March 25, 2015

There is a pair of delicate purple tulips, with just a few inches of stem, in a small glass tea cup with a handle. The cup is filled about one third with water, leaving no doubt as to the authenticity of the flowers. At least the flowers are real. The same can’t be said for the slice of Boston creme pie on my plate. The diner was honest enough to spell it as “creme” since it obviously has no real cream in it. It is quite a beautiful imitation of a dessert. I guess that’s why I got a slice, after seeing its radiant beauty in the display case. But I wouldn’t dare destroy this work of art with a fork. I know that it would taste like artificially sweetened coagulated grease. And besides, just look at it – it’s a perfect, idealized replica of a real Boston cream pie.

Clearly, the person responsible for the pie is not the same as the one responsible for the living flowers on my table. Straight ahead of me on the dingy, yellow wall, hangs an original piece of fabric art. Spreading about four feet wide and six feet tall, it covers most of the space from the bathroom door to the first green, vinyl dining booth. The hanging is made of deep purples, orange and blood red felt. Although abstract, it evokes the feeling of India. To the left of the bathroom, next to the kitchen, hangs a reproduction of a hotel style painting – some soulless pastel flowers. Over all, the diner is fairly sparsely decorated, and most of the art is like the cheap hotel painting. But on the wall right by my table, at shoulder height, is another original, unique work of art. It’s a pen and ink drawing, about ten inches square. It’s an incredibly intricate drawing of a child clutching on to a book in a storm. There are furious waves and a violent rocky cliff  in the background; the child, who looks to me like a boy, has an anguished, pleading face.

The decor and the food aren’t the only inconsistencies in this place. The menu is literally split down the middle with a thick black line in magic marker. On the left is standard diner fare – biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs, chocolate milkshake, etc. On the right, in a totally different font (light, italicized type with some swirly flourishes, as opposed to thick, san serif lettering on the left side) is an idiosyncratic list of dishes, like “Braised tempeh with baby kale,” and “Orange pekoe brussels sprout skins in dark béarnaise sauce.” Maybe you could find food like those on the right side of the menu in a boutique, gourmet, Fair Trade certified tea house in San Fransisco, but I doubt there was any other place in Iowa that served orange pekoe brussels sprout skins in a dark béarnaise sauce.

I don’t have time to try anything from the menu, though I think would have been interesting to get stuff from both sides, like “Our famous house meatloaf” with a side of “organic truffle-infused rutabaga fries with Sriracha aioli.”

I’d be embarrassed to leave the pie on the table, so I’m going to ask to take it to go. I’ll also ask if they can shed light on the split menu. Is the diner some sort of partnership? Does anyone ever order from the right side of the menu?

I’m waiting for a wait person to come over. It’s after the lunch hour, so the place is almost empty – just a couple other booths are taken. A diminutive woman just emerged from the kitchen. She sticks out as the only employee, or customer for that matter, who doesn’t have that healthy, robust Iowa layer of beef fat that thickens the people up in these parts. I’m from Ohio, which may sound similar to people from the coasts, but believe me, it’s a world apart from Iowa. This is my second year attending college in Iowa, and I’ve come to know this state as a land where people look disturbingly like the farm animals they raise and slaughter.

The woman who emerged from the kitchen is cleaning the tables. She looks like she may be of East Asian decent. I’ve decided that she must be responsible for the incongruous art and menu items. Probably the lovely flower arrangements, too. I’ll bet she married a local restauranteur. Or maybe, it’s her place, but her financial backer insisted that she devote half the menu to Iowa comfort food and that he have a say in the decor.

She just walked up to me and asked if I’d like my check. Not only did she have a midwestern accent, but when I told her that I liked the pen and ink drawing, she just said, “Whatever.” Now I feel all weird and confused. What does “whatever” mean in that context? She’s clearly not the owner, anyway. An older woman is telling her what to do.

I’m in my car now, so I have to stop writing. I guess I’ll never know what the story is with this place. I just noticed the name of the diner: “Diner.” Yes, just Diner. The Diner diner. I’ll have to come back some day and try the brussels sprout skins.

