Saturday, June 14, 2008

Signs of the Times

For many years now we have seen people standing on street corners, holding signs touting various stores, products or services. Loans, real estate developments, insurance, tax services, car dealerships. Sometimes these “hawkers” were in clown costumes, or animal suits. Other times, they would just stand there, doing very little save turning toward a different direction as the traffic light changed.

I’m sure many of us assumed that most of them were homeless people. I know I did. Or certainly they must have been destitute in some way. Why else would someone take a job like that, (especially in Phoenix during the summer) and how much could they be getting paid for “standing on the corner, watching all the cars go by?”

I confess that, way back in 1967, one of my first jobs was walking up and down Wells Street in Chicago with a sandwich sign. I was dressed as an old-time fireman, and the sign proclaimed a giant Fire Sale at a trendy men’s store (even though there had been no fire). I was paid one dollar an hour.

Now, almost forty years later, Hip Hop, Break Dancing and pure showmanship have altered this strange promotional medium into a new genre of “performance advertising.”

No longer is someone paid to merely “stand” with a sign. Now, one witnesses feats of juggling, spinning, and flipping these signs with such precision that you would think they were on a TV contest show. These new street-sign performers look drivers and passers-by right in the eye. Challenging them, not so much to heed the message on the sign, but to acknowledge their skill and dexterity.

“I know you’re looking at me. Did you just see what I did? Was that amazing, or what?” Huge smiles on their faces tell us, “I’ve got talent, and I’m havin’ fun doin’ it!”

The specific advertising message may get lost in all this, but these sidewalk sign-spinners are a treat to watch. And I believe the ones who hired them know it. I can hear them now, “Forget about making sure they see the ‘Zero Down’, just get them to stop and come in.”

As I cruise past, I have just one additional thought: “Do they have agents?” If not, they'll probably need them soon.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Beware - TGIF

Do you know
What day this is?
Are you a little afraid to say?
It’s the end of the week…
But beware this ominous day.

For some are fearful
Of what might happen,
They believe something bad will occur.
To them it’s a day
Of doom and gloom.
It’s an omen; a harbinger.

A word that is not routine.
It’s the awful dread
Some feel on this day.
It’s the fear of the number thirteen.

If you’re not superstitious
It won’t bother you.
This day— it matters not.
But just to be
On the very safe side,
There are some things that you should boycott.

Avoid breaking a mirror;
Walking under a ladder;
Stay away from all cats that are black.
And remember
To keep your mother’s back strong,
Never, ever step on a crack!

It’s Friday the thirteenth.
Do you truly believe
That of disaster
There’s no likelihood?
If you’re not truly sure
One hundred percent,
Then play it safe… and just
“Knock on wood!”

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Moose and the Frog

Dedicated to my friend Moose Millard upon his triumphant speech in Evansville, Indiana.

The Moose and The Frog:
(A Lesson For When Things Go Awry)

The Moose and the frog flew off one day,
With no thought things could get out of hand.
To Indiana they did go,
To speak in the great Heartland.

When they got there, things were all amiss,
As there was no runway to land.
So the Moose and the frog jumped out of the plane.
“Geronimo!” they yelled on command.

The Moose went first, he landed prone,
Stretched out, just flat on his tummy.
The frog went next and tried to help,
But the Moose was as stiff as a dummy.

The Moose bumped his head, and then he saw red.
He screamed like a frightened coyote.
The frog was so scared, when the Moose screamed out loud,
That the frog jumped right down his throat.

The Moose couldn’t talk and proceeded to cough,
While his voice got thicker and thicker.
It was all so perverse, then to make matters worse,
The Moose lost control of his clicker!

He looked out in the crowd; “They must think me a fool!”
“They must think I’m a true maniac.”
“I need to discover a way to recover.”
“I must stop this heart attack!”

He thought of his friend, how might he handle this?
Would he joke, would his magic fix all?
Then he looked to himself… and he reached down deep…
And inside, found the wherewithal.

“What happened?” You ask. “How did it turn out?”
You’re curious…and also concerned.
I’ll tell you the truth, but remember this,
There’s a lesson here to be learned.

If you have a bad day, and you think you’ve messed up,
And you’re having a terrible fright.
Don’t sob in despair; don’t pull out your hair.
Things will usually turn out all right.

The crowd never noticed the things that went wrong.
They just wanted the Moose to succeed.
They saw he was one, who walked his talk,
One who truly lived by his creed.

In due course, the frog did finally pop out,
And the Moose— he survived the duration.
In the end you should know, at the Evansville show…
That the Moose got a standing ovation.


Note: Sadly, Moose passed away on February 3, 2009. He was one-of-a-kind. He is missed by everyone he ever met, whom he made feel as if you had known him all your life.


Just below the cliff’s edge now.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Suspended,
Almost motionless.
Weaver’s Needle looms in the distance
As the desert bowl of dust
Fills the vastness below.
A soaring eagle calls out,
Like the voice inside that spurs you on.
And you can taste
The echoes of morning’s dewy blackberries.


The Kite

Overwhelmed him.
His eyes bright
With anticipation.
He did not want to

Mother cautioned gently.
He did not hear.
He was already

He ran with it.
To have the wind
Carry it.
A gentle breeze made his
Wish come true.

He could fly!
Like the kite!

Then, just as quickly—

The tree
Grabbed it
From his string leash.
He could not
Make it come
Or heal.

