Archive for February, 2009

What will I do for…

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Our cat will turn tricks for her food

I think I’m above the same response to hunger

but what will I do for feedback, for recognition, for reward?

I’ve never been taught nor have I learned

other than just doing, voicing, creating —

acts, words, visual art.

Others seem to me to “have a gift

of gab” as my father called it

for garnering attention, generating interest

and making sales, repeatedly

accumulating fortunes and fame

in manners seeming natural to them.

Are we all really destined for our lives

by genetic circumstance, by the preset

order of molecules that result from our parents

love and procreation?

Can we go beyond our programing

for more than short periods?

I believe we all have that ability

to break free from our comfort zones

and that to maintain those changes takes

a continued effort.

But, if we relent, we return

to our natural inclinations.

Is relenting a negative, a shirking

of our responsibility as human beings

or is it a return to a balance with our natural state?

Must we leave our mark or

should we tread lightly leaving no trace

nor footsteps to document our visitation?

If entropy is inevitable

why fight it or accelerate it?

I choose to dance with it

sometimes leading, sometimes following

some joy, some sorrow, rewards and penalties.

I’ll do anything or, nothing at all.

and just see what I get — and don’t.

economic contractions

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Up early, starting to write.

The radio comes on as the smate arises.

A phrase catches my ear.

“The economy is in severe contraction”

Are not contractions something

that precede birth?

How close are the contractions?

That’s the key to divining

when delivery is due.

What is our economy going

to give birth to?

Chaos, growth, stillbirth?

And, whatever it ends up being

will it have defects or special gifts

that affect its acceptance and success?

Perhaps if we know more about the father

who has brought our economy to this point.

So — who inseminated our economy?

What did the father’s genes contribute?

More greed and chicanery?

Will the father even claim paternity?


Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

There’s nothing quite like the experience
of designing and building a high performance engine,
coupling it to an equally perfected drivetrain
and putting it all into a chassis fitted with tweaked suspension,
surrounded in a highly finished and modified body
and, partaking of the thrill of applying it all to a road,
winding or straight, feeling all that power and engineering
working in harmony with the soul.

After months of measuring bores and honing surfaces,
milling and porting cylinder heads the mind fills
with images of perfection and close tolerance fit.

Careful assembly of specially machined parts
and sequential torquing of stainless fasteners
follows the final cleaning and coating
for maximum oil flow.

The custom ground camshaft, the handworked cylinder heads,
the hand balanced pistons and the fitted rings
come together in the dynamically balanced inner workings
with the stroked crank and Rhodes lifters.

All gaskets hand-cut to match openings
which have been expanded and smoothed for maximum flow.
Newly machined and polished surfaces coated with sticky assembly lube
meet their respective mating surfaces honed
and gauged to allow an aircraft-quality fit.

Over seven hundred pounds of steel, aluminum, brass and bronze
put together with hospital clean surfaces
in a grease and oil encrusted environment
with a floor littered with chips and shreds of metal,
with the ever pulsing beat of post-beatles rock.

More days of fitting the assembled engine
with the highly modified transmission
to the balanced and custom-made driveline
and the high ratio limited-slip differential and
the unit is ready to be fired up.

All could be lost if the boosted oil pressure
isn’t delivered to the camshaft in time or
if the new and very tightly fit components
generate more heat than the modified cooling system can relieve.
If it doesn’t kick over soon enough because of the high compression ratio
or a misalignment of ignition timing,
all could be trashed in an instant.

More stress is involved in an initial startup
as the engine must run without stopping for about thirty minutes
to break-in the newly ground camshaft and lifter mating surfaces.
Everything is rechecked. The oil level, fuel flow
to the high performance intake system, the electrical connections.

Turning the key sends the electrical impulse to the starter
and the coil and spark plugs.
The starter groans as it turns the tightly fit and unbroken-in components.
It strains under the unusually heavy load, not fast enough for ignition.
Seconds pass in slow motion.
Is it going to start up or will all the hours and dollars be lost?

A cough, a sputter, a sudden kick and blast inside
the polished combustion chambers
brings the engine to a howling birth.
RPM is kept above 2500 RPM for break-in,
varied for spreading the fitting motion
as all those expensive and handworked pieces of metal
grind into each other in synchronicity.

The sound is amazing as all those components
can be pictured working with each other.
The horsepower and torque can be heard and felt
in the deep rumble and vibration moving throughout the tight chassis.
The ground shakes beneath this fossil fueled behemoth.

Once broken-in, its time for a road test.
Careful low-RPM driving for the first few hundred miles
then its time to take it to the next level – the bake test.

The idle is pretty rough, arhythmic and relatively high.
Tires are sticky, the pavement dry.
The light turns green, the foot hits the floor and the beast moves slowly forward,
tires spinning and smoking, engine roaring, body shaking, pulse pounding
and a wide grin on the face as the tires get traction
and the resulting contact with the pavement
applies mammoth amounts of torque.

