Friday, June 28, 2013

story: Sweet Melissae

Sweet Melissae
by Erik Jorgensen copyright 2013

            Humming contentedly, Melissa examined each wide white blossom closely and methodically.  Performing each careful test, then analyzing the results with her expertly experienced senses, she concluded that this new patch of flowers was adequate - just like all the others.  Not nearly as good as the little clustered purple blossoms she remembered from her childhood, but still within tolerable parameters: acceptable, but boring.  On the other hand, it was getting harder and harder to find new patches anywhere, and she thanked her lucky stars for finding this untapped source at all.  She gathered as much pollen as she could, drew up a sample of nectar, then made a beeline straight back home.
            The Tower was easy to spot from far away, and Melissa had never been grateful for that before today.  Her quest had taken her much farther than she imagined; she had just gone from patch to empty patch, each time thinking, "Maybe I'll find something around the next corner..."  Passing those hundreds of withered, wilted patches of blossoms again, she had a long, long time to think as she returned to the Tower.  Nobody talked about it, but Melissa could see for herself that there were fewer flowers to find, and further away.  She didn't know what was going to happen when all the blossoms disappeared, and it wasn't her job to know.  Still, she couldn't help but wonder.
            One of her sisters was waiting for her near the entrance.  They exchanged pleasantries, then discussed details of this new batch of pollen, same as the old batch, which Melissa then handed over to her sister.  She never knew what happened with the pollen after that, and it wasn't her job to know; it was just her job to find it, get it, and bring it back.  As she turned to return to work, she saw two of her little sisters staring out the entryway, talking each other out of going outside.  They weren't the same age, but were about the same size and looked like twins.  The older one was at that difficult, contrary stage where she grumbled about everything and anything, and her younger sister did her best to imitate her.
            "Why even bother going out?  We've already been everywhere, and there's nothing to do anyway."
            "Yeah - nothing anywhere, ever."  She casually glanced over at her older sister, making sure she was slouching just right, and matching her aggressively-bored expression.
            Melissa jumped playfully between her sisters, and borrowing the tune of an old childhood song, began singing about an endless fragrant paradise of beautiful flowers - it's far away, and the journey will be long, but that makes it so much sweeter when you finally find it.  As she hummed and sang, she danced around and around her sisters, bumping them playfully with her round behind in a wiggling figure-eight frolic about flowers.  The younger sister quickly joined in the impromptu song-and-dance, since that was lots more fun than just slouching, and soon she was making up her very own verses about the joy of finding flowers when nobody else can, and bump-wiggle-bumped her older sister into finally joining in the dance, too.  Dancing a looping farandole around each other, they all sang the traditional childhood verse together.  Polite applause arose from everyone in the entryway.
            "I haven't seen anybody lead the Happy Flower Song that well in ages," a regal voice boomed. Everybody stopped and turned, and then all bowed politely before the Queen, who approached Melissa, who felt examined by a thousand eyes.  Awkwardly flattered, Melissa stammered for anything to say, embarrassed because Song Leader was not her job.
            "Well, Your Majesty, it just made me sad to see my sisters inside on a beautiful day like today, especially when there are still flowers blossoming."
            “I just thought it was fun!” little sister buzzed excitedly.

Next: Part 2 - Days of Droning Darkness 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

article: Coffee Shop Ettiquette

[originally published in Oak Leaf News March 11, 2013]

Coffee Shop Ettiquette
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

Over the years, I have observed the proper way to behave in a coffee shop:
• Wait until you are at the front of the line to decide what you want. Reading the menu is just too much work if you are second or third in line – and almost impossible when you first walk through the door. The people behind you will admire you for taking your time to make such an important decision. Bonus points if you make the barista wait for you to finish gossiping on your cellphone.
• ‘Regular’ coffee is for chumps. To show people behind you how cultured and sophisticated you are, order the drink with the most complicated name – even if you have to make one up. Latte? For losers. Espresso? Especially so-so. Cappuccino? Pfft – amateur. A real pro orders a double-decaf white chocolate soy latte with whipped cream and dark chocolate sprinkles. The key here is to take longer to name your drink, much less make it, than it would take for the guy behind you with exact change to complete his “regular” coffee transaction.
• Wait until the end of the transaction to start looking for your wallet. This demonstrates that you are so rich and successful and don’t bother yourself with trivial transactions. “Forgetting” where you keep your money gives you that “je ne sais quoi” that really separates you from the common rabble. This trick also works at fast food franchises.
• Block the cream and sugar while waiting for your fru-fru drink, preferably with an inane conversation. This establishes your dominance over the plebian “regulars.” The tingle of control throbs harder when commoners have to ask your permission for the condiments. “Oh *gasp* – am I in your way? Here, I’ll let you use the cream and sugar!” But make sure you let the cretin know how inconvenient it is to acknowledge their mere presence.
• Most importantly, make sure you do all this when you see me standing behind you with exact change in my hand, trying to jumpstart with a quick jolt of Joe between my morning classes.

article: Profiting from the Brain Drain

[originally published in Oak Leaf News April 30, 2013]

Profiting from the Brain Drain
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

When I got laid off before Christmas a couple years ago, I thought it was a great opportunity to go back to school. Because I had a bad year, my finances qualified me for the BOG tuition waiver. I was elated – I could go to school for free!

