The two Swans loving “The Swan” and the William & Mary Crim Dell Bridge where they first kissed.
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Because readers asked.
Happy Easter – John
A last meal and blessing hand
Bring us peace in holy land
Make your neighbor a best friend
Hate has no place in holy land
My heart will fold as red as blood
Forgive I will my tears will flood
You were created to be good
An undivided brotherhood
Lavender blue will spread in spring
It’s peace of mind that it will bring
Don’t make hate your tool of life
End your endless words of strife
Shout that peace is good for all
Not just you in clustered walls
Tear them down your flags of hate
They are NOT an act of faith
Shaking hands across the line
Sharing meals of bread and wine
Showing trust in someone’s heart
Making one a world apart
[And keep that dagger just in case
The other earthling shows bad grace ]
Yes, why bother? Millions of bloggers are already hollering and hustling for attention, and thousands are joining each day, including me.
I lived an interesting life, met many people all over the world, kept my eyes open and my ears stretched like Wonder Woman and her bionic powers < http://tommartin.typepad.com> and that shapes your mind, makes you see the funny side of it, and drives me to blog about it.
This blog is not a syllabus on how to live or sell goodies. Too many bloggers write about that already.
I will try to approach things from a lighter perspective, throw in a little humor and politics, make fun of our daily life, and commingle it with the Common Sense from Mars Man in Outer Space.
Mars Man’s face as it is seen on Mars was photographed by a friendly elf in the Cloud’s Public Domain. On Earth, he changes into a normal human being like you and me right after he lands with his Space Scooter One in a vast corn field close to Omaha, Nebraska.
In addition, I will write about writing, music and my travels to strange places, and offer short stories that stir a smile, shed a tear or spawn some fear. I am not alone doing this, others have a voice there already. For example, check out http://erinbartels.com, or http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5 or.
Take a backseat, sigh and breathe, and have a laugh. Sign-up, and come back next time.
Bianca swung through the revolving door of La Salle and Associates in Georgetown, blinded by sharp sunlight and hit by a fuming July heat smacking down on the street. She walked briskly up to M Street onto Clydes, past a wallowing saxophone player, to meet her older colleague Daisy Malcolm for lunch. Although Bianca held a more senior position, she wanted to discuss her discomfort working at La Salle. How should she raise her problem? Should she raise it at all? Daisy, a veteran in the office, always smiled and they had friendly chats at the coffee stand, and she seemed her best bet to get a better feel for the office politics.
When she entered busy Clydes, Daisy was already seated at a table in the back under a glass roof, surrounded by tropical plants. She waved and Bianca shuffled past the many male patrons at the counter followed by hungry eyes since they were still waiting for their order. As usual, the noise was deafening, but Daisy’s table was a bit more isolated.
“Hi,” Bianca said. “So nice you could make time for me.”
“Oh, it’s great to have a chat here,” Daisy said. “In the office, it’s always hectic with phones and all.”
“Geez, this stifling heat! It kills me. I love my Portland Main.”
“I know. Can’t stand it either, even though I’m from here. But in six months, we’re all complaining about the cold again.”
A waiter came by to take their orders. Bianca took a Caesar salad and Daisy ordered a pizza Margarita. Bianca noticed her colleague didn’t particularly care for her weight.
“So, what’s up,” Daisy said. “You wanted to talk about something.”
Bianca flipped her hair aside. She felt uncomfortable opening up to Daisy and hesitated momentarily.
“You’ve been with La Salle longer than I and you know the ins and outs much better. My first three months have been frustrating. I’ve talked about it to Bob. You know Bob well. What’s your take on him?”
“What you mean?” Daisy asked, as if she didn’t want to show the back of her teeth.
Why was she evasive, Bianca wondered? Was she the team player she’d hoped?
“Well, I had this morality issue with one of my accounts. Bob said La Salle doesn’t mix sentiments with business, and if I do, La Salle isn’t the place for me. Is that the way you guys work?”
“Everyone takes their assignments as they come. Part of the game. What’s your problem, really?”
“You know I’m anti-smoking. I am uncomfortable being a rep for a cigarette company and wanted a different account. Bob didn’t take that lightly.”
“So, what did he say?”
“As I said before, if I mix sentiments with business, La Salle isn’t the place for me.”
The waiter brought their orders and refilled their glasses with water from a carafe, the ice cubes tingling like nickels in a metal piggy bank.
“I thought Bob would be more flexible,” Bianca continued. “Give me a different account. What would you do?”
“What else did he say?” Daisy asked, skewing the question.
“Nothing, but his looks were revealing.”
“Kind of get the heck out of here? Maybe something you should consider, then.”
Bianca fell silent and ate her salad. What was this Daisy really like? Why was she so unhelpful? Was she jealous, after her job?
The noise in Clydes had reached lunch time peak. People moved incessantly from and to tables and conversation became almost impossible.
“I thought you could give me some better advice than just tell me to beat it,” Bianca said, still keeping her cool but getting edgy. “How’s our senior management handling issues like this? Would they listen?”
“Don’t even think about that. You’d be listed as a troublemaker. The boss always wins, regardless.” Daisy cocked her head and pushed her hand through her blonde hair, seemingly surprised that Bianca had even made the suggestion.
Bianca took a sip of water and gazed into her glass.
“It’ll be difficult to work in La Salle if you have that sort of issues,” Daisy added.”What if they change your account and something else comes up that bothers you again? Looks better you go and do something different.”
“And you tell me that in today’s economy? That’s crazy. Who can afford that?”
“What do you want me to say?” Daisy asked with a mouthful of Margarita. “Everybody in the office already knows about you. Walls have ears, you know.”
“So what exactly do you know?” Bianca asked, raising her voice.
“They say you’re a rabble-rouse, somebody controversial, a goner.”
