SynchChaos September: Fragments of Reality

Welcome to the September issue of Synchronized Chaos, ‘The Temple of Reality’. Why ‘Temple of Reality’? Well, many of the works submitted this month represent facets of real-world existence through art, poetry and prose, through a creative and innovative lens. They are each slices of life, drawn from individual experience and insight. There is also a decidedly religious strain running through some of these works, as in Rebecca Scharlach’s Judaism-steeped poetry, and SN Jacobson’s Christian allusions that appear in some of his photographs.

This month, our contributions include the artwork and photography of Lilian Cooper and SN Jacobson; the guilelessly enchanting Edible Ensemble by Hobie Owen; Stephanie Thiebold’s prose piece Dichotomy; Rebecca Scharlach’s evocative and haunting poetry; Lyndsey Ellis’s poetic character sketches; and Brooke Cooley’s autobiographical piece, ‘How Hurricane Charley lead to Eat, Pray, Love‘.

We at Synchronized Chaos hope that you enjoy this month’s submissions! Happy Reading!

The Art of Lilian Cooper

Click here to see SynchChaos’ gallery of Lilian Cooper artwork, chosen for this issue.

Lilian Cooper is a British/Dutch mixed-media artist currently working from Amsterdam. She is an environmental artist, drawing inspiration from nature to create her beautiful, subtle pieces. Her work includes collages, paintings and drawings. If you’d like to see more of her work, you can visit her website at LilianCooper.com.

The Art of SN Jacobson

click here to see the SynchChaos gallery of SN Jacobson’s artwork

SN Jacobson is a photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, although he originally hails from Manhattan. His artwork is imbued with a combination of fantastical beauty and raw eroticism. Some of his work incorporates religious themes, as well. For this issue, I have chosen some of his work that would appeal to all of SynchChaos’ diverse audiences. His website is here. (Visit the site if you are of age to view erotic material, and are not offended by such artwork.)

The Edible Ensemble: An Olfactory Orchestra, by Hobie Owen

It’s Wednesday night, and my stomach is once again vocalizing its need to be utilized as an important member in bodily functions. Like a D.C. lobbyist its carefully nuanced ministrations subtly influence my consciousness in the most subliminal fashion.  I am hungry.
This cleverly constructed injection of motivational stimuli instills in my mind an impetus for inspiration and catalyzes the critical mental and muscle operations required to initiate this quest for sustenance.

The stage is set. The venue: an 18-inch cast iron pan received as a gift for my 22nd birthday. The audience: the olfactory and gustatory chemical receptors of my nose and tongue.
With a flourish I produce my conductor’s wand, a stainless steel spatula not unlike those used on Hibachi grilles.  Smooth steel terminating in a soft wooden handle; it lies in my hand with the air of an expectant puppy that’s just realized it’s going for a walk in the park. I take a deep breath and savor the anticipation of the meal to come, eager to begin the culinary concerto that will creatively culminate in a climax of flavor and scent.

Arranged on the counter top are the players that make up this savory symphony.  Sliced, diced, chopped and quartered, vegetables sit with barely contained potential, patiently awaiting the performance of their particular parts in this movement.

A knob rotates and the introduction has begun. Flame meets iron as gas ignites, a gentle swish synonymous with the opening of the curtain, the audience breathless with anticipation.
With a syrupy splash olive oil takes the stage, coating the pan as it cackles and crackles, a percussive prelude to the main theme.  In the backdrop a pot belches steam, a cacophony of rain sticks altering ambiance with the most altruistic of ambitions. Corkscrew Fusili pasta parachute down into the gurgling broth, light mallets striking small drums and heralding the presentation of the melodic motif.

First in the pan are the red bell peppers and zucchini, cellos and violins plucking abrasively against the relative cold of a fresh yet full auditorium. Sizzles become string strokes of savory sensation; the audience sighs with premature yet tentative release.

