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

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Needing a Wal Mart


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.


Monday, Jan 10
Needing a Wal Mart

How difficult is it to know where you are? How tedious? Doesn’t seem too much to keep track of if you ask me. I called a motel the other night to ask what exit to take off of the main highway to get there. The front desk clerk said he couldn’t really tell me - he “just works there.” Okay, I asked, how does he get there? Does he drive? Does he walk? Does someone drop him off? Does he live there and never leave.? Perhaps he is beamed down daily and back up from the Starship Enterprise? (No, I didn’t ask that last one).

The real answer is he takes a bus. A bus, huh? How does he know where to get off, I thought. So I asked him. His answer made all the sense in the world (just not this world). His precise words were, “I just get off at the same place every day.” What bus does this guy ride, Heresy One?

I hate the phrase, “it’s a sign of the times.” I refuse to make myself generalize that way when things like this happen. I knew what was coming next from the guy who didn’t know how he got to where he is and thus couldn’t tell me how to come join him. 

“Just Google it on your phone.” When I hear this response after the opening conversation I just described, all matter of facty and such, it always comes across as “you idiot - anyone knows that’s just what you do.” The tone of his comment convinced me that he was genuinely wondering what cucumber I had just popped out of. I felt no need to disclose that I was the scheduled keynote speaker at the Luddite International Conference this year. Again, the questions were, where are you and how do I get there? The motel turned out to be just one block off the aforementioned state highway.

“Well,” I said, is there anyone else there who could give me directions?” He went away. A short time later a woman showed up on the phone. The first words from her mouth were, “just use your GPS.” How helpful. Sign of the times. She also wasn’t sure how to get there, not being able to understand where I was coming from because she “only knows street names, not highway numbers.”

In the end, I found the place. Would it not be a reasonable idea to post a little piece of paper on the wall at the front desk on which might be stated simple directions to the property when coming from either the north or south on the main highway to the motel, one block away? Or maybe a directive on the website stating, “don’t call.”

Yes, I like most people, can navigate the website enough to get directions. Sometimes I’d just like to hear a voice. It would warm my spirit and jack my confidence that someone would actually know where he is.

Later…..

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Chicago


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 8
Chicago

Strange dreams are, well, strange. I am traveling around to shows again, this sequence being Cincinnati, the Chicago area and Salina, Kansas. Last night my mind went on its own little road trip, and I was but a passenger - an observer. This time it was largely unsettling.

To be sure, I dream. A lot. Occasionally they are frightening, but rarely. Just as rare are the times I wake up laughing hysterically. Most of the time the dreams trip the light fantastic or are simply absurd. It is common for characters I don’t know to engage me in conversations from which I cannot wait to extract myself - stupid conversations in which they proceed to argue with me or about pure nonsense. One of those was the opener last night.

I was standing around on the concourse of some amorphous place when I heard a little whirring sound. I looked down to see an eight inch long mason jar chugging by on wheels. Just a jar and wheels. No motor or other source of propulsion. I watched. A voice off to my left asked me, “What do you make of that?” I responded, “I don’t know. Ask someone else,” sensing that I was about to get sucked into one of those conversational abysses I mentioned earlier. But, as always, he wouldn’t go away. I sighed. “Why me?” came to mind.

“How is that possible?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I quipped. “Ask someone else.”

“Yeah, but there’s no motor. Who’s doing that?”

“I don’t care. Go away.” 

“No need to get testy, man. Let’s figure it out.”

“No, I’m busy” (which I obviously was not). “It’s probably not even happening.”

That did the trick. The jar and the guy both disappeared. Thank Dog! They say entire dreams happen in seconds, no matter how detailed. This was probably a micro-second. Now I could get back to sleep.

Not so fast. The second dream showed up. Strange, but not particularly annoying or disturbing. I found myself at a mini mart on the west end of Flagstaff, where I live. It was nighttime. I followed a farmer-looking guy out of the store to his mid-eighties forest green Chevy pickup. He got in and started the engine. I opened the passenger door and climbed in next to him. He seemed unaware of my presence, put it in gear, and headed down Milton. He made the bend at the tracks just before Humphreys and continued east. Nothing was said between us. Down around Switzer Canyon, near the Smiths supermarket, he let me out. I was hoping he would take me all the way to my destination but realized I didn’t know where that was.

