• a humdinger •

You might find it ironic
for me to describe Chronic,
a story about death and dying,
as ‘a slice of life’.
In fact, throughout,
the question of ‘why?’,
and ‘why me?’,
seems pervasive,
and unanswerable,
which it is, except, for me,
‘and why not?’,
‘and why not (me)?’,
keeps rolling through my head,
Is it just me, I wonder,
or do others see this life
as an equal opportunity
or journey,
or what have you,
and that moral judgements
as to good or bad outcomes,
or of success or happiness,
and whatnot, cannot
truly be assessed
until after the final curtain falls,
so you’ll never know it yourself,
truth be told, friend,
being dead and all?
So, it’s a question for family,
and society,
and friends,
and ‘former friends’,
and what have you,
to make the call.
And honestly, who cares
what other people think, anywhoo?
So, don’t complain;
choose to be happy,
or fulfilled, or engaged,
or grateful, or enthralled,
or stoic, or philosophical,
or selfless, or starry-eyed,
or evangelical, or ‘evolved’ –
just between we two,
it’s up to you –
whatever floats your boat.
It’s a one way ride,
and frequently fabulous.
Enjoy the view.
Oh, and on a final note,
the movie (with Tim Roth),
is a humdinger, too.
~ Tim Burchfield



• young jack kerouac holds forth on death •

But for the green light emitted by the radar screen, it was dark in the wheelhouse that enveloped the sea air that enveloped the two men. The Captain was taciturn, and concentrating on his course correction. Young Jack Kerouac was the greenhorn on the boat. He had been holding forth, now, for a bit yet.
“I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it,” confessed young Jack. “I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of the wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water,” Jack opined. “I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled,” gushed Jack. “I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die…” ** Jack paused, taking a long drag on his cigarette. An orange glow illuminated his dark eyes, one green and one red, like the the running lights of an oncoming push boat, bitterly relentless and unswerving. What was the old adage about ships passing in the night? Red right returning.
But for the comforting drone of the twin sixteen diesels down below, a relative silence enveloped the two men. Finally, the Captain craned his neck to take in the kid, perusing him with a salty eye, and half a grin. Jack was slouching against the hatch, silhouetted by the moonlight washing back and forth over his lanky form, draped in bliss and youthful profundity. Jack was blowing smoke rings, and tapping his foot, as if listening to a cool jazz riff.
The captain pursed his lips in his signature expression, sucking up all ‘the silence in the room with withheld witticism, and unspoken irony. After a bit, he picked up his spit cup and spit, loosing a stringy stream of steaming brown treacle, observing, “Talk a lot, don’t you?”
~ Tim Burchfield

** (From Jack Kerouac, holding forth, ‘on death’.)


• v day •

About two thousand years ago, a Roman king, Emperor Claudius Gothicus, a.k.a., “Claudius the Cruel”, issued an executive order, I mean, edict, outlawing marriage, juuuuust because, as the story goes, he had trouble getting to sleep, one night, and decided he needed an army.
(For what, he didn’t yet know, it just came into his head, one day, and that, as they say, was that. Isn’t that just the way? Not to worry, this story has a happy ending. Er, no, no, not really.)
“Don’t staaaaand, in m’way!” King Claudius could be heard to say (‘tweeting’ away, like a jaybird), at least three times a day, sometimes all night, and four times, at least, betimes, when he had had the insomnia.
Now, it seems, in those heady days of Empire only landowners could join the army. And yet, crazily, these, more often than not, married men, were somewhat reticent to go to war because – get this – it turns out that they had rather ‘stay ‘home’, safe and sound, with the wife and kiddos, than to risk dismemberment and/or death, for the king’s amusement, or whatever. Say, what?!! I know, right? (*Shrug*) Go figure.
So, new law: no marriages, period. No sanctified unions. No connubial bliss. Nope. None of it. (I mean, what’s the point of having total power, if you can’t be a total dick? Am I right?) So, from here on in, no one is getting married. No one, no way, no how! And no, ‘King’s X’!
So, needless to say, in very short order, every Roman man-jack of them is pissed off and horny, and ready to (I’ve waited a ‘lifetime’ to resurrect this line), “Crush! Kill! Destroy!!” A perfect state for a perfect union, ñ’es pas? Indubitably. In fact, ((*sniff!!*)) I’m getting all verklempt, just thinking about it.
As it happens (spoiler alert), there was a certain Roman priest, a dissenter, who, believing in the inviolability of the institution of marriage, was defying the king’s decree (drumroll, please) by performing illegal marriages. (God, ‘trumping’ the king’s wishes, so to speak, was his thinking, I guess, being God, and all, and all, like that.)
So, it followed, that on February 14 (sometime between 269 A.D. and 278 A.D.), on the orders of the king (oh, and for ‘breaking’ the ‘law of the land’), the recalcitrant priest was unceremoniously sentenced to death: a gruesome three part execution, of a beating, a stoning, and finally a decapitation (Yuck!), all because of his unwavering stand on marriage.
His name was Valentine. Yes, that one. That’s, ‘Saint V’, to you and me. Put that in your Whitman’s Sampler, and smoke it. I’ll support you, in that. Yep, that’s me, ever the traditionalist. You can even borrow my lighter.
Now, by all means, feel free to be romantic, that is, if you’ve still got the stomach for it. And why not, eh? It’s on St. V’s nickel. I say, go for it.
~ Tim Burchfield
2/13/17 (revised)


