I’ve written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting my day job, I spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.
For more information about my novels, please visit www.davidgittlin.com
I had never heard of Carrie Newcomer before a friend played one of her songs (“The Gathering of Spirits”) in an online gazing/meditation class. The song bounced around in my head until I finally had to learn it.
I bought Newcomer’s album of the same name, and I have to say the other songs on it are, for me, an acquired taste. However, I’m glad I was introduced to Carrie’s music and to this song in particular. She’s a unique individual and an unusually talented artist, as you’ll see by clicking on the link above. Here’s my version of “The Gathering of Spirits.” *
In case this blog is too short, here’s my version of another song by Kate Wolf titled “An Unfinished Life.”
We arrived in New York City after a not-so-unpleasant drive from Daytona Beach. Most of the credit for the uneventful trip goes to my resurrected Mazda Miata. The last thing I needed was to be worn out from a difficult trip because my partner and I had a mountainous journey ahead of us.
Arcon, a super intelligent machine from the other side of our galaxy, was here to do a job of the utmost importance, and he had recruited me to help him. I’m certain, however, that he did not consider me as his partner.
He, who is not really a “he,” but a highly evolved artificial intelligence packed in a portable silver sphere, didn’t have to like me. He didn’t have to consider me a friend, or an associate, or a co-worker, or anything else of that ilk. He had come to Earth to save us from a horrible fate. He had to do it quickly and efficiently. He had no use for extraneous pursuits such as cementing interstellar relationships because time was running out. In a few hours, the Earth would be reduced to fizzling cinders…unless we intervened successfully.
My name is Joseph Aleksov. I’m a writer by vocation and a Serbian by birth, not that it matters now. Metaphors tend to pop up in my oral and written communication. I use the word “mountainous” above for good reason. I have the unenviable task of transporting Arcon, undetected, to the very top of the One World Trade Center building.
One World Trade Center was built to replace the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11. It is one of the tallest buildings in the world, measuring 1,776 feet high. It is no coincidence that the size of the building exactly matches the date of America’s independence. Many features have been incorporated into the building’s construction to prevent the tragedies that occurred in the 9/11 attacks.
Arcon has assured me that the building’s security will not be difficult to navigate. I am, to say the least, doubtful. I have no idea how many layers of security we will have to pass through to reach the top of the building without arousing suspicion. I have read that there are four hundred security cameras mounted throughout the building, all of them running the latest anti-terrorist software. There are an undisclosed number of New York City policemen patrolling the building in any number of locations. I’ve read that the lower Manhattan police force has been beefed up to six-hundred-and-seventy officers. I imagine many of them are assigned to guard One World Trade Center.
I am reasonably certain of only three things: (1) I am not a terrorist (2) I’m no security expert, and (3) Although I am trying to save the planet, there is a high probability that I will be incarcerated, and shortly afterward, the Earth will explode.
With Arcon packed in wrapping paper inside a sturdy, innocent-looking shopping bag, I walked past the soaring white arches of the Oculus, an underground transportation hub. I was fascinated to learn about an interesting feature of the structure. Incorporated into its design is a lasting reminder of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is in alignment with the sun’s solar angles on each September 11, from 8:46 am, when the first plane struck, until 10:28 am, when the second tower collapsed. Its central skylight fits this alignment and washes the Oculus floor with a beam of light.
Past the Oculus, I caught my first glimpse of the gleaming edifice known as One World Trade Center. Seeing the building in person added profoundly to my sense of urgency. The beauty and grandeur of this project is a testament to the resiliency and creativity of the human spirit. Seven other buildings have been constructed to complement the project. To imagine that all of this might be destroyed again by a random pulsar from a distant star is incomprehensible.
To avoid waiting in lines, we arrived at the observatory entrance a few minutes after the opening time of 9:00 AM. Three soldiers in battle fatigues stood guard outside the entrance. A tag on their bulky vests identified them as members of the New York National Guard. Every inch of them, from their hats, to their pistols, to their machine guns, and down to their car-wax-shine-boots shouted: I mean business. Do not fuck with me. And, most importantly:DO NOT TRY ANYTHINGSTUPID.
