Heard by a Bird

"My apple tree is going bananas."
- Dave Channon

Did you see the cloud shaped like an Australopithecus over Shandaken last Thursday?

Our First Cartoon

For the first time, this column is publishing a cartoon.  Unfortunately, due to certain production limitations, you can’t actually see the image, but I’m sure you will visualize it perfectly on your own.

One logger to another:
"Hey, your chainsaw is out of tune!"

A Letter

Dear Mr. Sparrow:

The term "Upstate New York" should be changed.  A better term would be "Lower Canada."  Boiceville, NY has more in common with Windsor, Ontario than with Brooklyn.

"Pete"

For the Alley Cats

"In my household, as a child, my mother never let anyone finish a bottle of wine," Amy Chartreus remembers.  "She insisted on pouring the last few ounces into a saucer, and leaving it outside for the alley cats.  ‘It’s a good deed to get a cat drunk,’ she’d say."

Shandaken Poetry Profusion

Above

You
are
seeing
this
poem
from
above,
but
I am
writing
it
from
below.

- Angela V. Morris

The Myth of Soda

Soda is a myth. 
Coca-Cola is not "surprisingly refreshing."

(And their latest slogan,
"Welcome to the Coke side of life,"
is grimly ominous.)

Soda doesn’t even taste good.
It tastes like diabetic goo.

- Roger Pelfrey

Interview With A Lead Singer

I visited lead singer Dale Glored at his home in Pine Hill.

Sparrow: I understand you’re in a band called The Xanadudes.

Glored: Yes.  It’s a terrible name, but we’re very attached to it.

Sparrow: Why?

Glored: The bass player and I thought it up when we were 15.

Sparrow: How would you describe your music?

Glored: We began playing heavy metal, but it became lighter and lighter.  Now I call it "delicate metal."

Sparrow: What does that mean, exactly?

Glored: We sound a bit like someone knitting.

Sparrow: Do you have some music you can play me?

Glored: Sure.  This is a song called "Outgassing."  [He plays a CD.]

Sparrow: I see what you mean.  To me it sounds like an elderly woman putting on a pair of gloves.

Glored: Right.

Sparrow: And your vocals are so… subtle.

Glored: I’m influenced by my cat purring.

Sparrow: What’s your cat’s name?

Glored: Roger.

[To hear for yourself, go to www.thexanadudes.com.]

Potato Chip Pillow

"One time I went camping and forgot to bring a pillow," remembers Rick Ishram.  "But we had a bag of unopened potato chips, so I used that.  It was the best sleep of my life.  And the next morning, most of the chips were crushed — which is how I like ‘em!

"Once in a while, I still use a potato chip bag for a pillow, even when I’m at home."

Bumper sticker:

WARNING: I SWERVE
TO AVOID WOODSTOCK

A Second Letter

Dear Sparrow-man:

Here’s a new idea for a reality TV show: American Idle.  Twelve contestants sit around doing nothing, and are voted on by the public.  Which one is best suited for idleness? The winner becomes an extra in a restaurant scene on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

J. Z.

Heard by a Bird

"The Internet makes you smart and cruel."
- Matt Drudge

Did you see the cloud in the shape of XVII (17 in Roman numerals) over Shandaken last Tuesday?

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Faces have names; bodies do not.  If I saw Meryl Streep’s body walking down the street, I wouldn’t recognize it.

C. D.

Bumper sticker:

ALL ROADS LEAD
TO ROAM

Pinecone Pizza

"My mother made pizza when I was a girl, and she’d always decorate it with pinecones," remembers April Sinecuse.  "We’d lick off the cones, then take our slices.  But Mom had a knack for the visual; pinecones on pizza are beautiful."

Shandaken Poetry Patrol

A Manifesto

Instead of British empiricism,
I believe in Brazilian idealism.

- Jack Chirrup

I Am

I am the lead singer
of Led Zeppelin
(in my shower).

- Art Drager

Peace Food

"My mother’s an antiwar activist, so I grew up eating Peace Food," Addie Bromson recalls.  "She relied heavily on Recipes for Planetary Healing by Jane and Edward Kevaw.  According to the Kevaws, certain foods create tranquility: e.g., snow peas, carrots, brown rice, cashews.  Mom served us piles of those.  When I visit my mother, I still ask her to make Earth-Renewal Carrot Muffins!"

Bumper sticker:

IF WHITE MEN COULD DANCE,
ALL WARS WOULD END

Aaron Plonsky: The Recent Work

Aaron Plonsky, who was interviewed in these pages, showed his decorated found cigarette lighters at Arts Upstairs in Phoenicia, New York in early September.  As you may recall, Plonsky finds these modern-day matchsticks in the woods, then transforms them into artworks.  In the gallery, five lighters stood in a row on a small shelf: blue, green, red, orange and purple (from left to right).  Actually, the colors were not immediately visible; you had to peer around the back .  The fronts of the lighters were entirely covered with white stickers, on which figures were drawn with blue magic marker.  The images were deceptively simple: interlocking abstract shapes, a portrait of Albert Einstein (or someone similar), the words "Faux-nicia" in bubble letters, and full-length figures of a man and a woman, both with bunny ears.

My favorite was the woman-rabbit, who stared down shyly like a fourteen year old girl in a photograph.

Seeing Plonsky’s whimsical images, one notices how disturbingly anonymous these plastic cigarette lighters are, without embellishment.  They are translucently inhuman.

His drawings seem almost like doodles, quickly dashed off.  But on closer examination, they raise deeper philosophical queries.  Is Plonsky saying that Phoenicia is somehow faux — French for "false"?  Is he attacking the hypocrisy and self-serving egotism of this town?  Or is he purely making an amusing pun?

Also, how would people with bunny ears be treated, in our modern society?  Would they be accorded full rights as individuals, or seen as stuffed animals come to life?

And what is the relationship of these pictures to the cigarette lighters themselves?  Did Einstein smoke?  Does "E = mc²" explain the lighting of cigarettes?  Does smoking, in a sense, give one rabbit ears?

Plonsky’s work challenges our basic assumptions about cigarettes, and life.

[Incidentally, Aaron cryptically told me: "My greatest inspiration has always been Dakota Lane."]

Heard by a Bird

"Poetry and arson are the two loneliest occupations."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Each time it rains, I relearn that my house is essentially a drum.

A. T.

Bumper sticker:

SOMETIMES THE BAD GUY
WEARS THE WHITE HAT

My friends are listening to the power-mumble band Half Of Me.

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

I have invented a new food: dry juice.  It’s simply fruit juice with all the liquid removed.  The resulting treat is a solid, very sweet strip resembling peanut brittle.
If anyone wants to know more, they can e-mail me at: Jeremytheinventor@yahoo.com.

Jeremy

Did you see the cloud shaped like a Canadian doorstop over Shandaken last Wednesday?

Bumper sticker:

HEY, DIXIE CHICKS! I’M ASHAMED
GEORGE W. BUSH IS FROM AMERICA!

Shandaken Poetry Alert

Math

I hate math
but love
equal signs.

- Alan Will Burton

Astronomical Observation

On Jupiter, there is nowhere to stand;
Thank goodness we live on a planet with land!

- Julie Montserrat

All About The Flying Catfish

I spoke to Roger Malley, a local logger.

Sparrow: Tell me about the flying catfish.

Malley: When I was a boy, everyone in Shandaken knew about flying catfish.  My grandfather would tell vivid stories about three of them flying in formation over Slide Mountain.  I was terrified of them.

