Story of The Talker

Everyone knew who The Talker was, but no one really knew him. His voice was soft and quiet and he said mostly pleasant things, so everyone liked The Talker.  But no one really loved him.  

He lived by himself and had no family, no friends to speak of, and yet, he received many invitations. He was something of an art house piece. He strolled through any gathering, talking to everyone and talking to no one. Newcomers found him curious, then angering, and then, for the most part, amusing. He laughed at himself right along with everyone else, which made us come close to loving him.

But, he woke talking and fell asleep talking and talked every moment in between. He talked while he ate, while he drank, while he peed. He even talked in his dreams.

Then, at the coffee shop, one ordinary morning, right in the middle of a sentence, just like that, he stopped. He had finally reached his quota. His eyes grew big as he tried to speak. But he simply could not do it. Everyone stared, not knowing what to do, while he turned pink, then purple, then pale. He died standing up, with his mouth open wide, and not a single word left in him.  

And so it came to be that no one could stop talking about him, the talking man who was at long last, silent.

*Voice bubbles by Eleanora


The Photo of Balpreet Kaur

A man took a photo of a young woman he did not know and put it on the internet.  At the time, the young woman had been standing in line and texting and did not notice that someone had taken a picture of her.  (Even if she had been alert, she may not have known.  I've heard there are now glasses frames with hidden cameras that can shoot video.)  The man posted the photo of the young woman to a popular comedy chatroom.  The photo generated an avalanche of comments and soon the photo was forwarded around the internet, generating more comments, generating more forwards.  And then, one day, the young woman discovered that a photo of her texting while standing in line was being sent around the internet.  Many of the comments were mean-spirited.  But the young woman was not mad. She did not reflect back the derision that was directed at her.  Instead, she smiled.  She understood that people are conditioned by their culture to think in certain ways.  She visited the chatroom where so many strangers were howling about her, and she wrote:

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

The man who took the picture and posted it to the internet had been gleefully following the activity his photo had generated.  But when he read the young woman's comment, he felt the deep sinking of shame and embarrassment.  Only in the face of courage did he wonder, how could he have been such a coward?


Sylvia and Lil: Senior Moment

Sylvia and Lil stopped and watched the fledglings chirping and fluttering.

After a while, one flapped, and flew off.  Then the other two followed.

"Too bad," said Lil.

Sylvia agreed.  "Those are tasty."

They stared at the spot where the fledglings had been.  After a while, they forgot where they had been going.  Then they forgot where they had come from.  So they went back to staring though they couldn't exactly recall what they had been staring at.  

"Too bad," said Lil again.

And Sylvia agreed.


Thanksgiving Traditional

Dearest Relations,

Thank you for traveling so far to eat with us and our children.  We all benefit greatly from the tradition, reaffirming that indeed, our family lines both are crowded with kooks.  When you get old like us, you realize that these are not good or bad things.  That things simply are the way they are.  No matter how firmly we try to deny it, that is the truth we have learned.

We love you all, though we may not appreciate you always.  We are trying to get better at all things we do.  We are prone to much failure.  But failure, we have also learned, promotes our growth.  So, we try to call those successes.  This mostly feels very silly even though we understand the meaning of the exercise, failure always feels like failure.  

Fortunately, we have all you good people on our sides and it's for this that we thank you.  Because life is an easier journey when you have people there to encourage you to continue on your path.  Yes, this sounds silly too.  But these are the words that are currently in vogue for expressing gratitude. So those words come most naturally for us.

We continue to love you, 
Frida and Freddy



When A. was gone in Puerto Rico, 
I noticed that on the back of our son's bedroom door, 
there were the two signs I had made for him plus one I had never seen before.  
I couldn't wait to tell A.

After A. got back from Puerto Rico, 
I told him about the sign our son had made and how touching I thought it was.
And he asked,
"Would it still be just as touching if you knew I wrote it?"


Bigsley and Bernadette: Fledged

"Gone?!  What do you mean they're gone? I was just getting used to them.  When are they coming back?"

Bernadette explained that they wouldn't be back, that they grew large enough to fly and that now they could take care of themselves.

"And that's it? Not even a good-bye, sayonara, see you later, Sucker?  Where's the love?  Where's the understanding?  Don't they even care??  How can you be so calm in the midst of tragedy?"

