Monday, October 31, 2016

Ghost Hunt

                The Paranormal Team from the University arrived at Megan’s and Jamal’s new house. They unloaded two vans and an SUV full of all sorts of cameras, motion detectors, infrared lights, night vision goggles and a hearty sense of self importance.  Megan sighed. Her boyfriend Jamal had been frightened by what he called “Phantasm Noises” coming from the attic so he called the University.  She’d heard them too over the two months they’d been living together but just chalked it up to the house settling or just being old. It was an old house. She hoped they would be able to fix it up slowly over the course of their relationship.

                “Where can we plug this in,” asked the Leader of the paranormal group, Professor Montgomery.
                “Anywhere is fine, just as long as it’s out of the way,” said Megan.

                Megan didn’t believe in ghost hunting. She followed the old axiom that “seeing was believing”. She wasn’t one to succumb to the supernatural. She just took it for what it was.  Jamal on the other hand was terribly superstitious. He threw spilled salt over his shoulder, wouldn’t walk under ladders, looked for four leaf clovers and kept a vial of holy water in his nightstand. Megan through it was ridiculous, but he was a great lover and one of the most compassionate guys she’d ever met. So she forgave him his superstitions.  

                “We might have to drill a hole in this wall to run the cable for the thermal,” said Professor Montgomery.
                “Not on your frigging life,” said Megan.
                “It’s fine,” said Jamal.

                Megan turned to Jamal and gave him the death stare Megan had tried, pleaded with Jamal, not to invite these weirdoes into their new house. She said there was probably a bird or something that got into the attic at night and that was it. There was nothing supernatural about it. Jamal told her that he heard voices in the attic and saw strange floating orbs. She told him it was probably from the TV and dust particles. He said that he just wanted them to be safe in their new house and it was for both of them.  Megan finally agreed to let these nerds in and perform an overnight Ghost Hunt.

                Professor Montgomery gave a drill to one of his assistances and he drilled a hole right through the baseboard near the bottom of the stairs. Megan cringed. The assistant ran a cord through the hole and plugged into the wall socket behind the TV. He almost knocked the TV off the stand and Megan lunged forward to save it.

                “Please be careful,” she said.
                The assistant shrugged and went back to setting up the equipment. Megan could feel the vein on her forehead throbbing and she felt very flush. She steadied the TV and went to the kitchen where Jamal was sitting at a laptop. He was watching each of the observation cameras come on line and he was rubbing his hands together in what appeared to be boyish glee.

                “They better find some serious ghost shit in this house or I might have to dump you,” said Megan.
                “Honey, these guys are the best. They would have had their own TV show if there weren’t already so many paranormal investigative shows on already. They’re the best,” said Jamal.
                “I don’t think you’re hearing me Jamal. If they don’t find something, I’m dumping you,” said Megan.

                Jamal waved her off and watched the laptop screen as the camera picture from the attic came on-line.

                “That’s a great view of the Attic. Right where I told them I saw the orbs,” said Jamal.

                Megan rolled her eyes and opened the fridge and took out a bottle of white wine. She got a glass from the cupboard and poured herself a healthy dose of vino.

                “Do you think that’s wise? It’s 1:30 in the afternoon,” said Jamal.
                Megan looked back at Jamal and took a big sip from her glass and made an exaggerated gulp and satisfying sigh.

                “Real mature,” said Jamal.

                Megan stepped out of the kitchen and back into the living room where three assistants of Professor Montgomery were sitting in a circle. They all had their phones out and were all on Twitter.  Megan stepped around their Twitter Jerk and went into the dining room. It was the only room where the paranormal investigators had ignored. Their early “testing” had shown no paranormal activity so they thought they should concentrate on the attic and other rooms. It was quiet in the dining room.

                “What a ruckus,” said Captain Jonah as his spectral form took shape in the chair next to Megan.
                “I know, right,” agreed Megan.
                “You’re boyfriend is a dweeb,” said Captain Jonah, “you should run away with me like we talked about.”

