I Found A Rock

Preparing to mow the lawn last Saturday, I parked the car out in the street in front of the house. Our street hasn’t been re-paved in at least forty years and we have no sidewalks or gutters, so water tends to run down the steep hill above us in well-defined rivulets off to the side of the street. In the summer I like to park in those channels, as they are off the street, but not part of the yard.

Exposed aggregate,regular view.

There is a lot of gravel in that section of the street, most if it washed down the long hill, a slow migratory sluice. The gravel in front of our house has been compacted by car to the extent that it mostly resembles exposed-aggregate concrete. Pretty solid stuff.

That particular day I parked the car with great care, methodically maneuvering close in next to our grass, while getting as far out of the street as humanly achievable—back and forth several times, eventually placing it in precisely the prescribed position.

Exposed aggregate, close-up

I exited the car and moved toward the back, I’m not certain why. Looking down as I reached the rear bumper, my eye caught sight of a flat rock.  Not that big, it was perhaps an inch and a half in length and maybe three quarters of an inch wide. Black (well, in direct sunlight, a very dark olive green with a faint golden sheen). Though flat, it stood out from the other tire-polished stones. It was smoother, with a different luster. Something attracted me to it.

Flat side

It’s not like I keep a lot of rocks, but I occasionally keep rocks I’m attracted to. Don’t get me started. It’s an element of my extended OCD. The rock in question appeared to be a keeper. The perfect flatness of its exposed surface was quite appealing. I picked it up and headed into the house.

Shaped like Nevada

Upon closer inspection, it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary rock. For one thing, it gave off some sort of benign vibe. Nothing intense, just a mild cosmic warmth. The rock was vaguely shaped like the state of Nevada—if there is any sort of significance to be found in that fact. The surface opposite the flat side is contoured, as are the edges.

To look at it, the rock appears to be nothing special, rather ordinary, but for the antique gloss of its velvety patina. However things change when you hold it in your hand. It takes a while, sorting it slowly between your fingers, to find the proper alignment (there are actually several). But eventually a certain celestial conformity takes place, as one cradles the mysterious object. Its pleasing curves and satisfying roundness perfectly tapered. It’s a stone that demands to be rubbed.

That’s it! It’s a worry stone. But not like any other I’ve ever seen. If you google the term you find a real array of various pieces. All created with a similar intent and purpose, but perhaps, for the Irish wishing stone. Although, who is to say what is to come from any sort of talisman upon which one places a great deal of concentration and energy?

Worry stones

From what I gleaned in my scant research trying to figure out the whole worry stone game, it became readily apparent that the objets have been with humankind for quite some time. Only slightly less older than dirt, I’d say. However this does open for us an important philosophical question. Which came first, the dirt or the rock?

The Argo by Lorenzo Costa

It’s been said that the ancient Greeks kicked off the craze—most likely because their advanced culture was more worrisome than most and they had a lot of free time. The first worry stones are purported to have been smooth sea rocks. Given their seafaring ways (see the Odyssey and Jason and the Argonauts) it’s easy enough to understand that they might have seen an alluring sea rock or two in their time. I mean, check out Jason’s run-in with the Symplegades. But a smooth river rock would probably do you just as well in a pinch.

Now available at a worry store near you

These days, judging by what one is likely to find online, most worry stones are pretty simple affairs: oval-shaped, semi-precious gemstones polished to a glassy sheen, with an indentation in the center. Most of them look like stone re-workings of a half-sucked Original Werthers hard toffee.

Irish wishin’ stone

There are variations. An Irish wishing stone appears to resemble more an outright rock than the other samples, most likely requiring some sincere effortful wishing in order to erode and abrade the hollow to conform to the shape of the thumb and fingers.

Cunningly contrived contours, oh my!

T. (for Tuesday) Lobsang Rampa (oh, we’re not going to get into him right now: http://www.skepdic.com/rampa.html) referred to them as TouchStones ™ claiming— “In far off China, in Tibet, in the holy temples of India, and in the great temples of the Incas, the Aztecs, and the Mayas, priests laboriously shaped stones by hand, stones whose cunningly contrived contours (?) comforted the human brain, and by flooding that organ with comfort and pleasant tactile sensations calmed the whole of the human mechanism.”

Maybe a tad grandiose, but I think what the good plumber monk was referring to was that the things are damn good stress relievers. That seems to be the consensus among all the hierachies of worry stone lovers and aficionados in the Wiccan and pagan communities as well. So the upshot here is that the rocks are fully sanctioned in all the corners of the new age universe—if, indeed, it is possible for the universe to contain corners.

Rounded smooth

While adhering to all ordained worry stone standards, the one I found is far superior to all other examples I could uncover. For one thing, not just the thumb groove but all edges on mine are perfectly rounded—all surfaces maintaining a sublime camber. Rather than by machine, it is obvious that the soothing curves and arcs were all worked by human digits over time. Over a long time. A lot of energy went into the shaping of my stone.

