Monday, December 7, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I goofed. It seems that I took up pencil again in 2007 to write this ode (or whatever) to Raoul Wallenberg (if you don't know who he is, shame on you -- leave this site at once and go look him up!). It seems that I also wrote a rather bitter American Ballad in no less than 7 parts, but I'm not willing to stick that anywhere until I read it a few dozen more times to see if it's acceptable for human consumption....
If you are interested you might see if you can find my references to Wim Wenders (well, OK, that's a gimme), Mel Brooks (should be pretty easy), Thomas Pynchon (a little tricky) and Raoul's (official) profession -- although, actually, his only profession that really mattered was HERO.…
1932, Prescient Homage to Raoul Wallenberg
In Berlin, Hitler rules in the warming Spring
Jews and Gypsies walk verdant parks
Smell the trees not yet blossoming, but soon
(Perhaps not Gypsies... and, Jews, well.... be discrete!)
In a decade... or so... they’ll be dead, roasted
or, shot, or, occasionally, hanged
or, more often, poisoned, then roasted
Efficient folk, the murderers will keep good records
Names, numbers, details of scars, shoe sizes and styles of glasses
In Berlin, Wim Wenders hasn’t been born, but...
There's’ a raffish fellow, a Swede, visiting El Norte
(What precisely did Raoul Wallenberg study in America
The waft and woof of a building... Yes
The smell of the World’s Fair... Yes)
Perhaps he met a dark-eyed Jewess who immunized him
Against incipient bland hatred
Whilst listening to tinkling starry music
An aristocrat with pale eyes, blond hair - Aryan pure
In a decade .... or so.... will stand with Nazis
And say, here there be Swedes while
waving a pale hand toward the cattle cars
packed with Jews, Gypsies, Fags and Retards
(off to the Schlachthof... hinky dinky doo)
While chums, equally pale, wispy, Aryan pure, Swedes
Wandering along the tracks writing names on pure blank sheets
Creating, as they walked, new, pure, dark complected non-Aryan Swedes
Making the cattle cars wait, here there be Swedes
Until finally, “Yes, yes. Take them. Go. We have schedules...”
How many will he save, this ne'er-do-well
Blond Aryan lad now playing in the spring sun?
One hundred thousand?
Until - one last train to catch and delay -
He is now to be, to have been, caught in the Zone
(evolving to Soviet Germany)
And will disappear....
Blame Stalin - might as well - blame me or Wim
We weren’t born yet... so blame us... blame the wind
Blowing from the East or South... warming ‘things’ in that
Spring Summer (to be) in the Zone where - poof, pop
So many. This one at least. Hero. Disappeared.
2 March 2007
rev. May 2007
Monday, August 3, 2009
Not so much the first poem I ever wrote, but the first I ever considered keeping….
At the edge of my garden
Is a fluorescent matrix
And I lie angling the sun to see it,
this pattern of geometric progression,
a regression ever back onto itself.
Inside. Outside. A living mobius strip
reflecting a form of the universe.
Complete. Timeless. Tangled in its own purpose;
Which was this: to be broken,
just now, by the fly’s struggle.
I took up the pen (pencil, actually…) again in 2001 (after 9-11) and for the next two years produced 1 or 2 poems a month (Marshall University’s Joan Adkins would be proud, if, perhaps a bit critical, of the result…), culminating in the one below. Curiously enough, most of the 21st century poems are largely biographical or autobiographical in nature. This last one drifts from that pattern a bit, I believe…. I hope….
Silua si, the fairy host, gambols alongside
Drawing potency, sniffling silent
Along this dark edged pathway, strewn with
Pale shadowed night bloom -- wavering lustily
Amid a negligible breeze, wafting spectacular
Nose perks - as unto a pleasant reminiscence
‘What if,’ I wonder-think, ‘the Gaelic predisposition
For emotional substrate proved to be true!’
Fantazy! Projected upon ancient innocence
‘It seems, sir!, that you propose…’
Propositional parenthetical pretentious Proportionate
‘… Propose an unnatural supremacy of --
Non -- I say, NON! - intellectual superiority’
So I leaned -- just a bit, adjusting for a draft --
And tapped him briskly - knuckle to nose
Noisy wheezing muffed gasping non-sobs
Bleeding a bit, staining (upon drying)
A bit of snotrag to a chocolatey, red-brown
A heightening of color --
Redolent of something
Fragrance upon the breeze, brisk downwind
A feeling! --
Not the wrist -- karmically sprained by its violent exertions
Upon the now stanched nose uptilted and bracketed
With two chunks of cloth-wrapped rectangular ices
Silua si -- a troupe of children, so they seemed
Shigging noiseless through the twilight
Yes, a misty haziness shadowed
These, my cousins in time
‘Where from does Ossian come?’
