Archive for January, 2009

020_monster.jpgUnexpectedly, my folks have been activated. They are going through their museum of a townhouse and stirring things up. All my old toys, high school and college artifacts, and forgotten keepsakes. They are trying to identify objects, group together related items, and either toss/donate unwanted things or put them away in new containers.Needless to say, such a psychological task stirs up more than dust. The ghosts of Paulie past are not amused, nor are the secret monsters dwelling in the crevices. And the only person who can name the pieces is me.

My folks have adopted certain superstitious taboos while going through their motions of digging up and accommodation. Only during daylight. Only when both of them are together. Always have a drink in hand. I can emphasize. When I am with them, they are able to make substantial progress.

It is as if I can name the secret creatures that lurk under the depths of existence. I emphasize with their desire to clear the field, for I too wish the dark corners of my past to be cleansed. I want to move forward and let go of anything that holds me back from living life.

I’m nostalgic, sentimental, and romantic. K has been telling me I need to focus more on the here and now, not so much in the past. I agree. I want harmony and balance. How much can I hold onto my Star Wars figures or my Ocean Adventure sets without regressing to a childhood I no longer have a right to? A new perspective is required.

My folks begin to dig up all sorts of things. It feels good to throw away notebooks of Algebra and World History that I will never return to in that form. Also, the sense that I am putting away valuable toys for the future makes me happy. I haven’t played with my Navarone Gun set in so long it feels like I’m looking at an alien puzzle when I put away the accessories for the Allied forces.

And the countless comic books, both in the standard size and the magazine and supersize designation. My folks get their hands on plastic bags and cardboard backing galore so they can archive the finds, before putting them away for a suitable storage. I never knew I had so many Richie Rich comics, or Shazam specials. It totally blows me away.

Digging up the corpses of my life, that’s what it amounts to. Weirdness. But it feels good to excavate this long, large detritus pile up. I sense this is timely, and necessary. But what is responsible for this sudden digging up of my life? What has changed that I should go over my life and set things in order for a change of outlook?

Unfamiliar, or forgotten aspects of my being must be at work. Newly revealed parts of myself that I’m only now making sense of.

Wait, what is that gigantic shambling thing in my old room? How is it that this magnetic electric spirit of blazing titanic fire can be in two places at once? Why, it’s the Goob-a-loo throwing a fanatic fit over all the junk people carry around with them. It builds up nothing but dust bunnies, which charge up the capacitors and wreck havoc with the Goob-a-loo’s allergies!

The only solution is to diffuse the build-up of psychic debris by disconnecting the memorial junk accumulators from the items held in unconscious repose for storage. This means getting into the piles of objects and separating the wheat from the chaff. Anything not likely to be consciously considered and handled must be removed to a disposal array – clothes in a bag to AmVets for example.

We’re holding on to too much stuff that has served it’s purpose, and the Goob-a-loo will dance on our heads until we ease the psychic continuum down to a less radioactive level of possessiveness. Goob-a-loos only want to stand still and coast on the ambient energy of household operations. Don’t we know they’re being made miserable existing in human object dumping grounds?

Hek-yeah, I’m on it.

I have guests in the haunted house who need attending to. The spookiness and the odd happenings continue. Weird sounds (what was that sound of someone landing in the wall?), strange smells (who’s cooking?), and sudden movements (the faucet turned itself on again). The floor warps and curls in odd places. K and I can hardly maintain a sense of propriety in the face of it all. But it doesn’t scare me, and that’s such a natural but unexpected feeling. It scared me so bad I couldn’t sleep before. Now I accept it as normal, that supernatural occurrences are a part of life.

And then my friends. I never knew I had so many. I scarce know what to make of it, because for so long I’ve been a jerk out of touch with myself. I’ve been displaced from my nature and didn’t even know it. My friends have faults, and so do I, so I hesitate to call this a massive hug session. It’s as if I see people in a darker shade, with the light coming from an unknown source. I know we will all make mistakes again. Somehow, it’s okay because I’m seeing in a different way that I can’t quite explain. Almost as if the mistakes and the screw ups lead to better things and I can’t wait for the discomfort, because that’s where the life is.

