Good Hard Try [Hippie Squared]

I understand that for President Obama’s climate change policy, natural gas seems to be a political necessity—a transitional energy source. However, here’s my question: Isn’t drinkable water a basic necessity for human life? How long can a human being live without water? On the other hand, is natural gas a basic necessity for human life? First things first. Water that we drink is returned to the circulatory water system of the earth. Natural gas that we extract is burned as quickly as we can pull it out of the ground, and it’s gone forever. Meanwhile, it has been widely discussed in recent years that clean water is the next great shortage that humans will face. Corporations are busily but quietly buying up sources of clean water. Whereas, the hot way of extracting natural gas right now is hydraulic fracturing, which pollutes drinking water by the millions of gallons per well, leaving it contaminated with such long-lasting pollutants as plutonium, among others. Anybody know the half-life of plutonium off the top of your head? A long time, right? Some of that polluted water gets injected back deep into the earth, where it’s somehow supposed to lie dormant and safe, so that it won’t contaminate our groundwater. Let’s see. Water is the universal solvent. It bonds so easily with other molecules, due to its high polarity, that it pulls other substances apart. The Grand Canyon was created primarily by the force of water. The Taoists characterize water as the strongest force in nature. Stronger than mountains. Certainly stronger than the rock pockets in the earth where we inject it after we’ve polluted it. Witness: “Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using...

When Muslin Extremists Spread Like Wildflower [Hippie Squared]

Here’s a word game we can play: Find all the dogberryisms in the next sentence. A terrible riff came between them, but luckily they nipped it in the butt before it became a mute point when they got caught in a worldwind and muslin extremists began to spread like wildflower. What’s a dogberryism? Same as a malapropism. And what’s a malapropism? We all know the phenomenon, whether or not we know the terms. It’s when someone uses a word in a sentence that isn’t the right word but it sounds like the right word. For instance: “Texas has a lot of electrical votes.” That’s from Yogi Berra, a well-known practitioner of the dogberryism/malapropism, swapping in “electrical” for “electoral.” I love these things. I like to collect them. Most overheard. A few I’ve made up myself. It’s infectious. If you have any good ones, drop them off in the comments—here at Fierce and Nerdy or on the Facebook post. I first learned the term malapropism from John Lennon, of all people. He used it in the classic “Lennon Remembers” interviews in Rolling Stone in 1970, to describe Ringo’s quirky phrases which Lennon used to inspire songs such as “Hard Day’s Night” and “Eight Days a Week.” Not sure those are malapropisms, exactly, but they’re clever. I only learned the term dogberryism the other day from Wikipedia’s malapropism definition. It’s from Shakespeare, via Officer Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing (I can’t wait for Joss Whedon’s new movie version!), apparently another champion purveyor of the form. A few of the six dogberryisms in our sentence above are my very favorite kind: where the wrong word can actually function to express basically the same idea as the correct word. I think this kind of malapropism/dogberryism is actually worthy of a whole new term of its own. That can be our second word game. But first let me spin out a few of our examples. “Mute point” for me is textbook. I don’t know about you, but I hear “mute point” used more often these days than the correct expression “moot point.” I would bet this is because the word mute is better known today than the word moot. So I think this could actually end up changing the language over time, if the incorrect expression overtakes the correct one through more frequent usage. How would that work? Well, what do we mean when we say, “It’s a moot point?” We mean that the real point has already been made. The moot point is irrelevant, unnecessary. Beside the point. And what would a mute point be? Technically, a point that is speechless. It doesn’t speak to the issue at hand. Therefore it’s off target, unnecessary. Beside the point. Yes, the two meanings are a little bit different. But close enough for horseshoes. Close enough to consummate an act of communication; and maybe for “mute point” to creep in on “moot point” and plunder its linguistic portfolio. So now let’s play our second word game: Anyone want to try to come up with a term for this invasive-species kind of dogberryism/malapropism? I’ll try my hand at it, but please take your own shot in the comments if you wish. Fogberryism, perhaps? Because it can serve to gently fog our minds? Benepropism? Because its effect is more benevolent, less malevolent, than a malapropism, by virtue of conducting the proper idea more or less intact from mind to mind, despite the hiccup of the technically incorrect word usage—thus being an effective act of communication? A pure malapropism is not just the wrong word, but the wrong thought entirely. An electrical vote can’t substitute for the meaning of electoral vote. It’s clearly different. A mute point, on the other hand… I’d say there are maybe three more of these fogberryism/benepropisms in our example sentence above (way above now): “spread like wildflower,” “worldwind” and my personal favorite “nipped...

Silly Smorgasbord & Rough Draft Riffs [Hippie Squared]

My mom used to do a thing she called “Silly Smorgasbord.” She’d raid the refrigerator for leftovers and the cabinets for quick items she could skid out onto the table to cobble up a dinner for my stepbrothers and me. That might sound like a lesser meal plan, but I always loved silly smorgasbord. I loved the name. And I loved the assortment of tastes and surprises. Some of my favorite dinners were silly smorgasbord. So for this installment of Hippie Squared I raided the pages of my journal and plated some recent rough draft riffs on a smorgasbord of topics. By way of preparation, I marinated a couple in their own juices, then set them to simmer at a slow rolling boil. (Say that three times fast.) I set one on the windowsill to cool. I trimmed the crust off one. Added a dash of hot sauce here, a sprinkle of cheese over there. Had fun makin’ it. Hope you enjoy it. Let’s riff on gay marriage for a minute: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and on into the inalienable rights part—that’s basically the Mission Statement for our country. It’s not in the Constitution. It’s from the Declaration of Independence. Which means there’s debate about whether it even carries the force of law. But it carries a heaping freight of moral force, doesn’t it? And in a way it’s a challenge issued to history by Tom Jefferson, John Adams and Ben Franklin—the committee who wrote it—and all the other guys who signed it—that has resounded down the decades and around the world and back. All the ways we’ve fallen short of that challenge. All the ways those men fell short of that challenge—most of them...

Reading: A Seductive Magic [Hippie Squared]

I love to read. Love love love love love it. I find it to be an incredibly intimate way to share someone else’s thought(s). They wrote it down. They signed it. They hit enter, they hit send. There’s no backing off of that. “This is what happened to me,” they are saying; or, “This is what I imagined into being. This is what I think. This is what I feel.” What a brave and abandoned thing for them to do. What a gift for them to offer. To me, it’s a profound, a mystical, an intimate and vulnerable transaction. I could, but I won’t, say sacred. On my end of the transference, as reader, I become custodian of the thought. Behind the screen of the page (or the literal computer screen). There’s a safety, for the writer, and for me, of that page or that screen coming between us. Both writer and reader stand in naked intimacy, revealed in the light of what’s been shared, but wearing the masks that make it safe. We are hidden each from the other, by the mask of the byline; my anonymity to the writer; the face of the writer’s persona turned toward me. “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth,” as Oscar Wilde said, wearing his Oscar Wilde mask. Which can all make it sound deadly serious. But to me, it’s just a shitload of fun. I love to imagine. I love to think. I love to feel. When I read, it’s like I get extra shots at these things, more than I’ve earned through my own life’s experiences. I love to let my mind and spirit loose, wandering someone else’s journeys,...

The Séance: A Ghost Story? [Hippie Squared]

The only dead person we knew between the two of us was Valerie’s Uncle Robert. So we decided that for our first séance we would call on him. Valerie was my best friend in the neighborhood. She was eleven, and I was ten, in Lansing, Michigan in the fall of 1973. First we chose the room, and made it ready. We decided on my mom’s den, a small square room at the front of the house. A confined space, easy to scan for any ghostly activity we might summon. And if we managed to conjure any full-fledged ghosts, they’d have nowhere to hide. No nooks or crannies to crawl into. Plus, the room had only two outside light sources: one big window overlooking the front porch, and one small square window up in a corner. Both windows had roller shades, which thoroughly blocked the light — the old-fashioned kind, where you pulled a cord to unroll the shade, until it caught and stayed in place. To open the shade, you gave the cord another gentle tug and it rolled up again, letting the light back in. We closed the door to the room, and turned off the light switch. We squared up about ten feet in front of my mom’s bookshelves. They were packed with books: the latest literary bestsellers, sure, but also an extensive women’s lib section; a couple of yoga books; and several shelves of books on UFOs and ESP — including multiple titles by and about the trance-mystic Edgar Cayce, the so-called “Sleeping Prophet.” But also books about the supernatural: ghosts and hauntings. I don’t remember where we learned how to conduct a séance, but it was probably from one of my mom’s books. And how cool was that for a ten...

When I Made Dick Van Dyke Laugh (A Hollywood Valentine) [Hippie Squared][Best of FaN]...

I like this tale. What’s more, I like this telling of it. Hippie Squared is often mined from my personal oral tradition–oft-told tales of my adventures. But sometimes I get the nagging feeling that I told it better years ago at a party somewhere. Not here. This time, I feel like I finally nailed it. The first thing I can ever remember specifically laughing at was Dick Van Dyke’s slapstick tumble over a footstool, when he walks in the front door in the immortal credit sequence from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Certainly it’s the first wellspring of laughter from which I knew I could draw a fresh laugh every time. (And isn’t that much of what we love about TV–those reliable comforts?) Van Dyke’s a dancer. Even when not doing slapstick, his comedy was physical. He put his whole lanky rangy body into everything, his long rubber band limbs and his long expressive face animating every line he spoke, every reaction off someone else’s line. His slapstick itself was a kind of physical comic poetry. A living limerick. My friend Fritz and I used to imitate that footstool tumble over and over with the stool in my basement family room. So it’s also no doubt the first bit I ever practiced in a conscious effort, as a routine, to elicit laughs from others. That’s why it meant so much for me to make him laugh. Which is not to advertise any great display of wit forthcoming on my part. I got the feeling that Dick Van Dyke laughs easily. He likes to laugh, he likes to make people laugh. He’s generous with his laughter. A man in the right line of work, you might say. Anyway, one sunny afternoon in the mid-eighties when I...

Accepting Thirst: Edward Field’s Kabuli Days [Hippie Squared] [BOOK WEEK]...

A travel journal is a kind of quest tale. In 1970 poet Edward Field journeyed to Afghanistan questing for Sufis (as a Gurdjieff fan); “sex, as all travelers are;” and “a little hotel clinging to a rock in the middle of a rushing river” which he saw in a National Geographic in his dentist’s waiting room. And while a tourist goes looking for sights and souvenirs, a lone traveler with a notebook is seeking transformation. Kabuli Days: Travels in Old Afghanistan is the journal of his inner and outer travels, published forty years later but still relevant. Afghanistan is ever with us. 1970 was only three years before Afghanistan’s king was deposed and the Russians invaded, before the mujahedeen and the Taliban and the decades of wars that still continue. Field’s an accomplished poet (After the Fall: Poems Old and New, 2007, among many others) and memoirist (The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag, 2006, on Greenwich Village bohemia), known for a direct poetic voice, “the simple language of truth.” Born in 1924, he became a poet in World War II. He was in his mid-forties when he wrote these pages. A travel journal takes its shape not from authorial design, like a novel, but the inescapable rhythms and patterns of a life, wrapped around the spine of a journey. Still, from Mashad, Iran, across the border to Kabul by bus, the first leg of his trip sets up scenes and themes that will recur again and again. Crowded bus rides on painful benches over rough roads past ruins, children squeezed in anywhere, with passengers from all over the world, Swiss and Pakistanis, English and Australians and French, until the bus breaks down in the desert. Field has a poet’s close eye for people...

