The Architecture of the Other

May 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Architecture is a particular fascination for me. Not professionally; I’ve never had any dreams of becoming an architect. It’s merely a casual interest. Buildings and their design fascinates me, and I can wander around just about any neighborhood and be intrigued by the buildings there.

I’m most aware of my surroundings — and particularly, the buildings — when I’m a passenger traveling through a strange part of town or a city I’ve never been to. If I don’t have to pay attention to the way, I can relax and take in the alien landscape.

So it was when I found myself in Minneapolis last week, traveling for work. I’d never been to the city before, and imagined it to be some boxy, dull, cookie-cutter town. And it might have been, at one point, but then the aliens landed and began making Minneapolis over into a semblance of their home planet. « Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Channels

March 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’m writing this while listening to the Disquietude podcast, discovered via a Warren Ellis tweet. Disquietude’s raison d’etre is to share ambient music, something I’m just beginning to explore (again, thanks to Warren Ellis, and mostly as a way to block out noise in the office). Trying a new thing and, so far, finding it compliments the writing process pretty well.

The morning drive to work was Billy Joel on the iPod. Normally, I listen to classical music, but this morning, I felt like revisiting the music of my middle-school years. A lyric from “Close to the Borderline” jumped out at me:

I got remote control and a color T.V.
I don’t change channels so they must change me

I tend to stay in bubbles with other like-minded individuals. Geeks, liberals, Browncoats, gamers — these are my tribes.

Bubbles can be safe spaces, allowing me to push the world away awhile, relax, breathe. We all need to slip into a comfortable bubble now and then.

But bubbles and tribes can quickly become echo chambers. I have to remind myself that it’s good to step outside them now and then, change the channel, try new things. Be aware of what’s going on, even if I don’t like what I see and hear.

So, I’m reprogramming this old-dog brain, or trying to. Changing the channels, and not letting them change me.


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Swords into Plowshares

March 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

The story goes that my grandfather — my mother’s father — served in the army in World War I, and for part of that time, he guarded German prisoners of war in (or very near) Paris.

While in France, he purchased a pair of binoculars, which were passed along to me at some point. They look like they’ve been through a war: chipped paint, a bent shade, a cracked lens, a wonky focus wheel.

He also brought back a trio of what at first glance seem to be brass vases. They are, in fact, artillery shell casings. « Read the rest of this entry »

Alone in the Rain

February 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

A hawk perched atop the dead tree outside my office window this morning. I think of it as the Hawk Tree now, because she and her fellow hawks prefer it more than the other dead trees in the stand.

In one of the living trees stood a crow, fat and black and clinging to a thin branch. He’d caw at the hawk three times, and the hawk would reply with her keening cry a few times. I saw them as I crossed the parking lot, light drizzle falling, and slowed my pace to watch.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Half a Century Onward

February 17, 2017 § Leave a comment

By all rights, I should be dead now.

At 14, I found out I had Crohn’s Disease. Through most of high school, I ate nearly nothing and weighed next to nothing; 98 pounds, skinny, constantly being asked if I was anorexic (which we were just becoming aware of in the 80s), or if I had AIDS (the big new boogeyman disease of the 80s).

No one knew what Crohn’s Disease was. I mention it today, and everyone knows someone who has it. In the 80s, not so much.

My first gastroenterologist was, to be kind, an asshole. He had a Tom Selleck mustache and drove a red Ferrari, just like Magnum P.I. He fell asleep while my mom and I were talking to him during appointments. When I didn’t respond to his treatment regimen of sulfa drugs and steroids, he would simply increase the dosages of both.

For six years. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Light on the Bright Trees

February 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

A stand of pale trees greets me as I leave the house this morning, their bare branches a radiant white, a bright sun rising before them and a threatening sky lurking behind.

Glowing ghosts of trees, trapped between the light and the dark.

It is a day of ghosts and shadows and grim skies. Of those lost, long ago and far too recently. Of grief held too close, and mistakes made, and lessons (hopefully) learned. Of advancing years, and a half-century gone in a blink.

A dark day, a threatening sky. And yet, light.

It’s millions of miles distant, across a cold black void. Still, the sun finds the faces of the trees, and they glow in defiance of the dark sky, and they are more beautiful because of it.

I step out of the shadow and turn, and the sun finds my face.


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Unbecoming

February 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

I moved to a new cubicle at work recently, overlooking the side lawn of the building and a stand of trees in which hawks and small birds like to sit. Several of the trees stand like massive lodge poles; bare of branches for the most part, and dead.

The hawks prefer the tops of the dead trees. They sit in the sun there, sometimes two or three atop the same tall spire of gray wood. Then swoop out in a great spread of wings to soar, or circle, or seize some small creature in their deadly talons. « Read the rest of this entry »

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