“What do you do?” he asked as I got out. I told him I was an artist who traveled the country doing art shows. He said, “Where’re you coming from now?” I said, “Phoenix. I was helping a friend roof his house.” Asphalt shingles were protruding out of a backpack I was carrying but had never noticed before this moment. He waved and drove off. That was it.

I found myself standing, inexplicably, next to a pickup I haven’t driven for years because the motor is blown. It sits in front of my workshop out in Doney Park. But there it is, transported out of thin air, next to me near the Smiths. I am nonplussed.
I go back to sleep. Later on, dream three shows up.


I am now standing on the gravel lot at a Truckstop somewhere I don’t recognize when what drives up is a well-used work van that has been sawed in half right down the middle, front to back. Obviously it rolls around on only two wheels, both on the same side. The driver, who for reasons that mystify me, is a person I actually once met. His girlfriend (or perhaps lover) is perched on a plywood bump out halfway back behind the guy. There has been installed a bubble window next to her out of which she has a view.

The steering wheel is at the right front, European style, in line with the two wheels. Logic would dictate that the mason jar, which didn’t show up in this dream even as a referent, was a more stable ride though less occupant friendly. To be fair, the mason jar car could have not hauled all the used and salvaged plumbing pipes perched upon racks behind the van driver. Some were coated here and there with carelessly splashed house paint.

The driver jumped out of the van followed by the woman, he dressed like an air conditioning repairman in a dirty monkey suit and she looking like she was headed to a dance. Odd scene. He said “Hi, Michael.” I returned the greeting. We chatted for a while about nothing and I eventually determined that I had met him in some past time at a party at daughter Sarah’s home. Really. The woman never talked but stroked his forearm idly as he spoke. He never offered to give me a ride to wherever I was going. The two of them ultimately piled back into that peculiar vehicle, she returning to her beltless plywood bench and he to the driver’s seat. They waved as they drove off in a cloud of dust.

When I arose this morning to remembrances of these dreams I found them in some way unsettling. Writing of them has cleared that cloud. Dream analysts are said to be able to explain these things to us. Personally, I don’t see it and as I told the guy who harassed me in the mason jar with wheels dream, I don’t care. Thought I’d just share them.

Later……..

 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Cincinnati


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.


May 30
Cincinnati
5:15 a.m.

Thrump 

No, I’m not referring to Orange Sphincter Man - the ex “You’re fired” guy. Note the time. I was sleeping - as in used to be. Past tense is appropriate here because it’s obviously not true at the moment. The motel in which I’m staying this time doesn’t have particularly thin walls. It’s not a Motel 6, known for having merely “room dividers,” but a purportedly better one. So much for claims. “Clean,” yeah. But “Quiet?” Not so much.

If you’ve been following my travels (travails?”) you are probably thinking I’m going to whine again. I am. I don’t choose my neighbors at these places. But sometimes I think they choose me. For all the wrong reasons. I love loud music, televisions and yelling people who don’t mind sharing their discontent with one another in shrill mode. But only when I can’t hear them. 

I didn’t request a sound proof room, but a bit of spacing would have been appreciated. Given that this is a property with nearly one hundred rooms one would think that the fifteen or so guests currently present could have been housed with a measure of space between them. But no. “Nesting” seemed more appropriate to the vicars of room assignment. 

So, 5:15 a.m. the television in the room next door is messaging me that it’s time to wake up. I don’t use alarm clocks or ask for wake up calls, both of which I find offensive. I simply set my brain to the task when I go to bed the night before, which works just fine thank you. Last night I set it for 7:30 this morning. So much for good intentions. 

When I called the front desk for the third time the clerk said he’d rang my neighbor several times but gotten no answer. Our rooms are at most fifty yards from the front office. I have suggested that perhaps he could walk over and knock on the neighbor’s door. Friendly style, know what I mean? Timid, he said he’d check with the manager when he comes in at 9 a.m. this doesn’t resonate with me. Think I’ll just get up. And yes, I’m whining here.

Later……..

Monday, May 27, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: May 25


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.