The foundation is laid and quickly colored by the next part, an explosion of eclectic emphasis characterized by the addition of the onion. This is the brass, bold in its inception into the instrumental edifice that is being energetically erected.  At this point the audience perks up in its seats, olfactory receptors leaping upon the scents like 8-year-olds on piñata candy.
Crash! Clash! Crash! Clash!  Kale cymbals canter in and for a moment cannibalize the other sounds with their fiery foray.

Things are really cooking at this point and I can feel the waves of appreciation resounding throughout the crowd as I keep time with my metallic wand, each movement manipulating musicians to achieve an ascending quality of composition.

As the cymbals fade the woodwinds are introduced: Basil, oregano, red and black pepper soulfully season the arrangement in 4-part harmony, captivating those seated by crossing chemical channels to create causal cognitive characterizations of musical molecular motion.
All demonstration dims as the grand piano prances into prominence. Chopped chicken absorbs the timbre of its adjacent tonalities and guides the orchestra as it glides across the piece’s main theme. Foreshadowed by the previous vegetable productions, the primed poultry’s performance poetically pierces the palate and precipitates salivary perspiration. The audience sweats and weeps at the sheer beauty of the artists’ acumen and resulting response.
Bass drums bellow. Magnificent tumbling mushrooms touch down with a boom that is felt by all present. Neural observers tremble at the spectacle, delighted by the awesome power these mycological magicians contribute to the ensemble.

The energy in the pan continues to build, reaching fever pitch as it approaches the climactic moment of grand finale. All parts are represented, an awesome array of arranged edible audition.

The lid comes down in a dramatic curtain call as the finale resolves, heat fades as flames extinguish yet for the moment the hall is still possessed by residual warmth. Steam rises in a swirling cloud of applause.

I, the conductor, stare down at my performance-softened orchestra, no longer rigid but now instead limp with release from their dramatic exertion of expression.
Though their responsibility at first appears appeased, the pause is but an interlude in the larger show that is my meal. Mouth watering, my hands shuffle to the next stop on this munchable menagerie’s tour of appetite, the dinner plate amphitheater.

Man oh man, how I do love Italian.

Hobie Owen maintains a blog, Young Hobartus. He can be reached at hobedog007@hotmail.com.

Dichotomy, by Stephanie Thiebold

You can feel last night’s fuzz on your teeth, the grease of it in your hair, you haven’t showered in two days and spots of Wednesday’s makeup are still lingering on oily skin. Why why why. You bruise your shin on the coffee table and shake your fist at the ceiling fan, Roman gods and goddesses are laughing up above, your boyfriend just called, “Where’s my fucking Nick Drake CD?” You want to break his heart but you haven’t got the energy, you used it all killing ants with hairspray and bare blistered feet. They’ve made a home in the pile of garbage growing by the door, the rotting orange peel dangling from the side gives the place a nice designer scent.

Money, money. You haven’t got any. You quit your job over the phone while painting your toenails Acid Pink. Some acid would be nice. You could call your connection but he isn’t really yours, he’s your boyfriend’s (ex-boyfriend’s?) and if you called he’d want to talk and maybe fuck, even though it was only that one time and you were both so strung out it could hardly be counted as a conscious decision. You are truly fucked up. A Lifetime Original Movie. The one about the really skinny chick who got shot in the side while climbing out a bathroom window. You tried to kill yourself two days ago with half a bottle of Ambien you stole from your grandma’s medicine cabinet but it only made you vomit and wish for something stronger.

You leave the apartment on Saturday to buy lemonade and chocolate chip cookies. On the way home you pass a psychic shop with a neon sign in the window, Palm Reading and Spirit Guide $35. You’ve always believed in signs. The psychic has soft hair and a blue wool sweater. Her hands are rough and quick and they probe your palm like they are reading braille.”You are very beautiful,” she says. “Have you considered modeling?”
“No.”

You leave before she is finished and stick your change in the hands of a hopeful-looking hobo. He says God Bless and you say Thank You.

