The Junkyard

I came home from a movie and it was before my bedtime. I have the house to myself and I feel no great urge to watch television. I powered up my internet machine and proceeded to entrap myself in the worldwide web. When I turned on the computer, I wanted to play online poker, but once the computer was on, I wanted to play Monopoly online. Alas, my online Monopoly account isn’t working. I didn’t want to check e-mail and I felt poker would be a waste of time. Facebook is tiresome and its content, albeit from my friends, is unrewarding. I decided I would rather read a few blogs on WordPress and blolirt (blog-flirt).


I travelled down the tunnel of topics. I chose dating, because I was curious to see how frustratingly pointless other people find the activity. Perhaps I would find some nuggets of truth? A hidden suggestion I had heretofore never considered?

My mind wandered separately from my eyes as I clicked from blog to blog. I began to think of a junkyard. Stacks and stacks of crushed cars. Cars that were once cared for and loved by their owners. Cars which were the object of optimism and aspiration. “Some day, if I work hard enough and save, I will have this car,” the dough-eyed youngster pined.

But then the car rolled off the lot and depreciation began. Time and use caused one component after another to fail. Or else, some critical user error caused the car to become destroyed beyond repair in an automobile accident. Perhaps the initial owner loved the car, but had to sell and subsequent owners became less and less kind, until ultimately a thoughtless youngster beat it into the ground. Or perhaps the car was sold to a rental agency, becoming a whore to any person with a credit card and a driver’s license.

My point is, a question began to form in my mind: to what extent has online dating become a stroll through the junkyard? Especially for a man my age. Nothing is pure or innocent anymore. Everything has been discovered. There is no frontier, no manifest destiny. There are only broken families and broken hearts that despair at the thought of being alone. They wish that help was on the way.

So if I’m strolling through the junkyard, what am I really looking for? Parts for other cars? Or am I fascinated by the great rusting hulks, contemplating what could have been? Or do I observe the damage and imagine what might have happened?

Believe it or not, there are actually some worthwhile things in the junkyard. There are cars, whose body is horribly mangled, yet the engine is in perfect working order. There are other cars where the axel snapped and the tires rolled away, but the body is pristine and flawless. All it really needs is some tires, right?


I think it really is a matter of attitude. I need to separate this defeatist mentality that online dating is like a job interview for romance. I think I wanted to come on to WordPress because I wanted to get away from the Instagram pictures and the slutty, duckfaced poses and read some real words; listen to some real thoughts. Tonight, I have not been disappointed.

I would rather read some honest things that someone has written than waste my hours sending pointless, “Hey” and “How are you doing?” messages. Even worse, committing the fallacious sin of sending a structured, meaningful message to an online picture of a supposed human being using the Hi-Observation/Compliment-Personal Connective Sentence-Question format, which is my usual online messaging habit.

The only fish in the sea are the robots beckoning me to their online webcams so they can infect my computer with viruses. Why not just skip the physical contact and contract an internet STD instead?


Oh man, I’ve travelled to a dark place. I had better leave this junkyard and return to the dealership showroom floor.

The Parable of the Bonsai Man

Once there was a man who lived in the forest. He was a renown arborist who specialized in growing bonsai trees. He kept his little trees deep in the forest and, in the forest surroundings, he worked very hard to make sure his bonsai were absolutely perfect before he sold them.

One day, over his breakfast, he heard on the radio that the conditions were ripe for a severe fire. In fact, the red flag warning was so severe that residents were cautioned to leave the forest now before the forest burst into flames. The man paid no heed to the warning and instead began his walk to his bonsai orchard.

Later that morning, a haze fell upon the forest floor. There was a smokey, sooty fragrance in the air, but the man remained determined over his tree. He refused to be distracted. Very deliberately, he picked up his small shears and began slowly pruning.

The smoke became more and more dense. The man’s eyes watered and his throat was hoarse. He began coughing, yet he refused to leave his tree and he steadily and carefully continued his pruning. “It sure is hard to see and my coughing definitely makes it difficult to cut properly, but I must continue my work,” he thought.