I tried on a friendly smile and a wave. It didn’t go over well. We passed through the glass and steel doors to the security gauntlet. I call it a gauntlet because it looked more ominous than a TSA security station at an airport. I purchased an expensive express lane ticket for the observatory. To my dismay, I realized the express ticket wasn’t going to make my journey through the gauntlet any easier.
I was most concerned about the complicated scanner. It was equipped with a laser scanner and a conventional x-ray camera. It looked powerful enough to examine Arcon right down to his atoms. I didn’t see how Arcon’s disguise as a Nineteenth Century Art Deco vase was going to pass muster. Attempting to pass through this formidable security array was sheer suicide. Then again, what choice did I have? I’d surely be dead if I didn’t try.
I placed the shopping bag on the scanner’s conveyor belt. I shed the required personal belongings one normally removes before boarding an airplane, and placed them alongside the shopping bag. I walked through the metal detector, certain that I’d be surrounded by policemen at the other end.
I made it through the metal detector without hearing any alarms. A heavily armed police officer approached me. I thought: this is how it is done. Politely lead the suspected terrorist away so as not to disturb any of the other visitors.
Instead of arresting me, the officer asked me why I was bringing the vase into the building. I told him that I intended to give it to my fiancée as a gift. I ad-libbed the part about my fiancée. It sounded more believable than “my girlfriend.” He looked at me with an entirely too serious expression. I was positive he didn’t believe my story. Then, he asked me how long I planned to stay in the building. With every ounce of my being, I tried not to look relieved.
I had no idea how to answer the officer’s question. How long would it take Arcon and me to do what we had come to do? I barged ahead, ad-libbing all the way. “I’d say six hours to be on the safe side, officer. Would that be alright?”
“Let me see your driver’s licence, or some other valid ID.”
I handed over my driver’s license in mortal fear that I had said something wrong.
“Collect your items and wait for me on one of those benches over there. I’ll generate your OWTC ID card and bring it to you. You’ll need the card for all points of entry in the building. Don’t lose it. If do you lose it, report it to the nearest officer or staff member. The card will no longer be valid after six hours, so watch your time.”
Collecting Arcon and my paraphernalia, I found the nearest bench. It was a relief to sit down after the harrowing trip through security. I spoke to Arcon in our customary mode of conversation; mental telepathy.
“How did you get through that scanner without your circuitry being detected?”
Arcon answered me in my native Serbian tongue. “I converted my insides into pure energy, and then I went into hibernation mode. I have a variety of energy frequencies to choose from. I used the most effective one for the pass through the scanner.”
“You could have told me beforehand. I was worried they’d find out you weren’t really a Nineteenth Century Art Deco vase.
Arcon made no immediate reply, which was unusual for him. He always had some sort of bouncy rejoinder ready when we spoke.
“I’m sorry. It didn’t occur to me to tell you.”
I was astounded by Arcon’s reply. Was he learning to have feelings in the same way he was learning the colloquialisms of the Serbian and English languages?
Before I could say anything more, the police officer returned. He handed me my ID card and pointed to a bank of elevators twenty yards to my right.
“Take one of those elevators up to the observatory,” he said. “It’s a forty-seven second non-stop flight to the one hundredth floor.” He smiled at his clever little joke.
I smiled too. On the outside only.
To Be Continued…
Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.
Born in San Francisco, Kate Wolf started her musical career in the band Wildwood Flower before recording ten records as a solo artist. Her songs have since been recorded by famous artists such as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris. “Poet’s Heart,” recorded in 1985, is the last album Kate released before her untimely death at the age of forty-four. During her life, Wolf’s music was not widely known beyond the borders of her home state of California. Over the years, Kate has attracted a broader audience of millions who appreciate her beautiful voice, poetic song lyrics, and guitar/piano artistry. “Poet’s Heart” features several songs which have touched me deeply such as, “Slender Thread,” “Brother Warrior,” and the title song, “Poet’s Heart.”
