audie and martin

the night before martin luther king
was gunned down in memphis
he came screaming
out of a dream.

the instant outside roanoke
that his plane smacked a mountain
was the first time since holtzwihr
that audie murphy wasn’t afraid.

audie and martin met in heaven and
walked Paradise apart
from listening angels,
the ears of God.

what they whispered
to each other
was not put down
into the book of ages…

they swapped medals,
and their laughter echoed
through heaven and earth,
to hell and back.

You Think YOU’RE Demoralized!

We had this big old Chinese elm tree by our patio taken out last year. Now a two hundred square foot area next to the patio is nothing but dirt, which my two ninety-mile-per-hour Australian shepherds are constantly tracking onto the patio. So my wife wants me to lay flagstones over the whole area to keep the patio clean. It will take about a ton of stone, which runs around twenty cents a pound, for a total cost of about four hundred dollars. I figure I’m getting off cheap; she could have insisted on extending the concrete patio slab, which would cost a couple of grand.

So Sunday morning I start leveling out the dirt by the patio, and I immediately hit the stump of the Chinese elm, which the guys we paid to take the tree out the year before only ground down to about an inch below ground level. This is too high to lay flagstones over and too low to do anything decorative with, so I get out my ax and start chopping, figuring to lower the level of the stump just enough so I can lay the stones over it. But I hit a live PVC water pipe, which is charged with about 60 lbs of water pressure, but has no shut off valve. What kind of an idiot lays a live plastic water pipe with no shut-off valve, four inches below the surface, for the next idiot to come along and chop through?

Instant geyser.

So the yard is now mud and the patio is flooded, which seriously ticks my wife off. I shut down the main water valve, which interrupts her laundry and ticks her off even more. I dig up the pipe and find three more pipes, all tangled around the roots where the Chinese elm gradually screwed them up over its 25-year life span. Now I have to dig a trench a couple of feet over, paralleling the original pipes, in order to re-route them away from the stump. I break two more pipes in the process. There are huge piles of dirt all over the lawn.

I go to Orchard Supply Hardware and buy the various pipes and fittings and cans of PVC glue and stuff that I need to repair the pipes but that I naturally don’t have in the huge collection of pipe and sprinkler fittings that I have accumulated over twenty years of repairing my lawn sprinklers.

I manage to cap off the live pipe (the other pipes are connected to the sprinklers and have proper valves and timers at their seminal ends, so they don’t have water perpetually flowing through them with no way to cut them off if by chance they get dinged by a shovel-wielding ignoramus) and I turn the water back on. Now my wife can finish washing my clothes and my daughter can take one of her frequent and interminable showers, but not before I have to make another trip to Orchard to buy another 14-cent fitting that I didn’t realize I didn’t have, but which is absolutely essential to the undertaking.

Now it’s nightfall, so I say to hell with it and I quit for the night, leaving great piles of mud, shovels, pickaxes, pliers, wrenches, broken bits of pipe, debris, and miscellaneous PVC fittings all over the lawn for the dogs to run off with and hide. I track mud into the house and all over the kitchen floor, and get dirt all over my wife’s new throw rug, which ticks her off all over again.

So Monday night, I get off work and go back out there, leaving the wife to go to the daughter’s open-house at school without me, which ticks them BOTH off. I finish re-routing the pipes, cover them up with the dirt from the piles on the lawn, get all the roots, broken pipe pieces, and trash picked up and tossed, get all the tools put away, and now it’s o-dark-hundred hours again. So I quit for the night. And now I’m right back where I was when I first started the project.

Today I’m going to see if I can rent a stump grinder to finish the job that the tree people got paid $1600 a year ago to not finish.

My wife says she doesn’t understand how I can make things so complicated. All she wanted was a few flagstones to keep the dogs from dragging dirt onto the patio.

It Ain’t Over Until…

I’ve got a streak of mean.

Yesterday I had to take the bus to work because the chariot was in the shop. I love to ride the bus because you meet all kinds of friendly persons from the lower socio-economic stratum. They’re far more interesting than rich white people.

So, anyway, I’m sitting on the bus near the driver and we stop for a wheel chair person. The bus has a lift platform that pushes out and down for the chair to roll up on. When the chair person rolls up on the platform, it pulls the bus over a fraction of an inch to the right, and the curb is too high at that spot so the platform is still in contact with the sidewalk and it won’t retract. After several unsuccessful tries, the bus driver, a short, black, female dynamo wearing black leather racing gloves, gets up and orders everybody sitting on the right side of the bus, maybe thirty people, to stand up and move over to the left side of the bus to shift the weight of the bus to the left so the platform will lift up enough to retract. The driver has to explain the concept several times before everybody gets the idea, but once they do, everyone cheerfully gets up and moves over and the bus shifts to the left just enough so the driver can operate the lift. Then everybody sits down and we’re on our way again, the whole bus laughing and talking about the experience.

