. Of course they couldn’t know that it was a minor miracle that she spoke at all, she was deaf. My mom, in a stroke of brilliance and devotion, found the only school in the state, maybe the country whose teachers were committed to teaching deaf children to speak, as well as use sign language.

He was twice my weight, thick necked and stout and as I stepped between him and my sister, he came at me. Always better at protecting others than I was myself, and only a few years removed from my Karate training, I intuitively struck him right in the heart and he went down in a heap and turned blue. I felt pretty sick about that too, even though it was justified at the time.

But at least the bullying from the twins, ended that day.
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Our homelife eventually settled down, and the familiar pattern of my father’s absence was again the norm. The Sensei was home more often and much of his time was spent with me, in my bedroom. It was my sanctuary, the place I felt safe and it was crammed with anything to do with war. I was a Civil War and World War II afficianado, devouring every book I could get my hands on, every plastic model I could build and paint, every plastic soldier army I could amass. There were battle enactments permanently set up on the floor, planes hung from the ceiling, and all my life like plastic rifles and gear was conspicuously displayed.

The Sensei would sit silent and cross legged on the floor, his back perfectly straight in a classic lotus position while the battles raged. Many times I’d look up only to find his eyes closed, as the sound effects of every gun, tank and plane were mimicked by me, the sounds I’d heard again and again on the endlessly aired, black and white war movies on TV. He would occasionally speak a few sentences, ask me why I enjoyed playing war games so much, but his broken English would inhibit his conversation.

One of my favorite soldiers was a Marine armed with a flame thrower, he was dark green, taller than the rest and had the large tank strapped to his back. The Whhoooosh! of the flames shooting out from the nozzle, was my favorite sound effect. My flame thrower Marine was also the secret weapon I used, when I wanted to kill as many Japanese soldiers as I could.

Whooosh! Whooosh! as scores of Japanese soldiers fell victim to the flames, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see the Sensei standing raising both his hands as if to say stop, so I did. He began removing his shirt, then his pants and socks. He stood there for a long moment, then bent down and picked up the flame throwing marine and pointed at his body. I sat there with my mouth open shocked at what his skin looked like, even now it would be near impossible for me to describe the sinewy scars that covered every inch of his exposed skin.

He spoke in a hushed tone as he explained to me, that he was one of the last Japanese soldiers to be taken out of the caves on Okinawa near the end of World War II. He opened my Encyclopedia Brittanica to the pages describing what happened, so I would fully understand. He showed me his feet that barely had toes, and his hands that barely had fingers.

I can still remember the feel of his leathery hands cupping my face, consoling me as I cried.

Sensei Ushiro was the fiercest man in the dojo, a true warrior, a black belt master in the discipline and art of self defense. When he performed his Katas or forms, he grasped the wooden staff and sword with virtually no fingers. The incredible, frightening ferocity that he swung those weapons made a Whooshing! sound, that if you were in the vicinity, would scare you out of your shoes. To watch him perform was like witnessing a miracle.

And to this day, Sensei Ueshiro remains the most serene human, I have ever met.

everyday……….Bucket of Glads

everyday will be a random
posting of daily events or
memories of my daily life
that don’t translate
well into poetry
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‘How are you feeling, Cbear?’

‘Not so well, I’m just getting so tired.’

“Hhmm…..yeah, you feel a little warm. Why don’t you put your homework aside for now and we’ll hang out and watch some ‘Office?’

And as I suspected this suggestion was accepted like a person in water much too deep, reaching with outstretched hands for a life preserver. Relieved, she gathered all her papers and textbooks and set them in a perfectly aligned pile on the coffee table, (she’s neat that way) and in a quick second had the remote in her hand sliding through The Office episodes on Netflix.

She was getting sick, I could see it in the drawn, grey look on her face; after 13 years I can recognize her signs immediately

‘Ya Know, that usually happens to me when the seasons change, I end up getting sick too.

‘Really?’

‘Yup…I’m not sick now but I am sleeping an awful lot lately, so which episode are we watching?’

The Office, along with Sherlock are Cbear’s current viewing obsession. She’s seen and can recite in remarkable recall and minute detail the what, why and who in each show of all the eight seasons she’s watched. So I assumed my comfy horizontal position on my favorite couch and she curled up on hers, and we did what we’ve always done, we just hung out together.

When she was much younger and when this habit of ours began, it was Spongebob that was the must see show for both of us. I realized then, that she was like me in so many ways, that she needed alone time to recharge and lots of it.

She arrives Wednesday’s and every other Friday for her weekend sleepovers and in this second home of hers, Saturday quickly became our designated ‘go away world we need to be alone now’ day. It still is.

And in my second home, enscosed on my couch which is placed at the far end of our huge apartment, beneath a gently curved wall of three enormous, west facing windows, I can see clear through the long narrow hallway, to the back end of this third floor condo. That last bedroom became Scout’s office and the door to the rear deck and parking lot is almost visible, from where my head is.

I’ll admit to dozing off occasionaly, especially during the late afternoon hour of 4pm, and it’s through this sleepy haze that I heard the commotion the dogs make before Scout even opens the door, before she trundles up the the three flights of stairs, before she’s even closed the door to our Honda Element, there they are at attention, yelping at the door.

So I turned my head to look down the hall, to eventually say hi and in the dimly lit, shadowy hallway I heard the dogs both jumping up and down, flanking Scout and I expected to see her small framed silhouette as i usually would.

But I didn’t.