And then I tried to buy textbooks. One class alone required more than $200 in textbooks. Reluctantly, I dropped out – the cost of my textbooks prohibited me from going to school for free.

During another semester, I took a computer graphics class to expand my job skills. The textbook, written by the instructor, was a bargain at $35, or so I thought – until I took the plastic spiral-bound photocopies home and read them. Each page had at least one full-screen shot of the program’s control panel – sometimes just to show the mouse pointing at different menus on the top. If you removed all the pictures, there would only be about five or six pages of text.

I understand teachers don’t make much money, and writing textbooks is a great way to supplement their meager income, but that textbook was a rip-off. It showed contempt for the students who had to buy it. The bookstore has to mark up the cost to make a profit and pay their employees, and whoever put the “books” together had to make a living as well. So in all fairness, the teacher was probably only making a dollar or two per book. But that specific book was useless – and overpriced.

In fact, don’t get me started on “obsolete” textbooks. After taking my compulsory Finite Math class, the bookstore refused to buy back my discontinued textbooks, which cost more than $150 used. I was told they use a new edition next semester. Were there some new discoveries in math that rendered the old book useless? Are there technological breakthroughs in calculating compound interest? Did the popularity of Texas Hold’em alter the odds of card combinations? Or is it just another excuse to profit off of starving students?

This country’s record-profits-every-quarter mentality is draining our country of its greatest national resource: brainpower.

obituary: He Lifted Them to the Stars

[originally published in Oak Leaf News Online May 14, 2013]

He Lifted Them to the Stars
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

I buried my dad Wednesday.

Dry thunder crackled and echoed across the canyons and foothills of the mountain valley. Bagpipes joined the angelic choir’s mournful fugue as I carried the king’s golden chesspiece with my brothers, nephew and brother-in-law to its final checkmate. The heavens wept a little, and after his body touched down at its final landing site, a hailstorm joined its celestial salute to the majestic May morning.

Victor W. Jorgensen, Jr. was not an astronaut, but his magnum opus assisted others up through the atmosphere to their apotheosis. While heaven’s requiem for the rocket scientist chess master was a thunderous sturm und drang hailstorm, NASA presented him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Several people drove for hours to shake my hand and say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” because they didn’t know what else to say. I would smile back gratefully and say, “Thank you for coming,” because I didn’t know what else to say. Then they got back into their cars and drove home. Some day I will hear of their passing, and I will drive out there to say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” because I won’t know what else to say. But I will mean it with all my heart.

By reading to me as a child, my father demonstrated the value of books. Through his unfailing example, he demonstrated the value of Truth – not just in words, but in action and thought. Most importantly, my father taught me to be true to myself. “Better far,” he often sang to me, “to live and die under the brave black flag you fly, than play a sanctimonious part with your pirate brain and your pirate heart.” He was very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical and could solve equations, both the simple and quadratical.

But my father’s greatest attribute by far was he was somebody I was proud to call my friend. Thank you for being such a good father, and for being my father. We miss you.

article: New Facelift for “Wizard’s” Museum

[originally printed in Oak Leaf News March 11, 2013]

New Facelift for “Wizard’s” Museum
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

They called him the “Wizard of Santa Rosa” and he changed the way the world ate. Luther Burbank’s most famous invention, the Russet potato, is the most planted food crop in the world. He sold his discovery to a seed company and used his profits to move to Santa Rosa in 1875. The remodeled museum at Luther Burbank Home and Gardens now showcases one of his 800 plant inventions, the Santa Rosa Plum.

“Pursuing the Perfect Plum” not only names the new museum display, it also describes Luther Burbank’s long-time quest. Burbank’s experiments to produce bigger and better fruit also produced interesting specimens like stone-less plums, spineless cactus and white blackberries.
The U.S. Patent Office did not originally extend its protection to new plants, but after Burbank’s death in 1926 his friend Thomas Edison appealed to Congress to fix this oversight. Burbank was posthumously awarded nine patents, six for his plums.

