Thursday, December 9, 2010

Old Habits

A older Asian man, a southeast Asian man, probably,
Is smoking a cigarette on the front porch of his house.

He squats like a tiny Johnny Bench, and his feet
Hang over the second step--his toes clinging, seemingly, to the concrete edge.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tracy, California

I saw a stray man
a homeless dog.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Some days I wish my high gear were a little

Then again,

There are days

when I wish my low gear were a little

Still, the motorbike keeps moving
up (or down) the trail (or road),

And I hold on.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Predictions: Group H

The first game is about to start, so I had better finish my predictions. The final group is Group H. And we can be grateful that the English are not in this group because the English pronounce the letter "H" as "Haytch." That would be annoying.

I like Chile in this group because they like to score goals. On the other hand, Switzerland, true to their national tradition of neutrality, prefer nil-nil draws. Honduras is in this group, and they have no chance.

Spain is the favorite in this group and to win the cup.

Enjoy the matches!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup Predictions: Group G

Group G might stand for Group Good. Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, and North Korea make up what is probably the most interesting group in the tournament. Brazil, of course, is a favorite to win the cup. They have Kaka on their side. Kaka is a young man who often wears a t-shirt that says "I belong to Jesus" under his jersey, and he has said he would like to be a pastor when he retires. Kaka is okay with me.

Portugal, which colonized Brazil, has Christiano Ronaldo, but I just don't like the cut of his hair. Ivory Coast has Didier Drogba, who has cooler hair and a broken arm. North Korea's captain is the younger brother of Kim Jong Il. His name is Menta Li Il. Not really.

My prediction: two to three North Koreans will seek political asylum.


Yesterday, I took my accumulated aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles to the recycling station that is located in the parking lot of a now-vacant grocery store. The recycling bin has been there for years; the store left maybe six months ago. I was mildly surprised to see a new employee weighing the recyclables. The new person is a bespectacled young African-American man who is much bigger than I am, and he wears his hair (what a peculiar old expression) long and natural. The previous employee was a young woman who took some pains to look like a boy.[1] I think the best word I could use to describe her demeanor would be “guarded.” She seemed to me not so much defensive as she was protective, and she was the sort of person who made me worry about her—briefly. I actually told her I was a little concerned about her the last time I saw her because when the supermarket moved out it meant that the recycling employee became the customer’s cashier. Normally, the employee would give the customer a voucher that he or she would in turn take to the store for the cash payout. When I saw that the young woman had been given a till of sorts and the responsibility of paying the customers, I told her I hoped she wouldn’t have any problems.

By problems, of course, I meant with the sometimes-unsavory clientele who frequent the recycling station.[2] Once, while my recyclables were being weighed and valued, a young man with a loose grip on himself and reality approached the recycling station with a handful of cans and bottles. He waited a minute or two before he became unhinged about some perceived insult or injustice. I truly feared for the employee’s safety (and my own), but the deranged man ultimately threw down his tiny mess of recycling and stomped away across the parking lot toward the Taco Bell, cursing all the way.

Yesterday, when I arrived at the recycling station, I saw that a woman with a big load was being served and other recyclers were converging on the big bin along with me. I unloaded my recycling bins and got in line behind the woman with the big load. I was joined immediately in line by a black guy with a single plastic bag (clear) of cans. He seemed like he either wanted to ask a question or go ahead of me in line, but he said nothing to me—at first. Then two women in a cream, 70s-era Chevy pickup outfitted with a camper shell pulled into the parking space next to my truck. One of the small windows on the camper shell had been broken out. By this time, I had emptied my garbage/recycling cans into the garbage/recycling cans used by the recycling center, a required part of the recycling process. So I was standing next to my empty cans, which happen to look just like the recycling company’s cans, when one of the young women approached me and asked if my cans were free to be used.

I told the young woman that the cans were mine, and she retreated to her companion at the Chevy. I stacked my cans and took them quickly back to my truck. I saw then that the other woman, the one who had not spoken to me, had hopped into the bed of their pickup, and she seemed to be rearranging the contents of the bed, which included a baby stroller. The woman who had spoken to me was attending to a toddler girl, who was standing on the lowered tailgate of the truck. When I returned to the recycling center, my stuff was being weighed and tallied, and the black man finally spoke to me: “What she axe you? She think you work here or something? I knew you wasn’t working here.” He went on like this for a moment or two, which suggested to me that he, too, thought I was an official of the recycling company—based on the fact that I was standing next to garbage cans that looked like official garbage cans.

