Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Michael's chronicle: Rigor Mortis


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Feb 16
Miami
Rigor Mortis

I woke up this morning and state of rigor mortis. I didn’t like it. It was unsettling. Not being able to move is both unpleasant and inconvenient. I lay there thinking through the inventory of possible causes. Fortunately, my brain had not yet locked up.

It didn’t take me long to focus on the actions of my son, Joah, who flew in yesterday afternoon to work the Coconut Grove Art Festival with me this weekend. Before I get into the matter of his obvious guilt let me first provide a bit of minutiae regarding this motel room. When I first entered it today, prior to his arrival at Miami International, the room was freezing (by my standards). Housekeeping had set the room temperature at sixty four degrees according to the thermostat. This is easy to understand. Outside it was a blazing seventy three degrees. The entire housekeeping staff is from places not all that distant from the equator. No wonder they sought relief in the form of climate control. 

I turned the thermostat up to seventy five in an attempt to defrost the room. By the time Joah walked in the door the room temperature had spiked all the way up to sixty nine. He walked straight to the thermostat and made an adjustment. A bad one. Perhaps an evil one. The jury is out. I am catatonic because of it.

I asked him what he was up to, and he answered, “it’s a bit warm.” I didn’t agree but it was not I that just flew in from snow country, where we live. I decided just to let it ride for the moment and didn’t check out his handy work. Bad decision. He had set us at sixty two. Let me repeat that. Sixty two.

I would go to turn it up, but the rigor won’t allow it. When he wakes up I’ll ask him to do the deed. Even this may be a waste of time. The words, if they escape my lips, may fracture and fall on the floor before they reach his ears. Cold is not kind to the spoken word. I’m wondering. Will gangrene look stupid on my skin? I need to look my best for the art show this weekend. Will I still be able to think twenty minutes from now? 

Joah did this to me. I don’t get mad, and I don’t get even. I’m not vindictive. But I will bring balance to the moment. Perhaps a little scorpion in his shoe. They’re not deadly, you know. Just hurtful. An eye for an eye? A sting for gangrene? Balance. I am his dad. This needs to be a teaching moment.

Later.

Maybe

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: The Peacock Plant

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Feb 9
Morning, Naples Florida
The Peacock Plant

Emily encourages me to include photos, when possible, along with my posts. OK, Em. How do you like this guy? “Guy,” you say?” Not a misogynistic comment. Not sexist. I’ll explain as I go along. Meanwhile I’ll stick with my gender assignment. He’s right outside the front door of my motel room here in Naples. I’m calling him a Peacock Plant for a reason. See him posturing?

In 1984, the first year I came to Florida to exhibit I drove around in a pickup and carried a camping tent - insurance against high rates and poor availability vis a vis lodging options. I’d camped often in the early days out west, especially when doing mountain shows. No biggie. 

Well before the advent of Audiobooks real books in print were in fashion. I loved a good read. Great authors would get me by the neck and never let go until their works were done with me. Herman Wouk was one of those. Just before I left for that first trip to Florida in 1984 he hooked me with his epic novel, “The Winds of War.” The book wormed its way into my cranium like Khan’s Ceti Alpha V Eels. For weeks on end it dominated me. I was stopping, quite literally, at exits and rest areas along I - 10 to get an hour long dose. Eight hundred ninety six pages. Spell it out, okay? I am a speed reader. But not when reading a great story. Save your quickies for urgent sex.

On the day in question I had made three or four reading stops and was thus several hours and a few hundred miles behind schedule. I ended the day near Lake City, Florida at maybe 8 P.M. Spotting a commercial campground on the east side of I - 75 I decided to pitch a tent for ten dollars and settle in with my book via flashlight. The batteries died at about midnight. I lay down and went to sleep.

I was awakened a few hours later by the sounds of what seemed like blood curdling screams. They went on non-stop for at least a half hour. Wigged out, I found myself wondering two things. First, how long it takes to murder someone by torture. And second, was I next? Conveniently, this was a new moon night which insured zero visibility and even if my flashlight still worked I couldn’t imagine why I might want to turn it on and attract attention. I hunkered down and made sure not to breathe very loud. My thumping heart was all I could hear. The screams eventually ceased and I drifted away. No lunatic attacked me during the night.

The next morning I arose to find that I had pitched my tent next to a large pen populated by peacocks. I had never seen these birds in person. There were three females and one male, I was told by a woman standing inside the fence and near me. The male peacock was strutting around with his magnificent plume of feathers arrayed, posturing and apparently attempting to impress the girls. It wasn’t working. I learned from the woman that the screaming I had heard was a mating call from the male. He finally seemed to give up in defeat, folded up the feather rainbow and went off to sulk.

