Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Yesterday evening, I went to read one of the blogs I frequent, and found that it and the blogster who wrote it are both gone. Click.
I was surprised by my reaction. I've seen blogs evaporate before, and all of the warning signs were present in this one. I found myself melancholy and gently stunned by the disappearance. It reminded me of the vanishing city in The Brief History of the Dead.
This ubiquitous happening unceremoniously cut a thread. (Though, I wouldn't complain if more people rose to the courtesy of deleting their blog after the third and final entry that, two years ago, began with "I'm so bored...") I find a "one step back" scenario in my effort to expand my network of writers, poets, philosophers, artists, and daydreamers.
As I looked over the bare grave-marker Profile screen, I thought back to a sweltering July evening, when I was working one of those jobs that paid the tuition for a couple of years but otherwise remains a footnote in the story of my life. I was working at a driving range, and that night found myself cursing the mosquitoes, telling myself that they were infinitely worse than they had been the previous summer. I thought I must surely be imagining this development.
Glancing over my shoulder at the baleful light coming from the tall lamps illuminating the parking lot, I realized that the phenomenon was not imagined. The dominoes in my head started falling over: the new street lights; the parking lot that now covered the half-acre stand of old trees adjacent to the range; the small army of golf ball-sized bats that had lived in the trees; the memory of watching bats diving in and out of the powerful beams of the overhead range lights; the swarms of insects that were lured into the harsh light, only to be devoured. One collapse yielded dozens of changes.
Now, I grumble to myself over the people who would have followed that lost blog to mine. Hubris. Of course, I realize that this is futile. There was no grand destiny for some reader to follow the convoluted series of sharp angles across the web to spend a moment over what I have written. If there had been, they would have gotten here, or may yet by some other route. For now, I read and write and tie more threads.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

geometric pegs snap into place
I settle back to sleep

Monday, August 21, 2006

How Far We've Come!

ARC Identifier: 539221
Title: Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, Wyoming. In the press room of the Cody Enterprise . . ., 01/08/1943

Creator: Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority. (02/16/1944 - 06/30/1946) ( Most Recent)

Type of Archival Materials:
Photographs and other Graphic Materials
Level of Description:
Item from Record Group 210: Records of the War Relocation Authority, 1941 - 1947

Location: Still Picture Records LICON, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001 PHONE: 301-837-3530, FAX: 301-837-3621, EMAIL: stillpix@nara.gov
Production Date: 01/08/1943

Part of: Series: Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, 1942 - 1945

Scope & Content Note:
The full caption for this photograph reads: Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, Wyoming. In the press room of the Cody Enterprise, Bill Hosokawa, Editor of the Sentinel, Heart Mountain Relocation Center newspaper, grabs the first sheet off the press and scans it for errors. Press work on the Sentinel is done under contract by Enterprise printers. Bill, as editor, prepares the makeup, reads proof, sets type, makes corrections, operates the linotype and locks the forms ready for the press. A Washington U. graduate and former foreign correspondent and west coast reporter, Hosokawa is also an experienced printer and assumes, single handed, the task of seeing that his 8 page tabloid newspaper comes off the press as a first rate sheet.

Access Restrictions:

Use Restrictions: Unrestricted

Variant Control Number(s):
NAIL Control Number: NWDNS-210-G-E664
Local Identifier: NWDNS-210-G-E664

Copy 1
Copy Status: Preservation
Storage Facility: National Archives at College Park - Archives II (College Park, MD)
Media Type: Negative

Index Terms

Contributors to Authorship and/or Production of the Archival Materials
Parker, Tom, Photographer

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Things scribbled on August 10 from 12:11-12:26


my Mondrian wall
golden world dances beyond
she took the choice seat

it hides in plain sight
gnarled tree by the coffee shop
leaving life behind

the jackass and the pachyderm are fighting for the crown
six or an even half-dozen
overzealous congressional staffers
wrinkled suits
phones singing Motown to Providence crackers
wasting their brief lives in servitude
liars, salesmen, and big-tent-revivalists
none better than the last

waiting for Godot
Ray rambles schizoid sermons
I seem to be blind

"no more coffee," my watch scolds me. time to go.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I know it when I see it

