Horizon

Dear city line – how you often obstruct my view

Your bright lights drown out the stars in the sky

But somehow when you’re gone I miss you.

The peeling paint corroded by the salt water,

the way your glass reflects the sun to community pools

or absorbed by concrete walls making the nights hotter.

Neutral creams and browns, side by side with cold steel

juxtaposed against bright blue canvas

that God threw wind swept clouds close enough to feel,

you tower up from the ocean like a modern Atlantis.

However, I grow sick and tired of your antics:

the drunkards, the taxes, traffic flowing slow as molasses;

escaping up the mountains and hills, because I wanna quit

needing you.  Still I find myself looking down to the horizon,

watching the sun set just beyond the city limits

just before Honolulu City lights start rising.

  • About the picture – the horizon, city landscape, and the wall framing the shot from the top of Kalihi Valley have very strong lines. However, the setting sun and the pervasive power of its Curve seems to melt down the straight lines with its light and warmth.
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Paper/Back

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Photo Credit:  Eli Samuelu

My fingers were meant for pages in books. They’re not meant to smudge screens of e-readers to flip pages.  The creases on these tips were made to smudge ink.  I haven’t made the transition to digital books, even though the school I teach at has already seen the writing on the wall.  Of course it is the English department that has struggled with the replacement of novels with digital copies.  It doesn’t really feel the same.  I love annotating – getting a dog-eared copy of a paperback novel dirty, scribbled notes in the margin, a creased spine when I flip over on one side and just want to hold the book with one hand – those experiences don’t translate well to an e-reader.  Or even the feel of a brand new book – with crisp edges and the smell of print all over it. How I know – that on really hot days, between the sweat and condensation of drinks filled with chilled liquid, these new pages will soak up as much of my life as I will of these imaginary worlds within words.

I will probably offend other Analog purists with the fact that I have digitized other aspects of my life … I traded in my tapes for discs and now hard drives of files that I stream endlessly.  I love the simplicity and versatility of cameras built into phones (although give me an older camera and I’ll still know how to pop film in and roll it back – or shake a Polaroid into being).  And my fingers now feel just as comfortable resting on a keyboard as they do holding a pen (but in my defense, my handwriting style is an acquired taste).  The one thing that will probably never translate well enough is the book.  I cried when Borders died.  I didn’t understand how this large bookstore chain that was a favorite place of mine to peruse on lazy weekends, picking up a title and flipping through its pages before deciding if spending an afternoon reading about alien vampire Grail knights would be worthwhile, could close done.  The smaller, independent local book stores went as well.  Even the secondhand bookstores that also peddled in comic books (the classics and the smut) were struggling.  I mean how can you digitize comic books of all things.  Believe me – I even tried those versions where they have the panels “come alive” on screen and it’s read aloud like an audiobook … Just didn’t do it for me.  I mean comic books – it needs to be read with some loud music playing with a beverage (soda/beer) in hand.  And then after breaking down the few pages that make up that month’s issue you have to set aside a discussion with your friends to pore over every panel and scrap of dialogue – like a “Talking Dead” episode.  I mean digitized comics – you’ll never get the experience I had debating my brother over whether or not we should keep our comics safely sealed in archival polypropylene bags to preserve their condition.  I thought they’re books – and books are meant to be read, while he valued their collectible value.  Digitized comics don’t feel like books at all – and have no value.  Feels like a lose-lose situation to me.

It’s summer now.  My fingers are ready to leave these keys, leave behind the swiping of songs, and are ready to pick up a book.  A real book – because in the summer – reading a book feels nice.  The weight of a book seems substantial, the way it absorbs your heat makes the book seem alive, and of course when you’re done physical books can be great headrests or makeshift fans.  And if you need to … it’s a handy thing to throw (literally not legally).  Can’t say the same of a digital copy.

