blank'/> Mirth, Melancholy, and the Mundane: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Empty Doorways...

Because we're nearly at the end of the semester and because we ARE at the end of April, another poem I wrote this week.  It was an answer, in many ways, to a poem that a student wrote.  All of my teacher-friends will understand this poem keenly....


Empty Doorways

    For Tami


Many are just students - good, bad, strong, struggling.

But some of them are thinkers and dreamers, thirsty.

Drinking in all we can give, and seeking answers alone

If we can't give them what they need.


They are often tired and overloaded, stressed and nervous,

Beyond that, they have walked many varied roads to get here.

Each shares a passion for knowledge, wisdom, and skills

Often just for the sake of having them.


And, oh do they challenge us and push us, make demands on us

They question what we say, seeking clarity for the smallest confusions

Yearning to succeed in everything, they take up all our time

They seem relentless in their dedication.


And then one day, after a flurry of chaotic energy, they are gone

Like so many others, they are moving through and onward

Their time with us has ended, leaving our doorways standing empty

They seek greener pastures, different lives.


And when our new rosters come and we begin the cycle anew,

We look for others like them, though it won't be quite the same,

Because we know that for all their questions and all their fears

They made us better than we were.

Friday, April 29, 2011

She Rescues Fish…

Because last night was the 9th Annual Faculty and Staff Poetry and because the 'She' in the title could not be there, and because I have three posts to make in two days, here is a poem I read last night....perhaps another one later.  My goal with this poem was to capture the tragic fear of the moment while still celebrating the post-event entertainment value of the story...


She Rescues Fish

Child safely on the bus

Never noticing the tank

Which seemed fishless

No hungry fin calling


She lifts dripping items

One by one from the tank

Until one hollow rock

Has a new sound


Not just water dripping

But a strange flapping

As a tail fin striking

Desperate against rock


Somehow stuck inside

A bizarre problem

That somehow reflects

An unusual life


This same fish once

Sailed, waterless

To land across a room

Flipping much the same.


The problem at hand

Submerge the rock

Peer through refraction

To awkwardly release


Languished swimming

Mother saved

No lies, no tears.

Except her own.


One small shining deed

Lost in the sea of the world

But monumentally important

To one fish, one boy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mama Gets a Tattoo…

As most know, I go get a tattoo once a year, usually on Good Friday. This is the first year I had to shift it slightly since I started the tradition, and while it twinged a bit to do so at first, it turned out just fine. I was traveling on the Friday, so I instead went Easter Monday and I went through the rest of the experience the same way that I always do. For about a week or so beforehand, I worked on the design. I like to get there with it pretty much done so there's very little the artist has to do. It's cheaper that way for one, and for another, it makes the ink even more completely mine – because I did everything up to the point of the actual inking. So far, I have four cat prints, a tree on my calf, a two-part tribute to my favorite books on one arm, a sun on my lower back, an armband on the other arm, and then the new one. This new one was easier to render than some of the others as it consists of line work and no fill. It's a face my father has drawn since he was in college; a face whose name I recently learned was Witch Hazel. This will become more significant in a moment. The first thing I do is scan the image in, then crop and print it. This leaves the original intact. I go over the lines with a marker so that they are darker and more consistent in weight. Then I scan it in again and open up Microsoft Paint. I'm sure I could learn a more sophisticated editing program, but Paint seems to work, so I have never bothered. I then go through the process of cleaning up the lines, erasing any extraneous lines, and tweaking anything that needs tweaked. As for this new one, I was going to add swirls around her head to match the armband I already have on that arm, but I decided it would look strange, so I ditched that idea. Instead, I thought it might be fun to work in the first words I've ever had inked. On one side of her head, I put Witch Hazel in fancy letters with a heart doodle down near her neck. On the other side, I put Sunshine – which is dad's nickname for me. I put another doodle on this side – this one of a sun. It came out pretty nice, in my opinion – and since it's on my arm, that seems important. The sun is a theme across all my tattoos, and the Hazel is even more special because my grandfather used to call me Professor Hazelnut. I like synchronicity.

Once I'm content with the whole thing, I get it to the right size and when the day comes, I put it in the car and meet up with whoever is going with me. I never go alone. Sometimes it's my very-tattooed buddy, sometimes it's my parents. I also get cash. They have an ATM there, but it is painful for me to take that much out of a machine, so I usually try to devise plans for it to seem less 'lump-sum' scary. I also know that it saves them money if I bring cash – so I make it work. We then head out – stopping at Bruegger's on the way to get a bagel. I always arrive at the place at least 40 minutes before it opens. The reason for this is that they run on a first come-first served basis, and I like to be first. The longer I wait around, the more nervous I get. So, chatter and music in the car until they open the door, and then we head in. I tell the receptionist what I want – she might be starting to recognize me, but it's hard to say since it's only once a year. She disappears for awhile and comes back with any comments from the artist and with a price. I agree, and the artist gets to work making any adjustments and creating the transfer. Then, it's time.

