Mortaljive: The Rest is Silence

There is no still point in all the Universe, and that is the rock upon which I stand

Monday, May 30, 2011

How to Build a GOP Presidential Candidate



Actually, that's for a female Republican candidate...

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Punked in Portland Part III: Oh, Portlandia, Where is thy Spring?



Our Portland Backyard in Winter

Full disclosure: I was raised in Southern California where we officially had two seasons: green and brown, with green being from February to May or June, and brown covering all the rest. The hillsides of Los Angeles and Orange County served to remind what the season was, a condition which overall didn't really matter except as a kid we had to go indoors earlier in the winter. We did not have snow, we did not have especially colorful autumns, we did not have tornadoes or flooding (except occasional flash floods in the deserts, which also had brief but often beautiful springs). The seasons went like this: "Brown/late-sun" followed by "brown/early night" followed by "green/not-so-early-night" followed by "green/more-day-light" followed by "brown/play-outside-until-8:30-at-night." Once every fifteen years or so we'd have a cold night in the 30s or a hot night in the 90s (or even low 100s) depending on what color the hills were. The Pacific Ocean kept us cool along the coast, and reasonably temperate when winter frost attacked inland.



Winter Sentries--Hillsboro, Oregon

Flash forward: having moved to Portland, Oregon in April of 2008 I can now state with no uncertainty that Spring in the Pacific Northwest is actually a version of Seasonal Apartheid. To wit: flowers do bloom (just a bit late this year due to the cool, even-wetter-than-usual spring) and birds start singing and the the Home and Garden Stores position tons of mulch and cow dung near their entrances--these are all signs of spring.



Loser--a helpful reminder, lest an individual feel too comfortable in this world



A flowering rhododendron

Outside my office window, Rhododendron (I pronounce this word as if it were a Japanese Monster: ro-do-Den-Dron) is blooming in a chorus of colors, the neighbor's tulips sit perfectly in rows like precious drinking cups crafted by pixies, bamboo shoots are finally coming in, the dogwood tree has had its orgasm of color and is putting on its leaves, the wisteria displayed a fragrant purple and white lullaby, the better to coax me to slumber, but I am having none of it. The spring that sings is a "separate but equal" phenomenon: the plants and the bees may partake, but the humans are kept huddled beneath gray, crying skies, water falling to earth in a seemingly endless cascade of discrimination. Or to put in another way: we humans sit at the back of the verdant bus while the flowers and fauna ignore us utterly, unless we protest, at which time we are accused of being uppity.



A wall taunts me in Multnomah Village



Wisteria is just so damn sexy...

And that's the crux of my lament: like children peering into a candy shop that will not allow us inside, we bear witness to an almost virtual spring, one of color and joy and renewal, but soggy and wet, not really for us to revel in, not for us to share. We humans up here go out all the time in this condition, to the parks and restaurants, concerts and the like--we plant vegetable gardens in the backyard, take our dogs for walks in the woods. We make the attempt to live our lives quite fully, even receiving from Nature a few, non-consecutive days of sunshine to keep us from going mental. But don't kid yourself: in our neck of the Pacific Northwest we drink from the Humans Only fountain of spring, and though it tastes like heaven we are not to linger there too long, for we will most definitely get soaked.



I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille...



Wisteria, Dogwood and Friends

Punked in Portland Part I can be found here. Punked in Portland Part II can be found here.

Disclaimer: my tongue is in my cheek, hiding in my mouth, lest it wag too much.