Listen

Morning

Photo credit: Krista Mangulsone

Listen, 4 AM.  the waking silence of the world before the sun rises. my ear can

listen to the quiet whisper of your breath and I can confess I love you, if you can

listen to my voice – share it with that sleepy smile before I leave for work.  we

listen to the same song later that morning because I call you.  you pick up and

listen to me tell you about these lyrics I’ve heard while you hum a melody – I

listen, it’s familiar and you say it’s been stuck in your head all day.  we laugh.

listen, I say … that’s the same song I’m telling you about.  yes, you didn’t

listen to the words like you normally do, but you like the way it sounds. let’s

listen to that song now.  you play it and we smile. it’s catchy.  our anthem to

listen to through the day and it reminds us of each other.  tell me about your day

listen to each other complain and tell that funny story about that guy, he didn’t

listen when your coworker told him to push instead of pull.  it has us both laughing

listening to the sound of pleasure in our voices – and later as night falls our pillows

listen to the sound of pleasure in our voices as we keep each other awake until my alarm …

Listen, 4 AM.

Friendship

Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.

-Khalil Gibran

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Photo Credit:  Daryn Bartlett

Friends always say you don’t have to – but the truth is … of course you do.  It’s a “responsibility,” but it never really seems that way does it.  Consider the way you treat everyone else compared to your friends.  Your job asks you to come over and move some furniture for work.  You’re not doing anything at the moment – do you give up your free time to help out?  Hmmmm … probably don’t have to think too hard, no-no-no-no like a Meghan Trainor song, but yeah maybe it could be an “opportunity” for overtime.  When a friend asks though – well, even if I might be in full relaxation mode the first thing in my mind (even if I might be grumbling a little bit) is that yeah, I should get over there to help out.  And truthfully, despite the work that needs to be done – with great friends – it can become something fun. I remember moving and asking one of my buddies to help out.  It was a great time to catch up and an a great excuse to grab something deliciously fried together.  Maybe not a sweet time – but definitely savory.  The “responsibility” of spending time together with friends is something I can actually look forward to.  There is nothing wrong with hanging out a little longer, meeting up a little earlier … and it always sucks when you can’t meet up when you planned.  Friends are responsible for giving the honest and sometimes harsh truth, but are always there for comfort when the world seems to be the worst.  Come to think about it – some might think about the way I describe a friendship like the way someone might think about a lover.  But I think that it is the other way around.  A lover gets this type of attention when they’re thought of as a friend.  Relationships can seem confusing with categories like “friends with benefits” – but a person who is only there to satisfy physical needs is easily shown the door after everything is said and done.  Think of all the the hit it and quit it, toot it and boot it, and all the other one night stand euphemisms.  The quick exit is always first and foremost.  But if it’s a friend – even if that type of relationship does develop – wouldn’t you still want to “chill” after the Netflix.  Khalil Gibran, the writer of the quote in question, had the most intimate friend in American schoolteacher Mary Haskell.  Their correspondence contains such passion that no wonder their shared friendship became so significant to his creative process.  Their relationship was always “on” – there was no opportunity to do more or less, because whether it was confidante or supporter, Mary Haskell was there for Gibran … fulfilling the sweetest responsibility.

Succulent

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Photo Credit:  Jamie Street

The sense of taste

Her experiments on video.

When I visited her recently, senses she showed me

Something sweet in the mouth

Her face lights up ecstatically and her lips pucker as if to suck

gags, and shudders – makes the gesture for “stop.”

Introduced to the “tongue map,”

she herself was a girl.

She perceived taste on the tongue:

Sweet at the tip, salty at the back

She gave sugar and invited it.

The words in the poem above have been found in the article “Beyond Taste Buds: The Science of Delicious” by David Owen

Julie Mennella, a biologist who studies the sense of taste in babies and toddlers, often records her experiments on video. When I visited her recently at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, she showed me a video of a baby in a high chair being fed something sweet by her mother. Almost as soon as the spoon is in the baby’s mouth, her face lights up ecstatically, and her lips pucker as if to suck. Then Mennella showed me another video, of a different baby being given his first taste of broccoli, which, like many green vegetables, has a mildly bitter taste. The baby grimaces, gags, and shudders. He pounds the tray of his high chair. He makes the sign language gesture for “stop.”.

Almost 25 years ago my wife introduced our daughter’s Brownie troop to the “tongue map,” which she’d learned about in a cookbook when she herself was a girl. Each of the basic tastes, she explained, is perceived by taste buds in a unique region on the tongue: sweet at the tip, salty and sour at the sides, bitter at the back. She gave the girls Q-tips and bowls of salt water, sugar water, and other liquids, and invited them to prove it to themselves.