                Megan looked at the colorful but shimmering shape of Captain Jonah, the former resident of this old house. He died at sea while whaling but never really accepted the fact that he was dead.

                “No Jonah. He’s not a dweeb. He just can’t see what I see and he finds it frustrating,” she said.
                “Dump him and run away with me,” said Captain Jonah again.

                Megan took another sip of wine and looked at the old, but very handsome face of the Captain. She wondered what his thick black hair would feel like between her fingers, if his hands were rough, if he would kiss her like she thought men of his era kissed women. She closed her eyes and tried to clear the thought of them in bed together from her mind.

                “I love when you think that way,” said Captain Jonah.
                “Even dead, you men are all alike,” said Megan.  
                The Captain winked at her and vanished from the table. Jamal walked in on her.

                “Who were you talking to babe,” he asked.
                “No one hon. No one,” said Megan.

                She got up from the table and put her arm around Jamal’s neck. She kissed him on the cheek.

                “I hope your ghost hunt goes well. I’m sorry I’m out of patience with it,” she said.
                “Thanks babe. I know you don’t believe in any of this stuff but I appreciate you putting up with it,” said Jamal.

                They hugged each other and Megan looked back toward the dining room table. Captain Jonah had reappeared and had folded his arms over his chest. He rolled his eyes and then disappeared. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Voices of the Dead

Buddy wanted to Rave On,
Jimi’s Wind Cried Mary,
Stevie Ray’s House was A’Rockin’,
Elvis was In the Ghetto.

Marvin wondered What’s Goin’ On,
Scott needed Vaseline,
Kurt Smelled Like Teen Spirit,
Mama was out On a Winter’s Day.

ODB Got your Money,
Prince is Listening to Doves Cry,
Jim Broke on Through,
David is a Starman

Lemmy is all Aces,
B.B. is wondering Where the Thrill has Gone,
Lesley knows it’s Judy’s Turn to Cry,
Joe has a Little Help from His Friends.

Lou is Walking the Wild Side,
Ravi is wondering about Norwegian Wood,
Donna will always Survive,
Davey is a Daydream Believer.

Whitney Is Every Woman,
Etta finally has her At Last,
Amy’s Tears Dry on Their Own,
Ronnie is a Holy Diver.

These voices are haunting me,
from the radio, getting in my head
and making my body move in
uncontrollable ways.

It’s as if they possess us,
in their ghostly ways,
making us remember,
so they don’t fade away. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Date

The band was playing something
soft in the background,
drink glasses clinked over
murmured conversations.

The lights were low,
pink and blue neon,
reflecting in the fun-house
mirror over the oak bar.

She sat on her stool,
crowded by a man
more interested in talking
than listening.

She’d dressed up for this date,
Hair, make-up, and the expensive
perfume.  She was nervous the night
before, like a teenager.

She had no reason to be.
She thought he’d be nice,
but he was crude, rough and
dim as a gas lamp.

His profile was deceiving
and she should have known
from spelling errors and syntax,
but he was handsome. So, a chance.

He didn’t compliment her,
he only said she looked, “Tasty”
and that they should probably
just skip dinner in favor of heavy drinks.

He said something about “Those people,
and how they all think, they’re dirty, and
evil and they should be segregated”.
She cringed and brushed her hair back.

His shirt collar was open, a small
mustard stain on it kept
demanding her attention. She figured
this was his “nice” shirt, for funerals and dates.

He said she had nice legs and he put his
hand on her knee. She sat up straight
and brushed his hand away. He acted offended.
She wanted to vomit.

The band stopped playing their soft song.
People clapped lightly.
She stood from the stool.
She said she was done.

“Bitch”, he called after her
as she walked away.
She knew she had done the right thing.
She was glad to go.

She was lucky to get away.
The rest of the patrons were
stuck listening to her date,
curse her and call her all sorts of things.

He was asked to leave,
so he yelled at the bartender,
he yelled at the bouncer,
he called everyone in the bar, “Fags”.

