Thursday, January 29, 2015

Slow Lane

            “Harold, would you look at that,” said the older woman in line behind me at the store, “they’re still trying to figure out who killed Natalie Woods.”
            “Still,” asked Harold as he placed various packages of sausages on the conveyor belt.
            “I think it was probably that Walken. He’s so creepy,” said the woman.

            She put the tabloid newspaper back on the impulse buy shelf and chuckled.

            “That was so long ago, do they think anyone still really cares,” she asked.
            “I don’t think so,” said Harold.

            I smiled and organized my few items on the conveyor belt. The cashier was slowly ringing up the man in front of me. She was trying to explain the new “convenience” of smart phone coupons to the man but he was clearly not interested.

            “I don’t know why they’re putting all this stuff on computers and phones and such anyway. What if you don’t have a computer or one of them smart phones,” she asked.
            “I don’t know,” said the man in front of me as he swiped his credit card in the card reader.
            “I mean, I still have a land line for my phone and the only reason I have a computer is because my 27 year old son left me his old one before he moved out,” said the cashier.
            “Yeah,” said the man as he bagged up his few items and left.

            The old woman behind me felt like she had to get into this conversation as well. It seemed important to her to get involved.
            “I know what you mean. I don’t even know what the whole smart phone thing is,” said the old lady.

            I moved my few items forward on the belt and the cashier began ringing me up. She looked at me and asked if I wanted the smart phone coupon information. I politely declined, but she handed me the written details anyway.

            “I’m sure you have a smart phone,” said the old woman behind me.
            “I do. But I really don’t use it for coupons,” I said.
            “Did you see they’re still trying to figure out who killed Natalie Woods,” she asked me.
            “I did. I think it was Robert Wagner personally. I think they had an argument and he tossed her overboard,” I said.
            “Oh no, he couldn’t. I think it was that scary Walken guy,” she said.

             I shrugged at her and smiled. I didn’t think a long debate about the murder mystery of Natalie Woods and the merits of electronic coupons in the checkout-line was the right time for it.

            I moved with my items as they were scanned and the old woman, with Harold in tow, kept chatting with the cashier. They then continued to talk about how unfair it was that the coupons wouldn’t be fair for all those people without computers or smart phones. How would they benefit from the discounts if they couldn’t access them? All this technology was just too much these days.

            They both looked at me and I smiled kindly and took out my checkbook. I wrote a check for my few groceries. The look on their faces as I wrote out my check was absolutely priceless. It was something like startled astonishment and mild nostalgia. I started bagging my items myself since there was no bag-person to help.

             “Oh, look at you. You’re hired,” joked the cashier.
            “Oh, well, I just wanted to move it along a little bit,” I smiled.
            “Do you want that stuff double bagged,” she asked.
            “No, no, I can manage, thanks,” I said.

            Harold moved in next to me to start packing his wife’s items, which really did have a lot of sausages. There were Polish sausages, Italian sausages, breakfast sausages, regular pork sausages all massed together and building.

            “Where are all the other bags,” complained Harold, “the big ones?”
            “We just have these,” said the cashier.
            “I thought they used to have the big ones because I can carry more in the big ones better than these little ones,” continued Harold.

            I picked up my three bags and said thank you to the cashier. I walked out to the parking lot, loaded my car and went home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sorry Dead Bird

I’m so sorry dead bird on my back porch.
I don’t know how you died or why
but I’m sorry all the same.

I’m sorry that I had to clean up
our little, light weight corpse in a couple
of plastic bags and throw you into the
dumpster by the alley.

I’m sorry you were alone when you
went to that great soaring endless sky,
or whatever bird heaven is. I imagine it’s
all bird baths, sunny skies, bird seed and a
giant shrine to Archaeopteryx.

