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Monthly Archives: December 2020

20201231 a woe a shoa

a woe a whoa

fingers that are wrong
linger unerased

flinders make when burned
cinders gone untraced

robin’s doffed his hood
sob in grief o marian

for hys life so brief
gone to chieftain’s carrion

Friends, if you read this, you survived one of the strangest and most traumatic years of your life. May you have a glorious 2021, an end to fear, an easing of woe.

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bootleg obituary

an elderly woman is joining the choir/a singular soul and there’s much to admire/her flaws made her human a few do bear mention/she truly adored to be centered attention/she pinched half her pennies the rest she left scattered/on doorsteps of people to whom she had mattered/she closetly wished folks acknowledged her royalty/but gave to her husbands her all and her loyalty/and sometimes she heeded and sometimes was stone/and her centermost terror was being alone/but she gave of her heart and one time in the night/when a neighborhood girl at her door fresh from flight/and in desperate straits sought a rescuing spirit/and she stepped up and listened though awful to hear it/and stepped up and comforted stepped up embracing/and saved the poor girl from the doom she was facing/and she was a hero on that night and others/most helpful of souls and most caring of mothers

Tip of the hat to the late Martin Gardner, polymath and numbers man who wrote the “Mathematical Games” column for Scientific American for many years. This page is really about Luck, and posits that there is no such thing, good or bad. There’s just good and bad and in between, in shifting emulsification. –Maybe. What the Hell do I know?

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My beloved mother Jane Stoneman died in hospice at 5:11 AM the morning of Friday, December 11, 2020.

Sinai Mortuary, the go-to place for Jewish people in central Phoenix, is handling the arrangements under the able direction of my Aunt Diane, whom Mom trusted with power of attorney and personal representative status. Diane has done more than two years’ worth of heavy lifting in seeing to it that Mom’s needs were met. And it was from Diane that I learned on Friday that Mom, who converted to Judaism in the early 80s as part of her attunement to my stepfather Marty Stoneman, had chosen Sarah as her Hebrew name. (See my blog post “Laugh, Sarah, Laugh” for evidence that there are no coincidences.)

It has been a tough three days, but I found doing this modest tribute to the memory of my mother to be a nice distractive relief. As always, though, I am not 100% satisfied. My attempt at Mom, I think, looks more not unlike her than like her–and there is a huge gap between Not Unlike and Like. But I imagine Mom pshawing me and saying archly, “Son, when it comes to doing my portrait, you can at best only approach Perfection–you can never attain it.” I hasten to add that Mom would never say anything like that in real life. It just makes me feel better to imagine.

Jane & Son

Jubilation lit July with fireworks so grand
Just sipping tea on Mom’s front lawn chair like an ampersand

And oftentimes it is enough to watch as it explodes
And file it as a lovely time amongst the nematodes

Now for the pic Jane Stoneman grins and leans her head just so
Embrance the Moment, says her Grin, then head for parts unknown

Yesterday at 5:11 AM Mountain Standard time my mother, Jane Bowers Stoneman, declared victory over suffering and dementia by shuffling off this mortal coil; or, as Shakespeare also put it, [Dies.]. I had started grieving for her some days before she stopped breathing, because the quality of her life had been declining, and the rate of decline was accelerating. It is heartbreaking that the end so often takes that shape. I will miss her terribly the rest of my life, and honor her memory, but I am glad she is shed of all her pain, frustration and sorrow.

I’d been working on this page and was about 2/3 finished when Mom died. I know my mother’s mind to the extent that she’d want me to plug away, finish this piece, and begin the next one, and so I’ve struggled all day to do what should have taken a couple of hours at most. It STILL could use some work, but there’s a significant chance that anything else I do at this point will make it worse rather than better.

This one’s for you, Mom, flawed as it is. Your loving son continues his journey. Please keep up the cheerleading as always.

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Earlier this week Theodore Christ, whose last name rhymes with Wrist, called me to remind me of a commitment I’d made long ago, that when recreational marijuana became legal, I would smoke some with him. “Ted, I know they passed the law,” I said, “but it’s my understanding that the law doesn’t take effect until sometime between election day and March.” Theodore replied that he would check on the certification and get back to me. Within the hour he sent me this text message, verbatim: “It’s legal let me know when you want to come over.” The time had come.

We settled on Saturday, December 5, 1 PM. Ted offered to pick me up but I thought using public transportation to thread through the McDowell Mountains, then walking the remaining mile-and-a-half or so to get to his abode, would be a fine prelude for my first getting-high jaunt in more than 25 years. (November 1994. Funeral of a friend.)

