CHRIST CLIMBED DOWN

CHRIST CLIMBED DOWN

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck crèches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
Pennsylvania
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody’s imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carolers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings

From: Coney Island of the MindLawrence Ferlinghetti

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Rainbow – 2018

An unusual rainbow in Borlänge, Sweden.

Caused by sun always low on the horizon and misty sky.

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Canary Islands – Part 5

Tuesday Morning

Jackhammers wake me up again, but the blue sky is clear. Thank God. I make an early start and try to change my cash to Euros at a bank the hotel manager suggested, but no good. I need to find another place to change my money. I can do that later. It’s a perfect morning. This is what I came for. This is what I will spend 13 hours cramped in an aluminum cylinder with 300 Swedes for. This is what I paid for, sunlight in November and six straight, warm days. I spend a couple hours on the Playa De Las Canteras, world class beach, As as it gets close to noon umbrellas blossom into needed shade. I spend a couple hours on the sand and love the unfamiliar heat. The beach is kind of peaceful in a busy way.

This promenade along the beach is lined with shops, and sidewalk handicrafts. Small, makeshift tables here and there are selling lotto tickets. I have no idea how I’d go about collecting if I won. One of the sellers has an amputated arm. There are all kinds of restaurants, Italian, Spanish places, and a couple Asian, but I don’t see any Indian. I’m wanting something with a lot of curry.

There’s no cars, or bicycles, or dogs along Paseo De Las Canteras. Set well back and high above the business along the way are huge, five star hotels that front on streets than carry traffic. They supply their guests plastic lounge chairs, and umbrellas from small tents along the beach. While looking for a place to eat I come upon a small parade. I’ve no idea what it’s all about. They’re singing something, but the only word I understand is, Africa—a lot of “Africa!s.”

Photo 1st parade

A crowd surrounds the players, move along with it. All kinds of people, young and old, and children wearing painted faces, follow fifteen, maybe twenty, men with instruments, some bearing flags and images. I move along with them, as there’s no easy way to get around. It’s nice, this little gathering of happy people—simple, home spun, colorful, and fun to watch.

There was a huge hound with them, and I thought it wore a wig at first, but all his fur was real.

I followed the parade until they turned into a side street where I saw tourist information stand with brochures showing various attractions.  There was one for a casino within walking distance, and a ‘Clip This’ coupon offered a free gift, and cup of coffee. The flyer also says that they change money. This would work.

It turns out the Casino’s not as close as it looked on map, took maybe thirty minutes walking. I passed several banks, from Germany, Italy, and other places. None did currency exchange—no, matter, but the newly found casino is a disappointment, bleak, almost depressing. There is no one here to take my money. The red carpet entrance holds an ATM and a and an array of digital slot machines. I remember the old machines, with arms to pull. They were fun, and took longer to lose your money. It’s all going so fast now, or am I getting old . . . and slow?

It looks like I’m the only customer inside the place, not hard to understand this being afternoon, a weekday. Tourists will be on the beach, or tours.

I looked around and found another room with a bar, a woman tending, and a guy who looks like he might work here, but they don’t know anything.

“Can I change money?” I asked. “Where?”

“Downstairs.” Guy finally pointed and I went to look.

There was a four stool, coffee bar beside a doorway to a larger space. I showed the counter gal my coupon, and her face went blank, as if she’d never seen a thing like that before. She went to find someone to help and came back with another woman who said nothing as she went to work on a behind the bar computer, with my coupon I hand. After a bit of punching in numbers they left. Five minutes later the waitress reappeared with some kind of dish designed for banana a split, but it was filled of pastries with a glop of cream on top. This came with coffee and a bill. 2.5 Euros.

“I’m supposed to get for free. I had a coupon,” I complained.

“No no.” She points to my banana dish. “Free gift. Coffee is two fifty Euro. She turns to take my coupon from the register and shows me.