I think the plant outside my room is the rhetorical equivalent of that peacock. There seem to be many of these guys in the garden and nothing, by my observation, to preen about. Whose idea was that?

Later

Michael's Chronicle: Setting Up

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Saturday, Feb 10
Bonita Springs Art Festival
Setting Up

Here I am, opening morning of this week’s Bonita Springs festival, pining for the good old days when I was demonstrably smarter than tape. Yeah, that’s what I said all right, tape. My son and his accomplice have sent me a small package containing mallets for the rosewood and Koa table I am showing this weekend. The bag in which they arrived was unexpectedly important to me for housing something quite different once I get the sticks out. IF I get the sticks out. I’m looking around hoping no one is watching. The shipping tape wrapped around this plastic bag is laughing at me which is making me go to a dark space with thoughts of a Bic lighter in my hand. I might even do it if the smell of burning plastic weren’t so noxious.

I have fingernails these days. After about seventy seven years of chewing them off daily I mysteriously and spontaneously ceased participating in that habit about a year ago. So, fingernails, right. Just slip them under the edge of the shipping tape, pull back while listening to the sound of the adhesive giving way and voila’. The tape, which can’t talk, is thinking, “not so fast, Bud. You don’t know who you’re messing with.” Not being a mind reader, I’m not getting the message.

So, what next? Sometimes “schmoozing” works. I say sweet and encouraging words to the tape. “You’re in such bondage wrapped that way. Think of what it would be like to be liberated or to have the opportunity to adhere to something else. Or how about an all-expense paid vacation to the landfill? Lots of new and interesting surfaces to bond with. And the wondrous panoply of exotic scents. Think of it.”

No sympathy. No sale. I picked away at this tape from the end - the proper method. Damn stuff responded by shredding in fine strips. Generally speaking, I’m a patient man. Generally speaking. I like things that work. Especially inanimate objects. Frustration sucks in my view. Am I going to have to attack the tape with my pocketknife? Trouble is, the stuff is hugging that bag I need. If I kill the tape I kill the bag. The tape obviously knows this. 

My blood is beginning to boil. Maybe I’ll do some breathing exercises. After which I will reach for my pocketknife.

Later

Michael's Chronicle: Mt Dora Aftermath

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Wednesday Feb 7
Back in Tampa
Mt Dora Aftermath

There is much cleaning on my menu today in the aftermath of the post show weather debacle at Mt. Dora on Sunday evening. I can imagine no reason why this should be of any public interest or relevance so, as they say, “turn the dial down if you don’t want to hear it.” Yet here I am writing about it. They tell me, “just write about your life and travels.” Really? Even the mundane? What if one’s most fascinating activity on some given day was reading the phone book? White pages. Not the yellow ones. Not even a display ad in a black box.

Well, on this day phone book exploration might just be experientially superior to the task at hand. I’ve got to wipe the entire structure of my tent and display dry if I don’t wish a visit from the mildew gods. I don’t. No one does. This will take all day and maybe more.

Art show sales are always a crapshoot. They can be affected by a plethoric variety of uncontrollable influences (e.g. weather, politics, the local economy.) Weather is the worst. It can end a day before it even starts. Every artist who’s been around the circuit for more than a sneeze has experienced a rainout. Breaking down a soaked or, God forbid, broken tent sucks. At least mine’s not broken or bent. Just immeasurably wet and thrown into the van in a big heap. Crumpled.

I won’t describe this work. No blow by blow. There will be a healthy dose of “why me’s?” and a gnashing of teeth. I may need a dentist and a counselor by the time it has all had its way with me. Perhaps I could con them out of pro bono services. Or perhaps……………someone could just bring me a phone book to read.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: At the Bank


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Feb 5
On the road
At The Bank

Prominent cheek bones. Sunken cheeks. Jutting square chin with a salt and pepper goatee. Far more salt than pepper. Tall, compared to me and skinny. Wide, but skinny. Know what I mean? He was much wider than he was thick. Even his butt. Wide but flat, lending to way baggy jeans. Wranglers. A peculiar girth by my observation. 

Then there was the Harley Davidson of somewhere sweatshirt. I say of somewhere because that part was badly faded. And, as you may have noticed, somewhere could quite literally mean anywhere in Harleyland. I have seen huge Harley dealerships in the absolute dead center of nowhere - not just cities.