He stormed out.
Thinking he was right.
Thinking he did the right thing.
The hell with that place and her.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Number One Thousand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here it is guys.
The big one.
It’s Number 1,000!

That’s right.
I’ve written a thousand blogs.

One Thousand.
That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.
Who knew that today
would be the day that I enter
the annals of blog history.

Are there annals of blog history?
Is that a thing?
I’m being told that’s not a thing.
But still, like, a thousand is still
pretty neat.

I wish I had gotten myself, like,
a balloon to drop or a little
confetti launcher or something.
Seems sort of anti-climactic
now that I’m here.

I was looking forward to 1,000 a lot
so I’m feeling a little let down.
Not even a sad trombone solo
to mark the occasion.

Well, that’s the writers life I suppose.
It is a mostly solitary pursuit punctuated (writer’s pun)
with moments of genuine appreciation from
people who are brave and bold enough to tell
me that, “Hey, I liked your poem”, or that they
liked my short story.  Or that they didn’t like it.

So I guess there isn’t much fanfare, pomp and
circumstance. There’s no red jacketed band in
the gazebo ready to strike up a tune as I walk by,
and that’s okay.  I can be happy knowing that I have
endless stories to tell
and relentlessly shove into
your word holes.

Thanks to my loyal
readers and followers.
I sincerely appreciate your
support and encouragement.

So here’s to 1,000 posts
and here’s to 1,000 more.
(Dear God no). 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Creaking Time

                The grandfather clock chimed. It announced the arrival of three o’clock in the morning with twinkling tones. John woke from his very light sleep and cursed the grandfather clock. He hated the clock. He didn’t even like it in the antique store. It had strange curled footings and a menacing face. It always looked like it was angry about something. The wood was dark in a way John couldn’t explain. As if it was painted with wood varnish mixed with blood. Meredith loved it though.  She thought it looked like the perfect way to fill out the downstairs front room.  She felt the wood accent to the white and light blues fit the Connecticut aesthetic she was going for. The clock was noisy though and for the last 17 years it had kept John from getting a good night sleep.  Every single night for 17 years.

                The creaking of the house and the floorboards under the carpet had only recently started. John started hearing them a week ago, just after sealing up the house for autumn. He’d put all the storm windows in, cleaned the gutters, covered the garden plants that wouldn’t make it through a quick freeze if fall decided to thrust one on them. He was ready. The weather didn’t really cooperate though and after a few days in the high fifties, it’s been nearly eighty degrees every day. John has had to turn the air conditioner on twice just to get the humidity level down in the house. Meredith didn’t notice though. She was always cold. She’d wear a sweater on a ninety-five degree while clutching a hot cup of tea after eating a bowl of hot soup and still ask if there’s a chill. He hated that about her. Even on vacation in Cancun she was wrapped up in some ridiculous shawl or something. She wouldn’t even make love above the covers because she got too cold. John started to feel warm in bed just thinking about all the times he thought he was going to have heat stroke from making love to his wife under the covers.

                He flipped the heavy comforter off and sighed. Meredith was sleeping soundly with her ear plugs in and eye mask on. John couldn’t remember when she started wearing those devices for sleep.  He sat up and flipped his legs to the side of the bed and rubbed his aching knees. They’d started to hurt more these days than they used to. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d ran anyplace. He grabbed his water glass from the night stand and took a sip. The house creaked. It was loud enough that John froze with the water glass up to his lips. He was in full sentry, listen mode. The creak had been loud, as if it was coming from the foot of the bed.  John slowly turned his head as if moving quickly would somehow be too noisy. He seemed to think that his skin would be too loud if he moved fast.

                There was nothing but the usual darkness that followed an errant house creak noise. It was just shadow, cut by thin lines of light flaring in from the street lights outside through the closed blinds. John put his water glass down and rubbed a hand through his hair. He picked at this ear and remembered that he needed to get more Q-Tips. He sighed just as another loud creak seemed to emanate from the stairs outside the bedroom.  John stood up and arched his neck and head forward to hear better.  He heard a second creak and a third followed by a fourth as they rippled down the stairs.

