Tag Archives: Red

Killing Faith

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I set up my writing materials on the picnic table at Abó, one of New Mexico’s more obscure Pueblo ruins.

This had been my Sunday ritual for a year or more. I was both seduced and inspired by the crumbling red rocks of the former Spanish Mission church. The rocks that are as red as dried blood; as red as the passion of a savior.

I’d been so enthralled by the tumbling rocks, in fact, that I wandered well off the path several times and was caught, reprimanded, and placed on probation by Officer Lopez, who was protector of the sacred Indian ruins.

It was a humorously embarrassing moment. He wanted to restrict my presence there; I fought for compromise. Eventually we agreed that I must check in with him at the Visitor’s Center each Sunday before entering the grounds.

I wanted a solitary place to pray and seek peace. He wanted to enforce justice. We coexisted for a few weeks with the tension of warriors. But I softened one day and decided to attempt a truce of faith.

As he was making his rounds one Sunday morning, I inwardly willed Officer Lopez to come to the picnic area and talk with me.

I gathered up all the juju and prayer power I could, placed it in a mental bouquet, then set to work typing.  Within thirty minutes, I heard him call out, “Hello Jayni!”

He waved.  Asked how I was.  Faltered a bit.  I coaxed him on with conversation.

We talked for nearly half an hour.

I learned that he was a marine for five years.  Officer Lopez stated that when he was in the Marines, he and his buddies wanted to go to war…wanted to kill.

I have never met anyone who actually wanted to kill people.  Someone who was excited and eager to not just exercise his military training – but wanted to kill.  His body vibrated as he spoke those words.  His face animated.

I am awed.

I crave to crawl behind this man’s militant majesty and find out how it feels to want to kill.

What animal instinct inspires a person to be excited about killing?

What is the thrill within the kill?

Why am I intrigued enough to pursue the conversation further?

Why do I want to learn about raw emotion at this coarse level?

Because it is pure – clean – honest. Untangled from the bullshit psycho-spiritual labyrinth I’ve walked my entire life.

This man knows who he is, what he likes, what he wants, and takes it without apology.

I’ve spent a lifetime apologizing for myself and trying to understand why I exist.

Of course his surefootedness grabs me.

It’s simple and solid.

It offers stability and a point to rebel against.  And rebellion has always empowered me.  I was my father’s little anti-soldier.

 

But now I want to be neutral and understand the operations of my former enemies.

I don’t want enemy lines drawn.  I want lines erased.  But I also want my own truth to emerge.

I listened to Officer Lopez speak with such strong conviction.

I wonder if I will ever be able to stand even half as self-assured and state my beliefs.

I may not agree with his faith, but I admire and envy his rootedness.

His rootedness reminds me of rocks.  Of the rocks he protects.  Of the rock I want to be protected by.  Of some rocks I’ve known and wanted to live under or on the edge of.

He’ll live long in my memory .  .  . as I keep practicing the art of crawling into the light and exposing my lies and my truth.

Red Sneakers

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Many years before Prince coveted his little red Corvette, I invested hours of begging my mother for a pair of little red sneakers. I was in love.

 

 

Red Sneakers

 

In those years of the late 1950s to the early 1960s, canvas-coated feet were emboldened in a battle between Keds and PF Flyers. My mother favored Keds.

Okay.

I accepted the poverty of options. Secretly I preferred Keds also, because on close scrutiny of my friends with PF feet, I could see a deficiency in quality. The fabric was skinnier; the rubber was wobblier. From a distance, the colors and styling were eye-catching. Up close, the optical illusion gave way.

Keds had solidity. Longevity. Ankle support.

But they were poor in color palette. White, navy, and black predominated, which was a bit boring to a small girl with a big dream of being a fashionista.

Today I describe my go-to wardrobe as: black, white, and indigo. Once again demonstrating the power of the circle. The ceaseless circle of life.

I’m voluntarily back where I began.

Almost.

Against that background color trinity, though, I love accents of surprise from every pie slice of the spectrum.

But, in the post-WW II days, life was spectrally dim. Women wore quiet dresses. Men sore Obama suits. Children wore practical clothes, that is, clothes of colors that did not readily reveal dirt. Clothes that could be worn a few times without washing and still pass for respectfully clean.

Looking back, I appreciate that practicality. Fewer loads of laundry made ecological and economical sense.

But, still. I wanted a pair of red canvas sneakers. Just so my feet could shout a little. Be happy and dance a little.

And not just plain red low-riders. No, I wanted red high-tops. And that’s where the real battle began.

Not only did Mom see red canvas as a grass-stain magnet. She judged high-tops as completely inappropriate for girls.

What the heck? I never could figure it out, but, suddenly practicality became too masculine.

I was a tall, gangly kid in need of strong ankle support. So, why not high-tops?

My arguments were in vain. For six years of childhood, she denied me.

And that denial rode along with me into adulthood.

Decades later, I found myself periodically craving a pair of red high-top sneakers. This time, though: Converse. Yes. A pair of tall, red Chucks.