As I stepped over to the mouth of the recycling bin/trailer to receive my rewards for helping the environment, the black man stepped over to the Chevy pickup. It was clear now that the woman in the bed was sorting loose, uncontained recyclables, and that’s why they needed the cans just to get their stuff over to the place of business. The black man walked right up to the little girl and the woman who had spoken to me, and he said, “She got some black in her, ain’t she?”

Without hesitation or irritation, the young woman replied, “She’s black, Mexican, and little Filipino.” And thus began a lively and friendly conversation between the black man and both women.[3] I walked past the confab when I returned to my truck with my cash, and I learned (overheard, really) that there was another child, younger and belonging to the other woman, asleep in the cab of the Chevy. I discovered, too, that the loose recyclables in the pickup bed were piled in a cascading formation from the hole on the side of the camper shell. Most of the recyclables appeared to be plastic water bottles, and they amounted to a waterless waterfall, flowing from the intentional opening (I understood now) in the back of the Chevy.

I smiled at the cute little Black/Mexican/Filipino girl as I made my way between the two trucks to my driver’s side door, and I said, “Bye, bye.”

[1] Before the young woman, there was a friendly middle-aged Hispanic man, and before him I don’t remember. Actually, I remember several people but not in order.

[2] Yes, I know, I’m a member of this group.

[3] This conversation was punctuated by several double negatives and the exclamation, “Exactly!”

World Cup Predictions: Group F

Group F features the defending champion, Italy, along with Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia. I have heard some experts label New Nealand the worst side in the tournament, which makes me want to root for the Kiwis. I do not want to root for Italy, however. I have heard of one player from Paraguay, Roque Santa Cruz, and no one from Slovakia. Kind of a boring group.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Cup Predictions: Group E

The tournament is getting close now, so I had better speed up my predictions. In Group E, we find Cameroon, Japan, Denmark, and the Netherlands--or Holland, if you prefer. Let's just call them Dutch or the Orange.

The Dutch team is one of the most talented squads in the World Cup, but as always they will be hampered by their silly and often unpronounceable names. Below is the Dutch team's expected starting lineup. Good Luck with these names:

K Maarten Stekelenburg, Ajax (Netherlands)
D Gregory van der Wiel, Ajax (Netherlands)
D Johnny Heitinga, Everton (England)
D Joris Mathijsen, HSV (Germany)
D Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Feyenoord (Netherlands)
M Nigel de Jong, Manchester City (England)
M Mark van Bommel, Bayern Munich (Germany)
M Wesley Sneijder, Internazionale (Italy)
F Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool (England)
F Robin van Persie, Arsenal (England)
F Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich (Germany)

Of course, I can't say any of the names on the rosters from Denmark, Cameroon, and Japan, either. So I'm not picking any team from this group get past the second round.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

World Cup Predictions: Group D

More soccer, fans. Group D features Germany, Australia, Serbia, and Ghana. Almost all the names of Serbia's players end in "-ic", which suggests to me a rather shallow gene pool. Australia has a handful players who play in England, but their informal team nickname is the "Socceroos." And, thus, they have no chance. Socceroos? Really?

I would love to see Ghana do well because I like their country and western theme song, "What kind of Ghana?" But I am bound by heritage to pick Germany from this group. And they have a goalkeeper named Butt.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

World Cup Predictions: Group C

It's time for more soccer prognostication, and it's time to look at Group C, which includes our boys in red, white, and blue, the other boys in red, white, and blue (England), Algeria and Slovenia.

If you can find Algeria and Slovenia on a world map in less than five minutes, then you might be asked to teach geography in an American high school in the near future. If you can name one player from either of these countries, then you need to move out of your parents' basement.

This group is all about USA v. England on Saturday, June 12. People are worried about the US's ability to score goals, but this game will depend on our defense. We've got to pack it in, shut down Rooney, Crouch, and/or Defoe, and then spring Donovan, Dempsey, and maybe Findlay on the counter, hoping for a break down in the English defense. I say take it right at John Terry the Adulterer. Depending on the officiating, he's vulnerable to giving up penalties.

Now that I have just read the previous paragraph, I realize that I need to get out of the basement, too.

Friday, May 21, 2010

More World Cup Predictions: Group B

Today, we shift our attention to Group B. The favorite in this group is Argentina. Argentina has perhaps the best player in the world, Leonel Messi, and maybe the hardest working working striker in the world, Carlos Tevez. So Argentina could go far.

But then again, their coach, Diego Maradonna, is a drug addict and certified nut job.

If you are wondering who else is in Group B, it doesn't matter. They have no chance to win the Cup.