The wind gusted and with it came the flashover of flame that engulfed the forest. Still, the man refused to leave his tree.

The firefighters came and the blaze was contained. As they trampled through the burnt, charcoal forest, they discovered the remains of the bonsai man, his shears still between his finger bones.

Never let the demands of your work prevent you from seeing the obvious.

Meeting George Winston

Friday evening, I went to the best concert of my life. Since then, I have been struggling to describe the experience, but I will attempt to do so here. When asked by a friend, I described it as “Greatness in many dimensions.”

I watched one of my great musical inspirations, George Winston, perform at a community college in Brainerd, MN. I’ve been listening to his music since infancy. My mom used to put on a George Winston record to get me to go to sleep at bedtime. He is a master pianist who is able to conjure sounds from the instrument that you would never have believed possible. He does more than create and compose music – he commands the soundspace like no other performer. His tones and melodies are sublime and masterful.


Who I Thought He Was


Until this year, when I actually looked him up online and met him in person, I had always assumed that he was a concert pianist, complete with tuxedo, coat tails and white gloves, who had studied under the European masters, received multiple doctorates and had become well recognized in the classical music realm. After collecting his vast accolades, he embarked on a quest to push the boundaries of the piano instrument. As a result of his intensive studies, he composed and recorded his “Autumn” and “Winter Into Spring” albums in the 1980s, creating a new genre of piano music – the new age/impressionist movement. I thought that he had taken a similar route as Rachmaninoff or Leonard Bernstein.

Another musician I looked up to from the classical realm was Valdimir Horowitz. My mom had a video recording of “Horowitz In Moscow” that I would watch all the time as a tot. The “Horowitz In Moscow” record tied with Winston’s “Winter Into Spring” as my top requested bedtime music. Horowitz died in 1989.

Actually, I began my internet search of Winston because I was wondering what became of my other favorite pianist. Not only did I discover that George Winston was still alive, but that he was still performing live in concert. I was shocked to discover that he would be coming to Minnesota. But performing in Brainerd? Such a titan of music belonged in the big city venues of Orchestra Hall or the Ordway!


The Concert


Believe it or not, I’m not a super-duper fan of concerts. Yes, I enjoy seeing the band and hearing the songs, but oftentimes the songs are performed differently live. The bands tend to try too hard, or not hard enough, to perform the songs as they were recorded for the audience. I love hearing the songs on CD, but I am often disappointed when songs are performed live. Many times the acoustic subtleties are lost and I’m left wishing for more. Typically, this is compensated by the performer/audience relationship that develops over the course of the concert.

George Winston is aware of the acoustic loss and understands that live music can not compare to the technical perfection that recording provides. Instead of retreating with his music, he boldly changed the songs that I had memorized so well. He kept the basic shapes and forms of the song, a core melody with a flourish for instance, but he ventured out with each song to create something unique and new. After becoming acquainted with the space, he would use the space to control his sound. He uses both sound and quiet, loud and soft, harsh, percussive key banging and soft, gentle plucks of the strings. The audience respected his use of silence and space and held their applause until he signaled he was done.

Even though he is a master pianist, he brought other instruments with him. He played one song on the harmonica. My jaw dropped when I saw that his skills carried over to that instrument as well. He used a technique I had never heard or seen before: he played chords on a harmonica and melody simultaneously! The other instrument he played was a slack-key guitar. His fingering was very precise so as to control the overtones that the instrument generated from the strums and plucks. It was subtle and elegant.

Not only did he perform his impressionist work, but he also opened up his range with some blues and an older form of ragtime piano called stride piano, where the left hand plays the bass line and chord in an “oom-cha, oom-cha” sort of way. His first song was a warm up song in the stride style, a song of many repetitions to warm up the fingers, and my mom said that his warm up song could have been used as a finale!

