Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Constant Singers

That warm sleep of a cat counted in long hours, and we

we so dogged, crafting speech as if it were the climbing ivy, sure growth

You, you be my crystal ball, and I yours, we double the future

in our words -- as if that would, as were-it-so -- to bring the mutual end

of the entropy in the system called the universe, and we

the malcontents in its side, bearing ourselves from within and out

the brain-churned, tongue-loose lucifers, would-be bringers of light.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Bureaucratic Frisson, Part 2 Of 2

You haven't gotten the whole story.  During this waiting time, maybe 25 minutes in, a very personable young woman with a clipboard, after attending to a score of others south of the aisle, made her way to me over the three ranks of chairs where I sat, and asked if she had managed to talk with me yet.

I was prepared, having seen her 'work the room' up to then, and explained clearly my simple problem:  how to use the online system designed to prevent people from having to queue up in the local offices like this one, like I was doing now.  I left out anything that sounded remotely snide.

She was sympathetic, but pointed out, there's nothing I can do from here.

I went back to looking at the screen, and as my number was near to being called, I stuffed Sartre into my book satchel, zipped it, and prepared for what seemed to be the need for a modest dash to the proper window before the potency of my queue number deliquesced.

My turn, Window 8.  The lady there was girded like any pro to deal with what happened to come her professional way.  I threw her off-balance.  

I was hoping to get you!  I chirped.  

She locked her chin a bit closer down to her clavicle and pretended to finish-off some prior business on her computer screen before she asked how she might help.

I detailed cleanly and quickly my problem -- really a simple one, I underscored.  She had an answer oh-so-ready.  You'll have to call the national number.

Ah, but I have done, and it, too, could offer no access -- is this a systems problem, then?

Her distant frown emphatically denied knowledge of any, and told me to keep on trying.

I nodded and then asked her an allied question about how to change my email with the Agency.

She denied even the possibility that there was any email contact whatever between the Agency and any individual at any time, and began to explain how The Privacy Act interlocked with government programs.

I nodded and raised the question of what I must have been smoking at the time that the Agency screen seemed to show an email I may have inadvertently and irrelevantly given at the time of my online contact.  She began to smile strangely, but at that point we both heard very raised voices coming from another window south of the aisle.

You'll have to come back, someone was saying to someone else.

The other voice muttered something in a growl.

You'll have to come back, the first voice insisted again

Fuck you!

My window lady had her head turned in that direction.  I whispered to her, I used to work in a public office.  She said, Security should have stopped all that, but he's just standing there.

Our business was almost at an end, but I decided to play my trump card.

I used to work for SSA.

She perked up, now connecting up why in blazes I had been able to use, earlier in the conversation, the term 'T bens'.  Up here? She asked, now with true interest.

Mostly at Bay Area Regional, in Richmond.

We chatted shop talk for another few minutes, but by the time I left, it was as though we had worked in the same unit, desk-to-desk, for a dozen years.  No.  As though we had served, unit-to-unit, in the same theater of war.

So familiar we had become so quickly, that when I told her my stint of service, she dubbed me a 'pioneer', and when I told her I left with my retirement, she came close to 'high-fiving' me.

Sometime soon, she intimated, and to signal her intended exit, she scuttled the fingers of her left hand across the counter as if they were departing feet.

I actually did get up -- her time-per-conversation being measured for efficiency -- I went to shake her hand.  She seemed almost giddy, our talk a sun-break in her very cloudy workday.  She responded with a jazz riff of a handshake, fingers thrumming the inside of my palm.

This wasn't 'business' -- this was homecoming and fond departure.

Good talking with you, I said.

Remember to call that number, she chuckled.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Bureaucratic Frisson, Part 1 Of 2

I have become a card-carrying Medicare enrollee and am unashamed of it.

The application process, online, went smoothly, and the personal 'call-back' I expected from a 'live representative' didn't have to happen.  They just sent me the Award Letter and my card.

Later on, thinking about my access to online information, I re-entered the system, quickly realizing I hadn't yet established a password, so I followed the instructions to get one.  After going through four entry screens, the alert showed:  Unable to access at this time.

Ultimately understanding my standard American English pronunciation, the automated, sound-sensitive, multi-menu national phone number, which I went to next and which might have resolved things, also didn't.  After several of my vocal and numeric attempts over the phone, the alert sounded: Unable to access at this time.