Monday, May 17, 2010

World Cup Predictions: Group A

Today, I begin a new series on True Stories: World Cup Predictions. The World Cup begins in just a few short weeks, and you will want to read my in-depth analysis before placing any wagers on which nation will win the cup.

And now, my analysis of Group A:

South Africa: I like their colors, but the hosts have no chance.

Mexico: our friends to the south have no chance.

Uruguay: is very hard for Anglos to pronounce and they have no chance.

France: the 2006 runners-up have no chance.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rock N Roll, Ya Pukes

As a service to those of you who might be aspiring musicians, I have compiled a list of potential band names. I am willing to sell each name for $5.

  • Suspicious Package
  • Hostile Workplace
  • Leather Upper
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (or CVT)
  • Onside Kick
  • Whole Nother
  • The Bat Rastards
  • Pulled Pork
  • Torque Converter
  • Flush
  • Exit Strategy
  • The Darn Tooters
  • Pooch
  • Dry Runs
  • Top Dead Center (or TDC)
  • The Chocolate Lab Coats
  • Li'l Croutons
  • B.B. and Q.
  • Shipping and Handling
  • The Invisible Solids
  • Vine Ripened
  • Abacus
  • Thalamus
  • The Muscle Tones
Good night everybody and drive carefully!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How to Have the Best Mother's Day Ever!

Mother's day is this Sunday, and I'm sure many readers are wondering, "How we can we make the day perfect for the Mother in our house?" Well, don't worry because Dr. Dan has got you covered.

Here are three sure-fire ways to show Mother what you think of her:

1. Bring out the Birthing Videos. Nothing brings the family together like watching Mom pop out the little ones! It's educational and emotional. And Mom will love it.

2. Don't forget the Mother-in-Law. One good Mother deserves another on Mother's Day, so bring 'em together--for several hours. Note: some alcoholic beverages required, so plan ahead.

3. Let Mom do the cooking. After all, she's the best the cook in house, and what makes her happier than taking care of her family? Enough said.

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


This thought keeps coming back to me:

A blessing is also a test.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Whose Design is it Anyway?

One of my favorite poems is a deceptive sonnet by Robert Frost called “Design.” In the poem, Frost describes the coincidental combination of a white flower, a white spider, and an unfortunate moth, which is eaten by the spider. The jaunty tone and pacing of the poem belie these facts: (1) that it is written in a traditional poetic form, the Petrarchan sonnet, and (2) that Frost uses this tiny but violent natural accident to question the order, divine or otherwise, of the whole universe. In fact, the poem concludes with two devastating questions:

“What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

“Design” caused the famous critic Lionel Trilling to call Robert Frost “a terrifying poet,” and Trilling was right. Frost is saying in these lines that if there is a God, then He is a mean SOB. And if there isn’t a Power in charge, we have only violent chaos in all creation.

All of which leads to me to my haircut today (I know, some of you are thinking that it’s always about the dude’s haircut). Thanks to a valuable Great Clips coupon and a skilled technician named Natalie, I received the best $7.99 haircut a man can get in Modesto. At around 12:15PM, Natalie, whose own bleached-blonde hair stands at attention on the top of her head, was wrapping up her work on me, and I heard on the shop’s stereo someone request that Hawk 104.1 play “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC. As I waited for the guitar riff to follow the chiming bells in the song’s intro, I saw in the mirror that the young woman who had been getting a haircut on the opposite side of the shop was now piling her own hair into a ball on the back of her head. She was (is) a person of the German Baptist persuasion, and she soon had fitted her cap on to her hair. All the while Brian Johnson warbled his incomprehensible song lyrics.

And I sat stunned by the Monday confluence of these incongruities.

What, after all, brought me to that Great Clips during the Hawk’s All-Request Lunch Hour? I have never heard the Hawk on the Great Clips radio. It’s usually tuned to something much more contemporary. Nor have I ever seen a German Baptist woman get her hair cut at a “salon.” Was it luck that Natalie was the available stylist when I walked in? Or that I just entered the shop before several other customers?

By the way, I know it could be that none of this matters, and yet I choose to believe that there is poetry in the world—by Design.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Something's Rotten in this Ham-let

I want to apologize to my loyal readers for the following piece. It’s not really funny at all. I have put on my op-ed hat for this one because I’m sick of what’s going on at my alma mater, CSU Stanislaus. Thanks for your patience. I’ll get back to the silliness soon.