Scott Posner, a docent at Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, spoke to volunteer gardeners on Feb. 15 about new and upcoming changes at this National Historic Landmark. The museum changes its look every two or three years and this year’s facelift showcases Burbank’s Prunus salicina ‘Santa Rosa.’
The Santa Rosa Plum “remains a world favorite today,” Posner said. The new display features copies of Burbank’s six plum patents, as well as the Gold Medal earned for his Santa Rosa Plum at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon. Another new addition is a piece of furniture belonging to Burbank, a display shelf called a whatnot. Posner said that the walnut whatnot, rescued from the attic of the carriage house after 50 years, received careful renovation by volunteer staffers before being installed as a centerpiece in the new display.

Located across Santa Rosa Avenue from Julliard Park, the Home & Gardens also requires renovations. The original picket fence surrounding the gardens spans 750 feet and contains about 2,250 pickets. Repairs on the fence are complicated by two factors. First, original historic landmark original structures, like the picket fence, cannot simply be swapped out for new ones. Second, toxic lead paint covers the original pickets, which complicates the renovation process since paint chips can contaminate the ground or poison workers. The fence repair, estimated costing $150,000, should begin later this year.

Burbank’s greenhouse also needs repairs to part of its roof. It survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake without breaking a single pane of glass. In contrast, the quake leveled Santa Rosa City Hall just a couple blocks away.

The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens at 204 Santa Rosa Ave. are free and open to the public every day of the year from 8 a.m. until dusk. The museum and gift shop opens from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Guided tours run from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and cost $7. Free cellphone tours are available before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Luther Burbank is buried in the front yard, next to his beloved greenhouse.

article: Flight of the Living Dead

[originally published in Oak Leaf News April 8, 2013]

Flight of the Living Dead
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

A zombie apocalypse has arrived that may completely destroy civilization as we know it – and these zombies can fly.

Apocephalus borealis, a tiny parasitoid fly, adds to the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) facing our nation’s honey bees. Fly eggs injected into the bee’s abdomen grow into larvae causing erratic behavior in the hapless honey bee, such as walking in circles on the ground or flying at night. Eventually the larvae grow until the bee’s head pops off and they crawl out. In fact, apo cephalus is Latin for “separate the head” or “decapitate.” Whether or not A. borealis actually contributes to CCD, it poses its own danger to honey bees.

CCD lacks a single identifiable cause, but the effects are easily recognizable: empty beehives without corpses or any forensic evidence explaining why all the bees disappeared. Speculations regarding CCD’s origin include Varroa mites and other parasites, viruses, cellphone transmissions, pesticides or some combination of factors. According to Western Farm Press, since 2006 when CCD was first identified in the U.S., about one third of our bees die over the winters with some beekeepers reporting losses of 90 to 100 percent.

Rachel Spaeth, Garden Coordinator at Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa, put the problem into perspective. “If anybody likes fruits: apples, cherries, pears; all of those are pollinated by bees. Since bees are already there doing this service for us, we don’t put a monetary value on it because it has always happened that way. But if we had to take the manpower to do all the pollinating ourselves, what kind of economic impact would that have?” Spaeth said.

Spaeth graduated from Santa Rosa Junior College with a degree in biology, certificates in environmental horticulture and sustainable agriculture and is currently researching her master’s degree in Micropollenoscopy at Sonoma State University.

“There are some places in China that have actually experienced complete eradication of bees due to inappropriate pesticide use,” Spaeth said. “Now they have to go through and hand-pollinate things. That’s a case where they’ve been hit with the economics of it.”

China Daily reported in February 2012 that Sichuan province relies on hand-pollination for its pear crop, saying, “A hive of bees can pollinate three million flowers a day, but a person can pollinate only 30 trees.”

Since honey bees pollinate so many flowers and food crops, the economic fallout of their demise could reach into billions of dollars. California’s 800,000 acres of almond orchards produced two billion pounds of almonds in 2012 valued at $4 billion, up from $740 million in 2002. Each acre requires two bee colonies of 20,000 bees per hive to achieve adequate pollination in early March. The approximately 30 billion bees needed for California’s almond crop alone requires help from commercial beekeepers nationwide.

Modern migratory beekeeping started in the winter of 1907 when Nephi Miller shipped his bees by train from frozen Cache Valley, Utah to sunny California. Today, commercial beekeepers truck their hives cross-country following different short blossom seasons.

Randell Verhoek, president of the American Honey Producers Association, says, “Close to half of the commercial bees that are raised for honey production and almond pollination are sent to the Midwest in the spring/summer. Commercial beekeepers try to make up extra colonies in anticipated higher-than-normal winter losses. This is necessary to meet the demand for honey production and pollination demands.”

Verhoek went on two almond orchard tours during the 2013 almond blossom season where he received several insider reports. “Many hives in almonds were substandard. We were easily 100,000 hives short. Many other thousands of acres had weak bees, or substandard.”