At five in the morning you extract yourself from sweaty sheets and tiptoe outside, your eyes still falling shut with half forgotten dreams. The air is colder than you would have thought for August and the cement is rough and cool, goosebumps gather on bare arms, the sun is coming up, you wish it wouldn’t.
Remember being young, you thought everything would come to you if you could only grow old enough, most popular prom queen model actress movie star. Nineteen years old in a slum on a trash coated boulevard, unemployed uninspired too broke to get drugged or even drunk. Sitting on the sidewalk in shorts and a tank top at five in the morning, a stray cat stares at you suspiciously and moves on. The sun still rises despite your depression, children are sleeping sound in suburban splendor, close your eyes and pretend the breeze is your lover.

Tragedies aren’t supposed to have happy endings.

Stephanie Thiebold can be reached at sthiebold@live.com.

Poetry by Rebecca Scharlach

And here…

And here’s to the ones who never give up and
Here’s to the hearts that never have enough of drinking in whatever of life they can
Manage to gulp in between violations, here’s to those of us who survive it
Wasn’t easy but then there’s no such thing as an easy death,
And some of us learn real young to die over and over again each night,
And we learn every morning there’s no angel come to save us from the monster armed
with diet books and scales and lies like shattered glass cradled between
Fingers draped in blood-streaked shock and awe which we have become…
But we have always continued afterwards in the direction of the ocean and the sky,
So here’s to the ones who crawl alive and exhausted out of our very own gravestones and
Label ourselves the monster you have spent your whole life learning how to fear because
We tell the truth and we refuse to let you be.
And here’s to those who continue on afterwards and here’s to the wings that sprout from
our eyelids and to trees in our legs and roots in our feet and every
Time they kill us we insist on coming back 10000fold,
We are rain sea sand and air,
We are every hope and dream you never knew you had to share and
When we speak we sound like mountains weeping or like a new day coming or
Like Wailing Walls or bullets at long last tumbling, falling, slowly, down.

Bombs Falling on Baghdad

Holding Ground
Bombs are falling on Baghdad.
150 people just died today, newspapers read.
Whenever I envision this many bodies piled beneath a dull
gray sky I choke.
I choke up, choke silent, I am drowning in an ocean of
Limbs beneath a starless sky and I know
The newspaper headline will read U.S. soldiers found dead.
Popular media considers Iraqi bodies unworthy of mention.
I learned my first year here I am complicit in peddling death, and
the destruction of all I hold dear has walked me
to every UC class since.
I wonder if the reason I have never looked too closely at
the color of gasoline is because I am afraid
What I see might set my heart to burning.
I choke on blood and nails and you are not there with me.
I want to shield you from every broken and damaged thing,
the amorphous you that is this
Campus as well as you who I claim to love but do so only
With selfish words and shattering glimpses of
A future whose coming I fear…
And meanwhile I can barely stand to look at you,
And meanwhile your choices glide rage under my skin and
bitterness tastes like Iraqi blood in my mouth like
activists’ blood like the tears you refuse to offer at the
graves you refuse to visit or even to acknowledge as reality.

Rebecca Scharlach is a poet and writer. She can be reached at angel17wings2003@yahoo.com.

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Three sketches by Lyndsey Ellis

Kym
She dreams awake, a brick
Wall with marshmallows oozing
Through the cracks, she has elephant
Memory, holds in her sneezes,
Turns down the radio to parallel park

She doesn’t trust people who smile
A lot, pays her car notes two at a time,
Can’t cook worth a damn, cuts her peas
In half to hold onto a baseball bat
Figure, keeps an RCA Colortrak with ferns
Growing out of the screen

A backwash believer
Her glasses remain almost empty
The mortuary’s her sanity
She gives her clients foreign author
Names, conjures up a hush
Life they’ve lived

She injects Dostoevsky, massages
His clots for an even fluid distribution
He’s a handsome shade of rigor mortis
The film in his eyes coo
At her, the fuzz on his chest is the icing
On their wedding cake
Their fingers find each other on the groove
Of the knife slicing into crumb mass
His hand is a wet flame, sticky
Dough-like and boyish

Well, I’m glad we’ve already exchanged ‘I do’s!