Three Line Lunchbox [Hippie Squared]

So here it is: an assortment of items out of a Three Line Lunchbox. An apple, some chips and a few three line poems–spread ’em out on your picnic blanket. Ripe, stale, juicy or crunchy; gnaw on a couple and you decide. Enjoy with wine, beer or a glass of cool lemonade. Wild Grass I long to push This thin voice like wild grass Through that crack in the wall Late Night Groovers on the Dance Floor When you got it and you know it Man, you know You got it Wrapped in a Myelin Tortilla This freeway with its miles I’ve driven so often and so long Is surely wrapped in a myelin tortilla Along well-traveled intra-skull head highways Praise Ringo, True Drummer Lives in the moment Drums in the moment Lives in the drums Lament of the True Drummer Lord give me a band. Lord bring me songwriters. Lord send me a song to anchor. Lord lend me a beat to find And keep. Lord let my heart take its skipping, thunderous pulse. Bring it Back Around (Motto of the True Drummer) When in doubt, Bring it back Around. If you liked this post, please do us the further boon of Liking the Fierce and Nerdy page on FaceBook. Also, we’re giving great stream on Twitter, so do give us follow. featured image credit:...

Hearing My Voice Break [Hippie Squared]

When we write we are speaking, in print, in the voice of whatever we are. I find myself in a weird place right now. As I enter my fiftieth year, having come through two years of chaos and crisis in more than one arena of my life, I feel so changed that I’m not even quite sure that I know the sound of my own voice anymore. I feel the tectonic plates of my internal landscape have shifted so drastically that I’m on the other side of a faultline from the old “Hippie Squared,” and now, when I open my mouth to speak (when I hold my fingers poised above the keyboard), what comes out sounds like a squawk to me, a croak, a squeak. I hear my voice breaking. At forty-nine years old, you no longer expect to hear your voice break. Almost half a century old, and I feel like I’m speaking with a fledgling’s voice. I have to try out my old wings as if they’re new. They creak and moan with arthritis, yet it feels like I’m just learning how to unfold them and fly. I’m not even sure they’re not vestigial. I’m no longer even sure that flight is possible. But I feel forced to try. So yes, I’ve been through some hard stuff. I’m hardly alone in this, of course. The rough times are widespread. In my case: Grief. Layoff. Unemployment. Fighting to hold onto our house. Family health problems. The toll that all of these can take on our most intimate relationships. Hurting my loved one, terribly. Getting hurt. So who am I now–entering my 50th year, seemingly on the other side of the worst of it? On the earlier side of that faultline was a young...

You, Not You [Hippie Squared]

Flannery O’Connor once said that the only way to write successful autobiographical fiction is if you are able to look at yourself as a fictional character. In other words, if you can look at you as if you were not you. Autobiographical or not, your fictional characters are not you. They’re never you. Of course, they’re also all you. They’re never not you. They come from your head. Yet, if you want them to be real, you’ve got to give them their own head. Because they do come from you, they have their own integrity. An integrity that is of you. And sometimes, they know better than you. They know their little piece of you far better than you do. For instance, have you noticed that when you dream of someone you know, they talk like themselves and not like you? They say things only they would say, things that you would never think to say–if you were awake and tried to write their dialogue. Yet you did think to say those things. You did write that dialogue. With your dreaming brain. And you didn’t plan it. It was pure, real-time improv, made up on the fly. Genius improv. Buddha’s own improv. Some piece of you knows those characters in your life better than you know you do. I think about that sometimes when I’m writing fictional characters. How do I access that Buddha-genius dreaming brain when I’m awake and writing? With my fingers on the fly, writing dialogue for that integral little piece of me that I’ve set loose to try and run circles around the waking, dull, unimaginative and prosaic me that I am all too often. Me, not me.  ...

All That California Female Energy (Another Turn on the Pony) [Hippie Squared]...

It was our first rehearsal for Salome, late spring 1991. I had managed to drag Mutahar Williams along. “Mutahah,” as it was pronounced, was his Subud name, but he was very English, his voice deep and resonant, like seasoned wood: an exquisitely-tuned instrument for poetry. We’d hit the coffeehouse poetry circuit trolling for players for Festival Dionysus, our anarchic take on the ancient Greek festival of wine and theater. I found Mutahar at Lizards on Santa Monica, or the Espresso Bar in the alley off S. Raymond in Pasadena. He was a professor at Occidental College and a considerable poet. The M in MTV still stood for music then, they actually showed videos still. Mutahar felt the time was ripe for poetry videos, so he made his own. Nature poetry, shot outdoors. I think I still have the VHS cassette somewhere. But I recruited him for the Ancients Chorus in Dionysus. He was one of those who remained skeptical of the show all the way through our run. Not as skeptical as the only professional actress in our patchwork company of poets, musicians, painters and general gung-ho creative types, who kept moaning, “This is going to ruin my career,” throughout every rehearsal. She never invited anyone she knew to the show. And she’d lose herself in back whenever the whole Gray Pony Chorus took the stage. Oscar Wilde’s Salome was our follow-up to Dionysus, and it would prove to be a fluke hit (as I wrote about last month, complete with cast and crew list, synopsis, etc.), but at that first rehearsal who could know? There were at least eight women there, and only three men: Mutahar, myself, and Blaine Steele, the director. (Peditto might have been there, too–our producer, and founder of the...

Gray Pony’s Wild Ride [Hippie Squared]

We did Oscar Wilde’s Salome in our underwear in the summer of 1991 and got “Pick of the Week” in the LA Weekly for it, a big deal then. We had a hit play on our hands. We were the Gray Pony Chorus. It was a wild ride. That was the peak of our renown. Since then, we’ve vanished from the historical record. Our most illustrious alumni have dropped us from their resumes. Google us and you won’t find a single reference– other than this one, after today. (Mark Ruffalo co-directed a show we produced, but you wouldn’t know it from IMDB.) One who does remember us is Robert Prior, impresario of the acclaimed Fabulous Monsters theater troupe. I say this not to brag, but in wonder: he’s often told me our Salome was one of his favorite nights ever spent in the theater. If I didn’t already love him, I would love him for that alone. So when Robert directed a new production of Salome this summer, exactly twenty years after ours, I rounded up a reunion of our cast and crew to go see it. It seemed to mean a lot to Robert and his cast that we came. And that meant a lot to me. I have enormous affection for those old performing days. Before we did theater in our underwear, we were a fully-clothed poetry performance group. We scored poetry for multiple voices, and backed ourselves on wind and rhythm instruments, on stages and in coffeehouses– places like Onyx Sequel in Los Feliz (on the site of the present Cafe Figaro); Jabberjaw on Pico; and Highland Grounds in Hollywood, 1989 and 1990. Gray Pony’s Godfather, C. Natale Peditto, founded the group for his Master’s studying oral traditions at Cal State Northridge. The first...

Lessons of the Taoist Demon-Wrestler [Hippie Squared]

This is a special Three Line Lunch crossover edition of Hippie Squared. It’s a first edition. Save this, it could be a collector’s item. (Do I date myself? Very well then, I date myself! I am large, I contain decades.) TLL graciously offered to step in when it became clear that HS was going to miss deadline. What else are blogmates for? three line lunch: a fitful and unpredictable diary in three-line poems by Jeff Rogers Lessons of the Taoist Demon-Wrestler Sometimes the only way to wrestle a demon and winIs to tap out And leave the mat. featured image credit: cazucito If you liked this post, please do us the further boon of Liking the Fierce and Nerdy page on FaceBook. Also, we’re giving great stream on Twitter, so do give us...

Actually a River [Hippie Squared]

After almost thirty years in LA, I’m still discovering new things. Whole new worlds even. Last Sunday we took a nice walk with Riverworld on our left and Golf World on our right, and then watched astonished as Golf World gave way to Horse & Cowboy World. Our dogs had cabin fever. My wife Elise had heard about a good place to walk dogs along the LA River in Los Feliz. I’m ashamed to say, though we live in Cypress Park/Mt. Washington, not far from the majestic Great Heron Gates to the paths along the river, we’ve never really explored it. This was yet another access point, though, behind Los Feliz Cafe, which shares a parking lot with the lovely little Los Feliz Golf Course, a 9-hole 3-par municipal course. One of the great things that our taxes do for us. Rich people, of course, don’t need public golf courses. They have their own country clubs. We’re not allowed in. So they spend lots of money trying to talk the rest of us into believing that taxes are theft. But here’s a little gem of a gift from our taxes–a present that we’ve sweetly given to each other. Sure enough, we scrambled up a little dirt slope and there it was, a paved path along the LA River. And here’s the crazy thing: it’s actually a real river. Yes, it’s famously hemmed in by concrete for much of its length, with sides sloping down at about a 45 degree angle. But in recent years it’s been allowed to go native, to return partly to the wild, with vegetation growing up within it and around it; with big rocks sitting in it, water rushing by making little white water rapids; with little islands along the banks and even in...

Powerflows: Political Musings [Hippie Squared]

I keep coming back to the idea that we’re too much under the sway of what’s in the end, just a system of weights and measures gone haywire. Money, I’m talking about. And the whole monetary regime that we’re living and dying under right now — a towering teetering scaffolding built of tattered paper pretending to be bricks. And what is money, really? It has no inherent value of its own. It’s just a measurement. A measurement of perceived value. But somewhere along the line it seems to have come unmoored from its anchor. It no longer correlates reliably to any universal or ultimately defensible notion of value. And so I do fear more and more lately that we’ve gone too far down the road toward plutocracy to turn it around. There have been other flowerings of democracy in human history. We like to think of ourselves as unique, and of course we are in some ways, but there have been a number of iterations of democracy before us and many have come after us. One thing seems true, up to now: they never last long, historically-speaking. They bring on a golden age, a flowering of culture and science, advances in philosophy and human freedom, but they’re always corrupted, often into empire. It seems like the upper shelf-life limit for democracy is a few hundred years. Help me, students of history: has any democracy yet lasted longer than that? Eventually an elite of one kind or another figures out how to accrue enough power unto itself that by the time the others realize what’s happening it’s too late to prevent or reverse it. The only historical certainty is that the political-economic system we have now won’t last forever. It will change into something very different....

