Home Again

My folks and I returned last night from our annual trip to visit my brother and his family for Christmas. We were gone for several days and now we miss our loved ones very much.

We got to watch my 9 year old nephew T swing from rope swings which hang from big trees in his back yard. He put on an excellent demonstration for us on Christmas Eve. Later, we went to church, then had a beautiful dinner with wonderful people.


My brother and me at the dinner party. Don’t bother pressing me to explain the headgear. I could tell you, but then I’d have to drown you in a vat of mulled cider.

There was much more celebration on Christmas Day, which lasted into the evening. And there was rain to keep things moving along without drying up. Then on Sunday, a few of us traveled to the coast, to San Francisco, for more fun. Others stayed home to break in the new toys.

A great time was had by all. And again, I miss those I had to leave behind up yonder, in the dripping trees and enviable quiet, amongst the nibbling deer. I love you all… I would rather be with you on Christmas than with the finest people in the world.

In the words of Alma Garret, “We do love each other. Our being together ought not to seem so outlandish a proposition. … Except for every other single thing.”

Christmas tradegy narrowly averted

Well, I’m back from my 11 day trip to visit my brother, sister-in-law (SIL), and little nephew way up yonder in northern California. A fine time was had by all. Santa showed up right on schedule and, as always, brought me some wonderful gifts despite my intransigent and glaring presence on the Naughty list. Nephew T, who’s into dinosaurs these days, got enough toy ones to fill the La Brea Tar Pits. He’s on the Good list, no doubt about it.

My Bro, SIL and I rang in the new year in San Francisco, joining 8000 fellow deadheads and motley hoopleheads at a marathon show by 2 former members of the Grateful Dead – Phil Lesh and Bob Weir – and their band.

[Incidentally, for those new to Metaphor, hooplehead is a term often used in the HBO series Deadwood. Like this.

It means a member of the ignorant masses, an uneducated commoner, an idiot, riffraff, the madding crowd, the great unwashed. I’m certain no such persons would – or even could – read this noteworthy compendium.]

The show was great, and an excellent way to traverse the terminal cusp of the year. They played many of our old favorite Dead tunes, did a lot of cool psychedelic improvisational jam, and even covered Pink Floyd.

Here’s a little video I shot that night. It’s just a few seconds, shot in semi-darkness with a phone, 50 feet above the stage. But somehow, for me, it captures a moment of the energy.

There was one tragedy narrowly averted during our visit. On the afternoon of December 29, a few of us were sitting at the dining table. I was eating lunch, Mom was talking on the phone, and nephew T was doing something I don’t remember. The chandelier above the table fell; without warning, as is usually the case with such events. After all, if there had been some warning I would have moved my laptop.

That’s no flimsy fixture, kids. That’s real iron and leaded glass. And it missed the cover/monitor of the computer by an inch on 2 sides. … Wham! …  There are little ceramic animals on the other sideof the light, which T made and was showing to his Nana. And those photo coasters are made of glass. Thanks to God that it didn’t smash my machine or anything on the table. It just fell in the midst of all our stuff, hurt no one, and broke nothing. It just put a decisive dent in the hardwood table, as a reminder that life’s justice is inscrutable and sets its own terms. And as you can see, the chandelier remained lit.

Mom does the crosswords, by the way. I haven’t cared for them since high school, when some teachers used them for homework exercises. Blech.

the chapbook tradition

“In these straitened times, how about taking a leaf out of the Victorians’ book and presenting friends and family with pamphlets of our own literary endeavours during the festive season?”

— Books | guardian.co.uk.

This article points out the long and storied tradition of giving handmade chapbooks as Christmas gifts. Is it seeing a modern resurgence? Perhaps. Part of me hopes so. What’s nicer than getting several hours of peace, alone with words and your imagination? Especially in winter. A cup of tea, a little escape from the world, a psychic connection to someone else.

But as a writer, I caution against it, unless you’re one of those rare people who can give and let go, without investment in feedback. (I’m getting there, slowly.)

Or maybe you just have to be a better writer than I am. You see, I tried this myself a couple of years ago, and never heard back – for good or ill – from anyone. I had forgotten the old maxim that a writer’s family and close friends are not necessarily his/her audience.

