Heavy Petting

Almost all the presidents in my lifetime have had a pet while in the White House.

Dwight had a Weimaraner named Heidi and a parakeet, Gabby.

JFK increased the national debt with his menagerie of dogs, puppies, cats, canaries, parakeets and ponies. Oh, yes, John-John and Carolyn also herded hamsters and rounded up rabbits but drew the line at lions, tigers and bears.

Lovebirds billed and cooed in LBJ’s White House. Hamsters burrowed there too. Hamsters bred fast during Camelot and couldn’t all be rounded up after JFK’s time as the tenant. They say even now on a quiet night you can hear hamsters in the walls of the White House. LBJ was most infamous for the beagle that he lifted up by the ears for photographers because, well, just because, he could.

Nixon had four dogs. One, emperially, named King Timahoe. The most famous dog was Checkers, who never lived in the White House. Nixon’s speech, in which Checkers was mentioned, is one of the most famous in politics and showed Nixon at his best. Listen to a little of it… http://presidentialpetmuseum.com/bl…/richard-nixon-checkers/.

Continue reading Heavy Petting

Last Tree

Since I was a Blue Spruce, no one could have ever made me believe that I would be the last tree on the lot.  Here I am.

The Fraser’s are adopted. Scotch Pines moved on.  Even those common Balsam Firs found a home.

We arrived, all trussed, stacked, and packed on top of each other.  Most of us had never seen a variety other than our own before and only a few ever knew there was more than one kind of Christmas tree.  I was trunk to trunk with one of those uppity Douglas Firs but after that ride on the flatbed truck we half-way liked one another.

We Blues, were the only Spruces.  I think that is why they put us at the front of the lot.  No one could see any of the other trees without walking, first, by us.  My guess is that we were the most expensive and, after seeing us, no one minded shelling out an extra ten or twenty bucks for the best.

When we arrived the week before Thanksgiving, the weather was warm and not many people were interested in us. We just leaned against the display or stood up right with a spike in our trunk.  The snow started falling and temperatures started dropping and then, one weekend, half the trees on the lot were gone.  Gone….tied to car tops, stuffed in mini vans, corralled in trunks.  An old woman, from the apartments across the street, pushed a shopping cart onto the lot and one of my brothers suffered the indignity of being hauled off in that thing.

Half the lot was gone and I was one of the three spruces that remained.  Most of our kind had been hauled away.  I was proud that we were being snapped up more quickly than any other variety.  I was nervous that no one wanted me. As the number dwindled, I yelled over to the last spruce, besides myself, in the spruce section, “Hey, do I look OK?”  I was worried that needles were falling, a limb was disfigured on that truck ride or, maybe, there were some thin branches that let people look right through me.  She said, “You look fine.”

As she was carried away on the shoulders of some man about thirty, with two admiring pre-schoolers and his toque headed wife in yoga pants, the last Spruce whispered when she brushed against me on her way to the SUV, “Take a look at your reflection in the window over there honey.  I just couldn’t tell you.”

For the next few days, all of the Pines and Firs moved out, until I was the last tree on the lot, I had plenty of time to examine myself in the window.  I was ugly.  That’s why the Balsams snickered when they were hauled past.

My bottom right branch hangs six inches below the lowest branch on my left side.  I am not symmetrical and that’s what we Blue Spruces are known for.  Right in the middle of me there is a hole so big that a Red-tailed hawk could fly through. Maybe the worst part, is the branches at the top of me are so confused there is no place to hang the star.

So on this morning — too warm for Christmas — with snow melting into dirty slush— this lonely Christmas morning— propped up— and unwanted—- this guy in a gray Fedora, driving a blue Volvo, snatches me off the display.  He pulls a hundred dollar bill out of his wallet and slips it in the mail slot under a sign that says, “any donation appreciated. The remaining trees are unwanted.”

He slips me into the back seat of his unoccupied car, and says to me, “I love you Baby you saved my life.”

Getting to be Alone by Tim Philippart

Snow isolated cabin on a mountain, closeup-revised
beach empty to the vanishing point,
four mile hike to the lone shack on Pickerel lake,
with no voice to hear except mine.


no honking,
no human footsteps,
no squealing tracks,
no electricity.


hearing only
my heart,
my respiration.
my fingers rustling through my whiskers.


Getting to know
what’s left of me
right down to the
last beat.


Saying What Hearing Wants

Though your heart is stuffed in a box without room to beat,
                                               you insist you are relaxed


are stretched full length on a recliner of invisible nails,
                                                you are comfortable


have the heel of a hobnailed boot crushing your forehead,
                                                  you are doing just fine


vibrate like over-taut piano wire tuned to the key of scream,
                                              you have never been better.