Sparrow: Did any of the flying catfish have names?

Malley: Grandpa would describe Ugath, the largest flying fish.  Ugath was the size of a house, and he could kill you just by landing on you.  Other old-timers talked about big catfish that’d eat your head off.  (Of course, catfish don’t have teeth, but eight year olds don’t think about that.)

My best friend Elmer was so frightened of flying catfish, he’d run inside every time he saw a fish-shaped cloud.

Sparrow: Where do you think those stories came from?

Malley: I wonder if the Algonquins originated the tales.

Sparrow: Did you ever see one of those flying fish?

Malley: No.  But as I grew up, I discovered some of the grownups really believed the stories — they weren’t just frightening kids.  My Uncle Matt broke into a sweat recalling a flying catfish outlined in the full moon.

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Now that the summer’s ending, I’m hearing all the bear reports.  Here on Upper High Street (in Phoenicia) I haven’t had one ursine visitor all summer.  But on Esopus Avenue, a 17 minute walk away, the bears are as thick as squirrels.  I went to a party on Saturday, and a bear stole an entire bag of garbage during the party!  I’ve never heard of this before.

When we lived in Shandaken, a bear would come every evening and tear open the garbage bags; and once, I saw one pull a bag backwards across Route 42, exactly like a bank robber backing out of a bank door in an old movie.  She fixed me with a stare, instead of holding a revolver.  Then, safely on the other side of 42, she began to rifle through our garbage.  But a bear never stole a bag without a trace.

J. C.

Heard by a Bird

<p>&quot;Books are batter; movies are cakes.&quot;<br />
- Jack Warner<br />
<br />
Ask Sparrow<br />
<br />
Faithful (and some faithless) readers of this column will remember that &quot;Ask Sparrow&quot; is a recurring feature, in which distraught members of our community ask yours truly for succor and guidance.&nbsp; For example:<br />
<br />
Dear Sparrow:<br />
<br />
Here is one of the major problems with life in the 21st century:&nbsp; My wife comes into the kitchen and asks &quot;Where did we get bok choi?&quot; Thing is, we have a whole garden full of bok choi, and other stuff. <br />
<br />
Concerned, <br />
Blue F-150 <br />
<br />
<br />
Dear Blue F:<br />
<br />
The origin of bok choi is a question that has nettled many historical philosophers, including Lucretius.&nbsp; In fact, the phrase &quot;bok choi&quot; may itself be uttered as a question (i.e. &quot;Bok choi?&quot;)<br />
<br />
Sparrow<br />
<br />
Did you see that cloud shaped like a red-haired district attorney over Shandaken last Tuesday?<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
Bumper sticker:<br />
<br />
RACISM IS FOR LOSERS<br />
<br />
<br />
The Oddiad: An Interview<br />
<br />
I spoke to Felix Gerston, a local book artist.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: I understand you’ve created a new book.<br />
<br />
Gerston: Yes, I have.&nbsp; It’s called The Oddiad.&nbsp; It combines The Odyssey and The Iliad into one book.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: The Odyssey and The Iliad by Homer?<br />
<br />
Gerston: That’s right.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: How did you do that, exactly?&nbsp; Did you alternate pages?<br />
<br />
Gerston: No, I have half of each book, bound together.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: Which half?<br />
<br />
Gerston: The first half of The Iliad, and the first half of The Odyssey.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: In that order?<br />
<br />
Gerston: Yeah.&nbsp; That’s the order they take place in.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: Which translation did you use?<br />
<br />
Gerston: The Robert Fagles translation of The Iliad, and the Robert Fitzgerald translation of The Odyssey.&nbsp; The amazing thing is that I found two editions that were exactly the same size.&nbsp; They fit together perfectly.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: This is a paperback?<br />
<br />
Gerston: Yes.&nbsp; I bought them at yard sales.&nbsp; The whole project cost $1.50.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: And what about the cover?<br />
<br />
Gerston: Good question.&nbsp; I cut each cover in half, and combined them.&nbsp; Then on the front cover I wrote The Oddiad, very professionally.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: Have you read the book?<br />
<br />
Gerston: Yes.&nbsp; It’s strange.&nbsp; The Trojans have just seen the eagle with a &ldquo;blood-red snake in its talons&quot; — an oracle of their defeat — when you come to: &quot;Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide…&quot;<br />
<br />
Sparrow: What are your plans for The Oddiad?<br />
<br />
Gerston: I’m selling it on eBay.&nbsp; Apparently, I’m the first person in history to blend the two books.<br />
<br />
Sparrow: Good luck.<br />
<br />
Gerston: Thank you.&nbsp; I’ll need it.&nbsp; EBay can be treacherous.<br />
<br />
<br />
My friends are listening to the new band The Half-Jews.&nbsp; All of their songs are medleys; they’ll begin with &quot;Hava Nagila&quot; then it’ll turn into &quot;Afternoon Delight.&quot;<br />
<br />
Shandaken Expository Poetry<br />
<br />
<br />
New<br />
<br />
This<br />
poem<br />
is so<br />
new,<br />
the&nbsp; <br />
ink’s<br />
still<br />
wet.<br />
<br />
- Herbert Vackery<br />
<br />
<br />
Texas<br />
<br />
&quot;Texas is<br />
a small state,&quot;<br />
said the Western<br />
Australian.<br />
<br />
- Alice Musee<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
<br />
Yard Sale Info<br />
<br />
A recent e-mail:<br />
<br />
i have a yard sale report for you:&nbsp; my mother owns a pair of sandals with wheels that come out the bottom. this is WAY pre roller blades, fyi.<br />
<br />
i suspect these would go for a HUGE price at a yard sale.<br />
<br />
Susan Banki</p>

Heard by a Bird

"Some July days in the Hudson Valley, you can watch a puddle evaporate and become a cloud."
- Emily Bradstreet

Ask Sparrow

Occasionally in this column, the feature "Ask Sparrow" appears, in which anyone may demand solutions to apparently hopeless questions.

Dear Sparrow:

Is it acceptable to hold hands on the first date?

Perplexed In Chichester

Dear P. I. C.:

Yes, you may hold hands on the first date — but only with yourself!  Here’s how it’s done: take your left hand in your right hand (or vice versa) and hold it gently but firmly.  Every so often, you may give your hand a squeeze — but do not caress it!

On the third date, you may hold the other person’s hand.

Sparrow

T-shirt:

WHAT PART OF "I’M SOCIOPATHIC"
DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?

Mirror-vegetables

"Eggplants are the most reflective vegetables," opines Mel O’Gradden.  "You can see yourself quite clearly in one.  My dad would always point to the eggplants in his garden and say, ‘I’m growing mirrors.’"

A Letter

Dear "Sparrow":

Have you ever seen a man inside a nail salon?  I haven’t.  Not even a delivery boy.

H. M.

Shandaken Poetry Patrol

If

If I
hadn’t
written
this
poem,
what
poem
would
I have
written?

- Paul Josef

Virgins

Many pets
are
virgins.

- Martha V. Klerson

Interview with a Collector

I spoke to Nick Strawly, a collector of rubber bands.

Sparrow: I understand you collect rubber bands. 

Strawly: Yes, but only seven.

Sparrow: Only seven?

Strawly: Only seven at one time.

Sparrow: Why is that? 