If you live in the San Joaquin Valley or the greater central valley of California, then it is likely you have heard about the plan to bring former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin to the Turlock campus of California State University, Stanislaus for a fundraising dinner/speech. Predictably, the announcement of Palin’s visit immediately sparked a veritable “firestorm of controversy.”

Palin probably has a great deal of supporters in the mostly conservative valley, and tickets are reportedly selling briskly, but students, faculty, and many alumni are disgusted that the institution would associate itself with a politician known mostly for her lack of intelligence and knowledge and her disregard for education. Protesting Palin is all well and good, but she is not really the most significant part of this hullaballoo. The hullaballoo is important because it is shedding some light on the shady dealings of CSUS President Ham Shirvani and his cronies.

Though Mrs. Palin’s appearance is part of the CSUS 50th-anniversary celebration and the event will be held on campus, the event’s sponsoring organization, the CSUS Foundation, contends that the fundraiser is not an actual University activity. The Foundation, we’re told, is not a University group, though its chair is named Ham Shirvani. And even though the gala event is labeled a fundraiser, the foundation’s president and spokesperson, Matt Swanson, has so far declined to name any purpose for the funds raised by Palin’s appearance.

The Foundation, in fact, refuses to reveal any financial information, other than the price of a ticket ($500) to the gala celebration. State Senator Leland Lee wants to know the terms of the Foundation’s contract with Palin, but the Foundation has said, “It’s none of your damn business.” The Foundation calls itself a private “auxiliary” group, or a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, which means its financial dealings are not subject to public scrutiny or regulation. Now, I know that all charitable or non-profit organizations are required to follow some disclosure rules, but the point here is that the Foundation is the “CSUS” Foundation and it operates under the direction of Ham Shirvani. So, the Foundation raises money, perhaps lots of it, ostensibly for the University, but only one University official (yes, I know there’s one faculty and one student representative on the board) controls the direction of this money. Frankly, it smells like a good, old-fashioned slush fund.

Is it possible that Shirvani only uses this money good and not evil? I suppose so, but his ham-fisted governance of the University and his mismanagement of official funds suggest that a thorough investigation of the Foundation’s finances would show that the Foundation brings little actual benefit to students and faculty. The Foundation, for instance, has not prevented the cancelation of much-needed general education classes, such as Freshman Composition, and the Foundation certainly won’t pledge any of the Palin proceeds toward instructional costs.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any pressure from the local press for any investigation into the Shirvani slush fund because the Modesto Bee has its editorial head thrust into a very dark place. In a recent editorial, the Bee cast the Palin debate in terms of free speech and academic freedom—which was misleading and just plain bogus. Mrs. Palin, we are discovering, is a businessperson, and her appearance is simply a business deal. Senator Yee would like the terms of the deal to be more transparent. And while I applaud his efforts, the transparence needs to be much broader than Sarah Palin’s compensation. Ham Shirvani now has three spokespeople, if you don’t the Bee’s editors: two who are on the CSUS payroll and Matt Swanson of the Foundation. Two of these spokespeople should quit, and the other one should tell students, faculty, alumni, and the community the truth.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Birthday Girl

A woman, mid-twenties or perhaps thirty, sits at a table with her group
In the middle of Carl's Jr.
She wears a red and black Jeff Gordon NASCAR baseball cap, a purple coat,
And a ribbon around her neck.
When newcomers join her party, the woman shows them the medal attached
To the end of the ribbon.

In a young child's voice, she exclaims, "Look, look, it's my birthday today!"

What a strange gift always to be a birthday girl.


At the risk of sounding cheesy,
I am going to say,

Faces, happy and solemn,
Lift my spirits.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

News from D.W.

The readings last week were very enjoyable. At the HNU reading about 35 people heard me read a few passages from"Houndini," a part of a piece destined for the next book called "Does a Deer Defecate in the Lake?" and then "O Bacon, My Bacon!" So far, the HNU Bookstore has sold over 2 dozen copies of the book.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Fog Sets Us Apart

The Fog Sets Us Apart

The valley’s only distinguishing meteorological mark

Settles in, some might say cat-like,

(Though I, respectfully, hesitate to animate a cold and vaporous phenomenon.)

And sets us apart.

From what? I ask.

It’s a dubious claim to fame,

Like a lecherous legislator or a homicidal husband.

But seriously—

In the fog,

Voices, human and mechanical, lose their shapes.

Lights, heavenly and incandescent, reflect only our separation.


It occurs to me—

The fog figures itself

(“tenor and vehicle,” if you speak the language),

So we ask it to “burn off” or “blow out.”

And we flee to the coast, which might be clear,

Or head for the hills.