I’m sorry that I was the only one to
notice you, crumpled at the bottom of
the mid-level stairs. I was just taking
my laundry downstairs to the washers when
I happened upon you.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t provide you the
dignity you might have deserved in death.
I can only imagine your high flying life,
above us all, drifting effortlessly on breezes.

I’m sorry that seeing your little bird body
made me so sad. I’m sorry that you reminded
me of the briefness of things and how very late
the hour is.

I’m sorry I had to pick you up, feel your
weightlessness in my hand, wonder if I
was doing the right thing, but knowing
it was. I’m sorry dead bird, that I am the
only bearer of your memory.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Black Coats

Crowded around in a shivering
the Black Coats gathered and

Hooded and scarved they
Tightly packed to stay

The Black Coats at the bus stop,
Like a murder of crows, flapping and

The Black Coats thicken as quitting time
The dark formation, in anticipation of

Hooded heads poking out into the street to
the approaching bus, the public

The black coats stomp and shift on their
The dragon’s breath rising and

The bus stops, the black coats
One Black Coat at a time they

The Black Coats gone for another
Ready for the next winter’s

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Strange Way to Pray

Hey Lord,
I just wanted to have
a quick chat with you,
if you’re not too busy,
of course.

I’m not actually asking
for anything, or begging
for some sort of enlightened
help, nor trying to get you
to see things my way.

I was just wondering,
how you’re doing.
How’s the family?
How’s that whole
universe thing going?

I wonder the last time
anyone asked you how
you were doing just to
ask. You know, without
appearing to be currying
favor with you.

Sometimes I imagine
you as a child, crying in the
aisle of a store, looking mournfully
up at the toy you really want, but can’t
have because it costs too much,
but maybe if you look sad
enough someone will buy it for you.

I mean, there’s just so much
going on for you, so much to
sort of watch play out, that I’m
sure it can be overwhelming.
Like your DVR is full of the
craziest reality shows and you
didn’t create enough hours in the day
to watch it all.

But I digress,
I really just wanted you
to know that I was thinking about
you and that I was hoping you’re
having a good day,
and that the family is ok.
Let me know if you need
to talk, I’m here.

Although I’m not sure
my shoulder could handle
your immensities but,
hey, what are friends for right?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Top News from the Galaxy

             The Ambassador from Uranus, Quwarx Delta Seven Three, was applauded for his stance on diversity among his fellow Uranians. He had taken a hard line on Uranian Civil Rights and was rewarded today for 5 million years of peaceful coexistence in the known galaxy. It was a distinct honor for Quwarx considering the adversity he and his fellow Uranians have faced as being the most intelligent and modest life in the universe. In a strange turn however, the Ambassador thanked an unknown individual named “Jesus” for his success. It is unlikely the Ambassador will retain his position after this peculiar outburst, despite his success.

            Plutonians are still petitioning to be reinstated as a planet but face sharp criticism from the militant Massive Orbital Body Committee. The planet referendum is scheduled in 2987 and pressure is high for reinstatement. Observers are hopeful the council of Completely Honest Representatives will be open to the wishes of the majority of Pluto’s population.

            Martian pseudo-scientists are continuing to express interest in the blue planet third from the yellow gas giant. Their claims of possible life, intelligent life, on that orb were again discredited by the amount of trash now in orbit. Martians allege they’ve heard strange radio frequencies from the blue planet but scientists dismiss it as primitive unintelligent grumblings referring to something called, “Real Housewives”. Scientists indicate that those words are completely meaningless and therefor are not a clear indicator of any intelligence. Deep Space news reports more garbage from the third planet has passed Pluto’s orbit and is now polluting further into deep space than ever before. Readers will recall the great galactic purging when the third planet was used as the galaxy’s outhouse and refuse center. Representatives from the deep planet Californicus, were not available for further comment, but their offices have insisted that any refuse coming from the third planet will not be hazardous to the rest of the interstellar community.