• bobby daniel’s old man’s cold dead arm •

Bobby Daniel. He had us all scared shitless. Rumor had it, he had already killed a kid. And nobody knew about it. He had buried him that deep. Story goes, Bobby had punched him in the stomach, after school, and the boy had thrown up on his shoes, and, that was it for the kid, the poor bastard, and that’s how it usually went, with Bobby Daniel. And we knew for any of us, at any time, for no reason, even, it could go the same, with Bobby Daniel. You did not want to be on his ‘shit list’, no way. And you never knew what it could be that would put you on it. It could be anything. Anything. You didn’t have to ‘deserve’ it. When it came to dying at the hands of Bobby Daniel, we were convinced, as he had said many times, when threatening death to us all: “Deservin’s got nuthin’ to do with it.” For many a boy (we were completely convinced), that was the last thing he heard on this side of eternity. And then, ‘the big sleep’. The ‘dirt nap’. Most definitely. In any case, you did not want to fuck with Bobby Daniel, believe you me.
Now, we come to, Bobby Daniel’s ‘old man’. Bobby Daniel’s old man, was the kinda guy, that’d kick a dog, yes, even his own dog. For crappin’ on the lawn. Even his own lawn. We had never seen him do it, but then, we didn’t put it past him. He was just that mean. Bobby Daniel’s old man was a real hard case.
In fact, we were pretty sure that Bobby Daniel’s old man was so mean, that even Bobby Daniel was scared of him, and Bobby Daniel didn’t get scared. At least, we never saw him scared. But his old man got his own way. On everything.
Oh, and he only had one arm. Did I mention he had only one arm, yet? I meant to, but, you know, just the mention of Bobby Daniel’s old man, and my brain gets numb, and then, my teeth, and then, I start to shiver, then I lose the feeling in my arms, and hands and feet. Needless to say, I don’t like to talk about it. Still, ‘might as well, get it over with.
Bobby Daniel’s old man drove this truck that had a knob on the steering wheel, so he didn’t need two arms. With Bobby Daniel’s old man, one arm was enough. That, and, from what we heard, by the way he did his own dog, we figured him to be the sort, if you pissed him off, who’d just to kick you to death. But, of course, we kept our distance, and answered everything with ‘sir’, and, ‘yessir’, and like that, and stayed as far away from him as possible.
‘Story goes, he lost his arm, in the war. Which war? I dunno, Korea, maybe? Nobody knew for sure. At least, none of us kids did. And we weren’t going to ask him, that’s for sure.
(Jugglin’ grenades, the way we heard it, how he ‘lost’ his arm, I mean.
Then, ‘way we heard it, one night, while slogging knee-deep mud, in a rain storm, in the DMZ, it accidentally got ‘stuck’, in a ‘tank track’ or something, and got practically, ‘torn off’, at the elbow. And what was left of it, he cut it off, himself, with his own Buck knife, or chewed it off, with his bare teeth, or something, and then, ‘way we heard it, under withering machine gun fire, with the bloody gristle of what was left of his mangled limb between his teeth, and mightily pissed, through the mud, and piss, and shit, he crawled all the way back to base, on his belly, expecting the medics to ‘sew it back on’, and when they couldn’t just sew it back on, ‘good as new’, he beat ’em with it. He beat ’em with his own dead arm, can you believe it? Put three of ’em in the hospital, ‘way we heard it, Army medics, I mean, and I’m pretty sure it’s true. And then, when he got tired of pummeling the poor bastards, cursing God, and the Army, and Korea, and all things animal, vegetable, and mineral, he threw the thing in the mud, and just walked away. His own dead arm. Man, oh, man, oh man. I mean, Jesus.
And now, every time Bobby Daniel’s old man comes out of his house, across the street, and I see that scarred stump sticking out of his rolled-up sleeve, my skin crawls, and then, I picture that muddy, bloody, abandoned arm, in the night, in Korea, and I get the creeps, all over again, and I can’t get it out’a my head. ((And then, there’s a lightning flash, and with it’s wedding ring, and all, gleaming through the grunge, and all, it flexes it’s formerly cold, dead, fingers, now, animate again, and crawls across the ground, of it’s own accord, seeking murderous revenge.
‘Way I hear it, it’s still out there. ‘Way I hear it, it crawls up on a sleeping victim, in the night, on it’s powerful fingers and thumb, real quiet like, up the back of the couch, where the guy who was somehow responsible for the tragic accident, the tank operator, maybe, where the guy was sleeping, and then, it wraps it’s fingers around his throat, and chokes the guy to death, throttling him, in his sleep, and ‘next morning, they find the poor bastard, with his eyes bugged, and his purple tongue lolling out.))
I used to think about that. At night, when the wind blows, and shadows dance on the ceiling, and branches scratch on the glass.
But, I never lose much sleep over it, even if Bobby Daniel’s old man does live right across the street. The way I figure it, even if his dead mangled severed hand was to be out for murderous revenge, I’d had nothing to do with it. I’m just a kid, after all. I’ve never even driven a car, let alone, a tank. And then, any way you look at it, you gotta admit, overall, it’s a helluva long crawl, from Korea.
~ Tim Burchfield