I let a good friend read my book. She read it so fast I was surprised. Lots of great suggestions from her. I really trust her instincts, so it’s nice to feel that I’m on the right track with my craft. And my editor asked to see the whole thing, which took me by surprise. She’s so unpredictable I can hardly comprehend what she’ll say. Not as if I have a lot of work to do, because I do.

The cover sketches are proving difficult – I’d forgotten how hard it can be to get tools to behave, and I’m still working out the rust of ages. Plus, I am considering the idea of illustrations to go with the book, one for each chapter. My editor has some really mind-bending ideas!

Oh yeah, back to the haunted house. All the ghosts and monsters have been coming up to me with requests. Suddenly I find myself having to find solutions to supernatural problems I hardly expected. And the killer bees are getting active again, despite the winter season. Yes, the year is in full effect and I’m the one who has to come up with ideas and work out the real world maneuvers.

Oh crumbs, here they come!

030_hemipterabugs.jpgI run into a lot of experimental and ambient sounds on my music quest.  My life support system just won’t run very often on the lifeforce in the mainstream.  Out there, in the indepedent and unsung corners of the struggle to reach a civilized music culture, you find some real gems.

Lo and behold, my old college friend Jennifer Clemente (aka Solekandi) is in the music mines!  She has formed a party of adventurers with her husband Yanni Ehm (aka Kontakt) and canine companion Neo to bring forth glorious techno from the depths of the unconscious circuit.

They call their expedition Hemiptera, and have released a collection of tracks from their intitial forays into their chosen cave system.  These folks are no raw-faced newbies to the scene.  They’ve been honing their skillz in the hearty chaos of the San Francisco scene for years.  Scars and tales, they have plenty.

Their experience shows.  The six tracks are solid, without any gaps or waste.  The sound itself is a thick and hypnotic experience built around an organic base.  At times quirky or unsettling, but always with a relentless commitment to rhythm.  I particularly like the lurid pressure of “Darker Nights” and the squick anxiety of “Hymn for Heathens”.  This is music to make people nervous and give urges no place to hide.

But don’t take my word for it.  If you like your minimalist techno dark and weird, go check it out:

The Ghostly Fire of Her Raiment compels me to behold and honor subterranean majesty. There are creatures stirring in the deep crevices of inner space who will be recognized.

The Surface Swell of A Bright Green Tail ripples through my thoughts, stirring up feelings of wonder and excitement. Within a lost lake is a vital spirit beyond explanation.

The Whisper of Nameless Chill At The Door clutches me with anxiety and I shrink back. The daylight cries of the sorrowful evoke compassion from me with dire need.

All about me is mystery, secrets, the buried and forgotten. I’m going to start digging, and prying loose, and shining my unlight into the shrouds. No matter what snapping surprise, ghastly apparition or hostile grotesque comes spilling into view. See the space I have created, the circle I have drawn and stepped out of? Anything goes.

My aunt sent me a nice meditation on her use of calendars.  I found it a pleasant experience to contemplate the myriad ways in which calendars act as signposts and friends.  I asked her if would be okay if I posted to share with my visitors.  As a result, without further ado, here is some stuff:


For many people a calendar is just a place to keep track of one’s appointments.  They use a software calendar which has the wonderful feature of reminding you in some predetermined time period that an event is coming.  Often this is useful to give you a heads up that some sort of preparation needs to be done.  A useful tool.  But for me calendars serve so many purposes and consequently more than one is needed.

There is the calendar in my bathroom.  No appointments here.  It is meant to both please me visually and give me a sense of the passage of time in a more general sense.  This calendar is the kind that is hung in a frame.  The display consists of homey paintings.  Geese floating on a pond in the foreground with a snow covered house and evergreens behind.  I stare at this with my glasses off while brushing my teeth at the start and the end of the day.  I eagerly anticipate taking the frame apart at the end of each month to uncover the image that will be contemplated in the next month.

