Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Happened to Macy’s? (The Death of Brick and Mortar)

    I went shopping for a pair of dress slacks at Macy's the other day. Though my history of shopping at Macy's is limited, I am confident in my assessment that this once grand lady of department stores has lost her luster and, at least in my particular American suburb, is not aging gracefully.

    The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that there had been some sort of explosion of spring and summer pastel colors and criss-crossy checkered patterns over all the clothing; it was as if the Easter Bunny had hopped in and thrown up all over everything and no one had bothered to clean it up. I don't recall ever seeing anyone dress in these types of M&M candy-colored clothes, but I'll know where they came from when I do.

    The next thing I experienced was the 'bomb shelter after an air raid' state of things: clothes tossed everywhere in various stages of disarray along with abandoned racks of clothing waiting for a shelf to call home before being unceremoniously thrown to the floor by an angry shopper who can't wear 'slim fit'.  Ah yes, slim fit: everything is slim fit now, which, after further review, I'm guessing is some sort of collusive effort between clothing manufacturers, diet meal plans, your local membership health club, and chain restaurants that serve over-sized 'American portions'. It goes like this: gain weight, sign up for the gym and have diet meals delivered to your house with hopes of fitting into new slim fit clothes; an unrealistic goal for most of us, which is why they still make 'relaxed fit'. 

    When I realized I was in the 'hey old man you're in the wrong section' section, I wandered aimlessly until I found the 'now you're in the old man section' section only to find more slim fit clothes. Slim fit suits just look wrong to me, and I honestly don't think it's envy on my part based on the fact that the days of me wearing anything slim fit are long gone. Frank and Dean and Sammy didn't wear slim fit suits. They were thin. There's a difference. Elvis? Relaxed fit, for sure.

    One of the many things I was quickly reminded of in my shopping experience was 'never trust a hanger', meaning that just because the hanger says 'large', the odds are greater that the clothing on that hanger is anything but 'large'; it might as well say 'hot dog' or 'beer' or anything else to remind you why you'll never fit into anything labeled 'slim fit'. Experienced women shoppers probably know this already; I'm guessing this information has been handed down through generations of women shoppers who take their sport very seriously, similar to the father who tells his son to never get a beer or hot dog at the stand nearest the gate when you come into the ball park because that one is the most crowded. Simple and basic truths for the real world.

    I had asked an experienced shopper friend to meet me at the store, but she wasn't there yet (fashionably late?), and of course, there were no sales people to help me sift through the piles of clothing ruble for my size and style. As far as I could tell, the two people working there were attending to the registers (no longer 'cash' registers) and the lines of 14 people each. I was on my own...and beginning to sweat.

   I was in such a state of mental and physical exhaustion by the time I got to the fitting room (no longer the 'dressing room') that I just wanted the whole exercise to be over. Ten minutes in the fitting room and it was then I realized I was standing there in my underwear staring at six pairs of pants and three of them were the exact same size, color, and brand. When I came out of the fitting room (yes, with pants on), my experienced shopper friend was sitting there, and when she saw my red faced exhaustion, she shook her head slightly and sighed at my rookie failings. "What size?" she barked. I mumbled something about my estimates at size conversion numbers between regular and slim fit, then I began a disjointed ramble about how they now make pants that purposely sit below your waist (do you still need one hand to hold them up? - my mind was racing!). When I finished my speech on the state of modern clothing styles, I noticed she was gone, but by the time I had made some sense of what I was doing back in the fitting room, she opened the door and threw in two pairs of the exact pants I had been searching for along with a different (non-M&M) color option. "Anything else?" she asked. I managed a sheepish "No thanks." I was dizzy and beginning to dehydrate.

     When it was finally our turn at the register, my shopper friend whipped out a coupon from her purse like a ninja unsheathing a sword and plopped it down on my purchase. The lady working the register never blinked and quickly snatched up the coupon; it was as if they were playing a commerce version of  'go fish'. I stood there with my mouth open and eyes dilated. Then, as if suddenly presented with a karmic reward for my suffering and her diligence, we saw the price for one of the pair of pants come up on the register screen with the wrong (much cheaper) price. I looked self-consciously at my personal shopper, but she never took her eyes off the register lady as she mentally commanded her to finish our transaction by using her powers of shopping telepathy (I could hear her thinking "There is nothing wrong with the price of those pants.") Though I was briefly worried about enlisting karmic payback for purchasing mislabeled goods, at this point, having been rendered dumb(er) by the whole experience, I said nothing. 

