Tonight it hit me that what is in memory, what is old, what fed my imagination (for better, etc) when I was 18, would comfort me. I was right. I turned on an episode of Miami Vice. Some would say that “Smuggler’s Blues” from Season One is the best episode of Miami Vice. Perfect combination of the fundamental plot of the show with undercover work, high risk with minimal thanks, perfect blend of relevant 80’s style music and fashion and nail biter ending. Watch it. It really helped me to remember my young self wanting to ride in the cool retro car, do good while doing bad in Miami and coming out ahead. I ate a burger while my child slept and my wife was hanging out with friends. It was quiet at the end of a long day in the O.R. with high intensity and good outcomes. I had done a good days work and wandering around in my past was a comfort. Good enough.
Every, Every Decision Is Life Or Death
I could stay put, stand in line, be quiet.
I could do my part, be a part of the team, coöperate.
Maybe I should wait for a better time, maybe.
Now’s not good.
Be practical, bide my time, compromise even.
I should trust the system. I have come this far…
I could weigh my options. I should do that.
Why am I rushing? I should take my time,
See what the others are doing.
I need to cover all the bases and get a read on this.
I should wait for a sign, hedge my bets and
Keep an eye on my six. Don’t go in to this blind.
Be on guard, keep my eyes open.
Bide my time.
Keep my options open.
Don’t worry, tomorrow will be a better day.
Today I made a pile of rocks with my kiddo for an hour. It was a three inch square pile of little tiny rocks.
Today I developed a photo of a partially focused tree. It was a forgettable moment that moved me, the photo.
A good day.
Sometimes the light only gets there through a corner, around a turn.
What happens when the questions stop and there are only answers. This is a serious question. Or…
Is a person swimming toward help any different than one who is rescued?
Or one swimming in the other direction?
The invisible threads weave the fabric of faith because we pick them up in the odd places. We find our want of and for god at a concert and the county courthouse, in the arms of the one we finally love, in a summer tomato with olive oil, in the finding of cancer in your colon, in the light at the corner of a hat.
I spent the night in jail and looked at the walls and I wondered how I would eat the food for years and days and days on end. From the perspective of day one (and only one) it was inedible. Down the road I would savor it in order to stay alive, I know. I am not so proud as to go hungry, but the thought of it, one day one and only one, was demoralizing.
In jail, the lights don’t go off, which over the course of time, would be a sinister torture. By the course of time, I am thinking, anything more than two “nights”. There was a camera watching my cell in my cell. I wondered how wide the angle on the lens was. I wondered how many holes were in the acoustic tiling in the ceiling. I wondered what the guards talked about as I watched my cellie pace like a puma, twenty and stuck already in probation violations and stacked charges and no help. He asked for my free three minute phone card. I gave it to him. It had about 30 seconds left. His father was in prison for life and had been for his whole life. I felt through that math and tried to combine those numbers with the aching heart of a boy, fatherless and there is not an equation for that and now his son paces.
This is easy for me. One night. I made a mistake and can pay my debt, but this is real. This place is not to be brushed with, these people and their cameras and their books have long memories. There is little mercy for brushing up to this barnacled arm of the government.
In the same way that chronically hospitalized people have a vocabulary and know the vocabulary somewhat of the people who watch over them, the people in jail know vocabularies. “I’m here on theft three, arraigned by the same s.o.b. judge, cop didn’t show and they still stiffed me until she could fit it into her schedule.” etc.
There are no flowers sent to jail, like there are at the hospital. No bouquets, nothing lovely. The phone is the one lifeline and calls are dollars/minute and no one there seems to have a nickel to shine on a dime. It is loud and bright and there is no moment of privacy ever. If the cell door opens, the cell has to empty and when the cell door closes, the cell is full again.
