The Shifting Ages of Man

see:
as we lie down in our bathtubs, we end up
nearer the ground surfaces of our lives, and near,
brains tricked by distances, the world entire grows—
monolithic counters, low ceilings high-vaulted—

think:
how huge must the world have seemed when still a child,
the age all took part in those bedtime rituals,
mothers leaning over—shirt wet, hair hanging—
scrubbing off the grime stockpiled from days of frolic?

no,
perhaps, our porcelain-level eyes disclose
that it is we, like wonderland Alice, that shrink
down to the size of, become again, the child lost
(why we prune? too much skin for this infant’s form?)

yes.
in these hot and soapy fountains of youth we
rejuvenated souls refind the comfort and
contentedness, the steam-cloudy heaven, once ours:
all our working-life’s ambitions won without toil.

so,
why toil for dreams as cheap as utilities?
why strip our childness like soiled clothes onto cold tiles?
better we play and play until bone and muscle,
shin-splinted and acid-lactic, ache unhealing,

then,
only then, when the lifelong day draws to close,
soak away the dirt and pain and sweat and scabbing,
and towel off to lie atop soft linen sheets,
windows open to the eternal summer night,

there
to sleep the long sleep of the low blissful dead.

“I Would So Watch That!” — Another Nightmare Made Movie Idea

Had two nightmares the other night. We won’t talk in detail about the first, where dream me decided to watch the first few minutes of The Shining with my brother. Of course, being a dream, my brain showed me something that was both not The Shining and, absurdly, much more terrifying than The Shining. Suffice to say, it was the type of nightmare where you feel utterly trapped by the horror, unable to move or even breathe lest it take notice and turn towards you—sluggishly, monstrously, like some tarry Titan of the subconscious, an unholy absence projected against the night sky—and, once facing, its hollow eye-sockets would feast on your quivering soul.

So yeah, I don’t feel like talking about that dream at length.

I’d much rather talk about the other dream which, once you take out the flying and add a plot, could be a quality horror movie. Because flying sort of bleeds the tension out of everything.

Tolerability_of_Nightmares

The whole thing takes place at a wealthy dinner party out in a rural manse. Everyone is having a great time—in fact, to the audience they would be quite a delight to watch: a shared wealth of hilarious anecdotes they are just tipsy enough to re-share. The first act of the movie doesn’t play at all like a horror movie as no attempts are made at foreshadowing or building tension or even suggesting that the genre is anything other than comedy.

As the evening goes on though, with games and competitions and dancing and whatnot to keep the material varied, all but one of the guests subtly metamorphs into violent, bat-shit crazy psychopaths. Laughing maniacally, hallucinating lemurs, stabbing each other to death with serving forks, screeching paranoid screeds about the infiltration of Reptilians among the partygoers (the lemurs are their mammalian brains fighting back, trying to reveal the truth,) and generally falling all over themselves like blackout drunks.

But, as mentioned, one of the guests is unaffected. And, as people around him are murdered left and right in brutal and absurd fashions, he must find a way to survive the chaos (this was me in the dream, and this the moment I discovered I could fly.) Eventually, he realizes that the only way to survive is to be the last one standing—there is neither hope for a cure, nor a chance to outlast the psychotic spell. And so the only sane person left at the party has to himself become psychotically violent to triumph, ingeniously violent. And as the movie draws to a climax, the final foes actually begin to rot while still alive. Of course, he lives. But only by the skin of his teeth.

At the very end of the film, he listens as the M.E. explains that the cause was a rather fast-acting and severe case of ergotism, resulting from extremely ergot-infected rye bread served with dinner. To which our protagonist responds, “So that’s it? A fungus? And I’m standing here, alive, merely because I have fucking celiac disease? A disease which I happen to fucking despise?” “Well, yes, sir. It saved your life. You should be thankful.” “Thankful? Have you ever had a fucking gluten-free cookie?”

And credits.

What Beds Are For

DAY’S END
Beds are no buttress, no sturdy sea-wall
to hold back the rising forces of sleep.

Beds do not dispel the gathering storms
of somnolence and sloth hanging heavy.

Beds beckon the rising tides to o’erflood
the self’s citadel, drowning us in dreams.

DAYBREAK
Waking in the downy heat of comfort,
washed-up, wallowing in weed-warm waters,
we are not refreshed, want anything but,
want nothing more than to give ourselves con-
tinually forever more to sleep.

DAY
And yet we force
wakefulness on
our struggling
brains, sleep-sodden,
eyeballs puffy and be-gritted
body and limbs abyssal-sunk,
and climb the cliffs that o’er-tower our bedraggled beachhead, up
up towards the sun that glints and gleams off ringing belltowers.