I hear them singing -- voices raucous yet beautiful
One, stepping nearer,
Points my way, smiling --
A wagged finger
‘No, sirrah - not yet for thee’
Then there happens -- a drifting unmoving
Till only One remains -
Red-haired -- swelling in size
Blue veined -- emerging from the dimness
Long tapered fingers -- a smell of jasmine
Vaguely feminine -- floating emergent
Then when one last pretension remains
What passes before me as within me
All mine recognized, claimed, cherished
-- 26 September to 7 November 2003
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Some 40 years ago, when I graduated from High School, I weighed less than 120 pounds. In the decades since then, I have grown up to as much as 160 pounds on a small boned body towering perhaps 5 ‘ 6”. I now float around 155 pounds. But that’s still a 25 pound increase. And it most certainly isn’t muscle that has grown!
I, as have many others, attempted over the years (and now decades) to slow or even stop this ‘creep.’ I may even have learned a few things that approximate reality. I don’t guarantee that what I say here is reality, just that it approaches reality -- a distinctly different thing.
So, let’s just begin.
First, let me consider what life consisted of back in the day -- keeping in mind that everything from the past is either recovered archival information (Journals, photos and the like -- the detritus of life) or remembered -- and just how trustworthy do we really consider our memories?
But I digress….
I ate what mother put in front of me. Breakfast consisted of hot or cold cereal with a good dollop of whole milk or perhaps a couple of eggs with toast and a bit of butter. Lunch remains a bit vague in memory., most likely soup and sandwich with a soda and perhaps a cookie. Supper always had meat, usually beef, potatoes and some vegetable of color (usually cooked to utter limpness). We also had some sweet dessert to top the meal, ice cream, pie, or perhaps simply a bit of jello (sugared processed animal hooves).
Snacks were limited, a cookie after school and maybe a middle of the evening bit of the old some thing.
So I consumed a steady diet of high fat, moderate to high calorie food.
Given this diet how did I manage to stay skinny?
I have come to believe that weight control consists of several factors. Part of this matrix is what I eat compared to how I exercise. Another element seems to cluster around BMR -- Basal Metabolism Rate.
The ideas behind BMR suggests that since muscle burns energy faster than fat, I am probably better with a lot of muscle and only a little fat (well, duh!). In fact, it appears that thin, muscular people (= high muscle to fat ratio) can eat more than people with more body fat (with a lower muscle to fat ratio), even when they are the same weight. This disturbing fact suggests that it’s possible to be a fat skinny person! It also means that eating less only helps a little for a person who is already overweight. Ugh.
Sherman, set the Way Back machine to Huntington High School, c. 1965.
I loathed gym class. And the ultimate awful gym activity consisted of running back and forth on that shiny wooden floor in that large smelly room with abysmal acoustics while one person managed to run while bouncing a round ball. Occasionally this runner-bouncer would stop, twist from side to side and then hurl the ball at some other unfortunate young man running up and down this wooden courted area.
Once some person threw the ball at me. Surely, this had happened before, but I cannot remember ever catching it and when, this time, I did catch it, I had no idea what to do with it.
What I did do was instantly stop running and freeze. I had learned (through osmosis, I’m certain, since no one had ever bothered to instruct me) that among the strange and arcane rules for this activity was one that demanded the possessor of the ball not move unless bouncing the ball, lest he occasion a violation given the odd name of double dribbling. And since I had no idea how to walk while bouncing the ball (much less run) I preferred the safe course of doing nothing.
So I stood holding the ball and looking, I suspect, much the way a ‘possum looks in the headlights of an oncoming car and feeling about the same…. I vaguely heard voices calling to shoot the ball, but having no gun or other projectile weapon at hand, I merely threw the ball to the nearest person, who turned out a member of the opposing team….
No one ever deliberately threw the ball at me again -- to my utter and lasting relief.
But I digress….
I discovered that, in it’s glorious and profound wisdom, the PTB (the Powers That Be) had decided that a student who participated in an organized school sporting activity would NOT have to take a gym class.
One of the only pleasures I ever had in Gym class consisted of running around the gym or even around the block, probably because the enormous agony of such activity exhausted even my athletic betters (everybody), thus reducing the energy they had to harass persons of less than athletic demeanor (me, among others -- you know who you are!). And so I began to associate running with pleasure (or at least the absence of pain, which, sayeth Epicurus, is pretty much the same thing)….