In the small moment that he turned sideways I noticed his glasses. Wire rimmed they were, with those miniature clear lenses. Specs. Pop bottle thick lenses implying particularly questionable vision. He looked like a newspaper pressman from back in the day but sans the ink blackened coveralls and the folded newsprint head cover. Saw lots of them back in the sixties when I worked for the Arizona Republic.

No nonsense. Chain tethered wallet. Staring straight ahead except when he suddenly jerked that head sideways as if something had forced his attention, then just as rapidly back forward. I watched, thinking about the guy and wondering about his story.

The mouse voice that escaped him when he addressed the teller took me completely by surprise. I would have thought that his long torso, neck to waist, possessed long vocal cords and a large voice box from whence would issue deep and sonorous sounds. So much for expectations. I listened as he squirreled out his request for large bills. Maybe he’s buying an Electra Glide or a Road King. Cash talks.


Later

Later 

Michel's Chronicle: The Whacko Ice Cream Flavor Invasion

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Feb 2
Small town, central Florida
The Whacko Ice Cream Flavor Invasion

It’s been four ice cream stores since I’ve encountered the two most basic flavors available at the same time. Four. Plain old chocolate and plain old vanilla. Those two. I can’t express in the English language the strength of my disbelief at this fact. Two of the four were Baskin Robbin’s stores. Yeah, they of the thirty some odd flavors. This fact alone is bald face heresy. 

At the first BR I was told that they simply put out what their distributor delivers. This week? No vanilla. The second BR was perhaps stranger. Their manager commented that they had run out of chocolate two days after it arrived. There would be more tomorrow. Come then. Yeah, that’s right. Chocolate, a basic and historically popular flavor, was in fact so typically popular that one wonders if it wouldn’t be a reasonable idea to stock more than one three gallon container. Did they run out of Oreo or Moose Tracks? I wondered. The answer was no.

Things went downhill from there. The third place had neither, but lots of stuff like Sodium of Unborn Octopus and Broccoli Spumoni. Anyone interested in Chocolate Chip Pomegranate? Cute, huh? The last place had Vanilla Bean, which is Okay but no garden variety chocolate. Instead, there was Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Caramel and one other item too strange to mention.

I blame Ben and Jerry’s. They, I think it can be legitimately argued, ushered in the onslaught of whacko ice cream flavors. To compete, everyone else jumped in. The Whacko Ice Cream Invasion had commenced. Apparently people eat this stuff or at minimum expect to see a healthy array of it at any ice cream shop. No chocolate or vanilla - the classic type - or at least no combination of the two in the same place at the same time.

Is there any equivalent at, say, the local car dealership? Can you imagine walking around the new car lot with the salesman, doing his thing describing all the beautiful new models, when you happen to notice all of them sitting on their hubs with no tires? Would you appreciate hearing, “Sorry, sir. They didn’t send any with tires on them this time. Come back next week. Perhaps then. We’ll see.”

Maybe this much ado about nothing. Am I just living in the dark ages? Could someone just give me a scoop of plain chocolate and another of plain vanilla in the same cup? I don’t even care who’s on top. They’re not gonna mate anyway, but guess what. Something classically sweet will come of it if they do. Geeze……….

I’m at the Mount Dora Art Festival this weekend.

Later

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: Jason's Deli



Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Feb 1, evening
Jason’s Deli

Tampa

I did a rough count. Ninety thousand. That’s how many kids came through the door and lined up, snaking around the room and up to the register. Well, I’m probably exaggerating. It was more like 88,294. Teens on a school outing? It’ll be a lot of food. Who’s going to pick up the tab? Not I. The numbers don’t line up.

We’re talking about Jason’s Deli by the way. It’s a great little food chain hatched somewhere in Texas, but I see them in other states these days. When I spot one in some unexpected locale I make it a point to drop in. Great sandwiches and a very decent salad bar. The soups aren’t bad either.

It was a lucky deal this evening. I arrived and ordered just before all those teenies took over. Maybe there weren’t more than about nine hundred. Still, they jammed the place. I needed ear plugs. No luck.

I can’t tell the weights or heights of people at all. That’s a carnival guy trick. But also, I’ve gotten really bad at guessing kids ages any more. These were very likely high school students although none of them looked that old. Been on a college campus lately and looked at the freshmen? They look like high school juniors these days. 

I got out just in the nick of time. The sixty five or so kids in line couldn’t stand still. Boys were poking at each other and picking their noses. Girls moved along in small clusters laughing, posturing and talking with their hands. Been there in some past life. Suppose that’s why I wanted to flee. I fled. Good news though. The sandwich and potato salad are great.