    I barely remember finishing what I can only hope was my final experience at the local
mall as I staggered out to my car with a few scattered thoughts:

1) Amazon: shop while drinking
2) FedEx: receive your purchase in your bathrobe
3) If Macy's goes under, will Amazon take over their Thanksgiving Day parade?
4) I bet the dancers they hire in the parade are the only ones left that can wear slim fit.
5) Maybe I should start working out?
6) Fuck that; what's for dinner?

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Now Everything

When mind clouds lift 
with the steam from morning coffee 
to reveal my conscience 
trying to sell me defeat by mumbling 
"Now what" 
(a statement, not a question)
the response I use
to snap me out of it is
"Now everything”

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015


Golden rolling hills---
waves of earth frozen in time
soon to move again

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

Dreams of You and I

Telling you
was not easy
but it was the right 
thing to do

To touch your glowing 
heart just briefly
is all it would take 
to be lost in another 
slow death of waiting 
for something 
you could not give

Instead, I chose to live
with dreams of you and I 
that end perfectly 
every time

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

The Smell of Her Perfume

He woke up in jail 
to the smell of her perfume

He held his head with trembling hands 
pain screaming like a siren in his ears
Cold sweat danced on his forehead
as his stomach mounted the
occasional escape attempt
All this consumed him until he realized 
the private cloud of sweet scent
that calmed his body and mind was
the smell of her perfume 

He tried to piece together what happened
but all he had were scattered images
a bad ending
and the one thing that let him 
escape back into sleep was 
the smell of her perfume

He chased her image 
as it floated between dreams
while a voice deep inside screamed 
“she was here, can't you smell that?"
but he could summon no vision
to satisfy a mind unconvinced
she had left him with anything more 
than the smell of her perfume

Four cold walls
one metal door
one surveillance camera
the glare of one humming fluorescent light
three snoring drunks
no shoelaces, no eye contact
no dignity, no pride
the only thing not surrendered
into a plastic bag of possessions was
the smell of her perfume

He woke up in jail
at the end of one story
and the start of a new one 
and staggered bleary eyed into the hot morning
a long way from home
$7.00 in his wallet
wearing last nights clothes
and the smell of her perfume

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Still Dreaming of You

(1st verse)
At the end of each day I'm so weary
from thinking of you all day through
and when I come home
I spend my nights alone
feeling so lonely and blue

(2nd verse)
The moon stops by every evening
to make sure I’m doing alright
but it's sad to see
you’re still there with me
in my lonely dreams every night

The moon shined bright
through my window tonight
and brought all my sad dreams in view
it started to cry 
when it said good-bye
because I'm still dreaming of you

(3rd verse)
I still dream of the days when you loved me
I still dream of the nights you were here
But when dreams are through 
it's just memories of you
For me, the moon, and our tears

The moon shined bright
through my window tonight
and brought all my sad dreams in view
it started to cry 
when it said good-bye
because I'm still dreaming of you

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

Long Road Home

(1st verse)
Hard travels and trials my life has seen,
I've climbed high mountains searching for dreams,
but the view always showed another valley below,
with a path never-ending and a long way to go.

Tired, so tired as I lay down my head,
with comfort in knowing the words that you said,
my soul is fulfilled, I'm never alone,
as I make my journey on the long road home.

(2nd verse)
I traveled so far for a mighty long time,
with love in my heart and peace in my mind,
I kept the faith in doing what's right,
giving thanks for each day and praising you every night.

(repeat chorus)

(3rd verse)
My time here has ended, I bid you farewell,
remember me fondly in the stories you tell,
my searching is done, my struggles are through,
I give thanks for the road that led me to you.

(4th verse)
Give me to the wind, give me to the sea,
give me to the mountains that watch over thee,
I'll be always with you wherever you roam,
as you make your journey on the long road home.

(final chorus)
Tired, so tired as I lay down my head,
with comfort in knowing the words that you said,
my soul is fulfilled, I’m never alone,
I've come to the end of the long road home.

Yes I've come to the end
of the long road home.

dedicated to the memory
of Fred "Skip" Okert

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015


I accept 
  the things I've done,
I accept 
  who I've become.
I accept 
  that change will come,
I accept 
  I am not done.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Writer's Curse (Midnight Haiku)

Howling with passion,
"two cats on a midnight fence"--
Get up, write that down.

Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   June 2015