Saturday, August 28, 2010

On The Road Without Jack Kerouac

 We made our way across the American landscape, headed toward Appalachia. I was prepared with the proper music, etc., for the journey. We've got "family" music: The Monkees, a little Motown, some Chris Tomlin, and so on...

While the kids were occupied, I listened to some Jakob Dylan. It's the new one, I can't remember the name. He's riding on a horse "with a good woman by his side." It's pretty good, I like it, but it's a little, I don't know, thick somehow. Too many syllables and, overall, mixed very full in the mid-range. So I pop in Dan Zanes' Parades and Panoramas, which is a set of songs taken from the Carl Sandburg American Songbag. This recording is one of my all time favorites. It has a lot more overall character than most things you listen to, and it's totally fitting for the journey.

So we moved along, and we don't drag on behind.

I read Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions on the way. Honestly not sure what to make of it. It seems to me to be primarily about the madness of dehumanization, which is an essential issue of our times.

I saw a truck up ahead, it looks like this:

I like coffee, but that's a little overboard, don't you think?

Anyway, we rolled the chariot along, moved on to sit at the foot of the great Smoky Mountains in a little cabin. When you open the door of that cabin and look out, here's what you see...

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Etc. And so on...

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wonder Drug


I was watching a show on Hulu, and a commercial came on for a drug. It’s a wonder drug. Prescription only. Brand new, at least for this purpose. And what does it do?

It makes your eyelashes grow fuller and longer. Oooooooooooh. Aaaaaahhhhhh.

I am not making this up. There is a prescription drug, being advertised, to make your eyelashes grow longer. They have computer models of growing eyelashes to demonstrate the power of the drug.

Tadaaaaah. Cha ching. Bling bling bling. To the tune of over a hundred bucks a month for any hapless soul who wanders into this establishment.


Side effects: Longer lashes are a side effect. It’s actually, according to newspaper reports and the website, a drug for reducing pressure in the eye balls. Apparently overly pressurized eyeballs is a problem that some people have with glaucoma. Not being a doctor, that’s the best I can make sense of it. But somewhere along the line, someone noticed that this drug made their eyelashes thicker. Oooooooh. Aaaaaaahhhh.

Please be aware: There’s a chance that this drug might turn your green eyes to a darker color. Green or hazel to brown. Maybe permanently. But who will notice? Everyone will be too busy staring at your gorrrrrgeous eye lashes to notice.

I don’t want to offend but, to me, this is moronic. And yet, I’m sure, they’ll see millions if not billions of dollars from this. It’s the way the world works now.

I just don’t know how I fit in a world that focuses so intently on such things.

Maybe I don’t.

Ecclesiastes 1:2
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Prisoner

The prisoner looked at the judge and asked, “Do you ever feel judged?”

The Judge gazed back at him with a blank look. It was clear he believed he was looking at a fool, but the prisoner continued because no one stopped him. He said, “I know I feel judged. Not always, but often. Not by everyone, but by some. And they have this – I don’t know – this power, this influence.”

The Judge was shuffling his papers together. His mind was already somewhere else.

“I know, I’m probably just paranoid,” said the prisoner, “but I feel like people are deciding whether or not I’m worth their time or effort or attention, simply trying to decide if there’s a better deal than me and what I have to offer. Always looking for an out.”

The Bailiff gave the prisoner a look that implied he was pushing his luck. But the prisoner kept talking, exposing his heart, he said, “When I stop to think about the number of people who have walked away from me over the years, throughout my life, with no explanation or rationale given, and no concern whatsoever for how I might perceive the abandonment, what am I supposed to think? Should I chase everyone down to prove my love and concern? I’m not the one who walked away. If I did something wrong they should tell me so I can change. If I didn’t do anything wrong, why are they gone?”

“Maybe you are just being paranoid,” said the Bailiff. “Why do you think this is about you?” The Judge looked at the bailiff, clearly annoyed that he was keeping this thing going.

The prisoner thought about it for a moment and said, “Well. If people were walking away from me for reasons that have nothing to do with me, surely they would respect me enough – care for me just slightly enough – to talk to me about what they’re going through and how I shouldn’t take it personally? Surely?”