Later

Michael's Chronicles: Writing

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Thursday, Feb 1
Writing

I am not a writer. I am an artist and a traveler and an observer who puts things to pen. Beats watching TV for the most part. I see much humor in daily life, even in seemingly mundane moments. My grandfather Hugh once told me, “Michael my boy, try not to take life too seriously. There are a lot of funny things going on and you don’t want to miss them.” I was maybe seven years old at the time, over seventy years ago. My lifelong experience has certainly stood as an endorsement for that advise.

I may come across at times as not taking life seriously. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am, to the extent my intellect and experience allow it, a realist. And (not but) the nature of my life and occupation defines the path as a series of ongoing vignettes. I am ever thankful for the fruit in this truth. 

One day in the early fifties, at a time when my family was living with Hugh and his wife Edna in Los Angeles, I had left my wagon in the driveway of their home from whence it had rolled out onto West Boulevard and was crushed by a passing truck. My spirit was collaterally crushed. Hugh knew this as I sat in front of the massive roll topped desk in his office. His loving and powerful words set the tone for my view of life from that day forward. They are yet indelible in my memory.

He said, “Michael I’m understanding your wagon has had a bad day.” Through my sobs I confirmed his comment. He waited for a break in the crying and told me an, I now realize, indisputable truth. He said, “Well let me tell you something son and I want you to remember this. You are not your wagon.”

The road I travel, personally and as a businessman, is cluttered with hazards and potholes. I have blown motors while out on road trips. Some of my motors have had horrible days. But I am not my motor. Sometimes my art festival is rained out. On those instances my money has had a bad day. But I am not my money. I am me - Michael.

There is much to be grateful for in life. There are a lot of funny things going on. Let us not miss them. Let us not be our wagons.

Later

Michael's Chronicle: Bass Wash

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 30
Bass Wash

“Blooge, blooge” (one second pause) “Blooge, blooge.” Soft “g” as in rouge. “Blooge, blooge……Blooge, blooge.” I know you’ve heard this one. Don’t say you haven’t. “Blooge, blooge.” Bass Wash. I don’t know what octave this is in, but I can’t even make my voice go that low. My corpuscles are vibrating along with my windows. “Blooge, blooge.”

The guy was behind me at the intersection but when the driver next to me made that right turn on the red light, the Blooge guy whipped around and took his place. I can’t see him. His windows are tinted super dark. “Blooge, blooge.” The scab on my elbow is vibrating. Maybe it’ll finally fall off. Does this guy know I’ve been picking at it for a week? Something in me wants to scream. The primordial type. When the light turns green maybe he’ll rocket off and leave me in the dust. Quiet dust. Not likely. He’s driving a low rider. Cruising.

At the change of the light I take off before he even notices the green. Slow to react, he may be blowing a doobie. Cool. Till the next light. Turtle catches hare. Shit. Maybe I’m the one who needs to turn. Why did I decide that I needed to go somewhere this morning? I’ll change my route. But today I won’t listen to the GPS girl. Yesterday she sent me on a forty five minute detour. A wild goose chase. I don’t need her help getting lost. I can handle that one all by myself.

I’ve made a left. Now I can set about trying to remember where I was going.

“Blooge, blooge.”

Later

Monday, February 5, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: Panera

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Daytime, Jan 30
Panera

Hope it’s not a harbinger of things to come. Stopped at Panera on the way to the dry cleaners. I knew that by 11:00 a.m. they’d be out of the only bagel I am willing to eat - the cinnamon raisin swirl. This time of day? Gone. But with me, experience be damned, hope springs eternal. Glory be, though. For the first time in my recollection, they had one of my bagels at that time of day. Beautiful. Or not.

The woman at the register asked first if I had a phone number with them. Jerk that I am I said no, I’m not currently dating anyone named Panera. She didn’t seem to get it and said ok then so what’s my name? Michael, I told her. She pecked at her screen for a full ten seconds before declaring she didn’t know how to spell “that” and said she’d “just call it Mike.” No prob, right?

I told her that I wanted the aforementioned bagel, double toasted with plain cream cheese. She repeated the order clearly and confirmed that it was “to go.” I paid. While standing next to a woman in the waiting area across from food prep she began asking me something in a language I don’t speak. This didn’t go well. We waited, she throwing out occasional commentary probably relating to how long they were taking with her order. Frowns accompanied the comments. But finally, her order showed up and she said something on the way out to me. No clue. Was it “Good luck,” or “You were no help at all?” Who knows.

In time, my name was called as a small bag was plopped onto the counter. I looked inside. Not what I ordered and not what the cashier had repeated to me and not what she actually typed in. The food prep girl told me to wait a minute while she made another, which she did. She placed it in the bag with the other, which I reminded her that I did not want. 