The body is pressed back heavily into the seat.
As the transmission slams into second gear
the gravity increases two-fold, the rear-end does a powerful drift
from side-to-side and the steering wheel is nudged left then right
to maintain a forward course.

The exhilaration is unmatched.
The high-pitched wail of the tightly assembled
and highly tuned engine reverberates deep inside,
mixing with the roar of the free-flowing intake and exhaust
to overpower and outmatch the pounding heavy-metal
emanating from the bumping audio system.
The epitome of visceral.

Going too far too fast on city streets — its time for the freeway.
Through the on-ramp and merging with the flow
of the inner-city traffic. Up to speed.

Moving along with traffic, an opening appears.
The foot again hits the floor, the transmission shifts down
the tires light up, the engine screams
and in just over a second of increased gravity
the needle indicates 100+.

The feeling of tremendous acceleration
coupled with the visions of the perfectly self-crafted components
moving at such high rates, producing such power
is amazing and addicting.

reflections on finishing to rockin’ metal

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The hard-toothed comb of the slamming metal
brings home the deep rhythm of millennial in-the-dirt fun.

The hard pounding beat and the flanged metallic strings resound
This is america, this is the pulse, this is the deep rooted anger
turned into sexual energy and transmuted into soaring bliss.

My body moves — surfing on the meniscus of a song
bringing out the subtle finish, the glistening surface.
Beneath my strokes new worlds emerge into the light
of three-dimensional sound reverberating with the scents
of long passed organisms fermented into a translucent luster.

A Trans-Am with Free Bird blaring slams into the brick wall
while a glistening and cackling big-block jerks to life
inside a vibrant enamel shell,
a sputtering and barking Alfa breaks the sound barrier
and flies through its own blinding skipper blue flash.
All borne on the loft of a southern fried howl.

This music has driven the birth of a multitude of mechanical wonders,
works of art in steel, rubber, lacquer and wax,
fantastic realizations of visceral dreams
and blasts of primordial urgency.

Rock on — to the place where it all blends in a roaring fusion
of love, light and fire; of sweat, grit and funk.
Sit back and revel in the beauty wrought —
the ultra-smooth panel, the glistening highlights
of the honed and polished passages.
My soul flies over the expanding plain, the rush of pride
in the finished work, the budding thoughts
of the next exciting venture that will take me
back to the beginning — again. Rock on.

the cove

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

La Quinta cove is a special place,
surrounded on three sides by rugged mountains
and filled with an eclectic mix of people and homes.
Rustic Spanish colonials and Santa Fe’s,
tile roofed adobes and the occasional flat-roofed mid-century modern.
Some well-kept, some over-kept and festooned with garden nick-nacks,
some run down and some abandoned.

Tasteful desert landscaping
with exotic cacti and mesquite,
lush overgrown oleander hedges and towering eucalyptus
along with unnaturally green lawns and annual flower beds
create a random pattern of color and style.
Tiled, stained and faux-painted driveways
and walls painted in bright multiple colors
contribute to the tasty southwest dish that is The Cove.
Each bite reveals a new taste
as the creeper heat builds.

Pickup trucks with the signs of exterminators,
gardeners, home repair and pool maintenance dot the streets
mixed with newer Mercedes, Corvettes and lowered Hondas.
Jacked-up pickups with shiny collections of hydraulics
and window stickers exclaiming machismo
along with the occasional motor-home or gardener’s trailer
loom over the kids’ Big Wheels and scooters.

Children play in the streets — baseball, football,
riding bicycles, playing tag.
Parents with strollers, dogs being walked,
driveways being hosed, lawns being watered.
The strains of Mexican accordion music
blend with familial chatter, the whine of leaf blowers,
the jingling bells of the paleteros and yapping dogs
— but the loudest sound is the quiet.

This is a unique spot on the way to nowhere,
a cul-de-sac hidden away from the surrounding sprawl
of resorts and big-box stores that have changed the city of La Quinta
and the Coachella valley from a citrus and date center
into the recreation mecca of the American southwest.
The cove is where local workers, retirees and snowbirds
enjoy the warmth of each others’ company
and the nearby hiking trails and parks, afforded by that strong tax base.

La Quinta has been tagged the Gem of the Desert by its promoters
and the cove is the hidden facet that provides the glint and sparkle.
Without it, the town would be just another rock in the Sonoran.
It stands out from the overly manicured and homogenized developments
in its diversity of culture, style and color;
its rich and still visible history,
and the freedom and ease with which its inhabitants approach daily life.
Its a special place to get away to, to call home.


Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about discipline recently. In approaching the art and craft of writing I find that when I leave it up to chance in finding time to write that the opportunities often slip away. My friend Paul, a professional writer, says that discipline is everything when it comes to creative writing. I’m wondering now why just the thought of discipline seems to sap the creative energy out of my mind. Is it my confusing the ideation with the crafting?