…. And so the next autumn I attempted to join the Cross Country team. But, alas, running requires endurance and training, of which I had little. And so I found myself unceremoniously tossed from the team (oh, and also I lacked the winner’s spirit, which I seem never to have found, but that’s another story).
In this regard, I was lucky, because one of my friends (how did we become friends? I have no memory….), Mickey Thabit -- 2nd generation Lebanese-American from Kafar and genuine good guy -- being equipped by nature for speed and agility rather than slogging endurance, also found himself off the team.
We now had the choice to either go back to gym class (!) or find a way to run through the fall and winter in preparation for the spring track season.
With this in mind we visited Coach McCoy -- Raymond McCoy, may he ever be blessed! -- who simply said OK when we asked permission to leave school an hour early, walk over to the school used by disabled kids (and which in the not too distant past had served as the -- segregated -- school for children of color) and then run for an hour or so.
How gloriously insane was it that Coach McCoy trusted two 17 year olds to do what they said they would do? Hah. Thank you! Thank you!
Well, it never even occurred to me not to go running every day. And so, every day, we walked the half mile or so to the school, changed into our running gear and ran. First, we ran around the building and that pretty much wore me out. Mickey, being a truly nice guy, was willing those first few days -- OK, those first few weeks -- to trudge along at my sluggard’s pace while I acted as a drag to his progress.
But by the time the weather had become cold enough to necessitate sweat pants and shirts, we found ourselves able to run-jog over to Ritter Park. I won’t go into how the park has changed over the decades, but suffice that the place had then an open primitive opulence about it.
Then sometime before Christmas break the PTB finally noticed that 2 boys left the campus every day an hour before classes ended and that no one seemed to know where they went nor why.
The Assistant Principal called me in for a chat.
“You leave the building at 2:30 every day?”
“Yes.” Imagine me stuttering this out. The AP terrified me!
“And what do you do?”
“Oh, we run.”
“Hmm. And did anyone give you permission to do this?”
“Oh, sure. Coach…” And about this time I had one of my wonderful blank spaces, where I cannot remember someone’s name.
“…. Ah…. Coach…. The track coach…. He said we could. And…”
“Do you mean Coach McCoy or….”
“Yea, Coach McCoy. He….”
And that was that. Somewhere in the labyrinth of the high school, they must have found Coach McCoy and he, sainted man, must have green lighted us, although, as I suggested, I have no idea why.
By winter, when we would sometimes wrap a towel around our necks to keep the icy draft out of our sweat shirts, Mickey and I would run all over the place and on occasion run the incline up from Ritter Park along twisty 8th Street Hill Road (I don’t have a map right now, so I may have misnamed this) where the rich folk (and Mickey, whose family had money, but you’d never know it…) lived. We would scramble up hill sides in the rain and later, in the sleet and snow, we looped around back roads with abrupt dead ends where we would turn around amid trash and the random condom or two.
Finally, spring arrived and I had never been in finer physical condition. My body fat must have been below 10% and I weighed under 120 -- not that I ever weighed myself.
Only I did not realize then the extent of my social needs.
Running in theory is an individual sport. However, I had never actually just ran as an individual. I really enjoyed the talk and camaraderie of the trail. Once track season began, Mickey transformed back into a hurtler of some ability (he managed to earn a ‘letter’ for his running talents) while I found myself relegated to running around the track pretty much by myself. As a distance runner I should have fitted in with the other guys who ran a mile or more, but they had all arrived from the autumn Cross Country team from which I had been tossed. So I just ran around and around pretty much all by myself, although I would sometimes start with (or, to be more accurate, beside) the others. And then watch as they looped around the track at blistering speeds. I had terrific endurance, but not much in the way of speed.
I still enjoyed my running, but I missed the chit-chat. So sometimes as the days grew hot I would wander over to where the hurtlers and pole vaulters lurked. But after a while Coach McCoy would himself just wander over to tell me to run a few more miles before we quit for the day.
It never occurred to me that he had a plan for me. A decade or so later, my brain finally caught up. I realized that he knew that with only a year of base fitness building (the best runners had been at this since Junior High!) I needed a lot more time to ‘toughen’ up into a decent runner. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand. Coach McCoy pretty much spelled it out for me, but I didn’t get it. Well you tried, Coach, you tried. Thanks for the effort. I haven’t forgotten you tried….
I had two moments which were glorious. Two times when I achieved beyond what I imagined I might do, but those stories must wait.