And then there is the kitchen calendar.  At the beginning of each year, on January 1, I remove the previous year’s calendar and place it beside the new one.  This calendar sets a theme for the year and holds all the birthdays in the family.  I carefully go through each month and copy these birthdays into the new year pausing to think about each of these people and our connectedness.  Last year the pictures were paintings of summer homes with the appropriate season’s foliage and lighting.  This year it will be porches – each with attractive comfortable looking chairs, pleasant vistas and quotes from literature that help evoke the sense of time and place.

At work I need two more calendars – not counting the one in my email.  One is a simple spiral bound black calendar which displays a month at a time with the other months shown down the far right column.  This is where I write my work, tennis and healthcare appointments.  I can see the whole month laid out and can easily page forward or backward to compare, calculate or plan.  It also has, at the very front, the entire year spread out across two pages.  Here I track my vacation and sick time so that as I daydream about my next day off I know exactly how many days I’ve taken and how many days are piled up like gold waiting to be spent.  At the very end is another two page spread of the following year.  Very useful for checking which holidays fall on Mondays and Fridays to yield a long weekend.  It also shows me on what day of the week will my birthday fall that year.

The second work calendar has pictures and is pinned up on my cubicle wall.  No appointments are recorded here.  It’s sole purpose is to give me a sense of escape while I am chained to my rolling chair in front of my monitor.  If I were to decide in a moment of frugality to skip getting one of my other calendars, I would feel a sense of loss.  But it would be a feeling like when you forget to put on your watch and keep staring at the emptiness that should be your watch.

This calendar I could not do without.  While grinding away at some tedious project, I glance up and escape for a moment and return refreshed.  This is the calendar that requires the most careful research before it is selected.  I begin in October when the new calendars start to appear online.  During times of extreme stress or boredom I go online to check out the new calendars and the images that they offer.  I stare at them and see if they provide the right amount of escape, fantasy and visual stimulation.

Many times I have considered the ones from and these have great quality images and often evoke outright laughter but then I realize that staring at them everyday in this setting would eventually leave me feeling…despair.  So I move on and try pictures of foreign lands.  Their beautiful countrysides and sense of adventure are very tempting.  Often I choose one of these.  2008 was a calendar of Wales and another year was Provence.

Beach scenes are popular.  Especially during the long grey winter of the Midwest.  But they are too repetitive and leave one longing for a pina colada to break the repetition.  I have considered tennis calendars but they all focus on famous players and feel like a strange form of hero worship.

This year I have chosen another porch calendar.  Different from the one that will hang in the kitchen.  This one has scenes that are less perfect and leave you with the feeling that this could be your own porch or perhaps a friend’s porch.  And it appears that we have all headed into the house to grab a pitcher of lemonade or another glass of wine – and we will be right back, at any moment, to take up where we left off… laughing and talking… sitting on the porch…with all the time in the world.  I can hardly wait to get to work on Monday and pin it up in my cubicle.

Happy New Year!

Earlier, I mentioned that cleanliness is the secret weapon. Now is the time to avail myself of that superzapper to clear out the destructoids not taken out by the New Year reset button.

I wake up from a comfortable sleep full of dreams about Bigfoot studies and mountain retreats. I give myself a relaxed, easy shave and a nice hot shower. A fresh set of clean clothes and a dash of tropical rainforest aftershave to make me feel like a million bucks. My mindset is rooted deeply in the quiet, contemplative emptiness of a new day.

Next up comes a full and hearty brunch (my favorite meal of the day) for K and I. I cook up a helping of turkey bacon, fried eggs easy up with lots of pepper, hash brown patties (with an extra for K because she loves hash browns), and toast with butter and blackberry jam from K’s delicious homemade bread (she’s getting quite good with bread now, after having read Yakitate for inspiration).

Frankie comes by for a pet. She looks out the window and meows at me. I take her up in my arms and we have a walk around the neighborhood. She is well-behaved, paws calmly digging into my sweatshirt as we take in the cool air in the light of the bright sun. Then it’s back to finish up the cooking.

K and I have brunch and revel in the comfort and satisfaction of a shared meal together. The food tastes delicious. Frankie munches on her dried salmon treats, Blink washes herself in her lambskin and wooly tower, and michael the ratbag pigpen snowbeast sleeps at the top of the stairs on an empty laundry bag.

