Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Get To The Other Side

The introduction of Roadkill, the armadillo character in the film Rango, is startling: a tire width indentation has cut through his middle, leaving tread tracks, and he struggles for breath. The animation here is more realism than not, and the effect is disturbing. Yet you can't look away, and your view from the best seat places you directly into his struggle as he says, "I must get to the other side."

The other side, he's heard, is where enlightenment is to be found. He knows this is a metaphor, even; "We all have our journeys to make." Over the course of the film, the lead character Rango, a chameleon, will find this to be true, and when the two characters meet again on the other side, some wisdom has indeed been gained, the smoke cleared.

The other side, however, is just that, and each creature must return to the side from whence he came. The armadillo, still a bit battered, must hope that traffic patterns align with his stars, and Rango must return to the site of all that led him to his new revelations, one fraught with large snakes and despairing souls brought so low they could be capable of anything.

Even when we've reached the other side, we need to go back.

There is no arriving, then. There is arriving, regrouping, and returning. And you will most likely be battered and bruised as early as the first leg of that journey.

In my bathroom right now there is one butterfly and four chrysalises. We have watched as tiny caterpillars became small ones, then large ones, then fat ones, and as they made their way upward to hang, upside down, for about a week's time. Inside the chrysalis, a caterpillar's parts turn to soup; and in one of nature's most miraculous events, that fat furry caterpillar becomes a fragile, flying thing of beauty.

In the hours after it emerges, the butterfly doesn't yet know what it can do.

And soon, we'll release it outside, where dangers abound.

But the caterpillar can now fly. The next stage of its journey has begun.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

From the Dross, Easter


I wrote and published this post last April.


Yesterday, Tracey got married.

She told me this last night when she arrived at the shelter where I am an evening supervisor. She wrote "Brown" instead of "Johnson" on the sign-in sheet, and flashed a copy of the official paper.

"I got married!" she beamed.

Today is Easter.

Hope for Christians, and new life for all who live in climates where spring is most welcome. New life, new birth.

Birth can be messy.

We'd like to think of weddings as white and pure, not as a ceremony between people who spend their honeymoon in separate homeless shelters. A man and a woman who have a four-year-old daughter. A bride who was raped by a family friend at age 11, became pregnant, and had a son.

But this wedding is a new start for Tracey. As a married couple, she and her husband will be able to secure housing more easily. It's a messy start, yes, but sometimes birth requires that. To celebrate, Tracey opened a few tins of cookies and shared them with everyone. The guests at this makeshift reception conversed over food and drink near the mats they'd sleep on later.

As Tracey relayed the account of how she and her husband met, she caught sight of something.

Easter grass, lying in the trash. Discarded. The plastic ribbon kind that makes a mess everywhere no matter how you try to contain it.

Tracey set down her cookies for a moment and gathered the best strands.

"For my kids," she said, beaming once again. "For their baskets."

Today is Easter. And yesterday, Tracey got married.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Even In The Darkest Place

Last night saw another presentation of Even In The Darkest Place, a reading by five men, former prisoners all.

My script arose from their reflections on moments of hope and despair. In it, I wrote a part that asked for extreme vulnerability from the men.

Some day I'll tell the story of how that didn't go over so well at first, and then very well after that.

These are big men. They put their story out there over and over, and that can't be easy to do. It was a powerful experience yet again.

A special shout out to Rich and Carol Rienstra, whose fine work with men inside and out made this possible.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taking Bukowski To Church

The man behind me

can’t sing.

He’s a quarter-step below everyone else

who sing their praises aloud.

I know I’m supposed to be glad

that he’s chiming in, taking part

in a joyous activity that’s for all, no matter one’s ability;

I’m supposed to be gladdened in my heart, but

I’m not.

Friday, April 15, 2011


He's at KFC, that's how he pays child support. Don't matter he's 12, that's where he works. No, that's the other baby mom, this one's still pregnant. Last week I got this speed bag down, he tells me, but today, damn! Forget it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Elephants, and Life Is Short

Elephants can paint.

Some paint in broad, graceful strokes; others dab. In three years' time, an elephant can be taught to paint a flower.

The effect is wondrous to behold. And yet I ask you:

Why teach an elephant to paint?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How (Not) To Name Your Posts

See that section off to the side that says "Most-Viewed Posts"? It's automatically updated. It knows what you're reading; it knows if you've been bad or good.

So read the good posts, for goodness' sake, and not this one, which has now made the list. The post that shall not be named, or some other large creature will end up here again, and most likely leave frustrated at getting benching advice from a skinny girl whose lift still hovers around 130.

I picture a muscle bound man googling "bench press add 40 pounds," finding this blog, landing on a post about an ancient Greek philosopher, slamming down his protein drink and exclaiming, What the ---?

To you, large man, I apologize. I humbly submit that I'm a sham; I even declined to register for a competition happening later this month.

Why, you ask? I'm busy. Reading Plato.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Sound Of Boxing

The teeth banging together when the teenage boy, who is your partner, hits the large, heavy ball in your hands.

The wind knocked out of you as your partner practices body blows on your shield. "I need my kidneys tomorrow," you tell him, but he laughs and carries on.

Two three-minute rounds on mitts. Your first time in the ring.

Throwing a left hook and messing up your left hand.

An involuntary response on the drive home, happening at regular intervals.

Turning over in bed later that night.

The sound of loving all this.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Top Ten Sick Day Activities, Saturday-Sunday

1. Sleep
2. Read Kierkegaard
3. Sleep and have strange dreams about Kierkegaard
4. Skip a show (so sorry, guys)
5. Feel guilty for skipping the show
6. Watch Food, Inc.
7. Feel guilty for serving my children meat
8. Become paranoid over every diabetes decision, as last week at this time, while tired, I injected six units of fast-acting insulin instead of slow-acting insulin. Theo was required to eat five desserts at 9 o'clock on a school night.
9. Regret not having exercised for three days
10. Offer advice on constructing a Haunted Mansion in our basement, so that my children, too, may claim a "trip" to Disneyworld on spring break

Friday, April 1, 2011


"If I do this, you do this," says the aging trainer; he demonstrates. "Then I step over here, and you don't know what to do."

"So boxing is like chess," I say.

"Yeah. Yeah, like chess," he says. "Except you get hit."