Nagging questions remain: How the hell did the rock get out there in front of the house in the first place? And how long was it lying out there before I discovered it? How does the possessor of one lose a worry stone? If you had it in your hand and were to drop it, you’d certainly pick it up. Was the person standing in front of our house when he inexplicably decided to empty his pockets or try to fish some change from his pocket. Or what? And what was he doing standing in front of our house anyway?

Native American relics and artifacts

We live at the very end of a dead-end street at the bottom of a very steep hill. We don’t receive a lot of passersby. So then, perhaps erosion unearthed the relic from decades of quiet slumber. It bears the quality of a Native American arrowhead or some other such artifact. My imagination prefers this theory. The stone feels old (well, of course it’s old, it’s a rock, fer crissakes!). It feels as if the human energy it stores is old—antique, from another time, long ago.

But some residual guilt persists. I’m not sure what I should do with the thing. Is it wrong to keep a found worry stone?  And what are the ramifications? Will it confuse the stone if I were to worry on it too? I don’t know the rules on such things. Perhaps it deserves a proper re-burial? I don’t know what protocol is in these situations.

I suppose I could go door to door around the neighborhood to see if anyone lost a valuable, semi-precious “object.” Make the possible owner describe the item in specific detail. The other option is to put an ad in Craig’s List or something. That seems like it might be casting too big a net, given our home’s somewhat remote locale.

Nested comfortably between distal interphalageal crease and palmar digital crease

Whatever the case, something needs to happen soon, as I am beginning to become attached to the stone. There is great pleasure in stroking its smooth coolness. The notch on the left edge perfectly fits the distal interphalangeal crease on my right index finger. The slight hollow on the right edge of the stone nestles against the palmar digital crease as if carved specifically for my grip.

But there is no right or wrong way to hold it. Cradle it in either hand, slab side up, or contoured. However it may be held, the special stone finds folds among the fingers and quickly comfortably conforms. See? I’m already developing a fetish for the thing. Why do I feel like this is a mystery that will never be solved?


Novel Publishing Update:

I recently received my twentieth rejection letter from a reputable literary agent for Unreal Gods. I feel like a salmon swimming upstream against the current. I have revised the book, cutting four early chapters. (which I’m not even sure is such a good idea)- but I’m trying to make submissions of the first three chapters or one hundred pages move faster (I’m not sure that is a good idea either). Honestly, writing biblical haiku is easier.

The Bible VI

How Leviticus

Came by such strange ideas

Heaven only knows

Enter 2012

Here it is, another New Year. I’ve had more of these than I care to count, so this business of “resolutions” is lost on me. I resolve not to make any more resolutions. Amen. There are many things within my life about which I am very resolute. Not one of those things have required the expiration of some arbitrary year (nor its magical imagined metamorphosis into another) in order to motivate me toward them. In the end, you either do it or you don’t.

This being my inaugural voyage piloting the good blog SP, I don’t have any intention, agenda, or anything enlightening to say. Those who know me will not be in the least surprised at that disclosure. But it’s never stopped me in the past. More or less (probably less) I just wanted to take this thing for a spin, RPO it (for those not acquainted with the ins and outs of the automotive repair industry: Run the Piss Out of it) and put it back in the driveway for a month or two. We’ll see about that.

Those familiar with my “work,” the more public aspects of it anyway, are familiar with my (euphemistically speaking) career in the realm of reporting upon the transpirations of the local music scene. I have been doing this for far too long. I’m starting to feel like Dick Clark on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. “Wheel the old boy out and give him  his confetti.” Speaking for myself–and I am the only person I entrust to do such a thing–I would hazard that Dick probably still enjoys showing up for the event. That’s my MO, anyway and I’m sticking to it.

This is my attitude about putting a dog to sleep. If it’s not having fun anymore, then it’s time to consider…you know. Because what is a dog’s life if not (hopefully) fun? Most dogs lives aren’t fun I suspect, and that is, no doubt, the subject of another blog on another day. But, dogs were designed by the human race as sources of endless inter-species funitude. One thing dogs know how to do is to have a good time. At least that’s true for the dogs I know. Fun lovers, each and every.

So when Dick Clark stops having fun, it’ll be time to pull the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve plug. That’s my attitude too. When local music and musicians stop being fun for me, I’ll turn in my turntable. Until that day, here I shall remain. I’ll give up my pen when you rip it from my cold dead hands.