She is right. It’s tricky. Ad says, Coffee, €2.50.  Free Gift. We argue about it for a bit. I ask where I can change my money. “It not open. Closed now,” she says. I pay her with my credit card, and leave my untouched ‘free gift’ on the bar. I need to find a bank.

There’s one I haven’t tried, along the beach, but on my way I pass the Indian restaurant that I couldn’t find last night. There is a bus stop bench nearby. I shrug my backpack off and take a pocket notebook out to make a map of how to get here later on, at night. When finished I go on my way again, for three blocks, one left turn, and one right—and then it hits me. I’m without my backpack. Horror. Panicked at the thought of this potential loss I hurry back, make one wrong turn. It seems to take forever, but at last I find the bench again. Backpack’s long gone, of course.

I’m feeling sick . . . this loss—so stupid! Pipe, tobacco, reading glasses, notebook, and a compass that I’ve had for years, now gone forever. Damn! A naive part of my brain starts to fanaticize. What if some guy looks in the notebook and sees my hotel address on the first page. He calls the hotel, hoping for a reward. How much would I pay? A hundred Euros? More? I paid a hundred dollars for that pipe three years ago in Amsterdam. Whatever.

Cash reward for finder’s not a problem I expect to need to solve.

Part 6 – The day After – Next

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Canary Islands – Part 4

Loneliness

according to the late psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott

is a particularly destructive kind of boredom.

Sunday Evening:

I’m kind of bored. Should be illegal for hotels to be without an open bar— a place to have a drink and talk to strangers with a holiday in common. Nothing much to do at sunset here. I try to take an afternoon nap, but it doesn’t work and I decide to treat myself to a nice dinner. There’s an Indian place I saw, yesterday, the  only restaurant not advertising pizza. I remember where it is—I think. Five or six blocks away.

Back on the sidewalks, umbrellaed, outdoor bars are full of happy people. Families talk and laugh. There’s  lots of hugging, face kissing, and touching. Special sort of social warmth between these Spanish. They react to the appearance of a neighbor they saw yesterday, the same way as a friend they haven’t seen for years. It’s nice. I notice guys and gals on dates, some children with their parents,  dogs on leashes—part of the family.

It’s gotten dark, and I get lost. Although I can’t be far from my hotel, I think. But I’ll be damned if I can find the restaurant, and after giving up that search I cannot find the street where my hotel is.  A cognitive map drawn in the daylight has disappeared in darkness. It’s begun to rain a little. I start asking people on the street if they know where my hotel is, showing them a hotel card I had inside my billfold. No one knows. Two pretty salesgirls do their best to help me, using cell phones. Nothing seems to work. “Take cab,” one tells me.

I refuse to take a cab. I can’t be more than seven blocks from the Olympia hotel. A polite couple gives directions that don’t work. At last the plaza comes to mind. Plaza Farrar is big, and well known. It gets easy now, ‘turn right and go two blocks, then left’, and so on. People know exactly where it is. I’m nine blocks off, with no idea how I got this far away from where I started, but I find my way back easy, with both spirits and my body dampened. I’m not tired, and wired. I usually go to bed at one or two a.m. It’s only ten o’clock and there is nothing here I want to do—no one to talk to, and no Internet, no TV. This could turn out to be a long, long week. The beach and sun will do for days, but nights….

I’m feeling lonely. This strange for me, a five star introvert. I can’t remember feeling lonely, must have happened in the past. I don’t remember where, or when—but here. Thank God I brought the Ipad. I start reading  old New Yorker Magizines, short stories, interesting articles I didn’t have the time to read before. It’s kind of nice. I spend three hours reading, finally fall to sleep a little after one.

Crystal Night

I woke up sometime around four a.m. and needed to relieve myself. The bathroom’s just a few steps off, and on the right side of the bed. All I had to do was get up on the right side, but I got out on the left side and bumped into a full length mirror. It was attached with two slotted, wooden slats at its top and bottom, leaving a quarter inch of space between the surface of the mirror and wall. I stumbled while trying to get around the end of the bed in the dark, and he thing came crashing down on top of me the as I hit the floor.

