Just Touch the Harp Gently My Pretty Louise

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Just Touch the Harp Gently My Pretty Louise

I see no reason to stand
in the glaring
streetlights of certitude. I’d rather keep
things androgynous,
with a hint of plum
and vanilla in the ruby red varietal.

I prefer mystagogue
liquid dancing
with the Queen of Sheba and Spanishing
the handorgan
while you play the human heart.

I don’t want to know about
nuclear-powered
Pyongyang,
or the wingspan of the griffon
vulture and its breeding practices in lower elevations.

I want to love you
in parables
and string theory; to disorder the principles
of your priceless
imbroglios.

It’s your thighs miles to which I aspire.

Thrashing sea clouds and harlequins d’amore.

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Myopia Blues

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The past few weeks I’ve been doing revisions on my novel Ramblin’ Fever, and have gotten out of the habit of blogging, which is kind of like getting thrown off a horse. Excuse the weak analogy. I’m only trying to say that I have so much to say that I can hardly say anything because the momentum has shifted and moved into another direction.

I’ve been through three major hurricanes in my life. After one of the hurricanes, the town of Boynton Beach was in such shambles with all the felled trees and downed powerlines and inoperable traffic lights that you began to see things you’d never seen before, and knew you never would again. One aberration I saw was a garage mechanic from Valero standing in the middle of Federal Highway directing traffic as if he knew what he was doing. Well, I feel about like him right now, trying to redirect my energy and hubris back to the blogosphere. You see, I have this mental deficiency. My mind is horribly one-track, worse than anyone’s I know, and it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I was 10 when I had my first girlfriend, if you can believe that. We never kissed or anything. I couldn’t even look at her when I was around her I was so shy. But we would talk for hours on the phone, and we were in love with each other. But I had to break up with her. Baseball season was coming, and I couldn’t have both love and baseball on my mind. It would take up too much headspace. Something had to get cut and I regretted it for years.

This same phenomenon exists to this day in many aspects of my life, the most obvious to me being writing. If I am working on my novel, I can’t write, or think about writing anything else – not a blog, not a poem, not an email I’m supposed to return to someone, nothing. I must be hyper focused on the task at hand. This also holds true in my reading. For the last several years, I would juggle several books at a time – a novel, a book of philosophy, one on politics, a poetry collection, and so forth. This works in spades for my goombah extraordinaire Herr Bryan Ray, but for me the result was that none of the books get finished; instead, they end up in my ever-growing pile of unfinished books, and I’m never be quite sure if it was I who failed the author or the other way around. So my vow this year has been to go back to many of those discarded books, and read them one at a time, without letting any other book nudge its snout into the fold and disturb my constricted vision. So far it’s worked. In the past month and a half or so, I’ve finished two books that I’d previously struggled with: Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and Kafka (The Metamorphosis and The Judgement auf Deutsch). I also read The Complete Correspondence of Flaubert and Turgenev, Moravagine, by Blaise Cendrars, and a book of short stories by William Saroyan. All these books were great. I highly recommend them all, but if it weren’t for my new line of thinking (which accords with my old line of thinking in my 20s when I was a voracious reader), who knows how many I’d have finished? I feel better now. The moral: if you have a one-track mind like mine, go with it. But don’t let it come between you and your other important loves. There’s a balance in everything. Find it.

Let Your Love Flow

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I’d been dreaming about moving to Germany for years, but I also had other places in mind, like San Francisco, or Chicago, or New Orleans or Seattle. Then one night in 2008, as I was with my sister on the George Washington Bridge driving from New York City to her house in New Jersey, we started talking about a German cousin of ours who we’d never met, but had heard (from another cousin) was currently a best-selling author in Berlin. It was a crime novel. She had also written a short story about our great-grandfather Rudolph Knapp.

Rudy, as he was called, was born in Steinwenden, a very small town in Rheinland-Pfalz, the biggest wine-growing region in Germany. His father owned a hotel and restaurant and butcher shop that’s all in the same building and Rudy, being the oldest son, stood to inherit the place, but in about 1900, he impregnated a maid who worked there. The problem with that was that he had a girlfriend who he apparently loved and who apparently forgave him. She was Catholic and he was Protestant and that was also a problem. So one night at about 3 a.m., Rudy raided the cash register at the hotel, covered the hooves of the family horse with rags and towels, and stole very quietly into the dark streets and clopped off to Bremen where he and his girlfriend boarded the U.S.S. Bremen and sailed to New York City. They then made their way to the Chicago area and Rudy opened a butcher shop in Oswego, had a daughter (my grandmother), sold the butcher shop and became a very successful and much-loved wiener salesman, of all things, for Oscar Meyer. He also repaid the money he stole from the cash register, but he never met the son he’d had with the maid. He had the chance to on one of his trips back to Germany, but refused. He’d made up his mind.

