Thursday, February 26, 2015

The History of My Socks

             While digging through my sock drawer this morning in an attempt to find that ever elusive matching pair; the history of my socks struck me. I chuckled at the thought of how many generations of socks have gone through the process of covering my feet. I imagined my little baby socks covering my adorable baby feet. It must have been terribly cute for everyone to see my tiny white feet shuffling around on wobbly toddler legs. I’d say it was even a time before shoes. My miniature socks on my undeveloped feet. I’m sure they were a variety of colors, or at least blues, whites or blacks, since I was a little boy. I have a feeling pink didn’t make it into my baby sock repertoire.

            I thought about my little boy socks. It was the late seventies and eighties and frankly, little boy clothes were pretty basic. I do remember walking into Six Flags Great America with my father and sister, or at least I remember the picture my mother took of us walking into the park. She took the picture from behind us as we walked around and there I am, in a matching grey tee-shirt/shorts set wearing black socks with my gym shoes, trying to keep pace with the long strides of my father’s adult legs. It’s clear in the picture I was taking very large steps. The thing that always stood out for me in that picture though was my black socks contrasted with my very pale Irish little boy legs.  

            I remember being a little older and going outside one Sunday morning before church to put my shoes and socks on. I don’t remember why I thought it was a good idea to put my socks and shoes on while sitting on the cement front porch steps. Although it was a very warm Spring day and I think I just wanted to be outside before the drudgery of Church. An hour at Church back then was like a quarter of my life at the time, being so young and all. I remember trying to pull my sock on with the dexterity of a child, unfamiliar with the operations of my own fingers, and I somehow missed putting the white sock on and I scraped my heel on the cement step, cutting it open pretty decently. I gashed it enough that I had to hobble back into the house and deal with my father’s anger as he frowned at the medical care he had to provide, right before we had to go to Church on Sunday morning. It’s no wonder I have such a problem with minor inconveniences in my own life.

            I remember all the pairs of Navy Blue socks I had for Catholic School. The socks had to match the Navy blue school uniforms of course. Except on gym days, that’s when you had to remember to wear tube socks. If you forgot your white socks you looked like a dweeb running around the gym with gym shoes and navy blue socks. It was a terrible source of embarrassment back then. It seemed somehow that the teachers shamed you for not remembering the very simple task of bringing the correct color socks for gym days. They never actually said anything, but the look of, “Oh well, looks like that one isn’t college material”, was plain on their pious faces.

             Athletic socks came next, those very long kinds that pulled up all the way to the knees. Those socks always had some curious striping on the top, reds, purples, yellows, or green that just looked completely ridiculous. Although they did have to pull up so high since the shorts were so damn short. I remember being really uncomfortable in those 1980’s summer shorts. It wasn’t until the late ‘80’s that shorts got longer and cooler and didn’t require the long, long, long knee socks. Now you could wear short basketball socks with your gym shoes and not look like a pale version of Big Bird.

            Dress socks then entered the history book of my socks. I had to wear them in high school since the environment was what we now call business casual. We had to wear dress shoes and of course only dress socks would do. My high school drawers were filled with all kinds of dark colored socks. I was also coming into my own identity then and I started to have a taste in what I should wear. Right down to my feet. I started getting more novelty type socks. Maybe they had skulls on them like the skate boarders would wear or very specific Christmas reindeer on them for the holidays. I had so many socks then.

            I started wearing combat boot regularly in high school and then dress socks didn’t seem so important. I started getting toughed toed and heeled socks to put up with the rigorous demands we put on our feet. My friends and I walked everywhere in our combat boots. Miles meant nothing to us and all summer we would spend on the streets, going from house to house, walking the train tracks, running away from junk yard dogs, or getting chased by the occasional neighborhood gang. I had so many socks that seemed to wear out almost as fast as I got them.

            College socks were pretty similar to high school socks for the most part. I picked up a few thermal types for the long cold winters commuting from the buses to the trains to get to school downtown and the long late nights of drinking to excess with my upper classmates. I was always the youngest in my classes, the fun classes anyway. I was still wearing combat boots then and there wasn’t a need for any radical change to my socks. Although there were college girls to impress and if the moment ever came when I would have to maybe take my shoes off, I certainly didn’t want to be remembered for having stinky and holy socks in front of the sexy Swedish girl.

            The business world finally arrived and I had to abandon the combat boots and return to the era of dress socks. You think that it is important that your feet are covered appropriately in the many cubicled office world, but soon you discover that no one gives a damn. No one is looking at your socks. So you return to the classic white athletic sock with your dress shoes. It’s not nerdy if your pants hang over your ankles. It’s only nerdy if you were wearing flood pants.

