Saturday, May 31, 2014

Iceland,Crazy Horse hands, and Germans sleeping

In honor of Neil Young kicking off his 2014 European Tour (revisited) this summer in Iceland, playing there for the first time ever with the boys from Crazy Horse....

(Remember last summer Poncho broke his hand and they had to cancel mid-tour?) Poncho said it was probably their last tour in an interview with Rolling Stone. Never say the word "last" to Neil Young unless it's maybe "Last Trip to Tulsa."

The beautiful hands of guitar players....

The show takes place at  Laugardalshöllin in Reykjavík on a Monday and my very Human Highway friend Michael will travel there to see it - all the way from Tennessee, from a place with road names like "Possum Paw," "Gnat Hill" and "Dug Hollow." Imagine that journey....

                                                         Reykjavík, Iceland

Michael and his students made the wonky T-shirts for last year's first-ever Human Highway gathering. It's a long story, Human Highway....a long road now under construction.

And so this is the first time Iceland is mentioned in a poem about the Human Highway journey, those we meet along the way and then somehow lose. But you know the saying: "No one ever said that life was fair."

The Last Time I Thought Of Iceland

The last time I thought of Iceland
it was the middle of a summer night
and there were two fans going that
sounded like the refrigerator generators
from our childhood.
A cat was scratching at the bedroom
door because a light was still on.
I watched your airplane travel in
an arc over the Atlantic ocean –
maybe 2 a.m. it moved across
Iceland on the flight tracker that filled
the computer screen.
All night long in tiny increments
the distance between us narrowed
and I practiced how I might look at
you the first time. Ok, so if he finds
me horrifying in some way there is
no plan B, I thought, and got out of bed
searching for that last cigarette I
had smoked years ago.
You tell me now that as you
stumbled out of customs after two hours
standing in line anxious
from all you’d heard about
America and how maybe the NSA would snatch you
and detain you in a small hot room
for days
suddenly someone jumped on you,
wrapped their arms around you tight,
like a blood pressure cuff,
squeezing so you couldn’t breathe.
I don’t recall doing this
but sometimes I still wake up in
the middle of the night with
the fans sounding like refrigerator
generators from our childhood
and I feel you beside me, smelling
like German after shave
and sleeping without moving.
Then I trace your journey back
as you arc high over Iceland, and I
think if I had the chance to do it all over
I would still have jumped on you
but maybe introduced myself first
as an NSA operative,
and then detained you, for years,
eating tomatoes and onions for
breakfast, even now,
Even today,
as I write this.

                                                   First American Lumberjack breakfast

 For Rainer.....who left too soon but I guess he was needed in another quantum reality.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looking for a Girl With a Washing Machine

What do we value when life is a frozen wasteland?

Get up in the dark, go home in the dark.
Frozen doors, mind, heart -
all systems are on icy-edge, gluttonous and world-weary.

Eureka! Discovering music that I missed is like opening a gift.

"Looking for a Girl With a Washing Machine" - Big Sleep's big hit.

Big Sleep was a hot German band back in the days and lead singer Stefan Schwerdtfeger (translation "swordsweeper") now carries on the sound from exotic Thessaloniki, Greece.

In his youth- perhaps during one of his many, mad excursions to the west coast of France- he was in need of a washing machine, somewhat in the same context as Neil Young's "A Man Needs a Maid."

I am from the generation that remembers wringer washers and the terror associated with possibly getting your arm mangled in the wringer - as our mother's warned - but I never knew anyone missing an arm from a laundry disaster.


Stefan's apartment overlooks the ocean, doors and windows wide open, clothes drying on the line - flapping in the salty breeze. The aroma of mussels steaming......

Like an old-world minstrel, he is both a gifted musician and a wordsmith, traveling by train along the Grecian coast or in big, lumbering busses - headed for the Albanian Mountains. He carries his dreams with him to cozy cafes and corner bars that open into the streets. I picture them dark and smoky - loud with raucous singing -  much laughter and drinking into the wee hours.

