micropoem for the day: before you know it

So we’ve unpacked our resolutions. The ones we stored in the attic. We weren’t up to them in 2018. We’re going to be better in 2019 and go after them like gang busters. We’re giving up smoking. We’re going on that diet. We’re giving up sweets. We’re going to eat healthier. Read more books. Watch less TV. Get that degree. Save more money. Break off that bad relationship. Make up with that sister or brother we haven’t talked to in years. Change jobs. Go in for that promotion. Ask for that raise. Get out of the house more. Be a nicer person. Find true love come hell or high water. You name and we’re doing it. So help us, God. But first…

Soon the Auld Lang Syne
countdown and midnight ball drop
champagne and a kiss

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Choices

The museum was lit for the night. Mostly it was dark but the exhibits were spotlighted. The statue stood before Jeff, the security guard. Otherworldly like an angel, she was a goddess. Athena, all draped in white, her arms raised, her head neither bending nor looking up but straight ahead. Athena, mistress of Athens, the goddess who had given Zeus a headache, then crashed out of his head. Virgin, unlike the slut Aphrodite. Womanly with her small breasts. Athena who had always been Jeff’s favorite. The statue was almost alive.

Jeff turned away from the statue. Then he heard a voice, “She’s not so much.”

He looked where the voice had come from. There was no one there. Then it spoke again, “I tell you that if I’ve seen her once I’ve seen her a hundred times. And there’s nothing to admire. Really.”

A woman, at least seven feet tall, appeared before him. She twirled around in what was a transparent dress. “What do you think?”

Jeff’s legs gave way and he managed to sit down on one of the museum’s benches. To say he was overcome would be a misstatement.

She looked down at him and smiled. “Well, what do you think, big boy?”

Jeff closed his eyes and opened them again. Not once, but several times. If he told anyone about this, not only would his security guard job be gone. They’d put him in the loony bin. This is what he got for drinking all that coffee. His mother kept warning him.

He felt the woman’s hand on his face.

“Oh, come now. I’m not that bad,” she said, then laughed. “Of course not.”

“W-w-w-ho are you?” Jeff stuttered out.

The woman backed away and straightened herself. “Who do you think?”

“Well, tell him,” a voice from behind Jeff spoke. It was motherly and deep.

Jeff hesitated, then looked. His jaw dropped. This woman was at least eight feet tall.

“I will,” the first woman said as she reached over and turned his head back toward her. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen. His lust was overcoming the awe. “See. He already knows that I am Aphrodite.” She leaned forward and kissed his mouth. It was so deep he almost exploded. “The goddess of love.”

“Aw right. Let’s get this over with. Cut the nonsense and tell him.” It was the statue of Athena. She was alive. She stepped down from the pedestal.

“Just hold your horses,” Aphrodite said. “And let him take it all in. It’s not everyday we get to meet a mortal. And, Hera, good choice.” Aphrodite winked at him. “Such a handsome fellow I could just eat him up.”

“None of that,” Hera said. “Tell him.”

“Okay,” Aphrodite said. Then she said to Jeff. “We need you to judge a little contest. Which of the three of us makes the best impression. Sort of like Miss Universe, only without the swimsuits. The winner of the contest gets a golden apple. And you will be rewarded handsomely.”

Like so many others before him, and so many who came after, Jeff was pretty darned sure he did not want to get into this. He vaguely remembered the last guy who judged such a contest had started a war. A bad one. So Jeff dropped his head into his hands, resisting the offer, hoping the women would just go away. Yes, that’s it. Just go away. Then he started praying.

“Now, now,” Aphrodite said, rubbing her hands in his hair. “Nobody’s going to come and rescue you. This is your big moment. And I want you to think about this. If you choose me, you can have any woman in the world. Just think of it. Any woman in the world. Movie stars. Models. That cute girl you’ve been gushing over. Choose me and they’re yours.”

That got Jeff’s attention. That, and the erotic moves Aphrodite’s hands were doing to his face. How could any ordinary mortal resist those hands?

Athena stepped down from her pedestal, walked over to Jeff, pushed Aphrodite out of her way, and pressed the palms of her hands on to his bald head. His head felt warm from her touch.

“Now don’t you feel smarter?” Athena asked.

Jeff nodded. “Actually I do.”

“If you choose me, you’re going to be smarter than Einstein. And you do know that women love a smart man.”

A lightning bolt struck the floor beside Athena.

“Oops, you missed again, Hera,” Athena laughed. “Maybe Artemis can give you some lessons.”

Hera raised her arm to throw a second thunderbolt.

Athena stopped her by saying, “I wouldn’t do that. You know how mad Dad gets when someone else tries to use his thunderbolts.”