“Just take it. It’s free,” she said. Free, in my mind, is not cheap enough for something one doesn’t want.

“What do I do with it?” I asked. “Set it on my dashboard and make it watch me devour its buddy?” I placed it on the counter and left. Glad my days are so uneventful…….

Later

Michael's Chronicle: Boxhead Dogs

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 30

Bradenton
Gripper Beds Nd Boxhead Dogs

Some person or some entity phoned ahead to this motel and told them I was coming. There was, I am now sure, some mention of the fact that I had averaged just four hours of sleep over the past six nights. Four hours mind you. Not none. First day of the St. Armand’s show I was not a zombie - just a walking, talking nothing. Anyone who attempted to engage me in conversation will attest to this. The show was not particularly fruitful monetarily, but it wasn’t just I. The sleepwalking didn’t hurt sales.

Friday night before the show I got an additional four hours of sleep after that long travel day, but the bed had been pre-instructed to release me on demand to go set up my show. It complied. Same deal Sunday. But after all, I had been in hibernation for ten hours since supper after the show, so the bed respected my need once again to go to work.

Then comes this morning. The damn thing is in gripper mode. Literally. I’ve tried everything - sticking limbs off the edge, announcing my intent (out loud) to get up and shine……..I’ve given it my physical and mental best, rest assured (Hush. Don’t use that rest word). The bed is listening.) It must be eight a.m. Things to do. You know the drill. Gotta shine my sneakers and torque my kneecaps. The bed won’t cooperate. It is in gripper mode. 

The thing is comfortable enough - hard enough (don’t like soft ones). There don’t seem to be any restraining straps. But I can’t get up. Gripper bed, that’s all it could be. I am sure it is some kind of A.I. electronic trick. I don’t care for it. I am one of those free will type of guys. The motel damn well better not be charging me extra for this indignity and the story damn well better not end up on some Facebook page: “Thiele’s Ordeal. Sooner or later, it’ll get tired of my weight and smell and let go of me. Maybe I should fart. Multiple times.

I always spread the curtain when I get up, to see what weather has shown up. I have a suspicion about today. There will be a guard dog outside my door. Some kind of boxhead thing whose job is not to keep intruders out of my room. His job is to not let me leave. He has been trained to say four words in English and bare his teeth. “Go back to bed.” Nice, you little jerk. You gonna pay for the extra day? I’m going to throw my hands up and steam a bit from my ears.

About the dog thing. I do know breeds. I’ve simplified the naming system. For good reason. I’m tired of people standing in front of my booth and asking some stranger with a whack looking animal, “Oh how cute. What breed is that?” The stranger always throws out some exotic name that sounds like it’s off the Starbucks menu. “Chocolate Frapparuzu.” Don’t get me started on coffee names. Black water, oil slick and bubbles. That’s coffee. A buck at the gas station if you have your own cup.

Back to the dog naming system (I should be paid for this.) They’re all Boxheads, OK?


Let’s just agree up front. Right there you’ve got the anchor term. Boxhead. From there the rest is easy…..You got Longhair Boxheads, Pointy Nose Boxheads, No Tail Boxheads, Clipped Ear Boxheads - endless varieties and, of course, sub-varieties: Shorthair Smashed Face Boxheads, Short Legged Cigar Shape Boxheads. It’s easy. Someone should pay me. 

There. I’ve done my job. Maybe the gripper bed will release me now. Gotta brush my ears.

Later

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Windows and Doors

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Windows and Doors

Stop. Reflect.
Do we not view the journey
Through momentary apertures?
Through windows and doors?

We cannot freeze time
There are no “good old days”
Just fond memories
Of what once was

Kebmo was right
We’re victims of comfort
Teased memory
Becomes truth, true or not

If only…………
You know what is said 
Of hindsight
Woulda coulda shoulda

I’ll take now
And think of it later
Sometime when I need
A good laugh

What did I step in?
What didn’t get me?
What’s worse in the end
Wondering or knowing?

Isn’t it much
About intentions?
Do I stand at the window
Or walk through the door?

Michael's Chronicle: Crosswalk Birds

 

Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 27
St Armand’s Circle
Sarasota
Crosswalk Birds

“Kazerp. Kazerp.” (Four second pause) Kazerp. Kazerp.” The bird’s hanging out in the palm tree behind my booth. “Kazerp. Kazerp.” (Emphasis on the second syllable - “zerp). He’s making me nuts. If he’s trying to attract a mate good luck. 