                                    I feel a nostalgic-melancholic-longing for a European setting and thick accents and genetic generations past...calling.....

Stefan's lyrics paint pictures and his music... like waves washing over your psyche.


You and your blue shirt...
You are your blue shirt...
You and your auto-pilot
circling through the room
high above the bed
looking like a mobile unit.

You and your tennis-shoes,
birds in a cage and
clouds outside
drifting by the window
like big ships.
You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...

You and your sea-shell eyes
and your pop-song lies
watching time go by
like a parade on the fourth of July.
You and your drunk friends.

You and your bird in a cage,
your little house near the mountains
and all the sentences you made up.
You and your big mug of coffee
every morning since 1972.
You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...

You and your mouthful of dreams
and your filthy hands
on someone else's skin,
you and all your tenderness
and your kisses soft with gin
You and your motherless mind.

You and the mountains -
you the director of unconscious scenery
calling big black jets
to soar through her soul
while she's not awake.

You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...
you and your subway evenings
 your list of airplanes
how many crossed the sky above your house
last night? the night before?
You and your digital door.

You and all the wives you had
and all that talk about your dad
you and your telephones
your twilight zones
you and all your songs about the ocean.

You and your blue shirt...
You and your blue shirt...

Sometimes I listen to Stefan's music in an endless loop as if it is the background to my daily life.

The Big Sleep webpage is somewhat archaic but their remains the essence and history of a band that captured sounds of traffic, ocean waves, whales and a girl chanting on the beach and incorporated this into the music.

"From here to the Horizon" and Stefan 5,260 miles away...

Friday, July 20, 2012

A long-lost friend returns, Neil revisited (AGAIN)

"No More"  Neil Young

It must be the return of a long-lost friend that has me turning to Neil Young (AGAIN).
The way his body moves, the transcendent tremor of his voice, the depth of his eyes.
I would tell her these things and she would already know.
It was 1973 when she professed her love for Neil Young to me, and I said "who?"
She did things I could never do, though the longing for them lingers deep in my bones.
 I searched for her for many years, trying to find a trace of her wild laugh and
wicked wit.
I wrote her this poem, a short tale of her and me, and Neil.
It's great to have you back, my friend, it's unicornical.

~Neil to Neil~

It was early 1970s around the time I had a plan to
head west and join a friend who’d found wings
and fled the Midwest mindset to Berkeley.
All the families watching Vietnam on TV
sitting around dinette sets
aproned mothers at the window calling
for their lost hippie daughters.
My friend’s hair grew past her waist - flaxen webs
she twirled to lasso dreams and maybe catch a glimpse
of Neil Young in a ride up the mountain, to La Honda.
Oh my god I can't imagine it I said.
I'm in a Chevy Nova with a guy named Bear
a cassette of "On the Beach” blaring as
he rolls a joint with one hand asking what I see
in this "Neil Diamond" guy with the nasal voice.
It was just around the time a psychic,
it could have been Shirley McLaine's psychic,
said in a past life Neil Young had been a Chief at Chaco Canyon.
Of course it has to be past life I told my friend there is no
other explanation and she said when are you coming out here
the mangos are so ripe and there is magic
in the making all along Telegraph Avenue,
every which way you turn.
I make it out there once, then twice then never again
but late at night I’d call her on the phone to describe his arm.
You should have seen it I told her, the length of his radius and the way
his muscle moves when he plays guitar - the line of hair like the
last ridge of scrub before the dunes collapse in sea.
It was sometime after that concert - the one with the forearm fixation -
that she dropped out of sight, somewhere off the radar.
I picture a lightning bolt.
Then nothing.
In dreams I see two Indian maidens
one flaxen-haired and twirling
the other waving her arms to the music
like a bird in flight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The day my mother ran away from home

All I can think of when I hear the word “menopause” is my mother running away from home.

Etched in my mind is the look on my father’s face when he came home from work to find my mother gone, and us kids ashen and silent, gathered around the chrome and vinyl 1950’s dinette set.