I was very lucky in where I sat. My mom found tickets in the front row, stage left, where I could watch his hands strike the keys. During the concert, I practiced some of the moves I was watching. It was very educational. For instance, I had heard his piece “Woods” and I always assumed he stretched and lifted with his pinkies to reach the high and low notes. In reality, he actually uses his right hand to cross over his left to achieve all of the sounds and notes.


Who George Winston Really Is


As it turns out, George Winston is even better than the person that I envisioned. He is left-handed, for starters. Instead of being classically trained in Europe, he lives in Montana and studied jazz down in Florida and Louisiana before beginning on the piano. He is a man who has many musical heroes. The program lists at least 32 musicians that he models himself after. He performs in his socks so that he has better control over the pedals at the piano and he has a landing pad to place his heels so that his feet do not interfere with his sound.

Throughout the performance, we noticed that his glasses hung loose on the side of his head. Before the intermission, I thought this was just the eccentricities of genius. What my mom and I discovered was that he had no right ear! It makes me awestruck to believe that this genius who mastered the waves of sound only has a single ear. The things he can hear with his ear! It is just amazing. It made me think back to an old dilemma. If you had to lose your sense of sight or your sense of hearing, which would you lose? My choice would be to keep my sense of hearing and lose my sight.

George Winston is a cat person. He is also a very kind person. The proceeds from his CD sales and his concert were going to a local food shelf to help the hungry. He dedicates his CDs to causes, such as helping after Hurricane Katrina, benefiting 9/11 victims or protecting the Louisiana wetlands.


After The Concert


Mom and I stayed after the concert was over and waited by the stage to meet George Winston. I was in shock after this performance. There was a young woman named Lora who was also stunned, but she was as hyper as a puppy to meet Mr. Winston. She was expressing on the outside what I was feeling on the inside. The patrons of the performance were also there with their families and grandchildren. There was a couple who were positively geeky for him. There was also a young man who asked very technical questions. Finally, the owner of one of the major local resorts, Craguns, was there.

Mr. Winston was very humble, patient and gracious. He told some jokes and answered some questions. When he heard that my mom and I travelled were from the twin cities to see him, he said, “Oh! Mini Apple Sauce? I’m going there on December 22.”

Lora was very hyper and wanted to share her life story. Her favorite bands were Tool, Metalica and George Winston. She has been engaged for 10 years, but she offered to marry Mr. Winston that night. She had a gift on her phone, but it was dead. She asked if I could take her picture, which I did and I e-mailed it to her. She inadvertently wanted to monopolize the time with Mr. Winston, but my mom and I helped occupy her to help free up Mr. Winston to make the rounds.

The geeky couple gave him a gift of a Grumpy Cat doll. They also filmed him with their giant iPad. “What is that?” George Winston asked, “It has a big apple on the back.” When told it was an iPad, he responded, “I don’t really watch TV, use computers or the internet. My assistant wants me to use Facebook more, but I’d rather do other things. I prefer talking to people in person.”

The young man asked what sorts of things he places on the strings of the piano, and Mr. Winston said, “Just my hand tonight.” He also asked how he could create such soft and beautiful sounds from the piano, but Mr. Winston responded, “The piano is not a soft instrument. It is a percussion instrument that has to be beaten to get the sound out of it. You have to press down on the keys to make the hammers strike the strings.” It was a profound observation from a composing master known for his subtlety.

Immediately after the concert, my mom asked me how I enjoyed it. I said, “This was amazing. The best concert of my life. I’m still trying to process it right now. Remember Vladimir Horowitz? How he was my favorite? Well, I may never see him perform, but I got to see my #2 favorite perform tonight.”

Silly mom repeated what I had said to George Winston. I was so embarrassed. He laughed and said, “I’d rather be where I am today than where Vladimir Horowitz is today.” It was an amazing save! My mom and I got along so well with George Winston that people thought that we were family.

The owner of Craguns offered to buy him dinner at Perkins (one of the only places open), but he turned it down. He wanted to stay up and work on more music. In the end, the theater manager walked up to George Winston and asked, “You know how to turn off the lights, right?” I got my picture and autograph. My mom gave him her information. When we left, the only people there were Mr. Winston and Lora. My mom wonders what became of Lora.