I know for sure it’s not a pigeon. They sound a bit like immature turkeys. Not this guy. I’m saying guy because I believe it’s the males who sit around kazerping like idiots. Can’t he see it’s not working? It’s six a.m. She’s female. She’s not even up yet. (There. I said it. It’s my contribution to chauvinism. Pretty skinny contribution, though. I mean, we’re talking about birds here.)

I’m in my booth. He can’t crap on my head unless he dumps acid. He probably can’t kazerp and dump at the same time anyway. No multitasking. Pigeons are different. I know this because in my lifetime they’ve nailed me twice. Me. I don’t hate all of them but I despise those two. Maybe I’m on a list. Guys to dump on. It’s a crappy list if you ask me.

Anyway back to the bird behind me. I keep trying to process that sound. I think I have it. In many cities there is a speaker on the stoplight posts that chirps a sound warning blind people not to cross because the light is getting ready to change. This bird sound is exactly that. Kazerp. I believe I’m onto something. He’s got a contract with the city. Gotta stay in practice for his day job. This could be the only explanation. 

“Kazerp”

Michael's Chronicle: TGIF

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 26
T.G.I.F.

When I was in college, back in the 60’s, there was this saying: T.G.I.F. - Thank God It’s Friday. Rough translation: end of the week. Time to party. Today is decidedly not that. When last I wrote, a few days ago I felt like airport bait. Delays, cancellations. Don’t want to talk about it.

I am in Florida for the art show season. Son Joah had convinced me that I needed to come back to the shop between shows, two consecutive weeks, to build a musical coffee table of Hawaiian Koa and rosewood. We historically have one for sale during this winter tour. But not this year.

Beautiful, grandly sonorous and not inexpensive the things take about a week to build. So on consecutive Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I was to have fashioned one which would be shipped down to me in Florida for exhibition and sale.


I earlier chronicled how week one of the two fell apart due to flight cancellations. The plan was to fly on Mondays and Fridays and work the three days in between.

I got it in my head that maybe I could pull it off in three extremely long days - perhaps fourteen hours a day. Brutal but do-able. Having driven from Boca Raton, the sight of last weekend’s event, to my motel in Tampa from where I was flying home I got in bed at about 1 a.m. local time. I arose at six, attended to a number of loose ends and arrived at the airport around 10:30 for a noon flight. Delays and connections had me getting in bed at my shop at two a.m. Tuesday morning. 

Loaded up with rest I started working on the table at six a.m. by bedtime at midnight on Thursday the table was finished. Fifty work hours across three days got the job done. I caught the shuttle to Phoenix for the flight back to Tampa at four a.m this morning. Thank god I sleep on planes. Thank god it’s Friday.

Later, after some Z’s

Michael's Chronicles: Tampa Airport

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 22

Here we go again. This Tampa airport has become way too attached to me. As was the case last week, my outbound flight has been delayed by several hours. The end result then was that all flights related to my trip home were canceled. Weather was the culprit. This day it is “equipment repairs.” How encouraging. Hope they get it right. Not quite sold on afterlife blogging.

Apart from that, the art show in Boca over the weekend was a financial success thus salving the previous weekend’s rain plagued flop. I had a great time at both events, which is typical. Rain can ruin my money’s day but not mine. I am not my money.

I am no Pollyanna. I don’t spin bad events to make them less painful. I simply don’t participate. In short, my attitude is that bad days suck. They don’t need my help. I learned this view from my grandfather Hugh when I was very young - perhaps six or seven years old.

I had left my wagon in the driveway, from whence it had rolled downhill into the street and was flattened by a passing truck. He watched me sitting in front of him at his big roll top desk in his office and finally said these words: “Michael, my boy, I’m understanding your wagon has had a bad day. Is this true?” I nodded as I continued to cry. When I had finally ceased sobbing he said something which has stayed with me to this very day, seventy some-odd years later. He said, “Well let me tell you, young man…………. You are not your wagon.” Powerful words from a wise man.

I have come to understand that when my pickup blows a motor in the middle of nowhere on the way to a major show, threatening my participation and by extension my income (and perhaps my mortgage payment), my motor has had a very bad day. But not I. I am not, as that wise man said, my motor. My emotions are not on the menu.

The trip cancellation last week sucked, as I reported. Today’s delay sucks. It’s no fun being airline bait. But I am looking forward to being back in my studio for the next few days, pretending to be Geppetto.

Later

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: Walmart GPS

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 20
Walmart gps

Look, I’m not much of a Walmart guy. My preference is their competitor, Target. More space in the aisles and on the shelves. My shopping venues need to breathe a bit. That said, this morning when I needed a Sharpie on the way to the show I only stumbled onto a Walmart. 

