I lived in Egypt from 2008 to 2015. That put me in the country during the 2011 Revolution.
After the Egyptians flexed their collective muscles, others, including the Americans, were inspired to follow suit. (Everyone remembers the Occupy Wall Street movement, right?) Activists squatted in Zuccotti Park just like the Cairenes had done in Tahrir Square. Then the movement metastasized.
Eventually, though, the occupiers dispersed or underwent a metamorphosis. (Energy of that sort never fully disappears.)
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square. And I’ve gained some insights about what happened in those places. For example, I’ve come to see revolution as a metaphor. It is a kind of human flowering that occurs even during a drought. Actually it occurs because there’s a drought. That makes it very ironic.
Revolution is an ending. It is a beginning too.
It can also be seen as an expression of that which can’t be fully expressed.
So I was dining in this Indian restaurant a few days ago. We’d pushed a couple of small tables together as we were a party of seven. Six of us were Americans and the seventh, my wife, was Egyptian. We weren’t drinking alcohol or anything, but the conversation was still silly and random as hell. Many of us giggled and guffawed as the talking occurred. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe there were even a few instances of people chortling. That tells you what kind of evening it was.
At one point, just before the food was brought to the table, Ruthann, a fellow Texan from Dallas, turned to me and said, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “Let’s talk about obscure celebrities from yesteryear.” That prompted me to respond, “Hey, does anyone know whatever happened to Tiny Tim?”
Of course, Azza, my better half, had no idea who this miniscule person was. One other individual, a child of twelve, was equally in the dark. Everyone else immediately fell silent. You could literally hear cogs turning in heads as people thought about my question.
I was the first person to break the silence. I said, “Tiny Tim is actually an interesting study. He’s a great example of how far an untalented person can go in show business.”
“It wasn’t necessarily that he lacked talent,” Lori retorted, “It was just that he had the right sort of talent for the 1960s.”
“Right,” said Ruthann. “Weirdness was really in in the 60s, so he had what people wanted.”
I’ve embedded a video so you see an example of what Mr. Tim provided to the public during his heyday.
Now, days later, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Tiny Tim. In addition to the clip I included, I’ve looked at a zillion videos of him performing and being interviewed. I even called several colleagues into my office, showed them a few of the things I had watched, and asked them to respond, taking careful notes as they spoke. Like I said, I’ve been a bit obsessed recently.
Perhaps that was his ultimate goal (and genius?) as a performer? To create a persona and a sound we couldn’t turn away from and couldn’t get enough of?
If that was Tiny Tim’s goal, then he certainly succeeded bigly.
Sunday is not
Especially this one.
There is a hint
Of rain, more than a hint
Then there is
Tomorrow, the much-dreaded.
Today I will
Gas the car.
Tomorrow, before daylight,
I’ll set off
To arrive by 8 a.m.
Is not to
No more of that
Because work is what
We people do.
They call it “making
A living” and not
The Library, 9 A.M.
I am surrounded
Their covers flash
I step toward one
To note its personality.
I pick it up, look at its
Bring a smile. I place it
I walk among
A million seductive whispers
Come my way.
They want me to stop,
Pay closer attention.
I will stop,
I whisper back. I promise
And so I do.
I stop, touch
And read the words
With reader’s eyes.
People have died.
People I’ve loved
I cried when they stopped.
I watched them disappear.
It was the color of nothing, nobody,
No more. We put them
In expensive boxes
Left their lids open
So the curious
Their faces were as plastic
As doll skin.
Then we closed the lids
Carried them to green places.
A man said,
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust.
They went down
Poems are like
Things you find
On the beach.
They’re misshapen but usually
Sparkle in sunlight.
Some are alive
And scuttle about.
Others are dead but have left
Some days the poems knock
On your front door.
You go to open it
And greet them.
You get lots of visitors
On such days.
The knocking persists
Even as you turn off
The knocking persists.
The knocking persists.
The knocking persists.
You wait. No one comes.
Dead. Maybe you are dead?
How would you even
Know if you were
Or weren’t? Who
Would give you
When no one comes
You aren’t for sure
If you even
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I manage the Integrated Reading and Writing Learning Center at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, one of the coolest (but least written about) metropolitan areas in the United States.
I’m blessed to have really good tutors in the center. One of them, Robin Gara, a retired reading and art teacher, paints and writes. The two of us, when things are quiet in our place, often talk about all things artsy-fartsy.
This past weekend, Robin showed some of her paintings in an Art Deco pizzeria located on Fredericksburg Road. My wife and I went to see Robin’s work, and by sheer happenstance, while we were there, they were having an open mic poetry reading. So, after looking at Robin’s stuff—she does amazing things with a pallet knife—and before taking off, we watched some truly interesting characters read a bit of their writing in a funky public setting.
When I was in my twenties, I used to publish a heck of a lot of poems—or pomes. I kind of stopped, though, quite a long time ago, so I didn’t know if I had anything that I might read. Then I found an old folder full of some passable stuff. I’ve included a couple here.
The Free Man
There’s plenty of reasons to be.
That my life is not my own
I mean I don’t own my life.
If I did, I wouldn’t be here, not now, not never.