The Snail’s-Pace Chase [Hippie Squared]

I was living in Hollywood then, dead across from the last known address of the Black Dahlia at 1842 North Cherokee. It was the crack years in Los Angeles, and my once-tony neighborhood was a center of the trade. I lived in a grand old apartment building fallen on hard times, called Cliffwood Terrace, just a block and a half above Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, with it’s then-greasy stars embedded in grimy cement; only half a block below Franklin Ave where it ran along the base of the Hollywood Hills; and within easy walking distance of Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland’s hand prints in concrete at the Chinese Theater. Yet if you did want crack, and you were a comparison shopper, then Cherokee and Yucca, half a block south of my apartment, was the place to go. Nearly round the clock you’d have your pick of four dealers, one on each corner of the intersection. Though I was never a customer I quickly leaned that I had nothing to fear from my neighborhood tradesmen. In fairly short order they even became friendly acquaintances. I’d give a smart nod and an “hola,” whenever I strolled past. Before long they’d perk right up when they saw me coming. They’d greet me with a chorus of smiles, nods, “holas” and “heys” from all four corners as I walked by. And I would return each one with scrupulous courtesy. Parking tickets were the problem for me in that neighborhood. My car got booted more than once. The posted street cleaning hours were positively uncivilized. 8am to 10am, two days a week, one side or the other of the street was forbidden to cars. As it was, parking in the area was at such a premium...

Wilderness Survival [Hippie Squared]

When I was nineteen I took a Wilderness Survival class at Lansing Community College. For the final we had to pair up with a classmate and survive a night without tent, sleeping bags or gear in the late fall Michigan woods. No snow, but still plenty cold enough to catch a nice case of hypothermia and die. The last class before the final we ate crickets fried in butter and picked our partners for the final. The crickets tasted like popcorn, except their shells crunched, and their little legs got caught in my teeth. I was a part-time student and it was a night class. I hadn’t really made friends with anyone. So I got stuck with the last guy who had no partner. Carl, his name was. Short, stocky and pudgy, with dark hair and a goatee. The kind of guy who talked like he knew all the answers, but if he ever actually listened he might have learned that he was mostly full of shit. The instructor, Mr. Green, looked every bit the mountain man scholar, with his barrel chest, glasses, and bushy beard. His uniform never varied: hiking boots, jeans, flannel shirts and a puffy down vest. A dedicated backpacker, he had hiked the entire Appalachian trail. He had camped solo on Isle Royal in the middle of Lake Michigan, serenaded to sleep by one of the last remaining wolf-packs in the continental U.S. The man knew his subject. “My Wilderness Survival class is basically pass-fail,” he said. “If you and your partner survive the night, you get an A. If either one of you gets hypothermia and dies, you both fail the class.” We’d seen a very scary film about hypothermia earlier in the term. When your core body-temperature dropped too low for...

Hippie Squared: Some Things I Remember and Some I Don’t

I was working the Sunset Strip that night. I pulled my cab over to the curb in front of the Rainbow, or Gazzari’s, or the Coconut Teaser. It was a Friday or a Saturday night in early 1987—a long time ago. There are some things I remember, and some things I don’t. I remember her. She got into the cab first, while he held the back door open and I watched over my shoulder. She ducked her head and her straight dark hair hung down, a little mussed. She lifted her face as she sat and it was utterly lovely. Lovely and young. I was young, then, too. But she was younger. She held her long gray-and-white checked coat tightly closed with one hand. With the other she tucked it under her bare thighs as she slid along the seat. As the full length of her legs came into my sight between the seats I saw that she was barefoot too. She caught my eyes and gave me a shy, up-from-under look. Up from under long lashes. And shy, yes, but she held my gaze. As if she might have a secret. A secret she might like to share. He climbed in after her. I have no memory of what he wore. Black, probably. Short, tousled, dirty-blond hair. Chiseled features. A good-looking enough guy. Not a match for her necessarily, but not too much of a stretch. The English accent closed the gap, when he opened his mouth to tell me where to take them. Not posh; it sounded working-class to me. “Could you please find us a liquor store? Or somewhere we can pick up a bottle of something? Then on to Venice? To the beach?” He looked at her, patted her thigh, and...

Hippie Squared: Macaroni Superstar

Yes, it’s only from a box. But the classic, Kraft Dinner-style, bright, nearly radioactive orange mac ‘n’ cheese is a sensual treasure and a deep comfort. Properly prepared, it’s a fallen beauty elevated anew in this cardboard modern world—a redemption of the cheap and commercial. First you boil the water, until the lid of the pot clatters a tin discordant improv. You pull out a few little tubes of macaroni, with a slotted spoon, run just a dash of cold water over them; put them to your lips, test them. Bite down gently, slurp them into your mouth and chew. You’re looking for al dante—not too soft, not too firm—the firmness of an aroused nipple held gently between loving teeth. When it’s like that, just right, you dump it in the colander, then back into the pot. The art is in the mix of butter, milk and cheese. First carve off little chunks of butter, stir them into the still-steaming macaroni, until it’s uniformly coated, until it shines, until rivulets of yellow butter swim at the bottom. Time to add in the cheese. One can’t stress enough the delicacy of this. Don’t dump it all in at once. Sprinkle about a third of the contents of the cheese envelope over the buttered macaroni. Then add a dollop of milk, and stir. Listen to the sound of the stirring, the squishiness of it, as the noodles slide against each other and around the pot and tumble over each other. Continue to add cheese and milk, alternating, careful that you aim for creamy, but not milky or watery, and not too dry. Luscious, is what you’re after. The perfect balance that would make Goldilocks exclaim, “Just right!” at the creamy orange goodness of it, the lip-smacking squishiness of it,...

Hippie Squared: Gold Country Gold [FaN Favorites]

. a favorite blogumn by Jeff Rogers Jeff Says: It wasn’t easy for me to pick a favorite “Hippie Squared” to rerun. I’m pleased to find how many of them I’m still happy with. But “Gold Country Gold” has a few things to recommend it. It might be the most purely crafted of them all. It was only my third one, so I was still taking Ernessa’s 300 word limit seriously. So it’s tight. I like the characters, I like the dialogue, I like the local color. I like the punchline. And it’s all true. But the ultimate reason I chose it? It’s my wife’s favorite. And she has good taste. So Sweet Elise, this one’s for you, babe. Enjoy. From November 24, 2008 “Out here we grow amunds. ‘Almonds’ are what we sell.” Lou’s giving me the tour. “This year the birds got ‘em all. Wasn’t worth knockin’ one tree.” Past the almond groves their acreage ends at the edge of a tree-filled canyon. Successive ridges of oak-dotted yellow hills climb to the gray line of Sierra Nevadas. Three canyons over the gold rush began. My wife and I have taken her mother to see cousin Bertie for the first time in fifty years. They grew up together, third generation San Franciscans. Irish great grandfather fled the potato famine. Grandfather “Pop-pop” owned seven saloons on the Barbary Coast and a famous night spot in San Francisco. The first floor was a public restaurant. The second floor an exclusive one. Third floor was the brothel. Bertie takes in refugees. She takes us to feed the burro his nightly garlic bread. He’s as big around as he is long. “He loves his garlic bread.” Someone shot the burro’s friend the goat. And bobcats got the chickens. But they’ve...

Hippie Squared: That Curious Ribbon (The Essential Metaphor)

Lately I’ve been thinking about life as a journey again–the inescapable, essential metaphor: That Curious Ribbon What other metaphor Can I really imagine for all this Than a journey Down a ribbon of road? Then the metaphors crowd in. Just to ask is to call them round. But I take off running that curious ribbon And leave them all behind. Each day I need my pinch– Just a pinch to get by– Of leave-taking. Just to waver in my body for that sweet instant. Trudging up a dusty path through scrub Five puffing minutes to command a vista Successive rows of hills and houses Infinite sky and tumbling clouds. Just to waver in my self for that sweet instant. The threat of leaving. The promise of leaving. The necessity to stay. Each day I long to lose my way. Just one wrong turn each day I pray Will keep me Squarely on my way. This body with its tastes. This skin with what it knows and finds. These eyes that sting and baptize. Never can it all be seen, never. Each face looks out With the eyes of every face And every arrow points north. But every arrow is set spinning in the wind. Friends pull round the fire and rest Call out stories and jokes Swirl in their own heads and sing. In the morning each one heads north In a different direction. Each head will find its own pillow. Whether on stones or feathers Some heads are harder than others. What metaphor is found by this one When this one finally lays down But the sleep at the end of the day The bed in some far elbow of the road? And that curious ribbon Winds on through dreams Swallows its own...

Hippie Squared: Coffee

. by Jeff Rogers and Scott Roat Black and silver spools, an uncoiling ribbon, architecture of feverish reveries built on bricks of beans; an egg, blue, sliding across the plate, a slick track of oil collects at the lip; wash it away with coffee, holy coffee, energy oil, tincture of high wire nerves; the sleepy reason, as clouds part, releasing Gothic sunshine curves as the first drop uncoils from the black spool, warming my mouth; illusion of time returns uncoiling in a black and silver morning stretch; the crisp skin of bacon, overcooked, crumbles its brittle bones between my teeth; membrane of egg peeled back from plate, slivers of crunch potato, tears of crunch bread; thin dollops of purple jam crease the corners of my mouth; all to bed the stream for black and silver baptism, all for steam and rush of holy bean distilled: a gemstone, a black diamond in the center of the plate, unconscionably large, black, and unashamed, sacred tincture between earth and sky, ageless compression of the holy bean; balm for the weary, prop for the weak, mediator for disputes of philosophers, centerpiece at the peace table, shameless bean carry me off to breakfast, where I swell with the day–release, release! lay me back in gentle brown river uncoiled. Today’s coffee, pictured above: Double cortado from  Cafe Tropical, Los...

Hippie Squared: Wishing for a Pair of Wings and a Set of Goggles

Wishing for a pair of wings and a set of goggles, Warren Crutch washed the floor, while his elderly mother hovered nearby, and when he finished, he left the house. He walked the late afternoon streets alone until he reached the home of his girlfriend, Alabaster Lane. With blonde hair and yellow teeth, she lived in a dark walk-up, where they watched the night fall and felt each other breathing. The streets that took him there were not set at right angles, none of the corners he turned were ninety degrees. He felt there was no way to get to her dwelling without wasting space, turning extraneous corners and then having to steal back the lost degrees later, at further mislaid corners. He always walked the same set of streets, but he looked for new combinations, more economical paths to lead him to his dense darling, Alabaster Lane. She poured him wine, in a porcelain mug she’d bought for him, stained in dark rings all the way up, at different levels for the different amounts he’d drunk before they set aside the wine and touched each other. He thought he could figure out the age of their relationship if he just once counted the rings in his mug, but whenever he thought to, it was already too late and if he tried to focus on the rings they all blurred together and he would think, “Oh yes, that’s right, I’ve loved her forever,” and he would put aside the mug and kiss her. Next time he saw her the wine would still be there, on the table by the bed, and they would dump it into the sink and pour a new portion. And she would pour herself one too. The streets he walked, he...

Hippie Squared: Penetrating the Wizard’s Bookshelf [Father’s Day]...