A sea of heads cluck
And bobble in laughter, she keeps
A straight face, pleased
With herself for not giving
In to her own humor
Turns her back to shield
Them both from the swollen
Envy in Merlot-coated throats

He doesn’t break face either, the lines
In his forehead are a silk sheet juiced
Up with body in their Hilton
Honeymooner’s suite

She bumps her knee against metal
A stiff splotchy arm falls and dangles
Off the cot, she crosses her legs
Disgusted at the wet and coughs
Down tears.

Lyndsey Ellis is a writer and poet, working on a full-length novel entitled Bastard Dreams.

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Brooke Cooley – How Hurricane Charley led to Eat, Pray, Love

I grew up in Florida and hurricanes were a part of living there. As a child they gave us days off school, provided us with opportunities to get creative, and feelings of excitement – for me, even wanting them to hit where we lived just so I could see what it was like to experience one – crazy as that sounds.
When I woke up on August 13, 2004, it was a perfect day. The telephone rang around 7:30am and woke me up. My neighbor was asking if our family was evacuating. I turned on the television and said, “Nope, Category 2 headed to Tampa…we will have a day off work and be back at the grind tomorrow. Come over for chili with your kids and your dog.” I got up and said to myself, “Let our hurricane party begin.” I went to work, scribbled out a sign on a sheet of white paper that read, “Closed today due to Hurricane Charley” and hung it on the door with a single piece of scotch tape and collected the ingredients for my chili.

Shortly after, my dad called from Michigan. He wanted to know if my husband had put the shutters up on their home. He had not. My dad said, “I have a funny feeling about this one, tell him to go do it.” We all rolled our eyes and thought – he is completely overreacting…this storm is going to blow on by and this is a waste of time. But he went.

A few hours later, my neighbor is at our home with her 3 kids and dog. We are all huddled in our living room, chili on the stove, flipping between every station on the TV…the sun is shining. I remember thinking about how amazingly gorgeous it was for an August day in Florida. Clear skies, light breeze, and low humidity. That was around noon.

By mid-afternoon the winds had started to pick up and the meteorologists were noticing changes in the direction of this compact storm. Within a few hours, this storm not only intensified but was changing course. It was a Category 4 with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and made a direct hit on life as we once knew it. In 2 hours our lives had all changed. When we emerged from the bathroom – 2 dogs, 5 kids, and 3 adults – what we saw did not seem real. I remember opening the door to that bathroom, seeing our pool cage in our living room, broken glass everywhere, walking through puddles in my kitchen, seeing the sky through my kids rooms, and having to pry our garage door open to get the car out. 13 trees were down in our yard and a third of the roof had blown off our home. The power was out and the chili was still simmering on the gas stove.

It took us an hour to drive our car to my aunt and uncles home in the same neighborhood. Trees were everywhere, power lines were down, and nothing looked even vaguely familiar. The neighborhood I grew up in and had made my home as an adult looked like WWIII and literally resembled a bomb site. The power would remain off for several weeks. Our neighbors would come together to create a community, we had no other choice.

I remember delivering food from the freezer at the golf course restaurant to neighbors by golf cart, filling gas tanks from the pumps at the maintenance facility, handing out beer and liquor and water. We hooked up a generator to the ice machine so we could all have ice without going into town, which surely would take an hour and a half. People came together. We had community meals for days. Family and friends from out of state arrived to help. I had no idea what I needed. I had lost everything normal about my life.

For weeks I walked around in a daze, wondering what pieces to pick up first. I was the general manager at my family’s golf course and I felt like I needed a manager. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do, but at the same time didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. Time off, that is what I needed. I had been going through the motions, with no map. I had returned from a 3 month separation from my husband one week before that storm hit and felt very alone, angry, and uncertain. Now this.

I would spend the next year rebuilding what was. I remember telling my husband that we should buy a boat, home school the kids, and sail the perimeter of the Gulf of Mexico. Go far, far away to reconnect our family and start over. It sounded crazy, unconventional, and impossible. Who does that? We have responsibilities and jobs and a home and a life. We bought a travel trailer, stored what we could salvage, and rebuilt bigger and better than ever. Except that didn’t make us happier.

