Tuesday, March 23, 2010

3-1/2 inches of rolled nonsense

By now I'm sure I've mentioned that about three weeks ago,
I stopped smoking.
(. . .no worries, I'm not gettin' all up on a soapbox here.)

Most friends mean well when they say, "congratulations!" or some such but, in my case, I'd honestly be happy with, "well it's about damned time you dopey bastard!"
I mean, all those years and all that money spent on something I always knew I never needed to be doing in the first place.

Now, I know there's a smorgasbord of "smoking cessation" plans, programs, treatments, strategies and support groups out there and a person hoping to quit can chew gum, suck lozenges, take pills, wear patches and/or go to meetings (most with money back guarantees).
I know also that those processes and aids have worked pretty good for lots and lots and lots of ex-smokers.
But me, I don't roll that way.

I made a conscious choice, all those years ago, to bum my first cigarette off my sister (it was menthol) and I made a conscious choice to burn my last smoke and say, "no more".

Feeling good about my choice, I went on-line to find out what happens to someone who stops smoking. . .
. . .Within 20 minutes, blood pressure drops back down to normal, in 8 hours the carbon monoxide levels in the blood drops by half and oxygen levels return to normal, after 48 hours all the nicotine has left your body, the chances of a heart attack decrease and senses of taste and smell return to a normal level. . .

Well, maybe all that's true, but let me tell you
what really happens. . .

You get tired in the middle of the day for no good reason.
At first, that really bummed me out but then I thought,
"hell kid, you live in paradise, take a damned nap!"

Then, you find yourself with more time on your hands 'cause you're not hanging out having a cigarette. So the next thing you know the house is clean, the car's washed and the first 4 chapters of the novel you've been planning to write for the past 5 years are finished.

. . .And forget about food! It tastes different and it smells funny. I've been cooking for myself most of my adult life and all of a sudden I'm asking, "what the hell is that smell?"
And coffee just tastes like mud! (yeah I know - It was only ground this morning) I brew my espresso black and strong and with a cigarette it went down easy, but after smokes. . .
I've heard of something called "tea", maybe I'll
try some of that.

And then psychologically. . . there's a sense of peace.
I kid you not, while I smoked, there was always anxiety attached to it;
. . .When's the next smoke? How am I gonna rearrange my day so I go past the bodega to get some more? No, I can't get them there they cost too much! Do I have enough for the overnight?. . .

For me, that was the deal breaker.
Being governed by something other than my own will, put a bad taste in my mouth. (a taste worse than the tobacco)
So, at the end of the day, I chose to spend more time in conscious behavior and less time making like a married man to 3 1/2 inches of rolled nonsense.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

a wanderer's song

A wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels,
I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels;
I hunger for the sea's edge, the limit of the land,
Where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand.

Oh I'll be going, leaving the noises of the street,
To where a lifting foresail-foot is yanking at the sheet;
To a windy, tossing anchorage where yawls and ketches ride,
Oh I'l be going, going, until I meet the tide.

And first I'll hear the sea-wind, the mewing of the gulls,
The clucking, sucking of the sea about the rusty hulls,
The songs at the capstan at the hooker warping out,
And then the heart of me'll know I'm there or thereabout.

Oh I am sick of brick and stone, the heart of me is sick,
For windy green, unquiet sea, the realm of Moby Dick;
And I'll be going, going, from the roaring of the wheels,
For a wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels.

John Masefield (1878 - 1967)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

salvage spoils

Here in Key West, on the corner of Fleming and Simonton, we've got an antique store with a kind of cool name. . .
"Duck & Dolphin"

Being an antique store, it makes sense that there'd be a lot of "old stuff" in there.
Some of the "old stuff" is just barely getting old and some of the "old stuff" has been old for so long it's used to it.
But then there's the "old stuff" that's so old, it could be the all the other old stuff's grandmother.

That's the stuff I imagine about.
The stuff that's so old, it could have been on a boat in 1823 sailing west for the Americas when it's ride got hung up on the reef and started taking on water.

That's when boatloads of folks, the likes of Ben Baker, Hog Johnson, John Geiger and Bull Weatherford would race against each other out to the site of the wreck for a
"winner take all"
claim on the spoils.
Then they could either sell the stuff at auction or decorate their newly built and otherwise empty palatial mansions
with it.
Wreckers made pant-loads of money on the misfortunes of others. (like wall street bankers today?)

When Wreckers would salvage whatever they could from the shipwrecks on the reef, it was theirs to keep; Finders keepers was the "common law of the sea".
Then, when Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821 and Key West was declared an "official port of entry" a year later, the salvage spoils went overboard like rats jumping ship and Key West became the richest city in the United States.

