Shipping In Oblivion

I was driving this enormous delivery truck around the University
campus for the past two weeks. Bruce was my partner on these runs,
and riding shotgun, he twice warned me when pedestrians to my right
were about to walk/run right out in front of the (accelerating) truck.

Once it was a student (okay, ipods, springtime, finals, etc),
but the other time it seemed to be three University faculty
basically double-timing into the path of this obviously accelerating
delivery truck.

Bruce & I reflected on how strange it was that in some parts of the world,
you have to be on the lookout because someone might rob or kill you
(for your car, possessions, or political beef)-- while in places like this,
you have to maintain utter vigilance because people might actually run out
and kill themselves beneath the wheels of your truck.

It is also interesting to note that in the first example,
your jackers & guerilla assassins are among the most
desperate people on earth (economically, legally, politically).

In the second case we have students and faculty so utterly assured
of their survival that they see no need to acknowledge the existence
of moving motor vehicles, much less other human beings.

All that aside, this was a good two weeks.
The delivery truck rocked, the pallet jacks & I eventually became friends,
and the vast majority of students and faculty did not wander out in front
of us as we ran our daily routes.

I scored copies of The AP Style Manual,
Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels,
Mardsden's Understanding Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism,
& Lakoff's Don't Think Of An Elephant!

Looking forward to digging into these--
though first I need to blaze through the second half of
Rushkoff's Coercion. It's on loan from a friend,
& I'll be heading to Madison for the summer soon.



Impossible shards of starlight

we tear across the face of creation

ever skeptical of the Whole

from which we exploded

so many forevers ago

When Wave & Particle fell in love

& had such wonderful sex

that they had trillions of children

& as they watched their tiny beloveds

spiraling luminous out into the infinite

they glistened with pride

naming every last one of themAlign Left



Sans Segue

Lilacs intoxicate me.

We had what seemed a forest of these when I was three...
deep purple & lavender, bright white & everything in between.
They still smell like Life to me.

There was a writer of some kind on NPR this morning,
wheezing on about the lilacs for what seemed like forever.

In all honesty, poetry & lilacs are two of my all-time favorite things,
but after three minutes of telling myself this was somehow poetry
(while miniature kittens played the needle-sharp claws game
on the chalkboard of my inner ear), I had to break out the headphones.

Bon Jovi's Runaway exploded, instantly synchronizing a million
yowling brain waves into a singular harmonious flow.
(Say what you like about Bon Jovi; they have brought into the world
a number of musical moments which, if one is willing to actually listen,
are likely to rock one's face off.)

The line in this track that slays me is--

No one heard a single word you said
They should have seen it in your eyes
What was going 'round your head...

And I'm reminded of friends-- and women in particular--
who grew up in homes with idealogical frameworks so stringent
that it took them decades to reach the outside world.

The three women I think of off the top of my head
are as bright, beautiful, creative and resilient as anyone
I've ever met. Moreso.

What takes some people through hell brighter than ever?

What buries others, and resigns millions to Thoreau's quiet desperation?

Real Gold Does Not Fear The Fire
titles Sifu Ray Hayward's biography of Grandmaster Wai Lun Choi,
suggesting the rest of the saying, only the impurities are burned away.

For the past couple of days I've been making the morning & afternoon deliveries
for the warehouse that supplies the University bookstores.
They're having a sidewalk sale on campus, and there's hundreds
of boxes of sweatshirts and pants and keychains we drop off in the morning
& pick back up in the afternoon.

Well today it started raining like a MF tsunami.

I could hear rain drumming on the warehouse skylights high above.
Ravenous, I put on my perennial hoodie/flannel jacket,
grabbed my bag & headed out to lunch.

One of the office ladies was blocking the doorway,
talking on her cellphone, watching it pour.

She didn't look up; just leaned there bullshitting
between me and lunch. This was insanity.

"Excuse me," I said.

"Oh," she said, stepping aside.

"Thank you," I said, pushing through the door.

A metallic ca chunka clack gave way to a rush of rain.

"You're going out in that?"

"Yep," I say, flipping up my hood, running down the stairs.

It looks and sounds like there's more water than air.
I begin to wonder which of my electronics might electrocute me
on the 15-foot walk to my car.

Inside the Monte, the door slams shut, cutting off the rain.
It's dry in here but I am wet. The lady had a point. I'm not dressed for this kind of rain.

The cellphone rings.

"K-- it's Cal," says my manager. "We need the truck out here-- it's pouring."

"Now?" I ask.

"Yes, now, please. Take Mike."

"Mike took off."

"He what?"

"He's on lunch," I said.

"He's in the lunch room," said Cal.

"Oh right," I say. "We'll be right there."

Mike was salty about losing the last five minutes
of his lunch break, & me, I'm thinking--
Shit is getting rained on, man-- the captain needs us!
Out loud I say, "I'll meet you out at the truck."

When he finally came out he was wearing a
yellow rain slicker, which is admittedly wayTF better
than the hoodie/flannel in rain, but by then the rain
had more or less given up.

So we bounced down the road in this loud ass diesel
monster of a delivery truck. This is my second day
driving; it's the biggest thing you can drive
without a CDL, and the MF gives me perma-grin.

