The Miller’s Tale

In Brueghel’s Procession to Calvary, the Mill perches on an implausibly high and incongruous rock in the flemish countryside. Or perhaps it’s not flemish, but the middle east, imagined by a man who could only conceive of that land as the only land he knew, Flanders.

What is the Mill and who is the Miller? The mill takes the grain, the life essence and grinds it into matter that will be transformed into bread, the holy host, the body of Christ. It takes the essence of god and renders it into the material world so that the ineffable can be partaken of by men. In the consuming of the Host, the ineffable, the Christ, becomes carnate within us.

And between the Mill (the agent of his conception) and the Cross (the instrument of his demise) dances the entire pageant of the human experience, all our sins, all our folly both venal and mortal, inattentive to the turning blades and the waiting pine.

Which of course, inevitably brings us to Townes Van Zandt.

His suffering was more than any men, let alone single man should live to bear. And either because of his suffering, or because of the breadth of genius that preceded it, what remained in the end burned white hot.

Today I’ve been listening to recordings he did in his last European tour, when he was near at the end. Some of the words are so searing, they brought me to a standstill. I stood on the corner in the Mission and could do nothing but listen.

And I can’t help but think. The fruit be damned. You. The Miller. The one who would ever bestow this upon a man:

You ain’t no friend of mine.

Roadtrip to Cavalry

Yesterday morning.

I race for two hours through the desert at 80-95 mph to make a flight in Flagstaff, only to learn it was cancelled due to maintenance; and then to learn that the connecting flight was leaving from Phoenix, (140 miles away) in three hours so I race at 90-100 mph to southern Arizona, throw my car in long term parking, hoof through TSA and to the gate to board with ten minutes to spare; land in San Francisco several hours later, make my way into town on BART, walk up California Street because no street cars or buses are in sight, attempted to check into my hotel only to learn my reservation had not gone through and they were fully booked; rebook another hotel across town, travelled there by bus, dropped off my bags, racd to the San Francisco International Film Festival offices 10 minutes before closing to grab my badge; eat a bowl of soba noodles; walk 100 feet to the Kabuki theatre to learn that the film they were showing was sold out and I had to wait in rush; but so many people showed they couldn’t let anyone in from the rush line; a fellow approaches and sells a spare ticket to the guy in front of me, but his friend fails to show, so two minutes before the curtain goes up, he turns and hands me his ticket to

The Mill and the Cross.

Some ponderings:

I may like the painting better than the movie.  But I like the movie because it gives us cause to consider the painting.

Which makes me consider that procession and mesh of life and intervening forces in which we’re embedded as we fulfill that life into which we’ve been born, or trace that road which we’ve chosen.

I wonder with whom of all those 500 characters in the procession we each choose to align.  Are we the miller, the horseman, the weeping mother, the man shouldering the fallen tree?

And I found it pleasant to be thrust into the stillness of Brueghel time.  Especially after a harrowing day of travel to arrive in this harrowing city.  I want that stillness, that repose from which to witness that tragedy we call being human.

This morning I feel disconnected in this most connected city.  I wonder a little about what the hell I’m doing here.  

I eat more soba.

I decide that I will just move through the day and try to be kind.  That’s all I will do today.  Just be kind.  

I’ve kind of failed at it.  But I’m still trying.  I have eight more hours to go.  And again tomorrow. Perhaps I will try.

Social Marketing

SXSW.  First day.  Or second.  Just after the premiere of Dish and a Spoon, drifting into some free boozy brunch sponsored by


They are an absolutely fantastic way to get local deals in towns you live in or are visiting.  I’ve never used them, but they’re super great.  Along with the free food we got cool shades that said “Groupon” on the side.  I really liked the food and the sunglasses.

That day I probably said “Groupon” five or six times.  More times than I’ve ever said “Groupon” in my life.

In fact, later at the still hip outside patio terrace at the

Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel

my friends and I talked about Groupon for a while, everyone except my friend

Brett Baer (not this guy) who just laughed and listened.

We even told some folks passing by about Groupon and our free sunglasses and they were so impressed, they said, “Damn. That deserves a t-shirt.”

And they gave me a t-shirt promoting an online social marketing service!  It’s called


a totally awesome way to increase traffic to your website using electronic word of mouth referrals, and is up to ten times more effective than search engine marketing or other traditional forms of digital advertising.

I haven’t really used it yet, but it sounds great.

And at the very least they have a pretty good t-shirt.

The thing I can’t figure out is why they are using an old school social marketing tool (t-shirts) to advertise their new online social marketing tool?

And what about all the online tool and app and widget developers handing out free piddle-paddle noise makers and free gum and free candy and free beer and…free t-shirts?

And why do they call it sxsw interactive, when most people are sitting in the lobby staring alone into their devices?

I’m still pondering.

No answer yet.

Maybe I’ll ask my new best friend, Jane, the hots designer of the WordPress backend.  She’s super nice and seems to know a lot. She said I might even win an iPad.

Another day at SXSW.

From my brother

I told my brother about the earlier posts.  In a gracious gesture, he said they could stand, though I know he doesn’t necessarily want his life splayed across the Information Highway like so much roadkill.

He also cc’d me on an email which I’ll post in part:

“i can say too that a week later i have become more certain than ever that the healing power of love and music is quite profound.

now, for the the next six weeks i have a singular focus, and that is to be there for andy and for me this simply means that i be mindful in keeping him in a loving space within my thoughts and i truly believe that the more people that do this the better he will be as will we all.

so…here’s the picture…every morning…monday through friday…andy is getting these high energy radiation treatments from a machine that was conceptualized and manufactured in the heart of the imperium as a product of love by a people that care for each other enough that they have created an instrument that can bestow life in a sense upon each of us.

thus i say, that we as a community must simply think of andy being embraced by love every morning between eight and nine am as he goes through what is in essence a profoundly healing experience.”

Machinery of love. Yes.

Dry Heat

This afternoon I had my dry run before I begin six weeks of radiation.


My daughter asked me if it was fun.  Yes it was, I told her.  And it was also scary.

I strolled into the basement of Mt. Zion, they pointed me to the men’s changing room, I rummaged through a box of striped gowns (they reminded me of Holocaust wear), threw one on, was guided into a sweet catapulting room with cherry floors, lay down on a softly cushioned table, jammed a prosthetic in my mouth to prevent my tongue from moving and a few moments later two men bolted my head down with a mesh mask and split from the room.

Right on.  They told me they were taking x-rays which might have been a dumbed down euphemism for something else.  I heard a heavy whooshing sound, like the proximate breath of some very large reptile.  Every so often I would register an intense blue white flash followed by a strange sharp odor lodged somewhere between my nostrils and my tongue.  It smelled as if the air itself was burning.  Not cool.

I followed my breath.  I tried not to swallow.  I composed long sentences in my head.  Not much different than any other time except for the swallowing part.  I wondered about how much tolerance there was in the measurements – what would I fry in my head if I tricked my neck a millimeter to the left or to the right.  I tried not to trick my neck.  I hoped that their measurements were right.

After 20 minutes it was over.  I mentioned the smell to the rad tech.  Only a small number of people can see and smell it, he said.  What’s up with that, I wondered.  We all have eyes and tongues and noses.  There shouldn’t be that much variability in this stuff, in our bodies, in energy moving through those bodies.  And in my mind, in this game, variability is also not cool.

I grabbed my stuff.  I snapped some pictures.  Rad tech John handed me a green appointment slip for my first dosing.  8:30 am.  Monday.