Farewell, Dear Phouka

September 13, 2017 § 7 Comments

What’s left of Hurricane Irma lingers over southern Ohio, weeping her gray tears. It’s fitting weather; just past midnight, I learned that my friend Bardi had died.

I laid awake for another hour or so, walking the dark paths one walks when discovering such news late at night. Remembering Bardi, reflecting on his life and his death. Sad and angry by turns, and wondering if I’m on the same path. He got laid off and lost his health insurance and got sick and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, and it killed him.

If I lose my job, that could easily be me. It could be you.

Bardi’s family is planning a wake in true Irish style, as well they should. His son said anyone who attempts to make it maudlin will be shown the door. In that vein, I’ll keep this small remembrance on the sunny side of the lane.

I won’t claim to know him well, but I knew him a while. We met in the mid-90s, when we both joined in a Star Trek fan club. We met again, years later, drawn together by NaNoWriMo and Firefly and a mutual love of Irish music. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t remember him at first, but he remembered me.

I knew him by a few names — Timothy J. P. O’Riley and Taedgh O’Riley — but I and most who knew him called him Bardi. Short for Bardiphouka, his nom de net.

The thing I think of first when I think of Bardi is his writing. He could write a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo easily, and often wrote double the word count. I think one  year, he wrote two novels in that month.

Every April, he did APAD — A Poem A Day — on his blog. Once, he told me he had a fan club in France, and they bought him an iPad in appreciation for his poetry. An iPad for APAD.

He also wrote songs and made music. I remember sitting in his den as he played a song he wrote for my friend Annie, plucking it out on an acoustic guitar, singing. He was particularly proud of a song he wrote called “Topper Takes a Toe.” (I think that’s the name of it; regrettably, I never got the chance to hear it.)

Bardi was that rare kind of individual you simply can’t capture in a nutshell. Quiet, kind, an eternal romantic. A gentleman in an age where gentlemen are scarce. He loved unusual hats and unusual turns of phrase. He liked to make people laugh. He gave because he enjoyed giving.

For my 50th birthday this year, Bardi posted this on Facebook:

Today is Random Acts of Kindness day. Also Dave Borcherding’s birthday. Which in a way was a random act of kindness to all who have come to know him.

It was possibly the nicest thing anyone said about me on my birthday.

2017 has been a bastard of a year, to the point that I’m constantly bracing for the next loss. Nevertheless, losing Bardi was one I didn’t see coming, and it’s been one hell of a gut punch.

Goodbye, my friend. I hope you’re dancing a jig with a beautiful lass on Fiddler’s Green. I didn’t see you nearly enough, and I am the poorer for that. And the world is poorer for no longer having you in it.

 


Bardi with our friend Brooke, New Year’s Eve 2012. (Photo Credit: Steve Blanzaco)

bardi

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Beneath Stillness

August 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

The waters seem lifeless, with an unmoving surface the color of an olive's skin. No breeze, and only the occasional drone of a fat horsefly.

Maybe a frog's chirrup, a time or two.

A skipped stone makes waves, but the stone sinks and the ripples fade. Did it feel the flat pebble's staccato kisses? Does it feel the wasp sipping from its surface? Does it feel the heat of the noonday sun, or the chill caress of moon's silver light?

Perhaps this hole in the earth feels not, and holds no life; nothing swims or wriggles and crawls beneath its apathetic face. Maybe it's nothing more than a reservoir of the clouds' tears, tinted by sour mud and algae.

Or perhaps the depths roil; passionate creatures twist and dance together, or hunt and devour each other, or race for the sheer joy of speed and competition. Perhaps treasure waits to be found, or ancient mines tick toward detonation.

Perhaps here be monsters.

The water may settle and clear, in time. Until then, what lies beneath the stillness can only be guessed.

You Are Here

August 5, 2017 § Leave a comment

The walls have thorns. The paths are full of sharp stones. The leaves beneath your feet have been trodden black by millions who have come before you.

Weren’t you just here? You are not prepared for this. You never are.

Pick a path. Start walking.

Get out of the bed. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair.

Always turn right. Isn’t that what they say to do? Or is it left?

Take your pills and fight to keep them down. Pack something bland for lunch. Half a sandwich, perhaps.