***

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lydia the Cat



Lydia sits and waits for you
but will not tell you what to do
if you cannot figure it out
Lydia will start to shout

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Face the Music Like You Do



the prayer cards show the virgin
and her heart of mighty god
young forever in her perfect haze
she is more than you can see
she is love within the light
she is shining in the endless golden rays

there is jesus in his robe
looking something like tom joad
the sacrifice of dust among the grain
he holds his hand just like a friend
he promises to see you again
you can hear his laughter in the rain

look around and get a clue
face the music like you do
everything that's gained is one day lost
here's a secret i can share:
you cannot cling to what's not there
though you try to buy it at all cost

six carried his dark wooden box
up the side of the muddy hill
set him on the straps upon the bars
the preacher said the words he knew
the rain knew just what it should do
soon enough we headed for our cars

i went to be with family
we sat inside eternity
we talked about the man who had gone
we laughed and cried and sang a bit
the sun was setting in the west
all that we can do is carry on

look around and get a clue
face the music like you do
everything that's gained is one day lost
here's a secret i can share:
you cannot cling to what's not there
though you try to buy it at all cost

the prayer cards show the virgin
and her heart of mighty god
young forever in her perfect haze
she is more than you can see
she is love within the light
she is shining in the endless golden rays

there is jesus in his robe
looking something like tom joad
the sacrifice of dust among the grain
he holds his hand just like a friend
he promises to see you again
you can hear his laughter in the rain

look around and get a clue
face the music like you do
everything that's gained is one day lost
here's a secret i can share:
you cannot cling to what's not there
though you try to buy it at all cost

***

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Punked in Portland Part II

Punked in Portland Part II: in which my wife and I found ourselves in Portland, OR--and I do mean found ourselves. Allow me to explain...


Donna and dogs at fountain, Tom McCall Waterfront Park


Joan of Arc, Portland, OR

During the winter of 2008-2009 my wife Donna and I settled into our new digs in Portland--I had gotten a job the previous July (and managed to keep it) and Donna was continuing to get work in TV production back in L.A. Well, the L.A. work began to wear on Donna, it began to wear on me and it began to wear on the tires of our car, which had to make 1,000 mile journeys to Hollywood when it wasn't making 1,000 mile journeys to Portland. We were being punked by Donna's career, which was, frankly, beating the shit out of her. As a Production Designer, Donna experienced too many long days, too many shifting alliances, nebulous promises, producer edicts, forward thrusting back stabs--and that was just at the Craft Services table. By the time of our move to the Land of Beavers and Ducks it was time for her to try something new, but the cache and money of television production were better than just about everything else she felt she might be qualified to do. Like an addict, she knew she should quit Hollywood, but she could not do it alone.


Chauncy likes the Pacific Northwest

Time passed in 2009 on into 2010--our lives were tense and Donna was tenser. Donna's sister and father were facing major health issues, my father was on his way to the vanishing point, we missed being close to our families at a time when they could use our help--Donna ended up spending a lot of time with her sister, who went through hell and came out the other side, Donna helping as much as she could, keeping a brave, optimistic face which melted into tears when she was beyond the line of sight of her family. Like any good spouse who is there for his or her partner, I thought my beloved was fucking gonzo. But guess what: the worse things got the closer we became, the more we discovered each other and clung to each other, perhaps for fear of drowning. And this being Oregon, I mean fear of literal drowning, i.e. being waterboarded by god. Ain't no fucking metaphor when you have record setting rain everywhere you look. March's name should be changed to "Wade." June of 2010 wasn't busting out all over: it was leaking like a sieve.


Mt. St. Helens, located north of Portland, Oregon, is an example of punking writ large...

So, to race to the finish: having moved to Portland to try something new Donna and I found something not so new: each other. She panicked and I held her. I drifted and she brought me ashore. We still can't pretend to have an identifiable plan, but we have each other, and that's pretty good, considering. I am running out of time tonight--back at work early tomorrow, the cats need their boxes cleaned, the dogs have to go out one more time to pee on the lawn. I wish I could give this writing project more of myself, but I have a play to write (I've avoided this about as long as I can stand) and who knows? I may even get to explore this town in the way that it deserves. There is a vibe here that says "Do it, fool." I like that.

Even if Portland is smirking at us wee mortals, I respect it in a soggy, beleagured sort of way. And when it comes to punking, there are far more noteworthy punks going on in the world--for instance, that phony pizza delivery to bin Laden in Hey Abbottadad, Pakistan will no doubt go down as the Greatest Punk of All--LOL! bin Laden thought it was a porno! Punked! Free chicken wings my ass!


