The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — May 2011


Rainy afternoon
With nothing urgent pending
And no place to go.

May 29, 2011   Comments Off on 334

Definition of Bollix

I recently ordered six bottles of wine from a company in California. They shipped it via UPS. Since it was alcohol, an adult had to sign for the package.

When I realized I could not be available on the date given, I asked the company to change the address to my local UPS drop-off site. The owner of the store had held a similar package for me before, and I assumed he would do so again.

On the afternoon of the delivery, wondering why I hadn’t gotten a call from the UPS store, I dropped in and said I’d like my package. The clerk on duty, in front of the owner, said, “I rejected it. We don’t provide that service.” Naturally, I was not happy with this piece of news, but went home determined to recover the package.

I called the company in California and explained the problem. I got a note back saying that UPS showed the package as having been delivered and signed for. I knew this not to be the case, and told them what had happened. They called the UPS store, and spoke with someone on the second shift who said that the store had not rejected any packages that day. So, now, of course, UPS both had the package and didn’t have it, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Next day, when I got home late in the afternoon, there was a slip wafting about on the sidewalk. It was a UPS notice, scribbled by the driver, saying he had attempted to deliver the package and would try again on Friday. Since I wouldn’t be available, I asked my wife to work from home, which she reluctantly did.

Although the driver’s note indicated he would deliver the package in the morning, he didn’t show up until the middle of the afternoon. He brought the package to the door and was about to give it to my wife, when he noticed via his hand-held electronic device that there was a hold on the shipment. The shipper in California had gotten involved and told UPS to hold the package at a distribution center. My wife explained that we had ordered the wine, that he had twice tried to deliver it, had been at our house yesterday, and that it would save everyone a great deal of trouble if he would just leave it with her. He said he needed to contact his supervisor. He got his supervisor’s voice mail. He explained he was a trainee and that if he did anything wrong he’s lose his job. My wife suggested he call the shipper, but he said he’d get behind schedule. He took the package and left my wife standing there in amazement.

So now I had to figure out how to get the package and when. This information was not available on the UPS website, so I had to call UPS. Of course, getting a real agent is not easy. The UPS telephone tree is constructed in such a way that it doesn’t offer the option to talk with a real person until you enter the tracking number. Even then you have to keep saying “agent” until it finally puts you in the queue. From beginning to end, this was a ten minute process.

The agent was decent (the first sane person I’d encountered on this journey). She told me I could pick up the package in four days (the day after Memorial Day) at the distribution center in north Minneapolis twelve miles from my house. Since I complained, I later got a call from a UPS supervisor. She offered no apology. It was all either my doing or the shipper’s.

Bollix is definitely a word we need in the American vernacular. How better to describe a system that doesn’t allow a driver to deliver a package to its rightful place when he is inches away from the recipient?

May 28, 2011   Comments Off on Definition of Bollix


An apology
Twenty years in the making:
Perfect vinyasa.

May 25, 2011   Comments Off on 333

Tyler Hamilton

Justice is selective in the United States, especially at the national level. No one is prosecuted for a crime these days except for political reasons. Why, then, is Lance Armstrong being publicly excoriated? Certainly, not because he is guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs. That’s an open secret. All the major riders of the last two decades used drugs.

The lastest rider to testify against Armstrong is Tyler Hamilton, a teammate, who recently went public on 60 Minutes. I’m sure Hamiliton is telling the truth. There is no doubt Armstrong cheated. He could not have been competitive otherwise. Naturally, Hamilton has been granted immunity for his testimony. It was that or jail time.

Unfortunately, Jeff Novitzky—who heads the grand jury investigating Armstrong—will have his way in the end, and Lance will be stripped of his Tour de France titles. But why? What important person or persons did Lance piss off so badly they needed to destroy him? Who does it benefit?

May 23, 2011   Comments Off on Tyler Hamilton

Laired in the Rock

Listening to Obama’s Mideast speech today, I thought with a shock that except for the timber of his voice, the phraseology, cadences, and sentiments were exactly those of George Bush. It was unnerving. Has Obama been studying the Decider’s speeches? Has it come to this? Woe to us. Double woe. Time to cue in the Greek chorus. Or, perhaps, to recite a poem by Robinson Jeffers, called “Soliloquy,” which may very well go to the heart of the matter.