“With whom do you hangout, Daisy, with Bob?” Bianca felt she was losing control.
The waiter dropped the check on the table.
“That’s none of your business, girl,” Daisy shouted. “I’m telling you where you stand. Pack up and go before they tell you to.”
“I won’t and I won’t,” Bianca shouted back, though it wasn’t noticed in the restaurant’s steel drum noise. “I get the feeling you see me rather leave so you can take my place, right?”
“That’s a stupid thing to say,” Daisy said, putting her share of the bill on the table, standing up. “I have enough of this conversation. And don’t think I will remain silent about it either.”
She took her purse and stormed out of Clydes, bumping into a few guys standing at the counter.
“Hey you, aren’t you one of those babes from the ex-wife series?” But Daisy was gone.
Bianca flung her money on the table and left. She would keep the Philip Morris account and screw them in another way.
A week later The Washington Post reported a story that a sales rep of La Salle by the name of Daisy Malcolm was overheard saying that Philip Morris cigarettes caused male impotence and the company’s stock tanked. By the time Daisy hit the roof and was fired, Bianca sat at a beach hotel in the Bahamas sipping punch in the arms of the Travelocity Gnome, her other account, savoring her revenge.
GHANA – THE BURIAL TRAIN OF MR. ASHOK
“Mr. Ashok says he is going to die,” Mama Kwaku said, stirring the pan on her cooking stove, her 12 year old son Kofi looking on.
“Why?” Kofi asked. “I saw him walking in his yard this morning,” pointing across the dirt road from where they lived.
“He says he has some incurable sickness,” Mama Kwaku said. “Mama Ashok told me, too. He can die any day. Dede Nunu and Papa Joe are making coffins to show him and the best coffin wins and makes a lot of money.”
“Wasting money,” Baba Kwaku, Kofi’s father, grumbled. “Now everybody in the village is going to do the same, and borrow money they can’t pay back. And then they beg their relatives in London and America to bail them out. Rubbish.”
Mama Kwaku took her pan from the cooking stove and filled a large platter in the middle of their hut with fufu, fried plantain and goat stew. They sat around it on cushions on the floor.
“Dede Nunu has announced he’ll show his coffins tomorrow Saturday, in the morning,” Mama Kwaku said, while they were eating.
“I’m going to look at it,” Kofi said, taking a handful of fufu, dipping it in the goat stew and pressing it into his mouth. “I’ll tell my friends. When is Mr. Ashok going to die?” Not waiting for an answer, he ran out.
“Come back in time, boy”, yelled Baba Kwaku after him.
* * *
“They are coming, they are coming,” screamed Kofi the next morning to his friends, playing soccer barefooted on the village square, shadowed by a monumental balboa tree.
They sprinted to the dirt road, their white shirts fluttering around their slim bodies, hearing an oncoming band playing THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN. They wrenched themselves in front of the villagers that had streamed out of their huts and assembled along the dirt road, dressed in colorful reds and blues. Heavy drums filled the air. A long parade loomed up from the distance, slowly approaching, growing larger and larger. Behind the band of black uniformed musicians, tractors pulled wagons carrying coffins in all shapes and forms, leaving dust behind in the sweltering sun. Dede Nunu walked up front, with his chest heaving to heaven, proud as a peacock to show his craft.
Mr. Ashok, dressed in an orange Kaftan and a matching Kufi hat, stood straight on the balcony of his white-painted two-story house, the only one along the dirt road. It was surrounded by tropical trees, but all the other trees on his property had been cut to make room for agricultural land or to sell for village development. At the side, drummers had gathered to conduct a healing ceremony for Mr. Ashok, who seemed otherwise quite healthy looking on. The healing drummers, sitting on wooden chairs, soon overwhelmed the drummers of the marching band. It was an infernal noise. The high-pitched voices of female singers and rattle shakers petrified the ears of Kofi and his friends.
The band and the coffin train moved forward slowly. The first wagon showed a white coffin in the shape of a huge wooden statue of the god Onyame, the god Kofi was told in school was not talking to the simple humans anymore. The second wagon carried a coffin, toting a wooden statue depicting the god Anansi, the one Kofi and his friends liked best. On top a gigantic spider spread out its thorny limbs more than three feet long.
“Spiderman, spiderman!” jeered Kofi and his friends. Bystanders told them rudely to shut up.
The third wagon carried a large coffin with the face of the God Nyame, his left eye in the form of the sun and his right eye in the form of the moon. Since it was morning, his right eye was half closed.
The last wagon showed a coffin with a figure personifying Asase Ya, a beautiful goddess of fertility that would bring Mr. Ashok much pleasure in the afterlife. It also honored his fifteen children that his wife had miraculously survived. Kofi, as a single child, ruminated how much more fun it would have been living with fourteen brothers and sisters.
The coffin train came to a stop in front of Mr. Ashok’s house. Kofi gazed intensely at Mr. Ashok and, agitated, jabbered to his friends in the midst of the drummer noise. Was he going to make his choice? The whole village was staring at the balcony while the drummers kept drumming and the band played Chopin’s Funeral March. Dede Nunu seemed sure of his money. One of these coffins would be Mr. Ashok’s. He had a snotty smirk on his face, shifting his feet impatiently in the sand.
Then Kofi saw a three-wheel bike nearing Mr. Ashok’s house. The man on the bike was Papa Joe. The buggy behind the bike carried a huge lion coffin, its bushy mane gilded and its frame worked from smooth dark teakwood. On the side it said “Roaring to the afterlife”.
Kofi stared at Mr. Ashok, whose eyes were fixed on the giant sphinx.
“Papa Joe!” Mr. Ashok yelled, lifting his arms. “You got it, man!” And he dropped dead on the spot.