If it’s dark, look to the moon. If she hasn’t been hung yet, find a sprinkle of stardust.

Make a list. Start at the top. Check things off, one by one by one.

The bees will bring you honeyed memories. Each one will sting. They’ll be the only treasures you’ll find here.

Listen to classical music, and let the waves of it wash over you. Waltz in the blue Danube.

Is there a way out this time? You can’t see it. You may never find it. Keep moving.

Call your mom.

If you find a bottle of sweet wine, speak to it of nothings.

Chew gum; it keeps you from clenching your teeth.

Comfort the small creatures and let them comfort you.

Sleep, if you can. When you can.

Sing a song to greet the dawn. One of the old ones. One of the sad ones.

Keep walking. Keep turning right. Or is it left?


hedge maze

 

Knocking off the Rust, Sharpening the Blade

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

The wonderful Maureen McHugh once told me, “Writing is a skill, like basketball; not a body of information, like biology.” Her point being, you get good by writing, not by studying it, or thinking about it, or reading other writers talking about it. You grab the ball, get on the court, and start dribbling.

I like to think of it more like carpentry. Pulling and hauling, grunting and sweating, sawing and hammering until a dead tree starts to look like something else entirely. « Read the rest of this entry »

Itching

June 25, 2017 § 2 Comments

Hello, it’s me. I’m in California dreaming about the way we used to be.

Okay, that’s a lie. Worse yet, it’s an Adele lyric.

I’m not in California, but it almost feels like it. The day is sunny and breezy and cool, and the windows are open and flooding the house with fresh air. 

I’ve been a pinball lately, distracted by a hundred things and having no time to write. I miss writing; it itches and aches like a phantom limb. That itch is never stronger than when I read a writer’s thoughts on the process. 

Today’s edition of Orbital Operations, Warren Ellis’s weekly newsletter, made me itch ferociously. 

But the grass needs mowing. I’m loathe to do it, especially since I learned recently that the whole lawn-mowing thing began when the middle class started doing it to make their houses look like the manicured estates of the wealthy. A stupid reason to rob yourself of hours of free time, yet it’s become a social expectation now, and legally mandated in some areas. 

So I’ll mow and weed. It’s a good day to be outside, at least. And while I toil mindlessly, I’ll try to remember where I left off with the novel, and the plans I had for revisions of whatever the hell draft I’m on. Maybe I can steal a couple hours tonight to pull it up on screen and poke at it. 

Speaking of mowing and weeding, my wonderful friend Sarah has a blog she’s been keeping secret. It’s all about gardening, at which she is a master and possibly some kind of wizard. (Seriously, her back yard is so beautiful, some kind of dark magic must be involved.) Check out Horseradish and Honey if you want to learn how to enchant the earth into growing gorgeous, nourishing things instead of just the hateful, thorny weeds that plague my yard.

And off I go, to sweat and weed and mow. 

Still

June 7, 2017 § Leave a comment

There are still books to be read, and be written.

There are still spring flowers and summer fireflies and autumn leaves and the hush of winter snowfalls.

There are still sunrises and sunsets to see.

There are still roads not taken, trails not explored, mountains not climbed.

There are still adventures you’ve not had.

There are still  grandeurs yet to see, and beauties yet to lift your heart and expand your mind and soothe your soul.

There are still canyons to call into.

There are still milestones to celebrate.

There are still conversations to be enjoyed, by firelight or candlelight or in the dark or in the pub.

There are still friends you have and friends you’ve yet to meet.

There are still reeds bent low by raging rivers, standing tall when the waters calm.

There are still all these, and more.

If you are weary, pause from the fight (but only pause). Be still. Breathe.

Remember what you fight for, and why. There are still so many good things worth the battle.

 


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Monsoon Spring

May 31, 2017 § Leave a comment

Good morning. I ate breakfast before I left the house. So what if it was doughnuts? Shut up, it’s still a major accomplishment for me.

Last night, I visited with my friend Luna, whom I hadn’t seen in too long, and others I see more often but usually don’t get to have a good conversation with. The group was small and the environs quiet enough that we could all hear each other and have a good chat. I’d almost forgotten how nice that was.

At one point, we were lamenting the monsoon spring we’ve had. Round after round of torrential rain, flash floods, intense storms. The flooded basements that come with it. « Read the rest of this entry »