John moved to the foot of the bed and toed his slipped on. He felt along the bed frame and toward the dark bedroom door. He thought it odd that Meredith still closed their bedroom door even though the kids had moved out years ago.  There was no need for such privacy and longer. It’s odd those habits people get into after so many years. John looked back toward the completely oblivious Meredith and shook his head. She never heard anything. The clock never bothered her. Then John thought that’s why she probably wore the ear plugs now.

“Did she ever suggest that to me”, wondered John.

He turned his attention back toward the bedroom door and opened it slowly. He poked his head out into the hallway and listened in the darkness. He could hear the ticking of the grandfather clock in the front room. He heard the sound of the refrigerator kicking on but there was no more creaking.  He relaxed and stepped out into the hall. His own footfalls didn’t make any creaking noises on the floorboards. John didn’t even notice. He decided he might as well head down to the kitchen and maybe have a snack, maybe a little milk to help him get back to sleep. He went down the dark stairs, carefully holding onto the handrail. The stairs were quiet as he descended.

John made it to the bottom of the stairs and turned toward the left, toward the den and through to the kitchen when he heard a horrendous crackling. A repeating and thundering banging as if a sack of potatoes had been thrown down the wooden cellar staircase. John turned to his right and moved through the dark house toward the cellar. He pulled open the cellar door and flicked on the stair lights. The hot white of the naked bulb blinded John for a moment. He squinted past the light into the illuminated cellar and saw nothing out of place. There was nothing on the stairs. John cursed a little. “If only that damn clock didn’t wake me up every night I wouldn’t be so paranoid,” he said.

He reached out to turn the cellar light off, still squinting at the bright bulb. He felt an ache in his knees and he suddenly got dizzy. He couldn’t reach the switch. It seemed so far away. The cellar stairs seemed to pitch and yaw in front of him and John tried to steady himself against the door frame.  He started to turn away from the stairs to steady himself.  He turned slightly and he felt something against his chest. His eyes cleared and he was standing in front of the grandfather clock. It was at the top of the stairs, blocking him from turning all they was around. His reflection in the clock’s glass face started him. The clock chimed the four o’clock hour and John felt the clock push him. John started to fall backwards down the cellar stairs. He bounced and slammed into each wooden step until his broken and crumpled body hit the hard cement floor of the cellar. The cellar door had closed behind him as he had fallen.

Meredith poured herself a cup of coffee and went to the kitchen table. She sat down and spread the newspaper out in front of her. Her phone rang and she answered.

“Hi sweetie,” she said, “I was thinking I’d come by after lunch if that’s okay.  Yes, dear. Well, I am your mother so I can sort of do what I want. What’s that? Oh, you know, I had to get ear plugs and an eye mask. This house has just got so old and creaky ever since your father died. Of course I know it’s the anniversary dear. Yes, it’s hard to believe it’s been seventeen years.  Thank you dear. Okay, I’ll talk to you when I’m on the way over. Good-bye dear." 

The Grandfather clock in the front room chimed eleven.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Running the Risk

                I was born during a time in America when women were fighting against the patriarchy of society. It was an era in which women were still very much second class citizens and were mostly treated merely as grown up little girls. They were expected to be pretty, quiet, obedient, submissive, and generally present for the whims of men. Women were expected to cook, clean, raise children, be lovers and never complain about their lot in life because it was perceived that if you had a man who “took care of you”, you had it made.

                I was extremely lucky to have been raised by a strong woman, who never really fell into the role of a typical “1950’s” housewife.  She was a product of the turbulent 1960’s and became a mother in the 1970’s; a time when radicalization seemed almost normal.  A whole culture was trying to shake off the burdens of Vietnam, political disasters, and a changing American landscape.  It was an era of internal exploration for a lot of Americans who were looking for their place as the baby-boom generation.