The Judge had listened in for a moment, more out of curiosity than anything. He coughed, clearing his throat. He raised his eyebrows as if he might say something, but then he seemed to change his mind and his eyes drifted to the walls, the ceiling: that look of obvious boredom.

The prisoner wouldn’t admit it, but he was hoping for some kind of response from the Judge. He was looking for some answers. So he kept pouring it out, unsure of where he was going with all of it. He spoke in a rush, almost choking on the words as he said them. “Or maybe it’s just none of my business, right? I mean, for years you pour yourself into people, loving them, what business is it of mine if they walk away? Who am I to ask for explanations? Who am I to expect anything?”

His eyes filled with tears as they began to dart back and forth, as if looking for an escape. He bowed his head, ashamed. “It’s clear, as far as they’re concerned, I’m insignificant.”

“Is that how you feel?” asked the Bailiff. “Insignificant?”

The prisoner was lost in his own thoughts. Lost in his pain. He was staring at the floor now, but not seeing it. He was seeing in his mind’s eye the faces of those who had left him standing alone in this courtroom. His voice began to reveal his weariness, but he went on. “On the extremely rare occasion when someone explains why they think I’m a shmuck and they can do better without me, the expectation is clear: I should smile and take my lumps. Shut up and listen. I deserve whatever they say and do because I have failed them. I have been judged and found unfit.”

The prisoner did not realize the Judge had already left the room. The Bailiff said, “Well. You can go now.”

Looking up, confused, the prisoner said. “You mean I’m free?”

The Bailiff said, “I didn’t say that. But you can go.” Then he left too. Unceremoniously.

The prisoner stood there, lost in thought, not sure what to do. He was immobilized by indecision and pain. The silence of the courtroom was deafening. It was a weight. He was certain: No one cared if he stayed. No one cared if he left.

Not really.

© LW Publishing 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

There Is No Substitute For Real

There is no substitute for real. And quality takes. You cannot simulate a mother or the great cities of European history. The product of eons is not average and a dark gray Rolls Royce is more than minimal. Some look for loopholes, but we look for evidence of sincerity in the things.

Are we equipped to succeed? It is hard to say. Perhaps it can be decided scientifically. But in the end, the public has very little tolerance for weakness.

We understand the thinking.

The natives themselves are unsure as to the nature of the beast. They share favorite recipes and talk about six figure incomes, but in the end it is all questions, the answers of which are not so forthcoming. Irregardless, I suppose we would expect you to choose the best, at least when it is available.

We discovered the greatest pizza in the world and one of the guests did not care for it at all. But there is no accounting for taste. Still, the commitment to excellence has not lessened among the ranks, with the result that the fine Chinese spices nearly made us give up in despair. How could we ever match such a fine product.

We were tested in this.

We wouldn’t expect you to accept anything less. We know the kind of lifestyle you are accustomed to. We have seen the delicately embroidered curtains and the full cupboards and the electronic devices gleaming in the darkness, shedding their eerie glow on the ephemeral faces of childhood. We have seen the jets overhead, setting trails in the sky. We have understood the power of perceived needs. This is where we are taken and satiated as a matter of course.

We are not bitter about this. We really have no feelings about it. It simply is. Defacto. In fact, it can drive economies of scale to distraction, which keeps things interesting, at least. But we must pay for the privilege.

And we will.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

Sure, the man was crazy. But you would be too if you went through what he went through. I mean, if you had seen the things he had seen, you would be crazy too. How could anyone live through that and not end up a little, you know, whacked out or something? Off-kilter. Messed up.

I realize not everyone who goes through that kind of thing ends up doing the kinds of things he did. But they would sure understand why he did, wouldn’t they? They would get it.

Unlike you.

I’m not saying I get it either. I mean, I’ve had it pretty good compared to some. I’ve had my bad days. Everyone does, don’t you think? But what some people go through, it’s like Hell, man. Hell on earth. And that causes problems. It messes people up.

Then you get what you get.

What do you expect, anyway? This world is falling apart. And no one cares. It’s madness. I think it’s amazing we all don’t throw up our hands and start howling at the moon, doing things that don’t make sense. A violent world produces violent people.