Strawly: My uncle Lou was a gambler.  He impressed on me the importance of numbers — especially the number seven.  I remember walking around with him once on July 7.  (Of course, that’s "7/7.")  Uncle Lou was exhilarated by the date.  We visited his bookie — back then, gamblers still had bookies — and Uncle Lou bet the number 7701.  "Why 7701?" I asked.  "The ’01′ indicates the importance of this bet," Lou explained.  "It’s like saying, ‘This is the first bet of my life.’"  That’s why I collect seven rubber bands.

Sparrow: Which rubber bands are your favorites?

Strawly: I like large, loose bands.  Those small thick ones — that come around broccoli — scare me.  But I also love the rubber bands postal workers carry.  There’s a standard size, 4" X 1/4", used by all post offices.  In major cities, you see them on sidewalks — usually they’re quite clean.  Apparently postwomen and postmen drop them indiscriminately.

Sparrow: Where do you keep your collection?

Strawly: On the doorhandle to my pantry door.  Rubber bands belong around a doorhandle.

Sparrow: What do you think of rubber band-balls?  You know, people who save rubber bands by shaping them into a ball?

Strawly: Those are vulgar.

Sparrow: And what do you use your collection for?

Strawly: Where to begin?  Rubber bands have so many purposes! They’re best with paper, though, I believe.  Stacks of letters, if they’re not too thick.  A rolled-up poster or map is well-bound by rubber.  Sometimes I wear one around my wrist, as a humble bracelet.

Did you see the cloud shaped like a half-eaten mango over Pine Hill last Thursday?

Heard by a Bird

"I no longer paint circles.  Now I paint the circumference of spheres."

- Jasper Johns

 

 

Kindly Blind Items

 

"Heard By A Bird" (this column) is known for its "good gossip."  This is largely because the people of Shandaken are so benign.  Occasionally, we feature "Kindly Blind Items."  (A "blind item" is a sentence, usually interrogative, which names no one.)  Here are some new ones:

 

Which electrical contractor dearly loves his wife?  Which first grade teacher has lovely dimples?  Which bass player brushes his teeth three times a day?  Which insurance adjuster secretly collects thimbles?

 

 

My friends are listening to the lo-fi slumber-rock band Pythagoras And The Triangles.

 

 

Bumper sticker:

 

BUSH PLAYS

THE LYRE

 

 

Ask Sparrow

 

"Ask Sparrow" is an occasional feature of this column, where utterly bewildered individuals beg for assistance.

 

Dear Sparrow;

 

In your May 24 column, one "S.B."writes of having discovered that their stove bears a mysterious marking identifying it as having or using or being an "Accubake System." Our stove too has such an identifier. The words themselves incorporate a small crosshairs-type logo, intended I suppose, to indicate precision in some manner, though what it graphically conveys is the concept "targeting." That I imagine, must be good for a stove.

 

Years ago I remember reading that folks at Raytheon back in the 1950′s accidentally invented the microwave while trying to create the next generation military weapon. They also discovered it wasn’t a good idea to point it at a dog. Does this have something to do, do you think, with the Accubake System?

 

Blue F-150 in Chichester

 

 

Dear Blue F,

 

The problem you and I shared — until recently — is that neither of us possessed the 372 page Accubake System Manual, which explains the niceties of our stoves.  Luckily, I was able to purchase one through eBay, and now I realize the full implications of our food-preparation appliances.  Accubaking is a scientific breakthrough on the level of nuclear fission.  Properly handled, our ovens can literally transform molybdenum into helium, while simultaneously baking two cherry pies!

 

Sparrow

 

 

Did you see the cloud resembling a pitcher of root beer over Mount Tremper last Thursday?

 

 

A bumper sticker:

 

            SUPPORT THE TROOPS:

            KICK A REPUBLICAN

 

 

Shandaken Poetry Free-for-All

 

Forget How to Write

 

Forget how to write,

I told myself.

 

Just lie in bed and listen

to the birds sing.

 

Then do what they do:

make chattering squeals.

 

- Rodney Hargrave

 

 

 

Movie Rights

 

I

will

sell

the

movie

rights

to

this

poem

for

$200.

 

- Isabel Blurne

 

 

 

A Letter

 

Dear Heard by Some Bird:

 

Today I was ladling out my lentil-barley soup when I found an ant on the bottom of the pot.  Not a dead ant, but a living one — who was apparently equipped for breathing underwater.  She walked out of the ladle, onto my kitchen counter.

 

"Andy"

 

 

Bumper sticker:

 

YOU ARE WHAT

YOU EAT — PLUS

EVERYTHING ELSE

 

 

Inventive Grandfather

 

"My grandfather, August Hansell, invented an air conditioner that was also a lamp," Tony Hansell told me.  "But, sadly, no one needed an air conditioner/lamp.  Only three were built."

Heard by a Bird

"All music in the U.S.A. is too loud."
- Brian Eno

A Letter

Dear Sparrow & Co.:

My daughter pointed out that the Olive Free Library sounds like it means "a library without olives."

J. B.

Did you see the cloud resembling a striped beach towel over Mount Tremper last Thursday?

My friends recommend the strident Brit-emo band Bipolar Icecaps.

A Visit With Emily Kirkus

I was told Emily Kirkus had an interesting household in Mount Tremper, so I arranged to visit her.  I arrived on a Tuesday afternoon.  Immediately, a calico cat rubbed against my shin.

Sparrow: This is your pet?

Kirkus: Yes, we have two rescue cats.  This one’s Jaime, and Sort-of is hiding.

Sparrow: Did you say "Sort-of"?

Kirkus: That’s her name.  When we rescued her, she was sort of small and sort of big, sort of gray and sort of white, sort of noisy and sort of quiet.  So she evolved into "Sort-of."

Sparrow: Where did you find the cats?

Kirkus: At a shelter in Kingston.  Would you like to see our rescue plants?

Sparrow: Certainly!  I didn’t know there was such a category.

Kirkus: Here are our rescue roses.  Sentinel Bank in Boiceville ripped them out, and threw them in a dumpster.  I got there just in time.

Sparrow: I love the pink ones.

Kirkus: [Moving indoors.]  And here is our rescue typewriter.

Sparrow: It’s so old!

Kirkus: As far as I can tell, it’s from 1959.

Sparrow: It’s a Remington, I see.

Kirkus: Yes.  This model is the "Intrepid."  It has a double-bell.

Sparrow: What’s a double-bell?

Kirkus: When you reach the right margin, two bells rang at once.  But don’t worry, it’s not too noisy.

Sparrow: What do you use your rescue typewriter for?

Kirkus: Letters.  As much as everyone appreciates a handwritten letter today, a message typed by a typewriter is even more beloved.

Sparrow: You’re absolutely right.  Well, I should be going…

Kirkus: Before you leave, would you like some rescue tea?

Sparrow: Rescue tea?

Kirkus: A friend of mine, Abby, works in a local supermarket — I won’t say the name.  She gave us this tea.  The store was about to throw it away.  I guess it’s a few months old.

Sparrow: Sure.

Kirkus: It’s surprisingly zesty.

[And it was!]

Shandaken Poetry Innovations

My will

everyone gets something
and I’m dead

- Victoria Swanson

smooshy Bottons

does the soil beneath
the smiling Flowers
want to be husky?

- DevonRose Yankowski

Followup

Do they take
earrings off of
dead people?

- Iris Sofia

Ursine Tale

"My parents split up, so I was raised by my mother, along with my sister and brother," recalls Lynn Cavey.  "Mom was protective when we were young, but as we grew up, she let us find their own way.  One day it hit me — I had the same upbringing as a bear!"