                Their parents had gone through, in some cases, two world wars, epidemics, economic depressions, and had come out on top as one of the most successful generations in our nation’s history. It was a very tall order to buck that system of success in favor of self discovery and re-define a generations place in that structure. The very idea of going against the social morays of The Greatest Generation seemed like an insurmountable task. Yet, through all the riots, police beatings, love-ins, sit-ins, passive resistance, active resistance, and general rebellion a new sort of social order was made.

                Yet, within that new system of social order, White Men were still at the top. We still wanted sexy secretaries to get us our coffee on Madison Avenue. We still wanted the prom queen to be our wives, the mother’s of our children and for them to never complain about it. All that social upheaval to break the rigid morality of the WWII generation took a backseat to the lewd and lurid comments and objectification women had to endure.  And have to endure still.

                My generation of men, and perhaps just the generation before me (by ten years or so) were brought up in a time when the defined roles of women in society were still etched in a figurative stone.  It wasn’t out of place in the company of those men to hear conversations that were graphic in their nature regarding women. What they would do to them, how they would do it, what they wanted to do to women, and how they felt like they were owed by women.

                When I was young, five or six years old, I accidentally picked up a Penthouse magazine at the barbershop. My father and barber thought my facial expressions were hilarious as I flipped to each pictorial, each more graphic than the next.  There was no explanation as to the sexual nature of the pictures, that it was consensual, that it was just for mommies and daddy’s that loved each other. My father and barber thought it was a bit of sport, as it were, for a six year old to be exposed to graphic portrayals of women in compromising sexual positions. They just laughed at my shock and didn’t bother to explain it. They didn’t have to. There were no social pressures then to do so. It was manly not to explain.             
It was simply that men were men, women were women and women were supposed to do what men said. That was just it. The rebellions against the social structure had only succeeded insomuch that they managed to end wars and get the voting age lowered, but did little to actually change the way men thought about women; and possibly how women thought about themselves.  That was still yet to come.

I grew up in an era of confusion in which the roles of young men and women were being re-drawn on a map of a continent no one had ever seen.  A time that seems so primitive in light of the “Trans-this” and “gender-fluid that” time we live in now.  Back then, in the not too distant past, Girls were girls, boys were boys and that was it. Girls were sugar and spice and everything nice, boys were snails and puppy dog tails.  Were girls really softer? Were boys rougher? As a young man I know I was taught to honor the sensitivity of girls, to be gentle, to be soft, and to treat them like they were something elevated over the status of the boys. And that there was something secret about them that if we didn’t eventually get then it would drive us mad.

Puberty hurls everyone into this pool of hormones and sexual awakenings we’re poorly prepared for. Sure, we got a little sex education in school, learning about what goes where, but we didn’t get any sort of emotional education about it. So as young boys blazing through puberty at a billion miles an hour it wasn’t uncommon for young men to get caught up in the sexualized fantasies of our formative years. We were physically ready to be men but complete emotional children of repressed and stunted grown men. We had no language to express our desires, longings or dreams as they pertained to women. So most young men crafted their own language in their peer groups.

It is a language which would be considered terribly rude by today’s standards for its graphic embellishment of detail.  I certainly was in conversations in which we described women in less than flattering terms. I am not a saint. I am a product of a ridiculously small sexual vocabulary however. Even with a strong female role model at home, I still said things and did things I am not proud of.  I’ve made mistakes with women. I’ve said the wrong things. I’ve objectified some, ignored others, been greedy with some and been regardless of others. It took a long time, most of my life, to understand the appropriateness of certain behaviors, phrases and attitudes when it comes to women.  I learned, through many patient women in my life, what offended them, what hurt them and why. I’m glad to have learned it. It showed me more about myself than I ever thought was there and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity.

It still isn’t always easy and I know plenty of men, older than me, that never learned about the evolving role of women in our society; men that never had the opportunity to be with a woman that elevated their thinking out of the locker rooms and bawdy alleyways; women that gave us a vocabulary to express ourselves beyond the grunting of our fathers.  So many men I know have no problems with the high school vernacular regarding women. And I pity them.

I pity them for what they missed out on. I pity them that are still trapped in an old fashioned, old boy, old school mentality.  I pity those that haven’t evolved enough or learned enough to understand the common thread of being human; of being human to each other above gender.