People ask: Is he guilty? But what does that even mean? Guilty of what? Not being able to cope?

I’m not saying he was right. But who’s to say he was wrong? It was bad, yes, and I feel for the people he hurt. But if you saw things from his perspective, you wouldn’t hate him so much. One of the reasons this kind of thing happens is because we just don’t understand each other. People are disconnected. And whose fault is that?

Not mine.

I didn’t create this world. I just live in it. Same as you. I’m just trying to find my way. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anyone does. We’re all messed up. We all fall short, right? I think Jesus said that, didn’t he? Something like that. No one is any good. So why pretend? Why condemn? God said not to judge, right?

Who do you think you are anyway?

© LW Publishing 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The man cutting the tree, taking it down from the sky where it had lived for so long, raising its hands to the Almighty — that man, in his pride, broke the soil for the seed, a voice planted into the earth, a whispering that would continue to rise and speak, like wild-flowers, like the sound of a poet reading a holy book, like water springing from the ground and jumping into the thirsty mouths of children who laugh with the joy of the cool breeze and the sun, yellow and bright, caressing their faces.

The voice, still blooming when the season is right, still whispers the dreams of histories, from the rock and dirt that make up the Michigan landscape, still hints at memories floating in the waters of the great lakes. The voice whispers with the currents, saying, “The Anishnabeg were here, their lives singing in the soil. The Great Fish and the Loon, the Crane, the Bear and the Marten. On this land, laughing, eating, raising their children, they sing from the stones, from the sand and the seed.”

The man cutting the tree from the sky did not care for what he should have offered to the People. He did not care to speak life into their world, unless it might serve his purpose. So money spoke instead. And power. The language of commerce and comfort with it’s many adjectives of overwrought dreaming about the Dream, the dimming lights of a city on a hill, which had been distorted beyond recognition by the countless and pervasive lusts that fill the human heart.

The man cutting the tree said, in so many words, “Be like us or do not be.” Not for the sake of the Light, which would not make such empty and destructive demands, not for the sake of the People themselves, not for the sake of the land or the wonder of creation and what it might yield for the good, but for the sake of a pocket or two in a shiny, expensive suit, and a vague destiny that someone somewhere said had to be.

Memory continues to speak through histories and the symphonies of life. Someone remembers and speaks it. Someone hears again and speaks it. And through the stream of these memories, the Anishnabeg speak. They are asking...

“What do you need?”

Ephesians 4:17-19
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Prose: b : a literary medium distinguished from poetry especially by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech.

One of the things I find interesting about the world of blogs is the resurgence of prose. I’m sure some literature professors would frown at the idea of good prose arising out of the morass of self indulgence that accounts for so much blogging (and I don’t exclude myself from that). But, why not? When was literature ever NOT heavily driven by self indulgence?

“I’m sorry daaaaahling, but I have something to say to the woooorrrld. You shall simply haaaaave to wait until I finish my new novel, and then, perhaps, we can discuss the taaaaawdry and insignificant business of children and a home.”

I have a degree in literature, but this has not left me with a snobby attitude about it. I don’t know if that means I was educated well or poorly, but who cares. I think that I have the heart of a teacher, and that means I am more interested a lot of the time in people attempting poetry or prose or novels or whatever other art forms they might pursue. Most of the learning is in the production of things, not the finishing of things. It is the attempt that I find most interesting sometimes. And occasionally, we’re all filled with wonder when someone finishes a great novel or a great movie or a great song.

Or a great piece of prose.

I’ve always enjoyed prose, and to my way of thinking, it’s a compelling format with a few simple rules.

1. Keep it short or we’ll get bored.
2. Keep it interesting or we’ll get bored.
3. Let it show a love for language.
4. Let it lead me into wondering: about an idea, a viewpoint, an emotion, or even confusion over the prose itself. Perhaps deeper into my own mind to see what I might find there.

Just a few rules. But it’s actually a very tall order. Especially number 4. But it’s nice to have goals, don’t you think?