Hera rushed over, her fists ready to sock Athena, but she held her temper. Athena was smart. Hera never knew what trick she’d come up with.

“Oh, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. And he’s too busy right now to find out about a missing thunderbolt or two. He’s out chasing that Europa or giving a swan song to Leda.” Then she turned to Jeff. “You choose me you won’t need to be sexy or smart. You’ll be powerful. Powerful enough to stop whole armies.”

Aphrodite was in no mood to loose. “Nothing like a good woman.”

“Right,” Hera said. “Look what happened to Julius Caesar when he took up with that Mae West of a Cleopatra. He ended up et-tu-ing all over the place.”

Athena put in her two cents. “And Romeo ended up stabbing himself. Just because Juliet couldn’t wake up when the alarm clock went off.”

“How ’bout that Henry VIII,” Hera said. “I told him to stay away from Anne Boleyn. Did he listen? No. Miss Boleyn shook her booty and Henry went all ga-ga. And Josephine cost Napoleon to loose at Waterloo.”

Bling! an arrow sailed by Jeff’s head. He turned and saw an auburn-haired woman in a short white dress. She carried the largest bow he’d ever seen and a quiver of arrows. She pulled a second arrow from her quiver and notched it against the bow string.

Hera yelled, “Now, Artemis, quit that.”

“Scared you, didn’t I?”

Artemis smiled, rested her bow against her leg, and approached Jeff and the goddesses.

“You know you three are a bunch of trouble makers,” the huntress said. Then to Jeff, “Let’s go fishing. You like fishing, don’t you?”

Jeff thought about it for a few minutes. If he was irresistible to women, he’d have them fighting over him all the time. Just look how Solomon turned out. He ended up with seven hundred wives. That’s way too many for one man.

As for smarts, he knew a kid who was so smart that they drafted him. He became the head of some bigwig program and was always complaining how the government wouldn’t leave him alone. And who would want all that power? Everybody would hate you.

No, fishing sounded like a real good idea.

He stood up and said to Artemis, “Let’s go fishing.”

Walking away from the three, Artemis at his side, Jeff heard her promise, “I’ll teach you some usable skills. Like how to live off the grid. Won’t that be nice? You do know this internet thing isn’t going to last.”

Hera turned to her competitors. “We’ve got to do something about her. This is the third time this week.”

“Fourth,” Athena corrected her.

“Don’t give me any of your smart mouth. I said the third, and it’s the third.”

Athena shook her head. “You’re just going to have to learn how to count.”

Aphrodite stamped her foot. “Would you two just shut up.”

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Music: Gloomy Winter

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Music Spotlight is Dougie Maclean’s recording of “Gloomy Winter Noo Awa“:

Dougie Maclean is a well-known Scottish performer and composer. His album, “Tribute,” honors the three great Scottish poets/musicians of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Robert Burns we have all heard of. He’s Scotland’s national poet. But Niel Gow and Robert Tannahill, not so much. Unless we were a Scot. At least, not until Dougie Maclean’s album.

Of all the songs on the “Tribute” album, I love “Gloomy Winter” the best. The song is deeply moving. And the words, ah, the words. Here’s a poet who knows and loves his countryside. Here’s a poet who brings that countryside to reflect his loss.

As the year passes us onward into a new year, this is a good one to remember all those who have passed on.

And here’s another one from Dougie Maclean I am wishing ye at the end of 2018:

Near 500 Words: Treat Yourself to a Year of Wonder in 2019

Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day By Day by Clemency Burton-Hill Published by Harper-Collins 2018

I came to “classical” music late. It was the early 1980s and I was dissatisfied with much of the music I was hearing. I’d loved rock ‘n’ roll and I’d loved folk music. There wasn’t much coming round the bend that I cared for.

In the past, I had avoided “classical” music the way I avoided Shakespeare. Like the plague. The fans of “classical” music drove me away by their devotion to this artist or that artist playing this composer or that composer. So-and-so had mastered Chopin but Such-and-such couldn’t play Shostakovich worth a hill of dirt. Only they wouldn’t say, “Hill of dirt.” What did I know about “classical” music other than I had heard it as the soundtrack of cartoons I grew up with?