When I was a kid my dad was a private detective. He was a spy. He was a master scientist and a crusader for justice. He was a wizard. His bookshelves held the keys to his powers. They loomed above me there in his den where I slept when I visited him on weekends. Jacked up on Pepsi and potato chips, I would lie awake for hours scanning the titles. They held secrets. They held clues. They held knowledge, wisdom, spells and formulas. I memorized their titles and the swirling art on their covers. I read the back cover blurbs, the quotes from critics, the forewords and prefaces and afterwords. I scanned their indexes for the power words and concepts. I dipped into their contents and read a sentence here, a paragraph there. How could one person master it all, I wondered. How could I ever hope to be as well-read, as well-informed, as penetrating and wise. I loved to watch my dad, the 70s divorced bachelor professor, hold forth at parties. I liked to watch the eyes turned toward him, the people assembled around him suspended on the line of his conversation. It always seemed to me that whatever the voices in the room, my dad’s came out definitive. “Of course,” I would think, when I heard him lay out with clarity the injustices of racism, segregation, chauvinism. He would eagerly argue for the Equal Rights Amendment or Affirmative Action against anyone, of any race, man or woman. He’d flay Nixon with glee. The Vietnam War, once he got ahold of it, was transparently a mistake, a waste. He seemed to gain stature—like Gandalf in Tolkein’s descriptions of how he would transform from a bent old man into an imposing figure when riled...

Hippie Squared: Before the Jump

So with a blog due last night and a basketball game to watch, I thought I’d try a little experiment: write a poem about the game in real time as I watched the game. Didn’t get very far: Elise came home with dinner, we paused the game, fed the dogs and cats, had pina coladas on the patio, came back and watched the rest together. But I got a chunk out of it that I like. And I aim to continue the practice throughout the series, so by the next Hippie Squared I’ll have more. In the meantime, after the jump, a little basketball poem I’m calling “Before the Jump.” Before the Jump (Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals 2010 Game 2 Impressions) It starts from before the beginning: Player introductions. Laker Center Andrew Bynum bounces out Shoulder-butts a teammate and spins off him. Derek Fisher ducks and crab-walks out through standing teammates, Brushing each hand, then in a ritual series of hand motions He pats his thighs, cross-brushes his lapels, passes both hands Across his bald head, pats his lapels. Kobe strides out, brushing and slapping a gauntlet of teammates hands, His game-face on: mouth face set, eyes focused straight ahead And right past the present into the game, unflashy bravado of the champion, The one who has done it and knows how to do it How it works and feels in the mind Where championships are won, how it works and feels in the body, Where championships are won. Phil Jackson with his clipboard is inscrutable, unreadable, calmer than anyone. How many times has he been here before? He’s climbed this Everest More than most and he’s used to the thin air up here, He can breathe at this height and in this pressure, He’s...

Hippie Squared: Woulds (Elegy for a Mystic Poet Died Too Soon)

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers I think the advice that we give to others is often exactly what we need to hear ourselves. Have you noticed that? Do you agree? I wrote this poem years ago for a talented, charismatic, ambitious poet I knew named Tony Clay. We were in a poetry performance group that evolved into a theater troupe called Gary Pony back in 1989-90. He was once described by mistake in a poetry reading flyer as “Frantic Poet Tony Clay” and the description always stuck in my mind because it was so appropriate. It seemed he could not be still. He was into the occult, he was charismatic and good-looking and he liked to seduce men, women and more men. He liked altering his state of consciousness, he liked club-hopping, he liked the glamor of being a poet. He really seemed to be banking on the idea that some sweeping change in human consciousness was going to come about by all of us doing our poetry and performance thing, and then he wouldn’t have to worry about anything practical ever again, he’d be loved and revered as the mystic shaman poet master that he was. He ended up alienating many of his friends (a good story for another time), contracting HIV and getting beaten up in an alley in Paris and dying shortly after in a Paris hospital. I wrote this poem for his memorial and read it for him then. I’d said much of this to him once in a phone conversation, but of course it didn’t make any difference. If you’ve been following Hippie Squared and Three Line Lunch lately you might have noticed I’ve been thinking a lot about how to ground myself in the present moment, get out of...

Hippie Squared: Forget Foucault! Damn Derrida! Stan’s the Postmodern Man!...

I’ve been reading some of the old Marvel comics lately (look no farther than Three Line Lunch #239 for the evidence) in collections—early issues of Spider-Man in the Marvel Masterworks color reprint series and tonight one of the first Iron Man comics in Essential Iron Man, a black and white collection. It’s fun stuff. It’s also incredibly postmodern. I think that might be one of the reasons so many currently hip literary guys—Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem leap to mind—not only liked comics, but Marvel in particular. What initially struck me as so postmodern is the self-consciousness of the hype. Issue #11’s cover blazes: “The Long-Awaited Return of Doctor Octopus!” It’s only issue #11—how long could the wait have been? Issue #12’ cover calls itself, “The latest…the greatest Spider-Man Super Spectacular.” When it’s really just another issue, and everybody knows it. But the hype is done with a wink. It’s all part of the fun. The postmodern stuff seems to all come from Stan Lee. I think he’s an archetypal postmodernist. There’s a whole meta-narrative created by his constant referencing of himself, the artists, and the fact and process of creating the comic books you’re reading—much of that meta-narrative carried in and around the hype. The splash page of issue #14, which introduces the Green Goblin for the first time (and guest stars the Hulk), proclaims—in three separate word boxes, each a different shape: “Only the Merry Marvel Madmen could have dreamed him up!” — in an arrow-shaped box pointing to this rectangular box: “Here’s how it happened: The gang at the bullpen said let’s give our fans the greatest 12 cents worth we can! Let’s get a really different villain…a bunch of colorful henchmen for him…and let’s even add a great guest star!! So, we...

Hippie Squared: Twenty-One Line Brunch

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers So my other feature on this site is Three Line Lunch, my diary in three line poems–one of which will run later today, if I get it finished in time. I first took on the project of a year-long diary in three line poems from September 1, 1993 through August 31, 1994. Which by grand design of the Muses turned out to be the year I met and courted my wife, so that got me some good stuff. And over the years since, every now and then I’ve found myself returning to the wonderfully flexible, nearly formless form (as I have practiced it, anyway) of the three line poem. Anyway, here I am on the night my Hippie Squared piece is due, and I got nothin’.  Ernessa suggested I do a thing about cutting my hair, which is a great idea, but it’s growing into a larger meditation on change, and I’m still working on it. So for fun, I thought I’d run a few of the old three-liners from sixteen years ago. Back then there was no such thing as the world wide web. Or was there? I don’t remember. If so, it was early going, and I sure didn’t post my daily poems on it. I did read them out at coffee houses, though. Including a few of these. Guess you could call this a kind of Hippie Squared/TLL crossover/mash-up. Enjoy. First off, on one of the most common battles between the sexes — sleeping temperature negotiations: Nocturnalistical Intemperatures I’m too hot, she’s too cold; peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Fan in spinny and windy open:  I happy, she freezy. Fan unspinny and windy down:  she’s toasty, everything’s breezy. About my old cat Shadow, now a...

Hippie Squared: Red Sleeping

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers Leaving his body was very hard; for a long time I couldn’t do it. I just kept stroking his fur, and getting down and hugging him, from behind, like I would do in bed when it was a cold night and he would move up and lie next to me for warmth. I’d hold him from behind with my hand holding his chest, his rib cage, where the fur was white. He was so soft. I also kept putting my face down next to his, the soft fur on his cheek, kissing his snout and his cheek, the ruff there—knowing I’d never feel it again, memorizing the feeling, as I had been for months while he lived with the cancer, so that particular unique sensation would remain within my sense memory for as long as possible. Elise asked for scissors to cut off a lock of his fur. We ended up cutting several locks from different places. From the fringe up near his front leg, from the ruff collar around his head. Some of the white from his chest. Elise set up a little shrine to him at home. She went through old photos and found a great one of his “JFK look,” looking very noble and handsome (not digital, unfortunately, or I’d post it here). She nestled the photo, and the locks of fur in a small basket, inside his rugged, beat-up leather collar, with a candle between, and now the cedar box of his ashes, on the mantel. For anyone who’s never loved a dog, this might all seem a little elaborate and excessive. Anyone who has loved a dog will understand. It’s a wordless love on one side of the equation, and yet the communication...

Hippie Squared: Red My Old Dog in the Morning

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers I admit it. He was my favorite. My favorite dog ever in the whole wide world. And he died two Saturdays ago. If you follow my “Three Line Lunch” feature here on Fierce and Nerdy then you might have read about it. And you might have read some of my previous chronicles of Red’s decline, as he aged and as his cancer took hold. I wrote about our trip north to Mendocino to take him to the redwoods one last time, because he always loved camping and the outdoors. The photograph you see here is from that trip; the three-line poem that accompanies it is here. We took him down into a truly primeval and magical redwood forest, but he was so old and arthritic that he couldn’t really make it back out on his own. So I hoisted him on my shoulder and carried him about half a mile out the trail to the car. He seemed quite happy about the whole arrangement. That’s the thing about Red. He was a truly happy fellow. One of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known on planet earth, human or animal. His happiness was infectious. He had the softest fur of any dog I’ve ever petted. The most common reaction when people would pet him for the first time: you could see them visibly relax. The tension would drain out of their faces. And then pretty much word for word, with little variation, they’d say, in a tone of wonder: “Oh, he’s so soft.” We were lucky, all of us—my wife Elise, me, and particularly Red. He kept that happiness to his last day. I’m sure when he was actually dying he wasn’t all that happy, but he didn’t seem to...

Hippie Squared: Can I Make a Blog Out of This?

What do I write about for my blogumn today—which is late, by the way? What kept me lying awake in bed this morning when I woke up before dawn? All the things I have to take care of. All the things on my mind. Mindfulness is on my mind. Thankfulness is on my mind—but plaguing me. There are people I haven’t thanked, people I’ve neglected, whole areas of my life gone fallow. Long lost family I’ve not talked to in years, family friends, all of that. There are plane tickets, plans to make for a trip back to the Midwest for my niece’s bat mitzvah and transport of my mom’s old furniture and books and papers out here, a cross country trip with my brother Ray. There are money matters that need attending to, book balancing and budgeting. This blogumn is overdue. I’ve been out of work for awhile; going back next week; been hearing rumors of what’s been happening there when I’ve been gone and at some point I’ll have to turn my attention in that direction, figure out what I’ll be walking into when I return. There’s stuff on this computer that’s important to me that I haven’t backed-up yet. How is it that all of it piles up? I turned off my 6:30 alarm at 6am this morning and got up and sat down at this computer and began to type. Can I make a blog out of all this? There are probably any number of blogs I could make out of this, if I pick a direction and go with it. At least I feel a little empowered now, because I’m writing this, and at the same time I’m downloading the new version of iTunes to my computer and my...