Buying CDs


Mom and I bought 3 CDs: Forest, Night Divides the Day – The Music of the Doors, and Gulf Coast Blues & Impressions 2. The thing that captures my attention about the CDs is that they are designed in such as way so as you feel like you’re listening to a record with a front side and a back side; an A-side and a B-side. On the drive back, we listed to Forest and Night Divides the Day and I remained in awe of his technical skill with the piano. This was the most inspiration concert of my life. I learned so much and I have an understanding of how to develop my skills further.

My one regret is that I didn’t buy his harmonica CD. I had an opportunity at the intermission, but I just stood in front of my chair in shock for most of the intermission, processing everything I had heard. I finally went to the bathroom, but I nearly missed the chance to get back in the theater, because they were closing the doors when I got out. Had I been more alert, I could have purchased the harmonica CD.


Final Reflections


I think the thing that inspires me the most from meeting George Winston is how similar we are. We both hail from the jazz background. His view of music goes beyond the notes on the page. We share the “mistakes make masterpieces” philosophy.

One thing I could learn from him is to find more artists to inspire me. He listed over 32 musicians on his program. When my mom told him that I also play piano, bass and flute, he recommended that I look into Jimmy Smith to develop my talents. I can only imagine what George Winston’s record collection looks like.


I came home Friday evening from a full day of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to a picture message from my mom. She had found a dog for me. I was very hesitant and gave a soft “no.” Nevertheless, she said that I should come by the pet store Saturday afternoon when they were showing her again and I said I would be there.

The pup’s name is Harley. She is a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix. I was very sad to say no, but I did. Mom persisted and told me that Harley was a rescue and, that if things didn’t work out, I could return her in a week. She had all her shots and was healthy, except for some ear irritation that she was being treated for once a day with drops. Mom would pay for everything. Ultimately, it was the ability to return her that convinced me to take her home.


About a year ago, I had a horrible experience with a husky named Tonka, whom I was asked to adopt from my brother’s girlfriend at the time. I had such high hopes because I haven’t had a pet since childhood and have fond memories of having dogs. Tonka only lasted a week and it was one of the longest weeks of my life. Tonka was so destructive, jumping and chewing on furniture, peeing and pooping all over the house, and spreading garbage everywhere. I even had to leave work several times to stop the destruction. I moved him to the garage, but after a couple of days, he nearly broke down the garage door. I chained him outside, but that did not stop the destruction of everything in all directions. When I took him on walks, he would strain on the leash and attack other dogs. It was a very scarring experience.

Harley is the exact opposite of Tonka. She is a total lapdog. She acts like a 7 or 8 year old dog even though she is a puppy at 1 year old. She is so calm. She doesn’t really bark or whine. She hasn’t peed in the house once. She keeps your pace when walking and naturally heels. She doesn’t jump on the furniture unless invited. She has a kennel that she is willing to spend time in while I’m away. For a 1 year old dog, she is very low energy and is content to lay on the floor next to you while you watch TV or play games.


Just as I suspect Harley is doing right now, I find myself thinking about her here at work. Harley came from a family who had to move and couldn’t take her with them. She had other dog and cat companions. While at the pet store, I found that she was drawn to cats. I wonder how she will handle being the only pet in the house?

Harley reminds me of my first dog Spottie, who I’m pretty sure had depression. Harley hasn’t eaten much since she first arrived. She is fairly clingy, but I can understand that. Being adopted must be a very jarring experience and memories of old friends and family must still be fresh. She seems to like it at my house and my roommates like having her around. The only person who hasn’t liked her yet is my Dad, but he’s just a grumpy-grump.


I think Harley was named after Harley-Davidson, because she has similar colors. But I like to think of her like Harley Quinn – Medicine Dog. If I were to name her, I would give her a similar sounding name: Nellie. Long name: Arenal – The Volcanic Princess, named after the Arenal volcano of Costa Rica that I visited as a boy. But Harley has the opposite of a volcanic personality and I see no reason why I should confuse her by changing her name. Harley – Medicine Dog will do just fine, because she is very therapeutic and healing.