So yesterday, in the early afternoon, while I used a sanitizing towelette on the stem of an odd-looking pipe, Ted took some herb from a jar marked “Trainwreck” and ground it with a hand-held apparatus. Then he packed the bowl of the pipe and handed it to me, had me put my finger over the hole in the side of the pipe bowl, and lit it with a disposable lighter, and I drew breath…

and when the harsh smoke hit my lungs I coughed paroxysmatically, just as I had when I drew my first marijuana-laced breath at 16.

Ted said he had an ingestible gummy with about ten milliliters of magic in it, but I soldiered on with the pipe, and about six lungloads later the inkling of a buzz settled in.

Meanwhile I had become pals with Theodore’s dogs Buddy and Linus, and Ted had started weaving an extraordinary tale, starting with his dad Gus, a Marine martial-arts champion who was sent to China for some months to learn from their finest. Then it was Ted at five teaching the new kid on the block, one Robin Williams, who was ashamed of his first name because it sounded like a girl’s, how to defend himself in a fight the local bully wanted to have with him because he was the new kid. Young Theodore, who had been taught and toughened by his dad, told Robin not to rely on punches but to fake for the head and go for the feet, and this strategy helped Robin get the bully down and pinned and helpless while the future Mork from Ork rained blows on him and then leapt up in triumph.

But that wasn’t Theodore’s only brush with greatness. As my headfog slowly amped, Ted told me of standing outside a school building in the fifth grade, poetically riffing on this and that with rhyming words, and as he thrust out his arms in declamation, a drop of moisture splashed on the palm of his hand, but it was not rain, it was the teardrop of a fourth-grade Black girl who had been listening to him from an upstairs window–a girl who turned out to be none other than Oprah Winfrey.

And some years later Theodore was at a Rolling Stones concert, in the mosh pit, and Mick Jagger hstandinga cherry-picker to get directly above Ted, and the same palm that received Oprah’s teardrop had a drop of Mick’s sweat splash down on it.

I was unmistakably high by this time, and Ted was too, smoking a joint down to the bone while he talked. And now the Brush with Greatness was with John Belushi, who visited Ted’s Greek Orthodox Church on vacation and with Ted and two other altar boys polished off an entire bottle of sacramental wine.

Boy, was I buzzed. “Theodore,” I said, “you are the Forrest Gump of Valley poets, with all these encounters with…ah…famous.” (I had briefly forgotten the word “celebrities.”)

Ted beamed. (Reader, have you noticed that sometimes I refer to him as Theodore, and somerimes Ted? He prefers Theodore, but his brother called him Teddy, and most of the poetry community knows him as Ted. In my own mind he is a poet in the Quantum Multiverse, arbitrarily shifting from Ted to Theodore and back again.)

(And speaking of names, he says the family last name was changed at Ellis Island to preserve anonymity. Many Greeks did that to avoid paying taxes from their country of origin. Women would take their middle names as a last name and men would take the first name of their father as their last name. Christ is the short version of “Christopher,” not “Chris,” which where they came from would be short for “Christina.”)

Ted had other celebrity connections, thanks to his church and thanks to the “Greek Mafia” for whom his dad Gus ran numbers as a child. Ted mentioned specifically Bob Costas, Marilu Henner, and Aristotle Onassis,,,father of Christina…one of the most unhappy people on Earth…

I’m afraid I was too befogged at that point to retain much detail of the conversation, though I’d stopped drawing on the pipe foe some time. At 3 o’clock we attended a poetry open mic, at which Ted performed but I did not. Here’s Theodore doing one of his famous improvisional poems, composed on the spot after audience members provide him with topics. In this pic, “Love” and “Compassion” were two of the topics. I forget the third.

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Then we went to Denny’s where Theodore had a deli sandwich with fries, and I had salmon with broccoli and mashed potato, and we both had lava cake, which was supposed to have fudge but they were out of fudge. And then Ted dropped me off at the QT close to my apartment. He thanked me for dinner and I thanked him for an extraordinary experience. He grinned and said, “Anytime you want to do it again, just come on by.”

I appeciated that. But now, with the fog completely lifted, I’m inclined to think that future such episodes ought to be somewhere between infrequent and rare. Pleasant as the feeling is, the high of marijuana always turns me stupid.

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But I am thrilled, not regretful, that Ted and J had a brotherly smoke together. He is a fearless poet, a passionate advocate for worthy causes, and a raconteur whose reality is a bit “not of this world.” DID all the things Ted described actually happen? I believe that to him they did, therefore in the Theodore Christ multiverse, they happened to him.