Next up: chores. K vacuums while I do dishes. Frankie comes by and watches me clean dishes in the sink, enthralled as always by the running water and the steam. She grows sleepy and climbs into her crow’s nest by the fridge, joining Blink and Michael in slumber.

I clean out the fridge, then get a pizza dough started for Pizza of Doom. I mix up some rum punch for a shin-dig with the parental units tomorrow (though there’s plenty for sampling later). The punch forms easily, the flavor masking the strong alcohol with just the right amount of flair.

K decides to join the cats and sleeps on the couch. I tuck her in with Jeero the ani-pal and she passes out. It’s a lazy day after all, and one needs one’s strength.

I put the last of the suitable holiday cookies and cakes out for the squirrels. They show up within minutes and clean out the lot – in a half hour there’s nothing left. Feeding the animals gives me a warm feeling.

While I wait for the dough to rise, I sit at my special spot next to the stairs and gather my materials. In particular I contemplate the photograph of a willow loaned to me by the Incorrigible Witch Hexe witchiepoo of the many ovens.

I go over in my mental containers the experience of her two collage booklets (a term which fails to do justice to what they actually are, but needs must make do when the Devil drives), and how they relate to something in my book. I never would have thought I’d encounter a living example of concepts I only imagined in my head.

Then there are the “last request” Koh-I-Noor woodless colour pencils she gave me. I examine my poster board sketches and imagine what the next step might be.


Frankie has knocked the box of hot cocoa powder from the counter to the floor of the kitchen. I come over and pet her, giving her lavish and deep voiced praise. She settles down and cat loafs on the counter in cat thought. I stand beside her and space out, the two of us keeping each other company.

All is calm, all is sunlight reflected brilliantly off the beautiful, cold nature slumbering in a half-sleep drowsiness outside.

Frankie and I, in each other’s company, silently existing one for the other in nameless ways while the house sleeps. She and I watchful, guarding, alert, and openhearted to the being and becoming oneself.

A half hour passes in this manner. Frankie moves softly then, leaping down to the floor and off to her crow’s nest to snooze once more. I remain, watching the day change slowly into the muted orange glow of sunset followed by the bluish gray shadows of twilight. The dough has risen, and it is time to make tonight’s nourishment.

An inspiration strikes me and I decide to try something new with the Pizza of Doom recipe. I’m pleased because I know I’m making just enough, no more. As I roll out the dough, my brain buzzes with troubles “I should” be worried about, but they melt in contact with how I’m floating through my dreamy, alert witnessing.

The pizza comes perilously close to melting down like a reactor. I lack panic; I adjust the oven and let it ease down gently, until it comes out complete and delicious. I sense that K is hungry and ready to wake, so I stir her with a mere touch.

She grabs a slice and starts surfing the net as if she’s always done this. One by one the cats activate, going for their bowls of food. They eat small amounts and are remarkably polite with each other. I chomp down on a slice and savor the experience.

All is well.

My favorite food is pizza. I’ve been making my own for fifteen years. I’m always fiddling with my recipes, so there’s a certain amount of drift in the formulas I use to make food and drink. I look at my written recipes as nautical charts for reference. There are times when the sandbars and currents change. One must be prepared.

I still enjoy ordering pizza, and I am not above trying out local flavors. Like a Kung Fu master searching the land to perfect and complete his style quest, I examine what I encounter for tips and tricks to improve my methods. For now, the Pizza of Doom formula is as follows:

Dough (2-3 pies worth):
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons whole ground flax meal
Numerous cups flour

Sauce (2 pies worth):
28 ounces of blended tomatoes, any source
Half an onion, preference on sweeter or milder varieties
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons oregano (dried, but fresh is better)
2 tablespoons basil (dried, but fresh is better)
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (for kick)
20-30 grinds of pepper

Fixins (per pie):
Some extra olive oil
Mozzarella cheese, 5-8 flat slices or 12 ounces shredded
Provolone cheese, 5-8 flat slices or 12 ounces shredded
3 ounces pepperoni (or sliced onion, or mushrooms, etc.)

