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Man in the hat


A Chekov character in a David Mamet play.

All I had to offer anyone was my own confusion.

I think that the world should be full of cats and full of rain, that's all, just cats and rain...
Man in the hat
Charles Bukowski

a storm at last in this damned Los Angeles
even the lights went out in the neighborhood,
most of the people asleep,
the drunks just pour another drink,
I poured another drink,
1:42 a.m.
the lights go back on,
Brahms begins to play on the radio again,
I think of Turgenev, just for the hell of it,
just because I like his name.
there are good names: Mozart, Celine,
Artaud, Bach.
some names ring through and stick.
anyhow it's raining and raining and raining,
and Joe Louis is dead and Ty Cobb is dead
and it's been a long time since the Waner brothers
patrolled the outfield in Pittsburgh
and whatever happened to Smith Brothers cough
I used to eat them like candy.
we need the rain.
we need the rain.
we need it.
I used to eat those cough drops like candy and I had
a dot-and-dash set and I knew the Morse code and I
sent out S.O.S.s for years but help never
I wish my name was Tugernev.
hello, I am Ivan Turgenev and it's raining and I'm writing
about the rain
it rains hard here in Russia and the nights are black and
the days are black
and my girlfriend keeps telling me about our leader who has
arching eyebrows.
and I say, "oh, yes, very interesting..."
my name is Turgenev and it's raining and we need the
ran into Gorky the other day and he said rain was just so
much capitalist bullshit.
crazy guy, crazy.
well, it's 1:58 a.m. and I am sleepy.
sleeping in the rain helps me forget things like I am going
die and you are going to die and the cats are going to die
but it's still good to stretch out and know you have arms
feet and a head, hands, all the parts, even eyes to close
more, it really helps to know these things, to know your
and your limitations, but why do the cats have to die, I
think that the
world should be full of cats and full of rain, that's all, just
cats and
rain, rain and cats, very nice, good

Today at roughly 4:20 PM, after battling failing health, Jewel Anne Berry crossed the Rainbow Bridge. She passed at her veterinarian's office surrounded by people who loved her and with great dignity. She was the sweetest cat I've ever met, and I experienced the good fortune to have her choose me to be her human. Until Jewel, I was mostly a dog person. She changed opened up places in my heart I did not know existed before meeting her. Goodbye, Jewel. I did my best to spoil you and return the love you gave. I hope you were as happy as I was.

My undying gratitude to my dear friend and occasional cat-sitter Laura Bath for taking us to the Vet and taking care of us through this painful process.

Below is a poem by Charles Bukowski that sums it up perfectly, but being Buck, it's laced with not a small measure of profanity. Sensitive readers may choose to navigate away. Tip of the hat to Daniel J. Pinney for introducing me to the piece.

(no subject)
Man in the hat
Tettinger Tries Vacation

His first in twenty years.
He dreamed, each night,
past lovers returned. They’d
All betrayed him but
He was hard pressed to say
who was prisoner of whom.

Upon waking
he found the loss keener,wondered if these lovers
--heralds of approaching doom,
came to beguile him,
so he would accept his fate.

Only his grave loneliness
kept him from cursing them,
raising an alarm,
rousing the other sleepers.
They raised some specter within his breast,
to walk again in the world; some portion
of him laid to rest,
which now warmed him, offered

He said that such ghosts
tempted doomed miners,
hypoxic and dreaming of home,
in airless, darkened prison.
He willed himself to sleep
but even slumber betrayed him,
so he kept a quiet vigil, waiting
for the sun to burn away these phantoms
with its white, purifying, rays.

(no subject)
Man in the hat

At the cocktail party, you’re
wondering who are these people?
how did I come to be here with them?
I am the out of print volume you
pick up by chance, from a side table
in the study to which you've retreated.

I am the words long forgotten
that fill you with warmth,
camaraderie, hope. The dust jacket
is ragged, the author long deceased,
his readership: a few bargain hunters
who discovered him in the Good Will bins.
But for the moment, I am with you,

and you are most certainly, NOT alone.

Tettinger tried to Take a Vacation
Man in the hat

Tettinger tried to vacation; 

his first in 20 years. 

Each night he dreamed 

past lovers returned. Each 

had betrayed him in their turn,

now promising fealty, 

He was hard pressed to say 

who was prisoner of whom.

Upon waking from these visions, 

he found the loss keener for the illusion.

Tettinger wondered if these lovers 

were heralds of some approaching doom,

sent to beguile him, to winnow his resistance,

so he would accept his fate. 

It was only his grave loneliness 

that kept him from cursing them,

raising an alarm, 

rousing the other sleepers in the house. 

That and the realization that in their appearance

they raised some specter within his breast,

to walk again in the world; some portion 

of him long ago laid to rest, 

which now warmed him, offered a species 

of hope long banished from his world, 

cursed as impractical, the tomfoolery of adolescents

whose wisdom was folly incarnate. 

He said said that such ghosts 

were merely the phantasms

that tempted doomed miners,

hypoxic and dreaming of home, 

in their airless, darkened prison.