SOMEDAY
Someday I will throw all considerations aside,
all work and to-do’s and to-be’s and appointments
and see how long this bed will have me for,
how long I will ask for nothing more.

Dante Had Virgil, I Was Separated From Fossey

My mother’s lap was not of luxury
and I never suckled on trust fund teats.
My first steps were not across a Persian
and my first word was not Lamborghini.

Still, I am a spoiled brat, respective —
mornings begin with a hellish shower (
heat for eternity, laying barren
rainforests,) without which my soul suffers.

This hate I feel is for me, penitent.
The love I desire, nature has denied me.

Oh, to be a mountain gorilla lost
to the world — feeding on bedewed verdure,
clothed by the clouds — beyond the gates of men
a primeval life, paradise ne’er lost.

But if the mountain gorilla knew me,
would he regret his poacher-stricken life
and long for the low lap of luxury
that I now reproach with ev’ry damned breath?

What We All Can Learn From the Greatest Love Story Ever Told

Though I’m loath to admit it, I am as prey to listicle lusts as the average man; love to rank things and throw out superlatives like “And the greatest X is…” My father raised me to acknowledge, “There’s no accounting for taste.” And while I cannot escape the truth of that statement, I also cannot escape these sorting urges. So why run from it? And since I occasionally miss the lit-analysis of my time as an English Lit BA, please, allow me this brief indulgence as I reveal the most profound cinematic exploration of love in history, from which we can all learn a thing or two:

Yeah, Hitchcock’s Rear Window; the one with Jimmy Stewart, a broken leg, a bit of cooped-up voyeurism, and a domestic murder uncovered. I know, not what you’d expect, eh? But despite that cynical summary, the movie actually offers—unlike any other—a comprehensive, pragmatic, even hopeful guide to the vagaries of love.

For, despite all claims that voyeurism is at the heart of the movie, that voyeurism is merely a tool to reveal the true heart of the movie: love. To start: each apartment tells a different love story. Ms. Torso’s expectation-and-genre-defying love for a small, loser soldier, despite having her pick of the “wolves.” Ms. Lonely-Heart’s tragic-then-redemptive journey from loneliness through date-rape to narrowly-avoided suicide into the studio apartment and arms of the popular but just-as-alone songwriter whose songs of love-longed-for filled the hot nights. And there’s more: beloved dogs killed and replaced, newlyweds losing the initial spark, and both artists that pair their work with love and those that forgo love. All -stories interesting in their own right, and, taken together, wholly-superior to any trite romantic nonsense Hollywood typically offers.

But the central thread around which the movie revolves is the romance between L.B. Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) and Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) and the parallel (yes, parallel) relationship between the Thorwalds. Lisa and Jefferies are the opposites of “opposites attract.” The first we see of Lisa is a photograph by Jefferies, which, tellingly, is in negative. Jefferies is so obsessed with their bipolarity that he spends much of the movie arguing that they don’t work, fighting tooth and nail against love like the rational professional society demands. In his words: “She’s too perfect, she’s too talented, she’s too beautiful, she’s too sophisticated, she’s too everything but what I want.” The thrust of his arguments? She wouldn’t last a day in his world of globe-trotting and photojournalism, and he wouldn’t last a day in her world of high-society and fashion.

But Stella, his nurse, provides the key to the whole movie in the first scene: “We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.”

Ms. TorsoLater, Jefferies, in a moment of cynicism, suggests that the gorgeous Ms. Torso’s apartment, at the time full of men, must resemble Lisa’s own. Lisa then argues that Ms. Torso doesn’t love any of the men in her apartment. Asked how she can tell, Lisa responds, “You said it resembled my apartment, didn’t you?” And as we find out at the end of the movie, Ms. Torso didn’t care for any of the “wolves” in her apartment, but loved a man that seemed her polar opposite, which echoes the relationship Lisa, supposedly Ms. Torso’s counterpart, has with Jefferies, her polar opposite. This suggests that the apartments around them are indeed windows into their own lives, each apartment with its own story and morals for the two struggling lovers.

And nowhere is their relationship reflected more completely than in the Thorwalds’ apartment. Consider: Thorwald travels constantly for his job (travelling salesman); his wife stays at home, unable to follow him (bedridden); and she constantly nags and demands more from him than he can give. This is exactly Jefferies’ vision of what his life would be like with Lisa: he travelling all the time, her unable to follow, him being unable to meet her high expectations of him.