August and laurelled have been content to speak for an age,
and the ages that follow
Respect them for that pious fidelity;
But you have disfeatured time for timelessness.
They had heroes for companions, beautiful youths to dream of,
Women shed light down the great lines;
But you have invoked the slime in the skull,
The lymph in the vessels. They have shown men Gods like
racial dreams, the woman’s desire,
The man’s fear, the hawk-faced prophet’s; but nothing
Human seems happy at the feet of yours.
Therefore though not forgotten, not loved, in gray old years
in the evening leaning
Over the gray stones of the tower-top,
You shall be called heartless and blind;
And watch new time answer old thought, not a face strange
nor a pain astonishing;
But you living be laired in the rock
That sheds pleasure and pain like hailstones.

May 19, 2011   Comments Off on Laired in the Rock


My body was not ready for yoga this morning—the resistance I felt was overpowering—but I went anyway. As fate would have it, the class consisted of just me and the instructor, so there was no way I could hide. After warming up, I wanted to run, but didn’t. The instructor and I talked about how I felt, and we decided to work through it together. When I was in pigeon pose, stretching my right hip, shaking and in a great deal of pain, I was reminded again that although most of us survive our parents’ neuroses, some of us do not. This simple insight helped me relax and the pain became bearable. Although I have adopted my parents’ confusing standards, I don’t let them run my life. With a few exceptions, I’ve taken the best and left the rest. To protect myself, I became the black sheep–the seemingly crazy one–but, in fact, behind the scenes, I have fought for the integrity of my personhood throughout my life. At that moment, I felt compassion for those who lacked the strength to be themselves and have become neurotic or worse, and my resistance faded and I was wholly myself again.

Am I too proud in this? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I know who and what I am.

May 18, 2011   Comments Off on Resistance

Loving Correction

In yoga today, my instructor approached from behind and gently pushed down on my shoulders while I stood in Warrior II. “Relax your shoulders,” she said. I was sweaty at this point and didn’t want to be touched. I felt dirty and unworthy of special care.

This is normal, of course. All of us experience being unlovable at times. I let it pass and accepted the correction in the way in which it was offered—with loving kindness.

It made me think, though.

Imagine feeling unloveable 24/7. As if you had leprosy and were untouchable. An outcast. Totally beyond the pale of human affection. Then I thought, why would someone do this to themselves? Why replace positive thoughts with negative ones until there was nothing left but self-contempt? For I well knew that reaching a state of continual depression requires unremitting practice. Not unlike yoga. It requires years, decades of effort. In the end it is something we do to ourselves, not something that is visited upon us.

My yoga instructor understands that to push a student past physical discomfort and pain, she must inspire trust. Only then can the student allow himself or herself to reach a state of “softness” and acceptance. Why is this important? Because it is only at this point that true learning occurs. Otherwise, we simply harden our beliefs about ourselves and become more of what we don’t want to be.

It is not easy, though. It’s frightening to be strong in a soft way. There is no safety net except your teacher.

May 11, 2011   Comments Off on Loving Correction

A Somewhat Gentle Man (En ganske snill mann)

Judging by the spate of Norwegian films I’ve seen recently, one could easily imagine that modern Norwegians are basically low-lifes addicted to weed with demented senses of humor. In film they come across as lobotomized rednecks with undecipherable accents. Like characters from a Samual Beckett play. Being descended from Norwegians myself, I have no trouble seeing this, but I somehow doubt it’s true. There must be one sophisticated, educated Norwegian out there. But where?

En ganske snill mann is another example of this meme. It stars Stellan Skarsgård as an ex-con wafting through life doing what comes naturally to him—having sex with any woman who offers, half-heartedly going along with a plan to kill a snitch for his former boss, speaking only when spoken to, eyeing the world as if it were a deformed melon—until he finds his son and love, in that order. In the end our hero rises above it all, but not before we’ve laughed ourselves silly.

May 7, 2011   1 Comment


Solitary loon
In full cry on the wave’s crest
Then lost in the gloom.

May 5, 2011   Comments Off on 332


The creek soughs homeward
Conscious only of movement
And a sense of place.

May 3, 2011   Comments Off on 331