Jeux de Mots en Anglais!

March 19, 2015

Here are some strange, yet completely true, sentences;

  • I messed around in toast and became Taoist.
  • Eric, a man, is American.
  • I can never walk away from a parfait, because it would turn into a parfat, and who wants that?
  • If u r, not u, ur house is ur horse.
  • Some things are better together, than apart. On its own, fig urine is the unpleasant, if fictitious, discharge of a Middle Eastern fruit. But together, it makes a lovely figurine.
  • Shouldn’t menstruation be called womenstruation?
  • Will anti-union Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker be the last to wreck the chances for non-extremists to serve in office? Perhaps, since the letters in his name rearrange to spell “LAST TO WRECK.” Is Walker against the rights of all workers across the country, as he is in Wisconsin? Certainly not! After all, his name can also be rearranged to spell “LET CATS WORK.” So, there you have his hidden agenda: Anti-human worker, pro-feline worker. After all, cats will work for catnip and a shiny piece of foil. What will happen to him after the election? His name gives us a clue to that as well, as it can be rearranged to spell “WE LOST TRACK.”
  • When considering whether to support establishment candidate Hilary Clinton or progressive rebel Elizabeth Warren, it may be useful to take a look at some of the words hidden in the letters of their names.
                “Elizabeth Warren” contains:
                Arena Blitz
                Zen Whale
        Full disclosure: Using all of the letters in “Elizabeth Warren” we get “Eternal rehab wiz,” “Herbal Zaire newt,” “Twin zebra healer,” “Wet zebra inhaler,” and “Bizarre whale net.”
                  Whereas “Hilary Clinton” contains:
                  Arch lint
                  Tiny nacho
                  Ill irony
                  Tin Crayon


          You can decide for yourself. But you should base your decision entirely on those completely objective lists of words.

    Merely by clicking this flower, you will be presented with 10 important questions about words:


    The Great Superman Parachute Mystery

    March 16, 2015

    My house was filled with giant spiders, the size of horses. I was having the same dream again, about the house I lived in between the ages of five and eight. I figured that spiders represented decay, or death, and now that I was about to turn 30, perhaps my subconscious was mulling over the end of my youth. It was true, much as I tried to stretch out my adolescence, when you’re in your thirties, it’s harder to pass yourself off as a punk rock rebel kid.

    My childhood home was less than five miles from my loft in the back of the anarchist bookstore, and so I decided to drive by it, to see if I could trigger any meaningful memories or realize something significant about myself. I hopped into my 1985 green Ford Fairmont, realizing that it had come into the world the same year that I had, and drove across town to Roosevelt Street.

    I parked on the street in front of the house. It was still a quiet little neighborhood. No one was about – probably all out at work and school. I felt like I was casing the joint for a robbery. But it wouldn’t be a good place to rob. There was a for sale sign in the yard, and the driveway was so covered with loose leaves it was clear that no car had driven over it all fall. I got out of the car and walked crunchingly over the dead leaves to the house. It was smaller than I remembered – a very plain, single story, two bedroom home. I looked down at my feet on the front step and saw my name. I had written it when the concrete was poured for that step. But it looked babyish now, and faded.

    The windows were covered with blinds, making it impossible to peer inside, so I walked around the side of the house, along side the neighbor’s four foot high wooden fence that I used to balance and walk on. It was practice for when I’d join the circus as a tight rope walker. The fence was decrepit now, the top log having rotted and fallen down. I pressed my foot down on it, and felt the shell of wood collapse under my weight.

    The back yard looked like it hadn’t been mowed last summer. The dead grass, mixed with fallen leaves, was up to my thighs. We had always kept the grass long in the back yard, and I remembered being afraid back then that the tall grass hid snakes. When I wanted to get to the woods behind our house, I would make a dash through the yard to avoid any snakes, and that’s just what I did now. I wanted to see if the tree house that my older sister had built was still there. It was, and closer to the yard than I remembered. Its singular, uneven platform, cobbled to an old oak tree, about five feet off the ground, looked pretty unimpressive to me now. Then again, she was only about eleven years old when she built it, so I shouldn’t judge.