So if you enjoy sitting by the tree on Christmas morn and hearing loved ones exclaim, “Oh wonderful! It’s just what I wanted!” then you’re best off getting them just what they want. Or at least something that makes that coveted response a little easier to affect. … Like socks.

That being said, if you have received such a gift from a creative giver this Christmas, read it soon, for crying in the dirt. Then give them a call. Writing is a labor of love and it’s hard to do; at least as hard as shopping.

No Exits

“My heart only has entrances. It doesn’t have exits. Whoever enters remains there. Whatever he may do, I love him the same as I loved him when he first entered into my heart. I pray for him and seek his salvation.” [Link]

I was just thinking about this the other day: that sometimes it seems love turns out to be temporary, and it has always seemed so strange to me. This was written by an Orthodox monastic elder, and has a Christian context, but my own consideration of it is more pedestrian. How is it that friends drift apart, that intense romantic relationship break up? Even marriages end, after years. How does the heart go cold?

Maybe it’s our misbegotten tendency to judge others, not just harshly but at all. Maybe we expect other people to make us happy, the way we expect our toys and money and food to make us happy, instead of vesting our happiness in the only place where it has hope to live. 


One time when I was a kid, our family went camping. We went camping many times, you know. This time it might have been Shaver Lake, south of Yosemite and northeast of Fresno. I’m guessing. Anyway, the campground was full when we arrived and the first night they put us in Overflow, a part of the campground set aside for just such times. It was more of a dirt parking lot than a campsite; those closer to the lake were beautiful.
It was just one night, we made a happy family adventure of it, and Overflow was our term – for years – for any situation in which a person or thing was exiled and expected to wait off to one side. If your food wasn’t ready for take-out as promised, and you had to stand and wait while the cashier rang up other customers, you were in Overflow. You get it.

I thought about that today because I used to have another blog a different URL, and since I moved Metaphor to this address, all those posts – 1783 – have been waiting in Overflow, at a defunct address. I finally got around to importing them, and Metaphor now has all 2262 I’ve made since I started it in 2003.

Excited about being able to browse all that good old stuff? I knew you would be.

Anyway, here’s hoping you always get the main campground, close to the lake, close enough but not too close to the bathrooms.

blogging on down the road

I guess I took a break from blogging for a while there, and not because I didn’t have stuff going on and something to say about it. Maybe you just didn’t need to hear about it. So, you’re welcome. … I’m teasing, but sometimes it’s good to live a life that’s at least undocumented; the unexamined life might be worth living after all, at least occasionally.

For a few days, I was up in northern California, visiting bro Joe, Linda, and little T. It was a good visit; I had a lot of fun. I even enjoyed the 16 hour round trip up and down the San Joaquin Valley. There can be something palliative about a long drive in a car alone. Your own air-conditioned fortress of solitude – atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed – with 2200 songs on the iPod. It’s good for the mind.

We went to see and hear The Dead at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. It was the first time we’d seen them since before Jerry Garcia died, and that was in 1995. They’re older, but so are we. The music was great. It went on for at least four hours, and there were songs to fill the air.

The road to the show took us past Google. We passed it and passed it, and when I was sure we were past it, we kept passing it. The company’s facilities are huge. Here’s a photo. Seems like that can’t be all of it; I think I saw annex buildings in other blocks. But I don’t know the area. I’ve read that it’s a cool place to work, forward-thinking and people-oriented. Which is nice. And I like their online content a lot, except for Blogger. But don’t get me started on that again.

Nephew T, who’s 8 now, went to the show with us. Now he’s an official Deadhead just like the grownups. We were in the lawn section, so after he danced up a little storm for the first set, his folks bundled him up on the ground between them and he slept through the rest of the concert. Which is fine. A lot of folks don’t remain conscious throughout the whole thing. And I’m sure T remembers the evening better than any number of people in their 20s who were there.

I remained alert, and thought the music was fine. It was what I remember from happy concerts of the past, though of course we all miss Jerry.


Go Bear!

Recently I posted about my cousin’s son Bear being up for draft into the NFL.

Bear was drafted by the SF 49ers! The whole family is very excited and proud.