Some Things Get Better With Age

This is another piece that came from Midtown Writers Group prompts. The idea originally appeared on paper on 12/31/2017, but it took awhile for me to get back to it and complete the piece.


“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.

Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the wine bottle in the Mediterranean Sea.

For the breadth of human history and pre-history, there has been a fascination with the sea. Mankind has fashioned his watercraft, sailed the sea, and sunk to the bottom of it for thousands of years. Much has been lost in these aquatic catastrophes – gold, gems, pottery and so on. The real prize to the true collector is the preserved perishable items. Finding clothing is rare, but to find an unbroken bottle is exceptional. To find an intact bottle of the famous Roman wine, the wine sung of by the bards and written of by the poets, is absolutely inconceivable and beyond belief.

One the hobbies of the super-rich is deep sea scavenging and salvage. They can afford the diving teams, the latest equipment and the finest toys. Many graduate students and doctors of antiquity are eager to find patronage with these private collectors. However, the internet tycoon employed no one. He was in business for himself as a sole proprietor and amateur treasure hunter.


Walking to the backstage window, the internet tycoon looked out to see his parking lot filled with luxury and exotic cars. Young women, with their furs and dapper dates, had made their way to his palace entrance, the last of which were entering now. The internet tycoon continued musing, his mouth watering in anticipation. He reminisced with pride as he thought of his fleet of submersible drones, casting a radar net over the ocean floor. He felt the giddiness again of the discovery of the radar blip in the channel between Corsica and Sardinia. There was the competitive rush of adrenaline when he realized that diving teams from the British Museum and Cambridge were nearing his discovery. He was there first!

He had sent a swarm of drone submarines to the radar blip and turned on the search lights. What a discovery! Such a well preserved Roman wreck! He had to keep them away. As the scuba divers neared the wreckage, the internet tycoon released additional swarms of miniature tactical submarine drones armed with electric shocks, similar to cattle prods. These undersea bees were relentless to the diving team. Helplessly, they tried to swat them away, but the friction of water makes everything happen in slow motion and salt water is a great conductor of electricity. Eventually, the drivers surfaced to lodge a complaint, which was promptly forwarded to the attorneys.

Meanwhile, beneath the sea, the drones carefully searched the Roman wreck. In the cargo hold, its stopper and glassware intact, sat the prize. With extraordinary care, he sent in his extractor subs. The subs carefully removed the bottle and placed it in a pressurized container to eventually return to the surface and be carefully depressurized. After another pass of the wreckage, he took the gold, jewelry and gems. He even took the remainder of an old Roman sword with him, since he had some extra room in one of the containers. He left the remainder of the pottery and junk to the divers that would come back. He even knocked over one of the pots, not of clumsiness, but out of spite, as he recalled his drone submarines.


As the red curtain opened, the internet tycoon felt a surge of pride and accomplishment as the display lights came alive to reveal the ancient bottle and its liquid contents. This was his bottle. He owned it. Critics would demand that he hand it over to a museum, let scientists and researchers study it, but it was HIS. What he would do with this wine from antiquity would be the most blasphemous, heinous crime in their eyes and they were powerless to stop him. For this was his bottle, found and salvaged, and he owned it.

The internet tycoon gave his presentation to a packed house. He was broadcasting live across the internet, where the self-righteous trolls spat upon his decadent ways. After an hour of self-aggrandizement, the moment came. He lifted the plastic cube and held the bottle in his hands, displaying it for all to see. Next, he removed the stopper from the millennia-old bottle. He did this with the aid of one of his modern contraptions so as to neither damage the stopper nor the bottle. Finally, he poured.

Thick, black syrup oozed out of the bottle and into the fine crystal stemware. He put the glass to his lips and tasted. As the internet tycoon swished the Roman wine syrup in his mouth and swallowed, he allowed himself to reverie on a life well spent. He closed his eyes, breathed in and held it.