All I could see was the shadowy outline of an enormous bunch of stems, so tall they were almost brushing against the low hallway ceiling. And then through and from behind this almost dense hedge of flowers came the multi syllabic bullet word train moving at speeds so fast, I’m not able to decipher her words in real time,

‘syytbg jgjjg ghg ghdffweii stelcbg fhg fyksmdb gjguu!!! ggfm ghh
sdelvbt htsk fgopnj fhhfhjkd vf erhrlsjs!!! tylklkch gfnh tysgvcaw ng ftakdbg!!! bxkirytf bnjg fgwllfg gkk kuoioko gsrtkm gjj gjjhkuihj!!!…..

and if I’ve learned anything in the almost 12 years Scout and I have been together, it’s not to try and halt this train midstream. This is her speaking in, ‘I’m so happy and excited I did something new and I brought you something and I have so many stories to tell you!’ voice, it’s better to just let it whooshwhiz!!! by, like a commuter standing on the platform and ask questions later.

So I get up and meet her in the kitchen, just as she gets there,

‘ddgfonnvj gjh ryydvhmmebbnh htyf nsrrdf gfjhj
ghysk nghf iiyhhfgwl mbjg ghakkrnvb ghgdr hjly
Well…Doyoulikethem!!!????

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‘Well yes, of course.
I love them but wha….’

‘You need to arrange them
in a vase, like you always do’

And as she was saying this, she lifted two reusable shopping bags I didn’t realize she was holding, onto the counter and let them down with a thud, a very heavy thud. All I could do is shake my head in disbelief and be reminded why her second nickname is Ant.

‘Uh… Scout, I think you’re looking at the vase, we don’t have anything close to the size of that bucket.’

Now…you need to realize that Scout is a shade over 5’3, the gladiolas were almost 3′ tall, and there were almost 2 dozen of these dense heavy stems in a plastic bucket filled 3/4 of the way to the top, with water.

‘I stopped at T’s and gave her a dozen, V downstairs got a dozen too. There’s all kinds of fruit for Cbear, Cbear come and eat some of this fruit!’

She began unloading the bags, and piled onto the counter was an enormous variety of fresh fruit from Michigan and a cardboard flat of homemade jams in glass mason jars (keep thinking heavy) from a booth at the Farmer’s Market she visited that morning. All of this stuff was carried up 3 flights of stairs, by herself! ( ant ) finally arriving in the kitchen with a smile and breathless, ready with stories to recite.

Hearing fresh fruit being mentioned, Cbear came in to the kitchen and assembled herself a healthy snack, perfect food for the cold she was coming down with.

‘Yum!, why didn’t you call us to help?’

So as it turns out, the booth that Scout visited wss manned by a parent who, over the many years Scout taught her son violin, had become a good friend. She sold Scout the flowers and fruits, at an end of the day discount. She is also an influential member on a board of directors, that founded and runs an artist’s retreat. Some time ago Scout gave her the link to this blog and I guess they talked about me applying for one of their grants to stay there, free, and do nothing but write.

The residencies begin at 2 weeks up to a few months, and the only requirement beyond a serious commitment to create, is joining in the communal dinner every night.

‘You need to do this, you need to apply right away!’

‘It sounds unbelievable, but how are we…’

‘Just apply, I don’t know. You just need to apply!’

Now…please understand, this is the same person who help put the pieces of my broken life back together, the same person who told me years ago that I should be writing and did not let up, until I began. And at every obstacle we’ve encountered, and we’ve had some significant one’s, her response has always the same,

‘I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out!….’

About.com
Ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight with their mandibles. Ants use their diminutive size to their advantage. Relative to their size, their muscles are thicker than those of larger animals or even humans. This ratio enables them to produce more force and carry larger objects. If we had muscles in the proportions of ants, we’d be able to heave a Hyundai over our heads!

Or Honda Elements or a bucket of Glads or the one’s they love.

oh, sweet night!

dear friends, this song is meant to be
played as a soundtrack::::enjoy::::
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i walk the streets of my city…

an insignificant spirit refugee,

stranded in shadowed concrete canyons.
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in my hidden anonymity,

blank behind blue shades and

wind whipped hair across this face.
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i search in vain for any spark,

peek for miracles around every corner.

on sidewalks choked, with rustling hordes,

in narrow blackened streets, of rolling steel.
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in shallow lung tentative

breathing of our muck and grime.

an empath’s lament and responsibility,

absorbing each speck in sound and emotion.
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oh low sun…

you’ve…had your day,

blinding these sensitive eyes.
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my shy sister moon…

please…show yourself…

it’s our time to shine now!
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oh million hidden stars…

appear now one by one by one

and light the way to my forgiving solitude.
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lone distant stars, join and sing your song

in ancient melody, erase this day in stale memory,

deliver our world, the dense of black night i crave!
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help me, scrub the crust of strangers from my skin,

and flush their anxious aura, from my consciousness.

cleanse a fragile heart, every absorbed anger and cruelty.

free this old soul, from the deadly weight of this world.
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strip me innocent again,

bathe me, in your galaxy starlight voices!

sing in glorius chorus, of collective memory,

in universal dialect of wisdom and harmony.
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tender night, calm this restless mind,

cradle a trusting heart in your embrace.

blanket me close, in ethereal spirit mystery

of self reflection and fearless quietude.
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oh sweet night!
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usher in the hushed
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midnight hours ’til dawn…
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it’s there… when the world
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is invisible and asleep…
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it’s then….

that i can hear
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the kindness of the Universe,
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whisper the poetry
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of sweet emotional release!
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