The San Francisco 49ers wasted no time taking Pascoe, the greatest Bulldog tight end in school history, with the 11th pick of the sixth round. Pascoe, a two-time All-WAC pick, set Bulldog records for touchdowns by a tight end with 10 and owns the school record for most blocked kicks with seven, 16th-most in NCAA history. Pascoe was a Mackey Award candidate for each his last two seasons and was named the Mackey Award national tight end of the month as a senior after catching a touchdown and blocking a kick against UCLA in the Rose Bowl. [Link]

The 49ers were our grandpa’s favorite team. Everyone is saying he would be so happy about this. He’d be beside himself, definitely. It has also been suggested he may have wielded some influence.

Congratulations, Bear.


in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman

whistles far and wee

– e e cummings

Welcome to spring, everybody; that time of year when the young poet’s mind admits of nature’s brighter hues: the fornication of the flowers. The dialectic intercourse of pollination. Of course, I’m not a young poet anymore. So my mind is more likely turned to thoughts of insurance. Smoke detectors. Tire inflation.

We have to get from here to there without incurring avoidable damages, don’t you agree? Although to be sure, no one here gets out alive.

Here in Carpinteria, we’re having an overcast and drippy day, not quite rainy. Only the very athletic and mildly stupid are out upon the thoroughfare on bikes. And at 9:45am, I’m still in my comfy sweats, in my warm and cozy study, sipping French Roast from an aging mug replete with contemplative standing geese. Meeting life head-on, but only on life’s most obsequious terms. There can be a certain passive aggression to Saturday mornings, a middling denial and avoidance of Monday’s inexorable strife.

… mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Here’s a poem for today, in honor of poor lost winter, but not really about that at all.

Bee in January

It’s a winter way of looking at things,
of celebrating half-light and fog.
For instance, a bee I saw, just
for an instant, fumbling among
the camellias and darting past
the dog’s head. You’d almost believe
it was spring, forgetting the windmills
droning all night to save the lemon
trees from frost. But the chiminea,
warming in compassionate sunlight,
is half full of rain. And in January,
I prefer fog. I would rather have
a morning with the houses gray
and almost lost in it. With Papa
standing by the pickup, asking
if I’ve got good tires, a full tank
of gas, a map, some cash.
They called him Bee. He liked
a Timex watch, a good pen
in his pocket. Ballpoint, blue.
I had everything I needed, checked
everything but the weather.
So he stood there by his house
in the long, cold January, foggy
San Joaquin, breathing gray exhaust
in the gray world. He stood there,
waving as I disappeared.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
January 15, 2005
all rights reserved

cup o’ kindness

Well, 1 down, 364 to go. I’m trying to come to terms with the whole idea of facing a new year. It feels a little like staring into a dark tunnel and slowly realizing it’s a crocodile’s gullet. Explains the damp air and the dripping sounds. And I can’t shake the feeling I got ripped off on the last year. I ought to have some change coming back from 2008. It was never my intention to leave any change behind as a tip. The service wasn’t all that good, if you know what I mean.

Does that seem like a negative attitude for the first day of the year? Oh well, the first day wasn’t all that great either. I overslept, then forgot to turn on the TV and watch the Rose Parade. So I’m already getting the stinky end of the existential stick in 2009.

Today, I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac podcast for New Year’s Eve.

In Mexico, people eat one grape with each of the 12 clock chimes at midnight, and make a wish for the coming year. In Venezuela, they wear yellow underwear for a year of good luck. In Japan, people eat soba because long thin noodles symbolize longevity, and at midnight, temple bells ring 108 times, matching the 108 attachments in the mind that need to be purified before the New Year.

At midnight in Greece, families cut a cake called a vasilopita, which has a coin baked inside; whoever gets the coin will have a lucky year.

In this country, the most famous celebration is in New York City’s Times Square, where up to one million people gather each New Year’s Eve to watch a ball drop.

First of all, 108 attachments in the mind? The entire consciousness? I have more attachments than that about bodily functions alone. And I’m pretty sure the average urban Japanese guy could keep up with me on attachments. Time to update that tradition for inflation.

In the podcast, Garrison added a sentence to the end, “Be grateful you are not one of them.” Yeah. But the example he chose for US is out of context with the others from other countries. Americans do have food traditions for New Years, if you want to dig them up. In my family, we eat black eyed peas every year on January 1. Sometimes with cornbread. I googled this and learned it’s traditional in many parts of the U.S.

I’ve had my beans and watched some football – also a NYD tradition in our clan – so I guess I’m good to go. But carefully, very carefully. There is a heavy fog tonight, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasts until Christmas.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.