Anthemic eighties rock music with extensive vamping preferred

Leaving the flour out, I mix the dough ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a large antique glass bowl I have (any container of large size will do). I “proof the yeast” for 15 minutes, which means I leave the yeast alone to get psyched at all the tasty nutrients. You’ll see small light brownish areas begin to erupt in the mixture as the yeast proofs into overdrive.

You start adding flour and mixing it in with a wooden spoon. I add a mix of bread flour and regular flour, with a cup of whole-wheat flour for extra texture. The mixture will go from soupy to gummy as you add flour. Look for the transition point where the dough becomes thick and slightly sticky. You’ll switch to using your hands to knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour to keep the surface from getting too sticky.

Avoid over kneading. Massage the dough into a ball, cover the bowl, and let it rise. Once it’s risen to a good level (about 2 times in size), punch it down and massage it back into a ball. It won’t shrink to its original size, but that’s okay. Let it rise again (it should rise quickly now). Mix the sauce ingredients in a blender and set aside while you wait.

When the dough has risen enough you separate it into pieces depending on how many pizza pies you want to make. My pizza screen is 16 inches in diameter, and I find I get about 2-3 pies total. It depends on how much I let the dough rise. I usually make 1 pie, then make a second the next day. You can put extra dough in the fridge for later. On days when I need lots of pizza, I use the whole shebang.

Warm the oven up to 450-500 degrees depending on your oven’s strength (you will know how efficient it is). You don’t need a pizza screen — I’ve used lasagna dishes and cookie sheets. You’ll need a large, flat surface to put the finished product(s) on, preferably wooden so you can cut the pie into slices.

Sprinkle flour onto your rolling surface, and plop your piece of dough onto the surface. Massage the piece into a circular shape and gradually form it into a disc. Then gently, patiently use a wooden rolling pin to flatten the dough out. Flip it, sprinkle the exposed side with flour to keep it from sticking, and roll it flatter.

You’re looking for that magical state of thin without breaking when you pick it up to put on your screen. You might have to bunch it up and start over to get the right elasticity. If you want a thicker crust then you don’t need to go as thin, but be aware of how much the crust rises when it cooks. A huge crust will mean a drier crust down the line.

I lay mine over the screen, then use a rubber spatula to cut the edges evenly around the screen. I then half fold, half roll the edges of the pizza down and under the rest of the dough. This creates a raised “border” at the edges of the pizza to keep all the goodies from overflowing onto your oven.

Using your fingers, spread olive oil all over the top, including the edges. This will keep moisture in and help the crust rise properly. If you want a crunchier crust skip this step. Add sauce to the pie, keeping in mind preferences for sauce amounts. I typically aim for an amount that just covers the pizza — you can see the crust in small gaps or if you disturb the sauce layer with the flat of a fork.

Add the cheese. I prefer shredded, but if you use flat slices start in the middle and work your way around and out. If say, you start with the provolone and find you have gaps, remember you can cover most of those when you put the mozzarella on next. Pepperoni goes on last (or whatever topping(s) you prefer). Pop it in the oven and let it cook for 18-20 minutes.

Now comes the hard part. You don’t want an undercooked pizza, which can look like it’s done when it’s not. I find that you have to let that pizza bubble and brown a little before it gets to that good spot. You’ll need practice before you can discover when the right time to take the pie out has arrived. You also don’t want that pie to start smoking either, so your challenge is to identify that gap between boiling hot but not quite done and whoa crispy broil bleh.

Take it out when you determine the moment of Doom has arrived and let it sit for two minutes. This allows the alchemical process to settle down and enter into our reality a little better. Then slide it onto your prepared surface and let it crystallize into yummy goodness for two more minutes. I use an ulu to slice it, but any big-bladed knife, cleaver or pizza roller blade will do.

You probably want to wait 5-8 minutes before eating, but I understand the hunger lust — I’ve burned the roof of my mouth a few times for that volcanic ecstasy sensation as the molten pizza satisfies every nerve center.

May your Pizza of Doom always satisfy!