I was afraid to move at first. Was this the end? Slashed to death in the Carnarias—an exotic end. ‘They found him in a pool of blood.’ My arm was wet, and there was slippery wetness on my leg. I was afraid to move. Would I leave body parts behind? I seemed to be alive. Got up and turned the lights on. Cuts on shoulder, right arm, and my leg, but nothing serious.

A pile of broken glass lay on the floor. I took a leak, went back to bed. I’d sort it out tomorrow.

Monday Morning

The jackhammers are at it again. This building and the ones across the street create a canyon amplifier. There’s no way to stay in bed. I get dressed, take some photos of the broken mirror and take the elevator down to show the manager.

“You should turn the light on. You will have to pay for mirror,” she adds with a friendly smile.

I’m too embarrassed to protest. I sling my trusty backpack on and go outside to start the first day of the week. It’s misting rain. Could be a long five days ahead of me.

Part 5  Next    Things Forgotten & Remembered

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Canary Islands – Part 3

Plane landed smoothly. Luggage was soon loaded onto a conveyor belt that made more turns than an anaconda on crack. I waited patiently with 300 others and assumed my bag would be the last to make appearance as it must have been the first one on the aircraft due to my hours-early check in. I have time to find a place to change the Swedish cash I brought with me. I only have one credit card and do not trust cash machines. One ate my card last year, an unforgettable experience.

It seems like cash is now becoming almost obsolete in Sweden, Amsterdam as well. I’m told that plastic’s more convenient—safer. I’m not sure for who it’s most convenient. It’s convenient for the banks who take a cut from every buck and kroner spent, to boost their obscene profits even higher. Parking meters in Sweden offer card slots. They are used to pay a one, or thirty minute fee—some ten or twenty cents U.S..

As for convenience . . . I am sometimes forced to wait in line for people trying to get their cards to work—forgot their password, or some other glitch. These are often old people, younger than me.  Having cash in my back pocket’s totally convenient. As for safer, the computer crimes and hacks seem endless—new ones coming every day. I have to watch the phone numbers of callers on my cell phone. Any slipup might cost eighty dollars for a long distant call to Romania I didn’t mean to make.

I left the other passengers to find a currency exchange, but it was closed—now nine o’clock at night. Went back to get the suitcase son in law has loaned me, watching as the last of all the bags arrived. All except mine, and just one lonely other left on the belt which had stopped moving.

I didn’t panic, being certain suitcase made the trip on this direct flight. There was nearby information window. I explained my plight—showed passport, baggage claim, and other papers. “Go look at that one still left on the belt,” the woman told me.

“Been there, did that,” I explained.

After much paper shuffling and phone calls and someone new appeared behind the glass. Same questions asked again before she went to look and found my suitcase hiding behind one of two huge pillars the conveyor snaked its way around. Embarrassed, but relieved, I made my way to the exit where an agent from the place that booked my trip and hotel waited with a van that carried several others and me to our respective hotels. I was the only let off at the Olympia.

Not As Expected

Olympia’s entrance looked as though it had survived a tragedy that only recently moved on. Inside was not so bad, not glamorous, but adequate. Desk clerk was nice—spoke something very close to English, handed me the key to 408 and pointed to an elevator. “Only three,” she told me. “Tres personas.”

I was lifted to my 4th floor room: Two single beds, a chair and table, full length mirror on the wall. Two windows could be opened and looked down on Dr. Grau Bassa street, and plaza just below.

I could see both were undergoing major improvements, but Olympia Hotel was only three blocks from the beach and ocean where I planned to spend my time.

Saturday Morning

I woke up to the machine gun chatter of a jackhammer on concrete. Not the best way to start the day with, but no matter.