There’s a point of this story. Even with no athletic ability I managed to develop a skinny, yet low fat and thus ‘muscular’ body. My muscle to fat ratio must have been ridiculous -- more or less the same as a world class body builder (only stuck onto a 115 pound body!).
So I ate a typical early ‘60s diet, but matched this with a lean body with a high muscle to fat ratio… and stayed skinny.
Interim (as time continues to pass): I just looked over the Huntington HS 1965 yearbook and I note two things of no particular importance.
First, the picture of the coach for the Track Team which we see beside the bio of Coach McCoy is a picture of Coach Miller, the football coach. The only pic of Coach McCoy is one where he is seen beside a young man practicing his sprint starts -- and that picture fails even to mention Coach McCoy by name. It’s been 44 years since then… and this is the first time I ever noticed this error. My apologies to Coach McCoy for my extended state of obliviousness!
Second, there is no evidence in the yearbook that I ever had anything to do with the Track team. I never received a ‘letter,’ so I’m not in the group picture and…. Oh wait. In the back there is a listing of all our names and beneath a list of whatever honors and/ or activities we took part in and there I find the magic word: ‘track’ -- ah, sweet, my tale is vindicated!
The clock back ticks into the 21st century and I now weigh around 155. I’m not obviously obese, but I’m certainly visibly plump!
What has happened?
Irrelevant. Something happened, but it’s not important what.
And do I care though that this ‘something’ has happened? And if I do care what am I going to do about it?
I care because I don’t feel as good at 155 as I did at 135 or even 145. There appears to be a weight -- or actually most likely a muscle to fat balance point -- at which I (and probably you, but that’s not up to me!) feel best. And 155 just ain’t it.
Back up a few years to when my friend Noreen needed to gain a bit of weight (yea, I know, but you have to meet her to understand….). She began to write down everything she ate. She kept this up for a few months and I, for some silly reason, decided to ‘support’ her efforts by doing the same thing. Not to gain weight, but to (hopefully) loose weight.
I lost about 10 pounds. And, really, all I did was eat with more awareness. Of course, at the time I actually counted the calories and found myself consuming about 1800 calories a day, while Noreen managed around 3600 per day. She gained a bit, I lost a bit. The universe remained in balance….
She still eats about 2 breakfasts, a good lunch, an afternoon piece of chocolate (‘just 1 small piece, a tinsy, tiny piece.’ he said, suddenly channeling Monty Python), a hearty supper and fruit or juice in the evening (and just manages to maintain her weight…. Go figure.).
I, on the other hand…. Well, I didn't keep the weight off -- let it go, let it go….
So now I’ve begun writing down everything I eat. Calories? I have no idea.
But since I started doing this again, I have managed to completely avoid sugar ‘stuff’ -- no candy, no ice cream, no sugar in the occasional cup of (decaf) coffee -- although I do add a bit (just a tiny bit!) of honey (which I’m told we metabolize in a different way than sugar). Of course, some days, I do still have a glass of (red) wine....
So here’s the real deal: I’m trying to become aware of what I eat...
… And increase my exercise. I’ve done Tai Chi since 1983 (studying with Lau Mok for about 16 years) -- but not every day…. I walk and, now that I’m back living in a village with real sidewalks (finally!) I can do this every day -- but I don’t…. I ride my bicycle -- but not everyday….
Well, you get the drift. I get exercise, but not enough. But perhaps there is a way to do this and make it fun.
Martha King, nee Wild (Susan Wild’s cousin and a graduate of HHS 1966) has a project to ‘walk around the world’ -- she’s about 3500 miles into this -- which, as she reports, puts her “somewhere in the Atlantic now”.
Now Martha WK reports that her goal is 25,000 miles which indicates she is walking the equator (and thus not cheating). Now by my trusty calculator I concluded she’s walked an average of 1.47929 miles every day for the past 2367 days -- and at that average it will take her…, let me get the calculator…. OK, 14,533 days before she completes the trip. And that’s just a bit under 40 years…. But the nifty thing is that even if she sprints the last 10,000 miles or so and finishes in, say, 35 years, she still has the North to South Pole jaunt to enjoy.
Now, I don’t know if Martha does this, but one could put a big world map on the wall and pick a start point on the map -- I find that Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is on the Equator, so that might be a good start. Then every week or so a person could mark how far they had traveled on the map.
Just get a good map that will not fall apart over the next 30 or 40 years that it may take to walk all around.
So, perhaps the key is just to eat well, but not too much; avoid the sugars; walk a lot (by which I mean: walk, bike, swim, do Tai Chi or whatever); and keep smiling….
Hmm…. Does this mean Epicurus had it right all along?