. . .But what about the stuff?

Before the stuff found it's way to Duck & Dolphin,
before the stuff was salvaged from the briny deep,
before the stuff went down in the briny deep,
before the stuff was shipwrecked on the reef and,
before the stuff was even loaded on that ill-fated boat. . .

. . .Who's stuff was it?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Sometimes the screamingly obvious gets right by me.
I'll be pondering along on a puzzle or problem in ignorant bliss, never suspecting there might be a hole in the soul of my thought processes.
But, by and by a light always comes on, I get a clue and the previously overlooked obvious is in my face,
up close and personal.
. . .Makes you want to say, "duh!"

So early last week I got interested in mandalas, beautifully elaborate pieces of artwork that have spiritual significance in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
In the Tibetan, Vajrayana flavor of Buddhism, they're developed by monks as fragile sandpaintings that, once completed, are left to weather the elements or are purposely destroyed. (The intention in mandala creation is same as with any creative effort. The real benefit to the creator is in the process rather than the product and in the doing, the aspirant creates a sacred space that helps focus the mind
in meditation.)

Anyway, there I was engrossed in a sort of "mandala-mania" for a couple of days.
I was creating and coloring and contemplating mandalas for hours at a time until, at some point, I had one of my
"moments of hmmm. . ."

". . .Doing these things seems so damned familiar. I'll bet I've done them before; probably in a previous incarnation. No wonder I've always wanted to travel to Tibet. . ."

Just then the phone rang. I turned in my chair, picked up the phone and looked at the wall to my left. . .

These are a few of what's left of a series of 30 acrylic abstracts I painted a few years ago. I'd spend hours or days at a time, usually outdoors, creating expressions of the vibrant colors and energy I felt (and still feel) are the essence of living life in the Keys.
The great vibe for me on this series was in the doing, my porch became something of a sacred space and I remember commenting to a yogi friend of mine at the time, that each painting was a two day meditation.

Sounds like "mandala-mania" all over again. . .

"The Dance", acrylic on canvas 11" x 14" - SOLD

"Four-Eyed Jack", acrylic on canvas 18" x 24" - PLEASE BUY ME

"Dancing in Havana", acrylic on canvas 24" x 36" - SOLD

"Diamond Jim", acrylic on canvas 26" x 26" - PLEASE BUY ME

"Walk in the Sun", acrylic on canvas 18" x 24" - SOLD

"Sea Creature", acrylic on canvas 30" x 40" - PLEASE BUY ME

"Metamorphosis", acrylic on canvas 50" x 50" - SOLD

"Ant Mary", acrylic on canvas 48" x 20" - PLEASE BUY ME

"Rooster, Rooster", acrylic on canvas 11" x 14" - SOLD

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

if you've seen a mount of sea foam

Doing some of my history research thing, I came across this and thought it was just. . .
Well, you decide for yourself.

If You've Seen A Mount Of Sea Foam - Verse V

If you've seen a mount of sea foam,
it is my verse you have seen.
My verse is a mountain and is a fan of feathers.
My verse is like a dagger at whose handle a flower grows.
My verse is a spout which flows a sparkling coral water.
My verse is a gentle green and also a flaming red.
My verse is a deer wounded,
seeking forest cover for help.
My verse pleases the brave.
My verse is brief and sincere,
with all the strength of the steel with which
the sword will appear.

and you know how something always gets lost in translation, so here's the original. . .

Si Ves Un Monte De Espumas - Verso V

Si ves un monte de espumas,
Es mi verso lo que ves,
Mi verso es un monte, y es
Un abanico de plumas.

Mi verso es como un puñal
Que por el puño echa flor:
Mi verso es un surtidor
Que da un agua de coral.

Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido:
Mi verso es un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo.

Mi verso al valiente agrada:
Mi verso, breve y sincero,
Es del vigor del acero
Conque se funde la espada.

written in 1891 by Jose Marti, 1853-1895

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

a walk in the park

At last, our weather has started to moderate a bit and, I'm happily not the only person to have noticed the change.
Lord how I love living here. . .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

pacing the cage

Normally, I tend to be a thoughtful kind of guy but show me a couple of gray early mornings like we've been having lately and I'm inspired to introspection.
(it's an artist thing, go figure)

A lot of years ago, Jimmy Buffett covered a song written by Bruce Cockburn called "Pacing the Cage".

". . .Sunset is an angel weeping, holding out a bloody sword.
No matter how I squint I cannot make out,
what it's pointing toward. . ."