Somehow, every moment of zealous pursuit was foiled. My size was not available or red was not in favor with the fashion police or long shoelaces were not being manufactured. Some quirk of commerce always roadblocked.

Then.

This year.

In the midst of 2015’s final three months of holiday blitzing.

My husband surprised me with a wedding-anniversary gift:

 

RED CHUCKS!

 

 

Yes, it truly is never too late to have a happy childhood.

And today, on this Winter Solstice, may all of your sorrows be lifted. May all of your dreams come true. May a new season of happiness fill your soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gypsy Man

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Imagine an exotic, Turkish-inspired coffee shop on the second floor of a cluster of Santa Fe art galleries. Run by sheikhs, all porcelain-white people wearing white turbans and sculpted sour expressions.

The decor is lush. Lots of hand-tufted rugs and handwoven textiles stuffed into pillows. Lavishly tassled and tossed into raised-bed booths and corner hammocks.

Deep red is predominant. The tones of aged wines from quixotic and ancient cultures create a space of timeless welcome. A safety net to sink into and forget the worries of twenty-first century America.

This space is everything I want a coffee shop to be: an afternoon ride on a magic carpet.

And as I nest into a corn crib of pillows, a genie appears.

Squatting across the private table from me – uninvited – unsummoned – a man sits pretzled in a perfect lotus flower. Dressed in handwoven/hand-dyed clothing, he is nearly camouflaged by the cafe itself.

His hair is dark as espresso. Crinkly and curly.

He has chin stubble that wants to give birth to a beard.

His dark eyes sear through the dusky light into my consciousness.

He wears amulets.

 

He carries a deck of tarot cards that he ceremoniously places on the table.

He is silent, and, keen upon appearing more enigmatic and mysterious than his birthright.

He is .  .  . a self-created apparition.

And as he pokes a hole in my solitude, I’m offended.

I wind my legs in a knot and tuck them under my turquoise-tiered, gossamer skirt. This posture grounds me as I choose to lift my eyes and meet his in a direct standoff: a soundless dartboard of eyeballs bouncing. A game only strangers can play with the logic of graceful hatred.

As my green eyes bite his chocolate malt-ball eyes, it is war.

The rare ecstasy of invisible sparring begins.

Before I can thunder kick him with words, he turns over a handful of intricately beautiful images. All glossy patterns on sturdy card stock.

Tarot Cards

My anger diffuses.

“What’s your number?” he asks with soft determination.

“I don’t know. I’ve never understood numerology, but, my favorite number has always been eight.”

“What’s your birth date?”

I give the date. He converts it into numbers. Adds them up. They total “8.”

“You are right to trust your instincts. Eight has been, and always will be, the guide of your life.”

He shuffles several cards and lays them out on the table in a pretty little pint-sized argyle acre of tidy tilling.

I’m fascinated. His nimble fingers work so quickly. His voice speaks through the wine colors of the room. He is a weaver of words and prophecy, and, I am soon nearly tipsy with the trickery of old.

In a trance, I hear mention of money. Is he asking me to pay for oracles I haven’t ordered?

My anger reawakens. I sit stone cold like a clay-slab plate perched at chest height.

“No.”

He evaporates like the fog he’d ridden in on.

Magic carpet: exit stage left.

I sip my tea. But I’m not able to relax again. My peace has been robbed by a thief with stolen eyes.

Untangling my legs, I slide from the booth, reluctantly leaving its pillow-safety behind.

On cat feet, I creep down the back stair exit. I glance left before entering the sidewalk. In my periphery, I see Gypsy Man in all his robed glory, seducing the soul of another solitary woman who sits silently at a white wrought-iron table on the street level patio. Trying to smile without entangling her dignity in his Turkish taffy eyes.

I cross the street, wondering about the safety of playing with numbers. I think: Roulette wheels. Poker. Stock Market portfolios.

But I still love the number 8 with all its loops of infinity and lazy filigree meandering into the future.

It’s crazy.

It all started with an 8-Ball sitting in the lap of my childhood. The friend of a lonely little girl.

It answered my dreams and talked with my fears. Over the decades, its status was raised. It earned its place as the lone star flag of my heart.

And neither the Silk Road scammers nor the market analysts can steal – or – correct the investment it holds in my destiny.

For what it’s worth, I’ll continue to toss my own dice. To count my own numbers. Dance with them. Love them. Follow their wisdom of happiness and contentment whenever I can solve their intricate equation of existence.

No interlopers invited.

I’m a solitary integer in this cold, dark universe of arithmetic.

 

The Gun

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  1. Atlantic City. A misty shroud of a Saturday night. 

 

The Blue Devils are playing in the state finals against whatever color of devil Atlantic City has to offer.

 

I don’t remember who wins, but, after the game my friend and I pour out into the street with the rest of the crowd and make haste for the boardwalk. It is thick with people. So thick the community of body heat unchills the night.

 

The saltwater-gnawed wood of the walkway is dark and heavily knotted, slickened by a thin veneer of rain. The street lamps cast a gruesome yellow light on the arcade scene. The bulbs may aspire to radiate a sunny yellow – warm like buttercup blossoms – but I think they’ve swallowed a spoonful of spooky green, painting their aura nauseous.