May 25
At the studio
On the mountain

Cool air is
Well, cool
It likes me
The feeling is mutual

Night breeze, downhill
Morning breeze, uphill
But always, the breeze
Open your windows

Shed no tear 
For the heat
The summer day is hers
Even on my mountain

But on this mountain
Day and night, hot and cool
Engage in a time share
Summer is gracious this way

Woke up with a smile on my skin
Took it for a walk
No traffic here
It hangs out in town

Greeted the prairie dogs
Standing at attention
Denizens of the tunnel
Cool earth works too

Thank something for this
Your God, your luck……whatever
There are worse ways
To start the day

Cool air is
Well, cool
It likes me
The feeling is mutual

Friday, May 10, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: Springfield, MO


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.


May 8
Springfield, Mo

Hammers and Coin Ops

Curious heading, huh? Appropriate though. So let’s get at it.

Before talking about my latest travel indignity let me provide some important information of which the reader may not be aware. The hammer was first invented, according to archeologists, in about 30,000 B.C. - give or take. The coin operated washing machine was introduced to the world by Harry Greenwald of New York in 1957. (I would say God Rest His Soul but I’m not feeling that way at this moment). So, this question: who’s been around longer?

I travel for a living. I’m a sweet smelling guy so I don’t whiff myself too often. I shower once a week at least when I am alone (which is most of the time) and not exhibiting at a show. My clothes on the other hand take it upon themselves to get dirty and attract some stank (stank def: primordial stink) independent of my efforts. I throw them in bags and piles and grace them every eight or ten days with a detergent spiked drowning at my current motel or a laundromat. Concessions to inanimate objects.

I arrived at the Red Roof Inn in Springfield, Mo. last night, took my first shower in a few days and read the email from my ripening clothing, sequestered for the last week in a cardboard box. The message was simple: “How about a wash and tumble.” Reasonable request. The front desk confirmed the presence of a guest laundry and offered change for their usage, along with one single-load box of Cheer. Made me feel cheerful the same way a Snickers bar makes me chuckle. Thank you product-naming gods.

Six quarters - buck and a half. Cheap for a wash load these days. Same price for the dryer. Things were smelling rosey already. Detergent in the tub, as instructed. Clothing next. Push the coin carrier forward, listen to the quarters drop and slide back. Not so fast.

The coin carrier dropped nothing. Simply jammed in the “in” position. Trapped my money in the housing surrounding the coin drop box. I squinted, muttered minor expletives and grabbed the coin slide. Gently pushing and pulling at first - “teasing it - cajoling. I stood back, staring at it and sending it psychic encouragement. At that moment I noticed that the coin slider was gashed and marred, its chrome finish somewhat tortured. The light bulb in my brain popped on. This inanimate object had messed with humans in the past and they had messed back. To my right on a folding table tucked mostly under a coin detergent dispenser protruded the handles of what proved to be a large set of channel locks. Brighter light. The coin slider was sticking all the time and rather than replace it or the machine, management had left the means for unwedging it. Thus the badly marred coin slider. I bought in and picked up the channel locks.

No sale, that, despite a lot of jerking, twisting and yanking. The slider had new gashes. I went to the desk clerk and reported the problem. She rolled her eyes. She’d heard it all before and cursed management under her breath. Back to the guest laundry we went. I watched her take a turn with the channel locks, to no avail. She told me to come back later - she’d call someone.

Hours later, when I returned to the motel after my errands, the coin slider had been released and my clothes lay in the bottom of the tub washed and spun. I placed them in the dryer, inserted my six quarters and pushed the slider. Nowhere. Literally. It budged not a scintilla of an inch. Forget the channel locks. My mind flipped straight to hammers. I searched the internet for the nearest House of Hammers outlet. No luck. But alas, their competitor, “Hammer Kingdom,” had a branch nearby.

I wish such places really existed in moments like this. They’re the only place I’d go. Specialty house. Hammer for any problem or occasion. I wanted a coin-op slider adjuster. I envisioned a retired ex body builder standing behind the counter with football sized biceps adorned with a large tattoo originally depicting a pretty girl's face but now distorted badly by wrinkles and looking for all the world like an elephant’s butt cheeks. They say we improve with age. All things are relative, now, aren’t they? The guy would possess a growl of a voice essentially farted off of vocal cords ravaged stiff by years of smoking filter free cigarettes and exhausted by yelling at his wife. (Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, here.) Anyway, a man’s man. He’d have the right hammer.