            Ping Dang 05 tango jav boop clabongoo 777. In bluorgnaicks there was outrage of the infighting. Many whodningowongs were massacered under the now infamous Lord Makibadango. His powerful regime is crushing the rebels and will effectively eliminate any potential threats to his power. All Hail Mans Mingkoobahlong. - 0-train signal 777000.

            Saturnists were pleased to discover this week that their global warming crisis may be over. After two million years of greenhouse effects, Saturn scientists allege they’ve found a movie start prophet who can save them all by building a space Ark and deliver them safely to the a new planet in the system. Construction is set to begin at four Anginls.. Again, Martian scientists urge caution in the use of Space Arks since the devastating loss of Neptune’s Planet Destroyer 21. Neptune representatives were unavailable for comment.

            That’s the news from the Galaxy. Bleep-Bloop-Bop - End of Line

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Break in the Clouds

I looked up at the cloudy,
snowy night sky
and in the misty shapes
of what was rolling by
I saw the forms of
my imagination.

A woman giving birth,
an angry smiling face,
a goose on the run,
a rapidly changing
animation of a running

The pause in the deep
clouds, giving way to
the jewelry of night,
only to be clothed in
further cloudy winter

The Aborigines of Australia
didn’t see shapes in the stars,
but in the dark spaces between
them. I thought the same as the
pause in the cloudy sky passed
my way.

A cheerleader,
a doily heart,
a galloping horse,
a crab,
a spider,
an antlered head.

The breaking away for the
moment, of overwhelming
cloudiness giving way to
the throes of possibility.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

For Breakfast

            Saturday morning was chilly but sunny. The warm sunshine cut through the bleakness of winter in January and gave off a sense of renewal and optimism. It’s the perfect time to get a Saturday morning haircut at the local barbershop. My barber shop is a small, non-descript storefront, clad in white with a broken barber pole in front. The barber pole of red, white and blue hasn’t lit up or spun since the first year I went there for a haircut. The perils of being on a busy street I suppose. The building faces the South and is bathed in all that glorious Saturday morning winter sunshine. It gives the impression of a small slice of heaven placed on Earth; made there for only the select few.

             I’ve been going to this barbershop for the last 11 years or so. My original barbershop, where I got my first haircut as a child, closed when Wayne retired and moved himself to Florida to chase the widows and lonely old spinsters. Wayne was a man of the late 1970’s, open shirt and gold chain, finely trimmed beard and mustache and a slightly smarmy attitude toward the fairer sex. His barbershop was riddled with rather misogynistic posters and printed sayings all over the walls. There was one poster of a small boy of maybe three or four years old looking under a woman’s short skirt with the words, “Seeing is believing” written underneath.  The small boy’s face is one of shock and awe mixed with curious desire. Wayne’s was the first place I ever saw a pornographic magazine. It was Penthouse of course; Playboy surely wasn’t enough to satisfy Wayne’s tastes. My father and Wayne laughed and laughed when they saw my face as I looked at the graphic depictions of sex in Penthouse. They thought it was hilarious and yet never took the time to explain what the hell was going on in the torrid pictorial. It was a den of men and manly things. Wayne’s Barbershop was for dirty jokes, for validation of male superiority and relaxation. When it closed I was a bit lost on where to get my haircut. I had always gone to Wayne and now I was like a babe in the woods, with too much hair.

            That was when I found my current barbershop, Vince’s Barbershop. It is run by an older Italian man. At least I think he’s Italian. I’m not really sure, but his accent is almost comically Italian. It’s the stereotyped Italian accent we’ve all heard from TV and movies for our entire lives. Yet, he says very little. He’s diligent about his work and once a haircut begins there’s almost no talking. It’s something I actually like. There’s absolutely no pressure to say anything at all. There are no dirty jokes flying around among the male patrons as they wait their turn in the chair. There are no sexist posters on the walls; there isn’t anything on the walls other than the hours and days of operation. There are no dirty magazines left out for anyone to grab. The rattling of newspapers or Popular Mechanics pages are mixed in with the sound of the TV which is tuned to that station that broadcasts reruns of shows from the 1960’s. It’s a peaceful respite from everything else in the world.