Hippie Squared: I Think, Therefore I Ramble Through My Moments

I’ve been working on mindfulness lately. What do I mean by that? Well, to take myself as the starting point: I think, therefore I ramble. I think and think and think and therefore I am unfocused. I like thinking. I’m a fan of it. I’m doing it pretty much all the time. But too often my thoughts are like a kite on a cross-windy day—leaping up, diving down, darting left, darting right, executing a spontaneous pattern of loops and curls and straight short shots. My thinking is often a speech, or a dialogue, or a monologue, directed outward, toward an imagined audience of one or millions. I am explaining how I came to write a poem. I’m holding forth on Obama and the ungovernability of the United States in the 21st century. Maybe I’m lost in a righteous argument with someone. Or just telling a funny story, or saying something wise. Rarely am I thinking directly to myself. More importantly, in a way, for mindfulness: rarely am I standing solidly in my present space and time, without a constant commentary track that usually isn’t even talking about the movie I’m watching—what’s actually going on in the here and now. It’s off somewhere and somewhen else—a remembered past, an imagined future, a conjured alternate timeline. I’ve written here before about my theory of the moment as the essential unit of human experience. Like an atom is to matter, the moment is to our experience of our lives. And because each of us is different from each other and moving through time on our own individual track, each moment you have belongs only to you. No one else gets your moment. And you get each moment only once. You can never recreate it. At best you can only partially...

Hippie Squared: Secret Beach & Sweet Elise Answers

Earlier in the week our friend directed us to a secret beach north of Malibu. When we came over the mountains and saw the ocean, at first look it was almost gray in the late afternoon sun. It was cut by hills, and off to the right it looked even more gray. Until we realized that off to the right we were seeing clouds, hanging over the ocean. “Clouds are really just an ocean in the sky,” said Elise. We climbed a trail to the bluffs above the secret beach. We brought wine but no glasses, so we passed the bottle back and forth. We ate cheese and pate and crackers, cherries and grapes. Dark chocolate truffles and a chocolate eclair. We held hands, we kissed. We shared our secret silence on the secret bluffs above the secret beach. We watched the hawks soar, the pelicans glide, and the gulls flap. We saw creatures out in the ocean and tried to decide if they were dolphins or seals. In the end, I believe we decided they were both: those with dorsal fins were dolphins, those with flat fin tails were seals. And we watched the whole colorful progress of the sunset, from the orange ball of fire sitting on the horizon, to the pink wisps of clouds trailing above the horizon after the ball of fire fell below it, to the deep dusk that gave us more secret space for deeper secret kisses. It was sort of an early Valentine’s Day outing. And that’s where this photo comes from. I think that occasion and this photo well match the following poem, which I wrote many years ago, and which I also recited at our wedding five years ago. Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweet Elise! Sweet...

Hippie Squared: Making My Mom’s Mistake

Is there a gene for putting too much milk in the macaroni and cheese mix? And could it lie dormant for over forty years, only to be triggered by stress in middle age? These are the questions I pondered three nights ago as I felt my mom’s ghost laughing at me, finally. I was raised largely on packaged and processed foods—I used to hate vegetables, because the ones I ate all came out of a box and were boiled in a bag, then spread nearly lifeless on the plate. But man did I love my Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese—a top comfort food to this day. Creamy, cheesy, and that special heavenly orange color all its own. My mom would serve it with ham, and green beans—boiled in a bag, yes, but somehow the golden glow of the macaroni and cheese shone on them and gave them new life and taste. That’s when I was an only child in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Idyllic days, for me, in some ways. And certainly relatively calm and peaceful. So later, when my mom married my step-dad and we moved in with him and his three sons in East Lansing, I suppose the dramatic decline in quality of her mac-and-cheese execution became a symbol to me of the chaos and conflict of our new household. Instead of thick and creamy it became thin and milky, almost watery. I was an angry teenager by then, so even though I knew she had a lot to deal with, I still complained. “I’m doing it the same way I always did,” she’d say. This drove me crazy. She was an archaeologist, a scientist. Seemed to me this argument violated her training. “Obviously you didn’t because it didn’t come out the same.” I...

Hippie Squared: The Tickle Game

I set out on our trip to South Carolina for family Christmas this year with one central mission: to win the hearts and minds of my niece Genevieve, age five and my nephew Jackson, age four. I had the honor five years ago to share Genevieve’s first Christmas, but she was less than a year old then and she doesn’t remember me bouncing her on my knee while she laughed. She and Jackson don’t seem to remember Christmas from two years ago very clearly either, which is just as well. They just seemed scared of me that year. But that’s okay, I told myself then. Time is on my side. So on the first full day of our trip this year, I found my opening. Genevieve drifted over near me in the living room, looking for something to do. I don’t know how I was inspired to ask this–I guess it just seemed like an important part of a kid’s resume–but I said, “Are you ticklish?” “Yes,” she replied, with a little lyrical upward lilt that seemed to invite further inquiry. “Do you like to be tickled?” “Yes,” she answered again, a little more slyly than shyly this time. So I invited her to be tickled. I stationed myself kneeling on the soft rug in the central hallway not far from the Christmas tree, and she and soon Jackson, called by the laughter of his cousin, would play at trying to get by me. I would grab them and tickle them: the magic waist spot, armpits, bottoms of feet, even the neck eventually. They would roll and tumble and laugh and giggle. This quickly became known as “The Tickle Game” and we played it almost every day. Jackson is a real competitor—at about two he asked his parents to call him...

Hippie Squared: Friends at First Sight

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers Yesterday it was my birthday. How many people have you known who shared your birthday? Have you been close with any of them? One of my oldest and closest friends, Scott Roat, was born one year after me, same day, but we met both as freshmen at the University of Cincinnati in a beginning German class. In an early class we had to tell our birthdays in German, and we were both December 5th. I could tell just by looking at him that we could be friends. He has never really remembered me from that class, though. The first time he remembers me is the time I asked him to buy me a meatball sandwich. I remember that I introduced myself to him after that class. Had a quick conversation of maybe no more than three or four sentences and went about our ways. May have even found out about both of us being aspiring writers, but that might have come later. But I lived in the dorms. They served every meal except Sunday night dinner and one night on a Sunday I found myself, a hungry freshman boy college student wandering the streets of Clifton, the neighborhood surrounding the university, with no money and casting myself upon the fortunes of fate to furnish a meal. I believe I also had a coupon in my pocket, cut from the college newspaper—a two for one Sunday night special at the local sandwich shop. I loitered near this shop hoping someone I knew would come by, and I could cadge a sandwich off them. Down the darkening street I saw Scott approaching, on this chilly fall night, black coat on, lapels up, his hands thrust in pockets. I think I knew...

Hippie Squared: Family Thanksgiving with Friends

Thanksgiving is by tradition spent with family. But in a place like Los Angeles, particularly, many of us are far from our families, but among friends who become our local families. I’ve been in Los Angeles a long time, and while I’ve often gone back to Michigan for Christmas, I’ve only rarely gone back for Thanksgiving. For a few years there a group of friends from Michigan who had all moved out here would gather for Thanksgiving, and that was nice. As I became more entwined in a new life here, though, I began to develop of group of local friends with whom I had more in common at that time: artists, poets, writers. They reflected what I was becoming, not where I had come from. Getting a new group of friends can be hard. One can become divided. Sometimes you grow into a new group of friends, but you rarely, truly outgrow the old—certainly not if there was any depth to those original friendships. If you can gradually meld the two groups that helps. Invite them all to parties consistently and eventually they’ll inter-mingle and they will probably blend well over time. Anyway, the new group of friends was originally centered around Lani and Steve, Shelley, Harold, Rolly, Kimberley, and Barbara Romain and Chris Peditto. Over the years I’ve spent many a Thanksgiving with those people and others in that circle in various combinations. But I courted that group of friends for some time before I truly felt like I belonged. Barbara is an artist, and she and Chris in particular are close to my wife Elise and I now. Not long ago Elise and I were at Barbara and Chris’s house. She rotates her paintings on the walls, new ones, old ones,...

Hippie Squared: Goofy old Genesis

As a sort of coda to my last two blog postings about matters spiritual and religious, I thought I’d say a few words coming off seeing the art exhibit of R. Crumb’s illustrated version of Genesis at the Armand Hammer museum. I wrote about it already, over here, in my other Fierce and Nerdy incarnation, “Three Line Lunch,” but three lines only captures a little of what I felt was noteworthy. A close reading of Genesis reveals a lot. Crumb, in his project of illustrating it, has given it his own close reading. And since he reproduces the text nearly word for word, if you read his version, you do a sort of guided close reading of your own. There’s a lot to notice in that crazy book that doesn’t often get talked about. I remember reading once that something like 94% of self-identified atheists had read the bible, whereas, for instance, something like 6% of Catholics had. That doesn’t surprise me. There’s so much in there that works only as myth. To take it literally, word-for-word, as fundamentalist Christians do, is simply ludicrous. Anyone who tries to do that is contorting their brain in ways that just can’t be healthy for their overall cognition. There’s much in Genesis that seems pretty clearly to be a mash-up of different versions of the same basic stories. It’s easy to believe that when the priestly caste got together to codify this thing, they had to resolve various versions from various sub-groups of the overall tribe, to get them to mesh. And they didn’t always mesh all that comfortably. Crumb’s introduction takes up the notion that part of what’s at work in it is an assertion of patriarchy over earlier matriarchal traditions, and it’s not hard to...

Hippie Squared: The Face of God in Burger King (Or Was That the Back of His Head?)...

This is part two. But I think it’s self-contained. You be the judge. If not, you can find part one right over here. In fact, I hope you’ll check it out either way. We were talking about God. Or the lack thereof. You know, just good old fashioned party talk. Unless you’re luckless enough to live in one of those all-too-frequent times and places run or over-run by religious fanatics. In which case such talk could get you burned at the stake, crucified, stretched on the rack or suicide-bombed. When last we left me, in part one, it was around the time that I was calling myself a “spiritual atheist.” What did I mean by that? I’m not really sure, except that I didn’t believe in god, per se, but I was attracted to Taoism and Buddhism, two religions that don’t require a god. And I’d been intrigued all my life by the kinds of questions considered by religions, astrophysicists, and poets: ultimate questions. What is? Why? How long? What came before, if anything? What will come after, if anything? What’s right to do, while we’re here? What’s wrong to do, and why? And with great trepidation, fearing I might be perceived rude somehow or unenlightened, I had told the enlightened Buddhist master, Maezumi Roshi of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, that I was an atheist. With great compassion he had asked, “Is that a problem for you?” throwing me back on my spiritual heels. “No,” I’d said. But the Roshi was far smarter than I. He was enlightened, after all. And I can get insufferably impressed with myself at times, but I know damn well I’m far from enlightened. So that one stuck with me, and it nagged at me. And I...

Three Line Lunch: Hippie Was Not Their Word (Bivins Reminisces)

a yearlong diary in three-line poems by Jeff Rogers, day 60 Hippie Was Not Their Word (Bivins Reminisces) The denizens of the Haight called themselves freaks. “If someone came around talking about hippies, We all just thought, show us your fucking badge, you...