If I did, I’d be gone, long gone, gone long ago.
If I did, I’d be sleeping or screaming
Or something other than this something I am doing
Or am not doing now,
This thing I’m doing is not a thing for free men
My doing it proves that freedom is for others,
I want to meet the free man, the other man.
I will sit next to him and not speak.
I will sit next to him and watch
When he stands and leaves, I will
Stand and leave.
We two will walk together, not one in front of the other
But shoulder to shoulder.
I Am the Son of Eve
To teach is to be taught.
To learn is to unlearn.
To find the straight and narrow one needs to follow
A winding path.
Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge.
For Eve, I am thankful.
Adam was a wimp because he didn’t think of doing this
Before Eve planted the seed.
Poor Adam, a man
To be pitied.
I am the son of Eve.
I am not the son of Adam.
Like Eve, I do not fear the snake.
I listen to its words and make up
My own mind.
I do not follow the serpent without
When it speaks the truth,
I will not fear.
Fear is that thing which made Adam ashamed
Of his nakedness.
Eve walked proudly without
I want to share this cute TED Talk with you. Toward the end of the presentation, the bald presenter takes out a ukulele and plays it in a terribly funny way. I don’t know if my saying that qualifies as a spoiler (and thus I need to officially provide you with a SPOILER ALERT), but if it does and I do need to, then I sincerely apologize for not having done so in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time.
My point is really to write about the ukulele because it reminds me of my own boyhood. For some reason I have no ability to fathom at this time in my life, I wanted, when I was maybe nine years old, a ukulele so badly that I could taste it—even though I never would have actually taken a bite of its wood if offered to do so. But that’s beside the point. More to the point is this: I asked my parents to get me one for Christmas.
Due to the nature of parenthood, most mothers and fathers will do all manner of silly things including going to a music shop and spending real money to buy a thing that looks like a guitar that was born prematurely, which is exactly what my mom and dad did. I remember it came in a little case and included a pick that looked like it was made of felt. The instrument held my interest for maybe three months which was long enough for me to realize two things. First of all, I had absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, and two, playing a ukulele, even though the instrument had been popularized by Tiny Tim, one of the greatest weirdo performers of all time, was one of the most boring ways a person could spend five minutes or ten minutes or whatever time one happened to spend strumming its four strings.
Once this realization came to me, it went back into its case and resided there until it died the horrible death of suffocation.
OK, so none of my story has anything to do with the video, but that shouldn’t keep you from watching it.
I’d be a lot more relaxed than I am right now had I been born a cat. That’s because I’d know, right in the back of my feline mind, that I had been given nine lives, which is a lot of time to work with and provides for a large margin of error.
Human beings, unlike cats, are given only one life, and it’s a fairly short one. To make matters worse, a lot of that one lifetime is either spent asleep or doing things like sitting in a cubicle at work.
I’m writing all this because I am cursed with a strange affliction. From just about the moment I was born, I have had too many interests and passions. I am a very creative person with lots of different talents, all of which I’d love to equally pursue. But I can’t because of the whole lack of time thing.
I’ve had to neglect this blog, and I’m so upset about it. It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have been. In fact, I’m about sixty percent done with a novella that should end up being about hundred pages long. It’s a dark book which suits my current mood. (There’s a backstory there that I won’t get into right now.) The thing falls within the genre of psychological thriller with elements of the horror story. My working title is The Red Room.
I’ve also been doing a lot of digital art. In fact, on the art front, there has been an interesting development. About a week ago, I got an email from someone representing Vida.com, an interesting company that works with artists and designers to produce fashionable, high-end clothing and accessories. The person reaching out had seen my work and wanted me to send them some of my images.
So I will send some. And I will continue to work on my novella when I can fit it in. And I will continue to make art, mostly late at night when the opportunity presents itself. Oh, and by the way, I hope to be a more regular blogger too.
I’ll finish by sharing a few pieces of my newest digital artwork.
Sigh. I probably missed my calling. I say “probably” because no one can ever predict how things would have actually turned out had I taken a different route.
My father was and is an artist, and I was born with artistic talent. As a result, I started doing drawings and paintings as a child, and I even showed work at small art fairs when I was just a youngster.
I studied something other than the fine arts, though, when I went to university. I continued to make artwork during my free time while I took classes in the humanities and liberal arts.
About a decade or so ago, I got this crazy idea that I would become a professional artist. Actually, the idea was sane enough for me to successfully place a lot of work in galleries in the US and abroad. I sold quite a few pieces and then had to scale back because it was too difficult to manage an art career when I was so transient and living is such far-flung places. (For about the past twenty years I’ve been an expatriated American and have only recently returned to my home country.)
Today, like so many others, I’ve become obsessed with the internet and all things cyber. As a result, I’ve become more and more a digital artist. Now, when I make I pictures, they are, by in large, computer-generated.
I have developed a pretty cool method for making these pieces. The works are the result of a complex creative process. Many of them start out simply enough, as digital drawings, paintings, or photographs, but then they morph into something that’s hybrid, bold, and totally funky.
I’ve included a small sampling to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. If you’d like to see more, go here.