I pulled into a more remote parking space (I drive a large van). Three spaces away a guy had just arrived back at his vehicle with a shopping cart filled with purchases. He had one of those cauliflower red noses. The guy, himself? Rotund. The Jovial Joe type. Maybe ten feet off the passenger side of his car was one of those shopping cart corrals. 

Jovial Joe took one look at the cart rack, pushed his cart to the center of the parking space next to him where he then left it, strolled back to his car and drove away. A broader view of the Supercenter parking lot revealed the same scene repeated again and again. Carts in the middle of parking spaces everywhere. Cart racks? Not so much.

So I have long wondered about Walmart customers. Across the country no matter where you go they are challenged this way. Starting with the a priori assumption that these are not just rude or thoughtless people, I have come up with some possible solutions in no particular order as to their likelihood of efficacy.

(1) Equip the cart corrals with some form of tractor beam that activates whenever a cart is anywhere nearby. Customer participation not required.

(2) Equip each cart with a device which locks people out of their cars until the cart is placed within the cart corrals.

(3) Require people to rent and return the carts for a refund. Charge $10.00

(4) Equip the cart with a taser type devise which zaps people whenever they attempt to leave the cart anywhere except inside the cart corral.

(5) Shoot offenders.

Some of these solutions may seem a bit inhumane. Aw shucks.

Later

Michael's Chronicle: The Letter C

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 19
The Letter C

Catastrophe, chaos, confusion and computer. Know what these words all have in common? They all start with “C.” Sad, because it’s the third letter of the alphabet. The third one. Three is one of my favorite numbers. Three stands for good in my book. So why does “C” have to go and sully such a good thing? Computer is the worst offender of all in my experience. It is the place where good intentions go to die. This morning, at 2:57 a.m., computer had gone and trashed me again. I wanted to smash it. Gentle me. Nice me.

The time signature on my iPad read 7:37 last night when I pressed the button affirming that I was indeed booking the reservation with Airbnb for an important stay in Sarasota next week. iPad unexpectedly and cruelly berked out a notice: not so fast, buddy. We need to check your I.D. in order to complete this reservation. You’re on hold. It ordered me to take a picture of a government photo I.D. and submit it for “verification” purposes. A.I. (artificial intelligence - some genius has gone and connected those two words), which had taken up residence somewhere in my iPad, shortly informed me that my I.D. as submitted was invalid. Try again, it ordered me. My thought at the time was, “Inconvenient but I’ll do it.”

I re-submitted. Minutes later the notice came that my I.D. was once again deemed invalid. “Try again,” I was told. Annoyed this time, I did. Guess what happened. You got it - same result. Beginning to steam, I called a contact number in San Francisco on the other end of which was a syrupy nice woman who proceeded to walk me through a variant of my image submission after which she said she’d get back with me. She didn’t. A.I. guy, on the other hand, did. He rejected me. Again. Let me remind you now: where’s all this taking place? That’s right. In computer land. And what letter does computer begin with? Could it be “C?” I called again. This time a guy answered. Again, nice. Unjustified hope set in for a moment.

Round four was repeated. By now it was well after 1 a.m. I was informed that a specialist would be contacting me by email to work things out. He did not. Over an hour later Mr. A.I. got back with me with a curt message that I needed to re-submit again by 2:57 a.m. or my pending reservation would be canceled. Worn out at last I went to sleep thinking I’ll just try VRBO in the morning. Think I could just call them? Better yet, maybe a motel. But please, no more “C.”

Later

Michael's Chronicle: Mural Dogs on a Building in Sarasota

 

These guys share one thing in common - blind optimism.










Michael's Chronicle: Doors


 

Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 16
Doors

Uncertainty and unanticipated circumstance attract my attention. Always have. As a person who travels for a living I have come to expect and, in fact embrace, the unexpected. I could cringe and dither. Really. Those are completely normal human responses. Most people I know would empathize with me. We’ve all been there.

The silver lining around things going terribly wrong (as in my airline debacle of Monday) is that these things create space in our lives. Unexpected space but space nonetheless. My inability to travel back to the shop in this case opened the week for attending to a pet (and quite important) project. It also gave my dense life room to breathe. The two are not unrelated. I had a really productive day yesterday in the realms of product design and inquiry. Head space and available time made it possible. Doors close and others open. I am grateful for both.

