Rationale For a King

I despise hardcopy dictionaries. With today’s technology and language changes, looking up words can be easily done online. Language evolves, paper does not. Ideas shouldn’t be held at a disadvantage as definitions advance.

Not when technology can improve life.

What can we enact to bring this interest to the people? And not just to me, your King?

Culture exists as we are, today. Language helps distribute these unique details of us. Culture is stratified by money. People can most easily-access opportunities, and pursue wealth, with continuous knowledge built of carefully shaped bricks– that is, words and definitions. Definitions controlled via the internet are as current as can be. Let it be understood: The right to a free benefit is an easy sale.

Paper dictionaries are dead knowledge. When paper books become out-of-date– sometimes instantly, immediately after printing– there’s no recall process. We can’t get those books back. The “facts” continue to present themselves as truth. As this happens, paper books carry information we now know is misleading, harmful, and sometimes deadly. I don’t want anyone I care about reading printed dictionaries, or paper books of any kind.

Not when there’s a risk of harm.

Dear people, glow in this: There is no cause more noble than serving the greater good. Citizens, each one of you, can make a personal choice to destroy every dictionary you come across.

How far would that get you? And how well would our society be carried forward?

If the greater good is served with our individual actions, why can’t we amplify this virtue? The political side that wants to defend “book choice” are like people at the playground who want to play catch with a hand grenade. Newsflash: Your chosen entertainment does not legitimatize putting others in danger. Nor should you be allowed to put yourself in danger.

Not when we must bear the costs of your injury. Or fall ill at the sight of your disgusting wounds.

Dictionaries are even worse to handle than grenades. I say this because the reader doesn’t realize the harm in old pages. You must not use outdated words, and you must not carry-over obsolete definitions to terms still in use. This is why society is best suited when a noble group acts on the people’s behalf.

We can order retailers and distributors to stop the sale of paper dictionaries. We can flood social media at the used-bookstore level. We can allow protests, boycotts, and looting. For our good purpose, and not necessarily in our name.

If you are against this initiative, you are put on warning. Old words hurt. Outdated definitions scar. We know better. I’ll take it further. We know better than you.

Everything evolves. By your acceptance of those two words, you’d best come to another understanding: You own nothing.

You don’t own your electronic files. You have to gain several permissions just to open any one of “your” documents. You’re just not aware of those consents. You’re not even aware the documents in question aren’t stored on your computer at all, not anymore. They have been shifted to the cloud under our umbrella concern.

Let’s examine these permissions.

Open your laptop, press the power button. Permission number one occurs as you wait for your operating system to fulfill, or to not fulfill, your request to turn on. Enter a password and wait for permission number two as a program considers the validity of your keystrokes.

Open a file folder, wait for permission number three as the computer reviews your selection.

Now open the document of your choice. Permission four: The operating system will consider your annual paid software license status, and upon approval will proceed to grant you provisional access to what you consider your words. Finally, the computer will indulge in a longer study– permission five– to determine your eligibility to fully edit, insert, select or copy text.

Those are the five gates you must pass before you start writing. You’d better think long and hard about how you conduct yourself on such a pastime.

My government deems the following. Paper is unchanging and is out. All printed material including but not limited to books, newspapers, periodicals, magazines and letters will be placed in a sunset phase where they will be collected and recycled for non-informational use. Details of these actions will be forthcoming. Volunteering your custodial items would be appreciated and you will be granted considerations.

Each book we destroy will be made available online for everyone. That is a promise from your King.

Back to my initial imperative. It shall be mandatory for all people to check the approved online dictionary on a regular basis. To enforce this rule, which simply verifies you have fair-warning access to non-harmful words, we will work with the software company to examine what people are writing. Your access to said words is your acknowledgement of immediate use.

We seek a simple answer: What are you composing? If the content’s harmful, then the public, or their representatives, should know about it, or at least, be protected from it. Problematic passages will be flagged– change your words or we will. Objectionable sentences, pages and even chapters will be deleted or edited for appropriateness, perhaps even as you write, as necessary. The representatives will have a warning system, with a three-strikes policy, your punishment to be determined.

Yes, it is our job to keep you safe. We share the burden of your self-preservation. I’ll go further than that. We carry the sole burden.

Rationale For a King by Ara Hagopian.
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Don’t Tread On Us

Being free is the pleasure of not being monitored. Remember when you were a kid? You’d head out the door on a Saturday morning, not a care in the world. It didn’t matter whether you had a plan or not. Would you be going right, or left? It was all up to you! Mom said to be home in time for lunch– any time after noon.

