"I never liked flying," she said, she says, "you have to accept that death is a possibility once you buckle up."

Grim, what is this place, anyways? Golds and reds dance all around as higher and higher we climb until the clouds lay beside us.

"All the time, every time. I never got over it. Until... well, now I understand. All those uncomfortable flights of dread, frustration, and panic."

She stops for a breather but mostly for me. I also have to catch up. All these trees will take your time away if you're not mindful. Maybe that's just me? Bark has a way of calling me. The texture, ever so quiet yet harsh, it's a muted statement ever present about our lives. Maybe just mine. Maybe I have issues with a person's touch.

She continues on, "it was the lack of control. You just sit there, life in the hands of a stranger and a machine. Well the pilot does introduce themselves, so not a complete stranger, but might as well be."

No signs of slowing down; onwards, upwards.

"Maybe I just prefer the ground. Trains, cabs, and buses are no problem. I've even ridden a horse.... Anyhow, with planes I realized it was the lack of control. Of choice. Like, I can get on a bus with a planned destination, BUT, I can get off earlier if I want. With just a single pull, I can be back on my own two feet. Trains, not so much, but I'm aware of it so don't go arguing with me."

An asthmatic can't argue at the moment.

"Just that little bit of control eases the tension. KnowwhatImean?"

"Are you suggesting that being in complete control of one's life would be stress free?"

"No, you are."

She's right. She's gone. Up again.

"What I'm trying to say, right now, is that I get this moment of defiance when put in a position of no control. Like, say, someone is chasing me and I end up at the dead end of a cliff. They say, they always say, 'there's nowhere for you to run, surrender.' blah blah blah... anyhow, that sort of situation, I'm the sort to jump off to prove I still have a choice of my own. I'd go down smiling just to prove them wrong. Probably out of madness. But I can get just that stubborn at times. Willing to jump and all."

Jump? Where are we heading again? Higher and higher.

Her feet march steadily, determined to leave behind her troubles. But no matter the climb, we have to come back down to them at some point, don't we? It sure is peaceful up here. If we stay up here long enough, will all our troubles actually wait or will they forget about us eventually? But then what's actually left of us without our troubles? They live with us like parallel lines, just as near, just as far, a definition that can't be so easily cut.

If I stay up here too long I will forget myself. 

"Last time I prayed, I was a kid. Shitty lungs for the longest time, asthmatic like hell."

Small world.

"Ever see those machines? Sitting at home every day with this buzzing in front of you, mask strapped to your face as the vapors well up and envelope your face. All that noise made for some quiet moments. Hated it. Anyhow. So there we are at church, being goody goodies. Bam, asthma attack. In church! And me with no inhaler. My mom drags me outside so as not to disturb anyone else. Grandma standing by, praying, as I try to figure out how to breath. Just like that I think, here comes my time, and during church! Thankfully someone else there with an inhaler heard what was happening and came out to help. I know I know - it's HIS mysterious way of working! HE can keep his work to himself. What had I done up to that point as a kid to deserve that? Maybe my mom did something wrong. I don't know. But that was the first time I had no control. Over my own damn body. So this is something that's been with me for a long time. I think that's what I was trying to say. That's my issue. One of them at least."

But, the planes...

"So, I'm an asshole. Gotta make my own choices, always thinking control is the way to go. But then I met someone and all was well and good between us. I thought. When he left I figured it out. Always the way, as they say. That was the first relationship that made sense after it was over. I think if I had actually let my guard down, then the two of us would have become something else, something more. Something good. Controlling our future together. Creating a future. Don't really know for sure, just what I speculate, it is a part of time I will never know. All the what-ifs and how-comes that keep us up at night, with every answer returning the blame at us."

She slows to a stop. Raises a hand and extends a finger.

"The planes fly from over here. The last I heard from him, he was getting on one. Flying away from me. Selfish, I know, but it is my perspective. He probably had many other reasons to end it. But he gave me back my control. And for once I don't want it. This path, never thought it would be like this once I arrived."

The clouds have left as the sun machine comes down. The stars say hello. She looks beyond them, a gaze reaching out to an idea. But it doesn't shine.

She finally stops, finds her spot, "He brought out of me a sort of peace and excitement. As if I was having a memory of a festival. All familiar and warm. Never ending. What do you think?"

Such love, yes, I see her when I close my eyes, "I once knew a woman that bought a pajama onesie because I had one and thought it would be fun if we had a pajama night. And it was, plus so much more. She hadn't worn one since being a kid, but there she was, ready to run with it. Hand in hand, we ran through this world as one. Then the running stopped for some reason.... My heart melted when we found each other. Now it just aches. Like you said, someone that sparks that festival from within. It doesn't happen too often, and it's usually too late when we realize what we had found."

"Yeah. Cause we're idiots. Stubborn."