He turned toward home.
Small steps,
Barely holding back the

Mother opened the door
To reveal
Her heart,
Her wisdom.

And on the table—
A second kite.


The Book

I am an old fish— not quite
Out of water.
Swimming along side a school of
They seem to not care
That my scales are older and heavier.
I eye them with caution
As they display their polished emblems,
Shining from their young faces.

I float along slowly with the current,
Eying the first few leaves as I go.
Mindful of those around me,
So as not to collide.
Pearls begin to emerge
From these leaves.
Gems, shining with wisdom.

A dark cloud covers the sun
And the leaves cease to shimmer.
Without the light I suddenly see
Used leaves— used!
Yet, still so costly.
A small swell to this old carp.
Though I wonder, “How do the minnows survive?”

What other value these leaves?
More metal badges?
Dwelling in a grotto?
Food for a week?

Food for thought.

Shall I keep these leaves
For all time?
The pearls could
Feed my soul for years to come.
Or perhaps I will toss them back
Into the water
For other fish to feast upon.


New Things

We love new things: new shoes; new clothes; cars; appliances; new babies, new friends; anything new. They make us feel good.

I just got a new refrigerator and oven. The oven has one of those “flat tops” where you don’t actually see the burners, just circles. It is very pretty. Although it is a hand-me-down from my sister and brother-in-law, it looks brand new. More importantly, it is new to me. I also got a refrigerator from them. It has ice and water in the front door. This makes it even more exciting. It’s new, and it has gadgets!

The funny thing about it is that I find myself going into the kitchen every other minute. I turn the knobs on the oven. I turn the oven light on and off. I open the refrigerator doors and look at the food inside. I put a glass up to the door to get water. I don’t drink it. I just want to see it work! I keep checking the icemaker to see if cubes are forming. I can’t wait till the first ones drop so I can test the dispenser.

We respond differently to new things. We feel excitement around new things. They make us feel a sense of accomplishment. We walk with a bit of a swagger in new clothes. We want to show people what we have.

“Look at my new watch.”
“I bought a new phone.”
“I met someone new.”
“I posted a new blog.”

New takes us out of what we believe is ordinary, and seems elevates us.

What would it be like if we responded the same way with old things?

“I’m wearing my oldest shirt. It makes me feel so comfortable.”
“Have I showed you the watch I got twenty years ago? It keeps great time!”
“Every time I walk into this old house, I get a tingle. I know I belong somewhere”

Oh yes, and at least one more:

“Have you met my eighty-eight year-old mother? She is
quite incredible!”

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hot & Cold Movers

Of a stove and a refrigerator to be exact. My sister and brother-in-law got new ones, so they gave me their “very gently used” ones. I say that because my sister is a neat freak, so even old from her is almost brand new.

As with my first blog, I smartly resisted the temptation to call a friend with a truck and move them myself. Good idea, as upon arrival at my residence, it was clear that there would be some maneuvering to be done. A lot of maneuvering. Thank goodness I hired two guys to do the heavy lifting. I have done my share of heavy lifting in the past, and I believe I am entitled to pay someone else to do it now.

The first piece of business was to set up a three-person relay to transfer the food from my old refrigerator to a space in the dining room that I had staked out. I am sure they hadn’t planned on that little job, even though it only took a few minutes. Then, on to the big stuff.

Even though they new what they were doing, my doorways were so small that they had to enlist my help in removing one door completely, and then the other door partially. As this half door has the water line for ice and cold water, I had to hold it with the water line still attached and swing it out of the way so we could get it past the door jamb and the kitchen counter. What an ordeal!

Once we got both appliances in, Hector said, “We are going to hold the door for you so you can put it back on (which took finding the three little holes at the top to secure the screws). I thought he was being helpful, but I realized, as soon as the door was on, that they just wanted to get out of there! The job had obviously taken much longer than they had thought and now they were late for the next appointment.

I put the food back, and in the process tossed several things that resembled nothing like food once I got a longer look at them. The science projects had to go!

Oh yeah, I still have to remove the molding from the bottom of the alcove where the fridge will go. It will just fit. Guess I should have done my homework and measured first. How many times have I said something similar to myself before nearing the end of a project bwithout truly planning it through?

So now it is off to the hardware store to look for a three-pronged electrical outlet to mount into the wall. Did I forget to tell you that my old stove was wired directly into the wall? The new one has a huge plug. I wonder if I will hire an electrician to install it, or just, “do it myself.” Hmmm…


Friday, June 6, 2008

My First Blog

The title says it all. I have now entered the realm of blogging.

I am pretty tech savvy, but for some reason I resisted setting up a blog. I have had several websites over the years and could have just as easily uploaded my own articles, poems, and thoughts, etc. I have always been someone who wants to “do it myself.”

Instead of hiring a plumber, I would buy the tools and equipment and attempt to fix it myself. This, of course, cost me way more than simply paying a plumber, and also took me far more time to fix things than a professional would have. But in the end I was able to say, “I did it!” Since this site is free, and extremely easy to use, I resisted the temptation, and here we are.

I also have a friend, Carl, who has been blogging. Posting some random thoughts, and periodic news about his journey to England. The process is very interesting. In addition, I believe it will force me to do more writing. I have been writing poems and short essays for many years now, but have only shared them with friends and family. This opens up a whole new avenue that I am excited about.

That’s all for now. I will continue the process soon.

Thanks for visiting.