Five glorious hours! And after that, five more!

You didn’t have to ask permission to go where you wished, you went on a whim. You weren’t being tracked, or restricted, beyond what you determined for yourself. You wanted to range far? Go exploring outside your neighborhood? You got going! Did you want to sit in front of your house and work on your chalk drawings? Have at it. While you were out, there was no checking in. I’ll bet you were smiling, on your beautiful Saturday mornings.

You didn’t need pocket money or identification. You didn’t need a drink or a snack. In fact, your hands were empty and that was just fine with you, wasn’t it? How else were you going to climb that tree? You were perfectly suited to chase a pal’s frisbee or spontaneously cheer at his astounding jump shot, at the corner lot. Free hands were a must for a kid outdoors. Heck, kneeling on the ground and digging for rocks could lead you to the fossil discovery of a lifetime. You just knew that something great was just out of sight, underground, right below your fingers.

Maybe you walked from convenience store parking lot to convenience store parking lot, head down, eyes peeled for discarded Bazooka Joe comic cards. Those were all the rage in 1975. You could walk from store to store, maybe five or six locations in a two-mile radius, and you’d end up with a pocketful of those cardboard treasures.

You discovered that most people bought the gum for the gum, and just chucked the five-inch by three-inch wrapper and comic. Lucky you! Oh, look– there’s a fresh wrapper with a card inside. Sure it’s next to an oil stain but it’s perfectly clean. Scoop it up, is it one you have? No? Great!

If you owned this particular comic card already, then you’d ask yourself: Is this new one in better condition than the one in the stack at home? Or, might a kid in school want to have it? The card could be traded in exchange for a favor, or for a double he had.

Or you could just give it, freely. That certainly brought its own good feeling. It was a slow cook, but worth savoring.

And when you came home, with dirty hands and knees, mom wanted your dutiful explanation. Just as she was being dutiful to ask. Sure, she said “Oh, dear, look at you!”, but she wasn’t really mad, no matter what groan she let out. Believe me, seeing her kid happy and dirty during a day of play was just fine with her. It meant her kid was getting along– one of the big reliefs of parenthood.

She used the heavy-duty Lava atomic soap bar on your filthy fingers, and you told her the safe stuff. Am I right? You told her about the cool fossil-thingy rocks but left out the live baby turtle you and your intrepid friend transported and released in an inter-pond relocation operation. You mentioned running with Danny but left out your mad dash through Mrs. Haley’s backyard, that biddy’s voice shouting something fierce. Answering mom’s questions about your adventures, you were giggling inside, right? Echoing Danny’s laughter in your ears as you’d run for your ever-loving lives.

One day someone put some paper in front of you. Do you remember that? They didn’t say, “Draw me a car.” Or, “Start writing your family history as you know it.” They said, “This is for you.” They didn’t leave you with one sheet, they left you with a few. No endeavor was so important, at your age, that you needed to be so narrowly guided. The great adults got it: That was not your assignment, when you were a kid.

It was not your assignment to get it right. It was your assignment to get it out.

And it was their job to let you be a kid. Which often meant, granting you a ton of time to be left on your own.

Here’s something every kid knows by their nature: There’s no harm in ruining a piece of paper. And it’s a tremendous loss to resent exploring that space. Old Mrs. Haley called out, “Don’t step on my lawn!” I say, give the kids their moment. It will pass soon. Don’t tread on us.

Don’t Tread On Us by Ara Hagopian.
Posted in Artwork, non-fiction | 2 Comments

Where We Want To Be

I’m here because this is where I want to be. Oh, you say, every person would be elsewhere if they could. And so, why wouldn’t I want to be where there’s better food? A nicer home? Safer streets? More liberty? Longer daylight, better weather? With my family and friends, as neighbors?

I can be anywhere while I’m here. I can also be, when I’m gone. I’ve already arranged it, halfway by assuring you. And halfway, by making it true.

You are where you dream. And so, you can arrange it that you aren’t where you are. That’s a full stop.

I’m here because this is where I want to be, and I’m bringing you along too. I think of the things we used to do, that no one else will ever know. I think of our playing and laughing and our work, of how we planned our moments and made use of our time. We’re on a sunny hill and I look to you. Your smile says you’ve come up with an idea and I wait to hear it. You point the way, and we hustle to get there. The best events of my life have been fashioned with you.

They always will be!

