Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Off the wall and of the wall

As I pedaled home Saturday from the Downtown Farmer's Market, I found these in the alley south of Poyntz, between Fourth Street and Fifth.

Art and meta: art imitating art.

Having been trained by the rhino, we might now recognize this to be art. No explanation is necessary. Or sufficient.

The way of all flesh: hopping toward oblivion

Monday, August 08, 2011

Manhattan gets a pizza the action...

1121 Moro, Manhattan (Aggieville)

China has a great wall, Greece has a 2500-year-old temple dedicated to a virgin goddess, Egypt has geometric solids with polygonal bases and triangular sides inclined to meet in a point, England has a pair of large circles of megaliths and Monty Python, but we have the oldest continuously operating Pizza Hut on the planet. 

"Summa petit livor" or "envy aims very high"--Ovid

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Flush Picnic, July 27, 2011

The Flush Picnic: since the 1930s, the place to be on the last Wednesday of July.

For just seven bucks, manna I can believe in: fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, sliced tomatoes, cold beets and sweet gherkins, tangy cole slaw, iced tea, pie, conversation, good cheer, and a post-prandial waddle around the grounds of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Flush, Kansas.

Wait! Where are the gherkins?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Man's Reach Should Exceed His Grasp Or What's a Step Stool For?

This past Saturday night I attended the Little Apple Jazz Festival, an annual event that the city and the university, as well as private corporate and personal sponsors, put on in Manhattan's City Park.

The skies were clear, and the day was touted by the forecasters as one of the last temperate ones northeast Kansas might have before temperatures climbed several degrees above body temperature, so I pedaled a bicycle to the park and arrived in time to see performances by all seven bands on the schedule.

Music from seven bands on two stages, the aroma of barbecue, the lighter scents of fruit-flavored snow cones and other confections, the fragrance of sun screen, the odor of bug spray, and the question of what noun--aroma, scent, fragrance, odor, smell, stench, and others--goes with what source filled my senses for six hours as I listened from the beginning at five p.m. to the end at eleven p.m., when the neighborhood noise ordinance took effect.

The festival is growing slowly. I only hope it survives the governmental budget cuts that might lie ahead. In the near future, public money for such events might be harder to find in Kansas because both the city and Kansas State University are feeling the pinch of tighter government budgets.  The bands don't work for free, and most of them come from out of town and out of the state, increasing their costs to the sponsors.

Nonetheless, the band I most enjoyed is 75% home grown, the Kelly McCarty Band. McCarty is a KSU product who now lives in Florida, where he works to complete a graduate degree in music. The other members of the band reside and work in Manhattan, and they, as well as McCarty, demonstrated first-rate musicianship. The fact that I neglect the other performers does not reflect on their performances; instead, I have other business.

Kelly McCarty (bass), Kurt Gartner (drums), Craig Treinen (sax), and Wayne Goins (guitar)

As fine as the music was, it wasn't the best part of the night for me. The bike ride home in the dark was. There was no breeze except the breeze I made by cycling. Pedaling at about ten mph with no other traffic on quiet city streets past sleeping houses through night air as warm and moist as a living animal returned me to boyhood and to the rides home after days of baseball, rides that ended almost every summer night when I was a kid in Houston.

And then the night became even better. Crossing a bridge over a creek, I saw a pair of men in lantern light on the creek bank, one seated and the other squatting. As remarkable to me as this sight was, after I rode across the bridge and circled beneath the bridge to the bike path, I didn't have much time to consider whether these men were fishermen or highwaymen because I was about to meet the best part of the evening. As soon as I passed beneath the bridge and was open to the sky again, fireflies surrounded me in numbers greater than I have seen in the past ten summers together. They streamed on either side of me, lining my path, appearing to rise and fall from the grasses to my left and the tree-lined creek to my right. And the stream of fireflies continued for almost three miles, interrupted only when the path passed through a small commercial district and ending when I turned the bicycle off the path and returned to the street a few blocks from home.