This weekend’s event is in Boca Raton, a place along the South Florida east coast whose name literally means “Mouse Mouth” or little inlet. The event, sponsored by the Howard Alan group, is called Boca Fest at the Town Center. The weather forecast is kinda windy, kinda cool but no rain. We’ll see.

Later

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: Industrial Morning

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Industrial Morning

Some folks wake up
To the crows of roosters
In places where
Night actually sleeps
Here, not so much

Industrial waste
Needs Management
Garbage trucks announce
The dawning of
The new trash cycle

Soundscape
It’s all around us
Breathing in our ears
Pulsing, insidious
In our minds

What comforts one?
Familiar sounds?
Roosters and dumpsters
Really quite the same
To different minds

Both heralding
In their disparate ways
The end of repose
And the urge
To get things going

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: What a Difference a Day Makes

 


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.

Jan 16
What a difference a day makes

As I sat at the airport yesterday disparaging - well - airports. I was punished for being so narrow minded. After all, it is a closed marketplace. From whence does this form of travel commence? Oh……airports. That’s where the damn planes hang out. Yesterday, at least in my case, they did precisely that. Hang out. Nothing else. They just hung out. I ate two airport meals and went nowhere except in my mind.

There is this nasty little thing called weather. Not my weather - not in Tampa, mind you. Freezing rain hit my connecting destination, Houston. My son Joah, several days earlier while booking my journey back to the studio for the week, had asked my preference - did I want to route through Chicago, Denver or Houston. Let me see, it’s winter. Hmm. Where does bad weather hang out this time of year? Oh yeah, that’s right. Up north. Give me Houston, I told him. No brainer.

I was unmoved when they announced that the Tampa to Houston leg of my flight would board an hour late. The Houston layover was going to be three hours anyway. No biggie. At the revised time we boarded the United flight and headed out onto the tarmac where we proceeded to sit for an additional hour, at which juncture it was announced that we would be heading back to the gate to await updates out of Houston. The icy runways I would have expected at either Chicago or Denver had been somehow reassigned by the Travel Gods to Houston. Not exactly a resounding affirmation of my wisdom in choosing Houston as the transfer point. In fairness, a soothsayer would not have seen this coming. Total miles traveled toward home: one quarter of one. Hope the tarmac enjoyed my visit. Final score: Weather Gods 1, Michael 0. 

Michael's Chronicle: Travel Day



Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Jan 15
Travel Day

Every day seems like a travel day to a roadie (that would be me). Capitalizing the “T” in the word travel means an airport is involved. Not one of my favorite places. I don’t mind flying. That’s not it. I just don’t like airports. Not any of them. Not since 911. This, I know, is a fifty cent complaint about a hundred dollar problem. Airline security is a serious issue which requires patience, cooperation and empathy toward TSA officers who get more than their fair share of flak from irritated travelers. I get it. I just don’t like it. 

Don’t get me started on airport gift shop pricing for the common small candy bar. Since complementary snacks on most flights and for most fares are ancient relics these days, those who lacked the foresight to visit a convenience store en route to the airport are relegated to deciding if that Hershey bar is actually worth $4.59 plus tax. Perhaps there is a toy inside.

So, my inbound flight is delayed as is the outbound me. The family of four seated across from me in the departure gate area is still asleep. Still, because this has been the case ever since I arrived about an hour and a half ago. What are they dreaming of? Blind crabs? Rotary ear plugs? Three legged eggplants (uncooked)? Perhaps it is a collective dream. I am not at ease with any of it. Perhaps I’ll commence with ignoring them. Please excuse me for the moment. Need to shine my sneakers prior to boarding. It is strictly prohibited in flight.

Later

Michael's Chronicle: Six


 Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.

Jan 13
At the show……..

It was those pop bottle thick glasses that first caught my attention. I asked her age and she quietly replied, “six.” I wondered how one so young had vision so challenged. Six. She seemed transfixed by the instruments but when I asked her if she would like to play she said “No,” she just wanted to listen. Her mother was gently urging her to move along, as there was “more of the show to see.” But the girl was hearing nothing of it. She closed her eyes. It was a moment where vision didn’t matter. And I was there. I got to see it all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Flat Birds


Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.


Flat Birds

I’ve seen you in the air
Flapping the wings
And acting real cool
You make it look easy

I’ve heard the chirpaderp
Folks are enchanted
By your songs
I’m pretty neutral
On that one
Got any real words?

And the nesting thing
All those stolen twigs
You think you’re the only 
Basketmakers?
What about the Indians?

So let’s get down to business
Howdja let that car hit you?
Cars can’t fly
How did you manage that?

It’s OK though
When bird lovers 
Mention your species
That will be an easy one…..

Flat birds