From this dark space I returned eventually. I asked the new desk clerk if I could use the motel’s commercial dryer since the housekeeping staff had already gone home for the day. She was kind enough to allow it. No need after all for Hammer Kingdom. I did my breathing exercises.

Later…..

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Early A.M., May 7



Michal 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.


Early A.M. May 7
Springfield, Mo.

Tornadoes in the area
Don’t need a lift off
Quite content
With imagining flight
Dreams are good that way

Angry sky
Lighting up the place
Like a mad scientist’s lab
Rumbling. Are the gods bowling?
Or is thunder a real thing

Google phone need not alert me
Already getting the message
Tornado said to sound like freight train
Prefer the snoring human next door
Bad, yes, but nothing like steel on tracks

Maybe I’ll just run water in the tub
Watch it swirl down the drain
Same motion less damage
Category five drain suck
Leave the roof intact

Gonna ditch these thoughts
Sleep aids they are not
Pointless counting sheep, though
Tap tap, tap tap, tap tap
The rain will screw up my count

Later…………..

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Pewter Cloud Cover


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.


Pewter Cloud Cover


Pewter cloud cover
Winter, but not
The light is all wrong
May light, not January

Wish I could wiggle a finger
Make it go away
Never took the wizardry class
Scheduling conflict

Perhaps if I simply stare at it
My attitude will be noticed
No penalty for wishful thinking
On the other hand delusion
Likely a horse of a different color

Why am I carping
About May weather?
Think I’ll just hold out
For June

Michael's Chronicles: You're Just Making Up Words


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.

You're Just Making Up Words

“You’re just making up words.”


I looked up and then down to catch where the voice was coming from. Kid voice. Figured. Girl. Little girl. Maybe six. This sort of thing never works for me. Never. Leave it to a little female to call me on my B.S. But I’m a guy, right? I can’t let this stand. Gotta respond.

So I was at the Brookside Art Annual yesterday, midafternoon when the midget showed up with her mom. I barely noticed. Pretty good crowd in front of my booth. First thing she said was, “How did you figure out how to make that sound?”

Not looking up I simply said, “I’m skilldy” I kept playing my creations figuring that comment would suffice. Someone asked me how my instruments work and I went about explaining it. Some lady asked how I figured out how to tune wood and, tapping my right index finger on my right temple I said, “I brainerized it.” The lady and some other adults laughed and waited for the real explanation.

“You’re just making up words,” blurted out the girl sucking all the fun out of the moment. I had to recover.

“Really. What makes you say that.”

“Cause burnerized (butchering what I had said) isn’t a word is it Mommy,” looking to the mom for support. Mom looked away just leaving me hanging. Thank you mom.

The little attack dog dug in.

“You can’t just make up words, you know.”

“Who says?”

“My teacher. She says words matter. You have to use real words.”

“Like twerp,?” I thought under my breath. But what I really said was, “All my words are real because they’re all full of letters.” She cocked her head and scrunched her nose, glancing again toward mom for support. Not catching mom’s attention, she looked back at me and said nothing but slowly rotated her head side to side indicating “Nope, you’re wrong and I know it.” She left.

All my statements include words. What’s the big deal here? 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: May First


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.

May First 
Yeah, I know it’s not the first day of April. April Fools day, that is. But do they really think I’m that stupid? The sign on the exit gate at my motel this morning was not bolted to the thing as a joke. The wind’s been heckling it for years as evidenced by sand pelt. “Stand back,” it says. “Risk of serious injury or death.”

Let me offer a clue. In this realm I have a very low gullibility quotient. I watched the gate open and close on autotrack just once for laughs. As I watched it move at approximately .05 miles per hour I wondered just who the sign was directed at. Snails? Reminds me of the guy who walks out on his porch one morning and sees a snail, which he promptly kicks off the porch and across the lawn near the fence. One year later to the day he walks out again and spots a snail standing on the same spot. It looks up at him and says, “Why’d you do that?” Maybe the sign is directed at dead cats. No, that couldn’t be right. I mean, they’re already dead. On the other hand, dead things move pretty slow……..