You’re on a couch and you’re sad, you want to know why we can’t be anywhere again. I tell you, make a dream of it, and I’m with you.

Make your way to me.

A dream is a thought we can use as a destination, while transforming places. Here it comes, I’m on my way now.

I’ve happened by a forest. I imagine it. It’s nighttime, I’m walking along the sidewalk of a paved but empty four-lane road, and it’s snowing. To my right is a twenty-foot strip of grass leading to the woods.

The moonlight and streetlights show me this.

I step onto the grass and the downward pitch lures me off to the side. Ahead of me, to my right, the woods are so dark, and so tall, they seem to curve over my head. They almost threaten to rise and pull me in. I suddenly feel uncomfortable exposed on the grass strip so I think, what could be wrong with just keeping moving toward this massive looming thing?

Running away seems worse! Then my back would be towards it. And what would be in front of me? What destination but a lonely road?

You don’t “kind of step into” this forest’s first-row bit of thicket. You are out one moment and then you are in, for good. The way in is not an entrance, it’s a one-way membrane wall that acquiesces to your forward step and ignores anything to do with you turning back. And I don’t want to go back. That is our first agreement, between the forest and me.

Once inside the woods, one thing happens as two simultaneous events. I’m robbed of light, and am granted blindness– the moon and streetlights have gone bar-hopping without me. I think that the people in a far more active part of town could make better use of them, anyway. Light reveals, which seems to be a cheat. Darkness leads to discovery, which is more fulfilling.

All of this, at least, here.

It’s so black, I can’t walk without thinking there is something directly in front of me. Is a branch pointing near my eye? Are thorns poised at my legs? Is there a pit, a divot, a rocky edge that could bring me down, twist my ankle or wrench my back? I want to stretch my hands, but resist, because it seems that reaching would be rude. I want to slow my pace, but this also strikes me as offensive to this place. I proceed with the faith that nothing will harm me, and nothing does. I move and turn and duck, quite naturally, confident and with a growing ease.

The darkness makes me use my skin and ears in a new way. I feel again an increase in my confidence and speed, and I can do no wrong! I proceed on my way, which is my working deeper into the forest, and along with it, a sort of surrender. Because in moving quickly, without blundering about like one would normally reasonably do, I have surrendered.

With my succumbing, darkness has now become an assurance, a trusted partner. I have given up my legacy senses in exchange for other gifts, which I would not have been given had I not freed up space.

And now, under a thick bush and beside a wide tree, I find a place that I feel will protect me. I duck down, and force myself forward. There, I’m inside.

Under this bush, I’ve found a place I can stay put for awhile. Let me say this, too: Here, I don’t think of bushes and dirt/rocks/woods as things. Things aren’t my friends; someone here is definitely taking care of me. All the factions are working together for my benefit. I know this not from evidence but from the intuition that was flowed into me, beginning when I crossed into the one-way membrane.

I am full, and am comforted, because the forest only looked dangerous when I was an outsider. It was only threatening when I saw it as dark and menacing. And now, I am inside there, and underneath here, in all means that matter.

In this private place, my personal shrub, there is plenty of room and surprisingly, a glow of faint yellow light–so faint there’s no source. Also, there is comfort. There are no needs. And even though I’m sure I’m in the presence of beings, no one is monitoring me. Not in the finger-wagging sense. Not in the time’s-a-ticking sense. I know for sure that time has stopped in these woods.

Under that bush, there’s enough space for me to call home. This is my comfort zone. This is where a mirror image of me can stay forever, and from where I can now travel to be with you. You, and me, anywhere, any year, with no limits on our time.

I can be here in life, and in death.

From here, I can imagine traveling to be with you– to any place we were, or any place we would like to choose. For a period of time, unmonitored.

Remember our cherished moment? Oh yes, I am waiting there!

Imagine this: When a lizard jumps onto a parked car’s shiny surface, he’s confounded by what he sees. There’s an apartment building, and grass, and even himself; there, but not. The reflection is no longer a glossy car. The reflection supersedes survival instinct. Perhaps when we see him like this, we’re witnessing an animal brought to imagination.

The lizard has stepped into the forest. He will stay for an hour or longer, even though his kind survives by either moving fast or blending in. He is doing neither, while he is here.

He is not here, while he is here.

Posted in non-fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Look To Me

I took a long trip for a summer’s vacation– a relief from the city and quite a way from home. Truth be told, I needed a break before I’d be broken. That’s not exactly the truth though. I think the broken had already occurred, judging by how I’d been judging. Anyhow, the loose parts that were me booked a thousand-mile trip to the sub-tropics.