BBC News described the same season as the biggest single pollination event on Earth.

“One of the biggest concerns [for beekeepers] are pesticides,” Verhoek said. “If the new classes of neonicatinoids are indeed killing bees we are in real trouble. Beekeepers understand that farmers need pesticides to protect their crop and have a right to do so. It is not fair for a farmer to kill pests on his crops with insecticides if it ends up killing bees in the area.” Verhoek notes Varroa mites have become resistant to miticides developed for them. “Trying to kill a bug on a bug makes it extremely challenging.”

John Hafernik, professor of biology at San Francisco State University, said, “SRJC students should be concerned about the increased number of failing honey bee hives because honey bees are responsible for pollinating many of our most important agricultural crops.”

Hafernik accidentally discovered A. borealis infesting honey bees instead of their usual host, bumblebees. Seeing bees walking erratically in circles “zombie-like” outside the SFSU biology building, he gathered the bees in vials to feed to his praying mantis but forgot one on his desk. When he rediscovered the vial a week later, it was filled with A. borealis larvae. To discover the extent of this problem nationwide, Hafernik created a “citizen scientist” site for beekeepers and volunteers,

Others downplay the media hype of the buzzword. “The term ‘zombie bees’ was made up by some journalist,” said Rosalind James, Ph.D., research leader at Utah State University’s “BeeLab” and USDA Pollinating Insects Research Unit. “Making a great story to excite people is not really our mission. We want to understand what is really going on and then help solve the problem.”

Andrew Gough, author of “The Hidden Hive of History – The Forgotten God of the Ancients” and editor-in-chief of The Heretic Magazine, says, “There is no mystery why the bees are dying: CCD is the result of pesticides. Large pharmaceutical corporations’ products not only weaken the bees’ immune systems, they have an agenda to replace the bees’ natural products with their own.” Gough says media hype about cellphone transmissions interfering with bee colonies is misdirection to deflect the role of pesticides.

“The loss that CCD presents to our society is far greater than the multi-billion dollar industry that bees and their essential byproducts represent,” Gough said. “While this is a horrific reality, the potential loss of the honey bee represents the loss of the greatest tradition of our world. The honey bee is the most deified god or goddess that has ever existed. To render it extinct would be to murder the goddess herself.”

The situation is not yet hopeless. “One way that SRJC students can help in investigating honey bee losses is to join our ‘ZomBee Watch’ citizen science project to help determine how big a role the zombie fly A. borealis plays in honey bee declines,” Hafernik said. “They can also help by planting bee-friendly plants in their gardens to help provide resources for our many species of native bees and for the introduced [European] honey bee.”

Verhoek agrees. Writing in an email, “any time students can bee advocates for the bees is a good thing,” he said.

For more information, join the SRJC Bee Club on Facebook.

article: Films to Watch: Videodrome

[originally published in Oak Leaf News April 8, 2013 ]

Films to Watch: Videodrome
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

People always talk about what’s on TV, but rarely discuss television’s effects on individuals and society. David Cronenberg’s 1983 dystopian film “Videodrome” examines the effects of media violence, predicting reality TV with disturbing foresight: “Videodrome. First it controls your mind, then it destroys your body.”

James Woods and singer Deborah Harry (Blondie) add a post-modern twist to the timeless love story: boy meets girl, boy and girl watch snuff film, girl leaves boy to star in snuff films, boy becomes mind-controlled assassin.

Woods plays Max Renn, president of a sex-and-violence TV station eager to broaden his audience with new perverted programming. Renn discovers Videodrome on a scrambled pirate transmission, consisting entirely of extreme mindless violence.

It also contains a hidden mind-control carrier signal that causes hallucinations and brain tumors. Then things get weird.

Writer and Director David Cronenberg attended the University of Toronto at the same time Marshall McLuhan lectured in media studies. The “Medium is the Message” philosopher is credited with influencing Cronenberg’s ahead-of-its-time cult classic film.

If you are interested in films about television, violence and Blondie’s Deborah Harry, then Videodrome will both disturb and amaze with its foresight, surpassing both the elegance of real housewives and the culture of Jersey shore.

article: Pliny the Younger: World Gathers in Santa Rosa for Beer

[originally published in Oak Leaf News February 12, 2013]

Pliny the Younger: World Gathers in Santa Rosa for Beer
Erik Jorgensen, Staff Writer

Hundreds from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to the Santa Rosa birthplace of Pliny the Younger on Feb. 1. More travelers and locals waited in line on Fourth Street than ever before as the Sonoma County Economic Development Board studied the event for its impact on the local economy.