"It's quite the mess, meeting someone. Loving someone. Missing someone."

"Building something bigger than the sum of two."

The cliffs edge closer, a plane passes over. 

She sighs, "I like to think, that if I wait here long enough, love will come with the dawn. But his plane never seems to land. What a beautiful mistake. Like, I'm not sure what I want it to be anymore, but it doesn't have to be perfect."

We stand apart and hold onto those that brought us joy. All familiar and warm. 

(Here's an old article I'm quite fond of about some old chums out doing what they're doing.)

Originally published July 17, 2010.

Words spoken in a dream tend to fade as a day progresses, to be lost in the clutter of the subconscious, waiting to emerge in a moment of eccentricity. Sometimes, though, those words will not be left to fade, and will cause a stir in the dreamer’s reality.

"You don't need shoes to drive."

Jon Moses had this dream, in which his friend, Albert Birney, stood by the ocean and spoke those fated words. Soon after, Albert had a dream where his little brother turned into a crayon. Three years later, what sense they found in their dreams has resulted in the near completion of 'The Beast Pageant'.

Albert and Jon, of Jubadaba Productions, wrote and directed the film together. Shot by Albert on a 16mm Bolex camera that was rescued from a dumpster, 'The Beast Pageant' tells the tale of Abraham (played by Jon), whose only companion is a machine in his home. But one day, a tiny cowboy bursts from his body and leads Abraham into the wild. You can re-read that if you like. Whether or not we will find the connections between the dreams and the film, Albert and Jon have created a story of fantastic characters and adventure. All sets were built by hand in an old brick building, costumes were made, puppetry, animation, and original music was developed. With the help of friends and the community, their passion and creativity has been greatly rewarded, making this production an entirely independent endeavour.

As post-production nears completion, excitement grows as screening opportunities emerge. The first will be held at The Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House, Sunday, September 26th at 7:00pm. More times and dates will follow, as well as screenings in a friend's basement. When asked about how it feels as the project nears its end, the duo had this to say: "It feels like taking a bubble bath in warm milk while listening to Enya."

Whether those words came from a dream are unknown at this time.

Cinnamon was a favorite of mine. I suppose it still is, but it is more of a bitter-sweet addition now.

10 years, has it been? I was paid to be a baker about a decade ago. Baking has been an interest of mine since I was allowed in the kitchen. And still is presently as kitchen privileges have yet to be revoked. But 10 years ago I would awake when others scattered out of the bars. Morning shift, 3 to 12. If you haven't tried it, I implore you take the opportunity to explore the world at 3 in the morning. Bars are closed. Only the lost and determined rumble in the night. Never has silent freedom felt so welcoming as bicycling down open roads without a motor or voice to interfere with the stillness. There's the fisherman, rod and tackle sway in the shadows,

hello, hello, we sigh in our own directions. 

Still dreaming, I glide to work.

Bread, biscuits, muffins, claws, scones, rolls... and more and more. Mostly bread, lots of bread. Just feel these forearms of mine, you knead too! But come noon the body goes numb. Tired, hand and foot sore, sweat and floured. Honest work, earn your bread and take some home as a bonus. What's to complain? Oh, you know - cinnamon bread.

Store favorite meant buckets of the grounded bark clouded our senses for a portion of the morning. Kneading away as the smell infiltrated your still sleeping body, the mind knew not what to do with this not-so-much-a-nightmare but just as disconcerting sensation. And on and on and on. Then you ride back home through the chaos and commotion of a woken city as fast as you can so that the wind strips you of every last scent of spice. 

That was a lifetime ago, and yet I know it as yesterday.

Such a privilege.

See, occasionally I would work the store front when I was not needed as a baker. Folks come in, folks go out with our bread and some change. There was a nice view of the busy intersection from the register where school kids and agitated parents puttered. Or you could mutter to yourself when a careless driver entered the parking lot from the wrong direction. It was a narrow parking lot designed to be entered from one direction with an exit leading to a not so busy side street. All the parking spots were then at an angle relevant to this practical design. Simple, made sense. But people seldom do. And they try to figure out how to park their overtly extended vehicles while everyone glares at them. It results almost in a 20-point turn.

And we grow cynical and easily dislike those drivers.

So there I am, in the final hour of closing, lost in the intersection drama when out of the corner of my eye one of those boats comes creeping into the lot from the wrong direction. The irritation seeps out of me as I roll my eyes at this, yet another, lousy driver not bothering to pay attention to their surroundings. It's not difficult, folks, the sign DOES say, 'One Way'. Anyhow, I stand and watch the show once again. So here she comes, little old dear, making her way through our doors, still looking lost. I'm polite but I can't help but look at her poor parking job outside. Details details details.