In short: Okay brother, get yourself together.

First day, on the beach, at the water’s edge, I saw something under the sand. Oval, a peek of a shiny shell? Maybe a foot long. Gosh, I almost crushed it. That would have hurt. I looked closely and realized it was a living thing. Then, miraculously, a communication channel opened between us. I don’t explain it; I only state a fact.

The partially-buried sea creature said to me, “Dear beach visitor, I’m a being in need. One of many, at your mercy. We count on you to be strong. And I think, you count on us when you’re weak.”

I backed up a step and shook my head. “Hey chum, I don’t need solicitation, or salvation. Yes I can hear your thoughts. Big deal. Don’t jump on the first out-of-town sucker to hear your pitch this morning.”

The creature said, “Look away, if you want me to die. Look to me, if you want me to live.”

I didn’t need a conversation with someone, with something, who didn’t want to talk. As strange as it sounds, and I’ll tell you right now, it sounded damn strange to me, I didn’t walk off. Not yet. Because if you remove the double negatives from the sentence I just said, I give the whole game away. And that’s how we happened to get started.

“Partially-buried English-thinking sea creature,” I said. “Why on Earth would you count on me to be strong? When you don’t know me?”

“I’m not ‘on Earth’. I’m under it.”

I waved my hand–it didn’t matter. “Right. Well I’m on Earth. And yeah, I’m here–” I looked up the empty shoreline and to sound redundant, saw nothing. Nothing worth fleeing to, at any rate. “I’m renting for ten days to get it together. I’ve backed out of municipal filings and public policy end-arounds. Decisions are being made right now that I need to be part of and I suspect are being done wrong, and only because I am burnt. Burned out.”

“That’s your job?”

“Yeah, back home, where everyone who’s screaming gets just enough of me to get them out of my office for that moment, off my phone or logged out of those damn forums. Where everything’s transcribed, for the public record you see. A record I’ll be accountable to, outside of my control, with twenty-twenty hindsight of everybody, including the mayor’s dog. Work’s been tough. I don’t see an end to it. I’m picturing that life, my life, and I don’t foresee a good resolution for me.”

“Sir,” the creature said, “Don’t look back unless it’s great there. Skip the present, that’s passing. Force your future exactly as you want it to be.”

It occurred to me this being’s uncomplicated life was doing him some good. On a base level, that is. Buried under sand. Waiting to be stepped on. Waiting for someone to safely walk by.

I leaned over instead.

“Hello creature: I came very far and very fast, to slow it all down. It seems to me, you are in complete living peace. I am locked-in on that.”

“You are focused on relaxing?” he said.

“Yes.”

“I would skip the focusing.”

“Ouch,” I replied.

The creature said, “I can’t take a step, and I’ve traveled no place; only you have come to me. You’ve done me a great service. With your greeting.”

A wave of pity rushed through me. I had given him no greeting at all, really. It was worse than that. Let me put it to you this way. When a being talks to you, or whatever this was, when that happens, it doesn’t matter his size; when he says that he can’t take a step and he’s traveled no place, well that hits you. If you have any kind of heart. Well, it hit me.

To think, I’d started out with the fear that by crushing him, I’d have hurt me.

I said, “Sea creature, you have given me your time. And I don’t know, that’s looking pretty good right now, seeing that I don’t know anyone on this island or even in this state for that matter. Heck, last night I couldn’t get a grocery store cashier to tell me what the bill totaled to. And so, I do appreciate your words. Tell me. I have a question for you. I am counting on you to dig deep for your answer. What is here that is not here?” I squinted in the terribly-bright sun and awaited his answer.

“Dear visitor, if the sun burns, then what sears you in the dungeon? If the wind stings, would you prefer unfeeling skin?”

He was right. The beach’s glare was a slam-dunk tradeoff for the workday grind. And the sensations here, the warmth of the breeze, the slow ease in my muscles, this was new to me. Seemed brand-new, in fact. Say, what’s ever really new to a sixty-year old? And isn’t that worth hanging on to?

I asked, “Why is life not this right, all the time? What place can I carry, if I have to set you down? I must be so out of balance, to have this need! To compensate for the extreme that’s called normal. My normal work life.”

The creature responded: “Why is this not the right time? For anything you wish to do?”

“Sea creature, let me put it this way: Do the waves dream of the city?”

The creature said, “How can something so free and so fluid, be held to one place?”

“You mean, the ocean.”