Toast Apple-Hats

Roast an apple, and slice.  Place 3 slices on a piece of buttered toast.  Add honey and a few drops of wine.

[This recipe comes from Charlotte Benoir.]

Bumper sticker:

WAIVE
THE FLAG

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Millennia ago, humans invented the whistle, which mimics the human whistle.  But we have never invented the burp.

A. C.

Heard by a Bird

 

"God speaks to us through comic books."
- Jack Kirby

Did you see the cloud shaped like the letter H over Mount Tremper last Thursday?

A Letter

Dear Mr. Sparrow:

People are constantly asking me: "How’s it going?" and "How are you doing?"

I have finally come up with an answer: "It’s too early to tell."

A. B.

Have you heard the new Pine Hill band, Midlife Cry Sis?

Bumper sticker:

JOHN BROWN WAS
A TERRORIST

A Second Letter

Dear Señor Sparrow:

Have you ever deliberately sent a blank e-mail to someone?  Yesterday, I sent one — to my older sister — and today I am ashamed.

Anonymous In Chichester

Pea Syrup

1 cup green peas
1 Tbs honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Puree peas, honey and cinnamon.  Pour on fresh rice or couscous.  Serve.

[This recipe comes from Ralph Muros.]

Shoelace-Hater

"My dog Ned hates shoelaces," Susan Veedan said.  "He’s a black and white terrier.  Every night he would pull the shoelaces out of our shoes.  Now we keep our footwear atop the refrigerator."

A Third Letter

Dear Monsieur Sparrow:

"24-7" means "all the time."  A new phrase,"60-24," means "all day."  As in: "You can come over anytime Tuesday; I’ll be here 60-24."

J. D.

Bumper sticker:

I WISH I WERE
MORE BALD

A Fourth Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Yesterday, a truck drove by my house with the sign "Country Waste."  (I think it pumped out septic tanks.)  "That would be a good title for a melancholy Country song," I thought, and began to write it:

Some days, in my room,
I’ve just paced and paced.
I feel like a Country waste…

"Luke"

Bumper sticker:

I’D RATHER BE
UPSIDE DOWN

From The Art of Living Gently by Ephraim Chell:

"Every armchair has an armrest.  But how many people actually rest their arms on the armrest?

"Here is an exercise:

"Sit in your armchair.  Rest your left arm on the armrest.  Feel the restfulness of the armrest.  Allow your left arm to relax, and enjoy its position.

"Now take down your left arm, and place your right arm on the armrest.  Allow this arm also to rest.

"Now, try both arms at once.  Close your eyes, to completely feel arm-restedness.

"Vow to use the armrest two minutes a day."

Shandaken Poetry Compilation

Softness

Softness
is my brother.

- A. Beame

On Literature

Prose
helps you repose,

but poetry
lets you know a tree.

- Julia V. Andrews

Ask Sparrow

"Ask Sparrow" is an occasional feature of this column, where mystified citizens beg for answers to tricky questions.

Dear Sparrow:

Does anyone in Ulster County wear a monocle?

Pondering in Chichester

Dear Pondering:

I have seen no monocled eyes at the Kingston Mall, to be certain.

Helpfully,
Sparrow

Bumper sticker:

WARNING: I LEARNED TO
DRIVE FROM MY LITTLE SISTER

A Fifth Letter

Dear Nearly-Mighty Sparrow:

I have been living in this house for four years, and just today I noticed that on top of the stove, under the clock, is written: "Accubake System."  I’ve been Accubaking, unconsciously, since 2003!

S. B.

Heard by a Bird

"’American’ is less a nationality than a diagnosis."
- Ludwig Bemelmans

Bumper sticker:

IF YOU LIKE CHENEY SO MUCH,
GO HUNTING WITH HIM!

A Letter

Dear "Bird Is the Word,"

Rock music no longer rocks.  At best, it slightly rolls.  "Indie rock" should be known as "Indie roll."

J. R.

Did you see the cloud shaped like a hairnet over Pine Hill last Tuesday?

Filling Donut-Holes

"For some reason, my mother loved to fill the holes of donuts," Will Spreiar remembers.  "Something about that space troubled her.  She would make a paste — often with health food ingredients.  We joked that the filling would counteract the effects of the donut.  Here’s one recipe:

Peanut Butter-Yeast Delight

1/2 Tbs crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbs wheat germ
1/4 tsp nutritional yeast

That should fill four or five donuts!"

Shandaken Sayings

"pan lily" – an edible lily ("Helen cooked up a nice pan lily omelet.")
"cloud friendship" – a brief, or momentary acquaintance ("Mary and I had a cloud friendship.")
"farm cologne" – smell of manure ("I notice Frank’s wearing his farm cologne today.")

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Have you seen the frolicking coltsfoot flowers — yellow as a baby’s bib — dotting the gray woods?  They roll out the spring, with the male robins.

V. B.

Our Poetry Handbasket

Strange Fact

"I" and "eye"
are both the
same backwards.

- Edward Compsen

My 15

My 15 minutes
of fame actually
cost me money!*

- Bethany Steen

*$245

Ferocious

"It’s been a ferocious spring, and that’s how I like ‘em," Janie Estel told me.

A Second Letter

Dear bird-listener:

Did you know some ants are 12 times larger than others?  Imagine meeting a gal 58 feet high!  That’s what it’s like to be a little ant.

M. B.

Bumper sticker:

COOKIE MONSTER
SCARES ME

"Ask Sparrow" Reply

For the very first time, one of the letter-writers into the "Ask Sparrow" feature of this column has replied!  In case you forgot, Nehara posed two problems:

"My lovely husband says that i am always asking too many questions.  Is there a remedy for this condition?" 

and

"My dear friend Nicol got married in style this past weekend. The day after, we agreed that the word "wife" is extremely unappetizing. Can you help us find a better word?"

My replies were:

"There is a remedy.  Each time you are about to ask a question, breathe into a paper bag instead."

and

"Yes, the word ‘wife’ is quite limiting.  May I suggest the term ‘wedded pal’?"

Now, here is Nehara’s update:

Sparrow,

Yes, your paper bag remedy has worked wonders. Thank you.

The word "husband" also seems completely outdated.  Sometimes I like to use the term "husbitch".  While this provides me with instantaneous glee, it does not provide him with the same.

Perhaps "wedded pal" will be more pleasurable for us all.

Thank you once again.

Nehara
www.catchmebird.com

Sharing a Bath

Julia Blaiset recalls: "When I was a girl, five of us lived in a trailer.  We had a small water heater and there wasn’t much hot water, so we’d share a bath.  My mother went first, then my dad, then the kids, in age order.  I was the youngest.  My father always introduced me: ‘This is Julia; she’s the smallest and dirtiest.’"

Heard by a Bird

"High school is just college for virgins."
- Booth Tarkington

Did you see the cloud shaped like gold bullion over Allaben last Wednesday?

My friends are listening to the Prog-ballet band Swimming In Threes.

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

The biggest obstacle to human progress is the phrase "No Problem."  People wear it on T-shirts, and say it millions of times a day.  This creates the dangerous illusion that we have no Problem.

Those of us committed to helping the human race must run through the world shouting: "Problem!  Problem!"

S. B.

Bumper sticker:

HERE TOMORROW,
GONE TODAY

A Second Letter

Dear Bird That Hears,

These April snowflakes that wander down from the sky are like the ghost of snow.

A. C.

Shandaken Poetry Spree

A Realization

"Cher" is
short for
"Cherokee."

- Donald McPheel

Radical Theory

America began to
decline when people
stopped playing Bingo.