If I'd seen this in a movie--and I think I have--I'd have thought it a charming enough special effect, and I would expect the heroes in this movie to have some magical happy ending thrust upon them. I do not believe myself to be particularly susceptible to the enchantment of magic, but I cannot overstate the extent to which on this night I was delighted to a point of rare wonder, a sense of wonder that a healthy human can only always welcome. Whether God's in his heaven or not--and I am of the latter view--all was right with the world this night.

Of course, Douglas Adams wrote so much more succinctly, "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are faeries at the bottom of it, too?"

Monday, July 04, 2011


Weiner or Wiener? Did I ever know how this is spelled? Pronounced WEE-ner, that I know.

DSK? DKS? DS-K? Have I ever really read his name, or did I just lazily detour to "the IMF guy" because lately I'm feeling short of both short- and long-term memory? Overloaded with information, information that soon won't rise even to the level of trivia.

Seen while Owen, Taylor, and I inhaled noodles at Zen Zero in Lawrence
June 2008

And who did I think this guy was? I took this photo furtively, so it's not very sharp--low light, a too-slow shutter speed, wrong color balance. But I was sure at the time I took this photo that this guy was the rock star. Robert somebody. Legend. Robert. Last name rhymes with "ant" or "plant" or something. Probably not him anyway. No matter.

[I have no idea if this fellow was who I thought he might be. Same for the IMF guy.]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Muse Is One Tough Cookie

Many online journals and blogs eventually present an entry (sometimes many) that attempts to explain or apologize for the writer's extended absence. This sort of entry, I think you will agree, gentle reader (Hi, Mom!), is among the lowest of this online literary form. I think just admitting that the muse is one tough cookie and then moving on is the better strategy, and that's my plan.

Over the last few months I've done a little housekeeping here on the site, editing the template, deleting some entries that were better suited to a snarky Facebook posting, and posting one new entry, just to see if I could still line up words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and circumambulate around some vague point. And to see if I could walk away without comment from a probable redundancy such as "circumambulate around". Apparently I cannot.

And that is really my only reason for being here. I have no grander purpose than to line up words in a reasonably good order and occasionally to make a little sense.

So onward I go with a few highlights from the many days I've been absent.

The unlovely but colorful bones you see on this page form my left wrist. On Memorial Day, May 30, 2010, while bicycling on Manhattan's Linear Park, I accelerated on a downhill portion of the trail and felt the rear tire lose traction as it hit a thin patch of loose, sandy sediment left on the concrete of the low-water bridge I was crossing. Damn Newton! The bike stopped; I did not. I flew over the handlebars, coming to rest a few yards ahead of the bike, landing my fall with my two hands and my helmeted skull.

The radius of my left arm broke--exploded, as the doctor put it--at the wrist, and the right radius cracked near the elbow. The right arm required only a little attention, but the left arm required surgery and the installation of a titanium plate to secure the bones while they mended. The plate could now be removed, but the doctor advised me not to bother.

Today my range of motion is a little limited on the left hand, but those limits would not prevent me from competing in the Van Cliburn Competition, were I so inclined or so gifted. And although I tried to resume bike riding after my recovery last fall, my wrist was not comfortable during rides. By this spring, however, the wrist had recovered sufficiently and is no longer a concern during long bike rides. And I cannot blame the injury to the wrist for the lack of activity on the blog. I was typing within days of the surgery.


I could call this "steel life", but the plate in my wrist is titanium.

I bought a Kindle. I love it. I'll continue to buy and read books, but the Kindle and electronic books have become the norm for me.  I'll write more of my impressions--almost all of them favorable--about the Kindle some other day. 

Did I mention that I love the Kindle?

My firstborn was married on December 31, 2010. He's a lucky man. She's a lucky woman. They both have taken work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they will have a mortgage, a newspaper in the driveway, maybe children someday--the full catastrophe, to paraphrase Zorba.

At the reception. After about an hour of marriage, Josh and Jaime already look alike.

I have worked at playing the trumpet. I have several brass instruments around the house, so I thought the time to take up playing them again had arrived. The season was winter, windows would be closed against the cold, neighbors would be undisturbed. After a year or so of occasional practice, I'm prepared to resume my place as first-chair trumpet player in the sixth grade band at my elementary school.