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My friend from midstate California, Bob Kabchef, grows things like pomegranates and walnuts and tomatoes, and every so often he shares his harvests with some of his friends. Yesterday a heavy box packed and shipped by him landed in the “parcel locker” of my apartment complex. I have since divested two pomegranates of their seeds, putting some of them in my morning oatmeal. Here’s a photo of the remaining seeds, with a little pom atop them for contrast and scale:

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My late, much-missed friend Karen Wilkinson often hosted musical evenings for our living-foom band The Snot Dogs. Usually the evening included pizza from locally heroic Spanato’s, plus a salad of Karen’s own making which included pomegranate seeds–the ingredient that made the salad extra-special. So this morning I called fellow band member Martin Klass (about whom more in my blog posts “Foom-Bozzle-Wozzle” et sequelae) and told him I’d gotten some pomegranates; would he like one?

“I would love one,” he said. “You know, because of Miss Karen.”

I knew. So tomorrow I’ll deliver him one. And I’ll also ask our piano player Katie Wood, who loved Karen as well.

Friendship and Love are transmitted many ways, Friends.

Something nice started with this lamentatious post I made on Facebook:

Friends, I am Bummed with a capital B. My Phoenix Center for the Arts wheel-throwing class has been canceled mid-stream. The center cites community benchmarks for COVID-19 infection risk. I applaud their proactive efforts to stem the spread, but I also feel like the rug has been yanked from under my feet, landing me on my oversized sit-downer.

I took some clay home. Not much–I was on public trans and on foot, and wasn’t up to lugging a lot of clay around. So I can hand-build, but until I find a reliable studio space/place, I can’t throw, and I can’t really sculpt–I need to bisque-fire what I make.

Rats!!!!!

Several friends commiserated, wished me well, suggested handbuilding, and generally made me feel better, though still bummed. Then I got a Facebook Messenger message from an amazing friend of mine, thus:

It was a link to a demo of someone deftly throwing miniature vessels on a tiny wheel. Looked like fun. We had this text exchange:

G: Very cool! The demo potter makes it look easy, but you’d need surgical steadiness to throw with precision on that scale. Worth exploring, though!!

N: LOL yes I know what you mean, but they are very sweet, something you could do at home

G: Quite so. Tell you what. Find me the product and how to order it, and if it’s under $100 US, I will buy it and make something for you. Deal?

It was a link to an outfit called wish.com. The little wheel was offered at $64. I was amazed that it was so inexpensive, and in fact it wasn’t, quite: what with tax and handling and timely shipping  the bill came to something over $118. 

And just this evening I made the second of two 3D sketches of Queen chess pieces. Neither looks remotely like her. Just getting my feet wet on subject matter I hadn’t handled in many years. I like the vitality of them, though.

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Long story concluded: As I say in the title and in the text exchange, there is “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and there is “Make It Happen.” I’m thrilled that, thanks to my wonderful friend, a setback turned into a new, exciting path.

Would you like to meet my wonderful friend? You bet you would–trust me. Her name is Nina Pak. I knew her as Nina Rogers when we were classmates and (briefly for me) fellow Yoga Club members at Glendale High School. She attended my wedding to Joni Froehling on December 10, 1988, and I have not seen her much face-to-face since, but thanks to social media we maintain our friendship. She looks like this:

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She also looks like this:

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She has been a model, a curator, an art director, a publisher, and many other things. Working out of Vancouver, British Columbia, she has created time-defying, gorgeous tableaux of bygone–or alternate-universe–scenes. The curious need only do an Internet search on “nina pak art” to be privy to a multitude of breath-stopping imagery. She has said of her work, “I am not opposed to making my art look good on someone’s wall, but I feel what I create has a spiritual depth and mystery that stirs something essentially vital:  a longing, a calling, an echo of something forgotten, deja-vu, or something you can’t quite grasp but want to share.”

And she is my friend, thank the All, and this week she helped me do more than daydream about how nice it would be If. Nina, please accept my humble thanks!

Today WordPress sent me a nice note of encouragement because today is the 8th anniversary of my blog begun on December 3rd, 2012.

It has been a life-changer, this blog. It has drawn from me time after time after 1700 times and more the utmost I have by way of creative expression. With an archive of my drawings and ceramic works and poems and musings as an easily-accessed body of work, one big discovery is that I NEED this blog to remind me of what I’ve done. It is astonishing to pick a month at random and review a few consecutive posts. I forget the extent of my journey.

So today is a day of celebration, of where I’ve been and how it proves my well isn’t going to run dry any time soon. For fun, I have two headshots. One was taken the day before I started my blog, and one was taken this week. To my eyes the two guys in the photos seem only vaguely related.

makeover

mahalo holiday yom tov–o
arthur clarke and asimov
kaput kerfuffle truth or dare
envision bliss and climb a stair