It has been said that Jesus was going to move to Portland but at the last minute started cracking up and headed for the desert. As if.

Stay tuned for Punked in Portland Part III: No Spring For You!


Rhododendron


***

Sunday, May 15, 2011

At Least It's A Nice Day

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Tomb of the Known Mortaljive



The signature image of Mortaljive was taken back in the 90s--I do not recall the camera except that it used some quaint little method of retaining the image--ah, yes, it was known as film. The tableau of the man in the chair, staring ahead as a large Buddha head rested in his lap, with a male and female bowler on either side of his throne, was displayed in the niche above our fireplace in our Atwater Village home, a home located 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. This 3-D mandala, with as its center the man in the comfy chair, lightly gripping his coffee cup, seemed to say everything and nothing about this life, and for some reason I found that agreeable--still do.

Alas, the man and his chair were shattered during a party over a decade ago--a couple of children could not resist playing with it, and soon thereafter it lay in ruins on the slate threshold of the fireplace. A few years later some other forgotten mishap occurred (something dreadful no doubt) and all that was left of the tschotske was the mask of the once comfortable and seemingly content little man. This tiny head now rests inside a hutch in the dining room of our Portland, Oregon home, forever looking up from its place of rest in the alligator ashtray, an ashtray that proclaims "Daytona Beach" in a cryptic font. I quit smoking for good a few years ago and so the little man head should be relatively safe in his ceramic tomb.

Bless thee, little man head! Dream a sweet dream inside your silent crypt!

p.s. The two bowlers and the Buddha head seen in the iconic Mortaljive image are doing just fine, unmolested by time and the random, spastic hands of little children.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Punked in Portland Part I



Punked in Portland Part I

My wife and I moved to Portland, OR three years ago. Our reasoning for this move seems, upon closer inspection, awkwardly nebulous, so when asked why we moved here we like to say that we had always lived in Southern California and were looking for a change, insofar as we were tired of being warm and happy. Eyeing the Four Cardinal Points we could have moved to A. Catalina B. Drug Cartel Estates in Baja C. A combination retirement/firing range compound in Phoenix or D. The Great Pacific Northwest. We chose D. We wanted to rent a house up here but we had too many pets (shh…five dogs and seven cats at the time—now, would you rent to us?) and so used a home-equity line of credit from WaMu to put a down payment on a house in SW PDX, all the while renting out our cherished Los Angeles home. Hey, if Portland didn’t work out we could always move back…except the market dipped horribly, we could not possibly hope to make our money back on the Portland home, not to mention that WaMu went bust and we had to sell our home down south due to rising debt. Our first Punking in Portland was not really a Portland Punking. It was a pan-global, multi-national, humanity eviscerating casino gambit, and boy was that fun.



Our initial April in Stump Town was actually “My First April” in Stump Town: while my wife was working in production in L.A. I took care of getting our new home in order, taking the dogs out for walks, tripping over cats and looking for work (as a response to having grown attached to food and shelter). Portland was cold to this California native, with lows in April of 2008 in the mid-thirties (I remember wishing I was still in my mid-thirties), and what I really needed at the new house was something to hold the logs in the two fireplaces, so I went to a local chain hardware store and asked a kindly employee if there were any fire grates in stock. I was told by this employee that fire grates were a “seasonal item.” Pause. I answered “It was 35 degrees when I got up this morning—what does seasonal mean, exactly?” The young man smiled, and shortly thereafter I could tell by the way I no longer saw him that he had left. I was alone in a hardware store that felt 35 degrees was a state of mind, a Seasonal Condition. That was my Official Punked in Portland #1.