Hippie Squared: Me and the Buddhist Master

In keeping with Ernessa’s “Month of Minefields” I’m going to write about a subject I’ve touched on in poems, but never written about at length in prose, a subject rife with tricky territory and a few emotional minefields for me: religion; spirituality. Ah, let’s just say it plain: God. And/or the lack thereof. I propose to do this in two parts. This week: Me and the Buddhist Master. Next week: Seeing the Face of God in Burger King. On a one-block idyllic dead-end lane in Kalamazoo, Michigan I was raised an atheist/agnostic among church-goers. Only one of the early developments that made me something of a mild but permanent outsider. My dad was more the atheist and my mom more the agnostic. My dad’s antipathy to religion was intense and easily provoked. He’d been raised by a fundamentalist Christian grandmother who forbade him from playing with the Catholic girls down the street or playing baseball with black kids. Somehow he spotted the ignorance of it all and broke from her early. It didn’t take much to get him going about how most major wars had been fought in the name of religion. Still, some Sundays I would go to church with my friend Fritz from across the street. He was always bored and would try to sneak out of the service. But I secretly liked it. His dad would give us quarters to put in the collection plate, but Fritz figured out a trick: stick your hand into the plate with the quarter and rattle the coins around, but palm the quarter. I did it out of peer pressure but I felt it was wrong. I liked the sermons. I didn’t “believe,” but I liked to hear moral and philosophical questions taken up with such...

Hippie Squared: Jack and Jill Up Poetry Hill

When I started the Three Line Lunch project, my daily poetry post on this site, Ernessa asked me if I’d write here in “Hippie Squared” about how the average Jack or Jill could access their poet within. I promised her I would, and then procrastinated on it, because it felt a little presumptuous. But since I do write something I dare to call poetry, every day in fact, and so far the Poetry Police haven’t made me stop, I guess maybe that’s some sort of minimum qualification to offer a few words on the matter. Let me boil my own philosophy down to two main points, and then I’ll go back and expand on them a bit: How to access the poet within: 1. Notice your life. 2. If you can talk you can write. Now let’s take a step back for a moment. What the hell is a poem, anyway? What are the rules? Well, I’ll tell you—the rules are pretty loose these days. So I say: take full advantage of that fact. A poem no longer has to rhyme—but it can. It doesn’t require metaphors, similes, alliteration, all those traditional poetic effects—but it can use them if it wants. It doesn’t have to be in a particular rhythm or a certain number of lines—but it can be. All poetry used to be spoken or sung. All those tricks helped people keep poems in their heads. One definition of poetry is: memorable speech. Over the centuries, as writing came along, poetry became literary. The mnemonic devices of form became less important, until now in literary journals free verse is most common—no rhyme, few rules. Of course, now we have a counter-movement of “slam poetry” and spoken word, where rhyme and those other memory/sound...

Hippie Squared: Freeing “Freeing the Balloons”

Found this old poem the other day. Over the last few years my wife and I let our home offices fall into a state of intolerable disorganization. Turns out my friend Jenny at work helps people with such problems, and she’s great at it. In our last session (“Three Line Lunch: Being Organized by Jenny”) she had me crack open an old file box of my writing. This poem was the first folder I pulled out. It’s about twenty-five years old and I had completely forgotten it existed. Even the title on the file folder conjured nothing. But as soon as I opened up the folder and looked at the first line, those first three lines tumbled back into my head, along with the final couplet. And I remembered how much I once loved this poem. But I still didn’t have the courage to read the whole thing. I was afraid that what I’d written and loved twenty-five years ago would not hold up to my perhaps more seasoned critical faculties of today. In fact, I had to ask my wife to read it before I could bear to, so she could tell me if she thought it was still any good. She’s got a merciless but loving eye for my work, and will not hesitate to tell me if she thinks something is no good. She’s also free with insightful praise when she likes something. Well, she liked it. And so I read it again. And lo and behold, I still liked it too. In fact, it’s grown on me, and so I thought I’d trot it out more widely. I hope you like it too. And I’d be interested to know what you see and imagine of the tale it tells. It’s...

Hippie Squared: The Year Will Tell

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers So I’m doing this diary in three line poems, for a year, here on this site. You may have seen it—it posts at noon each day, and we’re calling it “Three Line Lunch.” What gives and why bother? Primarily it’s a trick to get myself to write every day. I know it works, because I’ve done it once before. From 9/1/93 through 8/31/94 I ran the same game on myself, and happily that turned out to be the year that I met and courted my wife Elise; my brother Ray married Erica; and OJ Simpson led the police on a slow speed chase—all of which made it into the work. Though I’ve only done them occasionally since that project ended, I love the form. I find it incredibly versatile. Conducive to snapshots of events; character studies; painting a scene; philosophy; nonsense; lyricism; easily serious or silly or both. It’s quick to read and it doesn’t take too long to write. The fact of having to write one every day attunes me more to my own life and the world around me. I can work on each day’s poem all day long in my head, carrying it around up there where I gather impressions, write lines, tinker and revise in that squishy little echoing workshop in my skull. It’s not haiku. I ain’t countin’ syllables. It’s not even Kerouac’s more flexible “American haiku,” though I’m reading a book of them now and like them very much. In this I’m more inspired by Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”; Brautigan’s lyrical brevity in poems like “The Winos on Protrero Hill”; and probably even J.P. Donleavy’s chapter-ending snippets, than I am by Basho or any of the haiku...

Hippie Squared: Oh That Magic Feeling

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers “Oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go.” Perhaps the best line Paul McCartney ever wrote. Certainly the one that best describes the feeling I had two Friday mornings ago, sitting and being quiet on the patio of my room at The Spring in Desert Hot Springs, a tray of fruit, cereal, OJ and coffee from their complimentary breakfast on the table beside me, a substantial breeze tossing palm fronds and bougainvillea creepers, bright pink with blossoms, as it swept across the grounds. My wife beside me, My dad and step-mother on the chairs in front of their room next to ours. While my iPhone inside our room steadily accumulated e-mail that I had no intention of reading until I got back to work on Tuesday morning. Nowhere to go until my 1 pm massage appointment. No one to answer to, no function to fulfill. No pressure to do anything but rest. Be. Sit. Breath. Soak in water, soak in sun. Over the few days we spent in Desert Hot Springs I felt myself get more relaxed by the hour. I felt my thoughts slow and clarify. I brought along a stack of books to read, my journal to get some writing done. There were numerous occasions that I went to reach for my book but ended up just holding it in my lap, looking out at the grounds. Watching people swim, walk by. Move from pool to Jacuzzi to spa. Nod a quiet hello. I spent a lot of time just floating. I had also gone with plans to meditate several times daily. I ended up officially meditating maybe twice. But much of what I did was unofficial meditating. My wife and I are big believers in the...

Hippie Squared: A True Love Story About a True Love

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers     Photo Credit: Xpectro Anyone in the mood for a love story to start out the week?  When I was 23 I quit my job as a bookstore manager to drive a cab here in LA. I did it for the stories.    And there are great stories in that story that are not this story.    This story barely even belongs to me, but I’ll give it to you anyway.    I picked up a fare at LAX bound for downtown. A big smiling man and his wife, here in LA for the first time from the Midwest for a convention at the Bonaventure.    He was a talker. I always liked the talkers.    “Bet ya get to hear some good stories driving this cab,” he said.    I could see him in the rearview mirror, leaning back against the backseat, his right arm along behind his wife’s shoulders, his legs straddled wide. I could picture him heading straight to the bar when he hit the hotel and having his bags sent up ahead to his room.    “Once in awhile,” I said. There seemed to be almost a challenge in his voice; in the rearview mirror he wore a cocky grin.    “How long’s it gonna take us to get downtown?” he asked.    “Half hour. Hour. Depends on traffic. Where the accidents are.”    “That ought to be just about perfect,” he said. I saw him turn to his wife, flash her a grin, squeeze her hand and turn back toward me. “Have I got a story for you.”   Seems he had an old friend who’d served under General Douglas MacArthur during the occupation of Tokyo at the end of World War...

Hippie Squared: Chabon Jag Rag

I’m on a Chabon jag. Michael Chabon, of whom I’ve read three in a row, finishing Gentlemen of the Road just last night, a literary swashbuckler whose true title, Chabon says in the Afterword, is “Jews with Swords. The first two of his I read are closer to traditional, contemporary realistic fiction: Wonder Boys, which is something of a comic journey, with a college professor no doubt descended from Shakespeare’s Falstaff. And Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a coming of age novel whose protagonist has a father in the mob, and that ends with a death scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a thirties gangster movie. Chabon won a Pulitzer for his third novel, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, about the creation of the early superhero comics beginning in late thirties New York. (Haven’t read that one yet, but it’s probably next on my list.) Gentlemen of the Road’s got something of Kipling’s “The Man Who Would be King” and something of Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan among others) in its makeup. In fact, one of its two main heroes—the Frankish Jew Zelikman—bears a striking resemblance to Howard’s English Puritan Solomon Kane. Both are tall, thin, long-haired, dressed in black, unfailingly dour and grim but confident and accomplished. Zelikman is blond, Kane black-haired. Kane famously wears a wide-brimmed black hat. At the beginning of Gentlemen, (illustrated by Gary Gianni, who illustrated the 1998 collection of Solomon Kane stories), Zelikman is deprived of such a hat by his partner Amram as part of a con they run, in an scene that reminded me of Richard Lester’s 70’s Musketeers movies, in its mix of comedy and action. At the end of the novel he gains another wide-brimmed black hat, and in one of the...

Hippie Squared: Compressed Impressions of a Los Angeles 4th of July Weekend...

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers The tang of gunpowder mist hanging in the night time air over streets littered with exploded paper and starred with black powder burns when we drive home late. One concert, one dinner out and three barbeques. Three trips to two parks with four assorted dogs. And one errand of mercy for a great poet. Compressed impressions of a three-day 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles. An archetypal LA story is a journey. The city is so spread out, so multi-ethnic, multi-cultured, multi-hued and multi-moneyed. An archetypal LA story—Raymond Chandler’s novels, for instance—takes you careening from one end of town to another, from high to low culture, from rich to poor, from eastside to westside, from mountains to flatlands to beach. It’s a journey between classes and ethnicities, professions and proclivities. LA is a culture of subcultures—not necessarily clashing, as that evil bullshit movie Crash would have it; that vile, seductive, paranoid schematic fiction that for many across the world must seem like the truth of this city that I love and it slanders—but rather a sliding from one to the other, like one house sliding down onto the shoulders of another during a rainstorm mudslide in the Hollywood Hills. Thursday evening found its point of origin in a house in Franklin Hills above Shakespeare Bridge, where Mark and Erica have lived for twenty years, a house filled with art and suffused with their intelligence and spirit, a patio with gazebo and fountain and a profusion of clay pots filled with flowers and succulents. At the Musicians Union Local 47 on Vine just off Melrose we sat with the old lefties in folding chairs before a raised stage trouped over by Anne Feeney and friends spinning folk song...