Additionally, I've always enjoyed the sound and the look of trombones, as well as their visible physics, so I bought a used trombone on eBay, and I've been making noises with it for about a year, too. I've progressed about as far as I can without instruction, by which I mean that I can reliably pronounce "embouchure" two different ways in one sentence, but I think I will have to bring in professional help if I'm to become merely competent.

Brass life

I underwent a religious conversion. After I baptized a very nice and almost new Dell laptop with Coca-Cola in December 2009, an iMac appeared at my door one day. On this subject, I will be brief because you know how we saved folks can sometimes be: smug, holier than thou, tiresome. All I'll say about the iMac is that it makes one life decision so much easier: I know that when I wear this machine out, my next machine will be another iMac, and my next laptop will be a Mac as well.

The baptized Dell, by the way, became the property of my son Owen, who resurrected it by replacing the hard drive, the battery, and some other doohickey.

Not the Windows on my world, but the Apple of my eye

And almost finally,  I offer once again this photo from June 25, 2009. When I was clearing out some earlier entries of this journal, I accidentally deleted the entry on which this photo first appeared. The garden and house pictured below (not mine, alas) remain lovely to this day, and this photo and this season remain  favorites of mine. So here again I post this photo on its second anniversary.

A garden that I pass on my bike ride to the public library

Did I say that I like large photos?

Monday, May 30, 2011


James D. Patterson
May 30, 1950 - June 2, 1987

You remembered that it wasn't like
"Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?"
but you joked that you couldn't recall
the number of years
in the Hundred Years' War.
The dates for the War of the Roses,
the square root of two,
pi beyond
had also been removed, you claimed,
for examination.
You were upset
that you couldn't immediately retrieve
the fingering for your first formal
piano piece, though that would return
briefly. But you could remember
your first baseball game and
the joy on my face when
you stopped the ball at second,
and the grimace that melted to
an impassive stare,
the look a brother gives the public
to disavow all relation,
when you threw the ball
toward the loudest shout of "throw
the ball," into center field.
A kinder disease would have removed that
as well, although these memories
were soon even more irrelevant,
as your mind shielded itself,
a cyst of will,
knowing only that will was stronger
than hope,
that life is better
than surrender,
and then believing only in this breath,
and the next,
and finally, recalling
a raindrop
falling from a gutter,
past a window,
like a thought before sleep.

Jim as an infant

I posted this poem in an earlier journal, and it also appeared in the summer 1999 issue of Prairie Schooner (University of Nebraska Press).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What I Saw While Riding My Bicycle Around on May 14, 2011

Graduation ceremonies at Kansas State and the filming of The Great Food Truck Race (Food Network) in Manhattan attracted thousands of folks to Aggieville this weekend. Recent graduates, their parents and friends, alum of both the -ni and -nae varieties, and garden-variety locals filled the midtown area when I visited in the middle of Saturday afternoon.

Three of the competing food vendors prepared and peddled their fare in the northwest corner of City Park, and one worked the crowd in Aggieville. Congestion slowed the traffic in Aggieville, so I walked the bicycle through the 'Ville and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the crowds and savored the aroma of barbecue, burgers, and coffee from restaurants in the district.

Through the window at Radina's Coffeehouse & Roasterie in Aggieville (Manhattan, Kansas)

Attracted first by the tandem bicycle parked at Radina's, I noticed the grandmotherly woman seated near the window. Maybe she was in town to attend a grandchild's graduation. She didn't fit the profile of the usual patrons of Radina's--academics, hipsters, hipster academics, academic hipsters, folks who tote a Roland Barthes tome to be seen toting a Roland Barthes when one's Derrida is unavailable, the cat having swiped it into the home aquarium of guppies, black mollies, and angelfish. But back to our weary grandmother: She had finished her coffee, and she appeared to be tired, maybe bored, too, and I imagined her wondering if all the fuss over the grandchild's graduation really required her presence. It's naptime, dammit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Throat clearing...

Is this place still open?
The apartments in this building at SW 6th & SW Tyler in Topeka, Kansas, are still occupied.