He willed himself to sleep again, 

but even slumber betrayed him, 

and he kept a quiet vigil, waiting

for the sun to burn away these phantoms

with its white, purifying, rays.  

Happy Birthday!!
Man in the hat

Happy Birthday, Kestrel! So glad to have you in this world.

(no subject)
Man in the hat
how do you know when someone here dies... if this is your only connection to them? The pitfall of the intimacy of net relationships is that they tend to live and die here, and there is no means of knowing, if this is the only place the relationship exists.

The terrible truth in this is that the net gives us the illusion of intimacy where it does not actually exist. Or maybe a kind of intimacy.

Years ago I had an AOL chat buddy named Michelle. She suffered... no. She was living with CF. She'd had a surgery and recovered. She had a marriage and a divorce and recovered. She would type, I would read, she would type back, I would sympathize, support, she was going in for surgery again. She asked me to come, she asked me to visit, she asked me to meet her after. I was broke, and making ends try to acknowledge each other's existence. I was considering it when I stopped hearing from her.

I emailed for... years. The account was open. Until it wasn't.

I googled her. Nothing.

I googled her a few years later. Nothing.

I googled her again a few years later...found a reference on Twitter.

A fellow dancer had done a tribute to her. Did I mention she was a dancer? Yeah... me and dancers. What do you do when the music stops? The music eventually has to stop... and for her, it stopped on the operating table.

I know this because I reached out. I know this because I asked this stranger about Michelle. She told me she seemed so strong. That she was so determined going in... that her body just gave out.

So here we are, all biding our time until the end of the song. Knowing the music is gonna stop. Maybe the lone DJ out there is going to go off shift or end his broadcast day. Or maybe the station will just go off the air... yes, I know I'm mixing metaphors. But we're talking about me now. I'm not a dancer. I was a DJ. I'm not anymore... at least not for work. Occasionally still on the radio when I can pull my fading poetic powers together, but this is about death and loss and disappearance, not me...

SO here we are. We're just waiting, wondering, hoping for those words on the screen to appear again letting us know that we're maybe a little less alone than we fear we are, sitting here behind our screens waiting to hear from that lone voice.

Come back, welfy. There are people here who miss you... people you couldn't pick out of a lineup or know on the street, but who worry nonetheless.

Heroes in Crisis - DC Comics
Man in the hat

Man in the hat
People don't want to hear your story, they want to tell you theirs. Any question that they might ask is an opening for them to spill. So... listen. Don't count on getting a shot at talking, and you'll be a lot happier in the long run. I guess...

Just don't expect them to care about what your story is, or your background, or what you might have to offer. You might not be happy, but at least you won't be surprised.

My Dad (originally delivered Saturday, March 30, 2019
Man in the hat
I want to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the greatest man that I have ever known. Some of you may know me as a poet, and one thing that you eventually learn as a poet is just how inadequate words are to express truth of someone, to capture their essence. And so it is that I am woefully under qualified to tell you about the man we have come to honor here today. Many of you knew John Berry the Western Auto Dealer, John Berry the Chiropractor, John Berry the teacher, the elder, I knew him as all of these, but most importantly, I knew him as Dad.
He was the man for whom I held the flashlight for, handed tools to, and in our earliest job together, the man whose stomach I sat on as he worked under the dashboard of his Plymouth. It perhaps bears mentioning I was around two years old at the time.
My Dad was a giant of a man. At 6’1” he towered over my childhood, looming large in my life as a teacher, role model, and friend. As an adult he seemed to grow exponentially, keeping pace with me. No matter how big I got, my Dad never seemed any smaller. A man of sterling character, unshakeable moral conviction, and strength, his faith in God was his bulwark, his armor, and his guiding light.
In bible scholarship, his preparations for teaching rivaled my own preparations for the college classroom. When preparing a lesson he would not just study a text, he would learn its historical background, the various prevailing opinions about it, and its essence gleaned from multiple translations.
A few years back, I invited Mom and Dad to the Da Vinci exhibit at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center, knowing that it would be an exhibit that Dad would appreciate. You see, like Da Vinci and many of the renaissance men of the past, Dad was a thinker, craftsman, and artist. The desk I sat at while composing this all too brief tribute was one that he designed. The lamp that rests on my bedside table at home is one he constructed from a repurposed parking meter, which still functions! I learned that the hard way one night when I placed a quarter into the coin slot and listened to it tick down to expiration until roughly two o’clock in the morning. As a child, the toy guns I played cowboys and Indians with were drawn to scale on wood and hand crafted by my father, and I still cherish them to this day.
Any time something was broken in the house, it was Dad who fixed it. In fact, “Fix” is too narrow a term. Improved is the more accurate description. If he couldn’t fix it, he could build a better one. Think of Dad as a Tim Allen from “Home Improvement,” the difference being that when Dad gave something “More power!” it worked, and caused no one bodily injury. Washing machines, automobiles, misbehaving, or damaged toys, all were put right by Dad’s skillful hands.
I still vividly recall one night when I was about 8 years old coming into the kitchen after taking my bath and finding Dad with the microwave disassembled on the counter. The technology was still relatively new at the time and there were some mysteries still unknown to users such as: what can we cook and what should we avoid cooking in a microwave.
Curious, I asked him, “What are you doing?”
Dad, in true Dad fashion, said “Oh, I thought I’d take the microwave apart and see what it’s made of ; turns out it’s made of egg shells.”
“Oh, OK,” I said.
He chuckled and said, “No, I’m kidding. It turns out that eggs explode when you try to boil them in a microwave.”
Who knew?
I’m proud to say, though, that Dad not only extricated all the eggshells from the machine, but also reassembled it, and it worked flawlessly for the next thirty years or so.
But Dad wasn’t just skilled at machine work. He understood the delicate nature of human behavior and the judicious distribution of discipline. While I could expect swift and certain punishment for such crimes as direct disobedience and hitting my little sister, his lessons were sometimes far subtler, like the master craftsman shaping the form of a delicate human being.
I recall Mom presenting me to Dad with a “Look at this” one night after a football game. I’d spent rolling down the red dirt hill with the other kids, and emerged with only my eyes visible for the dust. Dad’s reply to me was “Did you have fun?”
But the most poignant memory took place one warm Sunday afternoon. Every week the family would gather at my Maw Maw’s house for lunch after church. On this particular Sunday, my friend Todd whose grandparents lived across the road from Maw Maw came over to invite me to play. The two of us took off across the road in a frenzied dash, thinking only of the fun to come. We made it to his grandmother’s house in record time, and quickly began our games. Soon after, Dad came to retrieve me. I thought that his arrival was rather quick, but I had very little concept of time back then, and he was Dad, so I obediently bid my friend goodbye and headed back to the house.
Crossing the yard, Dad said to me, “I know someone who’s a good tree climber.”
“Who?” I inquired curiously.
“You,” he said. This was news to me, but I figured, he’s Dad. He knows these things, so he must be right.
We bypassed my Grandparent’s front door and headed for my Paw Paw’s pasture where a massive pine tree stood, its low hanging boughs inviting to any who dared try them. Dad boosted me up and I began climbing my first tree.