She asks for a slice to sample and silently stands alone. And here is where my memory fails me, because I can't recall if she bought anything. Generally it's the snotty kids that rush in asking for a free slice and run off without so much as a 'thank you'. This time, though, it's because of what she told me that has taken greater weight in my recollection. Watching the clock tick closer to the end of day, she finishes her slice of cinnamon bread and says and says:

"I just came from the doctor. He said I have early stage Alzheimer's. I don't have anyone to tell."

Such a strong sense of sincerity between strangers. I probably should have hugged her but her words struck me down that it was all I could do just to lean on the counter and reach for her hand. 

"What's your name?"


I'm sorry, Anne, I won't ever forget you.

And then she was gone. 10 years have passed and that cinnamon bread lingers in my mind.

Still a privilege. 

I sit here, twiddling, trying to think of the meals that have taken the longest to prepare. As if that is some measurement to use for the final experience. "What's that, grandma? 8 hours you say? Well the chicken is a little dry."

ho hum.

Manners have improved, skins thicker, voices sweeter. Grandma still don't give a shit. Eat it and share the love, or you can just sit out. What is it she says?

"Para los pobres - frijoles."

No beans about it, times are a little different now for her grandchildren. Rather than giving her the title of great-grandma, I'm busy making little pieces of shit chocolate rather than just, well, you know. My cousin has that covered anyhow. Where were we...

A wry smile at the ready. What will the guests think and how will it affect my self esteem? Or perhaps it will boost my ego. A smile so big as I'm left to do the dishes alone. "It's alright, as long as you enjoyed it. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks." But, in the end, I enjoy the process enough that it is its own reward.

What the hell am I talking about? This is chocolate for friends. They'll lie to me and say they like it no matter what. Every one lies, especially at Christmas. Ho ho ho. Pity the caroler without accompaniment, but never you worry, this chocolate does come with a partner.

Speaking about lies, here's one for ya: for a few months, back in college, I had a co-worker call me Paul. It was the morning shift so I was too tired to correct him the first time he called me by that name. And then I just didn't bother to ever correct him. "What did it really matter?", I asked myself, I've been called worse things in my life.

Like, Robert, for example. 

Our paths only ever crossed at the work place, and one of us was bound to graduate at some point. I figured I could hold out long enough. Maybe find another job. I don't recall if he was more upset or embarrassed once he realized what he had been doing. It didn't help that it was our other co-workers that corrected him and continued to mock him. Was it so wrong? Would you consider it a white lie? Or some twisted passive-aggressive joke? I have been known to unconsciously joke around.

Would he enjoy my chocolates? Hell, what was his name....

Creams. Creme? Cream. Or is it just failed frostings? I don't know. Butter. Sugar. Flavors. More sugar. A good arm and the grit to mix by hand. (But how I pray for a mixer some day (and that someone gifts me it because then that would be the true meaning of  friendship/love/paying back a really big favor)). At this point, the bottle is near empty so I can't keep track of what I have done or yet to do. Ah, the camera will remember for me. But have you tried tempering chocolate? There is no time to do anything else! And once it is tempered, you have but fleeting moments to make your molds before you are mocked by time itself. Whoops, you took too long. Work your chocolate once again. You stand silently over your bowl, stirring, wanting for a few marshmallows and graham crackers. And now? Well, now I have frosting and chocolate on my camera, hands... the floor...

And it's on the walls!

Bah, it's wallpaper (except that the next morning I will have realized that - it is not paper). This one time, as a child, I ate one of those solid chocolate Easter bunnies. But this was a cookies and cream (creme?) fella. Gnawed on that for at least a week. I doubt I could have ever had a regular chocolate bunny of that sort. My young self was too cool for simple milk chocolate of questionable quality. But add in a simple extra? Candy shell? Mysterious peanut butter? Nougat? Yes, yes, oh yes. Give me those texture combinations. But present me, presently? Well, no, I'm sensible. Solid bunnies are not my thing anymore. Also my taste for white chocolate has dwindled. Strange.

Now I prefer dark chocolate. Less sweet, more bitter. Life has schooled me well. Ah, adulthood, keep it coming. Oh, but let's add some heat. Cause sometimes we need to wink back at life with a bleeding smile.

The floral fruitiness of the habanero makes it quite the guest in a sweet treat. And the surprise it brings with it, hah, eater beware. It will be the favorite, I suspect. Take a bite, experiencing the satisfying snap of the chocolate shell, giving way to the freshly sweet cream (creme?) within. A moment to savor, "not bad, kinda good", and before the next bite finishes off the little guy - "oh what's that?" It's faint at first, but then familiar. And then it lingers, making you question whether you should have another. But you will. (They always do.) Just a little heat for my sweets.

Well, they're not pretty, but it is my first time making them. I sure hope my friends like these.

Merry Christmas.