But here is where some of the most ingenious writing ever takes wing: for despite Jefferies belief that he is Lars Thorwald and Lisa Mrs. Thorwald, the movie plays out the opposite. Jefferies is bed-ridden and Lisa leaves the apartment on dangerous adventures (“You’re taking all the chances!” “You should’ve seen her!” or “I’m proud of you!”). And Jefferies is the one that nags, nags about how their relationship will never work, complains about her grand romantic gestures (“Lisa, it’s perfect.” [without enthusiasm] “As always.”), complains that she’s taking too many risks. The movie flips their relationship and in so doing demonstrates that people are adaptable, when willing, to try new things, to sacrifice their comfort for another’s, to put themselves in another’s shoes, to meet other’s halfway. The opposite of the Thorwalds’ apartment, where none of the above occur, which leads to tragedy. But, by god, Lisa and Jefferies get it right, their love survives, is strengthened by their shared experience, but without either having to sacrifice their uniqueness, their lifestyle for the other.

There are practical applications to this moral, but, profoundly, the movie doesn’t argue that this is the secret to love. In fact, the movie makes no claims to universal expressions of love and marriage. It argues that every relationship is unique (for no two apartments, no two loves, are the same.) And what’s more, we can learn from all variations on love. Voyeurism, in the long run, is not evil, because through voyeurism we see ourselves reflected in the vast tapestry of lives around us. And with that newfound self-knowledge, we are better-equipped to handle whatever life and love throw at us.

So don’t be afraid to to listen in on your neighbors and peers; to people-watch in the coffee-shop; to lurk on social media; to be an active witness to life around you. This is a truism for both people and business. For this represents our best chance at learning how best to survive and thrive.

P.S. Also, as further defense of this movie as the greatest love story ever told, can we talk about the kiss?

Because holy cow that kiss…

Chard Is My Vegetable Rebranded: Putting Cynicism in the Past

I’ve re-branded. Probably never should have gone with “Chard Is My Vegetable” in the first place. But ever since I was young and foolish, I’d imagined an autobiography with that name. And, since the blog was the nearest to an autobiography that would ever be penned, “Chard Is My Vegetable” it was, to sate those long-held desires.

But, beyond the fact that you didn’t know the story behind the name, there was no coherence to it: what did it speak to the content of the blog? What did it encapsulate? The answer: it didn’t speak to the content, didn’t encapsulate my personal brand.

So, now this blog is “Chin Up, We’re All Gods” (the first name that came to my mind, trust your instincts.) The new title captures more of the positive, empowering vibe of what I care to write; suggestive of the creative capabilities of all creatures, the ability to create new understandings and perspectives and stories for the world around us. But that is only a fraction of the story behind the name; the rest of the story will come another time, when I can reach more people.

But as a parting gift to “Chard Is My Vegetable,” the figure of many a fantasy on sleepless summer nights, I will leave you all with the story behind the unorthodox name:

I hate chard. I despise chard. I vomit upon eating chard. Chard is my vegetable.

You see, in my family, each of us is allowed a “vegetable,” a vegetable that under no circumstance are we forced to eat. This proved a life-saver growing up, amnesty from “three more bites” of despair. And, since I literally vomited upon eating chard when I was four, chard was the choice.

Of course, as a sneaky little brat, I tried to game the system. Tried to switch between chard and spinach as the situation demanded. And my parents were forgiving maybe twice, enough to leave for spinach and return to chard the one time. And then they put their foot down: one or the other, which will it be, which is your “vegetable?”

And the answer was chard.

I still don’t eat the stuff. Can barely even remember what it tastes like since I refuse to eat it all these years later. I tell people it tastes exactly as it’s named: like charred spinach, burnt with a hint of grit and stringiness. But I could have imagined the whole flavor profile during my lifelong hatred of it, the bitter taste an implanted memory.

The truth is, the title “Chard Is My Vegetable” rang true all those years ago because, in my mind, it represented my first battle against things around me: a declaration of tastes, a stand against things I didn’t like. And in my cynical adolescence, what better title for an autobiography than my beginnings as a cynic?

But no more. I have fought the good fight against cynicism, and while I will never either ever win outright or cede the battle (am, in fact, perfectly content with a draw, which ties in with the new title), I have reached a new state in my life, above pure cynicism.

And I like the view. So out goes that title. It was given its due, because it did help fashion the man writing this post now, but it is time to shelve it next to the other mementos of my past–e.g. my Micro Machines, my prog rock collection, and that utterly horrible first idea for a novel. So apologies for any confusion, and enjoy the future I have in store for this blog.

Among which, I guarantee here and now, will be to eat chard with dinner and tell you how it goes.

I don’t have high hopes. Goddamn chard…