 

Swarms of people stroll along the creaky boardwalk. Some pause to toss balls for teddy bears; some slip down dark hallways to play pinball. A few families with children dare to risk the rides out over the ocean, high above that ancient dirty-hazel Atlantic, spuming endlessly at the sand like a cobra hooding before it hisses venom.

 

The farther we walk, the denser the population. Then sluggishness sets in. Carol and I wiggle our way through the sloth of the masses, our skinny nimble bodies sliding through the various dimensions of flesh and bone. I am following in her wake until suddenly I am not.

 

Movement stops. It’s pure pedestrian gridlock. I am trapped in a huddle of strangers. Carol’s long blonde hair no longer visible as my compass.

 

I panic, and then surrender to the stillness. I know where the chartered bus is parked, the vintage school bus earmarked for the basketball fans. I just need to make it to the parking lot before it departs. If I fail, I’ll have to find public transportation. That can be tricky.

 

As I stand sardined in my woolen coat and gloves, I glance to my left. A small man in a black felt fedora and dark trench coat stands silently. His gaze straight ahead.

 

I realize then that everyone is silent. A swift hush wraps us together in a peculiar gift box.

 

I look to my right and another man stands. This one in silver grey. Taller. More portly. Gazing straight ahead also.

 

Time stops. I think I’m standing in a noir film.

 

A tiny amount of pressure on my left side, perfectly situated at my waistline. My eyes glance downward. The man in the trench coat has a pistol pointed at my side. Its pewter barrel reflects the sulfur-yellow of the lamps.

 

I am sixteen years old and about to be shot in a crowd of anonymous people on a random Saturday night, miles from my hometown. Who will ever solve this crime, I wonder.

 

Fear seems futile. Running is impossible. Screaming is dangerously un-ladylike.

 

So I stand inside my skin and wait, calmly. In the sick silence of a city ruled by hustle and flow.

 

Minutes go by and nothing happens. I roll my eyes to the right and see the man in grey perspiring. Beads of sweat on his forehead larger than raindrops. His skin sallows.

 

Then I get it. He is the target. I am simply in the way of his death.

 

While rumbling this thought around in my mind like a gumball machine, the crowd suddenly parts, as though a new Moses were standing on the Ferris wheel commanding the sea of skin.

 

I see a silver diner gleaming in the distance. Without looking back or side-to-side, I bolt toward its railcar comfort. Its red neon sign my new North Star.

 

Up the stairs two at a time and through the hand-smudged glass doors. The aroma of coffee greets me like the warmth of a mother’s hug. Red naugahyde stools are twirling bodies. One spins fully around. It’s Carol.

 

I watch the worry, and then the relief, slouch across the terrain of her face.

 

I don’t explain. We merely link arms and run toward the bus.

 

Settled in my seat, riding home in the tumult of a school bus with lazy shock absorbers, I wonder why I can fully relax in the presence of a gun. Why it feels like something close to erotic surrender?

When does the temptation of assault translate into the taste of Home? What is the allure of Russian roulette . . . the odds that no one is wagering? The odds of being a stranger in a strange, unchosen position?

 

Life and death just danced on the head of a bullet in some ecstatic merger that baffles me even now. Why did I draw the dancer of life?

The Grind

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Mocha Muse has its very own newspaper, The Grind. It may contain a quote, a poem, song lyrics, snippets of overheard conversation or fascinating facts about creativity/life. So, snuggle into the sofa, unfold the paper, leather sofa in Home Interior and reach for your morning cup of coffee.

Here’s the second issue. . . just click on newspaper to enlarge, then continue to click until text is readable for you!

The Grind - Red Ruby Lips (4-13-2015)                          **Resource: Psychology Today

If you’re interested in making a submission to The Grind, the maximum word count is 160, so, this is a challenge in minimalism. Please visit the Contact Page for entry information.This is a great opportunity for publication, so, please don’t hesitate. It’s never too late to puncture the literary landscape!

As I mused about in my introduction, it seems as though my craving for the external sensory aspects is, perhaps, right on track as far as creative triggers are concerned. Recently, I read this article in Success magazine:

Why Coffee Shops Boost Brainpower

(Hint: It’s not the caffeine.)

When you visit your neighborhood coffee shop to jump-start your brain, the jolt isn’t just from the java. Turns out it’s the noise! A study in the Journal of Consumer Research tested participants at 50 decibels, which was a bit too quiet; 85 decibels, too noisy; and 70 decibels – the gentle buzz experienced at a hot-beverage purveyor – is just right. The results confirm what many creatives, freelancers and home-based workers have long experienced: Exiting your normal routine is a better way to juice up your creativity and productivity than hunkering down all by your lonesome and trying to power through a problem.

— Mary Vinnedge

Of course, we’re limited to a virtual coffee shop and I can’t raise the decibel level to 70 . . . BUT . . . if we imagine the sounds in the background, perhaps, the Mocha Muse can be used as a place to break routine, loosen up some latent stories, roust memories, stir emotions, animate dreams . . . .