When I first heard it, I was feeling a bit frustrated and maybe a little disillusioned with my advertising business in Philadelphia. It was just past the agency's 9th anniversary, our successes outweighed our challenges and life was good. But the thoughtful, subconscious, pain in the ass little voice in the back of my head, was saying, "life is good but it could
be better."

What the song illustrated for me was, during the time it took for my primary consciousness to catch up with my little voice, I had been pacing the cage.
(not long after that, I closed the biz and moved to Key West)

". . .I've proven who I am so many times, the magnetic strip's worn thin. And each time I was someone else,
every one was taken in. . ."

All that is 10 years ago now and you know? Life has been better. Good friends and lovers, a generally healthier lifestyle and a quiet explosion of island inspired creative energy.
Still, around the middle of last summer I started feeling scratchy, maybe a little restless and there was my little voice again, "life has been better but it could be better still."
Since then, while my conscious mind has been trying to catch up with that better idea, I catch myself pacing the cage.

". . .I never knew what you all wanted, so I gave you everything. All that I could pillage, all the spells
that I could sing. . ."

The "cage", of course, is a metaphor for the comfortable corners we paint our lives into with well worn habits
and behaviors.
And the "pacing"? That's all the planning and plotting and scheming and dreaming we put ourselves through while we're waiting for the rest of the painted floor to dry before we can make our move.

". . .Sometimes the best map will not guide you, you can't see what's round the bend. Sometimes the road leads through dark places, sometimes the darkness is your friend. . ."

Friday, March 5, 2010

an unexpected confluence of island creatures

When two of my most favorite sights to see come coincidentally juxtaposed, just at the moment I'm there to catch them, I take it as a small but gracious gift from God.

For my money, there are few sights more graceful than a gaff-rigged schooner under full sail nor more calming than the confident composure of a pelican.

I was on my way from where I'd just been and heading toward somewhere else when these few moments came together.

A kid with a camera looking for photo-ops, the Adirondack II on a starboard tack and the brown pelican between them just watching it all go down.

An unexpected confluence of island creatures.
Turn a blind eye and you miss the moment. Miss the moment and you miss the memory.

Our lives are made of moments, strung together end to end for as long as we care to keep breathing. At the end of the day, what else do we have but memories of how great it was
to be here.

. . .and speaking of memories, here's one from "The Golden Trashery of Ogden Nashery". . .

"A curious bird is the pelican.
His bill can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak enough food for a week,
but I'm damned if I know how the hell he can."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

republicrats & demigods

God only knows what got into me last week when, very dutifully at 10am, I tuned into C-SPAN to watch and listen to the now infamous "HealthCare Summit". Honestly, I wasn't expecting to learn or hear anything new but I'm always interested in governmental process.
(or the apparent lack of it)

Like you, I've got my own picture of what a National HealthCare initiative could look like and over a short beer could explain it to you. Then you could explain your version to me and the odds are you'd like and not like parts of mine, I'd like and not like parts of yours but, we'd both head for home with a couple of new ideas to think about.

While I listened to our "representatives" regurgitate their well worn talking points and take polite political potshots at each other, they only reaffirmed what most of us already know. . .
They couldn't give a tinker's damn about "HealthCare", the "American People" or "governing" (you know, the job we allegedly sent them there to do?). You could hear it in every measured word and see it in every sideways glance around
the table. . .
All that matters to those broken old mama-lamas, on both sides of the isle, is their mid-term elections in November.

By the time they broke for lunch I was, "alright, enough already".

The whole thing was a CliffsNotes version of how our government works.
It's inefficient, ineffective, self absorbed, bought and paid for. . .
Our government is broken.

Do I think we should have National HealthCare?
Hell yes!
But I think, before it can really do any good, they'll have to outsource the administration and management of it.
I don't believe any of us can trust our current government to figure out how pour piss out of a boot, even if the instructions are written on the heel.

But you know, it's not the individuals. Fact is, I like the President (although I sometimes wish he'd finally grow a pair) and I'm willing to bet (with the possible exceptions of McCain and Pelosi) that the rest of our "representatives" are basically pretty nice people too.
But, get 'em in a room together and you've got to question their governance come from.
I mean, if you're dealing with terrorists, you govern from strength. If you're dealing with illegals, you govern from understanding and if you're dealing with sick people who need help, you govern from compassion.

But these otherwise possibly nice, yet not so very bright people have unwittingly sold their souls to a system that allows only a one size fits all governance posture of greed and self interest. They're trapped in it, we're trapped by it and the men behind the curtain, the real "powers that be", rake in the profits.

The American ship of state is stuck on a sandbar and taking on water and all our powerless puppet politicians have the initiative to do is posture over whether the flatwear should go to the right or the left of the Presidential plate.