About three stops later, the wheelchair person gets off the bus, again using the lift platform. But two other persons get on at the same stop, and they sit – you guessed it – on the right side of the bus, so the lift won’t retract again. This time all the people on the right side of the bus see what needs to be done and they all get up and move over to the left side of the bus again. All except this one fat lady. She had stood up on the previous occasion, so it’s not like she doesn’t know the score. She just doesn’t want to get up again, so she stays in her seat reading her book, no doubt thinking that the weight of one person won’t make any difference on a loaded, 40,000 lb mass transit vehicle. So she’s the only person on the right side of the bus.

The driver keeps trying to operate the lift, but it’s still stuck on the sidewalk. She tries and tries and the thing beeps and clicks and groans, but it won’t retract. The fat lady stays in her seat, reading her book. The bus driver keeps trying. She can’t see the fat lady because of all the people standing in the aisle, but everybody else on the bus is looking at the fat lady, waiting for her to get up, but she keeps on reading.

Finally, I get tired of it and I yell, “Hey, lady, get up and move over!”

The lady looks up and everybody’s watching her and she’s watching everybody back, and I can just see what she’s thinking: “If I stand up and move over, and the lift works, everybody will think it’s because I’m so fat.”

So she sits there for a minute more, and the lift still won’t retract, so finally, very reluctantly, she stands up and moves to the left side of the bus. At that instant, the lift pulls free and the driver is able to retract it.

So I says loud enough for everybody to hear, “Yup. It was her.”

Like I said: I’ve got a mean streak.

Just goes to show, though, that it ain’t over ’til the fat lady stands.


[i]for Brent Stalker[/i]

If the dead could rise
To take your part,

And you lie
Bleeding in their stead,

The silent covenant
Between you bred

Of comradeship
Would not falter.

Do not rage your solvent heart.
Do not rue God’s bleeding altar.


It’s really a matter of style. A man can piss in a perfect arc if he remembers to adhere to a few simple rules. First, he must be careful not to piss upward. While this might seem to violate the concept of a “complete arc,” one must bear in mind that a “complete arc” in this context consists of any parabolic path with both upward and downward slope components that pass through a zero tangent, with an axis directed toward the center of the earth. Thus the arc stream needs only a very slight initial upward direction, before reaching maximum elevation and falling back toward the earth, to satisfy every requirement for the perfect parabolic arc.

The upward tangent of the arc must not be too steep, or the man will be unable to achieve sufficient lateral distance to keep from spraying his own shoes with the back-spatter. All men learn this early, usually as the consequence of imperfect long-distance peeing contests while they are still barefoot boys. Mothers of small male children frequently encounter the effects of this syndrome in their daily toilet-seat cleaning regimens. No man can pee in a pond without splashing. But one definition of a gentleman is a man who can pee in a pond without splashing himself – or others.

Another rule concerns fluid dynamics, which is far too complex a subject to tackle here. Suffice it to say that when two fluid streams collide, the degree to which they mutually interfere is dependent upon their relative densities, masses, viscosities, volumes, flows, shear moduli, and a host of other factors. A pee stream has much greater mass and viscosity than the air through which it flows, but a high velocity air stream can appreciably degrade the profile of a perfect urine arc. A man need not be a hydraulic engineer to pee in a pond; he needs only to know that it is poor practice to piss into the wind.

Other rules associated with peeing a perfect arc are of lesser consequence: a man must know that it is physically impossible to dodge the last drop; that he must wash his hands after peeing, even if he knows he hasn’t peed on them; that he is required to relinquish his turn if a lady needs to go first, for various mechanical and social reasons; and that an emotionally mature man is one who has finally accepted the fact that it is ok to pee sitting down…

When I was prepubescent, a girl in my neighborhood could pee standing up, right alongside of the boys (I’m not sure how she did it, but I remember that it required the use of both hands). In fact, she was perfectly willing to do so on any occasion. She was also capable of beating the hell out of any boy in the neighborhood any time she wanted. Of course, when she peed, she couldn’t attain much distance and she tended to splatter on her feet. She was definitely no gentleman…

Surface Tension

To skim across
the aortic arch
on surface tension,
no more than vibration,
a referred tremor,
a memory of a dream
glimmering across the milieu,
a half-sensed insect on a wheat corn,
Its sway
Brimming the unconscious.

To crawl across
rusted rivet handholds on
the exterior of skyscrapers,
to take a breather on
the back of the left thumb
of the Statue of Liberty,
inverted, a tree
toad licking his eyes
for a half-hour, then
departing, flicking,
imbuing a metal tang in
the back of the throat,
a repudiate bouquet.

The quantum refraction of
A thousand year-old
Ripple across
The back of the eyes,
residue of the indelicate
Hand tremor of creation,
Is not a distraction
But is nevertheless present.

To rest at the precise center
of the universe, to insert
a single, infinitely slender
periscope into the stream
of existence to view
conveying a confluent
At the point of insertion, one
Trailing into the infinite past,
The other racing toward
the inestimable future.

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