- Peggy Durmott

Interview with a New Resident

I spoke to Estelle King, who recently moved to the area.

Sparrow: How did you arrive here?

King: I was living in Morro Bay, California, and one day I begin thinking about the phrase: "Go West, young man!"  (Supposedly Horace Greeley, the New York newspaper editor, told it to a young ambitious fellow in 1853.)  I noticed that the opposite of this phrase was: "Come East, old woman!", so I took that as a sign.  I came east.

Sparrow: And you found Boiceville?

King: Yes.  I began in Maine, and started driving south.  As I traveled, I camped and hiked.  When I reached a craggy cliff in Boiceville, I suddenly felt I was home.

Sparrow: When was that?

King: Last September.

Sparrow: What is your life like here?

King: Often in the afternoon, I go kite-flying behind Onteora High School.  I have two kites: a Chinese fighting kite and a simple pink one.  Sometimes I fly the two together.  I am one of the few women who fly kites in winter.

Sparrow: Do you have any other hobbies?

King: I climb trees.  Especially a red maple one-third of the way up Mount Felder.  Some days I climb 30 feet high.

Sparrow: Is that dangerous?

King: My friends tell me, "Stop climbing those trees!" and I reply: "Trees were our homes before buildings were."

Sparrow: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

King: Actually, yes.  I’ve been rewriting Shakespeare sonnets to agitate for the impeachment of Bush.  Here is my revision of Sonnet 27:

     Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
     The dear repose for limbs with travail tired;
     But then begins a journey in my head
     To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired.
     For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
     Intend a zealous pilgrimage of pain,
     And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
     Looking on darkness where the blind remain.
     Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
     Presents a shadow in a blighted pool:
     Guantanamo, Iraq, the ghastly fight,
     Makes black night uglier, and her old face cruel.
    Unless we impeach George W., and indict
    Cheney, I may not sleep another night.

A Third Letter

Dear Sparrow:

The rural sounds most resembling warfare are snowplows and the wind.

R. T.

Heard by a Bird

"I became a novelist because I hated the smell of paint."
- Herman Wouk

Did you see the cloud shaped like a truncated dodecahedron over Shandaken last Wednesday?

Bumper sticker:

I WILL MAKE PEACE MY
WAR AND I SHALL FIGHT IT

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Yesterday I explained to my son: "You used to see signs in dry cleaners and diners saying: ‘There Are No Strangers Here, Only Friends We Haven’t Met Yet.’  The day after September 11th, all those signs came down."

V. P.

Imitation Chinese Sesame Noodles

My daughter’s friend, Marlise Combe, visited our house and improvised a hearty Chinese-style meal.  I asked her to write down the recipe, and she did.  It follows:

1 box of Quinoa Noodles
3 wooden spoonfuls of Olive Oil
1 oz. of Soy Sauce
Few drops of Ginger Juice
2 tablespoons Peanut butter
3 tablespoons Almond butter
Some sprinkled gomasio
2 cloves garlic
Tahini poured on liberally

Cook noodles, strain.  Add everything else in any order and stir.  (Works best if olive oil is first.)

Thin Ice Winter

"This has been a winter of thin ice," observes hunter James Crobbin.  "Some nights the puddles freeze thin as a Kleenex."

Shandaken Poetry Garland

Strange Historical Fact

Pop Art and
Pop Tarts appeared
the same year.

- Mary Villers

Intimate Question

Which do you
prefer: the sky
or a ceiling?

- A. Pellace

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Yesterday I saw my first robin of spring — actually two robins at once, hopping on Main Street in Phoenicia.  This means, according to my grandma, that we’ll have a Double Spring.

"Andy"

Bumper sticker:

IMPEACH CHENEY
AND BUSH:
PELOSI FOR PREZ!

Interview With A Sonneteer

I spoke to Arthur Fander, a local poetess.

Sparrow: I understand you’re a poetess.

Fander: Yes.

Sparrow: But you’re a man.

Fander: I am, but nevertheless I’m a poetess.

Sparrow: How is that?

Fander: "Poet" would be the wrong word to describe me.

Sparrow: What type of poetry do you write?

Fander: Sonnets.  Would you like to hear one?

Sparrow: Certainly.

Sander: [Reads:]

The Science of Names

A name consists of two parts. The first name is
the question and the surname the answer.
To give you an example, I will choose
a name at random from the Manhattan
phone directory. Hold on for a moment.

I found one: Judith Gilbert.  (She lives at
at 545 West 103rd
Street.) "Judith" is the question. (This name
means, in Hebrew, "praised.") So the question is
"Who is praised?"  The reply is "Gilbert" (Old
French for "bright promise"). In other words, we
praise those with bright promise — which is true. See
how accurate the science of names is?
Now you go to the phonebook and try one!

Sparrow: I have a question.  Why did you use the Manhattan phonebook?

Fander: I moved up here from Manhattan in 1999, and I’ve always kept my 1999 phonebook.  It contains more possibilities than the Kingston directory.

A Second Letter

Dear "Heard by the Bird":

Did you know?  This is the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra!

"Bob"

Heard by a Bird

"Some are killed by war, some by exercise."

- Jacques Prevert

 

 

Bumper sticker:
 

THINK "HONK" IF YOU
LOVE TELEPATHY

 

 

Did you see the cloud resembling a stalk of barley over Pine Hill last Wednesday?

 

 

A Letter

 

Dear Sparrow:

Community theater is a wonderful institution.  It’s a shame there’s no "community literature": novels and books of essays published just for one town!

A. L.

 

 

Beard-Grabbing Wind

"The winter of 1971 had some fierce winds," Len Treppson recalls.  "One day in January, the wind blew my beard off!  I went out to chop some wood, and returned cleanshaven."

 

 

A Second Letter

 
Dear Sparrow:

Did you see the lunar eclipse last Saturday?  I stood with 14 souls on the bridge at the Ashokan Reservoir watching the primal sky-theater.  The fact that our entire earth casts a shadow — like a spoon — is frightening.

Gary

 

 

Bumper sticker:

 
THE FRENCH WERE RIGHT:
U.S. OUT OF IRAQ!

 

 

Icicle Ant

"My brother Ted found an ant frozen in an icicle one winter," Jerry Bursham recalls.  "He took the ice home and gently melted it.  The ant crawled out, still alive!  We built a little house for him, out of a cardboard box, and kept him for a week.  Then he ran away.  Ted named him ‘Mr. Frostee.’"

 

 

Shandaken Poetry Effusion

 

 

"Kneel"

 

We "kneel"

on our knees

 

but we don’t

"elbowl"

on our elbows.

 

- Mary Veggers

 

 

Why We Dream

 

Dreaming

prevents

us

from

seeing

our

ceilings.

 

-Wayne Droller

 

 

 

 

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

 I spoke to Mount Tremper resident Kitty Amberson.

 Sparrow: I understand you’re on a new diet.

 Etters: Yes; I lost 11 pounds.

 Sparrow: Can you describe the program?

 Etters: It’s called Eat With Your Feet.  It was developed by a physical therapist named Janie Boford, who’s affiliated with Duke University.

 Sparrow: How does it work?

 Etters: You basically eat with your feet — instead of your hands.  Just putting that extra effort into feeding yourself makes you more conscious of your eating habits.

 Sparrow: Can everyone actually do it?

 Etters: With a month or two of yoga and other exercises, nearly everyone can reach their mouth with their toes.  In extreme circumstances, you’re allowed to cheat — that is, to lift the food with your foot, then grab it with your hand.