My father was in the S & L business in the 70s and 80s, and when that went under, he moved our family from the Chicago area to Florida almost as abruptly as Rudy moved from Germany to the Chicago. That was in 1985. In 2008, as I drove with my sister over the George Washington Bridge and heard the tale of Rudy and of my best-selling author cousin, I scratched all those big American cities off my list of places I wanted to move to, and decided Germany was the place. Germany will make a better story, I told myself. It’s more extreme. It’s the antithesis of Florida. It’ll make up for all the years I sat in a little gas-soaked shop with a drained and decomposing soul. And who knows? Maybe my best-selling author cousin will open a door for me.

3 years later, in 2011, I exorcised myself of everything and moved to Berlin. A year after that a pregnancy happened, and things weren’t ideal at first, but I didn’t run away. I didn’t Rudy anyone. I’ve made Rudy a verb, by the way. It means to impregnate someone and to jump ship to another country to avoid the consequences. I didn’t do that. But, when my 5-year-old son gets old enough, I will warn him about maids. There’s no need for the cycle – Germany-Chicago-Florida-Germany – to repeat itself in future generations, is there?

Anyhow, I’m still in Berlin and have yet to meet my best-selling author cousin of the German crime novel.

I did however go to Rheinland-Pfalz and visit the hotel/restaurant/butcher shop that Rudy stood to inherit. It’s no longer owned by anyone in my family, but I do have relatives still living on the property, in the ancient little house next door.

It was a Saturday afternoon at about 4 p.m. when I arrived at the hotel. I’d made a reservation and was staying there for one night, but when I walked into the place, there was no one around. I walked through the restaurant and looked at all the trinkets and lace tablecloths and little German decorations. I walked past the butcher shop and looked in. No one was there. I went up to the second floor and walked the halls and didn’t see anyone. Finally, I came back down to the restaurant and sat down at a table and waited for someone to appear. A minute or so later, the radio came on. It was the Bellamy Brothers, Let Your Love Flow. It was as if the spirit of Rudy had come into the building and was telling me something through the lyrics.

So let that feelin’ grab you deep inside
And send you reelin’ where your love can’t hide
And then go stealin’ through the moonlit nights
With your lover

Just let your love flow like a mountain stream
And let your love grow with the smallest of dreams
And let your love show and you’ll know what I mean
It’s the season

Love & Shandyism

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I have just returned from walking my girlfriend to U-Bahn Hermannplatz and seeing her off. She’s flying back to London today. I have no other plans but to write today. I haven’t written anything since Friday a.m., and I’ve dealt with it pretty well, but last night it started to get to me and probably would’ve been much worse if we hadn’t gone to the bar.

From now on, I’m calling my girlfriend Erica on this blog. The name is the Latin of her real name and was her 3rd choice when I asked her what she wanted to be called. Her first two choices were duds and I had to reject them.

Erica and I originally met three years ago in the bar we went to last night which is called Travolta. The night we met she tells me I was totally drunk and that’s why she kept looking at me. Not sure I believe her, although I did drink a flask of vodka on the way into the bar, and somehow we ended up sitting at the same table. Then my friend Bernd, a six-foot-six-two-hundred-eighty-pound-Teuton-got-up-like-Johnny-Cash plunked down between us.

“Soooooo, Mike,” he said, in his thundering bass-baritone. “Wait, she’s not the Polish girl. Wha? A new one? Huh?”

I’d made out with a Polish girl the week before. I pretended I didn’t hear what he’d said and introduced the two of them. A few minutes later, he worked his screw in again.

“Have you told her how old you are yet, Mike? C’mon, fess up.”

“43,” I muttered, and cursed him under my breath. Erica was only 24 at the time. Nevertheless, we kept talking, mostly about books. Her favorite was One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Marquez, and she knew the first line by heart.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

I was impressed, both by the first line and that she’d remembered it. I told her a few of my favorite books, one which was The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne, and she’d read that too, which shocked me. I’d never met anyone who’d heard of Sterne, let alone read him and got his brilliant Irish wit.