What the audience saw was his collapse on the red felt carpet. Paramedics were called, but he was dead. The cause of death was poisoning. When medical science got ahold of the remainder of the wine, they discovered that it contained an ancient, lethal and forgotten foodborne illness that had also been preserved in the bottle. Centuries of dormancy beneath the sea only heightened its lethal potency. The internet tycoon had been cursed by his own ancient wine.


“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.

Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the…

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Fogy Lovers

This was a story that I wrote from today’s writing prompts in the Midtown Writer’s Group. I like how it turned out.


Author’s Note: This story is a bit of a stretch assignment for me. I rarely venture into erotic fiction, but today’s characters and writing prompts led me in that direction. I’ve italicized the writing prompts so you can follow the glide path of the story. Please judge kindly – Thanks.

You would think that investing your life in a neighborhood or community for 27 years would get you somewhere, but with the recent string of drug arrests made, Vidalia’s home value plummeted. It was time to sell the house and move to a condo, but to even get a reasonable price, the house needed repairs.

Out of the fog, there emerged a balding man with a tool belt and a toolbox. He wasn’t much to look at, so he went largely unnoticed. He performed maintenance at the low income high rise, but with so many tenants returning to prison…

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Poisonous Snakes Frozen in the Mountain

Last night, I had a dream where I was travelling with the Top Gear guys, excuse me “Grand Tour” guys: Jeremy, James and Richard. We were in a mountainous region and I think I was working as part of the camera crew, like a grip or something. I was holding reflectors and carrying battery packs while they were being filmed for various segments in the morning. We were either in the Alps or the Pyrenees. It was late spring and it was sunny and pleasant. By the afternoon, shooting had wrapped for the day and I was free to go for a walk along the mountainside.

I climbed one of the mountains up to the snowline. As I got closer to the snow line, I began to notice lots and lots of what I thought were dead snakes. I carefully stepped around them to get closer to the ice and snow of a melting glacier. I could hear the melting babble of a nearby brook as the glacier melted beneath the warm sun, the gorgeous blue sky and a couple of stray white whispy clouds.

The glacier was fascinating. Snakes were frozen inside of the ice. Lots of snakes. Big snakes and small snakes. As the glacier melted, tails and heads and various parts of snakes emerged from the ice, all seemingly dead.

As it happens, I like snakes. I looked around and I began to realize that most of these snakes were poisonous. Most were asps or rattlesnakes, but there were also a few coral snakes. I even saw an anaconda frozen in the glacier.

As I studied the snakes in the ice, I saw some stray movement out of the corner of my eye. First the tail of one snake, then another, started wriggling in the ice, trying to free themselves. I looked down the mountain and some of the snakes were slowly starting to move. It was time to get out of there. I carefully crept my way around the awakening poisonous snakes and, once clear, I started running down the mountain towards the chalet. Running down the mountain, I turned and to my horror, the snakes were chasing me!

I reached the chalet and climbed the stairs to the deck. A coral snake and a few asps were still behind me and climbing the stairs. On the deck there were 3 white poofy Maltese or Pomeranian dogs barking and jumping towards the snakes. I tried to open the sliding door to get in to the chalet, but it was stuck. The little dogs were going ballistic on the snakes and were holding them successfully at bay for a time. Little by little the sliding door was cracking open. That was when I got bit twice – once on my right ankle and once on my left knee. It was painful, but I was panicking to get in and hardly noticed.

I made it in, but I was struggling to the close the door. I was panting and my breath was short. I was starting to sweat. I collapsed on the floor and one of the asps got in. Someone from housekeeping noticed me, grabbed a broom and brushed the snake outside, but not before it bit me on the right shoulder. The person with the broom got the door shut. One of the dogs had made it back inside and started licking my face. I could hear the other dogs barking. My heart was pounding and I was struggling to breathe.

“Stay calm. I’m getting help,” the housekeeper guy said. I could feel my blood thickening and my heart struggling to pump the blood syrup though my body. My mind travelled back to the image of all those snakes in the ice, wriggling to get free and that’s when I woke up.