Since attending the MAPS Meet, I’ve been on the lookout for instances of folk culture in my own backyard. In the vulgar suburbs, folk culture doesn’t jump out at you the way all of the basket-making and recipes of “real” folk culture do. It can be very difficult to define, but like Potter Stewart said, “I know it when I see it”.
There I was, riding home on the tube, when I saw it- a piece that has been around almost as long as I can remember, hiding in the light. Amidst all of the other graffiti, ranging from hip-hop pop art to drunken-imbecile-with-a-can-of-paint, was a tag that reached back decades. Like so many before (and I hope so many to come) it read
- Cool “Disco” Dan -
This tag hearkens back to my earliest memories of the train. I don’t recall how old I was, certainly not more than 10, the first time I saw it. Then another, and another. Soon it became one of those childhood rituals, like the punch-buggy game, spotting instances of Disco Dan’s work.
In high school came the last realization that this was not the work of an individual. Some were excellent renditions, perhaps by the master himself, others were poor reflections, clear knock-offs. Teenagers suggested an elaborate Dread Pirate Roberts lineage: “I am not the real Cool ‘Disco’ Dan. The man who gave me the name wasn’t either. The real Disco Dan is retired and living like a king in Cleveland Park…”
Throughout college, I don’t recall having seen a single new application of the tag. Old ones weathered, sometimes becoming so faded that I couldn’t have read them if I didn’t already know where they were and what they said.
As I reminisce over the tag, I realize that this instance is along a stretch of track that I travel every day. Moreover, it is a vibrant plum color that does not bear the mark of age. This is new and wrought in the style of the original ones.
Here, on the Red Line, I see continued a tradition of folk art. Some would call it destructive, and I suppose on some level it is. It must be. It would just be a marketing gimmick if you could buy readymade Disco Dan from Target.
I adjust my sunglasses and puzzle over the people and places that Dan connects.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I look at the polished brass frame around the glass door and see an image that reminds me of one of van Gogh's self portraits. A young man, his short beard framing his cheeks, looks back. His blue eyes pierce me, searching for something, but they are fettered by a force deeper than the holes they dig into me. I feel bad for him. I want to give him the answer he's urgently seeking, but he doesn't even know the question. I take a deep breath.
I study the notebook in front of him. Its dusty-blue cover is worn, the helical wire in its spine flattened in a few places. The pages’ edges fan open a little and reveal scuffs of graphite and a few dots of smeared ink. It seems alive, breathing like a horseshoe crab or a spider.
The book’s owner has only looked up from it a few times since he sat down with his coffee. Mostly he has been writing frenetically, first on one page, then another, sometimes flipping three or four pages backward to cross out a single word or add a line of text. Sometimes he just reads one page over and over.
The author furrows his brow and breathes labored breaths, unable to inscribe as quickly as he writes. This is frustrating. Sometimes searching for an elusive word, he fidgets like an animal too long caged. It is as if the act of pushing pen across page is some Herculean effort that weighs as much upon body as mind.
I sit back finally and find that I am equally out of breath.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Arcs reach from London Heathrow to cities on the other side of the pond. These aren’t lines that you would be aware of if you were to stand (or tread water) where they pass. Some might call these lines “imaginary”, but I would argue (perhaps splitting hairs) that they are “conceptual”. They exist in peoples’ minds and within tools we contrive. These lines are of the same stuff that allowed the Sphere to show A. Square the insides of his neighbors’ houses.