Russian River Brewing Company opened in April 2004 and quickly earned a reputation as one of the best breweries in the world. Pliny the Elder has been ranked as the number one beer in the world by Zymurgy magazine readers for the past four years. Beer Advocate magazine and both rank Pliny the Elder, a Double India Pale Ale, and Pliny the Younger, a Triple IPA, as the second and third best beers in the world, respectively.

Of the four basic elements that transmute into beer (water, barley, hops and yeast) the hops most define an IPA. Usually added as a flavoring agent, hops also have preservative qualities. For this reason, British brewers added extra hops to beer sent to India by sailing ship, which could take months. When British soldiers returned from India, they brought along their acquired taste for this extra hoppy ale.

The real-life Pliny the Elder, born Gaius Plinius Secundus, was a Roman admiral, philosopher and naturalist whose “Naturalis Historia” became the model for all later encyclopedias. In it, Pliny documented and named hops Lupus salictarius, which translates to “wild wolf of the woods.” For this contribution to science, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River named the brewery’s doubly-hopped ale in honor of Pliny the Elder. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD the Roman admiral sailed across the Bay of Naples to rescue friends and relatives from Pompeii and to document the eruption, thus becoming the first embedded journalist. Prevailing winds prevented his boat from leaving shore and Pliny the Elder died, possibly from toxic fumes. His nephew and adopted son, named Pliny the Younger, documented his uncle’s death and the eruption of Vesuvius in his “Epistulae.”

Brewmaster and co-owner Cilurzo is credited with inventing the Double IPA style in 1994 at his Blind Pig Brewery in Temecula, California. When Cilurzo and his wife Natalie opened Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa, they put both Pliny the Elder and Younger on tap from day one. The brewery offers Pliny the Younger only occasionally because it requires extra ingredients and takes more time to brew. It came, folks enjoyed it and then it went away. That’s the way locals liked it.

Everything changed in 2008. That year, San Francisco Beer Week coincided with the annual limited release of Pliny the Younger on the first Friday of February. People who had already traveled from around the world made the hour-long drive up from the Bay Area to visit the legendary Russian River Brewery.

At that time, Russian River allowed people to take home their Triple IPA in growlers – half-gallon refillable glass bottles. Limited in 2008 to four growlers per person, groups showed up and bought four apiece. The whole weekend’s allotment sold out by 7:30 Friday night, gobbled up by the greedy growlers.

Bars, even breweries, sometimes run out of beer, but a lot of feelings got bruised. Several people made vicious online accusations that Russian River deliberately created an artificial scarcity for cynical self-promotion. In reality, the greedy growlers selling their ambrosia online at a 400 percent markup dried up the well that year.

Gabe Rivera, manager, bartender and drummer in Russian River’s house band The Mud, The Blood and The Beer, has known Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo since he was a 15-year old in Lake Elsinore. On that February Friday, three taps continuously poured Pliny the Younger, one tap filled growlers and another filled half-pint glasses nonstop. The level of beer in the sight glass of the enormous holding tank slowly but visibly dropped, Rivera said. Since that year, procedure changed to allow more people access to this limited release. Gone are the growlers of the Younger, and now each day has a rationed allotment to stretch the annual event to last two weeks.

Seating guests in small waves rather than an endless flood has helped both visitors and employees. Russian River hostess Kai Schrade double-majors at SRJC in anthropology and studio art with plans to complete her Ph.D. in forensic anthropology.

Schrade has seen three Pliny the Younger releases, and said this was the largest and smoothest yet.“The crowd is more knowledgeable, and they get here understanding there will be a long wait in line. They know they won’t be able to get a table as soon as they walk in. They’re just in a better mood, and are more willing to work with staff to get served,” Schrade said.

Schrade also noted that they sold a lot more merchandise, including t-shirts, hats, keychains and patches. She plans on writing her observations of this event for her anthropology class.

Former SRJC student and Oak Leaf photojournalist Larry Muchowski covered last year’s Pliny the Younger release for TV station KTXL in Sacramento. This year he took the day off work to attend day one of the limited release, “This time for fun!” Muchowski said.

He was not alone.

An extreme, but not unusual, example are the Head-Cases, a group of 35 visiting their third release of Pliny the Younger. Originally meeting online in a forum about headphones, the group discovered they had other mutual interests and decided to meet up in real life. The Head-Cases flew in from all over the country just to stand in line for eight hours with their online friends.

For Brent Lawson of Tennessee, this was his third Pliny the Younger release with the Head-Cases – and he doesn’t even like beer. “Well, except for what Russian River makes,” Lawson added.

Fellow Head-Case and homebrew dabbler Scott had never been to California before, and flew in just to attend the limited release. He flew back to North Carolina after a total visit of just 31 hours, but the rest of the group planned to stay in Sonoma County for five to eight days.