Hippie Squared: Sitting in Fire and the Bombadil Way

Midsummer’s Eve, as I recall it, was a major holiday in the Shire — where the Hobbits lived in The Lord of the Rings, the closest thing to a bible in my family. That celebration of the summer solstice by another name, I realize now, is a tie-in to the Celtic and British pagan mythologies that Tolkein drew on to build that world that was so alive to me then and is still, truth be told. There’s no Stonehenge in Middle Earth, but it’s easy to picture the hobbits, dwarves, wizards (druids, after all) and elves of that world dancing around it in celebration of Midsummer’s Eve. This year Midsummer’s Eve is also Father’s Day. My dad and mom both revered The Lord of the Rings when I was a kid, and in fact Middle Earth was a sort of bridge world for me between them after they divorced when I was around eight— about the same time that my mom began reading The Hobbit to me for the first time. June 21st, as I write this, Midusmmer’s Eve, the summer solstice, is also and always has been my mom’s birthday–this year, the fourth of her ageless birthdays since she died in April 2006 from pancreatic cancer. Both of my parents were pretty thoroughly English in lineage, so somehow Middle Earth as an updating of British Isles and European mythologies probably appealed to all of us in a primal, almost cellular way. But because it falls on Father’s Day this year I find myself thinking specifically of my dad’s thesis on Tom Bombadil—how his power was greater than that of the wizards, the elves, the Dark Lord. Bombadil was a silly old hermit who lived in the woods with his fair lady. He sang and...

Hippie Squared: Another Surreal LA Night

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers Summer of 1984. Olympic week in Los Angeles. Jerry and I were renting a room in a house in West L.A. His girlfriend—for the sake of argument let’s call her Brittany—got a job for the week driving Olympic dignitaries around in a sharp little white Audi. The Olympic committee threw a party for their workers on the last night. So Jerry and I watched a “Twilight Zone” rerun and went to bed, knowing Brittany would be out late. Jangled out of sleep by the ringing telephone I tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the living room. Please remember, this was long before cell phones. Brittany’s voice: “Hi, is Jerry there?” “Yeah, sure. Hold on.” I roused Jerry. “Brittany.” “Thanks.” Within moments I had fallen back into a soundless sleep. Until shaken awake to Jerry’s crazed face inches above mine. He growled, “Who’s that on the phone?” In something like a whimper I responded, “Brittany?” But in our imagination let’s slip back just minutes before to follow Jerry into the living room, where he picked up the phone and said “Hi. How’d it go?” Brittany’s light high voice replied, “Great. They treated us really well. They put out a really nice spread. How about you? How was your night?” “Good,” said Jerry, a screenwriting student at UCLA film school at the time. “Did some writing.” A long silence filled the connection. And a change came into Brittany’s voice. “Writing?” she said. The doorbell rang. “Excuse me,” Jerry said, “Someone’s at the door.” He opened it. Brittany stood there on the concrete stoop, smiling. “Stay right there!” Jerry slammed the door, ran to the phone, snatched it up. No one was there. That’s when he stormed to our room,...

Hippie Squared: Party at Steve’s

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers I was at a party at Steve’s. I went looking for the host. I found him in his studio, on the telephone. “Here,” he said, handing me the phone, “Say hello to my sister Elaine.” And he walked out. Steve is one of eleven siblings. I’m never sure of the exact numbers per gender. Steve and Lani tried to fix me up with one of the sisters once. And I’d heard about a few of the others now and again but couldn’t really keep them all straight. They seemed to be a family seeded with geniuses and eccentrics. So I was game. “Hi Elaine,” I said, “How are you?” “I have cancer.” “Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” I looked around helplessly for Steve. “What are you?” she asked. “I’m sorry?” “I’m a cancer. What are you?” I almost laughed. “Sagittarius,” I said....

Hippie Squared: Foolishly Late April Fool’s Edition

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers I’m full of ideas of what I’m supposed to be or not supposed to be. I contain those ideas so I must be bigger than them. Yet I get tangled in them and choked by them and struggle to jam myself into them, shave off my contradictions, tuck away my tics, amputate my unsightly eccentricities while highlighting my sightly ones, all to stuff myself into something small enough to be stuffed inside me. Now how foolish is that, I ask you? (Seriously, I’m really asking–I’m interested in some comments on this one.) “I studied the profound religions and philosophies but cheerfulness kept breaking through.” –Leonard Cohen, Friday night at the Nokia, between-song...

Hippie Squared: When Gracie Loved Beneath Her Station

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers One afternoon not long after Gracie had recovered from her distemper and the loss of her whole litter of puppies, Elise walked Gracie down the hill from Angelino Heights to Echo Park and around the lake. Near the entrance to the park Elise noticed a forlorn looking red-orange dog, his head in his paws, lying not far from a picnicking family. She assumed he must be their dog. But as she came back around the lake she saw the same dog sitting near a couple old guys drinking beer on the grass. “Oh no,” Elise said to herself. This dog didn’t have a family. But he was in the market for one. He seemed to be hoping one of these groups would look up and go, “That’s right. Almost forgot we had a dog,” and take him home. Instead, Elise looked back a little further on and realized that he was following her and Gracie. Elise’s ethic has always been, if a dog asks for her help, she can’t turn away. But she knew I’d be mad. So after he followed them home she let him sit on our porch, but wouldn’t let him in the house. And when I got home, she was right, I was mad, and I forbade her to rescue another dog. Of course, I’d forbade her to rescue the first one for all the good it did anybody. She bargained me down to this: when we went out to the Brite Spot for dinner that night we put him outside the front gate, with the understanding that if we was still there when we got back, we’d have to deal with him. Put up flyers, try to find his home. Of course he...

Hippie Squared: Gracie and the Head Thing

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers Dogs have culture. Having a whole pack taught me that. Having a whole pack has taught me a lot of things, about dogs, and about people too. Pack and tribal dynamics are not that far apart in some ways. A pack is too many to walk on leash around the block. So I take mine to a park. And they go off leash at the park, I have to harness and leash them for the trip out to the car and back; and in case I see the rangers at the park. The sweetest of the lot is Red—with the rarest of exceptions, like the time he bit part of Gracie’s ear off. He’s a pit-golden mix, with short hair that when you touch him you discover is softer than you could have imagined. Many is the time that a stranger has reached down to pet him and a look of spontaneous peace drains the tension from her face, and she says, “He’s so soft.” Red started a habit that has become a lovely secret ritual and has spread to all the other dogs, though no one does it like Red. When I kneel or sit on the floor and call him over to be harnessed, he buries his head in my lap. I hug him, coo over him, scratch his head, and ruffle his scruff. I can feel him open his mouth and hear him huff and snort quietly in dog laughter. After having watched dogs so closely for so many years now, I’m settled in my conviction that dogs not only have emotions but self-consciousness. Dogs, after all, clearly have jealousy and envy. Doesn’t jealousy rest on the knowledge that an “other” is like you? That...

Hippie Squared: Saving Gracie

. a blogum by Jeff Rogers My wife Elise saved Gracie more than once in those first months. One evening in the spring of 1997 Elise was coming home and saw two dogs running along the sidewalk on Glendale Boulevard just south of Temple, not far from where we lived. She had the feeling they were lost or needed help, so she slowed the car and pulled up alongside them. She leaned over, pushed open the passenger door, and called, “Hey dogs!” The mottled one that would later become Gracie—dogs tend to change names when they change addresses—jumped in the car. The other, a black lab, shied away. Elise was pretty sure she knew who these dogs were. For months she’d seen a homeless man in the park at the corner of Glendale and Temple. He had three dogs, a mottled gray and black dog, a black lab and a yellow lab. She wasn’t positive Gracie was one of those dogs, but she was pretty sure. Meanwhile back at the craftsman guest house in Angelino Heights, I was sitting on the couch minding my own business, when I heard an unusually heavy and quick set of footsteps on our wooden porch. I had the front door open, but the safety door was closed so I couldn’t see very far through the white paint the landlord had slathered on it before we moved in. But when Elise approached the door I saw that she had a double armful of dog. Elise has always maintained that the dog looked at her and told Elise that her name was Gracie. Eventually Elise added the last name Kitchen. So Gracie Kitchen was her full name, but generally she just went by Gracie. It wasn’t long before Elise noticed...

Hippie Squared: It Ain’t Cool to Make a Fool Out of Gracie

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers Dogs are like children. One of the best ways to manage them is through ritual. Dogs love ritual. They’ll even create their own rituals. Dogs, particularly working dogs, love to have a job. They love to feel that they’ve done their job and done it well. Gracie was like that. Until Gracie died two weeks ago, we had five dogs. “Two’s company, three’s a pack,” my wife and I like to say. Meaning, once you get three or more dogs they develop a pack dynamic, a group dog life separate but intertwined with the larger pack that includes the human contingent. Ritual was very important in our pack to keep things more or less orderly. Gracie, an Australian cattle dog mixed with terrier, in her prime was pack boss—guardian of the rituals—and a bossy boss at that. At first glance Gracie’s coat was gray, but on closer inspection it was white and black interlaced. She had black patches, and a black and brown mask. Her hair was wiry. She had a scruffy snout, and black lips that curled back when she gave the other dogs direction with a barely audible snarl, and black fierce eyes. In her youth she sported an unintentional Mohawk, with a streak of gray hair across her crown that stood straight up if you fluffed it. But she didn’t like it when you did that. Gracie was protective of her dignity. We often make up songs about our dogs. Gracie’s song went like this: She’s no fool And it ain’t cool To make a fool out of Gracie. To Gracie, love was humiliation. If we tried to hug her she would growl and stiffen against it, snarl over our shoulder at any of the...

Hippie Squared: screen screen everywhere a screen

. a blogumn by Jeff Rogers screen screen everywhere a screen. a screen with somebody yapping at you. it used to be that the consolation  of having to go to certain places where you knew you’d have to wait awhile for something—the doctor’s office, getting your car repaired—was at least you could get a little reading in. you could bring a good book and park yourself in a chair and have a little peace, just let your spirit loose a little, let it expand and heave a long inner sigh. now it seems there’s always a tv going. there’s always a screen with somebody yapping at you. now it takes a conscious effort to push that away and cling to your reading, cling to the self-management of the pace of your thoughts. there’s a tyranny of time and attention wielded by the yapping screen. it clocks you at its rhythm, it jams your brain waves with its signal, it wrenches you from your inner track. as gas prices increased and it took longer to fill the pump I took to carrying a section of newspaper with me, leaning against the car and letting the gas flow and reading a few paragraphs of a news story. now even there, perched above the self-serve gas pumps—a damn fascist screen, sqauking ads and news. sure, I want the news, but folded in my hand it moves at my pace. I can scan a few lines and catalog the information, sift it, weigh it and slot it. consider it. even at the damn gas pump there will be no respite nor refuge in this brave new world of the omnipresent screen. getting you car fixed, used to be you could count on knocking out a few chapters of...