I’d be ocean bound after a pre-paid, hotel, breakfast that consisted a roll, orange juice, two slices of mystery meat, and coffee. After breakfast I went back to my room for a backpack that has more pockets than a pool table. I most often have to look in two or three of them to find what I’m looking for, but it’s exactly what I need—been with me for two decades. Holds my pipe, pipe cleaners and tobacco, notebook and some pens, a pair of glasses, sun tan lotion and a compass. After exiting the hotel I enjoy a second breakfast—eggs and bacon this time—at Fat Franks, on Plaza Farray, a half minute’s walk from my hotel.

A half hour later found me at the beach below a full force sun above an ocean glittering transparent, turquoise—a kaleidoscope of hues along the Playa de Las Canteras promenade. A seemingly unending line of sparkling white, umbrellaed tables waited for the tourists like myself to take a break could savor waves as they rolled in. Restaurants and shops stretched out to a diminished point of view before me.

I spent all that morning and the afternoon exploring, and walked back to my hotel at four with nothing much to do. The bar was closed and never opened in the week that I was there—not good for meeting fellow travelers.

Next: Part 4 – Sunday Evening.  Beauty Changes.

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Canary Islands – Part 2

Plans:

I don’t have big ones. I just want to be warm, hot even . . . sauna hot, would be just fine. And peace and quiet would be nice—away from the computer, TV, mundane chores—the gym. It will be fun to miss a week of gym, days I never skip. Don’t want to live forever, but would like to die healthy.

There are no museums, or ruins I want to see, or art. I kind of get the Spanish thing, in a modest way. Spent a week or two in the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Know a Frida Kahio painting when I see it and  taken Spanish lessons more than once. Languages do not stick with me, but no matter. I am coming as an 80 year old tourist. English always seems to be an option. Anyone under 40 can speak good English in Sweden, a bi-lingual bunch. I’ve never known a Indian who wasn’t fluid with it, Germans and wherever. Thank god, I grew up with a advantageous tongue. Try as I might, I’ve never learned another.

My wife will be at a dog show in Norway while I’m gone. We have two hounds competing. We also have a cat, who will stay at home. He will be pissed. He likes to fool around outside until he gets bored or hungry.

Packing:

Some things are dangerous if left behind, like pills that will prevent kidney stones. Kidney stones can make you beg for death. Been there, done that. Crawled into a taxi cab for a ride to emergency, saved money and was probably faster than an ambulance. One does not forget these things. Another pill for, ‘sleep in 30 minutes’ – pill is not addictive. Sleep is addictive. We need it. Pills are already in backpack, and spares in suitcase—just in case.

I have a list of things to pack, a long one, for my suitcase and a backpack. I begin days early. I’m backpacked a copy or Paris Review for reading on the plane, and take my Ipad, just in case. It holds three years of the New Yorker magazines I’ve only skimmed through. I’ve had some thoughts about not knowing someone at my destination, although there are Swedes who arrive with me and will be staying at the same hotel. There is is a bar at the hotel, and bars are good for meeting people. Just in case, the Ipad might be good to have along.

Day One:

Minutes to go.

I’m ready to go and thinking non stop. What might I forget? I’ve triple checked my list. It’s almost time. I will be early. Son in law can only take me when he has a break at work. The pickup time has changed two times, each earlier than predecessors. I’ll be almost five hours early, but I have the airplane book to kill some time. Son in law shows up at the appointed hour, but too late to beat a large truck that pulls into the driveway with a large, heavy box holding a month of dog food. The cat escapes while I am getting the dog food into the house, but I manage to grab him, shut and lock the door. I have forgotten a light, rainproof jacket I meant to grab on the way out, but it’s not worth opening up again and deflecting the cat which is expert at slipping past me. I won’t need the coat, I’m thinking. Doubtful it will rain in Canarias.

I get checked in, and find a place to read. After an hour so the place starts to fill with Swedes as I get lost in reading. Two hours pass and I begin to wonder where the checked in people go. I find them at the customs gate, and join a line of others throwing gear into plastic tubs. I’m asked if there is a computer in my suitcase. I say no, and pass through the body sensor without a beep, an unusual experience, but my luck does not last. Another guard asks if I have a computer in my suitcase. I say no, but there’s an Ipad, which I have not thought of as computer. “Ah,” she says. “You have to take it out, and run in through the x-ray by itself.