On the first day of Younger, the line started at 3 a.m. The Head- Case group got in line at about 9 a.m. and by then the line already stretched down Fourth Street, around the corner, then past the second corner and back down Fifth Street. This massive line directly impacted local businesses. Several people got haircuts to pass the time. One visitor said he ate Italian, Mexican and Chinese food while waiting in line.

SRJC Viticulture and Enology student Balm Krueger attended on Super Bowl Sunday and was impressed with how Russian River management has improved the event. “Spreading out their allocation gives people a chance. It’s a different experience. You don’t have to show up the first day. Spreading it out (over two weeks) encourages more patrons, making it about visiting here versus not,” Krueger said. He pondered how to distill his observations for his economics class.

While the Sonoma County Economic Development Board will take months to analyze their surveys and reach a conclusion, a casual observer would exclaim, “There’s gold in them there glasses!”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Story: The White Rose

The White Rose v. The Ancient Autocratic Apartharchy's Fiendish Fist of Fascism
by Erik Jorgensen - copyright 2013

            From the outside, the Dreaming Caterpillar was no different than any other coffee shop in town, and the inside was pretty much the same.  Alex only went there because it was just a few steps from his front door.  Besides - getting out of his room almost made him feel like he had a social life.
            There were three kinds of people at the Caterpillar: Tourists, Dreamers, and Thinkers.  The Tourists were the ones who grabbed a cup o' joe to go as they passed by, or maybe dropped in to watch open mic night.  If you never saw somebody again, they were probably a Tourist.
            Most of the Caterpillars were Dreamers.  They enjoyed being seen and heard, and only felt 'real' if they thought somebody noticed or admired them, sleepwalking through eachother's lives.  They wore the most fashionable corporate logos on their clothing and talked about the coolest reality-TV shows on their newest-model smartphone.  Most of their life was spent stuck in traffic, commuting to a job they hated so they could afford their car payments.  They displayed their golden chains like a badge of honor.
            There were only a couple Thinkers in the Caterpillar, but they were easy to spot if you knew how.  It was sort of like looking at the night sky: there are small stars that you can't see by looking straight at them.  Only by looking next to, away from, and around a faraway star can its faint light be seen.  So if you watched the Caterpillar long enough, seeing what was ignored, you could detect a silent bubble of Think amid the babbling Sea of Dreams.  There in the corner, behind mountains of index cards, beyond forests of notebooks, the lodestone of a silent polestar orbited itself - invisible to even the loudest gaggle of Dreamers.  While it could never be found on even the most arcane starchart, this abyss had a name: Dexter Wright.
            As Alex and his steaming cup waded toward the back of the crowded coffee shop, the chattering fell awkwardly silent as Dreamers both ignored him and moved out of his way.  He suppressed a smile as he recalled the incident from last year: a particularly pompous popinjay from the table next to Dexter's loudly mocked the writer's colorless clothes, haystack hair, and silent solitary scribbling.  Bored eyes blandly bored holes through the boorish bully, he spoke sparsely, then resumed writing.  Alex couldn't hear Dexter's response from where he was sitting, but the loud shrieks of nervous laughter, and the nearby tables casually emptying themselves, told the story.  Nobody - nobody - ever bothered Dexter while he was writing after that, and since Alex was one of the few people whom Dexter tolerated, this aegis extended to Alex.  He found it convenient on crowded evenings like this.
            Dexter was drawing an elaborate picture in one of his sketchbooks, so Alex sat down quietly and watched, savoring his steaming cup of coffee.  A giant honeybee attended by a swarm of tiny bees flying around her in a figure-eight lemniscate, surrounded by scrollwork stating: I'm Stuck In an Infinite Loop.  Alex watched in amazement as Dexter added anatomic detail to each tiny bee - then suddenly realized that the tiny bees were, in turn, attended by a figure-eight of even tinier bees.  After a while, Dexter glanced up with an almost friendly grunt of recognition, then returned to his work.
            Cautiously, Alex began: "Yeah... I talked to that lawyer, and - get this - he told me, 'But that's not a Criminal Conspiracy - that's three different people!' and he held up three fingers to show me how many that was!"  Alex held up three waggling fingers to show how many that was.  "When I tried pointing out that those three fingers were all attached to the same hand, he just kept repeating over and over, 'But that's not a Criminal Conspiracy', and every time I asked him to examine the evidence, he just looked at me like I was stupid and asked, 'So, have you spoken to a therapist about this?'  You try talking to these idiots about stopping crime in the community, and they think you're trying to talk about your feelings.  I just don't know where to go from here..."
            Dexter searched through his notebooks briefly, handed Alex the sheaf of papers he gleaned, then returned to his beekeeping.  This is what Alex read:

The White Rose v. The Ancient Autocratic Apartharchy and the Fiendishly Forceful Fist of Fascism

a Rock Opera

dedicated to Sophie Scholl "The White Rose"
executed Feb 22, 1943

Overture: It Can't Happen Here…

            Alex was dumbstruck after he finished reading the libretto, Somehow, his friend had transmuted Alex's problems into prose - even the part about the three conspirators.  But it was beautiful, elegant, and tied all the real-life Kakfaesque plot twists together with saucy Seussy sassy Gilbertonian lampoonery.  Alex laughed out loud and began praising Dexter's atristic accomplishment. 
            From a neighboring table, he heard somebody nervously whisper, "Who is he talking to this time?" 
            As Alex looked over the piles of index cards and notebooks, he saw only one coffee cup and suddenly remembered - again - that nobody named Dexter Wright actually existed.  A sudden wave of nausea washed over him as he tried to put the pieces together.  How many times had he forgotten the truth about Dexter?  Images flickered though his head, frightening flashes from his painful past, and then...
            A blinding pain stabbed through Alex's eye that would have dropped him to his knees if he hadn’t already been sitting.  Dexter gave his friend a concerned look, then smiled reassuringly and returned to his drawing.  Alex was grateful, once again, to have such a good friend.  He always knew just the right thing to say.

Haiku, squared

by Erik Jorgensen - copyright 2013

corned beef and cabbage
not just for St Patrick's Day
Leprechaun Haiku

            One tall frosty mug
            One scoop vanilla ice cream
            Fill with cold root beer

An Object at Rest.
External Force is applied
Object in Motion

            Five syllables first
            Seven on the second line
            Five more syllables

there was a Haiku
Limerick rhythm line two
not all the lines rhymed


In a big country
dreams stay with you; run and hide
'cross the mountain side

            Devo: Crack that whip!
            when a problem comes along
            Whip It - Whip It Good

Orwell was an optimist
legalize ThoughtCrime

            groovin energy
            take me down to funkytown
            town thats right for me

freedom of music
on invisible airwaves
bristling energy

            words of the prophets
            written on the subway walls
            The Sounds of Silence

dance if you want to
you can leave your friends behind
they're no friends of mine


Socrates: a man
"All Men are Mortal"; therefore:
Socrates: mortal

            tree with three square roots
            noose hanging from a

sum of two square sides
square of the hypotenuse

            squared hypotenuse
            sum of square of other sides
            diagonal line

It's invisible
but only to me, not you.
the back of my head

story: David M. Taxpayer v. Goliath, LLC

David M. Taxpayer v. Goliath, LLC
by Erik Jorgensen - copyright 2013

Glancing up at Goliath, David realized that toppling a titanic Tyrant requires a small stone, indeed.  Looking around and 'round at the ground, David realized that even the smallest single speck of sand was far too fierce for this fearsome foe.  Then Grandfather's favorite saying echoed up from the silent shadows of the misty, murky past:

The Pen, with all its florid, superfluous verbosity, is the Sacred Anvil upon which may be forged The TRUTH - that immense, innate, supernatural Strength, whose edge far exceeds any of merely mundane steel sword. Verily, once you discover the True Path of Truth - and Work to follow it - you will have the Strength of the Universe pushing you toward your True Destiny.

Enboldened by this erudite encouragement, David pulled a small black notebook from his pocket - Grandfather's graduation gift after completing his compulsory classes at the Public Proletarium.  Delicately, reverent and nostalgic, his fingertip traced the septaugenarian's spidery script sagely suggesting:

Sir Galahad had the Strength of Ten because his Heart was Pure

Below, bold blocky letters proudly proclaimed:

David Middlename Taxpayer
Langstroth Luxury Lodgings
23 FranzKafka Strasse
Orwellopolis, Unified Dystopian Democratic Republic
(please return if found)

Thumbing through page after page of Grandfather's aphorisms, advice, and anecdotes, David finally found a suitable page, mostly blank except for a copy of his childhood recipe for:

BluweBerry Suop:
Melk in Sosspan. 
Shuger, to Tayst.
Add BluweBerrys.
Heet to dezired Tempachur.
Serv in a Bole wen Reddy.

RePeet as Needid!!!

With fresh BluweBerry Suop wafting warmly across the nostalgic nostrils of memory, little Davey Taxpayer carefully created a crease along the sheet, just like Grandfather taught him making paper airplanes on those rainy autumn afternoons, close to the spine - but not too close - of the well-worn writingbook.  Flattening the fold with his fingertip first, he sharpened the crease - hard - with his fingernail, then folded the page in the opposite direction and repeated the process, removing a single small sheet by patiently peeling apart the perforated paper.

