Monday, December 7, 2009

Facebook killed my cousin (revised)

Evidently I'm not the only one finding weirdness in Facebook's exhortations to bother your friends. The comic strip xkcd examines the topic today.

This post revises an earlier draft of the poem. This revision includes a suggestion from another cousin, one who is active enough on Facebook that the big FB doesn't command me to bother him.



Facebook Killed My Cousin


You haven’t talked to Lynda lately.
Facebook announces it on my news feed
like it’s simply factual, a tidbit of trivia,
like it isn’t loaded up with innuendo,
like You’re looking good today doesn’t mean
You finally found a razor and an iron.

Send Lynda a message.
Facebook gives me commands, implies
I make a statement if I disobey the Facebook.
Having no news to share is a snub.

Glenn is now friends with Adam, Julia, and Tara Lynne.
Oh, just shout it all over the playground,
like there’s some law of conservation of friends,
like I had to push a lifetime of friendship with Lynda aside
to make room for perfect strangers – strangers who
may be found at the indicated links, by the way,
should there be any resentment.

Reconnect with Lynda.
As though I ever disconnected? Is Facebook trying
to get her angry with me?
Make Facebook better for her.
Like this isn’t a ploy to keep us tangled
in the web of Facebook?

Write on her wall.
Vandalism. Surely a way to make Facebook better for her.
Poke her.
Seems a bit impolite.
Poke her.
Like, to see if she’s still there?
Poke her.
To see if she’s still alive? Like she ceases to exist
if not active on Facebook?
Hold a mirror under Lynda’s nose.
Oh my god!

&&

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Real men don't buy panty hose

Every year during heating season I rig up my dryer so that it vents inside the house instead of outside. I just don't like wasting that heat and humidity when it could be making my house more comfortable and my gas bill a little bit lower.

In order to vent the dryer inside, I disconnect the dryer's exhaust hose from the connection that leads to the outside vent and just let it blow into the house. But I need to cover it to capture the bits of lint that get past the dryer's lint screen. Hence the panty hose in the title of this post. I get a cheap pair of full-length panty hose and duct tape the panty part around the end of the dryer hose. I get great air flow with little lint. As a bonus there's even a certain juvenile entertainment at watching the panty hose spring up and then droop down as you turn the dryer on and off.

That means every year at the start of heating season I need to venture out into the wild and gather one cheap pair of panty hose. Last year I ventured to Rose's the week before Halloween and bought panty hose plus candy for the kids who never show up at my house since it's attached housing and apparently you can't trust candy from people who live in attached housing.

I recreate the scene in the more immediate and entertaining first person present tense:

The Rose's cashier examines the stack of three eight-packs of full-size Reese's Peanut Butter Cups with the panty hose on top, then lifts the panty hose. (Hey, I'm no cheapy. I give two full-size Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to the kids who don't come trick-or-treating at my door.) "These yours?"

I nod.

As she scans the panty hose she offers up pleasant conversation. "For your wife?"

"No for me." At this point we both panic. A braver man or quicker wit or me a year later while recounting the story on my blog might say, "Do you think they're the right size?" Instead I am compelled to explain my intention to use them as a dryer vent.

We complete the transaction and I leave successful in my panty hose hunt.

This year I found my dollar hose at the Super Wal-Mart while grocery shopping. For your enjoyment we return to first person present tense narration.

I pile my goods on the counter. It's an express lane, so there's just a bit of counter and no conveyor belt. I'm considerate of the order in which the cashier will want to pack my purchase (and also trying to encourage packing in a way that doesn't crush my bread or my green peppers). I start with two jars of Newman's Own Mango Salsa, just $2.08 at the Super Wal-Mart and seventy cents more at Kroger. I follow with two jars of Newman's Own Tomato Basil Tomato Sauce, $1.88 at the Super Wal-Mart and a full dollar more at Harris Teeter. I tuck the panty hose sideways between the jars of salsa and the jars of sauce, then follow with some produce and the container of ricotta cheese that's going into my ziti lasagna bake for today's dinner.

When she starts processing my purchase of twenty items or less, the cashier turns to automaton mode. This is understandable. I do the same when doing laundry and it comes time to folding: a dozen pairs of socks, a dozen underwears, whatever, whatever. I'm completely zoned out and boogeying to Blondie.

The cashier gets into a rhythm: lift, scan, pack. Tomato sauce, tomato sauce, salsa, salsa. With the jars gone, the panty hose package has fallen flat on the counter. Without breaking her rhythm or pausing in any way, she lifts the hose and sets the package aside, then continues. Green pepper, type code, weigh, pack. Bananas, type code, weigh, pack.