            20 years went by of the same types of socks; office appropriate socks, dress socks, funeral socks, suit socks, wedding socks, christening socks, holiday socks, warm socks, ankle socks, summer socks.  So many that after a while you realize you have two drawers filled with socks. You don’t have anything else in such quantities as socks. So you purge and get rid of them, the holy ones, the threadbare ones, the mismatches, the ones that always bothered your right big toe for some reason. And still, there are way too many socks.

            Today, as I stood at my top sock drawer, trying to match my socks I realized the immense quantity of ankle/summer socks I now am in possession of. I never used to have so many. I have so many summer socks now that finding regular socks is a problem. When did I get so many short summer socks? I think she told me that I looked silly in regular athletic socks with my gym shoes and shorts, so I caved and bought more ankle socks than I know what to do with.

            I found a mismatch pair of tube socks. It is winter after all and ankle socks don’t quite work in this weather.  I laid the socks out on my bed next to my tee-shirt and boxers in preparation for my shower. They are still sitting there as I’m writing this. 

            The History of my Socks is quiet a story. In fact, it’s almost like cutting a large tree down and counting the rings of its growth. My sock evolution, all of our sock evolutions, is simply amazing. We’ve all grown, all changed, all became something different than what those little baby socks could have ever imagined. The History of our socks is the history of us all. (If you wear socks, although I suppose not wearing socks is important for some too. I’m just not a sandal wearer.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Human Hole

In all of us,
all the breathers,
the breeders,
the liars,
the lovers,
the open,
the closed,
the right,
the wrong,

there is
a hole.

A hole we fill,
with lovers,
with liars,
the right,
the wrong,
the open,
the closed,
the breeding,
the breathing.

A hole,

augured with drills
of neglect or
shame or pain,
validation or

in us all.

From bad dads,
bad moms,
good dads,
good moms,
from no one,
from everyone,
from teachers,
from companions,
from creeps,
from bullies,
from the distant,
from the closest.

A hole,
made deeper,

through time,
through erosion,
through thought,
through musings,
through ignorance,
through annoyance,
through rage,
through marginalization,
through exclusion,
through inclusion,
through booze,
through drugs,
through smokes,
through hate,
through passions.

The human hole,
stretching the depths
of our widening, ever
shorter life. Swallowing
us, burying us, returning
us to where we came.

A Human Hole.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Double, Double Before I Go

             “I’ll have the large coffee please, double double,” said Allen.

            The barista sneered at Allen for saying Large instead of the copy written “El Grande Macho” size. Allen smiled back. He just didn’t want to say El Grande Macho. It bothered him to no end to have to refer to a cup of coffee as “the big man”. It was just another one of those things chain stores did to try and make themselves stand out from the crowd of other coffee chains. Allen remembered when he was young, in high school, he and his friends used to go to a regular old coffee place after school. They would all sit at the diner counter and just get regular mugs of coffee. There wasn’t a size to request. You just had to flip the mug over and the server poured coffee into it. It wasn’t even fresh coffee most of the time. It was blackened and burned from sitting on the hot plate for hours and hours. It was how Allen had gotten into the habit of ordering double cream and double sugars in his coffee. It was the only way to make that swill drinkable.

            “Alain,” called the barista.
            “Allen”, corrected Allen.

            “Who the hell pronounces Allen like Alain,” wondered Allen. He shook his head and took his coffee from the side countertop. He took the lid off and gave the coffee a good hearty stir. Allen looked up at the other early morning coffee customers in the commercialized French café. It wasn’t really a French café by any extent but it really tried to be. It was part of the chain coffee shop’s image of class or elegance or European civility or something like that.

            In line at the counter was a mix of the neighborhood. There was a young woman, late 20’s or early 30’s at the counter. She kept looking out over her shoulder to the sidewalk where she had leashed her little dog to a parking meter. Allen wondered why so many young women had dogs these days. It was some sort of cultural phenomenon.  She was wearing workout pants under a heavy winter coat. She didn’t have a hat or a scarf or even gloves yet it was a very chilly winter’s day. Allen mused that cute girls never seem cold and maybe then never did. Perhaps it was all the special growth hormones they all ate in their processed foods.

            Behind the cute dog girl was a young black man in heavy outdoors clothes. He had his earphones in and Allen could slightly hear the music he was listening too. Allen could hear a deep bass emanating from the guy’s earphones but he couldn’t make out the tune. He ordered a coffee the same way Allen had, by avoiding the phrase “El Grande Macho”. Allen smiled and tossed his stirrer into the trash.

            The line ended with a very heavyset woman, heavily bundled up against the cold. She had on a red wool cap, a blue scarf over a purple and white puffy coat. She reminded Allen of an ice cream sundae. Right up to the cherry on the top. Her cheeks were wind burned red and she was quite out of breath. She was clearly out of patience with having to wait in line and seemed very agitated. She shuffled on her feet and was clearly exasperated when the cute girl asked the barista to re-toast her bagel because the first one was too burned and she didn’t want a burned bagel.