• the second law •

• the second law •
Playwright George Bernard Shaw ordered this headstone comment: “I knew if I stayed around long enough, something like this would happen.”
Conversely, the iconic terse form of the equation S = kB log W on the tombstone of Austrian physicist and philosopher Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (February 20, 1844 – September 5, 1906) more or less, amounted to the mathematical equivalent of “I knew my entropy would reach a maximum eventually.” Not exactly the life of the party, I’m guessing. Then again, I’m Texan, not Austrian, so what do I know. His ‘maths friends’ probably found him hilarious.
Aside from the fact that the consequences of the Second Law of Thermodynamics are particularly immutable and irrevocable, what important life lesson are we to take from this?
Well, clearly: playwrights are funny; not so much, with physicists.
~ Tim Burchfield


• brush those pearly deaths •

• brush those pearly deaths •
The boy just pointed out the death, in the news, of yet another celebrity, this at the age of 78.
“You’re nearly that old, aren’t you?”
“Fifty-seven,” I said, “why?”
“Man!” was all he said.
As I see it, my chances of dying, are just as good today, as they’ve ever been, as likely, or unlikely, as they ever were, given my propensity for walking into open manholes, a disposition towards cracking my skull on overhead rocks and beams (my big number), and a pronounced predilection for precipitating off of wheel houses onto steel decks and throwing myself down flights of stairs, accidentally. Largely speaking, these brushes with near death and/or dismemberment, were in my youth. Of course, I still throw in the occasional ‘face-plant’, just to keep my hand in. Practice makes perfect. Besides, my in-laws have come to expect it of me. I’ve got a ‘rep’ to maintain: ‘street cred’, I think they call it.
Thing is, as I see it, the only difference between now, and then, is that my chances of “dying young” are now reduced to nearly nil – and that’s good news, any way you look at it – and I plan to tell him so, the boy, just you wait… just as soon as he gets back from school, and I get this cast off of my leg. Young whippersnapper …smarty…smart aleck… dagnabbit.
The fact is, gamblers frequently have the same idea – that the law of averages will turn a run of bad luck, to good, or vice-versa, because of a string of losses, or wins, when, in fact, with every roll of the dice, the odds are exactly the same, which is to say, fifty-fifty, or sixty-forty, or astronomical, whatever the case may be. They figure they’re due. “Well, I’ve about used up my ‘bad luck’, things have got to go the other way soon.” When, in fact, every roll of the dice is a risk, or an opportunity, equal to every other. Same with death. It’s just a non-heartbeat away. So why be maudlin? Why be scared? I’m not. Not a bit of it – though I’m not craving the opportunity, by any means. I can wait. Awareness of Death, like my teeth, needs to be maintained. Brush those pearlys. Keep them bright. It’s a quality of life thing, for me.
Being fifty-seven today, my chances of sudden death are, more or less, the same as they were at thirteen, or three: approximately fifty-fifty. Those are odds I can live with. Notice the emphasis, on ‘live’. We’re natural born optimists, what can I say?
Of course, that doesn’t factor in the foolishness factor, for irresponsible and risky behaviors, which, too often, run rampant in teenagers, and begins to peak at around seventeen. That part of your brain, that can ‘foresee consequences’, I’ve read, doesn’t fully develop until you are about thirty. Needless to say, at the age of 57, no more jumping off of high places for me, and just expecting everything to be okay. I’ve outgrown the idea of being ‘bulletproof’, or of ‘immortality’.
I’m cautious just getting off’ the couch, these days. In fact, when the boy gets home from school, I think I’ll just ask him to bring me a glass of water. I sure am thirsty.
~ Tim Burchfield