It was maybe 6 p.m. and already dark outside because it was fall. The table was set for dinner but the plates were empty. Through the sheer orange curtains I could see lights on in the neighbor’s house across the street, where they were having a normal dinner, Walter’s Cronkite’s face flickering on their black and white television set.

My father was a man of few words, but in his love for my mother he didn’t fail to tell us how proud he was of how she was dealing with “the change of life.”

We didn’t know what that meant other than she wasn’t going crazy, we were told, like some women her age who were wearing go-go boots and mini-skirts and dying their hair peroxide blonde. Another plus, she wasn’t taking any tranquilizers. I’m thinking maybe she should have.

Looking back there were probably little signs indicating she was ready to blow, but kids being kids, we were busy bickering about who had to set the table, my older brother performing the “snake-bite” routine, which involved placing his hands around our arms, squeezing, and then twisting each hand in the opposite direction.

“You’re so stupid,” I screamed.

“I know you are, but what am I?” he retorted, over and over, no matter what name I called him.

Someone asked my mother over the din of bustling pots and pans and steam rising from boiling kettles what was for dinner.

Whatever the answer — probably “meat loaf” —was met by a chorus of groans. Someone said “Again?” in a raised voice.

My mother stopped in her tracks, turned off the stove and silently removed her apron. To this day I can still see her walking out the door, pulling an arm through the sleeve of her rain or shine coat.

We thought she was gone for good. Seeing that she didn’t drive, we pictured her hopping a bus to who knows where.

My father found her a couple blocks away, walking the dark streets in her sensible pumps, the soft, beige ones with a little heel.

I can think of only a few things more crushing than how we felt that day, pushing our poor mother over the edge like that. Maybe we had ruined her for life, but she came around and resumed her normal yelling at us and making us write 500 times “I will not call my brother names.”

At that age we had no clue how many more “changes” we would have to face — life seemed so immutable, so steadfast. There was a brief glimpse that day, a glimmer of realization that things really could change in an instant.

And for a short while, at least, we didn’t complain about what we were having for dinner.

Sharon Roznik is a staff writer for The Reporter in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Monday, May 07, 2012

Writing for Rainer

I'm wandering around the house today, from room to room, the sole of one slipper  torn and flopping around.

A cat keeps following - winding around my feet in an effort to try to trip me up and kill me.

I don't know where to go, anywhere away from the windows, I guess.

There are landscapers outside trimming all the bushes and I don't want them to see me.
 Of course they will look into the windows - how can you not look into a window?
I'm wearing a faded pink nightgown and over that a man's long-sleeved undershirt. I know I have to write for Rainer but the table I write on is near the patio doors - right where the arbor vidae needs trimming.

"Why don't you write on your blog?" he harps at me day and night from his Bavarian castle somewhere in Germany. I have never met him but have known him for years so I can imagine things about him: he wears old-man sweaters and likes to chop wood. His hair is unkempt  and he broods about quantum physics and the state of the European union. At night his pipe tobacco smells like oak trees after it rains.

I learned to hide from the outside world when I was little, inside a closet or crouched in the front hall. Those were the days when salesmen would knock on the door selling sets of encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, steak knives, Fuller brushes, Stanley products.

My mom taught us to hide in the house until they went away. I can still feel all the shoes beneath me as I squat down behind the coats.

My sister and I still have that in us - the ability to pull the curtains and shut the world away. It's easy to do with social media, we pretend to be friends with so many people but we don't really see them. Ever.

Rainer hates Facebook and agrees with the European Commission's plan to stop the way the website "eavesdrops" on its users to gather information about what they purchase, their political opinions, sexuality, religious beliefs – and even their whereabouts.

Facebook harvests information from people's activities on the social networking site – whatever their individual privacy settings – and makes it available to advertisers.

He doesn't understand how Americans don't care about giving it all away.

They don't even think much about you Rainer or Europe in general except maybe a planned  two week-tour to some of the major cities after retirement.

 They do think about Africa however, traveling there with church groups in perpetual pilgrimages to fight starvation. 