The arcs’ intended purpose was to estimate the course of aircraft, connecting Europe to the Americas. Business people, scholars, and tourists would conduct across these lines trade, ideas, and single-servings of culture.
These lines were just hijacked. Of course, nobody destroyed an airplane. No one died. Instead, malice of intent has again derailed innocuous plans.
Today on the ride home from work, people looked over their shoulders. I watched two strangers watch a third prod a McDonald’s bag with the tip of his umbrella. One rider, half joking noted that Friday would be 8/11 and that the Madrid and Mumbai bombings had both occurred on the 11th. They way she wrung her fingers as she laughed at this observation belied her cynical calm.
I was reminded of the invisible cord that reaches across minds and oceans and seems to tie our hands and tether us to something moving in an alarming direction. I recalled that connection is like change or difference; there is a tendency to either deify or vilify it.
As the train whined to a halt at the end of the line I stood up and headed home just like I do everyday, one point intersected by so many lines.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Friday afternoon saw me returning to the office from a conference in Dupont Circle. This was before the wind and the rain that washed-away the oppressive heat. The humidity gave the avenues between the hotel and the metro a claustrophobic character and veiled the sky in a diffusive sand-colored glow. As the escalator took me over that rollercoaster angle at the top, a place other than the one right in front of me came into view. Lamp posts became impossibly green trees; brownstones, temples. The algae-covered concrete tube that conveys riders from the brightly-lit circle above to the dim underworld of trains and tunnels below was a cenote. It was, in fact, a particular cenote I had stood above a month before.
The cenotes are, in the most profane geological sense, the result of the action of moving water on the soluble limestone landscape of the Yucatan Peninsula. Ultimately, the water will leave behind an orotund shaft that reaches down to the groundwater level and far beyond. Convoluted networks of underground channels link one cenote to another, and some of these networks even open into the ocean. I've read that some cenotes, miles inland, contain water that tastes of sea salt.
The cenote I recalled at the station, the one within Chichen Itza, is a primitive thing indeed. A circular chasm two hundred feet across, you’d fall six stories from its rim before you got wet. Birds dive into it, but not as far as the opaque green water, while lizards hunt its vertical walls. It is one of those places where the fortress wall that separates the here and now from a harsh old metaphysics fades into a beaded curtain just out of reach. On the one side are sad domesticated men wearing brown knee-socks with sneakers and carrying camera bags, and on the other side, watching, is that primal thing that made building pyramids and cutting a person's still-beating heart from their chest a good idea.
That gaping maw descends not only into the intimate places of the Earth but well past the thin shell of my mind into an unlit vault within. I can only infer what resides there, the thinking layer of words and analysis buffered from it by the ascetic layer of dreams, and impressions, and memories half-remembered.
I thought about posting one of the pictures my wife or I took of the cenote, but that seems totally antithetical to what it is. Even writing about it is not quite right, the thing being described so far removed from the rational part of oneself that arranges letters into words. To understand the cenote I peered into, recall that evacuated state that you may have only experienced a few times, surrounding rage, lust, victory or defeat, or profound loss.
Places like this one connect the visitor to ideas and experiences that are otherwise outside the network of modern consciousness. The computer on the table in the coffee shop or on the desk in the office deny the observer important pieces of the experience.
Once connected by one’s own experience, these memories become entwined into the network in one’s head. From there, they flow unseen beneath the surface into otherwise inane activities, like walking to the train station.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A metabiography for Dave

He’s what you might call
a nonstandard kind
of person Once when
I had to return
a book to Hornbake
Library Trombley

he says to me I
wanna stay out here
Finish my coffee
he adds with a nod

When I got back to
where he was sitting
someone was putting
change into his cup

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I spent a little time yesterday evening with a couple of Goode's World Atlases. One is from the 1940's, the other a more recent mint. The old one shows a state called Palestine, that looks like the uninterrupted sum of what the new one calls Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, with so many asterisks. The truth of the places and the people living there is so much more complicated than either map can express.

The "conflict" isn't a new one. I tend to think of it as a war unlike any other, raging since before anyone can remember, built upon shifting and sometimes far-flung geography. It is stoked by the opinions, allegiances, and actions of persons outside of the theater-proper, many of whom have no legitimate reason to take sides.
In talking recently about this flame that has fanned itself once more from so many smoldering embers, I heard it again. Someone shrugged and said, "It's such an old conflict. And neither side is blameless. What do you expect?" With that, the speaker absolved a thousand moral failings and excused new excesses, based upon the crimes of the enemies' fathers.
How many have to die before one score equals another? Is there a plan to end the war that doesn't involve something like genocide?
The elephant in the room is the fact that every event in this conflict is the result of a choice- a choice to kidnap or capture soldiers, a choice to respond with force that has ended the lives of more children than men bearing arms, and the spectrum of choices of those outside of the conflict on how to respond. Every time the war is reignited, escalated, or encouraged from afar, someone bears the onus of having chosen war over peace.
No one can decide the outcome of last year's battle or punish someone who died half a century ago. We do, however, have the power to decide if children die tomorrow.