So we bump the truck up over the curb (which is apparently
acceptable) & park on the sidewalk.
The rain has stopped. Out in front of the student center,
Cal and another manager survey the damage, draping back
crackling plastic sheeting off t-shirts & sweat-pants in various stages
of wet, cradled in soggy cardboard boxes.

We stand around contemplating whether to take down the sale
& load it up, or whether that blue patch over there is in fact
the end of the rain, in which case maybe the sun would
just dry everything out. To what degree were these items doomed
to stank of cardboard? Would they dry out in the truck overnight
or would that just seal the wetness in?

Only in academia. We're trying to get people on the phone.

Still, it's stopped raining, and students are once again browsing,
holding up the dampened University gear for a better look.

"Erin would know," I say.
Hell, she deals with every one of these products,
and picks up things like climbing & kayaking
for the simple pleasure of passing the knowledge &
experience on to others. She'd tell us what to do with
these soggy ass sweat pants in a NY minute.

This does not address Cal's fundamental question, which is more like,
"Why do we have all this wet & potentially ruined product on our hands,
and how do we prevent this from ever happening again?"

It must be pointed out here that Cal is the nicest possible guy.
He's a fair manager and an intellectual in the truest sense;
once a quandary of significance presents itself, the pursuit of its
absorbs his full attention.

Eventually the sun breaks through. Mike & I climb back up into the truck,
fire up the beast, then clunk clunk down off the curb, roaring out over the wet
& pot-holed pavement on our way back to the warehouse.

BTW Kaye I'm so glad you mentioned it
because Grandma asked me about crystal meth once too,
& I'd completely forgotten this.

I remember saying something to the effect of--
"Well, it's like cocaine, but it lasts a lot longer,
& people can basically make it in their bathtubs
instead of flying it all the way in from Colombia.
Plus it's super addictive and is decimating a lot
of rural areas."

I may have then gone into something re: friends who'd kicked meth
back in the summer of 95 in Monterey (there's an angel in that story,
but we'll come back to that one later), and somehow tied that to the
current meth epidemic.

And my folks are there listening, and there's this silence during which
I realize my explanation of crystal meth might have been too raw for the
family/third-ring suburban setting.

"Because I hear about it all the time on the news,"
says Grandma, "and me, I don't know the first thing about it.
I figure you kids get out more than I do," she says, laughing
with a wave to the world outside her patio door.


How Grandma got me rethinking "just say no"

So as long as we are telling Grandma stories, I will share one of my recent favorites:

About two years ago I was out on one of my all too infrequent visits to the Twin Cities. When you come to the Twin Cities you go to Grandma's house. And by house I mean one bedroom apartment where roughly twenty people can all find available floor/couch space and make it into an impromptu party that puts Mexican fiestas to shame. All who enter must either grab themselves a pop, an ice cream bar, or some of the Dove chocolate candies that are in some crystal dish. You are best served grabbing yourself something right away, because Grandma does not easily accept "no" as an appropriate answer to mid-day goodie consumption. Just another reason my husband thinks she walked straight out of Central Casting's grandma department.

Anyway, it was a quiet afternoon, just Grandma, my husband and my folks plus the hourly drop by of one of my five aunts. I was bringing Grandma something from the kitchen, and as I put it down next to her recliner, I saw a sticky note on her tiny side table.

In Grandma's elegant script penmanship it read: "Ask Kaye about Crystal Meth."

Several wildly conflicting emotions went through my head. First I was a little alarmed that Grams might be interested in picking up a serious drug habit. Then I was a touch in awe of her counter culture coolness in her mid eighties. Damn, I hadn't even smoked pot, and here she was thinking I might have connections with the drug world. Which led me to my next concern which was how to let her down gently because even though I was a lawyer and my husband worked in criminal prosecution that didn't mean I could score her some of the happy stuff from Lil'Antony in Cell Block 8. But then I did think about how her family had lost the farm and all the other sucky circumstances she lived through and I began thinking "Well, anything for Grams." But then logic kicked in and I figured before I risked my standing with the Bar, I might want to ask her what the hell she meant by "Ask Kaye about Crystal Meth." But really, how many interpretations could there really be?

So very tentatively I asked her about it. She looked up at me with her bright, crystal blue eyes that I swear twinkle, and the sweetest of smiles went across her face.

"Hey, Grandma, what's this?" I said picking up the sticky note.

"Ohhhh, yes! Thank you honey, I've been wanting to ask you about that."

"You wanted to ask me about crystal meth . . .the drug?" Just checking here. I don't know, maybe Madame Alexander was trying to appeal to a more urban demographic with a limited edition doll that came with ripped jeans, a leather jacket and black circles under the eyes and went by the name Crystal Meth.

"Uh huh." Still smiling. Still looking so sincere and earnest.

"Okay . . ."

"They were talking about it on the news the other day. What is that stuff? I don't know why anyone would want to take such a thing!" And there is one of the other great things about our Grandma. The woman has educated herself by reading every newspaper she can get her hands on and watching all the news programs. She has her favorite anchors and then there's "those idiots" who just don't know what they are talking about.

I just hope that side of the gene pool kicks in for me. If that's what life can be like in your eighties, I'm looking forward to it.