 Sparrow: Do you use silverware?

 Etters: After a while, I had some success with a spoon.  Forks and knives still elude me.  Of course, you must carefully wash your feet.

 Sparrow: What about going to restaurants?

 Etters: There’s two foot-friendly restaurants: one in Berkeley, one in Chicago.  Otherwise, you’re out of luck.

 Sparrow: How does it feel, to feed yourself with your toes?

 Etters: Sensual, and strangely natural.  Our pre-human ancestors, of course, didn’t make this distinction between "feet" and "hands" that we do.  Boford recommends visiting a zoo, and watching the chimps — which I did.  For the first time in my life, I admired their gracefulness.

 

 

T-shirt:

 
I AM A NARCISSIST. IN CASE OF
EMERGENCY, BRING ME A MIRROR.

 

 

Stream Mattress

"The stream behind my house, Little Green Kill, froze last week," Sander Lemn told me.  "Then the snow fell.  Now it looks like one long mattress."

Heard by a Bird

"All slang is addictive."
- Rollo May

Did you see the cloud over Mount Tremper resembling Oliver Wendell Holmes with an elephant trunk last Tuesday?

Bumper sticker:

IT TAKES A CHILD
TO RAZE A VILLAGE

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

I’m sure you’re following the High Street nomenclature debacle, in Phoenicia.  For many years, the succinct and genteel name of this roadway (which is, in fact, the most common street name in the United Kingdom) sufficed.  Then, through a series of administrative blunders, the road was divided into two unequal parts: "Lower High Street" and "Upper High Street", two of the most absurd geographical phrases in the Catskills.

I am currently forming the Committee to Reunite High Street, to rectify this misdeed.  In the meantime, I beg the town to be grammatically consistent and rename the larger section "Higher High Street."

Doug Marken

"Snow Circles"

Snow circles — the wintry version of crop circles — were discovered in Pine Hill in 1999.  Three perfect circles were etched in the snow above Ridge Street.  They were 3′ 2" in diameter.  Their origin is still a mystery.

Shandaken Poetry Excavation

leaves scatter
always wind’s erasure is
silence and fracture

the trees don’t wait for winter –
maybe naked they learn the cold

- s.b.woods

Stop

Stop reading
this poem.

It’s already
over.

- R. Flatts

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

I find the phrase "bed and breakfast" disquieting (as in "I’m staying at a bed and breakfast in Nebraska").  The term suggests that you’re going to eat your mattress, or lie atop your breakfast.  You don’t say: "I’m going off to the pool hall and toilet."

I prefer the word "inn."

Lucille

Interview With a Booklover

I spoke to Mike Carmigan of Mount Tremper, by phone.

Sparrow: You have no bookcase, I understand.

Carmigan: Right.  I keep all my books on my sofa.

Sparrow: How many books do you have?

Carmigan: About 400.

Sparrow: Is there anywhere to sit, on the sofa?

Carmigan: There’s a spot to perch, but not quite comfortably.

Sparrow: Why don’t you have a bookcase?

Carmigan: When I first moved here, I was planning to buy one, like everyone else.  I just kept some books on the sofa "for the time being."  Then one day I realized: "I don’t like bookshelves!"  They’re too rectangular.  A sofa is soft.  The books seem happier there.

Sparrow: What kind of books are they?

Carmigan: A variety.  Classics, science fiction, travel.  Mostly paperbacks.

Sparrow: Do you read them?

Carmigan: Not really.  Sometimes I’ll open to a recipe for crumb-cinnamon buns, or I’ll read a few lines from a novel.  For example [opens a book at random]: "Then joyfully he took his place beside her, and told her all: — how deeply he repented his selfishness — how wretched he had been without her — how constantly he had regretted her…"  That’s Lafcadio Hearn, from a book called "The Ghostmasters: Weird Stories by Famous Writers" by Scholastic.  I paid 10 cents for it.

Sparrow: What do you read?

Carmigan: Mostly graphic novels.

Sparrow: Which ones?

Carmigan: I just finished "City of Glass" by Paul Auster (adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzuchelli).  It’s black & white, barbaric and intelligent.

Heard By a Bird

"Instead of prayer, atheists have Scrabble."
- Jonas Salk

Did you see the cloud resembling a sideways walrus over Pine Hill last Thursday?

Ask Sparrow

"Ask Sparrow" is an increasingly regular feature of this column, in which the bewildered write in seeking answers.

Dear Sparrow,

My dear friend Nicol got married in style this past weekend. The day after, we agreed that the word "wife" is extremely unappetizing. Can you help us find a better word?

Also, how do mosquitoes know to only bite the backs of your hands?

Nehara

Nehara,

Yes, the word "wife" is quite limiting.  May I suggest the term "wedded pal"?  As for mosquitoes, they orient themselves by fingernails.

Yours in Schubert marches,
Sparrow

My friends are listening to the jazz-emo band Chocolate Hornet.

Bumper sticker:

POLITICS FIRST,
SAFETY LAST!

A Letter

Dear Bird-listener,

I found out where deer come from, according to American Heroes of Legend and Lore by Frank Shay (Willow Books, N.Y., 1964).  Apparently, Paul Bunyan ("Mightiest of Loggers") "did all sorts of crazy things to the animals of the North Woods" as a youth.  "When he was really happy he liked to race about the forest shouting at the top of his voice, singing, whistling, making any noise that suited his immediate mood.  He frightened all the wild animals out of their natural growth… Moose became so afraid of him that they lost their great courage and became emaciated and a new race grew up and became known as deer, noted for their timidity."

R. Z.

Bumper sticker:

WARNING: I’M A CHARACTER
IN A THOMAS PYNCHON NOVEL

Shandaken Poetry Countdown

A Theory

If, like a
banana,
humans
could be
peeled,

racism
would
end.

- Alice Deetre

On Economics

With
interest
rates
at
3.2 %,
it’s
a
good
time
to
write
a
poem.

- Mark Elward

Birth of the Typoizer

I spoke to local computer programmer/inventor Hugo Bratt.

Sparrow: I understand you invented a "typo-izer."  Can you explain?

Bratt: One day I was sitting in Brio’s reading The Washington Post when I became nostalgic for typos.  When I was young, they still existed: those little hermetic phrases like "mxgur fnaagl."  Or sometimes, you’d just have a whole row of "e"s.  For some reason, they were often at the bottom of articles.  You almost felt that Martians had infiltrated the newsrooms, to dictate their messages.

Today, because of SpellCheck, a whole generation has grown up without seeing these thought-provoking phrases.  Of course, what the computer hath wrought, the computer can unwork.

Sparrow: So you created a program to insert typos.

Bratt: Yes, it’s quite simple, actually.  You just use a random letter generator.  My one refinement was to add a gauge regulating how much of the text to typo-ize.  If you like, you may reduce an entire New York Times article to gibberish (online, of course).  It gives readers a sense of control over their news source.

Sparrow: What kind of reception are you getting?

Bratt: Indie rockers love it.  I suspect a few of them are using it to write songs.  My only problem are "typo purists," who feel the Typoizer is unnatural.

[For more information, see www.typoizer.com.]

Heard by a Bird

"Fiction isn’t lies.  Fiction is fibs."
- Edna Ferber

Bumper sticker:

My iPhone Is In
Love With Your iPod

Did you see the cloud shaped like a freckled egg over Fox Hollow last Tuesday?