No problem, but my pants are falling off without my belt. The second scan does not take long. The guards are very nice, one even friendly, and I’m in no hurry. I follow others into a waiting area with seems to have turned into a bar. The place is packed, maybe 200 people by this time. Swedes love to drink. We’re in the alcohol belt,” son in law told me. “Comes down out of Russia.” The would be passengers are having a good time with friendly conversations, and anticipations of the trip. A lot of beer going down. The airplanes restrooms will be busy.

Plane arrives on time, almost, and is filled up with seniors younger than myself. A few few passengers are in their thirties, and of course the obligatory babies. My seat is at by window, six rows back. We’re on a Boeing 747 with two rows of  three seats separated by an aisle so narrow it is difficult to pass another person and impossible to pass the carts that save our dinners which turn out to be surprisingly good.

When we finished eating and the plates were cleared away the restroom lines begin to form. There were only two places to go, one forward and another aft. The queue was self renewing. After while I started counting an average of some eighteen desperate people waiting at both ends of the plane. As people finished with their business, others left their seats to join the line which went unchanged in length for better than an hour and a half, almost until we landed.

Part 3 – Arrival

The Vacation From Hell

 

 

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Canary Islands – Part 1 The Beginning.

Sweden:

It gets dark here in November. Stockholm averages thirty-five minutes of sunlight a day in November. We live north of Stockholm. I figure we get thirty-two, or three minutes. This is not a happy month, even for Swedes, though they will not admit it.  A tsunami of lawn furniture recedes and neighbors disappear into their houses. Newspapers offer advice to keep from going nuts. Vacations are recommended: Go someplace warm, with sunlight. Spend a week or two in Thailand, Crete, or Spain. Go to the gym they suggest. Take vitamin D. Get plenty of sleep. The bears have it right; this is a month of hibernation.

I lived almost all my adult in California, and Seattle. One never knows how good it was, until it’s gone. The endless sunshine, and no snow—well maybe in Seattle sometimes, but not often. Last year I decided I would take a break the next November. I’d go somewhere warm for seven days.

Canary Islands:

Never been there. Going for the first time ever, with a group of Swedes, a charter flight, but not a tour group. I’m not into groups. I’m a hopeless introvert, who thinks of things to say long after the subject of the a conversation’s changed. Some people seem to have a need to talk. There’s a guy I see in the sauna at my gym. He talks non stop, needs no response. A simple agreement or nod will surface, if not,  he goes on anyway. I am allowed to change the subject from time to time, but never part of the conversation which holds only moderate interest.

I have learned to steer clear of these sorts of people, and long plane ride has never been a problem, only crying babies. This will be a six hour trip, about the limit of my level of tolerance. I’ve taken much longer flights, but having been there, done that. It has been enough, and travel not the way it was, just forty years ago. We didn’t have to strip to get through boarding gates, take off our shoes, get x-rayed. Endless lines, less space on seats.

It used to be so simple  . . . and the crowds. So many of us touring these days. Someone posted a list of famous sights not to go to, Coliseum, was one. Wife and I tried to get into the Coliseum last summer. Crowds were massive, armed guards here and there. Touts offered ways to cut the endless lines—for a price. Just a few Euros. There’s a two hour wait, or more at Eiffel Tower. I was there late fifties. Fifteen minute wait back then, not crowded.

In the very early sixties I climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid in a race with some street boys looking for tourist change. There were names, graffiti, chiseled in stone at the top. I’ll bet Napoleon carved initials there, along with many others major players on this earth. Alas, I had no camera and no chisel. They’d probably shoot you for doing something like that now, and with good reason. I’m just sayin’, easy travel is no more. Perhaps it never was, but it was better—my opinion.

Part 2   Not as I expected.

 

 

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