Lately, I’ve been posting on Facebook images of late 18th century impressionist paintings and 1930-40’s Art Deco cars and architecture. I’ve also been listening to and playing a lot of Kate Wolf’s music. I believe the unifying theme of these adventures is BEAUTY.
What I’m about to say may seem odd, self-inflated, or downright delusional, but what the hell. I’m going to say it anyway. It seems that I’m undergoing a dramatic shift in consciousness. I’m focusing on, feeling, and sensing the beauty and light within me and around me.
I’m choosing to focus on this beauty, not as some kind of self-improvement practice. It’s something I want to do. I don’t have to impose it on myself. You might say “the sun in my heart is rising,” finally, after all these years of struggling to arise out of the negativity in and around me. It’s not that the negativity has gone away. It’s just easier and more desirable to focus on something better.
It’s something that comes from inside and outside of me. It’s something that is beautiful, peaceful, and fulfilling. It’s something that beats the hell out of the over-controlled grind of daily life.
I started with the intention of sharing a selection of the beautiful images and music I mentioned earlier. I may have gotten a bit side-tracked along the way. So, without further delay:
There is beauty within us. There is beauty everywhere in the world. All we have to do is to want to feel it and see it.
Even in the midst of darkness, this is the dawn of a new age. It may be difficult to believe it or see it, but it’s happening. Nothing can deny us our destiny in love. Not doubt. Not ignorance. Not fear.
Some of us are on the cutting edge of this new world. Kate Wolf was one of these visionaries. I’m a great admirer of her work and her music.
What makes Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting one of his most celebrated works? Created in 1942, Nighthawks is considered the incarnation of existential art, capturing the alienation and loneliness symptomatic of modern urban life. The following story is inspired by the painting.
I mount the time machine and dial the year nineteen-forty-two. I have a keen interest in the war years. Activities like storming the beaches of Normandy are not high on my priorities list. I stay far behind the front lines. I find the study of American culture during the war years fascinating. I stay away from heavily populated cities to remain inconspicuous. You might say I’m not truly adventurous, excluding, of course, time travel and my voracious appetite for knowledge. I’m a scientist, first and foremost. As soon as I’ve perfected my time-traveling technology, I intend to unveil it in a white paper report and work with a team to use my discoveries for the betterment of mankind.
I finish entering all of the pertinent data into the onboard computer and push the launch button. Seconds later, the machine deposits me in the small town of Independence, Ohio. On this trip, I find myself on a corner across the street from an all-night diner. My trans-spacial watch tells me it’s two-thirty in the morning. Materializing in small towns on deserted streets in the middle of the night is a proven method for avoiding stampeding crowds.
I’m a bit freaked out by the feeling of emptiness the town exudes. I console myself with the thought that I’ve arrived in the middle of the night and everything is closed except, it seems, the diner across the street.
Through the panoramic window, I see four people sitting at the counter inside. My curiosity peaks as I begin, once again, to study life in the past, this time eighty years ago. This morning will be different than the others in one important respect. It marks the first time I will interact with people and environments of the past. I feel that I’ve learned enough from my previous trips to take this momentous step. And, I can no longer resist the urge to relate to people instead of simply observing them.
As I cross the street, I check my reflection in the large window. I’m dressed appropriately for the era in a blue business suit and matching tie with black wingtip shoes and neatly barbered hair. I’ll blend right in. Swinging open the glass and chrome door, I enter the cafe and take a seat at the counter a measured two seats away from a man sitting by himself.