Then I found myself being drawn to the Philips series “Set Your Life to Music” and CDs like “Bach for Breakfast,” “Baroque at Bathtime” and “Beethoven for Book Lovers.” They seemed to be saying, “Try this. It won’t hurt.” It was a way into the music without being scared off. The more of the CDs I listened to the more I liked the music. I ended up purchasing something like ten CDs from the series. This led me to a series of Adagio CDs put out by Decca that included “Baroque Adagios,” “Romantic Adagios,” and “Mozart’s Adagios”

During this time, I also saw Milos Forman’s film of “Amadeus.” Though it’s a fictional take on the life of Mozart, it humanizes the great man and took him out of the clouds and brought him down to earth where the rest of us mortals live. The best part of the movie was the soundtrack. The music was intertwined into the film to make the music accessible. Then I found a book that was helpful. The Vintage Guide to Classical Music: An Indispensable Guide for Understanding and Enjoying Classical Music by Jan Swafford was an excellent field guide.

This journey led me to find wonderful musicians, playing some of the most beautiful music ever produced by mortals: Joshua Bell, Carol Rosenberger and Barbara Bonney’s performance of Schubert’s Lieder. When John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls” honoring the 9/11 victims was released, I purchased it and was deeply moved by Adams’ tribute.

Recently I was in Barnes and Noble and rummaging among the books on music when my eyes stumbled upon Year of Wonder by the musician, columnist and novelist Clemency Burton-Hill. Each day of the year she gives a suggested composition. The suggestions range from the earliest compositions to the most recent. Even if you have a background in “classical” music, you might just find some surprises. If you don’t have the background, this is wonderful way to expose yourself to some great music.

If there’s one thing I learned about “classical” music, it is this. “Classical” music is like rock ‘n’ roll or country or rap or jazz or whatever music we listen to. There are those pieces of music I am going to love and there are those I won’t care for.

So dip your toes into the river we call “classical” music and try it. You  might just find some pieces you’ll like, and maybe even love. Make 2019 a year of wonder.

Here’s today’s selection:

 

 

 

 

My Old Man, Santa Claus

My old man was a hoot. Everybody in the neighborhood said, “Tom Pickering does have one heck of an imagination.” The thing was that his inventions seldom worked. His imagination seemed to be larger than his abilities.

There was the bicycle he believed would fly. He believed it so much that he rode it off the roof of our two story house. All the neighborhood saw it and there were those who shouted, “It’s a bird. It’s a plane.” When my Dad and the bike crashed through our neighbor’s first floor window, they were sure it wasn’t Superman.  Dad landed on Mr. Adams as he was trying to get some shut eye after a long night’s work. Needless to say Mr. Adams was not pleased and neither was the bicycle.

But Dad was no quitter. He had just the right thing he thought would get him into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame. An underwater car. It was a Saturday afternoon when he drove the Chevy off the pier. Little did Dad know that the water was deep. Very deep. So deep in fact it could have made the Challenger Deep look like a sinkhole. Down, down, down the car went as its engine stalled, then stopped. It had putted its last putt.

It was then that Dad realized he had forgotten one essential piece of equipment if you want to travel underwater. He forgot oxygen tanks. Fortunately there were three scuba divers who followed Dad into the water. It took several minutes for them to make the jailbreak out of the car. It’s a good thing that Dad was a deep breather.

Then there was the time Dad went about saving Christmas. At least for my kid brother, Jimmy. It was the year I told him there was definitely no Santa Claus. The whole thing was made up.

At first, Jimmy didn’t take my word for it. Then several of the the kids in his school  confirmed my testimony. They too told him there was no Santa. Jimmy did the math. He added and subtracted, multiplied and divided. He was nowhere near having an answer how Santa and his reindeer made it to every house in every country in the world on Christmas Eve.

When Dad saw Jimmy with qualms of disappointment on his face, he knew he had to come up with a solution to the Santa Claus issue. He remembered way back when he was young. A similar thing had happened to him. Only it wasn’t a kid. It was Old Mr. Creepers next door. He wanted to make Halloween the biggest holiday of the year. There was only one way that was possible. He had to take down Santa Claus.

That year Santa missed Dad’s house. All because he doubted Santa. Now Dad was determined that was not to happen to his kid. His solution: he would appear on our roof as Santa, then slide down the chimney with a bag of goodies.

Now Dad had the heft of a Santa and he carried it with grace. Six weeks before Christmas Eve, he began the preparations for what he called “the Santa’s Caper.” He went down to the local Santa store and bought his fake beard and his fake hair and his suit, which was not fake. And he did not cut corners. Only the best for his little Jimmy.

When Mom got a clue to what Dad was up to, she asked, “You fool, how are you going to get down that chimney?”

“Oh, it will be a tight squeeze. But I have the perfect solution. Grease.”

Mom shook her head, knowing there was no changing his mind. “Just be careful and please don’t break the chimney.” But she gave him that worried look. With Dad, what would go wrong would go wrong. So much so that she had taken to calling him Murphy behind his back

Christmas Eve came. Jimmy and I were sent to bed early with a “Santa won’t come if you’re awake.”