    Something green caught my eye on the ground by the tree. It was a tiny parachute, attached to a plastic army guy. That was Rob’s parachute guy. On windy days, my best friend, Rob, and I used to throw our parachute guys as high as we could. The wind would swoop them up and sometimes carry them for what looked like miles to us. His was the army guy and mine was Superman. Even then, I thought it strange that Superman would need a parachute, but it was still really cool. On our very last parachute adventure, we threw our parachute guys up in the air from the front yard. The wind pulled them right over the house. We ran around to the back yard, which I now remembered that we called “the snake yard,” and saw them soaring up overhead. Rob’s guy was deposited in the woods, but mine caught a draft that took it east, toward school. We ran as fast as we could after it. We took a short cut, through yards and only lost track of Superman as we were climbing over Sam Dillard’s fence, right before the school. We spent some time looking for Superman in the field next to the school, but never found him. Maybe now would be a good time, 23 years later, to look again, using my adult powers of observation. After all, I had already stumbled across Rob’s army guy, which I had stuffed in my pocket.

    I walked the mile and a half to school, using the bike path instead of shortcutting it through peoples’ yards. I quickly surveyed the school field. It shouldn’t take me too long to systematically  search the field for a bright blue and red object. But then it occurred to me that this field had probably been mowed thousands of times since Superman’s disappearance. If he had landed in the field, perhaps another kid found him. That might have been disorienting to Superman, I thought, but he could handle it. He probably grew very attached to this new kid…. I was thinking these thoughts, while walking aimlessly across the dry, brown leaves on the field, my right hand holding Rob’s army guy in my jacket pocket. I don’t know how long I was lost in daydreams, but I realized that I wasn’t in the field anymore. I was on a path behind the school, and I looked up to see something amazing.

    This isn’t real, I thought. But there it stood – a big, empty oil tank, the sun glinting invitingly off its shiny steel surface. Could it be the tank that Rob and I used to hide in? Our secret fort? For years, I thought that I had made it up, that it was just a scrap of memory from of my childhood imagination. I walked up to the tank, hoping that somehow it really was the fort of my imagination. As an adult, I was taller than it. Back in the day, Rob and I would have had to help each other up on top of the tank to the round portal to get in. I let my hands slide across the surface of the tank, and looked at the entrance. It was only a couple of feet in diameter. Even if I could squeeze in, my adult body would fill most of the tank. But two little kids could have made it their home. I felt my heart pounding. I really wanted the tank to be our old fort, but I was afraid that it wasn’t. I had to know. I pulled up on the latch, and it released. I pushed the round lid up and back and looked into the tank. It was dark, but the sun from the portal illuminated some evidence. I strained my arm as far as I could into the tank and managed to pull up a wrinkled Superman comic, a few candy wrappers, a small flashlight and a piece of paper with a drawing on it. The flashlight didn’t work.

    The drawing was a map, clearly drawn in pencil by a child. It showed the tank, the school, a big tree at the edge of the school field and an “X” by what looked vaguely like a pile of rocks, or eggs. I had absolutely no memory of making this map. I had a treasure hunt to go on.

    I stuffed the comic in my jacket pocket. I thought that the little kid in me would want me to keep it, and dropped the flashlight and wrappers back into the tank, closing the heavy lid. It was getting late in the chilly afternoon, but there would be enough sunlight for me to follow the map to whatever lay at the “X”. And so, I did just that.

    Next to the tree, sure enough, was a pile of about 15 fist-sized stones. I regretted ditching the broken flashlight, because I could have used it as a digging implement. Instead, I used a rock to scrape the surface of the ground around the stones. Almost immediately, I uncovered a bit of blue plastic. I dug. I pulled it out of the ground. It was parachute Superman, dirty, but preserved from the elements by being buried for over two decades.

    This was confusing. I thought we never found Superman. Why on Earth did we put him in the Earth? Pondering this mystery, I walked back to my car with my bounty: Army Guy, Superman, the map, and the Superman Comic. I looked back west toward the school. The sun was just starting to set, and the sky was a mix of Superman blues and reds. I paused to watch an eerie crimson slowly rise to wipe out the brighter colors, and headed back to the loft.