Grandpa Is Dying

“Your grandpa is dying.”  I can’t remember who phoned. It seems odd that I can’t recall.
Probably some distant cousin letting me know, “He doesn’t have long to live.”
I would have sped 300 miles to his bedside but my 1960 Ford Galaxy wouldn’t hear of it.  Every time I tried to inch above 50 it would slow down, on its own, to 20-25 mph.  15 minutes then went by before I nursed the car back up to 50 but, even a millimeter, above 50 and the slow down/inch up process would begin again.
As tight as my fingers gripped the hard, skinny steering wheel, you think I was blowing through the dark night at 120. Sitting bolt upright the whole ten hours except when I leaned forward, going down hill, trying to coax a little more speed out of my old white horizontally finned Ford.  If I was careful, the indicator would creep a little above 50, on the downhills, and not slow but, I had to be very careful– a little too much gas pedal and I would crawl down to 25.
Ten hours, most of it at night, on empty two lane highways, yo-yo-ing from 20-50 and no way, in 1967, to know how he was progressing.  Was he rallying?  Was he dead?  Who was with him?  Who sat with my grandmother at his side? I knew I was his favorite.  Did he ask for me?
Ten hours to keep thinking the same thoughts and framing the same questions. Ten hours to think of fishing and hunting and trying to catch his three fingered fast ball.
Ten hours of stinging eyes and fury at my slowness.  I want to see him one more time.  I want to hug his grizzle-bearded face.  I can think of hugging, alone in the darkness, with no one to judge me as “too soft, too girlie.”
I parked next to the three story hospital, ran to the desk, inquired and found his room after running up stairs to the top floor.
One table light shined.
Grandma sits next to the bed.
No one is there except her.
And a nurse, with a pointy cap, on her hands and knees, looking under the radiator.
And the body of grandpa.
I kissed the stubble on the not-yet-cold face..
I hugged grandma, an unreligious woman, not given to conversation or useless emotion.  The words trickled between us.
The nurse stood and dusted off her knees, “I found it.”
She touched grandma on the shoulder and said, “I’ll be back to check on you.”
She showed me the wedding ring the nurse had given her, “As he died his hand flopped over the edge of the bed, the ring fell off and rolled all the way over yonder, under the radiator. You should have heard it rolling.  It was so quiet in here.”
She asked me to hold it for her and I did.
I gave it back to her before the funeral. She put it on his emaciated finger in the coffin. I went back, at fifty miles per hour max, to my freshman year in college.
49 years later, as of this week, I can still hear grandpa’s wedding ring rolling across the tile floor.

Autumn Does No Favors

Summer shrinks. img_1638
Gentle grip that clings to green loosens.
Dusty August turns musty.
Shoulders back, eager growth slouches into autumn.


Fall’s bright promises crinkle into dirt.
Sun, that squinted through leaves,
glares past branches
in the season of denial.


Equinox of expiration delivers death,
sheds feigned conviviality,
marches us unwillingly into
the fourth season.


Harry, not Houdini, 
but, Haberkorn
wrought great wonders.
Dr. Harry Haberkorn, OD,
shined lights in my eyes,
when I was ten,
scribbled strange numbers
on his pad,
said come back in two weeks
when your glasses are ready.
As a non-believer,
not wanting sissy specs,
fourteen days flew by.
I read the little letters
on his stupid little chart, Whoopie.
Then, Magic happened outside his door,
when the sidewalk was close and clear,
when I spied individual leaves in trees,
when I saw seams on the fastball.
Let Houdini disappear.
Haberkorn, provides real magic,
when he makes the world appear.

End Of Season

Trying to lure a few more rays, casting
casting to the beams but,
the sun done made up its mind.

It shined enough for today.

Salmon, so thick
in the channel six days ago,
that you could walk on fish and water,

heeded a spawning appointment upstream.

Just two fishermen left,
fishin’ more by faith than sight.
Just one more cast, one more cast,
gets them one more cast toward being unhooked.

Dark One’s Pets

On nights of the palled moon Conceptual image of a face with stone boils
mist zephyrs swim in the midst
of darking night
and give shiver
to scare you indoors
to lock doors
to keep mist creatures at bay.
Mizeffers, their name in ancient day,
make their presence known
with skitters cross the roof,
scratching in the wall,
chill across your skin,
cold fingers tracing your spine
to make your shoulders shake.
Although you blame sounds on
mouse, or squirrel,
or chill on frosty breeze,
you soul-feel it’s the Mizeffer.
But, never speak that aloud,
because those who meet the Mizzefer,
never testify.