Ask Sparrow    

"Ask Sparrow," as you may know, is a regular feature of this column, where indecisive persons submit their dilemmas for judgment.

Dear Sparrow,

My lovely husband says that i am always asking too many questions.  Is there a remedy for this condition?

Thank You for your thoughts,
Nehara

Nehara,

There is a remedy.  Each time you are about to ask a question, breathe into a paper bag instead.

Delicate ivory,
Sparrow

Abusive Wind

"Did you see that abusive wind last Tuesday?" my neighbor Carol asked.  "It knocked over my largest rake!"

Bumper sticker:

WOULD YOU LIKE THE OTHER
HALF OF MY SANDWICH?

A Letter

Dear Heard by a Bird:

Do you know how the Sorbonne got its name?  Because by sitting on those hard chairs listening to professors lecture, you get a sore bun — or even two sore buns!

R.S.

Tears of Wind

"Lately, when I walk in this winter wind, my eyes tear," Stella Joopin observed.  "Grandma Buckley always said: ‘Tears of wind are good for the heart.’"

Bumper sticker:

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE
OF THE BEERHOLDER

Have you heard about the new Phoenicia band, Copycat Stevens?  They do exact remakes of Cat Stevens songs.

Shandaken Poetry Display

Ode to Jerry Bender, Excellent Local Auto Mechanic

If you have
a fender-bender,
Jerry Bender
mends your
fender.

- Kurt Honmaan

Forgotten

Somehow
I have
forgotten
the
rules
of
Parcheesi.

- John R. Anderly

A Second Letter

Dear Bird-listener:

Today, for the first time, I added my age and my wife’s age together.  We are collectively 104.

No wonder it takes us so long to leave the house!

E. C.

Blind Salad

Close your eyes and tear pieces of the following vegetables:

1 head bib lettuce
1 head Romaine lettuce
1 stalk celery
1 red pepper
1 bunch parsley

Mix thoroughly.  Open your eyes and add salad dressing.

[This recipe comes from J. Samsone.]

A Third Letter

Dear Sparrow:

There is no term in English for weather in between a mist and a drizzle.  I suggest the word "squonge."

"Big Amy"

Old Catskill Time

"When I was child, time was not uniform in the Catskills," Ted Barwin told me.  "In one house a clock would read 10:17; in another, 10:28.  Two neighbors could be 30 minutes off!

"I went around with a pocket watch, so I noticed.  The people up on the mountain were often slow, while the townfolk in the valley were usually a bit fast.  Back then this troubled me, but now I miss variable Catskill time."

A Fourth Letter

Dear "Heard by a Birdbrain":

Certain fish go fishing.  A barracuda, for example, tries to catch other fish — just like a fisherman.

"Ethel"

Heard by a Bird

"Americans spend too much time trying to impress their cats."
- Wayne Gretzky

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

I’m for same-sex marriage.  I think both partners in a marriage should have the same amount of sex.

V. P.

Anonymous Reminiscence

A woman I will call Madame Z told me: "My husband has been a volunteer fireman for many years.  One day in 1986, he comes home from fighting a fire, and he is in a mood I’ve never seen: singing, tapdancing.  He even takes out our daughter’s coloring book and starts coloring the pages!

"Well, a month later I found out — he’d been at a fire down in Mt. Tremper, in a barn filled with marijuana!  22 pounds of it, burned right up!"

Winter Spritzer

"This peps up a January day," avers Wayland Jodpur.

1 cup peppermint tea
1 oz. club soda
1 ripe strawberry
2 drops anise extract

Bumper sticker:

DISCO WILL
RETURN

World Soup

Take one vegetable from each country on earth.  Chop, and place in a pot of boiling water.  Add salt and a little olive oil.  Cook for three hours.  Invite everyone you know, and serve.

[This recipe comes from Becky Elbeert.]

Shandaken Poetry Portfolio

so many moments I cannot
remember the beginning of –
when will they end?

- s.b.woods

Antique Rainbow

Is there such
a thing as an
antique rainbow?

- Gail Smallton

Liquid Snow

"At our house, we call these January rains ‘liquid snow,’" Gail Heglender told me.

Did you see the mist resembling a fringed shawl on Mount Tobias last Friday?

Interview With A Musical Innovator

I spoke with local musician and inventor Pete Brimble.

Sparrow: I understand you have a new invention.

Brimble: It’s an instrument in the shape of a fortune cookie.

Sparrow: How did you think of it?  

Brimble: I was at a Chinese restaurant in Poughkeepsie called Shang Kwee Hi, and when I got my fortune cookie, I held it up and said: "Wo!  This looks like an instrument!"

Sparrow: What did you do next?

Brimble: I ate the cookie, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my idea.  When I got back home, I went to the local Chinese restaurant — Hong Kong, in Boiceville — and bought 8 fortune cookies.  I looked closely at all of them, and chose one.  Then I visited my friend Sam Fecus in Pine Hill — he’s a luthier [guitar-maker] — and I begged him to teach me how to bend wood.

Sparrow: How long did it take to make the fortune cookie-instrument?

Brimble: Eight months.

Sparrow: How does your invention work?

Brimble: Quite simple.  You blow into one hole, and finger the other nine holes.

Sparrow: What does it sound like?

Brimble: Somewhere between an oboe and a shakuhachi flute.

Sparrow: And what do you play on it?

Brimble: I’m experimenting, but so far Vivaldi and Thelonious Monk sound best.

Sparrow: Does the instrument have a name?

Brimble: I call it the "fortunette."

Sparrow: Do you have any plans for it?

Brimble: I want to start the Fortunette Quartet: with drums, bass and guitar.  Do you know that song by Phil Ochs, "There but for fortune go you or I"?  I’d love to play that.

Heard by a Bird

"Give me a nation with arrogant fruitsellers and meek politicians."
- Paul Claudet

Did you see the cloud shaped like Aladdin’s lamp over Allaben last Tuesday?

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

When I was a kid, I thought Popular Mechanics was a magazine profiling well-loved garage mechanics.

J. T.

Bumper sticker:

I’M TOO LAZY TO LOOK UP
THE WORD "LASSITUDE"

Ask Sparrow

"Ask Sparrow" is an occasional feature of this column, in which extremely troubled people write in with their problems, which are solved by myself.

Dear Sparrow:

My husband and I met a very nice young couple — I will call them "Couple No. 14." We invited them to our house for dinner, and served a Greek salad, mashed potatoes, string beans with slivered almonds and braised tofu. We had an entertaining evening. Two weeks later, Couple No. 14 invited us to their house. Guess what they served? A Greek salad, mashed potatoes, string beans with slivered almonds and braised tofu.

So far, this has happened three times. Whatever we feed them, they prepare the exact same meal!

What does this mean? Are the subtly ridiculing us? Are they autistic? What should we do?

Disconcerted in Chichester

Dear Disconcerted,

The next time you have Couple No. 14 over for dinner, deliberately slip a silver dollar into their lima beans. Then see what happens when you visit them, afterwards.

Sagely,
Sparrow

Shandaken Poetry Exposition

Breakfast at Sweet Sue’s

I want to be that little girl
the one with the pink shirt, soft skin, shy smile;
black curly hair tied in a lacy bow,
at that table, eating a pancake now,
chewing slowly, savoring each bite.

I savor spaces more now,
the shimmering silence between events.
Emptiness no longer scares;
a day of emptiness is best.

"You were going 75,"
the cop says.
No way!
We were dancing, floating, bouncing our way home
from a little place with home-made bread and meatloaf.

