Spidered Man

Up in the wee hours having a bit of a snack attack and I find half an order of french fries in the back of the fridge from four or more days ago. One ketchup pack in there too, so I microwave them for thirty and indulge. Tasty, but a little leathery. Like if you made jerky from potatoes.

Then I go into the bathroom and my forehead and eyebrows get netted with spider webbing right there by the toilet. (This is where the photo above comes in.) So that’s always a weird surprise, to catch spiderweb with your face. It’s like thousands of tiny little fingers reaching in from another dimension and just touching you inappropriately.

But I like spiders and this guy seems to know it because he’s just sitting there looking at me with at least a few of his eight eyes, and I’m wiping my face and head with my bare hands like a man suddenly evacuated from the ordinary reality that decent people routinely enjoy as a God given right. It’s a bit humiliating, like having your credit card declined in front of people you are eager to impress. And I still have to pee, which always lends a note of emergency to any situation, no matter how mundane.

Next I find myself standing on the toilet seat with my camera in macro mode and it suddenly occurs to me that there’s just no reason for anything at all. So we should all stop worrying.

The Featherweight Before

I don’t know if the Sun had preferences what they might be.

Would a conscious Sun enjoy its solar flares, or would they be an annoyance, like a recurring skin condition? I don’t know if ocean currents have appetites, if cell division is motivated by anything, or how the universe feels about getting older. I wonder if the process of change ever gets tired of it all. Tired of change. I wonder if questions have a generative stage and if so, what are they before they form? Indeed, what was I before I formed?

I wonder why we layer on the plies of days like we’re constructing some pyramid-like destiny out of what ever’s just lying around, our impulses slaves to some obsessive, unseen pharaoh. I don’t know what’s to be done. I wonder what I would do if I did. I wonder why rows of tombstones look like rows of houses, or a city skyline, a garland of piano keys, a quaint picket fence projecting an assumed harmony about the goings-on in that little bungalow.

What difficulty in strange occurrence is it that familiarity becomes such a balm? Why does right take up arms while wrong is so content simply being wrong? Why are the shapes of things so particular? Where does the clock maker find the time? When does hunger not overrule reason? Why do philosophers all wind up in caskets? What on earth were they thinking?

When someone asks you how you feel, does it affect how you feel? I don’t know what feelings are or why they matter. I think a bad feeling that we know well is easier to bear then a confusing new feeling that we don’t know what to do with. What if confusion is just another feeling? I don’t know. I don’t like me when I’m feeling things. I feel like I’m up to no good when I’m feeling good.

There is a kind of liberty in not feeling, but then there are memories, like a jury of peers. And there are verdicts. Rulings we feel compelled to make. We find traction in the calculations. We make hay.

Ruled by questions we render unto Caesar his answers due. Let memory serve. That rock formation looks familiar. I think we’re going in circles.


I don't know who I am

Sprung forth alive from some
featherweight before, where a slant
projection of a protozoic self

Scrawls its base intentions
on the edifice of a blamed hereafter

And vanishes into memory
like a vandal caught tagging a fence

Review of ‘The Tao is None of Your Business’

My friend, writer M. T. Philipps, has posted a very kind review of my book on Amazon. Philipps is author of ‘Keeping Calm‘ and the upcoming ‘Roses in Space’, to be released this autumn, 2020. Keeping Calm is a memoir covering his life’s pursuit of the spiritual, striking a good balance between anecdotes of youthful misadventures, accounts of meeting prominent teachers from various traditions, and insights and advice on meditation practice, with an emphasis on Dzogchen. Roses in Space is a collection of his poetry, with extensive commentary. His review of The Tao is None of Your Business follows:

“The poems initially struck me as Dadaist, with occasional glimpses of brightness and wit, a casual mixture of metaphor and observation that succeeded in eliciting a feeling of camaraderie of spirit in some instances. Others revealed an earthy substance that teased a sense of playfulness and joy from me. Still others hinted at philosophical reflection oddly reminiscent of Emily Dickinson if she were a contemporary urbanised wayfarer. Humour employed surprised me with a giggle or two. These poems grew on me, and I caught myself wishing for just a few more as I journeyed through them. Tossed into the mix were the odd prose poem, a contemplation on sound and another on air and one on time that wove in a story of sorts just to check if the reader were paying attention. But more about the poems, Randall takes a simple act like slamming a door, in ‘Slam’, and riffs on it until it takes on a philosophical significance almost, a revenant that continues to return to mind. This ever curious awareness drifts swiftly, latching onto the things, but only momentarily. Or check out the mini-tragi-comedies of ‘Heat’, ‘Making It’ and ‘Omerta’, pungent speeches on the environmental crisis that is modern humanity. And I am just hinting at the silvery richness of this slim volume–the next reader will have to discover the rest alone, but I must mention that there are some pithy insights into the nature of existence later in the book.”

Europa

Title track from John Gentry Tennyson’s Europa (2000), a jazzy piano romp with accompanying bass and drums. Positively packed with amazing little phrases.

Gallery, July 2020

Here’s some photos from a brief visit to the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, and a few around the Hive, all taken in the last week of July, 2020. My latest obsession is the High Pass filter which, when abused, gives that smokey, dreamy look. Both bird photos taken at home. At the nature center I saw no birds at all, as in none.

Red-vented Bulbul

Exotic resident of the Heights, Houston, Texas, US.

I had caught glimpse of this bird several times since I moved here and was stumped on the ID. That white rump patch is distinct and not present on any other North American bird of this general size and shape. Not to mention the bright red below. Finally got a photo and tracked it down. Red-vented Bulbul is an Asian transplant, introduced and established in a number of countries around the world. In the US its range is limited to Houston, TX with highest concentrations in the neighborhood where I live now.

eBird reported sightings: that’s Houston, Texas buried under that cluster of map pins.