As for form: Poetry and song writing both have certain accepted (or self imposed) limitations, which is what makes them what they are. And that’s good. But those limitations can sometimes be a little stifling. On the other hand, full out novels often require a reasonable grounding in reality, or people just won’t keep up. (But some novels, like Joyce’s Ulysses, or the novels of writers like Toni Morrison, are often referred to as “prose,” or these works are thought to have large sections of prose in them because of the “poetic” use of language. A more popular (populistic?) example of this would be the writings of Ray Bradbury.)

Short stories are prose, in their way, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone about them not being prose. But prose, to my way of thinking, is shorter writing that has elements of poetry and story and even song writing. Yet, when you use the word “prose” you have a certain freedom, without the boundaries of rhyme or verse, to be cryptic or not, to be musical or not, to be focused on the sounds of words as much as the meanings of the words, etc. To suggest things that can stimulate thought without necessarily telling people what to think, and the personal views or ideas of the writer might be in there, or not. Which keeps it interesting.

One of my favorite bloggers, Zombie, just put this sentence in his latest post:  "I swear this summer is worse than any winter I have weathered while wearing a woolen wetsuit."

Now, that's a prosaic sentence. In the positive sense. The astonishing Dr. Seuss is smiling somewhere, me thinks. Satisfied.

I’ve posted a little prose here and there over the past few months. And, for fun, I’m going to post some of my prose over the next few days, and probably a little more down the road, when the mood strikes. I’ll tell you up front: it’s not great stuff. At least I don't think so. Just because I like prose doesn’t mean I’m very good at it. But if I thought it totally stunk, I'd never show it to you. Still, I enjoy the process. And, who knows, maybe something decent might come crawling up out of the attempt.

You never know.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I admit it. I’m a little tired of people using the word “hate” for things that are unimportant and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I’ve done it myself. You hear it all the time:

“I hate that song. I hate broccoli. I hate that movie. I hate it when people do this, that or the other thing. (Why? Because it inconveniences us in some way. Because it annoys us in some way.) I hate my job. I hate having to clean up my room. I hate homework. I hate losing money. I hate cows.” Whatever.

There is actually a website set up for people to talk about what they hate. And boy do they. Everything from Brazil to Windows Vista to parents and ex-girlfriends. Nothing is out of bounds, and sharing your hate with the world is encouraged.

Nothing is beyond the hate of a human being.

It’s really out of control. We’ve taken an extreme word and used it in petty ways, which makes us petty to the extreme.

Consider, by comparison, what God hates. It’s in the Bible. Read it for yourself and see. God hates:

Sin and evil. Arrogant, bloodthirsty people who deliberately work against God to bring evil and pain into the world. Taking advantage of the poor. Religious hypocrisy. Those who lie and deceive for personal gain. Divorce. Idol worship and the sinful things it causes people to do. Violence and those who love it. People who arrogantly look down on others. A lying tongue. Hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that devises schemes to hurt the innocent. Feet that are quick to rush into evil. A false witness who gushes with lies. A person who stirs up dissension among brothers and friends.

Some people trust that God exists. But they hate a lot more than he does. They are very free with their hate. Other people don’t believe God exists. But they do seem to believe in hate. Like a religion.

It seems to me that if we could reserve our hate for things that genuinely deserve it, our world would be a much more gentle place to live in.

Leviticus 19:17-18
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Nonsense

Hey diddly high diddly high dee high dee hoooooooo.

Sha na na na na sha na na na na.


I happened to notice the other day, for no particular reason, that in all of my song writing, I don’t think I have ever used nonsense syllables. I have written a lot of songs over the years. I couldn’t even tell you how many anymore. But, for some reason, I have not engaged in the common practice of nonsense syllables. I have never zip a dee doo dah’d. I have never bop sha bop’d or sh’boom’d on one of my songs.

Could there be something wrong with me?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with nonsense syllables. Where would Doo Wop have been without the Doo or the Wop? The Beatles would have never koo koo ka choo’d. The Beach Boys would have had a lot less to say in the parking lot. And I don’t know how many singers and song writers still na na na and la la la their way through song after song.

But these things are conspicuously absent from my music, and I don’t know why. I have no idea. And I had not noticed until recently that it was the case. And I don’t know what to think about it. So I thought I’d just share it here, because what else do you do with such observations?