I cursed Bernd again.

Then I got up from the table and lit a cigarette at the bar. Erica now says I did that to hide from her the fact of my smoking, and she’d be right, although if I really wanted to hide it I would’ve gone outside. The bar was only 10 feet away.

After that night, I started seeing Erica every week at Travolta, but didn’t do anything except once when I invited her to sleep at my place because it was closer. She told me she couldn’t that night because she had to work early the next morning, but said maybe some other time. So that confirmed it. But I still rested on my chesterfields. I’ve always been slow to act. I’m no Lothario, nor do I try to be. I go to bars for drinks and crackajabloking and good conversation, everything else must arrive by itself. So I sat back and watched as this 26-year-old Welshman started buying Erica drinks, and stealing my seat, and blockading me from her, trying to court her. A month or two went by like that and finally I got a haircut and trimmed my toenails and made my move. I challenged Erica – no that’s not true – I commanded her to memorize the first line of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and present me with the results the following week.

The first line goes as follows:

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were doing; – that not only the production of a rational Being was concern’d in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind; – and for ought they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost: – Had they duly weighted and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, – I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.

She memorized it to the letter, and soon after we went out on our first date at a beer kneipe, and soon after that we were making out in the back of some dark bar in Mitte, and I looked out the window and saw the Welshman looking at us, his mouth hanging open, his face pale as a toad’s belly. He took a slow drag from his cigarette and stood there decomposing in his cloud of blue smoke.

Poor sod. I felt sorry for him. I really did! I tried to think of what I could do to help but for some reason was all out of ideas. I turned to Erica and we continued.

Self-administered Q & A with M.P. Powers

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Here is a Q & A I’ve just self-administered. Stole the idea from Bryan Ray’s blog. https://tershyrad.blogspot.de/2017/09/qa2.html I figure so many unworthy people are doing interviews and Q & A’s these days, I might as well be one.

My parents were… convinced they knew what was best for me. They forgot I was nothing like them.
The household I grew up in… was cultivated to produce business people. It was successful with three of the four kids.
When I was a child I wanted to be… a baseball player. I was terrible at the sport until I was 10. Then I had a metamorphosis and became one of the best players in the league. The next year I went ninth in a draft of about five hundred kids and was convinced I’d eventually go pro. What I didn’t realize was that 9th out of five hundred kids means you’re 18th out of a thousand, give or take, and so on as the pool expands. Which made me about 1,000,000th in the nation. Then high school came and I turned into this tall gangly dork whose brain and body got thrown out of harmony. I couldn’t swat a cow’s ass with an oar. I started drinking after that.
If I could change one thing about myself… I would’ve started learning German in my youth. Instead I waited till I was 40 (six years ago) and still sound like I’m moving lead weights around in my mouth when I speak it.
You wouldn’t know it but I’m very good at… relaxing, procrastinating, avoiding doing things I don’t want to do.
You mayn’t know it but I’m NOT good at… being in crowds. They give me a sick feeling, starting in the gut, spreading to all my extremities and swelling in the blood. You will never see me at a large concert or mass protest of any kind.
I wish I had never worn… clothes that made me look like a poor man’s Sho Kosugi in high school.
At night I dream of… Tom Thumb, French overtures, lobster traps, dark magic, writing hot checks, small-engine mechanics, the Knights of Malta, molten rock, camshafts, flying, Country Music Night, whisky sours, dead people…
When I look in the mirror I see… a stranger whose keys, clothes, books, computer, furniture, bank account, data mines and life I’ve borrowed.
My house is… a dark, 54 square meter flat in Neukölln, ground floor, backs up to a garden. Outfitted with cheap Ikea furniture. Walls shouting for artwork. Everything in disarray.
Movie heaven… is a heaven where I am the movie. I’m sick of being a spectator.
I drive… nothing. I have driven drunk thousands of times, and it’s a miracle I’ve never gotten a DUI. I haven’t had a vehicle since I moved to Berlin in 2011.
My real-life villain… the Philistine.
The person who really makes me laugh… George Carlin. I still watch him on Youtube. I love his rage and wit and his gift of gab. He kept getting better the older he got.
My five-year plan… I used to plan years ahead but then I got smart. I look a few months ahead now at most.
What’s the point… it’s whatever you want it to be, mostly because there isn’t one, and very few people can accept the fact. The older I get the clearer this line by Shakespeare gets:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself—
Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

My life in six words… subservient to all that I love.