Sunday, December 17, 2017

Games of Chance

A clear, cold hatred, held pure from childhood:
distilled from humiliations received from those despised
(oafs, idiots, loudmouthed fools
rushing to the destruction not just of themselves -- consummation
devoutly to be wished -- but of everything beautiful
difficult
fragile:
things that took years, centuries, aeons to create
were the most fun to destroy.)

And so the hatred runs on, not powerful, not overwhelming,
but more corrosive than ever. My soul withers. I play
games of chance against them
and a bitter smile visits my face
as I turn their stupidity,
their venality, against them:
they will pay. They will pay for all.

And as life narrows, the crows return
and cluster thickly on the housetops, on the wires,
gathering in their thousands on the ruins of the day,
on the fading of the light.

I seek death for them all, and for myself;
I build intricate machines, deadfalls, snares.
What any one will do is anyone's guess,
but what they all will do can be known
to the millimeter and the second.
In the aggregate they are only monkeys, after all,
and not the clever sort. Poor eating,
but the beggared can't be choosers:
we'll feast on better before the year is out.

Friday, November 24, 2017

My Favorite Place in Portland

I'm a bottom feeder, right? We know that. So you'll believe me when I tell you about my very favorite place in Portland. It's this place:



It's the parking garage at 4th and Alder. The fancy glass you see is the elevator. You can ride up and look out over the city, up to the ninth floor! Which would be cool. But that's not what we do. We take the stairs. There are stairs, all the way up to the roof, which would be the tenth floor, except it doesn't get a number. Because it's the roof, I guess. There are four complete stairways, one at every corner. This is important, because if your knees don't really like you going up ten flights of stairs in one go, you can climb a bit and then walk up the ramp a bit to the next corner, climb a bit more, and so on. 



I admit that it's not particularly prepossessing at first. Concrete steps. Sometimes you navigate around someone's abandoned Big Gulp or soda can. And for a floor or two, maybe someone else is on the stairs. But usually not.



This part, honestly? Is not very exciting. But you keep going.




When you get halfway around, you can take a look and make sure the Morrison Bridge is going to be open, and that the traffic's going to be moving. If it looks jammed up, you might take the Burnside or the Hawthorne. (Note: this is what it looks like four days out of five. On the fifth day, the wind has swept the clouds aside, and framed between those two buildings, Mt Hood is brilliant, white, and break-your-heart beautiful.)



And now it's starting to get fun. Cityscapish. If you like that kind of thing. And you see that bit of sky? There's going to be more.



We're about halfway up now. There's more sky. No more people on the stairs: if there are, we'll startle each other.



More stairs and another corner. Those are the towers of the Hawthorne Bridge, against the sky, there.



And hey, the nipple of Pioneer Courthouse Square, peeking out there!



Round about the 8th or 9th floor, not only the people are gone, but the cars, too, most days. Now it's lonesome and a little eerie: the light washes back and forth through empty space.




And then you're on the roof, and it's a splendid solitude. Like the fells above the Lake Country. Well, sort of. With its own sublimity.



And sky. Lots and lots of sky.



And on the way back down -- because you didn't park way up here, that would be a silly waste of energy, driving the car clear up -- you can look down at the holiday shoppers. They're there too, the silly creatures.



I get to climb this glorious windswept tower twice a day, and I have it all to myself. I used to dread it becoming discovered and trendy, like so many other things in this city, but I've finally decided it's safe to tell y'all. I don't think anyone else is ever going to come up here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A View Few Can Boast



Odd that Perseus, Greek as they come, 
should wear a Phrygian cap, and be fobbed off
by sleight of PR as a prince of Persia. 
These things happen though

to young men who travel imprudently, and meddle
with kings. I've seen it myself. The in-laws lay it down,
and next thing you're filching a timeshare eye,
and talking as fast as you dare. Maybe you're

the proud possessor of a detached, a still wriggling do,
an awesome ride, some troubling debts, and
an incomplete someone with a golden sword:
but still you're hung by your cap in the heavens,

and swung at the end of the pail for your pains.
In season and out your conical crown
points only and ever north, while your legs
climb over your head and your kilt falls up over your hips.

Is it for this, that a man conquers death? Apparently so:
this and passel of kids and a rescued princess
are what a man can hope for. And a pointy hat.
And a view few can boast on a midsummer night.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Housebreaking

LOL because they would kill us all, that's why.
But lengthen out your arm and hold the sun
between your thumb and forefinger, so.
There's still a space of time.

The mortar spits and spurts between the clenching bricks
as the walls come down, as the walls have always come:
ruins are arresting because so seldom
dies a house a natural death. Young men love

to wrench things apart and watch them fall;
Including things like you. Me.
Still I have held a nail like the sun
and driven it with a hammer, in my time,

And I was a young man myself, eager for wreck and ruin.
So things get built, even so, in the lulls
and arrhythmias of history.