- ©Elizabeth J. Coleman

Therapy

After years of therapy,
I no longer care
if anyone reads
my poems.

-Amy Goodalle

A Phrase I’ve Never Heard

"He’s too eccentric for Phoenicia."

- George V. Bergen

My friends are listening to the Dub-psychedelia band Sermon On The Amount

Bumper sticker:

I DON’T WAIT IN LINE
FOR PANCAKES

Air Woman

"I’m in air woman," says my neighbor Patty. "I moved up from Brooklyn for the fresh, buoyant air — not the scenery or quiet. Every day I go outside, close my eyes, and breathe."

Interview: The Whispering House

I spoke with local resident Roger Adison.

Sparrow: You lived in a commune locally, I understand?

Adison: Indeed. In Chichester. I was there from 1969 to 1971.

Sparrow: What was the name of the commune?

Adison: We called it "The Shire." Possibly we read too much Tolkien.

Sparrow: And you had a "whispering house"?

Adison: Yes, we built it ourselves. Actually, it was more of a large shed.

Sparrow: What was the purpose of the whispering house?

Adison: It was intended for quietude. You entered the house to entertain yourself without music or chatter. People would think, or read, or sew. Sometimes I would look at my coin collection. I had money from 31 countries.

Sparrow: Did anyone ever speak loudly in the whispering house?

Adison: Once Flower slapped her boyfriend, but even then they were quiet. The two of them ran outside to shout.

Heard by a Bird

"If you meet the Buddha on the road, ask him for his autograph."
- Angelina Jolie

My friends are listening to the palindromic jam band Gem Tune Nutmeg.

A Letter

After years of living in the Catskills, one learns to hear fog.  It sounds like a distant bassoon.

R. T.

Superintendent Search?

This copied from a local second grader’s journal:
 
Today’s topic is if I ran the school. If I ran the school the school water fountain would be full of tropicana orange juice. Lunch money would be 12,000$ and I would get all the money. The cafeteria would be a big dance floor. Everyday for lunch would be masa ball soup. You could only run or skip fast down the hall. There would be cats romeing every where.

License plate:

MA JINTHAT

Tree-Racing: An Interview

I spoke with local carpenter Pete Wiltown.

Sparrow: I understand you’re involved with tree-racing.

Wiltown: Yep.  Trees can race as truly as horses, women, and men.

Sparrow: How does a tree-race work?

Wiltown: When I was 8, for my birthday, my Aunt Min gifted me with two willow saplings.  I planted one out back, one in front of my house.  After three years, the front one was 12 feet high; the back one had died.  That was a tree-race.

Sparrow: Tree races are slow.

Wiltown: Slower than a horserace, but faster than two boulders racing.  In ’86, we planted a row of red oaks near the forest border, on our land.  After twelve years, the one on the left — who we called "Pearlie" — had won.  But there are also tree sprints.  You can plant a few acorns, and measure their sprouts after two weeks.

Sparrow: Are you racing any trees at the moment?

Wiltown: My neighbor and I both planted pear trees the same month, in ’02.  So far, his is ahead.

Sparrow: Do you bet on your trees?

Wiltown: Nope.  I find other ways to waste my money.

Did you see the cloud resembling a fierce warlock over Mount Pleasant last Wednesday?

Shandaken Poetry Festivity

walking tight rope along
the railroad tracks
I remembered a dream

s. b.woods

Reverence  For A Guess

I have reverence
for a guess. Guesses
are holy.

- Mary Vurre

Not Everyone

Not everyone
can write
a great
poem.

For example,
I can’t.

- A. Mearle

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Thank goodness birds don’t lose their feathers in autumn, the way trees lose their leaves!

G. B.

Self-Soup

Go to a produce stand and look closely at the vegetables.  Which ones remind you of yourself?  Which resemble your nose, your hands, your personality?  Choose these, take them home, dice them.  Simmer in a pot for two hours.

This is self-soup.

[We thank local therapist Stacy Collodon for this recipe.]

Bumper sicker:

DON’T BLAME ME –
I VOTED FOR A SERIES OF PATHETIC LOSERS

A Letter

Dear Sparrow:

Do you know why birds are the most musical animals?  Because they can fly away!  If rabbits or mice went around singing, they would be devoured in five minutes by a coyote.

Most creatures survive by being scrupulously quiet.

"Owl"
 
 

Heard by a Bird

"United we stand; divided we sit."
- Tom Petty

Funeral For A Phone

"I had one phone I really loved," Scott Terger remembers. "It was cream colored, and very reliable. When it died, in 1981, I gave it a funeral. My friends gathered, and we sang ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ We buried the phone in the woods behind my house, and strewed the ground with flowers."

Did you see the cloud resembling a tape measure over Shandaken last Wednesday?

Bumper sticker:

UNSCRAMBLE THIS PHRASE:
UMPEACH BISH

Palindromes Received

I received the following palindromes is an e-mail, from someone named only "mc@computationalcosmos.com"

Dog sex at noon taxes God.
Eva, can I stab bats in a cave?
Is Don Adams mad? (A nod.) Si!
Kay, a red nude, peeped under a yak.
Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.

[A palindrome, of course, is a word, phrase, or advertising jingle which reads the same backwards and forwards.]

Three Violins At Once

"My Uncle Franklin could play three violins at once," Gabe Furmer recalls. "Somehow he’d line them up on his arm, and bow them all with one stroke. He’d play the overture to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, and sound like a small orchestra!"

License plate:

WWWWWW

Shandaken Poetry Countdown

Air Guitar

I used to play
air guitar, but I switched
to air clarinet.

- Phil Cogwood

All My Forks

All my forks
are stainless steel
or plastic.

- Fred Cadwell

La page 202

J’aime
la page 202
du chaque livre.

- Jacques Querrin

Translation:

Page 202

I love
page 202
of every book.

December Moon

"After living in the country 11 years, I can distinguish each of the full moons," Clara Ribenow told me. "My favorite is the December moon; its light is cool, pervasive, steady."

Interview with an Innovator

I spoke to local filmmaker Wayne Plessen.

Sparrow: I understand you’re making a movie with a still camera.

Plessen: Yes. I was given an ordinary digital camera — a Phileas 600. Most of these cameras nowadays have the capacity to shoot a minute and a half of video. I made a few 11/2 minute films, then decided to make a full-length one. Mine will be 92 minutes.

Sparrow: Somehow you splice together the 1 1/2 minute segments?

Plessen: It’s quite simple, on a computer.

Sparrow: What is the plot of your film?

Plessen: It’s about a canoeist, and the hazards he encounters. For example, he’s attacked by chipmunks.

Sparrow: Real chipmunks?

Plessen: I have footage of real chipmunks, intercut with shots of people dressed in chipmunk costumes. Also, there’s romance.

Sparrow: Yes?

Plessen: The guy in the canoe falls in love with one of the chipmunks.

Sparrow: Where was it shot?

Plessen: On the Esopus, at Wilson State Park, and on the Hudson.

Sparrow: How do you describe your film?

Plessen: I generally call it an "outdoorsy water-conflict movie."

Sparrow: Will there be music?

Plessen: Yes. A local musician, Ann Grosper, is creating a score, in a style called "Old West Techno."

Sparrow: What will you title the film?

Plessen: I’m calling it "Ready Oar Not!"

Sparrow: Are you the first person to make a feature film with a still camera?

Plessen: No. A guy in Milwaukee beat me. He made a vampire movie called "Crooked Teeth."

For more information see readyoarnot.com.