It is in that regard I can say that I’m happy to have been born into an era of Women’s Liberation. It has not made me a lesser man, but a better one.  One that knows when he puts his foot in his mouth, spits it out, apologizes and learns something about what it really means to be human.  It’s something I’m still learning about and I’m glad to have the opportunity.  And I put my foot in my mouth a lot so no matter how progressive I am I know I always still have something to learn. (And is being gender agreeable really a progressive issue?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Cold Business

There are times when things
are not all that pleasant.
When a hard line must be taken
and emotion left to the side.
When a heartache must be
silenced with reason and logic.

It’s a rotten business sometimes,
but we all know it must be done.
We have to cut the most hurtful
heart-stings and bury hatchets in
old pine footlockers and shove them
under the bed.

The sentimental mind must give way
to the rational, unencumbered with
the weight of an emotional choice and
rely solely on the cold, hard facts.
We can cry about it later, we can mourn
it later, but making the hard choice is a must.

Love can be rational,
it doesn’t have to always be mad, crazy, love.
Sometimes we show our greatest love
by being our most strict selves in the face
of highly charged feelings. We can do it.
We always have in the past.

We should not fear the pain it can
temporarily cause, when the joy in the
long run is the goal. A hard “NO” now might
mean a heart-lifting “YES” later. It’s just
having the patience and fortitude to
know when to make the choice.  

So I think I’ll just have vanilla,
at least for now. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Six Years Already?

                October marks the six year anniversary of A Minute with Michael. I’m also rapidly approaching the 1,000 blog post goal I set for myself.  (I’m only four away after this post.)  And I wonder, “What have I learned in all that time, in all those words?”

                Mostly I learned that people tend not to read something if it’s more than 1200 words.  So I suppose I should try and keep this short.

                I’ve learned to craft my voice. I’ve learned how to create a specific position and build a poem or story around it while also being open enough for it to be relatable in general.  I learned a poem can transcend most cultural barriers and a good story is universal. I’ve learned that my words are actions.  And both can speak loudly.

                It’s a new idea for me actually. I’ve often despised the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words”.  That’s often a real issue for introverts like me. The time and crafting it takes to create the right words often takes more effort than any fleeting gesture. I think the phrase is more apt when you’re helping walk an old lady across the street than it does when trying to show someone how much you love them. I need the words to do it because frankly, I’m often a colossal failure at actions.  Try as I might, it never seems to go according to plan, or my fool mouth ruins it by saying something that I think is pithy but it’s really just snotty. So I depend on the words I write to help shave away at the crust of my miserable attempts at action.  My actions mean well, but my words mean more.

                I’m not an action type guy.  I do not crave adventure or daring-do. I accept the tedium and temporary annoyances as best I can, knowing I will never have the luxury of pulling an ancient item from the sands and saying, “It belongs in a museum”, and then fighting Nazi’s on a motorcycle with a flagpole lance. I don’t imagine I’d be capable of even doing that. Although, I might have a wise ass remark I’d make from the sideline, which would get me shot. And as I lay dying I’d think, “I wish I had written that down”.

                Yes, I’ve learned quite a lot from writing this blog for six years.  In that time I’ve loved and lost, thought I loved again and lost that, pined for the girl I couldn’t get, embraced tragedy be it local or national, I’ve discovered my issues with anxiety and learned ways to deal with it, gone through unemployment, published a book, made new friends and lost some along the way.  I’ve learned that life doesn’t wait and it’ll go on one way or another whether we want it to or not.
                I’m grateful I’ve had this opportunity to hopefully entertain you. I certainly hope you’re entertained. Or at least I’ve provoked some thoughts, or feelings, or made you feel a part of something larger than yourself. I know that I feel a great sense of joy when I know that my words have been in your brain and we’ve shared that moment together.  So I’ll keep going, four more to go, and beyond. Thank you for your loyal readership over these six years and I hope I can keep you entertained for the years to come.