I’m in Albuquerque. Well actually, I’m leaving Albuquerque. Stayed here last night. It’s now time for Kansas City, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Three art shows in a row. Done with Florida. Couldn’t stand the place in May, anyway. I’m from Arizona where humidity is proscribed by law. We don’t mind sweating, but we don’t believe our sweat should sweat. Sweat squared is wrong. Against the law here. Not the only strange law we’ve passed, though. Ask the women.

I’m out……

Monday, April 8, 2024

Michael's Chronicle: East Window


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.


East Window
April Something

I need daily sunrise eclipses outside my east window. Having the sun in my eyes is a lousy way to wake up. Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s only a ten minute torture but that’s ten too many in my book. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I’d almost prefer a glow in the dark rooster - a living combination night light and alarm clock. Perhaps I could get one with altered vocal cords. Better yet, one who can’t keep time or is slow to respond to light. That way I’d already be up before he goes off. If I get the jumbo version I can put him in a coop just outside the window so even if they deny my request for sunrise eclipses he’ll block the incoming light.

They say that animals respond oddly to total eclipses. I say who cares if the prairie dogs are doing back flips or the scorpions are voluntarily drowning themselves? Is it any skin off my back that the ants are square dancing in my front yard? All Dogs creatures deserve a little fun time. Morning at eclipse time gives them all something to look forward to. Maybe it will turn army ants into peace ants and the prairie dogs can finally qualify for the rodent Olympics. I don’t care about any of that, really. I just want the morning sun out of my eyes. Is that too much to ask?

How about a mid-morning sunrise? Now there’s a novel solution. I like to think out of the box (no, not the cereal box - I’m really not flakey). Yeah, that’s it. I’ll concede daily sunrise eclipses for mid-morning sunrise. There’ll be less rush hour car wrecks caused by people driving in to work in an easterly direction. They’ll already be seated at their computers or wrenching their wrenches when the sun shows up - safe and indoors. No need for altered roosters, but the prairie dogs and army ants lose their eclipse benefits. The scorpions will appreciate not drowning themselves.

Thinking this way is tedious. Blame it on the sunrise (earlier each day by the way). Perhaps I’ll just install some curtains or learn to use my blinds. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Later

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Flight


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.


Monday, March 11
Flight

Sometimes I believe I can fly
Sometimes I know it
I don’t crave the power
I just want the view

Such freedom there is in movement
Never make the mistake
Of standing in place
For too long

Myopia is the condition
No eye doctor can cure
What you see on the outside
Lives in the mind’s eye

Move around to open your view
Breathe life - take it all in
Are we all not in desperate need
Of wonder and amazement?

Grab the wind
Or perhaps just a dream
Let go and fly
I believe you can

I know you can 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Morning Quiet


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.


Sunday morning
March 3
Naples, Florida

Morning Quiet

There is a morning quiet
With which I am possessed
I lie in the pre- dawn, listening
To its featureless beauty

I stare
It stares back
I blink
It does not
Indifferent, the silence owns me
Is this love unrequited?

The quiet is timeless
Endlessly patient
Like the guard
At Buckingham Palace
Sub Rosa its metier

It knows far more of me 
Than I of it
It is of a beauty
I cannot touch

So I watch in the dark
And listen for its voice
I dare not move
Lest I disturb it

Michael's Chronicles: Atlas

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


Sunday, Jan 28
Stuart Art Festival
Florida
Atlas

It was midafternoon on Sunday when Atlas showed up. His owner said he demanded to visit my booth upon hearing the instruments. I don’t commonly get a visit from a green parrot - in fact, pretty much never. 

When I looked up at the commotion from my front left, there he was with his head cocked sideways and bobbing now and then. Atlas was engaged with the music and throwing parrot sounds back at it. Don’t know if he was talking to himself or to my drum but he was all in. I asked the woman if someone could hold the bird, perch style, near to the instrument. He stared and listened intently and eventually began uttering words, dog barks and whistles, occasionally calling me “sweetie” (must have confused me with someone else……. I am not his sweetie).

His owner told of how he has always liked music and mentioned that he has his own small marimba at home to which he responds as she taps. Is there such a thing as a bird prodigy or am I simply not asking the right question? Doesn’t everyone love music?

Later 


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