The dust of wallboard,
the hanker of mold: we master nothing,
and the winter comes behind.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Arha

I think I have to make a project of conserving my attention.

Siphoning off attention has flowered into the primary business of the global economy. They have the resources. They have the tools. They have the people.

They have the extraordinary advantage on their side that people think they can't be fooled. You think you can't be fooled. I think I can't be fooled.

It wasn't true even when Dorothy Sayers wrote Murder Must Advertise, in 1933, a year which saw some other significant events. But read the novel (it's worth reading again!) and ponder how quaint it is, how primitive the tools were. They are far, far better now. More subtle, with a far wider reach. And infinitely configurable, in real time, directed by artificial intelligences that are already smarter than we are.

We, my friends, are toast. Buttered and jammed. They will eat us.

They are already eating us, and they are empowering us to marinate and cook each other. They don't mean any harm: they just want to make a buck. But that won't make us any less eaten.

Every day, I think I can make a Devil's bargain with them, and win. And every day I lose a little more of my soul.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The October Without Masks

In the morning I lie on the little Persian carpet in the wreck room and do my back exercises. Sometimes I think of the person who gave the carpet to us: exactly flying-carpet size, perfect for its job, remote from the place (Olympia) and time (our wedding, in 1981) when it arrived. The giver, with her perfectly ungoogle-able name, has vanished from our life. She was a poet. I wonder if she is still.

Anyway, I lie there and lay my hands on the hips and ribs and musculature that is surfacing as the flesh subsides. I guess I didn't yet do any resistance training the last time I weighed this little, because the body emerging is unrecognizable, supplied with ropes of hard muscle under the loosening skin. I dwindle, I become smaller, also I come into focus. It's pleasing, a little disquieting. I also am nearly sixty now, which becomes more apparent too. I am becoming healthier, lighter, more vigorous: or I am drying up, withering, and scabbing over. There is a second transition behind the present one, and it's easier to see now too. An old man looks thoughtfully at me from the mirror, sometimes.

Fall comes with a rattle and a sigh, and in daytime the yellow leaves are brilliant in the sun, at least for now. This morning, this world. Halloween comes, trying unsuccessfully to replace the meditative quiet of October with more easily confronted, store-bought fears. No. The night is not scary because of creepy-crawlies or animated corpses: it's scary because it's large and old and still, and the same stars that looked down on Alfred in the Fens look down on my battered Honda in the drive.

I am totally on the side of the night, now: totally a partisan of October, the old October, the October without masks. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Going Concern

Well, it's arrived: the real break-your-spirit, think-of-nothing-else hunger. It's been an extraordinary run: five months of losing a pound a week pretty nearly like clockwork, and never getting really hungry unless I was late with a meal. But I suspect the jig's up: I've tripped the alarm and the hunger hormones are on to me. I've lost 12% of my body weight, and somewhere around 10% is where it usually kicks in. I've been expecting it, but I had decided to just keep riding the escalator down until it started to jerk and spit and run rough.

Within a week or two I should be down to 195, which is a good stopping place for phase one. At that point I'll "go onto maintenance," meaning I'll stop trying to lose weight, for six weeks at least. In practical terms, what it means is I get a potato and a banana every day. It will leave me with 15 lbs to go to the fabled 180.

A potato and a banana! An entrancing prospect. I am looking forward to them eagerly.

When I embark on this orgy of luxury, one of three things will happen:

1) I will keep losing weight, but more slowly, at say half a pound per week. That's what the numbers say should happen. If that's the case I might not have to do the weight loss thing again: I might slowly drift down past 180, and come gently to a halt at some delightful weight my body settles on. Or

2) I will just hang out at 195, till such time (at least six weeks hence) as I feel ready to resume the struggle. Or

3) I will start gaining weight. The course of action in that case is straightforward enough. I just start chopping things out (half a potato, half a banana) until I level off.

The hunger may or may not subside, in any of these three cases. That's the really important unknown. If it doesn't, the whole enterprise becomes shaky, and I'll have to reevaluate at the end of the six weeks: I do not intend to spend years of my life obsessively hungry. If it does, then I don't really care which of the three scenarios I find myself in: whupping the food thing will still be a going concern.

Postscript: I wrote this a couple days ago and set it aside. The hunger has in fact subsided, all by itself, but I think I'll follow the steps outlined above anyway. My sense all along has been that it would be wiser not to try to drop all the way in one go. Leveling off is something I've never tried to do before -- I've never gotten that far -- so it will be interesting in itself. When my weekly average goes to 195, which should happen next week or the week after, I'll see what leveling off looks like. I might deal one of the new foods in first and give it a couple weeks to settle in, and then do the other. When I look at in near prospect it seems like a lot to change at once, to do both.