After a moment he asked, “How do you like it up there?”
“It’s great!” I said gleefully.
Dad smiled, then he said, “You know, cars can’t see you when you’re crossing the street.”
“They can’t?” I asked innocently.
“No,” he said. “They can’t. That’s why you have to watch for them. Will you do that?”
“O.K., Dad,” I said.
“Good, come on down.”
I was well into adulthood before I fully understood what had happened that day. What I did not know was how my father’s watchful eye followed the progress of Todd and I as we darted across the road and into the path of an oncoming car; a car we took no notice of. Nor could I have understood the terror that must have spiked within him, the fear and helplessness in those moments thinking about what might happen.
Any reasonable parent would have been justified in storming across the street and tanning the hide of their careless youngster for such a reckless act. But the true genius of my father was in his moderation. Dad had another strategy. He chose the gentler path, swallowing his fear and realizing that sometimes reason gets left behind in the joyful exuberance of childhood, and that some lessons are better taught with a gentle hand than thundering one.
I would be reminded of this gentle means of shaping men many years later when I graduated from college and took a part time job at Winn Dixie while pursuing my career in Television. On one of my weekly calls home, I recounted the story of how at work that night there had been a homeless man wandering through the aisles and grazing on the merchandise. This was something I found novel and completely alien to my small town upbringing. Dad listened quietly and then rejoined with what I confusedly presumed to be a non-sequitur.
“Is there a Hardee’s near there?” he asked.
“Sir?” I replied.
“Is there a Hardee’s near your store,” he repeated.
“Well, there’s a Subway.”
“The next time that happens, buy him a sandwich,” he said. “I’ll reimburse you. Just buy him a sandwich.”
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I was flummoxed, at first not realizing what he was trying to teach me, but I agreed that I would. It wasn’t until I had hung up the phone, that I realized that Dad was telling me to live Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you fed me.”
There are many of these stories, some humorous, some serious, some poignant, and in the days to come they will no doubt echo in the deafening silence that descended Thursday night when a voice mail from my neighbor urged me to call home as quickly as possible. Deafening silence. That is what we poets call an oxymoron. It is a construction of words in which the component parts contradict each other, or perhaps more poetically, a lie that expresses the truth. Deafening silence; that is what comes about when a giant falls. It is everywhere and all around me filling the spaces that my father occupied, and I know it intimately because I am here with it. WE are here with it…
But there is another sound, as well. We are too far away to hear it and we are not attuned to its frequency, but it is there nonetheless. It is the sound of rejoicing in heaven because one of God’s servants has come home.

HOW AM I???????
Man in the hat

it's a quarter to midnight on Valentine's Day, and I'm having a SINGALONG WITH NEIL DIAMOND!!!! HOW DO YOU THINK I AM????????????? leave me alone and turn up the "I Am, I said!"