“No, I’m speaking of you, not the sea. Someone who thinks they’re worth nothing, will spend all their wealth to prove it. Don’t be that man.”

Oh, how I got that. I mean, I really, really got it!

“You can only divide your time,” the creature said. “Everything else that you split, will either rejoin or disintegrate while your attention is turned away. This is why you are searching.

“I have an answer for both of us,” he continued. “I’ll make a particular kind of noise, for your particular kind of ear. Ready for it?”

I nodded. “Please, yes.”

“If it is given to you, you will give it away. The more you share, the less apart we’ll be.”

And then I took a few steps, and found my way home.

Look To Me by Ara Hagopian.
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Tilted

The sun sets and casts defining shadows the mid-day never knows. Bright daylight bleaches details that would go unnoticed, save for the setting sun.

If you’re not a late-day walker, you won’t see these vital notes. If all you know is one time of day, even if that one time is a significant block of hours, you’ll miss nuances of what’s all around you.

You won’t know your place. I’ll go further and say, you won’t really know who you are, if you don’t get exposure to different light.

A few days ago, I took a walk in my neighborhood–one of many daily walks. I’m a transplant to this area and it’s all new to me. While there are many dog walkers in this secluded community, I’ve not seen many cats. And I do love cats, very much.

On this particular day, I came across a black cat that I had met earlier in the week. She saw me this second time, I saw her, and a hand up, and a tail up. We walked toward each other, in greeting.

She’s a great cat. Brown whiskers, no voice, so willing to be patted and spoken to! How can one be so friendly, without past experiences together? How had she been treated, to greet a stranger this fantastic way? isn’t that a tribute to her owners?

I steadied myself, then crouched and splayed my hands at my side. She walked around me, pushing her face and edges of her teeth into my knees, fingers, and forearms. When a cat is happy, their human companion’s ills are forgotten. That’s right, every problem weighing on me was gone.

Few beings have this power. And too few people get the pleasure of such an experience.

If you haven’t, you have to find a way to get to this release. If you can’t imagine it, you can start by believing it. If you don’t want it, you need it more than anyone.

If you’ve had an animal’s acceptance and love, you’ll take it again, any time such a creature comes by.

I noticed something when she trotted towards me. Her head was tilted, like she was pondering a question, similar to, “Hmm, do I know you?”

As we spent our moments, I realized something that halted my good feelings. Her head was tilted, permanently. I gave her a close look, over the course of our few minutes. This cat was looking at life through a ten-degree neck twist.

Was it nerve damage, from an accident? Or had she been this way from birth?

No collar, no obvious owner to talk to. No answers.

Damn it! I cursed the tilt. I felt sorry that whatever happened to her, she’d been left bent this way. She didn’t seem distressed or in pain in any way. And then I thought, maybe the process worked in reverse, too. Maybe her ills go away–not just mine–when she happens to come across an animal lover. Maybe she can spot such people, by how we look at her, what greetings we emit, and when our body posture says, “You have a friend if you want one. Want to come over?”

Maybe she forgets her pain when she’s touched and loved. And when she can touch you, and love you.

I’ve met her twice and hope to make it a regular event, here in this new neighborhood. I’ve learned that when I walk away from her, I can’t look back, because she will come running. I can glance back when I’m a bit of a distance away, to be assured she’s cleaning a paw, safely on a plot of lawn, perhaps at her own home.

I walked towards my apartment and the reality of life flowed back into me. The sun sets and casts shadows, and I could see mine, clearly defined in length in front of me. And then I saw something I’d never seen before. My shadow showed what I didn’t realize about myself. I too, was tilted. Bent, crooked, from an accumulation of a due course of life.

We–both of us–are going to be all right.

Posted in Cats, non-fiction | 2 Comments

Hunter

Hunter seeks, Hunter strikes, he scans for his prey and is on his way. Hunter is a head, he’s diving, you’re dead. He’s dropped like a rock into the rolling water; you won’t even see what ’twas had got ya.

Sounds about right. No sound at all! You go about your life, he folds into a fall. You’re talking to your buddy, next you’re smashed out of place. Not a second’s mortal struggle, two gulps you’ve been ate.

No license is needed, no faiths are heeded. No height’s too high, no depth’s a respite. Hunter circles, and then you’re soughtten; your legacy too will soon be forgotten.

Plummet-plunge-grasp-lunch; one less creature in yer bunch.