It's rarely as bad as I remember and it seems to be getting easier every time. This time, I had Gooch. I don't always remember the artist, but I think I will this time. He's good – chats with me just enough to feel comfortable, but not so much that it feels awkward and fake. He advises with placement, lays the transfer, and gets started. The room is always cool and filled with strange monster heads, a few taxidermied animals, and either loud rock music or a movie. This year, it was The Big Lebowski. Once the needle touches down, I sort of slip away mentally; the pain isn't really that bad, considering how intolerant of it I usually am. It's just a constant stinging/burning sensation. I tense up while it's happening and if there's any fill, I usually start to sweat a bit. The artist has only ever had to stop once and that was with the lower back. Not much cushioning there. That and the inner arm were probably the two most painful places. The bicep isn't too bad – except this time, Gooch had to ask me to shake my arm out. The involuntary response to localized trauma is a tightening of the muscle. He said that with any other kind of tattoo it wouldn't matter much, but with a face, it mattered. If I didn't keep the muscle relaxed, the face would come out looking warped. So, I did my best and judging from the results, I did alright. As far as sessions go, it was an easy one – all lines, no fill, no shading. The lines are crisp, sharp, and fine. It looks incredibly cool, and it's fun to have something dad drew on my arm. Next year, I'll likely get my other calf done – and the pain-story might be a little bit different. But that's a year away, so I don't have to think about it for awhile.

The funniest part of this trip was something Gooch said as he worked. He didn't chatter much, as I said, but he did make sure that I was doing okay. I can't say I blame him, I'm not sure it would be good if the client suddenly passed out in the middle of a session. To complete the image I'm trying to paint, I'd like to point out that Gooch is a pretty big guy. He's not tall, he's just thick. Covered in ink, himself, he is, in some ways, a stereotypical-looking tattoo artist. He has a very nice voice, though, and a gentle way about him – you can tell he's an artist and cares about his work. Halfway through the session, he stopped for a moment and said, "You okay, mama?" and for some reason, that struck me. It is partially amusing to me because to most actual mamas, the smell of A&D Ointment would remind them of babies and diapers.  For me, the smell of it always makes me think of new ink.  Beyond that, it's the first time I've been called Mama and while I suppose it's a sign that I'm getting "older", I still thought it was cool. I'm not sure I can explain way. I'm not sure I have to…


Thursday, April 14, 2011

‘ey. Auction Direct.

We recently bought a used car from Auction Direct and while much of what I found entertaining about it might stem from the fact that we were there for three hours, I'm going to write about it anyway. First, I must say that it really was a painless process. While they weren't entirely accurate in their assessment of ALL other dealerships (we very much like Steve Miller at Van Bortel in Fairport, lack of relations to rock bands notwithstanding), they were very easy to deal with. We drove four cars (one twice), and they brought a car in from Buffalo for us. Once it was determined which car we wanted (a 2009 Hyundai Sonata), we sat for quite a long time as they moved us through the process. It was an interesting place to sit – the music is a bit loud and the acoustics are a bit echoey – but you couldn't beat the people-watching.

The place where you sit as they go through things is a huge circular bar, essentially – complete with high chairs. The 'boys' sat in the middle on both sides of a string of desks placed end to end. And they talked. Loudly. With hand gestures. Everyone called everyone else 'brother' and, at the risk of sounding racist, I sometimes got the impression that we were watching the legal front of the Victor Mafia. Now, before anyone grows angry with me, let me point out a couple of things. First, there were many Italian jokes made by the very people about whom I'm blogging. Jokes like "You're Italian? I could have sworn you were Irish" and the like. The following is my best approximation of an actual story told by the guy who called the banks:

You gotta fit in the car. Now, I don't know if you noticed, but I'm I-talian. We're not very tall, see. My mother wanted to buy an Escalade, and I said to her "Ma……you're four foot eleven……ya can't even get in the thing….why d'you wanna do that? But she knew what she wanted…

I suppose I could put more phonetic spellings in there – but just imagine it being told by a fellow who was very Italian and very proud of it. You can hear it, see the hand gestures, enjoy the story. This particular gentlemen also had a tendency to ask you a question, wait approximately three seconds, and then launch into his own answer or story or interpretation of what he thought you would say. It was very entertaining. He kept telling us that this is what he was gonna do. It was a great deal of fun.

There was one fellow in the middle of the bull pit that seemed important. He was older than the other guys working there and he's the one they all went to when something wasn't going smoothly. Now, I may have been imagining it, but it seemed like all others would give him a slightly wider berth when they walked past him. He was well-dressed and had smile lines, but I'm not sure I believe that he was jovial. He was staunch in his stance – stood by whatever he had to say and when someone offered an alternative, he often just responded by repeating what he had said before his prey had spoken. I didn't seem him interacting with customers, but I imagine he would wear them down, too. At one point he addressed the whole group of them and said, "Boys, ya got anything ya need me to do?" They all stopped and looked, shook their heads, and went back to the banter and the ribbing.

To further point out why he exuded Bossman status, there was a discrepancy between the window sticker on the car we wanted and the website price and our salesman had to take it to the Bossman. After some low conversations, a phone call, and some tense moments on the part of our salesman (I'm pretty sure he knew we would walk out if the number didn't come back to the lower one), the Bossman turned to half face us. To our salesman, he said this: "If they buy it t'day….they can have the lower price. But if they don't…price is going up." Again, put the pauses and the vocal affectations in there and you've got it.

Our salesman looked relieved. Coming over to us, he said "Someone saved you $1000 today."  I got the impression that someone might be out of a job soon.

I named some of them – there was Bossman, of course. And Pretty Boy. And the Numbers Guy who told me I only had a few more years left until all my schooling took me out. Because of what happened to his ex-wife's cousin's husband. This same fellow asked me if I were Arabic because my signature didn't look English.

I think we were ALL getting a little punchy – at one point I actually called the salesman a dork and he agreed that he was one. The fellow with the short mom told us that Numbers Guy was the worst part of the experience and I said, "You mean, he's worse than you?" His response was that I should work there. I'd fit right in.

In the end, it is not a place where I want hang out for three hours again, but it was entertaining. And now I want a cannoli.