Having done web searches on its description and coming up with nothing, I fed the image above into Google Lens and it popped out the correct answer without so much a moment’s hesitation. Another handy bird ID tool.

African Blue Basil

The neighbors keep bees and they sure love that basil. It’s a really large bush covered in blossoms now, and bees.

Inca Dove

Lots of Incas around here.

Mannequin head scarecrow is now sporting a facer. Smart lad! I saw a Carolina Wren poking around at the rear opening to his hollow head.

There Will Be Blog

It played out slow, like danced-out
Music, a trace of smoke from
A years-old fire, like doubts sneaking
Peeks at a once-proud confidence

I’ve had my encounter with the covid-19, or at least suspect I did. One night of fever and feeling quite ill, followed by a week of mild flu-like symptoms. I was already in self-isolate mode and well stocked for supplies so no biggie. At day five I called Family Medicine at UTMB and they got me right in for the test. Being aged sixty-five gets you something like a senior discount in this particular pandemic. During my examination I got to revisit my blood pressure issue and got a new stronger scrip right there on the spot. The covid test came back the next day, negative, but with the caveat that they’re seeing a lot of false negatives.

Two weeks out and I’m feeling back to normal, newly resigned from my job, looking at a thin gruel of future to sustain me. The new blood pressure meds are working great though. About the only good set of numbers I’m seeing these days.

Stability is sodded
with an eagerness to perceive
that things aren’t changing.

aging: —a gradual dissipation of vanity, by force if necessary. Resistance is possible, though the subject’s levels of self-absorption must increase four-fold in proportion to the level of sustained mirror gazing desired.

Being is the tiger’s tail
these bodies come and go

Being is the monkey’s grin
if only it weren’t so

Notebook, April 2020

Health Care

I am not advocating for universal health care. I believe we should establish planet-wide care for all inhabitants first, and then concern ourselves with the rest of the galaxy. Those who dwell in other parts of the universe must implement their own programs. Our resources are not, like the universe, infinite.

Reading Life Aloud

Late in the evening the wail of a siren.

We had not heard any gun shots, though they are frequent enough these days to elicit shrugs. Neighborhood dogs start to howling, echoing the alarm, filling in their own parts in harmony. The air is stickered with it, like a collage with scraps of noise, pasty smears of sound. But it’s nighttime and the sounds make their way sightlessly until they find an ear, any ear. The noise of day with its throngs of listeners is retired now, and the evening runs things its own way.

Lacking earlids we live with sound’s endless impressions. We are always hearing, always soaking in sound’s pressing embrace. I like to tap on glass to hear what it is, to hear its clarity. In the seashell we hear the sea. In the wind rustled leaves, music. Halted in traffic, the signature of a culture comes booming from a nearby truck. Idle chatter or clarion calls, these pings and flourishes are themselves the markers of silence.

Out in the desert, away from roads and towns, the markers come from another quarter. It’s the yips of coyote or the serrated hum of insects that mark the silence. A pause in the mute dark recalls the ghosts of the sounds that had once passed this way.

Sirens or crickets, a gap, a faint distant ring. Like prospectors, we pan the grit and soil of our hearing, looking for specks and nuggets of silence. But a simple lack of sound is an artifact of subtraction. The quiet we found was there all along. We are to silence as fish are to water.

And the city, weary of its own bleats and braying, finally settles down. The dogs too, now that they’ve had their say.

—o—

There is wildness in the mechanical lurching of interleaved parts. Eagerness in the hum of transformers. You can feel it in the finger gliding sheen across chrome steel and in the abrasions of puckered tree bark. It all plies soundly in the aggregate. I see as beached waves, their edges traced in foam, the mark and sign of the human. The beasts we call tame reflect the wilderness of an unchecked procession. I do not condemn it. I take delight in these civil surfaces with their attendant racket and classify the most garish of artifice as natural.

I have looked for the dividing line between nature and us. It is ambiguous and replaceable. It is indistinct. There is always the wild, partisan little weed erupting from a crack in our concrete cornucopia. There is no edge to the wilderness, any more than you can assign a shape to infinite space. There are no sounds outside of silence. There are no unwild things.

—o—

World views define the qualities of nature, and a world view always selects one thing over another. But nature itself has its finger in every pie. Nature is its own nature, and we the curious, eager to understand, confront the absurdity of cataloging it all. It is troublesome that understanding lacks closure, that it’s always cutting another notch. But how we love the language, with all its baggage, hailing a taxi, catching a plane, late as usual for another explanation.

The manuscripts, tucked away in a folder, are themselves mute. The stamps and sprinkles of ink rest upon the paper, waiting for us. Waiting for our eyes and mouths. Then, to complete the purpose of language, we are born, we come to letters. But first, we come to know by reading life aloud.

—x—

About the image: I had placed some red wine in a small blue ceramic cup on the offering shelf and days later found it had dried to form a tiny crystalline planetarium.

Billion

If on the day that Columbus set sail for the new world you began to make $5,000 per day and continued to make $5,000 per day until this very day, you would still not be a billionaire. You’d be getting close, but not quite. Go ahead and check the math. This is what we should keep in mind every time the word billion or billionaire gets tossed around.

Think how you might justify earning that much money. I tried and came up blank. Nobody earns that kind of money. Most are born into it. A lot of them just plain steal it through legal means, the law being something crafted by those who hold all the power and money.

Go ahead and call me a Marxist for bringing it up, but you’re a fucking dupe and an idiot if you work for a living and actually admire these motherfuckers.

The above example has been floating around the net. I did not think it up myself.