Plan in place, paralyzing panic prevailed:  It isn't the Sword - it's the Hand; it isn't the Pen - it's the Words.  But which words?  - and in which order?  Writer's Block had atrophied his pen into a mere stick countless times before - like the summer when Mrs. Raskolnikov's granddaughter came to visit, with her long silken braids, and rosy smile twinkling like a mountain stream sparkling through a golden glade, glowing brightly beneath bluest azure skies of deepest summer.... But never, ever had his mind been so utterly, uselessly blank - far, far blanker than the single sheet (nearly-naked except for those twenty-three little words about bluweberries) which he stared at hopelessly. 

That sparse childhood recipe was a veritable "Compleat Works of Shaespeare" compared to the immense empire of emptiness encompassing his mind, which emptily echoed the silence until it became a deafening, drowning drumbeat.  David's despair dropped so deeply, that even Utter Hopelessness was Starry-Eyed Optimism by comparison.  And it was deep in this Darkness where the Candle discovered its Light....

"The worst that can happen to me is that this kills me", David realized suddenly, "but Death will happen eventually to me on its own, whether or not I decide to Do The Right Thing in this place, at this time."  Like a Thunderbolt from a summer storm, this sudden flash of illumination shook and shattered all the shingles of his sheltered soul, and he gasped his very first real breath of his life.

Sunlight shone on him, its warm breath rhyming with the breeze dancing through the cherry blossoms.  Calmness clutched and caressed every corner of his being like a velvet noose.  Meadowlarks rejoiced from the trees, and from his heart.  Bees gathered pollen in the flowers and in his mind.  Clouds flowed across the sky, and across his soul.  More alive than he had ever been in his life, the Universe flowed around him, and through him - so purely alive and aware, that he completely forgot about that nice fellow whom people called David Taxpayer.  There was only the sun, the wind, and the garden.  Observing itself.

The ground grinding and groaning at Goliath's gigantic galoshes, David pulled out the ornately gold-arabequed  fountain pen which had been the single luxury item Grandfather permitted himself.  That short, sharp shock of shame came, recalling the Wake - leaning in close to Grandfather in his casket so that nobody could see The Pen silently sliding from its final resting place in that inside flannel jacket pocket.  Betrayed by a kiss...  Screwing off the cap, David smiled at the humble vanity behind Grandfather ornate pen - far too fancy and frivolous a stylus for the sincere seriousness of a simple Scribe's sacrosanct status. 

Grandpa pretended purchasing the Pen prudently, for purely practical purposes.  The self-indulgently opulent, overly ostentatiousness stated a very specific Point - and that was Just Good Business.  "Nobody trusts a Scribe with a broken crayon," Grandfather often alibied - but David secretly suspected that one of Grandfather's little personal practical jokes was that he had bought the Pen just because it looked so pretty. 

"Let your every action be your last epitaph," Grandfather whispered into his ear.  Startled by the sudden sound, David whirled around and was astonished to discover... nobody.  Goliath was even closer now, towering like a terrible tombstone.  An odd non-feeling filled David; it wasn't fear, or happiness, or anger, or even a desire for revenge.  It was that calm, quiet feeling you get when "Two plus Three equals..." has "Five" written next to it.  But you don't Say, "Yes, that's it"; you don't Think that - you don't even Know that.  It just Is.

Certainly, if there were ever a time for a pen to write smoothly, this would be it.  Watching in detached bemusement as the black ink flowed out of the golden pen across the white page, he suddenly stared at the words somebody else had written there:
"I will impale my Pen into the heart of Fascism with the full Strength from every last drop of Blood in my body!"

Crumpling the scrap of paper smaller and smaller, David stared at it in deep concentration at this brand new weapon he now held in the palm of his hand.  Fluttering feebly like a newborn butterfly, the little wordstone gently rose into the air, then shot like a kryptonite bullet straight for where Goliath's black and shrivelled heart should be.  "I have not yet begun to Write!" As he watched his weapon whirling higher and higher and higher, he could hear Grandfather proudly say, "Today the hammer has become the Anvil."

As the meadowlarks sang to him,and through him, their rejoiceful refrain of the sunlight and breeze dancing in the cherry blossoms, he could see the banks of the River of Time which had swept him along a series of events to this strange and distant shore, where he had no choice but to do this One Thing.

As he continued looking up, hanging down in front of him was the reddest, ripest, roundest Strawberry he had ever seen in his life, and he plucked it.

It was delicious.

"Goodness, gracious me!" Goliath grumbled grumpily. "I seem to have stepped upon one of those, nasty little things again.  This better not make me late for my tee time!"