            The sun blasts in through the large picture window at the front of the shop and fills the bare storefront. There are four unmatched chairs on one wall and three other unmatched chairs on the far wall. They are big, classic heavily stuffed metal legged chairs that only seem appropriate in a barbershop. The walls are white. There are two barber chairs that face the seats in the waiting area, but only one is in use. Vince is the only barber on site. They are old barber chairs and have seen better days. They are so old that they still have ashtrays in the arm rests. I can’t imagine smoking while getting a haircut, but apparently there was a time.

             I walked in on Saturday morning expecting it to be crowded with post New Years and Christmas patrons waiting for their first haircuts of 2015. It was empty however and Vince was sitting on a large pillow he had placed on one of the waiting area chairs. He was watching the old TV show station and eating grapes.

             “I thought you’d be packed this morning,” I said as I walked in and hung up my coat and hat on the coat hooks along the wall under the clock.
            “No, no, no. It’s-a been not too busy,” said Vince.

             He got up from his seat and put his pillow and grapes away in the small back room that must make up the office. I’ve never seen what is back there so I can only assume it’s an office. Wayne’s had an office in the back area so I can only assume that all Barbershops have a back office of some type.

             He motioned me to get into the barber chair, which was pretty well covered with the gray hairs of the previous customers. I blew some of the hair off and sat down. Vince washed his hands in the sink behind the barber chair and wiped them off. Vince is an older man, he has a gray buzz cut hair style himself, he has thick glasses with a thin frame perched on his nose, and he wears the classic barber’s jacket, which looked like an old dentist’s uniform. Vince’s barber shirt is covered with black and white pictures of razors and combs and clippers and other tools of the haircut trade. He is short and has to lower the barber chair a bit so he can reach most of the heads he is to barber.

             Vince knows how I like to get my haircut. I haven’t had to tell him how to cut my hair since the first week I went there. #2 on the sides, square in the back, a little off the top, thin it out if need be. Nothing too complicated. On very busy barbershop days he can knock out my haircut in about 15 minutes. This Saturday, since there were no other customers, he could take his time. It’s a funny thing about the barbershop. There are no appointment times, no scheduling for the next haircut. Men just walk in, look around and sit in the next available seat. There is simply a known order of who came in first and the succession of men that followed. The first guy gets his haircut, and then the second man that entered the barbershop is next, followed by the next man that entered. It is the patron’s responsibility to know who was in the place before them and to follow accordingly. It’s a silent organization that men just automatically seem to follow. Depending on the number of men in the place, dictates how fast or slow Vince will cut your hair.

             This Saturday Vince could take his time. He put the paper apron around my neck and tucked it in to the back of my shirt and then he draped the larger apron over me. He grabbed his clippers from the back wall and with a very delicate touch moved my head forward. It’s a very simple touch and I know what it means. It’s like a dance and you know what each touch means in order. A touch to the right side of the head means tilt your head to the left, to the left and your head tilt right. It’s very simply but when a haircut is done in the same order every time it becomes a finely choreographed event.

            Vince is not talkative. He goes right about his work. There’s just not much to say. He’s there cutting hair, I’m there getting my haircut. It’s not even just me who says nothing. The majority of the patrons that do come in on the busy days say very little too. There’s just nothing that needs to be said and I think that’s why I like it so much. There’s a pure simplicity about the act that does not need to be commented on. It is what it is. It is just a quiet place to be at peace with your thoughts.

             Vince was about halfway through my haircut when his cell phone started ringing. I’d never heard his cell phone ring before. I’ve heard the old store phone ring but never his personal cell phone. He put down his scissors and answered his phone, leaving me in a head down position.

             “Hallo,” said Vince.