Small Screen

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Photo Credit:  Tracy Thomas

Let me get retro, let go of the present – drop back to the past

to the time when things were on tape.  Cue it up, maybe fast

forward, rewind – there we go.  Think of the shows …

A-Team, not Ed Sheeran, but Mr. T.  “V” meant blows

against rat eating aliens, not Viagra. Dallas and J.R.

made it cool to like the Cowboys.  Admiring a fast car

and hot legs on Daisy Dukes of Hazzard and everything

essential can be easily made by MacGuyver and a coil spring.

Get fashion advice from Miami Vice, tapping a jukebox

like the Fonz, being impressed by the way KITT talks.

You didn’t need a flat screen, just a pair of rabbit ears,

or if you’re lucky a black box.  Skip ahead tens of years –

and they’ll all get remade for the big screen,

Michael Bay’ed up like digital caffeine.

 

Pure

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Photo Credit:  Christine Makhlouf

Pure.  As a child, the idea of snow, captivated my imagination.    No, not Snow, the “Informer” white reggae guy or a euphemism for “pure” cocaine.  I’m taking about the stuff that became synonymous in my mind with Christmas and marshmallows floating in hot cocoa.  Now here’s the funny part … as a kid living in Hawaii, we never had snow.  Nope – miles and miles of crystal clear Pacific Ocean, yes, I did have just a short walk away from my home, but nothing even close to the snow that I longed for watching Winter specials on television.  Snow just looked so fluffy and soft, just like clouds or vanilla cotton candy.  Gazing at calendars hung on my family’s walls that had photographs of mountaintops covered in what seemed to be an endless marshmallow glacier layer.  Snow was the stuff of dreams – an escape for a local boy from the tropical heat that made the Hawaiian islands so welcoming to mainland visitors during the winter months.   However, my concept of snow was faulty because my youthful mind didn’t make the connection yet between water and snow.  As an adolescent, I enjoyed going to the only ice skating rink on Oahu – Ice Palace.  To my amazement I thought I saw what looked like snow forming as skates would scrape off the top layer of the ice onto the sides.  I picked it up in my fingers, but it melted so quickly and just felt cold and not soft at all.  I heard the other kids refer to this as “snow,” but I was adamant that real snow was not like this at all. Another example of my disconnect between snow and the element of water is the ever popular “snow cones,” which we do not have here in Hawaii.  We call it “shave ice” because that’s literally what it is … shaved ice.  It would take me eighteen years to finally see the natural phenomenon known as snow when I visited family in Oklahoma during the Christmas break.  You could imagine the anticipation – the wonder as I stepped off a plane into freezing weather.  I was mesmerized by the fact that icicles formed naturally on barren trees – instead of having to fling silver strips of foiled string as a representation.  I couldn’t wait to touch snow and I was told that it would snow overnight.  I couldn’t really sleep.  The next morning I went out of the door and saw remnants of what seemed like snow and in my fingers felt like the same stuff in an ice skating rink in Hawaii.  I looked around the neighborhood and this idea of something pure and beautiful, was tainted with the presence of humanity.  Dirty snow.  I asked my aunt if this was really snow.  I didn’t want to accept the confirmation.  Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed with snow.  Maybe it was just the buildup of years of dreaming.  But the story doesn’t end there.  A few months ago, in Utah, I happened to encounter snow again.  Yes, I saw the layers thick among the mountaintops – but I didn’t get to go there.  Instead it was a simple evening grocery run, just stepping out the door and seeing little wisps of snow start to fall to the ground.  It picked up as a flurry and I could feel what felt like soft – then wet – almost like invisible kisses against my skin.  A light coat of snow covered the shrubs, cars, even the outdoor store trash cans … and in that moment right after the snow fell where it was untouched and pristine it made sense.  This was snow I always imagined.  I began to smile and transferred my joy into a smiley face on a white snow blanket on a red Target trash can.  It began to warm up after I picked up the items I needed from Target.  The snow began to melt again – transforming and then disappearing like a magic pumpkin from a fairy tale.  It never snowed again during my visit, but that one experience – the purity of that moment – made me believe once again.