I once saw a mouse, so black and so fast. No one else got sight of him, a quick beast was that. The mouse was so elusive, many doubted he even existed. Then we saw Hunter above the field, his head downward twisted.

How could such a big span, exceed the speed of young men? We hustled to see the strike, and yes the rodent got spiked. On the day we saw the mouse get done, astonished we watched ten others up’n run.

The Hunter drawing by Ara Hagopian.
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The Explorer

When I was about five-years-old, I loved model vehicles. Toy motorcycles, race cars, jet planes and spaceships were my thing. I loved the toys, and not the real examples, because the smaller versions were on my level– I could relate to their hand-held size, and there was a chance with my family’s modest means I could own one or two. These toys were the start of my becoming an explorer.

I lusted over the marketing pictures of the TTP and SSP lines of motorbikes and cars. I admired the sleek designs, the shiny chrome parts, and the promise of high performance. I didn’t realize at the time, but my interest linked me to Danny, the local tough kid, who saw what I was into in my own little world, and gave his nod of approval. He liked the bikes, too.

I remember exchanging tires with Danny. He had a spare this and I had a spare that, and we shared. If we didn’t have our bike toys, there wouldn’t have been anything endearing to link us. That would have been trouble for me. If Danny thought you were all right, even a little all right, then you weren’t going to be intimidated or harassed in the 3rd to fifth grades.

All I wanted was a pal. And that’s what I got. Having Danny come over to my desk, or corner of the schoolyard lawn, with a handful of parts and offering without demanding a thing, made a big impression on me.

Sometime around eight-years-old I grew into spaceship fantasies. At first I was like other boys and wanted to be the pilot, but in my dreams, I found this too limiting. Very soon I imagined that I was the ship, and boy did that open doors for all kinds of scenarios!

In my mind, I chose the design I wanted to be. It was sleek and pointy like a jet. It didn’t need silly things like engines or landing gear or a cockpit canopy. I was a solidly-whole mechanical thing, not forgetting for a moment this was imaginary. I could build that world as big as I needed it to be. I could live in it, mostly at night when all of life’s variables were turned off for the duration, things like eating and school and family interaction. Under the covers, I waited for sleep and to form my perfect shape and my missions, too.

I was made of some sort of serious stuff, a thick, transparent metal-like material. No one on Earth had ever seen such a substance before. Tough, unbreakable, impervious to heat and without needs. Were there no food or oxygen where I was going? No problem, I didn’t need it, the way I worked it out.

I was an explorer. I could go anywhere now.

You had to see me. I could fly with the geese and they’d let me right in. Look over to the left and right, there they were, necks outstretched, working hard to keep their formation just so, and honking to boot. I was there. I was with them.

Then I’d join the scores of tiny birds who flew in tight acrobatics over the highway. Such flying, they could look like swarming locusts sometimes. I was with them, keeping up, following them, and one time, I was at the lead. Boy, was that a blast!

As an explorer, I could fly through the Snake River canyon, the same place my hero Evel Knievel flew over in his Rocket Cycle. No need for me to worry, I made it just fine.

Soon I looked to outer space and that’s where the experience expanded. I could sit in the quiet of space, for hours, with such a wide area of nothing around me. No heat, no cold, no sound. Just stars– more colors than my gigantic crayon box I knew on Earth. I would sit out there, floating, and off to sleep on many nights.

Later I would speed off, flying over Mars and Jupiter, impervious to any harmful pressures or gasses. As a kid, it’s easy to imagine clear air and sky everywhere, and the youthful lack of knowledge actually helped me get there.

In the 1980’s I made a detailed pencil drawing of this ship. It had impossible wingtip points that in aeronautical physics provided no lift. This is the shape I imagined, very young, when practicality was standard in regular life and nowhere to be found at night.

Being an explorer allowed this kid to get along very well in real-world life. I got so much enjoyment out of my imagination, I did everything I could to share the excitement with friends. If my Wave Avenue friend Tommy and I were playing with army tanks on a mound of dirt, we were there on that mound– actually engaged in the operations. If we were building model planes, the planes were seemingly full-sized and we were kid mechanics. We took it that far. We were explorers– our lives allowed us to be free in that wonderful way.

The Explorer by Ara Hagopian.
Posted in Artwork, non-fiction | 2 Comments

Gift

Your gifts have filled my days with encouragement. When I’ve deserved nothing, when I was at my repetitive worst, you placed your hands in that barren field and pulled out something good. You turned to me with your arms outstretched and I cried at your offering. How did you come up with that, and why for me?