She finishes ringing me up, gives me my total, and the panty hose pack still sits on the Island of Misfit Items waiting for Rudolph, Hermey, and Clarice to come along and reshelve them. I'm amazed at how efficiently, automatically, and completely without asking she has edited my purchase for me.

"The panty house are mine, too." I point at them.

"Oh." She scans them and gives me the new total. She gives me The Look but I don't say anything. A quicker wit or me a week later might accomplish a trifecta of shame, snark, and a successful educational moment with "My wife would have made me turn around and come right back here if I had come home without her panty hose again."

In the end I was successful both times in buying my hose. I can't fault the Rose's cashier for asking, even though I placed the package of hose on top of my purchase to make it clear it wasn't some detritus left behind by an earlier shopper. If there's some reason to doubt that the product is really part of my order, she's doing me a favor by ensuring I don't end up paying for something I don't really want. But Wal-Mart lady, don't make my decision for me. I'm coming back next year, and I'll be pre-armed with a snarky quip.

&&

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

poetrySPARK online

A website with a selection of poems from poetrySPARK is online. This was part of the creative confab SPARKcon that took place in Raleigh back in September.

Two of my poems are included, The Call of the Wild and Vegetarian Pacifism.

All of the poems on the poetrySPARK site will be available in a printed anthology in early 2010. A reading will be scheduled to accompany the publication. Watch here for details.

&&

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On the radio

I'll be interviewed this Tuesday, for a full hour, on WCOM 103.5, Carrboro radio. It's also streamed online at wcomfm.org, and it may someday be available as a podcast.

In The Artist's Studio
Tuesday, 11/17, 4 to 5 PM.
WCOM 103.5

We'll talk writing and cooking and I'll read some poetry. The host of the show is Molly Matlock, Executive Director of the Chatham County Arts Council.

&&

Friday, November 6, 2009

Facebook channels HAL from 2001

All of last week Facebook was sending me messages about my cousin and telling me to do things to her. This week the Facebook news feed is picking on my sister. I'm concerned.


Facebook Killed My Cousin

You haven’t talked to Lynda lately.
Facebook announces it on my news feed
like it’s simply factual, a tidbit of trivia,
like it isn’t loaded up with innuendo,
like You’re looking good today doesn’t mean
You finally found a razor and an iron.

Send Lynda a message.
So now Facebook is giving me commands,
implying I am making a statement
if I disobey the Facebook. Has having
no news to share become a snub?

Glenn is now friends with Adam, Julia, and Tara Lynne.
Oh, just shout it all over the playground,
like there’s some law of conservation of friends,
like I had to push forty years of friendship with Lynda aside
to make room for a group of perfect strangers –
strangers, by the way, who can be found
at the included links, should anybody resent this.

Reconnect with Lynda.
As though I ever disconnected? Are you trying
to get her angry with me? You think I can’t see
this is just a ploy to keep the both of us
tangled up in the web of Facebook?

Write on her wall.
Vandalism. That’s sure to get me back on her good side.
Poke her.
Isn’t that just a bit impolite?
Poke her.
Like, to see if she’s still there?
Poke her.
To see if she’s still alive? Like she ceases to exist
if she isn’t active on Facebook?
Hold a mirror under Lynda’s nose.
Oh my god! Facebook killed my cousin!

&&

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Improved Haiku

Hot pizza buffet,
sneezing kids running around,
I'm afraid to eat.

&&

Monday, October 5, 2009

Quintiles with a capital O



Over most of 2008 I watched the progress on that new building off I-40 at Page Road. Every time I drove past on my way to Raleigh a little more was built. Finally, earlier this year, the building topped off at about 10 stories, and the big red lighted O appeared on the top of the building. I wondered, what company is that? Could it be an Omni hotel, even though the Omni O doesn't look like that? What company in RTP starts with O and could be moving into that building? And it looked like part of the lights were burned out near the bottom of the O.

Well, a couple of weeks later I had my answer when the company's full name appeared in smaller letters (not visible from this angle) just to the right of the O: Quintiles, the pharmaceuticals research company. Hunh? Are they telling us those burned out bulbs at the bottom of the O are supposed to be a meaningful part of the design? Good luck figuring that out while driving past at 65 mph.

I guess their research studies exhibit better discriminant validity or they wouldn't land so many contracts.



Quintiles with a Capital O

Are Ouintiles employees as confused by
the Quter Beltline as the rest of us?
Do they rent beach houses on Qcracoke
and the Quter Banks in August?
Are they spending research money
from President Qbama’s stimulus?