This is not a major problem, since I'm still working -- functionally, happily, and getting better at what I do -- and when I do retire, I'll be applying online again, a new claim, a retirement claim, at which time my 'access' problem would likely be resolved.

But I'm something of a terrier, and I like to dig.

So I went into a local office.

Knowing fully ahead of time that the press of humanity would not be genteel, I readied myself with patience and a book.  The office itself is situated in a newly-constructed building, the fourth floor, and there is a greeting station wherein you punch your choice of reasons for visiting, get a 'triaged' number (four separate sets, depending on your query), and take a seat in an area set up like a private viewing room.

It's well-lit, has an aisle.  There's a big screen TV silently displaying the current numbers being served.  Those numbers were getting matched every so often over a loudspeaker directing people to particular windows.

General information also gets displayed on the big screen TV.  It shows in English and then in Spanish.  I deliberately avoided the English in order to practice my Spanish.  I also watched a close-captioned version of how Social Security works to one's advantage.  It stars Patty Duke-Astin and George ('Mr. Sulu') Takei and takes place on a mock-up of the Starship Enterprise, its bridge.

I'm sure it's a comedy, but I was too absorbed in the book I brought along, La Nausée, Sartre's seminal novel in which a bridge between Phenomenology and Existentialism is laid out in fictional form.

Although written in the late 30s in France just as fascism was rising as a plausible political force in Europe -- what with Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler saluting and huffing and shouting and lying and bashing -- the realization felt by the main character Roquentin that the existence of any thing was nothing more than an empty abstraction, that its reality was only a convenience, a relation between itself and any other thing, including oneself (!) -- that realization made him sick.  Movement and arbitrary assignment of meaning.  

I might say that I myself was getting a bit of vertigo trying to comprehend the missing floor that Roquentin had found himself unable to stand on.  And I was sitting.

I jerked myself away from the book's momentary abyss and looked at the screen.  My category of numbers (Roquentin would have rejected all categories as ephemeral?) had reached A32.  My number was A35.  I, for some inexplicable reason, began feeling butterflies in my stomach.  They flew around each other, one non-thing around another, one nerve impulse firing on the basis of chemical activity derived by my reading a book in a public office.  I had to stop this.  It was almost my turn.  Almost my time on stage.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer's Prime

Next to the sandstone coping of the kidney pool

what matters in the strict perplexity of a young life's

only the ease of the settling-in, inside the now,

a good youth body with its supple skin and muscle,

the worry -- of not 'being here' -- a simple school abstract

or film plot, here laughed-off -- un-thought -- a mere omission,

the extant world, the one of hankering for another touch

so as to be one flesh by fleshing-in, concentrating on

the plunge, stroking backward through the womb of water.


Monday, September 12, 2011


Symbolism is no fake.  Things are not just 'things' in themselves, blunt stuff that has no fourth or fifth or sixth dimension -- measured in a mind's eye.

The woman of a couple she's dismayed since much of the space, the ample flat being let, is dressed in white, fashionable teeth-like bright

Clean and pure, the bounce of 'no' color, the heart of a child ready for impress of primary hue and crying out loud for only the good we have to offer

So her eyes downcast, her mouth covered-up, she's rushed back to the real estate car and even thinking why did I trust this why even come close to this monster place

Brought to the spotlit rooms where shadows shall come, where a clear glow hints an eventual dusk, its ghost, just half-a-tick, half-a-tock, away


Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Two

I followed the news and cried or came close.

Airplanes and buildings made me sick.

I prayed the witness of peace in a book --

but I thrilled at video Gunga Din.

I wrote to a Quaker church:

The silent god, inside me, wanted out -- 

yet I thought I could enlist and man a desk,

and stood when the players sang to my flag.

I shut out all the hate talk,

cringed at the jingo Friday night carhonks --

yet I didn't read the church replies;

my parents lay in a Navy grave.

I swim this purposeful, blind wave,

where I crest with Mohandas Gandhi

and curl with G.I. Joe:  we're one -- but

we're too distant to clasp hands.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Violinist's Daughter

The last he saw her -- flimsy blouse and dirty feet, a little drunk and nails bit broken, speaking loose, and her heroin boyfriend out and in

in Amsterdam -- had she known that she was getting this, into the weatherbeating of steetwind, life as only suddenness, a joy of coming high

and welcoming old classmates prim from the States as though she spilled from the beatitude of orgasmic up-all-night collapse

the liver over-exercised, surmising rightly she'd be now long dead, an object of anecdote, a generational footnote.