Gift, when I didn’t ask. Gift, when I insisted. Gift, when I was in danger. Gift, when my car was full and my tank was empty.

Diving rocks, the day after a heavy storm. The ocean was rough and this nine-year-old shouldn’t have been swimming alone.

The waves pushed me against the rocks and I did my best to climb out of it. No use, the retreating water pulled me back down to the sea. I kept my eyes focused to where I needed to end up, as my body was tossed like a paper cup on the waves.

Three times I was deposited onto the jagged walls of that cliff, three times I tried climbing out and three times I was ripped back down. For the fourth bout, the waves pushed me onto the rocks and I waited as the water equalized. The pushing had stopped and the pulling not yet started. I held on as tightly as possible. I knew the power of this retreat well now.

The pulling water! So strong, like heavy chain links over my shoulders, nullifying my arms, trying to yank me back down again. I ducked my head and– fortune! A moment’s success! I climbed a few inches before the fifth wave came and lifted me a bit higher up the cliff, dislodging me in a perverse agreement towards fake safety. Yes it was pushing me higher but it was also providing buoyancy, the enemy of my fingers and the grip needed to hold me in place. I defeated that fifth-wave lift because I tucked my head down, and held my ground, as the water drained around me.

And then it was over, I was free of the pulls and pushes. I climbed to the top.

Your gifts were many that day. One was a warning: Don’t ever do that again. Another was deleting fear from my head during those tense moments. If I’d been scared, I don’t think I’d have made it. I would have wasted too much energy when I needed to grip the rocks. Another gift was giving me memories of the perilous details, so I could feel the terror in safer years.

Gift, to observe and understand. A gift that allows me to keep my eye on the ball, when others, often a majority, lose focus.

Gift, to see the arcs of life, and my place in the same.

Gift, to be one of many to care for my mother.

Gift, to be cared for. Gift, when an unnamed nurse sat with me in a hospital overnight in 2008 during a health scare.

To be told in 1972, “The baby’s kicking,” and to place my ear on mom’s belly to hear my future sibling.

To share the above experience with my older brother, side by side, our hands on mom’s belly. Do you feel it? Me too!

Gift, to make many friends along the way.

To have the right lady in my life, when all she wanted to do was talk to me. And all I wanted to do was place my hands on her. Gift, in a class beyond me. Gift, to hear her and to feel her.

Gift, to enjoy life. To be happy with so-called lower standards. To not be bothered by trivialities. That’s part of keeping focus, after all.

Gift, to feel bad to make someone cry.

To be spoken to at night. To be given the only answer I will ever need.

Gift taught me how to give.

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Grand Train

Grand Train, what wonders are you bringing to town? Everyone’s eager and awaiting your arrival. When will your bright light show you the way to our smiling faces and waving arms? People have ordered many things, and stand patient for their deliveries. Someone’s brought an empty cart, will you fill it?

We know you will.

The people have high expectations, they know what you can carry. What an immense machine you are! Miles-long, perfectly-maintained, clean and beautiful to look at. You have access to wealth and opportunity, food, clothing, necessities, and luxuries, just enough for everyone to share.

Last I looked, my eyes were on those who didn’t place an order with you– they didn’t have the ability or means to plan. They are standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone else, do you have something for them too?

The word on the platform is yes! Something’s coming for everybody. No one will be turned away. Because you are the Grand Train.

Grand Train, just about all the townspeople are at the platform. They are pleasant and orderly; they know you’ll come. Each moment it seems, someone’s caught a glimpse of your bulbous engine. False alarm– but you’ll be in sight soon. Our arms are locked, our voices in song. I imagine your huge doors are ready to spill a wealth of contents, on to eager hands.

The stories are well-known, your legacy is untarnished!

Grand Train. We couldn’t wait. My family packed our belongings and we got out of town. We’re headed very far away, over a thousand miles, to a tiny station that doesn’t have anyone waiting. The townspeople there will probably be too busy to be untasked– heck, they won’t even know we’re coming. Our hope is that one day, soon, they’ll gather for our companionship, our livelihood and maybe, our ideas. From what we’ve learned, that’s all they’ll need in that town.

Grand Train, thank you for the promise of great things to come. Keep watch for our tail lights; we are one less family waiting for you.

Grand Train by Ara Hagopian.
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One High Place

You find out what your life’s missing, when you travel. Up ahead there’s a road, that leads to a place that can really open you up. You don’t have to do any self-examination. It’s simple; what’s revealed is what you don’t possess.