Do they conduct inouiries into tropical mosouito disease,
test treatments to stop souirrels from spreading rabies?
Do they use viruses that reouire ouarrantine,
test drugs for surgical qperations,
qncological and qbstetrical applications,
ban discrimination by sexual qrientation?

How many people ouestion their very eyes
When driving past the big red O that stands for Quintiles?

&&

photo credit - me

&&

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Call of the Wild (revised)

This is polished up a bit from the earlier draft. I'll be reading this and a few others at poetrySPARK in the humor program on September 19 in Raleigh.




The Call of the Wild
For Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina

It is springtime and a young man’s fancy
is seized by the call of nature, the call of the wild,
a force beyond his control,
a force he pretty much thinks about all the time,
that in springtime shuts down all other thought,
the urgent need that can be slaked by one thing only,
by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
No time for notice to family and friends,
for itineraries left with the secretary,
for out of office notifications on the email.
Apologies to anyone trying to reach me,
but I am hiking the Appalachian Trail.
It’s as old as man,
snaking through plump mountains
and lush curves for two thousand miles.
Even a young man lacks
the stamina to do it all at once,
would have a hard time getting up
the steepest hills time after time after time,
would surely get blisters,
so I will periodically leave on short notice
to grab a piece here or there.
I beseech your understanding
when a whiff of floral cologne
drives me to thoughts of bushes
of rhododendron in bloom,
to desperate day-long hikes that climax al fresco
on moonlit mountaintop meadows,
camping in the wild, days and days and days at a time,
hiking the Appalachian Trail.

&&

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Death, Taxes, Muzak

This poem was published in the Spring 2009 issue of Main Street Rag. I've been waiting for MSR to fix the link to the table of contents for this issue, but it's been several months and it's still not fixed. You'll just have to trust me. The poem is in there.


Death, Taxes, Muzak

It’s been a long time since rock ‘n’ roll
scared middle-agers in Cadillacs,
since sarcasm was understood
by Mercedes drivers and execs,
since punk anarchists in leather jackets
snarled at corporate greed.
Now stooges have a lust for cruises
and baby got backpack at Tarzhay.


I remember the first time I saw a rock (or punk or rap) song used on a TV commercial. A commercial that was not aimed at MTV viewers. A rock song that was noise to the over-30 crowd at the time it was recorded.

Led Zeppelin selling Cadillacs?!! My grandparents would have been the target audience for Cadillacs back in the early 1970s when that song was recorded. One way to guarantee they would not buy a Cadillac would have been to have it come with Led Zeppelin on the 8-track tape player. Now that's the soundtrack to commercials aimed at people in their 40s and 50s.

This poem includes references to specific songs used in TV commercials, even directly quoting a phrase from the lyrics of some of them. I was thinking of five specific songs/commercials. Four of those should be clear. The fifth reference might be a bit vague. See whether you can identify them. I'll post the references in the comments later.

&&

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Poked

A second poem inspired by Facebook.


Poked

I’ve never been poked before,
and didn’t even know it was possible to do that,
wasn’t aware of that special
poking place down there near the bottom.
But now I do since you
cared enough to poke me.
I had been thinking about you,
looking at your page just last night.
How wonderful it was to wake up
to you poking me this morning.
I’m thinking about you now,
and your sweet poke,
as I walk about town.
People on the street smile at me.
They see the sparkle in my eye
and can tell I’ve been poked,
there’s just no hiding it.


True story: a month or so ago I was looking at the website for a publishing company that's run by a friend in Illinois. The next day Facebook informed me that she had poked me, and I was inspired to write this poem. After I emailed it to her she replied that I had actually poked her first several months ago and she had just taken a while to poke me back. I think I must have been playing around with features on Facebook when I first joined and came across the poke then and forgot about it.

&&

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Call of the Wild

It is springtime and a young man’s fancy –
the fancy of a healthy, virile young man
in the prime of his life –
is seized by the call of nature, the call of the wild,
a force beyond his control,
a force he pretty much thinks about all the time,
that in springtime shuts down all other thought,
an urgent need that can be slaked by one thing only,
by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
No time for notice to family and friends,
for itineraries left with the secretary,
for an out-of-office notification on the email.
Apologies to anyone trying to reach me,
but I am hiking the Appalachian Trail.
It’s as old as man
and it snakes through plump mountains
and lush curves for two thousand miles.
Even a young man lacks
the stamina to do it all at once,
would have a hard time getting up
the steepest hills time after time after time,
would surely get blisters,
so I will periodically be out on short notice
to grab a piece here or there.
I beseech you, be understanding
when a whiff of floral cologne
drives me to thoughts of bushes
of rhododendron in bloom,
to desperate day-long hikes that climax al fresco
on moonlit mountaintop meadows,
camping in the wild, days and days and days at a time,
hiking the Appalachian Trail.