Hippie Squared: Blogger Old Potatoes

In the basement of a house on Memory Lane in Kalamazoo, Michigan somewhere between 1987 and 1989 I wrote a nonsense poem called “Blogger Old Potatoes.” In my hands, “blogger” was the improvised swear word of a two-year old girl. But according to Wikipedia, the word “blogger” was first coined round about April or May 1999, over a decade after my poem. “Blogger Old Potatoes” appeared in the second issue of Los Angeles 1956 The Magazine, published during the winter of 1989-1990 and copyright 1990 by The Pained Thumb Press; edited by Harold Abramowitz, who also illustrated the poem. Around 1992 “Blogger Old Potatoes” made it onto the web at Worldmind.com, then a web magazine and proto-blog designed and edited by Scott Roat of Worldmind Media. In fact, I just googled the phrase “Blogger Old Potatoes,” and found that the poem’s still up there. When I followed the link I was reminded that Scott also deployed the word “Bloggers” in the magazine as a blanket term for nonsense or silly verse.  My “blogger” came straight out of nowhere. I just liked the sound of the word. The current usage of “blogger,” however, followed naturally from previous words. According to Wikipedia, “weblog” came first, coined (from web + log) by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997. Next Peter Merholz derived “blog” through a sort of reverse engineering (weblog split into we blog) in April or May 1999. Not much later Evan Williams “devised the term ‘blogger’ in connection with Pyra Labs’ Blogger product, leading to the popularization of the terms.”  Here it gets weirder, and comes not quite full circle but partway back around. When I googled “Blogger Old Potatoes” I also found that the poem’s second verse had been posted by Paul Bausch at...

Hippie Squared: Everybody’s Got One

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers It’s all the same holiday. Look around. We’ve got festivals of lights breaking out all over. With menorahs and candles and colorful glowing bulbs and roaring Yule logs we celebrate the continuance of light through the darkest nights of the year. Call it Hannukah, call it Christmas, call it Yule or Winter Solstice. Call it Saturnalia, Brumalia, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. Call it Kwanzaa or even Festivus. Everybody’s got one. And it gets kinda crowded this time of year with all the gods lining up for birthday cake. Jesus gets the big piece these days, but let’s not forget Mithras, Horus, Pan. I’m not trying to minimize the differences, mind you. We all get attached to our particular inflections. Hell, I got pissed off at Thanksgiving this year when the branch of the family I dined with didn’t wait until everyone sat down with their plates before digging in. Seemed downright rude to me. Then I reminded myself why I was there: to feast with loved ones and be grateful. There’s more and more information out there all the time about the pagan origins of Christmas. It’s a flat-out mutt holiday as it’s come down to us, with a little bit of everything to spice it up: Roman, Persian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Celtic, northern European, and stuff we don’t even have names for. When the date for the birthday of Jesus was fixed at the already-crowded celebration date of December 25th during the Roman Empire, civilization in the middle east, Asia, Europe, had already seen so many previous empires and so much trade, so much swapping and co-opting of gods and heroes and mythic motifs, it didn’t much matter who else joined the party. There was room...

Hippie Squared: Landsick Impressions

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers Second day back on land and the earth still sways under me like the deck of a ship. I teeter when I stand and stagger when I walk and I’m queasier than I was on the boat. I understand now why Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is always swaying. Our Yucatan cruise departed from New Orleans, where I experienced the French Quarter for the first time—its narrow streets made for horse and carriage flanked by flagstone sidewalks. The weathered shabbiness, beautiful because old and earned, of its brick and stone two and three story houses. The lacy iron railings fronting balconies hung with lush green plants that drape thick curtains of rain to the street when watered. Wooden shutters flank all doors and windows. Narrow walkways and old carriage lanes lead back under and between buildings to mysterious courtyards. We visited rival voodoo museums and rival absinthe houses. In a Pirate’s Alley bar we met Warren, whose National Guard cousin was in the helicopter when President Bush flew over the Katrina devastation, he said. “Remember when they shot at Dubya? The Secret Service couldn’t tell who fired so they opened up with AK 47’s where the shots came from and killed every man, woman and child. They turned to my cousin and said, ‘You didn’t see this.’” Folklorists say urban legends are always told as second hand, sourced to a friend or relative who “was there.” Of course, so are many true stories. From Progresso we bussed two hours through low dry forest to Chichen Itza, the Mayan-Toltec ruin that recently made the New Improved Seven Wonders of the World. Our Mayan archaeologist carries a thousand year grudge against the violent Toltecs who subjugated his people, the peaceful...

Hippie Squared: The Tide of Time

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers My birthday this past Friday has me in a reflective mood. I’m forty-six. The gray has gained a foothold in my beard; and a few spindly long gray hairs wend their way among my brown locks. “Cut that hair, hippie!” a young friend of mine at work said to me at the staff holiday party Friday afternoon, which by happy coincidence rang in my birthday weekend early. It was at Cicada, in one of those beautiful old buildings downtown. I like the people I work with. He often says stuff like that to me. His hair’s short, of course. That’s okay, it looks good on him. He’s of his time as I never was of mine. He ducked his head into my office one day and said, “When you gonna cut all that hair, hippie? You should donate it to that charity that makes wigs for cancer kids on chemo.” I waited a beat. “They’ll have to fight me for it,” I said. My boomer psychology is showing I know, but here in 2008 the seventies are as long ago as World War II was when my step-dad, Al used to regale the family with stories of growing up during that time. Hippies are as historically exotic to my friend at work as Nazis were when I was a kid killing them by the dozens with my brothers and friends in the woods around Junedale Drive and the playground at Bailey Elementary. For thirty years of TV and movies long hair is the chief cultural signifier for “hippie.” But it’s funny, because my long hair is not a flag. It’s not declaring any allegiance. Except maybe to my own personal aesthetic, which was formed, it’s true, in the...

Hippie Squared: The Mother of All Holidays

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers Every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way (as Tolstoy might say if he did “Oprah”). If you believe movies like Four Christmases dysfunctional families are at their worst during the holidays when all their simmering resentments come to a furious boil. Not so for the Holman Tribe of East Lansing, Michigan in the nineteen seventies. The rest of the year we were pretty much a mess. But on the holidays, man we sparkled. We stopped bickering, finally remembered what we liked about each other, and did our damndest for a collective good time. And my mom set the tone. She loved all the holidays, so they all make me think of her, but in different ways. After pancreatic cancer took her in April 2006 my Christmas spirit fled and has not been seen since. Time will heal this wound I know (though I won’t say it heals them all), so it’s okay. But Thanksgiving, thankfully, has only deepened. My mom was an anthropologist who loved and appreciated ritual. Each Thanksgiving as the feasting began with the passing of dish after dish, and the mounds of food mounted toward the dusty chandelier, I’d call out: “I love Thanksgiving!” followed by my mom’s rapid response: “It’s my favorite holiday!” Yet all of the work fell on her. My step-dad Al was a brilliant paleontologist, but helpless in the kitchen. I was a young women’s libber in theory but I was also a kid. So Thanksgiving for me began with parades and cartoons and continued with comic books and running outside to play in the fall leaves or the early winter snow with Ray and Michael. My mom never made it seem like a chore. She gave us the...

Hippie Squared: Gold Country Gold

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers “Out here we grow amunds. ‘Almonds’ are what we sell.” Lou’s giving me the tour. “This year the birds got ‘em all. Wasn’t worth knockin’ one tree.” Past the almond groves their acreage ends at the edge of a tree-filled canyon. Successive ridges of oak-dotted yellow hills climb to the gray line of Sierra Nevadas. Three canyons over the gold rush began. My wife and I have taken her mother to see cousin Bertie for the first time in fifty years. They grew up together, third generation San Franciscans. Irish great grandfather fled the potato famine. Grandfather “Pop-pop” owned seven saloons on the Barbary Coast and a famous night spot in San Francisco. The first floor was a public restaurant. The second floor an exclusive one. Third floor was the brothel. Bertie takes in refugees. She takes us to feed the burro his nightly garlic bread. He’s as big around as he is long. “He loves his garlic bread.” Someone shot the burro’s friend the goat. And bobcats got the chickens. But they’ve still got two geese, three ducks, two cats and three dogs. “And a troll living in the garage,” says Lou. The troll’s an old hippie on the run from the City. For his tiny rent he also gets dinner. Tonight Bertie serves frozen lasagna, frozen vegetables and a frozen chicken, with wine from a box and porch-temperature Bud Lite in frosted mugs. It’s a friendly meal and the company is golden. Gold country is also where “local color” began in American literature, popularized by Bret Harte, and Mark Twain in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” They still hold the contest. “People come from all over the world,” Lou says. “Korea, Japan. Few years...

Hippie-Squared: We the Mutt People

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers Folding chairs in rows in a high school gym in Kalamazoo, Michigan in about 1968. I would have been about five. A portable movie screen on rickety legs, one of my first experiences seeing a movie out in the world, and it was a black and white documentary. My mom took me to see black people being beaten, drenched and thrown back by founts of fierce water from fire hoses, snarling dogs straining to rip their flesh, tear gas boiling across the screen. Was this before or after King’s assassination? I believe I remember that too. The TV going for hours down in the basement. King’s face above Walter Cronkite’s left shoulder. Lying on my stomach on the couch, watching the backs of my parents’ heads watching, rapt and subdued. Obama’s is a soaring victory for the whole world. It’s also so deeply personal for many of us that it’s hard to express in direct words. The notion that this election somehow makes us “post-racial” is absurd. The wealth of this country was built on slavery. Racism, civil rights, these are abstractions without the countless personal experiences that give them life. No American is untouched by it all. But we’re all touched in ways that are our own, that belong to us, but also make us belong to each other. I’m white. It’s easy for someone else who doesn’t live in my skin to say that my feelings of relief, of some sort of culmination, are because Obama’s election expiates my guilt or validates me as a non-racist. But that’s reductionist and dehumanizing. We moved to Lansing when I was nine and I became a minority in fifth grade. I remember being crowded into a corner between brick...

Hippie Squared: Tales From the Precinct – Blasted Assumptions

. A blogumn by Jeff Rogers The screen door clatters under my knock. I stand at the side door under a drapery of morning glories and read the walk sheet: 74 Female. The white woman with silver hair who appears out of the dimness in her flower-print blouse with built-in scarf, her smile bright and eyes lively, seems a good ten years younger than her listed age. As I hand her the flyer for my candidate I launch into my rap: “Hi, I’m volunteering today for—“ One glance at the flyer and she breaks in, “Oh yes. He’s quite a nice-looking man, isn’t he?” I stop and smile. “I guess so,” I say. I too am white, but she has still surprised me. Yes, she’s a registered Democract; yes this is Culver City, a Westside mostly liberal precinct. But my candidate for LA County Supervisor, known affectionately to supporters as MRT, is African-American, and in person quite charismatic, but let’s face it, he’s also somewhat short and portly. She hands me back the flyer. “Don’t worry, I’ll vote for him.” She raises her eyebrows and gives me a sly smile. “Just based on his looks.” I’ve decided, to my own surprise, that I love precinct walking. Yesterday in Inglewood I talked to Vera, 83 and African-American. She too looked a decade younger than the age on her walk sheet. Precinct walking has made me optimistic about aging. Vera assured me immiately that MRT had her vote, but I also saw her eying my “Labor for Obama” button. “How are you feeling about the Presidential contest?” I asked. “Cautiously optimistic,” she said and I nodded. “There are still a lot of people out there who are going to say one thing and when they get...