I left there, walked out, un-cuffed and free and felt grateful and I tried to feel into real time there and I despaired. I could find no good thing might come of time there for me or anyone else, but I don’t know everything, about me or anyone else. Maybe there is some good thing. But if there is it would come by way of the camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. I am sitting now looking back on that single awful night in that hole while I watch the tide take the detritus off the beach as the ocean slips itself back into itself and I am listening to jazz, to Dexter Gordon, and I know that we humans have made agreements with each other about how we will act and how, if we don’t act a certain way, we have agreed to lock each other up in crazy little cells, maybe even kill each other. It won’t help. Killing you won’t prevent me from finding the grace or the evil within me. It just kills you. And in another lesser but also real way, endless prison sentences fail to achieve what they set out to do, on average. There are people I don’t want to be around and want around my son, but the system, overall, feels bottom heavy and hopeless. Maybe they should at least allow some flowers in there once in a while.
I am thinking about the tide and watching it now, again, for several days. We are about 60 feet above the tideline in a house on the Oregon coast and I can see the ocean moving from above. I know there is a still moment between neap and ebb, but I can’t see it. I look for it and then get distracted for a minute and what was coming in is now retreating. It is not violent but it is relentless.
We spent the day dropping crab pots in to the Nehalem River’s mouth where it meets the ocean. The crabs ride the tide in and the pots fill. The ocean rumbles in to the river and, like Listerine it washed out the mouth. After a little while the pendulum swung, the river pushed out the water to the sea, the crabs were gone and we pulled our pots and went home.
What if the water didn’t move? I think I would want it to, but I wouldn’t know the difference. Unmoving water is called stagnant, a word not nearly as lovely as neap or ebb. Swamp, bog vs ocean, estuary. No contest. I’m resting in the motion.
This is one of the first poems I ever wrote. I was twelve
I wandered down the line between the sand and sea.
The moon’s tide receded around my ankles, gently, incessantly pulling me.
It was nighttime, and I was beckoned to the sea. The invitation was brief. I could easily have walked straight into the foam.
Maybe I did.
In that brief moment I understood the rhythm of the water and stars and night laboring to birth another day — just as when watching a sparrow fly, I can sometimes mobilize one beat of its wings, hold the magic and glory of flight, but just a single beat — then
it’s just a picture of a bird.
I was one with the sand and the sea. There was no more line.
I have to believe…
I choose to believe that
If I apply my passion and my will and my good intention
that what I build will be worthwhile.
I like building things..as long as I don’t have to swing a hammer. Ok, I like imagining great things to build and convincing hammer swingers (whom I hold in highest regard) to get at it.
I treat obesity as a surgeon and as a psychologist (insert happy, funny, smiling face here). I have a job in which I assemble an unusual array of medical folks. So far: surgeon, physician assistant, nurses, medical assistants, dietitians, psychologists, other doctors. There are also the people who own the business I am in. There are also the precious diamonds of every person I work with. We have some openings:
I am thinking we need a nun and a shaman and a massage therapist. We need a mechanical engineer and a poet and a chef. This is unusual work and affects every part of every day for my patients and so I need an angel with me and a robot…I have one of those, for real. There is a robot at the hospital that I can use to do surgery. I sit in a booth twiddling my thumbs and the robot swings hammers. I need a spoken word mathematician and a legal artist. My patients need an Islamic set of 72 virgins and an evangelist and an IT person or persons, probably in that order. They need a hug and you can give them that.
Our team is actively looking for a marketing person who is familiar with social medicinals. We also need a retail sculptor. We need a broader bottom line so that more people get what they deserve. We would like to add a program that includes modern dancing
We would like you to consider applying for this job.
She is making a galaxy in front of me and
I have no canvas for that.
I make a little divet to mark the moment.
I am swirling by. It’s a curve. It’s a train.
It’s a corner
You are looking out and I am looking up.
Shutter falls, shadows rise
Light disappears and winds its way back,
Slack and sideways to this corner moment.
I am not even thinking about any of this
But of New Orleans and the
ragged edges after the flood
It’s 2010, but I only write the date out of guilt, because dates remind me that in New Orleans
everything is before or after Katrina.
I am in Chicago and the El rattles along and the corner disappears and your corner, blue window and my
Conjured memory of a windstorm I was not a part of
and the corner bends around and the train rattles a little