            The cute girl’s voice was a mix of politeness and snark. It had a very odd tone to it that Allen had a hard time getting. It was mean, yet, direct, yet high pitched and condescending, without sounding elitist. Allen wondered where this girl had learned to speak this way.

 Allen moved from the counter and put on his own gloves. He took a sip from his coffee. It was just right. He stepped outside. The dog tied to the parking meter growled and barked at him as he walked by. Allen ignored it and started the cold walk toward the funeral home. He wondered which of those people in line would visit him first. Which one of them would wind up on his mortuary table before the others? He wondered about the fickleness and randomness of life, of luck.

He took another sip of his coffee and pulled his collar up against the chill.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hearts and Minds

 “I really like the color blue,” said Heart.
“Why”, asked Mind.
“I don’t know. I just do,” said Heart.
“Well, you have to have a reason,” said Mind.
“Nah, I just like it. It makes me beat faster,” said Heart.

“I know that I exist because I think,” said Mind.
“So,” said Heart.
“Well, that’s the essence of being,” said Mind.
“If you say so,” said Heart.
“I’m serious. I know that I’m real because I’m able to state it,” said Mind.
“I believe you,” said Heart.

“I like lasagna, but I shouldn’t let stomach have it,” said Heart.
“Why,” asked Mind.
“I don’t know, it’s just good. But it makes thighs fat, and they get mad at me,” said Heart.
“Why do you care,” asked Mind.
“Because I don’t like to upset the other parts of us,” said Heart.
“I’m not upset when you eat lasagna,” said Mind, “I hardly think about it, or the thighs.”

“I like the way I skip a beat when eyes see her,” said Heart.
“I like the way she makes me think new things,” said Mind.
“I like how she wants to make sure I’m doing okay,” said Heart.
“I like that too,” said Mind.
“See, we’re not so different,” said Heart.

Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub.

Monday, February 9, 2015

None Too Frozen

            The elevator stopped at the cold storage level deep beneath the surface of the ice. Brian slid his I.D. badge across the access panel and the elevator doors opened to the 25th sub-level floor. He zipped his heavy duty winter coat up over his neck and stepped into the frozen corridor. Brian could feel the chill of the place through his many layers of thermal clothing and heavy duty winter wear. The automated fluorescent lights lit his path as he walked toward the large freezer doors at the end of the stone carved hall. He wiped some frost off the freezer access panel and typed in his personal password.

            Gears and locks started groaning behind the frozen stone walls and the freezer door slowly opened. Brian took a deep cold breath in through his nose. He entered the freezer and turned on the light array. The cold bulbs flickered to life over the cold storage canisters that lined the freezer walls. The canisters were labeled according to the subject’s date of cryogenic freezing and sex. Brian took a clipboard off subject 11388-F and flipped to the last page.

            “Good morning Darla,” said Brian.

            Brian looked in through the thick frosty glass of Darla’s cryogenic canister. He could make out the subtle softness of her beautiful features. She was one of the first subjects to volunteer for the cryogenic program at Black Mountain Research. Her day had finally come for reanimation.

            “It’s going to be your first morning in,” Brian flipped through her chart, “150 years Darla.”

            Brian smiled at the thought of sitting with her and explaining how much the world had changed since she was first put into the freezer. Medical technology had finally advanced to the point of curing the original terminal disease she’d developed and had caused her to volunteer for the cryogenic program. She was a model of some kind when she first went into the freezer and had made enough money to buy her ticket toward immortality. She was still just as beautiful today as the day she was put on ice.

            Brian put the clipboard back and put his hand on the glass over Darla’s face. He brushed the frost away gently and he smiled. He couldn’t wait for her to open her eyes. According to her chart her eyes were blue. Brian loved blue eyes. They had become very rare in his present and he wanted to see them. He wanted them to gaze longingly into his own eyes.

            He moved toward the control panel next to Darla’s frozen tube and started entering the reanimation sequence. The canister had to slowly heat, reinsert the fluids, electrically stimulate the neural synapses, and restart the heart.  Brian was excited. The cold of the storage facility was hardly noticeable now as the machinery whirred to action.

            There were three hundred other cryogenic patients waiting for reanimation but none of them held any place in Brian’s heart. He’d researched Darla extensively ever since he first saw her frozen face on his first day at the Black Mountain facility. He had gone through the quantum internet files and had pulled up all of her photographic work, images that were taken before the 3D filters. He fell in love with her. He’d found some old interviews where she talked about wanting to see the future and how she had wanted to know what life would be like then. She was the woman he’d always dreamed of and now he was going to be the first face she’d see in a hundred and fifty years.