If you enjoy reading, then you know when you read, you go places. Sometimes this grows beyond escapism; a part of you is actually planning ahead, envisioning a more comforting place to be. Not just for your imagination to settle in, but for your body, too. One day.

That I believe to be true.

When we daydream, we’re transported in a similar way. Books, daydreams, live theater, movies– these activities lead to one destination: We’re on to a better place. We’re moving in a certain way, by non-physical means, until we find another means. Or until we give up. We can say, we’re traveling to a place worthy of our time.

Consider this. When treetops look like transformed mountains from superior dreams, you could ask, if I made my way towards one of those trees, what else could be transformed?

And, what would be changed in me?

When your attitude improves from breathing new air and from being there, how can you deny the cascade within you? When strangers offer a welcome like it’s all new to them too, then let me be the first to break it to you: You’re not just passing through. Your travels have brought you to a new home.

You find out what you have to offer when you travel. If your inspiration flows and doesn’t have to be pulled out of you, when a place makes itself easy to alter but you choose not to change a bit of it, then stop and think: Why not settle here?

Your best contribution to the world starts from your home. How fine would it be, if that address was One High Place.

There’s a locality of aspiration, with many paths to get there. The tallest, strongest trees are always set on raised ground. Does the base sit higher than where you are today? Isn’t that a good place to get started? Meaning, could you move to someplace a little better than where you live today?

One High Place, and its opportunities for you.

Not The Highest Place. Not The Best Place. 1HP4U.

When I was hurting and stuck, I didn’t have to get to the highest tree. There was no way I’d have the means to make it there, anyway. And I couldn’t get to the beautiful mountaintop that rose behind it–that too was for someone else, richer, smarter, younger, more ambitious, you name it. I just needed to find a higher place than where I was.

Let me tell you the story of a beginning. In 1986, I lived in a North Adams MA apartment building that overlooked South Street, which at that time was one of the poorer sections of the city. This was a rural college town and naturally, students made life harder for the locals. South Street was about six blocks away from the college and was the first line of homes that didn’t include off-campus housing.

In other words, South was not the most desirable street for townspeople to live on.

One day, I looked out my third-floor bedroom window. Directly across the street I saw a fortyish lady sweeping her driveway. She was dressed in modest clothing, suitable for yard work. Her clothes were worn. As I watched, her body was bent and she looked tired.

It was a windy day and trash was blowing in the street. A food wrapper found its way to her dead-grass lawn and stayed there. A loose dog trotted down the sidewalk, with a direct pace that no person would dare intercept.

My eyes came back to the driveway and to the lady– she was looking up at me. She’d seen my face in the window and just stared back.

I wanted to duck out of sight. I was caught, and embarrassed. In fact, I felt that by looking at the street I’d been doing something wrong, in violation of the residents’ privacy. I lowered my head to drop out of sight but changed my mind and froze, my face just a few inches lower in the glass. This was not an act of courage, or standing my ground. I felt ashamed. I surrendered.

She was leaning on the broom and looked more haggard than I’d thought. She was wearing a dingy kerchief that let loose some hair on her forehead. Even the broom looked pathetic, taped in the middle from a break, and missing many bristles.

Take a good look, kid. That’s the feeling I got from her.

I was 21 years-old and living a dream life. I had a drum kit in that room. A six-piece set! On occasion, I had guitarist friends bring their amplifiers up the three flights of stairs to jam when we wanted. Never thought about the noise.

Take a look lady, that was me.

I had a seventeen-year-old girlfriend who gave me everything I wanted and a model airplane hobby that filled my dreams and non-school hours. In fact I built and painted fifty models that year, in that room.

I got great grades and had great friends.

My face filled the window. Our eyes met. She made a motion to stuff her hair back and halted halfway. I’ll never forget what her eyes said to me.

Take a good look, kid. From your high place. That’s not your home. That’s not anybody’s. Not that building. Your landlord makes promises and breaks agreements. Not just with you, but with us. The people who live here.

Because this is our home. We are just barely making it.

Let me guess. You’re an immature man who counts on someone else to do the heavy lifting. Does Mommy pay your bills? You are going to find out very soon, you’ll take what broom you have. Come a few years you’ll wake up owning nothing, with piles of debt and your peers a long way gone past you. You are making decisions that will lock you into a life that will be impossible to get out of.

Or maybe you’ll learn something. Hey, kid up there. Maybe you’ll put a fraction of that education to use. Do you think you can do better?

One High Place by Ara Hagopian.

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