Neither of us were ready for the challenge of starting over, nor did we have the energy. Go through the motions, that is what we did. We learned a lot – our family was safe, communities come together in times of need, and material things really were not missed. After we rebuilt our home, I remember saying, “Why did we do this?”

For the next few years we had our challenges, both at home and at work. I took time off work, stayed home with our kids, and was working at all my roles – wife, mother, and businesswoman. Starting new businesses, volunteering at the kids school, redecorating our house, taking time with my husband…there were times that it all seemed to be working. Then if any or all of those weren’t, I’d feel lost again. My roles were defining me. It was like I was experiencing “empty nest syndrome” a bit early in my life.

Fast-forward five years. It is now the Spring of 2009. I had booked a trip to San Francisco for a getaway after a long and challenging winter season. A week or two prior to my trip, I attended my monthly Literary Club Meeting. A friend of mine was discussing the book Eat, Pray, Love. I am in a room full of lovely ladies and I am crying as she speaks. I ask to borrow the book for my flight to read on the way out. She obliges.

Two weeks later I board the plane, book in hand. Page one. I didn’t put it down for the entire 6 hour flight. As the plane was landing I turn to my seatmate, a woman who appeared to be in her 70s, and asked if she had ever been married. She said yes. I asked if she had been happy. Her response was, “which time?” It was that moment that I decided to get a divorce. On a plane, en route to San Francisco, five years after our first separation.

I think I would have just stayed in San Francisco if I didn’t have all of those responsibilities to take care of at home. When I got married, I thought it would be forever. So many things went through my head. How was all of this going to work out? How would I make it on my own? What about the house? The kids? The stuff? What will people say and think? I had created this amazing life and was viewed by others as this successful woman who has it all together. But that was the furthest thing fro the truth. I had no idea who I was. Without all of these things, I was very lost. I had created a life that I couldn’t see myself in.

When I returned from California, I asked for a separation and found myself moving into that travel trailer we had bought after the hurricane. It was in my backyard. I would feel the need to road trip and find meaning in everything that I saw. Simple roadsigns and birds must mean something. I was looking for a sign, something to tell me what to do and that it would be okay. I spent weeks traveling by car to unknown destinations, reading books, writing, and talking to people. I had been searching for happiness my whole life and knew no joy.

That was my goal – to find joy. Sounds so simple…well, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I spent weeks literally looking up the definitions of the two words – happiness and joy. I’d read, write, analyze, over analyze, and rewrite. Finally, one day…and I have no idea why or where or when…one day, that light bulb went off. I had been searching for the wrong things. The adventures were certainly providing me with happiness and even in some cases joy – because it was new and exciting and I was putting myself out there to see what would and could happen. I spent days just meandering through towns, talking to people, driving hundreds and thousands of miles over the next several months.

I remember wishing I could travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia – just like in the book. Instead, I would have to find meaning closer to home. I traveled all right – 23 states, 10,000 miles. Partly with my children, partly alone. Everything from the Ritz-Carlton to a tent. I had no idea how long this would last. I had no idea where I was going. I just didn’t want to be scared anymore, worried about things I had no control over. All I could do was think about the fact that I didn’t want to be lost forever. Being “successful” had nothing to do with how many board of directors I served on, how long I was married, what kind of house I had, how many cars we drove, or what I did for a living. I needed more than that – but what?

Fast-forward to August 13, 2010…today. Six years after that hurricane turned my life upside down and the day after watching the advanced-screening of Eat, Pray, Love in San Francisco, the place I now call home. I hadn’t thought much about that book since I read it a year and a half ago on the flight out here for my weekend away. I made a comment before the movie that I wasn’t sure Julia Roberts was who I had envisioned playing the part of that woman. Someone asked me who I envisioned. Well, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s story…that book was not my story when I read it, it was hers. It was her quest and her experiences. I had to have my own.

Today is an ending to processing a hurricane, a search for my soul, a divorce, and a move across the country. These events make up who I have become and this is a never ending story. Now – Chapter 1…


Brooke Cooley
The Soup Lady
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