            Brian adjusted some numbers on the readout screens and followed the reanimation sequence carefully. Each stage of the process was dangerous for the patient, but that couldn’t stop Brian’s excitement. He was eager to hear her take her first breath in the new world. He imagined himself like Prince Charming delivering the waking kiss to Snow White and living happily ever after, just like the Old World fable had said, before being banned.

            Darla’s fluid insertion went according to the specs, the heating process was fully underway, the synaptic upgrades were firing and her heart was slowly beginning to re-activate. Brian licked his dry lips as he watched her progress on the monitors. Her canister was automatically lowered into the med bay area and the medbots moved her to the recovery chamber. Brian followed with the Compupad, eyes fixed on Darla’s slowly rising blood pressure and heart muscle activity.

            Brian wondered if her heart would beat for him like it did in his imagination. Would she look at him like a hero? Would she be forever in his debt for bringing her back to life? He activated the vaccination program and the medical cure for her terminal disease was added to her regeneration protocol. She would be cured of her illness and her lifespan greatly increased. She would stay as beautiful as she was when she first underwent the cryo process.

            Darla’s heart began to beat regularly and Brian’s began to thump harder. It was so close now he could taste it. She was put on the regulator by the medbots and her resurrection was on automatic. It was so close now. The canister seal of the cryo-bed unlocked and the cryoseal opened. Darla was free from the canister for the first time in a hundred and fifty years. Brian went to her side and looked at her fully exposed body. She was pristine. The bioscans carefully phased her and all her internal systems were in perfect order. The neurofilter showed brain activity rising. At any moment she would open her eyes and see the future, what she’d always wanted.

            Darla twitched, as if having a nightmare. Her eye lids began to flutter and Brian leaned in closer over her face. He wanted to be the first person she saw. Her eyes twitched and then fluttered open like a butterfly’s wings after escaping the transformative cocoon. Her blue eyes opened and looked at Brian’s looming face. He smiled at her.

            “Welcome back Darla. Can you hear me? Indeed they are so blue.”

            Darla’s pupils adjusted to the bright light overhead. A figure came into focus but she couldn’t respond. She saw something familiar in the figure’s face, but something not right. She tried to squint, but her face felt sore, wind burned, or sun burned. Her mouth was too dry to respond.

            “I’m Brian. I have brought you back to life.”

            Darla tried to nod. She felt as if she had a bad head cold. She was stuffy and cloudy and sort of muddled in her thinking. She wanted to say hello but she could only think of the color purple. She couldn’t make her brain work. She could hear a song playing in her mind, some old Benny Goodman tune her grandparents had loved, but it was deep and echoed, like it was playing in a cave.

            “I’m going to run a few tests on you Darla,” said Brian.

             Darla felt a weight on her chest. She felt the weight of her whole body. She felt the world shifting. The medbed started to tilt up and forward until she was upright. The light wasn’t so bright in her eyes now and she could see more clearly. Her eyes were still stinging with sleep and couldn’t rightly focus. She wanted to move but she found she couldn’t.

             “Don’t worry Darla. Everything is fine. You’re completely safe and in good medical care. In my care. I’m taking care of you,” said Brian.

            He bit his finger as he looked over the perfection of Darla’s body. She was in pristine form. She looked as if she had been frozen yesterday. There were no cracks or freezer marks, no defects or deformity. He smiled and felt his heart beating fast.

            Darla’s eyes slowly focused and she looked side to side. She saw the edges of the cryotube and could sense the motion of the man around her. She felt cold. She realized she was naked. She remembered something about falling asleep at the hospital. The very hospital where she was born. She was part of something, some program, some research, some sort of test. She remembered she had a cat and wondered if anyone had fed him.

            Brian moved around the cryotube and moved the medbots away. He reached down and took Darla by the wrist and he took her pulse. He felt himself get breathless as was finally touching her.

            Darla felt the cold hand on her arm and she forced her eyes to look down. She saw the four fingered hand, the oversized thumb, and the mixed colors of the skin on her wrist. Her eyes bulged in disbelief. She looked up at the figure with the eerie but calming voice.

            “I see you,” said Brian.
            “Gah,” gurgled Darla.

            She tried to pull her arm away but it only twitched limply.

            “There, there, Darla, take it easy. No one is going to hurt you my love,” said Brian.

            Her eyes opened wider as the figure leaned over her. Its skin was swirled, black and white and brown, the eyes were mere slants, the nose was wide and open, the mouth was small, and it was hairless. Darla wanted to scream but couldn’t.

            “Take it easy Darla. You’ve been asleep for a hundred and fifty years; things are a bit different than you remember. But it’d be my honor to show you everything,” said Brian.

            He smiled in her face, revealing sharp little teeth. Darla closed her eyes.