Syncing with the 60s

Marvin-Gaye-Grapevine

After midnight
They’ll be dancing in the street
So don’t sleep in the subway, darling
And touch me in the morning

You really got me
Tossin’ and turning’
You keep me hanging on
Like a rolling stone

I heard it through the grapevine
You lost that loving feeling
Where did your love go
I got nothing but a heartache

Love is blue
And I’m alone again, naturally
But big girls don’t cry
And a change is gonna come

So people get ready
I’m waiting for the man
Reach out I’ll be there
Be my, be my baby

In Spite of Us

In the beginningIn the beginning was the Word
Utterly incomprehensible to human construct

So we described
Omnipotent . . .  Magnificent . . . Glorious

And we named
Adonai . . . Ke Akua . . . Allah

We housed
Cathedral . . . Mosque . . . Temple

And humanized
Loving . . . Angry . . . Merciful

We compiled books and composed hymns
waged war and conquered converts
passed laws and imposed edicts

Yet
though we strive
to own . . . contain . . . separate

That which has always been
higher than our ways
higher than our thoughts

As in the beginning
so shall it be in the end
the Word

Photo of a sunset as seen from on a warm evening in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii, 2011

Chariots

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Metallic steeds
forged in yesteryear factories
cooled only by the sweat of laborers like Frank
whose denim work shirt pocket
bulges with cellophane wrapped Pall Malls
as he lines up to pound, fire, cut metal
into reliable chariots that carry
laborers and families

from here to there

While his wife Ethel
wraps her peroxided hair in a faded kerchief
before she pries open a can of Johnson Liquid Wax
to put the shine in her floors
and the hand-me down mahogany table
before Pops comes home from the factory
and asks the room

What’s for dinner

As Frank Junior scrubs bicycle grease
off his hands with Bon Ami powder
in the pistachio green porcelain kitchen sink
before their dinner of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti O’s
and Valley of Ho Ho Ho Green Giant beans
a flute of rosé wine for Mom
can of Hamm’s for Pops

Plus milk for Junior

Afterwards Mother sparkles the dishes with Joy
and Junior wipes and stacks white melamine plates
while Pops exhales another drag from his cig
as he announces the down payment he just made
on a brand spanking new Chevy station wagon
because Mother deserves to drive something nicer
than their beat up clunker that’s

Older than Junior

So Mother delightfully claps and Junior hoots
then she asks about the color of the new car
and Pops says sky blue like her eyes of course
and Junior asks how much horsepower
and Frank brags nearly two hundred like their old Wagoneer
that they don’t make ‘um like they used to anymore
but will be a great trade for

Their new car.

Photo of an abandoned car junk yard next to Parker Jordan Centennial Park in Englewood, Colorado, February 2015

My Dad Used to Talk to the TV

I’m re-posting something I wrote a couple of years ago.  Missing my dad this Father’s Day . . .

Yup, he told Lawrence Welk that the Lennon Sisters should sing in every other number, and told Walter Brennan he needed to do a better job in protecting the McCoys. He told Walter Cronkite that Americans were bullies in the Vietnam War, and let Lyndon Johnson know that lives were being wasted in a stupid war. He let Vic Morrow know that he was the hero in Combat, and informed Sargeant Joe Friday when a clue was right under is nose.

Dad liked serious shows, like Gunsmoke and Route 66. He disapproved of comedies. So when Dick Van Dyke and Carol Burnett came on, Dad shifted his conversation to me and Mom. He told us how silly they were and that watching them were a waste of time. Somehow, Red Skelton escaped his critique.

Ed Sullivan was hit or miss for Dad. He liked Louis Armstrong; the Beatles were definitely out. Elvis was okay as long as he sang gospel music. Forget the pelvic gyrations.

Dad made it through the third grade. He was orphaned at 14, and was raised by Catholic nuns in the town of Narvacan in the Ilocos Sur province ofthe Philippines. In 1946, at 19 years old, he immigrated to Hawaii to work on the plantation in Lanai City in Hawaii. There was no real city on that tiny island and plantaton life was not his idea of America, so he moved to the main island of Oahu. He worked as a housekeeper at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. When he retired in 1975, he was the longest standing employee — 30 years.

To put my brother and me through parochial schools, he took on a second job as a waiter in a Waikiki restaurant. He’d work from 8AM to 4PM at the hotel, eat a quick dinner, change and go off to his restaurant job at 5:45. He’d come home after 11PM, smelling of his customers’ cigarette smoke. On weekends, I used to stay up and help him count his tips.

When Dad was home, the tv was his to command. My brother and I were the “remote control,” and we took turns changing the channel. There were only three.

The television was my Dad’s binoculars to the world. He watched the news whenever he could, and knew the events and capitals of many countries. He was very critical of the United States in foreign affairs, and yet when I was a teenage peacenik, he chided me for not appreciating my own country. He remained a citizen of the Philippines throughout his life.

The television was also his main companion after he retired and my mom continued to work. He’d call me at work just to chat, and I could hear Judge Judy in the background. I could only imagine what he told her.

One day in my office, he asked me, “What is dot com?” I did a brief tour on my computer and he was amazed. “Who’s doing all that? . . . How do you know that’s true? . . . Can people see me?”

He was flabbergasted when we IM’d my son Marco. “You mean he’s sitting in front of his computer right now? How did he know I’m in your office?” When my mom made a couple of witty remarks in her IM with Marco, he chided her, “Don’t joke like that!” Always the serious commentator.

He never had a computer because that was “just for smart people.” But I think he would have eventually succumbed to technology had he lived longer. He would not be able to resist another pair of binoculars, another landing for his commentary.

I can just see him now, talking to the computer. He would read this blog and say, “You mean everybody in the world can read about me?” And “Shouldn’t there be serious picture of me instead?”