The small diner smells of stale cigarette smoke, fresh coffee, and the faint scent of body odor from the man two seats away. To my right, half the wall is fitted with small bins containing tempting muffins, cakes, and breads. Across the counter, a nice-looking middle-aged couple sit demurely drinking coffee. The man is wearing a gray suit with a matching hat, blue tie, and he’s smoking a chesterfield unfiltered cigarette. The pack lying by his hand on the counter tells me the cigarette brand. The man looks like a lawyer or a doctor. The woman is wearing a green silken cocktail dress. It sets off her blazing red hair nicely. By the looks of the two-carat diamond ring on her hand, I figure the couple is well-off and married. I suppose the couple is drinking coffee to sober up for the drive home after a festive dinner party.
The man behind the counter approaches me. He is undoubtedly either the owner, or someone related to him. This is an independent operation as so many of these places were before chain automats and eventually Starbucks put most of them out of business.
“Coffee?” the man behind the counter offers. Wearing a blazing white uniform, he’s a smallish man with wire-rimmed glasses who is going prematurely bald.
“Black,” I say.
“You must be new around here,” the man says.
“You could say that,” I reply.
Lifting his eyes from his coffee cup, the man across the counter stares at me. He tips his hat revealing bright blonde hair. Combined with his deep blue-grey eyes, he’s a dead ringer for Peter O’Toole in his signature role as Lawrence of Arabia.
“My name’s Kendall,” he says in a friendly tone.” I wonder if it’s his first or last name. I happen to hate my first name. Who names their kid Saul forty years after the war? It would be a good name for my grandfather. Not for me.
“And I’m Allison,” the woman next to him says.
I’m surprised by the couple’s friendliness. Maybe it’s the late hour and the intimate setting. Maybe people here are friendlier to strangers than they usually are in the other the small towns I’ve visited. Maybe–just maybe–this will be easier than I thought it would be.
“My name’s Saul,” I say to the couple. “Nice to meet you.” I turn to the man next to me, half-expecting him to introduce himself. It suddenly occurs to me that the guy hasn’t moved a muscle since I came through the door.
“Ignore him,” Kendall says. “He’s just part of the scenery.”
“I’m sorry for that unkind remark,” I say to the motionless man. He’s heavy-set, dressed in a brownish green striped suit, and looks every bit like a non-descript traveling salesman.
I turn back to the man named Kendall. “If that was a joke, I don’t think it’s funny. People have feelings. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”
The last thing I want to do is get into an argument with these people, but I can’t help saying something.
“You don’t have to worry about his feelings,” Kendall says.
“And what do you think?” I ask Allison. On closer examination, she looks uncannily like Julianne Moore in her role as Clarice Starling in the sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”
“Allison is new,” Kendall replies. “She’s still in training. She’s not supposed to talk much.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. “Who are you people?”
Kendall leans down and pulls a strapped leather briefcase from below the counter. He extracts a file, opens it, and begins reading.
“Let’s see. Saul Grossman, age thirty-two, engineer/designer employed by Raytheon Technologies, assigned to jet engine development, invented and now operates a time machine in his spare time. Does that about cover it, Saul?”
I am beyond shocked. Fear and anger compete to control me. Somehow, I manage not to panic. I don’t want to hear the answer to my next question, but I have to ask.
“How do you know so much about me?”
“You’ve been on our radar,” Kendall says. “Now that you’ve decided to interact with the past, it’s time for us to step in.”
I’m still in shock, but a ray of hope may be peaking through the gathering storm clouds. “Are you time lords, or some sort of benevolent time control agency from the future?”
“Sorry to disappoint, Saul. We’re your local branch office of the NSA. We made some adjustments to your time machine after reading your time journal in which you wrote, ‘I’m now confident that I can interact with the past to make the present better.'”
“So, you broke into my house without my knowledge or consent.”
“That’s about the size of it,” Kendal confirms.
I feel my intestines start to melt. “What sort of ‘adjustments’ are we talking about?”
“For starters, we’re not in the past. We’re in a computer simulation where the only thing that’s real is you.”