It all makes me wonder, who really did put the dip in the dip da dip da dip? Perhaps they could tutor me or something.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010


My six year old daughter was getting dressed to go play at her grandmother’s house. Normal summer clothes and such. When she finished, she put on this clear, thin, shower cap thing. I have no idea where she got it from, but she was determined to get all of her hair up into it, so I helped her. Finally, I thought to ask...

Me: Why do you want to wear that thing?

Her (very seriously): I want to be the lunch lady.

Slight pause. Then we both laughed hysterically. Which I find myself doing a lot with her. She says things, she seems serious, but then we lock eyes and we realize it’s funny and we laugh. I don’t even know why it was funny. It just was.

Maybe you had to be there.

I don’t laugh as much as I used to, and I miss it. I’ve been made a more serious person by the responsibilities I’ve embraced and the experiences I’ve endured. I’ve seen hard things, witnessed moments of death and the heart breaking struggle of disillusionment and powerlessness in people’s lives. I’ve been victimized by people who dehumanize me for their own selfish reasons while they wallow in self righteousness. I’ve shared in the deep mourning of those who have suffered great loss, and I’ve suffered great loss myself.

Such is life.

But because of all these things, laughter is a greater treasure to me now than it’s ever been before. I really value it. But it’s hard to figure what will bring it on. You never know when it’s going to sneak up on you, and it’s quick to go hide again.

I don’t live for it, but I do hope to make people laugh. On a regular basis. They can laugh with me or even at me (sometimes). Maybe I can help them to laugh at themselves when it’s needed. But I want to laugh with the freedom of a six year old. I want to laugh with others at the nuttiness of life as we try to cope in a broken world. I think that as long as we laugh without arrogance or cruelty, it can be a healing thing.

Psalm 126:2; Ecclesiastes 3:4
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


My brother and I had our tonsils removed at the same time. This was common practice back in the day. One kid gets tonsilitis, so we better just put them all in the hospital and get it taken care of and the parents can have a night to themselves. I was very young and very nervous about the whole thing.

Yes, they really did put us in the hospital for a whole night back then, and I can still picture that room in my mind. It was kind of dark and creepy, late sixties style. But we got to eat a lot of ice cream afterwards. A LOT. These days, I’m sure, the insurance companies probably force you to get your tonsils cut out of your head as you drive by the hospital in your car. Come to think of it, you just don’t hear about people getting their tonsils out much anymore. Is it no longer en vogue? It used to be a rite of passage.

I still sometimes wonder where my tonsils are. If anywhere. Did they burn them up or did they just throw them in the trash? Are my dried up little tonsils still laying in a plastic bag in some dump somewhere under 500,000 pounds of who knows what? Or did a creepy doctor surreptitiously take them home and put them in a glass case as some kind of strange trophy? Perhaps he had them for dinner, Hannibal Lecter style? I’m thinking, if he mixed them up with chicken gizzards, he could have served them to guests, none the wiser...

Hey. You go ahead to the bathroom and puke. I’ll wait for you. La di da di dum dum dum. La di da di doooooooooo...

So, anyway. What I wish sometimes is: I wish they had given my tonsils back to me in a glass jar full of formaldehyde so I could bring them out and sit them on the table whenever conversations started to lag. I imagine that being a good way to get things going again. The thing is, I don’t remember giving anyone permission to take them from me in the first place. It’s not like there was a tonsil fairy to recompense me for my loss.

Here’s something nice that happened: Before we went home, the pastor of my church came and visited us at the hospital. He didn’t make it to everything, because he couldn’t, but this time he came, and I remember it very specifically. He gave both of us one of those drawing boards with the plastic sheet on it. A Magic Slate. You draw your picture, look at it, consider how fleeting life is, then pull up the plastic to erase the picture. Ta daaaah.

Okay, I admit it. We didn’t really consider how fleeting life is. But it was fun and it was a kindness. It was a small grace that made a kid feel a little better. And I hope my life is that way for others. Small graces are all I have to give most of the time.

By the way. If you see my tonsils laying around anywhere, would you please contact me so I can retrieve them? Thanks. And....

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010