&&

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More convenient than thou

Yesterday afternoon I came out of the supermarket to find THREE vehicles idling in the fire lane in front of the store. I just don't understand the thought process that leads people to do this. I've waited in the car before while someone was in a store, and when I have, the car has always been parked in a parking space. Okay, maybe once or twice not in a proper space, but if not, then parked somewhere out of everybody's way. People were weaving around these cars, and one of the cars was about four feet off the curb, so the driveway was squeezed to one lane, causing problems for other cars in the parking lot. This was all in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday when the lot was half empty and there were vacant legal spaces about 30 feet from the front door.

I only had two small bags and didn't need a cart, but the woman ahead of me had a fully loaded cart and one of the cars was parked right across the ramp for wheelchairs and shopping carts. She knocked on the window, and the driver was just shocked that he was in her way. He wouldn't pull out, but finally pulled forward although not far enough to clear the ramp. The woman threw her arms in the air in frustration, and the guy inched forward a bit more, until his car almost touched the car ahead. There still wasn't enough space for her to use the ramp, and another customer headed toward the store grabbed the front of her cart and helped her lift it over the curb.

Anyway, it reminded me of a poem I wrote some time ago.


More Convenient than Thou

What thought led you
to park your car in the no stopping zone
at the Seven-Eleven,
the one exact spot that manages
to block the movement
of all five legally parked cars?
Will you only be in for a minute,
as opposed to those others
meandering the aisles
lazily browsing,
their carts overflowing,
checking off five-page lists
of their monthly grocery needs?


&&

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yellow is the springtime of my decongestant

I don't recall ever suffering from hay fever until I moved to North Carolina. There's about a three week period in spring when the pine trees paint the world yellow with pollen ("tree sperm" as friend R calls it). My symptoms are usually not too bad, and only occasionally do I need a hit of loratadine (i.e., generic Claritin). A few weeks ago we went through a period of a week with sunny summery weather and no rain just when the pine trees were getting all excited. I was determined to keep up my regular evening walks, no matter how much I sneezed. The rain's arrival was literally a sight for sore eyes.



Yellow is the Springtime
of My Decongestant

The car is a giant
sugar-sprinkled jelly doughnut
to confused bees
hunting for the nectar filling.
As I watch with jaundiced eye
the first raindrops bead
into tiny powdered balls
that cling to the hood and windscreen.
Soon rivulets paint Day-Glo streaks
across the driveway,
the chartreuse Honda is white again,
and I can breathe once more.




&&

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Free Lunch

Yes, There is a Free Lunch

I have defriended you.
Nothing personal, just like it really wasn’t all that personal
to accept your invitation in the first place.
I was promiscuous in my friending then,
and since we had five friends in common,
and despite having only a vague idea of who you were,
I accepted.

But now I have defriended you.
I still don’t really know who you are,
though I see your status updates regularly:
looking forward to the weekend,
sipping wine now that the kids are in bed,
watching Steel Magnolias for the thirteenth time.
People I don’t know post karma and stickers
and Larry Fishes on your wall,
share comments on Gossip Girl and Doctor McDreamy,
tag you to answer 25 very personal questions
about things I really don’t want to know.

Burger King will give me a free Whopper
to defriend ten Facebook friends,
and let’s face it, it’s a mighty stretch to call you a friend,
so this is really a freebie.
Tomorrow while I’m eating my Whopper
I know I’ll enjoy it as much as ever, probably more, since it’s free.
There will be no guilt and no one will know
I earned it by defriending ten friends.
I’m not saying that you are worth no more
than a tenth of a fast food sandwich,
but there’s no denying your friendship
is worth less than that to me.

&&

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ode to the Friday Noon Poets

There's a local group that regularly meets to read poetry together, the Friday Noon Poets. They're a great bunch of people and they write or find a great assortment of poetry to read each week. I usually leave after the reading ends, with errands to run or other meetings to get to. But there's a group of people who sit there, like they're waiting for the others to leave...

After The Reading Is Over

After the reading is over
and some of us drive home
there’s a group that stays behind,
leaving the some to wonder what goes on.

Do they break out the really good stuff,
work that’s ahead of its time,
stanzas of overwhelming beauty
that send shivers down the spine
and back up again,
one tingling vertebra at a time?

Do they bring out the Tuscan cheese
and the Bordeaux wine
their private reserve Billy Collins,
their best original lines, and party?

Or are they reading sonnets of infinite sadness
so profound they think we couldn’t bear it?
Whatever the case, it leaves me wondering,
what do they have that they’re not sharing?

&&