The punkings piled on after that: looking out our living room window we saw cars routinely running the stop sign outside our home. Now, the joke about my home state was that a California Stop meant merely slowing down before rolling through a given intersection. I found that up here there was a corollary Oregon Stop Rule: when rolling through a stop sign in the Beaver State one should do so while complaining about Californians—it feels good and looks exciting. I’d say that cars running stop signs was one of my pet peeves, except I already had too many pets, and was pre-emptively punked by myself on that one.



Other punkings ensued: one article we read said that there weren’t many thunder storms in the Portland Metro Area—our first July here we enjoyed a booming attack from the cloud gods, so profound that Rudy, our German Sherherd Cattle Major Burns-mix had an anxiety attack and tried to hide in my shoes. Some months later, in Autumn, we were told, nay, assured that it sometimes snowed here in the hills but that the snow didn’t “stick”—in December of 2008 we had two weeks of snow “sticking.” I looked deep into the eyes of those who had misled us, searching for the giggles behind the masks—many Portlanders feigned innocence but I knew better. Note: the best part of that two-week stretch of snow was watching cars run the stop sign hoping to get up the hill, only to start sliding backwards down the hill, like drunken otters. Good times.

Part II of Punked in Portland to follow…eventually.

Special Additional Punked in Portland Super Duper Extra:
Punked in Cannon Beach!



***

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Business as Usual

it was business as usual
perfectly normal and beautiful
pretty much natural I think I can say
so why not say it?

the dogs were barking in unison
wagging tails and toothy grins
every day is so wonderful
when you're howling at the sky
it's just what the doctor ordered

business as usual
business as usual
just incredible
a feast for the eyes
saying yes to the ineffable
most distinguished euphorical
it was business as usual
the business of happiness
step right up and walk on in
save your misery for the morning editions...

no fear, no sense of urgency
no cost, it happens to be free
we can dance with a host of cliches
and impress the judges

we can walk like musketeers
one for all and you for me my dear
perhaps tap dancing on the moon
is what the doctor ordered

business as usual
business as usual
just incredible
a feast for the eyes
saying yes to the ineffable
most distinguished euphorical
it was business as usual
the business of happiness
step right up and walk on in
save your misery for the morning editions...

happiness is a polarity
with the highs are clarity
and the lows are mostly medicated
feeling kind of sedated

elation must be celebrated
jubilation venerated
existence is vindicated
if only for a short while...

lights
camera
action
the moon is full on empty nights
ah, the actress
ah, the actor
let us dance like maniacs

it was business as usual
perfectly normal and beautiful
pretty much natural I think I can say
so why not say it?

the dogs were barking in unison
wagging tails and toothy grins
every day is so wonderful
when you're howling at the sky
it's just what the doctor ordered

business as usual
business as usual
just incredible
a feast for the eyes
saying yes to the ineffable
most distinguished euphorical
it was business as usual
the business of happiness
step right up and walk on in
save your misery for the morning editions...

***

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

i saw an old man today

i saw an old man today
he had been in the hospital
weakened, sick, unable to walk, facing darkness
his voice a whisper, like dry paper

his daughter came to see him
she, along with her husband
came to give love and attention
to talk about little things
with modest hope, with careful grace

it was the husband who went back to the house
to find the old man's wife dead on the floor
just the two of them, and then infinity
he drove back to the hospital, where
he took his wife aside and told her the hard news
next, he told the old man what had happened
what he had seen
that she was gone

five days later the old man was transported by medical van
to the funeral home
he entered in a motorized wheelchair
and made his way to the viewing room
he could just see her over the quilt
the body of his wife
her face red, her hair in a silent, cautious wave
he told me he wanted to hold her hand
and for around ten minutes that was what he did

the old man returned to the medical van
and rode the hydraulic lift
the medical technician fixed the straps
and secured him to the floor
they drove off, back to the hospital
such heavy things for hearts to hold

old men with wives now dead
familiar faces now in sorrow's way
old men who tremble in loss
old men, like silent wolves
take their turn on the moon
old men sit very still in the shadows

***

Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama bin Laden Killed by Poltergeists

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