Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life Is What You Make Of It

My daily fitness walk sometimes yields a topic for contemplation that later becomes subject to yet again another attempt to adequately describe in writing a specific event and its participants. Yesterday's trek down to the Briarwood Plaza did exactly that.

While walking by the benches at the Plaza, I was accosted by a seated lady named Deborah who told me she was short 23 cents and could I help her out. With a grin I asked if a quarter would do, as I had no pennies in my pocket. She smiled back at me and assured me that a quarter would do just fine.

She told me the story of how she had been unjustly dismissed from her job as a cook in a pizza-shop located in a corner just inside the San Jose Boulevard K-Mart entrance two years ago. How she was put out of her apartment, not able to pay her rent.

And how she is still out-on-the-streets two years later, still unable to find a job.

And her husband who lost his job at that same location at the same time also has failed in that two-year period to secure for himself any permanent employment.

So they both sleep on the ground under any overpass that's handy, except for the days when they can pan-handle the necessary twenty dollars for a motel room for the night.

For half an hour she talked and I listened. The lady had much to say. And I, the cynic, absorbed her words and voiced sympathetic murmurs at appropriate intervals while inwardly wondering how much of her story was actually truth and how much was designed to elicit from me a further charitable donanton of cash.

When I finally broke away to go about my business, she watched me leave with an expression on her face of disbelief that I could simply leave without offering even a pittance after having heard her heart-rending account of being wronged by such a pitiless society.

On the walk back home I pondered the plight of poor Deborah and speculated on how I might turn her tall tale into a workable story of compelling fiction.

As I was passing my mailbox at the curb I saw a hawk swoop down to make a grab at some creeping creature in the grass not more than twenty feet from me and then sail back up and land on top of a nearby security light-pole fixture. Since my camera was in my jacket pocket I brought it out and snapped three quick shots of it.

Here is the best one of the three.

As it landed atop that light its tail feathers flared out to slow it and I caught a flash of bright red, so I imagine it is what they call a "Red Tailed Hawk" but I can't be sure. That glimpse of red might have been blood from its quivering prey, spurting out in a crimson stream from where the tiny being lay dying in its killer's talons.

Me and my writer's imagination.


Two Unfamiliar Words


1. insincere, esp. conventional expressions of enthusiasm for high ideals, goodness, or piety.
2. the private language of the underworld.
3. the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, profession, etc.: the cant of the fashion industry.
4. whining or singsong speech, esp. of beggars.

synonyms: hypocrisy, sham, pretense, humbug.


1. opposition to the increase and spread of knowledge.
2. deliberate obscurity or evasion of clarity.

The two words above can be applied to methods of writing, as well as the more familiar references to cant and obscurantism in the spoken word.

cant is heard in political rhetoric and read in blogs, and is also heard in religious sermons and read in tracts.

obscurantism is heard in poetry-readings and read in written poetry wherein the poet has nothing worthwhile to say but wishes to appear ultra-intelligent and so deliberately obscures the random-word-conglomerate's lack of significant meaning.

Here comes the Orator!
with his Flood of Words,
and his Drop of Reason.

--Poor Richard's Almanack

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