Though we absolutely knew there was no Santa, still we were taking no chances. By ten p.m. we were in our beds, pretending we were zzz-ing off to Never Never Land. Despite our best efforts, we nodded off. Then we heard a noise on the roof.

It wasn’t a clatter we heard. It was more like a bomp. One thing was sure. Santa was making his rendezvous. It was a definite that he was on our roof. Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! went Santa’s boots.

We jumped out of bed and hurried to the window. No sleigh on the lawn. Rudolph must be on the roof. Along with Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. We just knew it.

But it was not Santa. It was Dad. And he had spotted his target. The chimney.

All dressed up in his Santa suit, he lugged his bag over to the chimney. He sat down on the chimney’s side. With the bag lifted over his head, he gave himself a push. As he shoved off, he heard a giant ripping sound. His red pants had caught on a nail. The nail tore not only his pants but his bright red Santa underpants with white Rudolphs on the bottom as well.

That night gravity did its mighty work. Down the chimney went Dad and his bag. Until he didn’t. Like a balloon blowing up, Dad filled up the chimney, then stopped half way down.

Mom took out her flashlight and pointed it up the chimney. What she saw made her throw herself onto the floor, laughing uncontrollably.

In all the history of Santas, this must have been the first time Santa found himself unable to reach the cookies and milk. The grease had not worked.

Jimmy and I rushed into the living room. “Where’s Santa,” we screamed in unison.

“Boys, go back to bed,” Mom said. “Otherwise Santa won’t come out of that chimney. And there’ll be no presents. Right, Santa?”

From the chimney came a muffled voice that was half Santa and half Dad.”Ho, ho, ho. Listen to your mother. Moms are always right.”

“Okay, Mom,” we said, disappointment in our voices.

We left the room and closed the door, but we were not about to go back to bed. We’d be kicked out of the All American Kid Society if we did. We took turns peeping through the door.

Somehow Dad squeezed himself almost to the floor of the chimney. His black boots were about three feet in the air. If you’ve never heard a man cry, you would have heard a man cry that night. “What was I thinking.”

“You weren’t, as usual,” Mom gave him one of her what-fers.

“Well, can you give me a hand?”

Mom grabbed onto Dad’s boots and gave them a tug. “Ouch,” the chimney said. The boots dropped onto Mom’s foot and her ouch joined the chimney’s.

“Do you still have those rockets you bought for the Fourth of July?” Mom asked.

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to stick them up your rear end and send you into the Great Beyond. Otherwise it will be the waste of a perfectly decent chimney. Why do you ask?”

“No.” The chimney was emphatic. “Absolutely not.”

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

For years afterward, my family called this horns of a dilemma The Horns of a Dilemma.

Behind the slightly open door, my brother turned to me. “Where’s Dad? He could get Santa free. He’s smart like that.”

I just didn’t have the heart to tell Jimmy where Dad was.

Then a thud. And not just any thud. It was The Thud.

Mom’s eyes and Jimmy’s eyes and my eyes shot to the ceiling and the footsteps. Could it be?

Of course, it was.

From above, we heard a deep bass voice. “Fool, get out of my way.”

Dad dropped to the chimney floor and crawled out, his suit all in tatters. Behind him were a pair of boots. They stepped over Dad and into the center of the living room. There was a glow about The Man. He wore a suit of the brightest red I’d ever seen. I swear the white beard shined.

Mom rushed over and grabbed the glass of milk and the plate of Oreos. She timidly handed them to The Man.

He looked at Mom and smiled and took the refreshments. He gulped them down, then headed for the work of the night. The Christmas tree.

Frozen in our places, the four of us watched. He set his bag on the floor, reached up and adjusted the star and several of the ornaments. Then he opened his bag. He looked over at Jimmy and nodded. “This one is for you.” He placed the large gift under the tree. “For believing.” Next came my gift, then Mom’s.

Finally he looked over at Dad. Tears were in The Man’s eyes. “Thanks for the help.” Out of the bag came a very small package. He placed it under the tree, giving it a bit of extra care as he did.

In a flash, he was back at the chimney and up on the roof. But he wasn’t done. Back down the chimney he came. Standing before us in all his glory, he said in that deep deep voice of his, “I forgot.” Then he sent us a “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

From our toes to the tippy tip top of our heads, our bodies filled with joy and love and peace and hope.

“And one final thing. Merry Christmas and a very good night.”

On the roof, we heard, “Peace on  earth and goodwill toward men.” Then he disappeared into the night, heading onward to fulfill the mission he has been on for centuries.

And now, from Uncle Bardie, Merry Christmas to one and all. May you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday this year. And one final thing. As Tiny Tim said, “God bless us everyone.”