Bernadette told Bigsley that's just the way life is, that chicks weren't meant to stick around the nest after they could fly.

"But think of all the work!  All the hours of attending to their every need?  What about that?"

"I suppose it did the trick," said Bernadette.

"You are even more cold hearted than I originally thought," said Bigsley.  "Now you're probably going to tell me you're getting ready to migrate."

"How did you know?"


Fortune Teller

When I was a girl, I had a little red chair.  
The little red chair sat in my room,
And on the little red chair sat big Raggedy Anne 
Holding little Raggedy Anne in her lap.

I sat on the little red chair in Omaha.  
My kids have sat on the little red chair in Tucson, Santa Fe, Chippewa Falls, and now Appleton.

The little red chair turns up all over the house.  
Tonight, I found the little red chair lying on its side under the kitchen table.  
I hauled the little red chair out and happened to see the label on the underside of the seat, 
something I had studied as a child, 
but haven't really looked at in years.  


Street Wise

In Madison, on State Street, an older black man is selling StreetWise.  Sometimes I buy StreetWise and sometimes I don't.  I never know exactly why I do or don't, even if I think I do.  Today, I veer towards the Overture Center, away from the vendor, when I see a younger white man, tall and rough looking, with a cigarette and black leather jacket.  "I'll take one, Man.  You got change?"  There is something about this scene that makes me stop.  It is touching that this guy is buying a StreetWise.  If he can make the gesture of support, why can't I?  After all, I'm about to go into the book festival and will probably drop 25 bucks or more.  I stand while the vendor makes change for a five dollar bill.  He smiles, somewhat embarrassed, while the tough guy frowns, puffing on his cigarette, his hand out waiting for his change.

Is it something about how the vendor says, "Thank you very much," after I give him fifty cents and he hands me a paper, or just some energy in the air that gives me pause as I'm heading through the doors of the Overture Center?  I turn back and the StreetWise guy is still watching me, smiling, nodding.  I crane to see the tough guy standing on the curb, a few feet off, his back to me, frowning at some distant something.  I walk away, out of sight, and then sneak back in time to see the tough guy slapping the vendor on the shoulder.  They smile at each other, exchange a few words, and then the tough guy slides his paper back onto the stack.


Bigsley and Bernadette: Healing With Herman

"And friends, always remember that by opening ourselves up to the possibilities of the universe, we all find love.  Muchas Gracias, Au Revoir, and Namaste." Herman concluded his popular weekly podcast with a self-satisfied fluffing and perched outside his doorway waiting to hear from his listeners.

"You think you can out namaste me, do you?" called Bigsley from his house.  "The only way you'd have a chance is if you attend one of those 10 day silent meditation retreats.  I know just the place.  That peacock down the road told me about it.  And it's only a three week flight!  I know you'd love it.  I'll tell you what.  You head on out and I'll take care of all the details from here."


Pipe Dream

David Byrne and his big suit. David Byrne and his spastic movements. David Byrne when he dressed preppy. David Byrne at the kabuki theatre. David Byrne stripping songs of all conventions. David Byrne in Bali, riding a motorcycle, searching for gamelan.  David Byrne dressed in a jumpsuit.  David Byrne dying his hair like David Bowie.  David Byrne making an album with Brian Eno.  David Byrne touring with a Latin ensemble.  David Byrne at Joslyn Art Musem.  David Byrne hiring me as a back-up singer.


Portrait of a Marriage

A long time ago, we were leaving a holiday office party, and a man (the husband of a woman who worked at the firm), fueled with an undisclosed amount of alcohol from the open bar, started talking for the first time that night.  We stood in the parking lot, a small gathering of us, and the wife, who in broad daylight would have panicked at the prospect of her husband opening his mouth around this crowd, (she didn't want to get fired!) was herself fueled up enough to just lean back and listen.  And the man told lewd and offensive stories that everyone loved, all inching closer to hear every detail while staying as far away as possible. And the man, obviously enjoying making these squeaky cleans squirm, went on and on with the guns and the carcasses and the maggots and the gasoline and the explosions, and the dead bald eagles. And while the crowd gasped, the wife just smiled.