One of my granddaughters is finding it difficult to meet some similar challenges and I want to know if there is anything from my experience that could be passed along to help her with hers.

My experience has been that my best creative ideas come without notice. Before arising in the morning, while walking to the store or while engaged in some other activity, no matter its importance. Getting those ideas put down as writing or artwork requires the application of craft and that may involve not just already learned skills but the acquisition of new ones. There are frustrations as well as some degree of tedium in learning the finer details of a craft. This requires a high level of dedication, concentration and patience fueled by a strong inspiration.

I’ve mastered some things — digital painting and computer graphics, teaching, auto and bicycle mechanics, home restoration, photography, furnace repair, plumbing, cleaning polishing anything, gourmet cooking, and even a bit of altering clothing. I’ve found that I do have the patience to explore and analyze a new challenge in detail to decipher its solution. While this is usually best done alone, I am open to suggestions. I often research others’ encounters and solutions on line. Help is most appreciated and applied when I seek it out, not always wanted when it is freely offered.

I am self-taught in most things I do. I had to apply self-discipline to accomplish that. So why do I still have an aversion to discipline in learning? Is it just a matter of ego — or could it be something deeper, something genetic? I just don’t seem to take direction well.

I heard an interview on NPR yesterday [ 2/2/09 – KPCC interview on AirTalk w/ Ben Sherwood, author of “The Survivor’s Club” ] with a man who for years studied survivors and what allowed them to survive. He studied many things from the Holocaust to airplane and car accidents, from hurricanes to bad lectures. His work showed him that, in any of these threatening situations that 10% of people acted on their survival instinct while 80% waited to be told what to do. I don’t know where the other 10% fit but, its the 10% that survived that really count. He said that most cases involved luck. But what is luck? Its when preparedness meets opportunity. For example, its been proven that to have any chance of surviving most airplane crashes you would have to be sitting within 5 rows of being over the wing and, knowing where the primary and secondary routes to exit were, head for them as fast as possible. This researcher also found that belief played a strong role — people believed they could escape or believed they could succeed or that they were trusting a higher power to motivate them through the challenge. He found that people who regularly attend religious services in a congregation of fellow believers lived 7 years longer than others who didn’t. Though I haven’t attended a religious service for decades, I think I am one of those survivor types.

I have developed a reflexive positive attitude. I look for the good or the opportunity in every disaster. Granted, this is not always my first response. Sometimes challenges elicit anger or stark terror but, it doesn’t take too long for the positive attitude to kick in and help me to discern a path to safety or success. Could this be related to my aversion to discipline?

Maybe part of that confidence in my abilities, the part that would place me in the 10% that are survivors, is what enables me to learn best on my own. Perhaps its what makes me ignore what that 80% are so desperately looking around and listening for as I pursue a path I have instinctively chosen. Not that my choices always lead directly to success, they often don’t but, if the desire is strong enough, I re-evaluate and move on toward the goal. Self reliance is too often seen as antisocial and uncooperative, often it really is that but, how many people survive or become masters? While in the grips of a challenge, that other 80% are clamoring around trying to find out what they should do and, after the event, if still living, may even be jealous of the success of that 10%. They may feel that they didn’t have to work for it.

In school, such self reliant behavior is too often diagnosed as a disorder. Certainly, one engaged in critical thinking in the process of self-learning may find the surrounding clamor or the persistent direction to be a frustrating distraction from what they know they must instinctively accomplish. When I was young we were labeled non-conformists. ( an aside: I remember thinking that one can always tell who the non-conformists are, they all dress alike. ) Such disorder definitely poses some social challenges for a classroom teacher. This is where discipline comes in. This is where the various meanings of discipline need to be examined.

The word discipline is from the Latin word discipulus or pupil and subsequently disciplina, teaching and learning. Teaching and learning — these are good things. Learning is exciting in its portent of reward, gaining new insight and knowledge, and the development of skills. But, according to Webster’s Dictionary, the most common usage of the word is Punishment. Could this seemingly small detail be a major contributor to the decline in the level of quality in our educational system?

The second most common usage is Instruction. Having the concepts of punishment and instruction so closely related bothers me. It conjures images of the slapped wrist or standing in a corner, torture and humiliation. When self-discipline means self-instruction, it sounds good. I never feel like I am truly punishing myself — self-punishment — when I am applying self-discipline though the learning process may be arduous. In that process the achievement of the goal is primary and, just like in the survival example, focus is critical. This can result in behavior that those other 80% may see as uncooperative or divergent. This can result in the activities of the 10% being labeled as disruptive when its the reaction of the majority itself that is to blame. But, then, that majority may not be surviving or, have their learning advance as fast as the minority either.

Here are the other five usages of the word discipline:

2: instruction;
3: a field of study;
4: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character;
5a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order;
5b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior;
6: a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.

I haven’t completed this piece because I’m still deep in thought on it.

So, what do you think?