I feel like smoking a cigarette after this - I'm so tired and not used to writing more than one Facebook sentence expounding on how I feel or what I like or what I watched on television last night.

I quit smoking years ago but I still want one every day and will cross the street to be near someone who is smoking so I can breath it in - let it waft over and around me like some sacred cleansing.

I hope you are happy now Rainer.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shitting in the woods

I have a friend who likes to shit in the woods.

I don't know if she's told this to anyone else.

I'm reminded of her confession after contemplating what all the deer hunters are doing when compelled to relieve their bowels.

The hills and dales of rural Wisconsin have to be filled with hunter's shit right about now.

My friend is a walker and it seems to happen to her more often than not - the morning ritual walk gets everything moving and churning along in the old digestive system and she begins to search frantically for a tall oak, but often has to settle for the nearest scrub line or leaf pile.

I've been there to witness her suddenly turn and run pell-mell down a hill - toilet paper flying in hand. (She keeps her pocket stuffed just in case)

I wonder about runners, just pounding along in the wee hours before daylight. That has got to come up.

I'm not adverse to the idea and I admit I've done it on occasion. There is something very earthy about it - communing with nature - genetic memory of primitive ancestors - cool wind on the ass. I do get why she likes it.

Except for the time - and my kids just can't let this go - when I was deep into a five mile walk in the winter in my snow suit - and the zipper was stuck.

I feel like I'm channeling Andy Rooney today.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why I will stick to real books

My books are dusty, piled in boxes just waiting to tell someone the story of my life.

I visit them from time to time - stroke the jacket covers and flip through pages, the smell of places I've lived lingering on the paper.

I know I should part with them - I have a boxful ready for Goodwill but I don't have the strength of heart to say goodbye. There have been too many painful partings already in my life.

The inside cover of a book of horse stories is dated 1969 and signed by my Aunt Ann. Inside are all the imaginations of a young girl: horses with flowing manes and fierce devotion, heroes and happy endings, the wonder of possibility. I lay in my twin bed -book propped on coltish legs - lost in the feel of wind as it whips through my hair.

My stolen books from junior high: "No Particular Place to Go - The Making of a Free High School," a book on weaving and the "Complete Works of Gilbert and Sullivan."

Dog-eared paperbacks, "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger's "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters," "Troutfishing in America" by the sad poet Richard Brautigan - I still live inside their yellowed pages. All these characters - Billy Pilgrim, Elliot Rosewater, Seymour Glass- once knew me better than I knew myself.

Did Carlos Casteneda's Don Juan really exit? Don't tell me any different, I know it's true, just as I know Middle Earth will someday herald my return, Frodo and Bilbo welcoming me home.

Spiritual books on Edgar Cayce, reincarnation, dreams, Atlantis and astrology, crystals and prophecies - how grateful I am to be unlocked from the chains of sin and hell, although I still have my Martin Luther book from confirmation with the cheat sheet pasted on the inside cover.

My college textbooks introduced to me to all the great photographers documenting moments through images: human suffering, the Battle at Wounded Knee, the Dust Bowl, bread lines, civil rights marches, John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket, the Vietnam War reflected in a young soldier's eyes.

I could show you all my collie books in hardcover from my foray into the world of dog shows, tell of Albert Payson-Terhune's dogs: the famous Lad and Buff and Gray Wolf and Bruce and what it feels like to bury your hands in a magnificent ruff of collie fur, to watch them run with wild abandon, all the while seeking your face.

There are so many more - the inherited books: My grandmother's English-Slovenian dictionary and all her notes, beginning at age 16 when she came to America. My other grandmother's tattered Bible with pages falling out. My mother's dictionary in large print and her book of birds both she and my father inscribed with the species they spotted at their backyard feeder: a blue jay, mourning dove, nuthatch, four guinea hens, a squirrel they named "Red Devil."

I see them sitting in their matching Lazyboy recliners, after dinner, watching the feeder fill with birds as evening falls.

My father's handwriting is like chicken scratching, my mother's round with full loops.

Our books are filled with memories that tell the story of who we are.