    The sunset was fading out and a few star had poked through the gray sky in the east. The empty trees outside the loft were swaying in the wind, their stark branches silhouetted against the gray. I took out Superman and looked at him. Ready for one last adventure? I asked. He seemed up for it. I threw Superman toward the stars in the east. The wind held him gently for a second and then he took off west toward the sunset and disappeared.

    The Deer in the Snow, and other Poemish Words

    March 13, 2015

    Do the Right Thing?

    Have you ever sustained a stain

    By going against the grain


    You thought you did right

    To put up the fight

    Then they derailed your train


    It really messed with your brain

    Threatens to drive you insane


    You thought that your back

    Was safe from attack

    Your trust they cannot regain


    Now freedom you’ll never obtain

    Like Abel ambushed by Cain


    You know you’ll survive

    You’ll come out alive

    But can you ignore all the pain?

    The deer in the snow 

    The deer in the snow
    Know where to go

    But I find myself back there again

    The bees though they roam
    Know where to find home

    But I lose track of time now and then

    The trees put down roots
    Then produce fruits

    But I keep drifting back to Phnom Penh

    Trouble, an ode to Eloid*

    Ya got trouble
    Right here in Sheboygan
    With a capital T and that rhymes with E
    And that stands for Eloid!

    Yessir, ya got trouble
    Right here in Bloomington
    With a capital T and that rhymes with P
    And that stands for pool!

    Wrestling in that pool
    That pool of Jell-o
    Making a mess, part of Eloidfest
    Behind his own scene

    Next thing he’s on Springer
    And he’s an art teacher
    But he’s uptight so they don’t treat him right
    And he gets booed!

    I say we got trouble
    Right here in Hollywood
    A celebutant, worked in a restaurant
    Emcees punk shows

    Hosted his own show
    Making strange videos
    With a capital V and that rhymes with E
    And that stands for Eloid!

    *Eloid is an underground music emcee and performance artist now residing in Hollywood, California.

    A concrete poem, new Daisybrain words, and a prediction about who the next three US presidents will be:


    Mystery Daisy Porthole

    March 10, 2015

    Today, I place your fate in the Universe. Position your pointer, finger or mouse over the daisy, close your eyes and click to travel to a completely random Daisybrain post from the last 250 years, or so, of the Daisybrain blog.

    Let the adventure begin….


    School World Conversation

    March 7, 2015

    Previously on Daisybrain, I reported some funny things I overheard children say when I was teaching. I also posted, in the form of a poem called School World, some of the absurd things I heard from grown-ups working in schools. I have now combined the two lists of completely unrelated sentences and comments, into one fictitious conversation, called School World Conversation. Think of it like something you might overhear if you went to Zippy the Pinhead‘s school. It may not make literal sense, but it gives the over all impression that I got from attending and then working in public schools….

    Child: “My life is over. My life has always been over. I just never realized it.”

    Adult: “Please disregard the bell until it rings.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    How I Lost 55 Million Dollars

    March 3, 2015

    Editor’s note: Unlike most Daisybrain stories, the following events are true.

    In September, 2000, I had moved back in to my mom’s basement. I had a couple of part time jobs in video production which made me enough money to supply my chocolate habit. I wanted to film documentaries, but I didn’t know how to make a living at it. I had recently discovered that I had inherited stock in several “blue chip” companies, like IBM. Being an anti-establishment sort of guy, I wasn’t happy about owning stocks in corporations that I thought were evil. About this same time, do-it-yourself online stock investing was becoming a thing; companies, like Ameritrade, were making it possible for people to invest in the stock market without the aid of a stock broker. To be honest, I had no comprehension of what stocks were, or how the stock market worked. I’ve always had trouble understanding anything that has to do with money. But I knew that I didn’t like these “blue chip” companies, and there was a company that I did think was pretty cool: Apple Computers.

    Read the rest of this entry »


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