I try to imagine how this can be happening. Am I talking to naked human bodies floating in an electrochemical solution inside giant Pyrex glass tubs? Are they fitted with electrodes attached to their heads to facilitate thought-transference-voice-activation to their virtual avatars? Or is it a cutting-edge holographic computer program capable of interacting with a real-live me?
I reach into my pocket to push the button on my remote control extractor. I’m not going to stand still for this. Literally. I’ll be out of here and back in good old 2021 in no time–or a few seconds.
I try again. Still nothing.
“I forgot to mention we disabled your extractor,” Kendall says with a cheeky wink of an eye.
“So now what?”
“Now you stay here for the rest of your natural born existence, my friend.”
“You’re kidding. Right?
“Afraid not, Saul.”
“You can’t do this.”
“Would you rather be thrown in jail?”
“On what grounds?”
Kendall takes the last sip of his coffee. “We’ll think of something. It won’t be pretty.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation, Saul. You’ve become a danger to yourself and the rest of us. You played with fire, and now you’re burned. The good news is we know how to use your technology better than you would have used it.”
Kendall grabs the briefcase and guides Allison to the front door. Before they leave, Kendall and Allison wave goodbye. “Have some fun,” Kendall says. “You’re an inventive guy.”
“Don’t leave. Please.”
“We’ll check back with you in another thirty years, if you’re still around,” Allison says with a cheerful smile.
Outside the door, I watch Kendall and Allison dissolve into ghostly vapors, then disperse into thin air.
Copyright 2021 by David Gittlin. All rights reserved.
“The time that’s left is yours to keep.” These words come at the end of the chorus in the song “See Here She Says” by Kate Wolf.
While I find all of the lyrics in this song beautiful, this sentence hit me smack dab in the heart. I can picture a mother teaching a child about life. She is telling the child about the importance of dreams, and to use his or her time wisely. Use it well, not only for yourself, but also for others.
Certainly, love, beauty, and a full range of human emotions come through Kate Wolf’s music. Perhaps I can feel her heart even more, now that she has passed into spirit.
I choose to wander in sunlight to avoid the riptide of darkness threatening to engulf our world.
I prefer to see and hear beauty.
I endeavor to open my heart to love. Not the love that comes and goes. Rather, to eternal love.
I am human. I need love and beauty as much as air and water.
Lately, I’ve been bathing in beauty, love, and light by listening and playing music. Specifically, one person’s music. Listen to my cover of Kate Wolf‘s “Muddy Roads” recorded on her last album (1986) Poet’s Heart. Tell me what you hear and feel.
“When we are connected — to our own purpose, to the community around us, and to our spiritual wisdom — we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness.”
“Lay me Down Easy” is technically a blues song. To me, the song sounds upbeat with a whisper of the blues in the background. And there’s definitely an element of wry humor in the mix. Maybe “bitter sweet” is a better description of “Lay Me Down Easy.”
I’ve been playing many of Kate Wolf’s songs lately. The beauty of Kate’s music steals its way into my heart the more I listen to one of her songs. As illustrated by the photos, I’m feeling the joy and the love in the song more than the backdrop of the blues. Listen, and let me know how you receive it.
Photo by Vlada Karpovitch on Pexels
We must continually choose love in order to nourish our souls and drive away fear, just as we eat to nourish our bodies and drive away hunger.
I first heard “Cornflower Blue” as the opening song on Kate Wolf’s 1983 double album “Give Yourself to Love.” As I listened to the album many times over, “Cornflower Blue” grew on me (no pun intended). I began to appreciate the exquisite beauty in the lyrics and in Kate’s lovely singing voice.
Oftentimes, songs like this one will find their way into my heart and I feel compelled to play them myself. With this song, I had my doubts. The chances were good that I might not pull it off. Learning how to play “Cornflower Blue” like Kate does was like learning how to walk again. The style is completely counterintuitive to what I’m used to, but I’m glad I made the effort. I hope my cover of the song conveys some of the mystery and beauty of the original.