Thursday, March 13, 2014


Nothing works the way it ought.  The guarantees and warranties covering most items have loopholes in which potential exceptions to coverage are noted.  Even unconditional guarantees--"If this cucumber fails to please you, return it for a new cucumber"--acknowledge the potential for some sort of mischief.  

If there can be mischief with a cucumber, there is a greater infinitude of potential for mischief with you.  After all, you are more complicated than a cucumber.  Much of the time.

You do not always work the way you ought.  This is in large part because still, after all these years, you have no real clue which is the way you ought to work.  Instead, you improvise, looking for the tingling sense of what feel right, a feeling right that transcends warranties and guarantees.  

You arrive home from a grocery-buying venture that turned out to be a spree because you left your grocery list on the kitchen table.  This oversight caused you to overthink the items on your list.  You bought cucumbers although you already had cucumbers.  There is now no telling how long you will be, eating the Trader Joe's steel cut oatmeal you bought today in addition to the two cartons you already have.

The first thing you see when you pull up in front of your place of residence is a car, parked in your accustomed space.  "Fuck,"  you tell the offending car.  "Fuck you."  This is not a designated space you are talking about.  This is street parking.  The offending car happens to be parked in your preferred place.  There is ample parking space in front and to the rear of it.  You are quick to understand the subtext here, which is that you are pleased to be living here, pleased enough to have acquired a place where you would rather park.

Halfway down the drive that leads to your studio, the three bags of your shopping spree beginning to shift and lurch in your hands in that idiosyncratic way grocery bags have, you feel the bunch of iris, pinioned between your left arm and side, begin to slip.  Such are the ways of transporting grocery purchases from car to home.

Once you nudge open the gate leading to the garden area before your studio, you see a group of individuals, milling about.  The first of them, about your height, wearing a jacket that reminds you of one of your own, approaches you.  "Where," he says, "the fuck were you?"

You hitch at some of your cargo.  "Shopping," you say.

Now, a United Parcel man approaches you, thrusts a small parcel that could be a book at you.  "Sign here,"  he says.

"Can't,"  you say.  Once again, you gesture with the falling iris, the three bags.

"Got to get a signature,"  the man says.

"That is obviously a book,"  you tell him.  "How many times have you left books here without requiring a signature?"

"Obvious to you, maybe, but how am I to know?  Listen, you wanna sign for this, or do I have to indicate 'Refused delivery.'?"

"You can't just leave the book?  Like before?"

"Who says it's a book?  I've only got your word it's a book."  He waves the package at you.  "Listen, you want this or not?"

You set the bags down on the pathway, outside your gate, sign the device that looks like an overweight iPad, accept the package from him.  From it's feel, you are positive it is a book.  "Is this some new policy, where you have to get a signature?"

He shrugs.  "How am I to know?  They--They'll do anything to keep up with FedEx."

The last you knew, FedEx didn't ask you for a signature.

"See,"  the UPS man says.  "Already, we're one up on them."

A man with a marmalade cat under his arm, opens the waist-level gate to your patio, waits for you to pick up your groceries and enter the patio before handing you the cat.  You recognize the man as one of the Animal Control personnel from the shelter directly behind your studio.  "I brought your cat,"  he tells you.

"That isn't my cat,"  you tell him.

"So you do have a cat?"

"Yes, I have a cat.  My cat is a tabby.  This is a marmalade."

"He is a nice cat,"  the animal control man says.  Once again, he extends the cat toward you.

You make the mistake of reaching to give the marmalade cat a pat.  The cat promptly scratches you, drawing blood.

"You'd best get some peroxide or Neosporin on that scratch,"  the animal control man says.

Once again, you remind him the marmalade cat is not your cat.  Your cat is a five-year-old male tabby.

"Name of Goldfarb?"  the Animal Control man asks.

You nod.

"Cute fellow.  He comes to visit us. "

Added to the irritation from the scratch, you learn of yet another place where Goldfarb applies for treats.  You now add the Animal Control to the fire station and two neighbors as places where Goldfarb dines out. In addition, one day when your own garbage container was brim full, you opened one of your landlady's containers, whereupon you saw the bottom covered with cat litter, suggesting that she has a litter box for him and as well gives him treats.  The wonder of it is that Goldfarb does not appear to have put on weight.

There are indeed others who confront you, all with some agenda or other, seeking your attention, causing you in aggregate and individual ways to be yet more aware of the stunning array of potential in the worlds about you.  Persons with causes, ambitions, dreams, the stop for a moment in their own dramatic orbit to enlist your interest, your awareness, your collaboration.

Was the person who appeared to be wearing one of your sport coats real or imagined?  Was the woman who seemed to have prescient information about the arrival of an espresso machine that you ordered on impulse from the Internet real, imagined, hoped for?  Was the young girl who left a copy of A Rising Storm, from The Warriors series, on your doorstep real or imagined.

Was it Goldfarb, the marmalade cat, or the Tuxedo cat who, rather than use a litter box, left souvenirs in the garden adjacent the newly installed avocado tree?  And what about the gardener who asked you if you knew anything about quantum physics?

The thing to be learned is that your encounters with all of these worthies left you with some form of emotion, ranging from mild irritation to exquisite irritation to a radiant joy at the potential for mischief and what is now referred to as cognitive dissonance.  Well and good, but this is not quite enough.

What you need to do next is realize each of these individuals, whether quite real or entirely products of your imagination, have taken the first step in the magical process of encounter.  To continue the dialogue, you must look beyond your immediate response, then take in important details, relevant details.  The gardener, for instance, who is quite real, had a massmarket paperback book in his back pocket, a title that took you back to your middle school years, when science and scientific discovery began to seem as exciting as the sights of shooting stars flashing across the night sky.

These individuals are all parts of story, presenting themselves to you in the direct confidence of wishing to be recognized, thinking perhaps you are the person to help.  Perhaps you can learn something from this.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello Shelly Lowenkopf,

I hope you are reading your comments as I'm Gaylord Dold and want to tell you a funny and, to me, interesting coincidence.....!! We'll see.

About a year ago a poet friend of mine, Jeff Worley from Lexington, Kentucky, told me that he'd read a blog by Shelly Lowenkopf. He said it was interesting and that Gaylord Dold was listed as a "favorite writer". I thought that was kind of amazing and wrote you a letter at an address in Santa Barbara, which was returned to me. I gave that up!

Second thing. One of my favorite writers is Brian Fagan. Last week I finished a book of his and in the acknowledgments, I happened to notice YOUR NAME! I thought that was kind of amazing too. So, I decided to see if I could get in touch with you.

If you happen to read this comment, let me know how to contact you as I'd like to send you a signed copy of one of my favorite books, Six White Horses.

Your favorite book list and writer list reads like mine! In fact, I've reviewed most of Harrison's books. Just finished the new Brown Dog.

My email is

I sure hope we can get in touch soon.