I already have repositories for my work in the area of local music. My current reviews and observations appear at www.buko.net under the heading: The Good The Bad and the Ugly. Also at the buko.net site is a link to the Two Louies archives. Eventually all of my album reviews and articles (way, way over a thousand reviews and a million words) through many hundred issues of Two Louies will be posted online. In addition, my History of Portland Rock is linked to both sites. The History is incomplete, to be sure. It’s my understanding that history is never complete. But all of the local music history that I have observed is linked here. So think of this site as your one-stop hub for all things SP. If that is not a enough of a caveat, the outcome is out of my hands. Warning served

God bless him, Mister Buko seems strangely reluctant to commit his every waking hour to the necessities of my websites and creative outpourings, thus I must be patient with the tortoise-like pace at which these various sites are assembled. Trying to maintain these things for myself is out of the question. My girlfriend refers to me as a Luddite. And, truly, in that respect she is being much too kind.

I am technologically impaired. This is not a new revelation. I was the source of endless frustration for my father, who could not understand my inability to differentiate between a car’s generator and radiator. It was always my contention that the device “radiated” electricity. However, this confusion has made my communication with mechanics (of whom there have been many, over the years, given the fact that I have worked for pikers for most of my life) very difficult– a situation greatly magnified by the fact that my longtime mechanic, Mister Ho Hoang of Ho’s Auto Repair at 33rd and Division, is Vietnamese, with English as a very distant second language. Our conversations sound like Marx Brothers’ bits. Fun stuff.

So, without the kindness of strangers, I would probably be still scribing my tomes on the backs of paper sacks and envelopes (in the driver’s seat of my inoperative vehicle), and the few of you who might stumble across these missives would be shut out from the benefit of my inciteful insight. Just ponder that for a minute or two!

Blame it on the enchiladas. I am more inclined to think it’s Michael Jarmer. For some reason, last night, I was inspired to consider this ongoing exercise in literary masturbation called a blog. Right now, I think I already have the best readership here that I’m likely to encounter: me. Strangely, I get almost all of my jokes and view myself as being pretty witty and erudite. All other estimations appear to topple from that lofty nest. I’ll make some effort toward readership. But, I must say: self-promotion is not among my attributes. I’ll see if I can get a few friends to like it for Facebook. That should do the trick.

What does one do with these here blog thangs, anyways? My first inclination in all things is to smoke it. And, as an existential conceptual exercise, I have to say I’m gettin’ a buzz. Beyond that? Meh. Tell you what. In commemoration for these days of resolution, I hereby resolve. I will try to promote a few of my creative pursuits. I mean, if not here, then where?

I don’t know.

Maybe it is and maybe it ain’t Maya Year Zero. We’ve got what? 353 days until we find out? Well, let the meltdown countdown begin. I just want to ask. Are there still any Mayas around to re-calibrate their long count calendar, if it’s just a case of the original authors running out of rock? That’d give us another 5,100 years, give or take, and we can be done with the whole matter for a while. I’m looking forward to putting this one to bed once and for all. But not until after Carlos & Toni’s End of the World party. Hey, if you’re going out, you might as well party like it’s 1999.

Now, if the world does indeed survive whatever the Maya have planned for December 21st, you might well ask: “Well, SP, what was it, exactly, you were planning on promoting?” That’s a good question for which I actually happen to have an answer. Unreal Gods. Unreal Gods? Unreal Gods. It’s a band. It’s a book. It’s a way of life. It’s biographical. It’s a novel. If I can shake out enough people here, I might post a few chapters. It’s, like, 625 pages long. So, Ive got a few extra pages for show purposes.

Unreal Gods is a novel based on the life of Billy Rancher and his band the Unreal Gods. If you’re not familiar with Billy’s story, and an alarming few hipsters in this vaingloriously cutting-edge artistic rats nest are familiar with it, then, here is the novel to tell you of his adventures.

I spent twenty five years sitting on Billy Rancher’s tale. I wanted to blur for myself reality and fiction. It actually took that long to forget it all, so that I could tell Billy’s story from a more distant, objective perspective. Plus, a lot of what is in the book is not true. A lot of it is. I don’t want to be responsible for the accuracy of either. I hate accuracy. That entails research.

My own research typically does not extend much farther than consulting my History of Portland Rock or other similar resources. And if you’re at all interested in the story of Billy and the Gods, the History provides details and a basic outline and chronology. It’s a great story. Timeless. Sad. Timeless and sad.

I’m sure I have lots of other stuff to promote. I’ll think about that. Right now, I need to remain focussed on the book, as it is very important that Billy’s story is told. As soon as I figure out how to do such a thing, I will link to Michael Jarmer’s site. Michael is a longtime Portland musician (Here Comes Everybody) who is also a writer and he is wrestling with many of the same dilemmas that I am, in regards to the pathetic publishing industry and the ridiculous hoops one must jump through to even hope to get a book published. Your assignment for today: write a haiku describing in vivid detail the plot of the Bible.

We’ll save that gnashing of teeth for another play date. For today, I wanted to put forth my manifesto. I lack, I think, a thesis. A punchline. A cause. So, it’s a manifesto without a cause. If that doesn’t sound like “not with a bang but a whimper,” I don’t know what does.


A pretty good book.

The hero dies in the end.

Oops. Spoiler alert.