             There were mumbled, incoherent sounds from the other end of the call. It sounded like a man’s voice but I couldn’t really tell.

             “So-a you will-a be by Sunday,” said Vince, “Ok, ok, so if-a you come in da morning I-a make you waffles.”

             “Waffles?” I thought as I sat in the chair, still in my lowered head position. “Vince makes waffles, how curious”.

             “So you-a think… so-a by nine you-a will… by-a nine… I make-a waffles,” said Vince, “yeah, waffles. Yeah. Yeah. Waffles. I make-a for breakfast”.

             I lifted my head up a little bit as my neck was getting tired. We were out of the normal choreographed synchronicity of the haircut dance now. I smiled a little bit though since I’d never heard Vince say anything other than how business was doing, that he was going to be out of town for a week on vacation or to have a nice day. Now I was hearing about his desire to make someone waffles. In fact, his insistence on making waffles.

             “Ok, ok. So tomorrow… ok, ok, so I will have-a de waffles ready. Ok. Ok. Bye,” said Vince.

             Without word or other comment about the call he touched the back of my head and I obediently lowered and he returned to cutting my hair. It was as if nothing had happened. His affinity for waffle making would go out there in the universe without any comment or judgment. It was just part of the air of the barbershop, like the episode of Gunsmoke on the TV or the cars roaring by on the street.

             It was then that something strange happened. It was something that hadn’t happened before in the numerous years of my patronage.

            “So-a how are you,” asked Vince, “still looking for-a work?”

            I was shocked that he remembered I told him that I was looking for a job about a year ago.

            “Yeah, I’m still looking for a job. Yeah,” I said.
            “You-a think it’s-a getting better for de jobs,” asked Vince.
            “I think so. I mean, unemployment is down to 5.6% this week,” I said.

            Vince stopped cutting my hair and took a step back from me. I looked up at him and was shocked as he looked at me.

            “You-a actually believe that’s-a real,” said Vince with an amused scowl.
            “Well, I don’t disbelieve it,” I said.
            “You-a know that’s-a not-a real number,” said Vince.
            “I know they don’t count those that have fallen off unemployment, but I think it’s pretty fair,” I said.
            “That’s-a no real number,” said Vince.

            I smiled and nodded. I realized, after all this time, all the haircuts, all the peaceful silence, that Vince was a hard core Republican. Vince, the Italian immigrant, was at his base Republican through and through.

            “This-a guy, this-a President, it’s-a no real number,” said Vince as he shook his head.
            “Well, I guess we’ll just have to see,” I said.
            “Yeah,” said Vince.

            He returned to cutting my hair. We didn’t say much of anything else through the rest of the process. We performed our usual dance. He used the hot shaving cream and straight razor on my neck beard. It is my favorite part of the process. It’s soothing and calming and has on occasion almost made me want to doze off right there in the chair. Vince made quick work of it and after a trim of the eyebrows and a brush through the top to make sure my part was straight, he spun me around to the mirror to review the work.

            It was the same as it always was, trimmed, neat, and square.

            “Looks good,” I said.
            Vince spun the chair back around, used the barber brush to wipe the loose hairs from my neck, took off the apron and shook my graying hairs to the floor.

            “Okay,” said Vince.
            “Okay,” I said as I got up.

            I put on my coat and hat and paid Vince the $13.00, plus tip.

             “Okay, you-a stay warm,” said Vince.
            “I will. I’ll see you next time,” I said.

            I exited the barbershop and went to my car. I was still thinking about Vince though, more than I have in the past. Usually I’m out the door and on my way doing the things that my own life requires. But today I was sort of baffled by Vince; my waffle loving, republican barber. It was a glimpse through the crack of Vince’s life and made me think of all the other keyhole cracks we see in people every day, even those we’ve seen hundreds of times. There is always something left to surprise us and the world is imminently larger than what we just see before us. Plus I had a powerful craving for waffles.