February Word Challenge, Day 24

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are estate, whistle, gang, riot, loft.

Chosen word for free association: loft
balcony, toss, float, high, left, lift, luft (German)

Lofty Himalayan peaks stand
Silent, snowy sentinels
Reminders that we humans are
Merely temporary.

When we are gone, they will remain,
As will our damage.


February Word Challenge, Day 23

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are mouse, pyramid, turf, passport, parliament.

Chosen word for free association: pyramid
power, scheme, Maslow, apex, illuminati, Egypt, Mesoamerica, Maya


(A quick note before I begin this. This is a writing exercise, not a well-researched, submitted article. What I’m going to write about is from a specific culture, and I’m sure I will get details wrong. I intend no offense to anyone. It’s just an exercise in creativity.)

Ninety-One steps. Even for Aapo, a young man in his prime, they were hard steps. Tall steps. His legs and lungs burned. But he would not stop. He would not be the weak one. He would meet Kukulkan with open heart and life’s blood, and his people would live another year.

Ninety-One steps, now done. His thighs, knotted in cramps, shook. Only the dais was left. He raised his quivering leg and levered himself up and onto the cold stone, where he lay, panting. Strong hands picked him up by the limbs. He felt the chill of stone again, on his back and calves. He closed his eyes.

When he opened them, he would see Kukulkan.

February Word Challenge, Day 22

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are olympics, laser, coin, doughnut, friar.

Chosen word for free association: friar
monk, fish friar, chip monk, deep friar, band name


“Ladies and Gentlemen … from Schenectady, NY … put your hands together for … DEEP FRIAR!”

On cue, Francis walked through the stage fog and took up his position behind mic #3. The cheers grew louder as he and his band members emerged from the shadows onto the stage. His Les Paul hung heavy from his shoulder, the headstock angled toward the floor, stage lights reflecting from the chrome hardware.

It didn’t used to be like this. At one time, the words were the message, and Deep Friar, despite the punny name, wrote music that made people think. But these days, the message was lost. The music was still technical and challenging, at least, but after their fourth album (Friary Crash) debuted to lackluster sales, the record company had told them to lighten up on the lyrics. It had worked; every album since then had gone gold, and controversy over lyrical meaning disappeared.

And for Francis, so did the point.

February Word Challenge, Day 21

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are belt, bingo, lift, trolley, reindeer.

Chosen word for free association: lift
spirits, elevator, raise, major lift


I had the opportunity to learn how to play and sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” recently for an upcoming benefit performance. I love the self-referential portion of the song in which the melody and chord progression are climbing and the lyrics say the following:

Well it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift

I put this song in the same category as “The Hook” by Blues Traveler and “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. All of those songs are tongue-in-cheek exercises that make different points than the listener expects; “The Hook” is a cynical look at how it doesn’t really matter what a song’s lyrics are about as long as the hook grabs your attention. “Born in the USA” is about the deplorable treatment our veterans receive after coming back home from war; it’s not a celebratory song, but it is often used as one because the chorus — the hook — is just “Born in the USA”, which by itself doesn’t make any negative statements about the government or military.

“Hallelujah” is similar, if a bit more obfuscated. Its point seems to be to rail against love. Or is it to celebrate the pain of love?

February Word Challenge, Day 18

(If you’re wondering what this is about, read this.)

My five random words for today’s exercise are teapot, bin, salt, basket, library.

Chosen word for free association: library
Don’t need it. The scene just popped into my head.

Really, the entire house was a library. The room officially known as the library was on the top floor of the painted lady, but as the books filled that space, they cascaded down the broad staircases to the main floor, lining the walls and snaking around, gradually filling in space like a jigsaw puzzle. At the servant staircase, they piggybacked their way down the treacherously steep steps and into the cold of a dry basement, where they waited in the sometimes crisp air for their next set of eyes.