The Haiku Winter

This is an edited re-post of something I wrote a while back.

It is very appropriate.

I don’t know why “haikus” were so in vogue for a while with my group of friends, but they were. It lasted from about November 1993 to March 1994. It was all about haikus. We wrote haikus for EVERYTHING. We would leave haikus lying about the house. Mitchell and I, roommates, would leave roommate instructions to one another in haikus.

We’re out of TP
Don’t forget to pay the bills
Improv show tonight?

We would speak in full haikus, right at each other. EVERYTHING could be boiled down into 5-7-5. It was hard to NOT turn every headline, every billboard, into a haiku.

Mitchell and I were Haiku Central, pretty much. Because … well … we’re nuts. There were a good 3 months there when … we were probably even DREAMING in haiku form.

One of our jokes was that there should be a 1-800 number for “haiku emergencies”. We created an imaginary dispatcher, and we made up an entire personality for the woman who answered the Haiku Hotline. Like, she was beleaguered, bitter, and OVER it. Snapping gum, dealing with Haiku Emergencies left and right. The chick had seen it all. Nothing would rattle her. She’d answer the phone, snapping her gum, “1-800 Haiku, how can I help you?” The emergency would then be described to her, breathlessly … and 1-800 # lady would turn around and shout into the dispatch microphone: “LISTEN UP GUYS. WE GOT A CHICK HAVIN’ A TOTAL HAIKU FIT DOWN THE MERCH MART. ANYONE AVAILABLE TO HANDLE IT?”

Then came the Winter Olympics. In Lillyhammer (a wonderful word for use in any haiku you might want to write.)

Mitchell and I wrote a series of Haikus for all of our favorite Winter Olympic athletes. This was in the winter of 1994. The Olympics of Tanya Harding. We wrote haikus about Tanya. I wrote one about Nancy Kerrigan. I have them all written down somewhere. THEY. ARE. SO STUPID.

Here is MItchell’s haiku about Tanya Harding:

Pink Spandex Falters
Guilty Skates Have No Rhythm
The World Is Unmoved

Now … if you DON’T find this funny … well. It’s okay. I don’t hold it against you. Humor is subjective. But … in MY world … this is feckin’ FUNNY. We did dramatic readings for each other of our STUPID haikus about Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. We spent the days CRYING with laughter.

During the entire Winter Olympics that year (we were obsessed with them) … we sat scribbling haikus on various memo pads in our house, as we discussed people’s popped lutzes, and failed triples. WHY??? I DO NOT KNOW.

I have never questioned it.

Eventually, I let my own Haiku Fit impair my judgment. I let my own Haiku Fit spill forth and affect others. It’s an insane story … my own behavior STILL seems relatively incomprehensible to me (although, if I do say so myself, I get a total kick out of the whole thing.) I remember that time in my life so specifically … my only goal was to live my life in as comedic a manner as possible. That was ALL that mattered. COMEDY was it. I wanted to have funny stories to tell my grandkids. That was IT. I took NOTHING seriously. I was young, what can I say. And so my main goal was to have a comedic life.

Naturally, this involved haikus.

The collective “haiku fit” was heating up in the winter of 1993. The fact that I remember these dates is mortifying, but I can’t help it. The fall of 1993 was labeled as “the Magic Time” for – well, obvious reasons – and therefore I remember almost every second of it. During the Magic Time, haikus were the theme. Or one of the themes.

I was seeing M. at the time (when wasn’t I seeing him??), a guy I was pretty much nuts about. We had a terrific thing going, something that defies description. So I won’t try to describe it. We’re still friends – in a kind of invisible “I know you’re out there, and I wish you well” kind of way.

And one frosty freezing night in December of 1993 I was hanging out with him, his roommate, and my dear friend Ann Marie. The night was so damn COLD that as we all raced for the car, screaming in agony, and his roomate (who has since become kind of famous) started shouting about how he was now “Osteo-Density Man” because it was so cold it felt like his bones had thickened. hahahahahahaha SO MUCH laughter that night. “Oh my GOD, I am in agony!” shouted roommate, running in a stiff-legged freezing-night kind of way. “I feel like I am OSTEO-DENSITY MAN!!”

Anyway. Through various dramas and plot-devices (which I will not get into), M. and I had a fight. A ridiculous fight. I ended up walking back to my house from his house through the frigid Chicago night, a furious Osteo-Density Woman myself. We lived 3 blocks away from each other. But there was something about this guy – something relaxing, and kind – and there was something in our bond, very specific – something which we never lost. We had fights, we had disagreements, but somehow: there was always a comedic feel to the whole thing. (This, of course, suit me perfectly.) We never took anything too seriously. And we cut each other an ENORMOUS amount of slack. Grudges were not part of our dynamic at all, even though we never specifically said to each other: “Hey, let’s not hold grudges.” We just never did. It was the least bitchy least manipulative relationship I’ve ever had. (Well, except for when I would blatantly ignore him at Lounge Ax, but that’s another story.)

Once I was home, and warmed up – I realized I had left my umbrella in his car. Now I have no idea why I latched onto the umbrella as important. Granted, it was a great umbrella. It had a wooden handle, it was large, it was pretty cool. I still have longing yearning dreams about that lost umbrella. So I wanted it back. I called and left a message the next day: “Hi. I think I left my umbrella in your car. Could you let me know if you have it, and I’ll come by and pick it up?”

I was cool, I was chilled – I had no ulterior motives. I just wanted my cool umbrella.

NO RESPONSE. Oh. My. God. HE’S NOT RESPONDING!!! Like I said before, he and I were not a game-playing duo. Not at all. If he wanted to see me, and it was 10 at night, he’d give me a call and see if I was around. No big deal. If I was already in my pajamas, I’d say: “Hey man, I’m in my pajamas. Not tonight.” He’d say, “Okay. Talk to you soon.” So him not responding to my phone call seemed WEIRD. Especially because I had left a benign non-gamey message about my umbrella. I didn’t call him up and bitch him out about our fight, nothing like that.

So it was him not responding that set loose the lunacy. That set loose the Haiku Fit.

I began to leave a daily haiku on his message machine. Yes, I said: a DAILY HAIKU. I wrote them myself. They all had as their topic: umbrellas. Or rain. And as the days went by, and he still didn’t respond – a weird thing happened. I started totally enjoying my Haiku Fit. I succumbed to it, I embraced it. He wasn’t calling me back, and there was OBVIOUSLY a reason – this was completely out of character for him – so I didn’t worry about it too much, and just started getting a kick out of writing haikus every day and leaving them on his answering machine.

He must have thought I was absolutely batshit. I laugh to think of him dealing wtih that. He was such a laidback weird guy, so so funny.

When I told Alex this story, she asked casually, “So how long did this go on?”

I answered calmly, “For 40 days.” and she spit out her mouthful of tea in a spray of guffawing laughter.

40 haikus in 40 days. Let me repeat that. I left him 40 HAIKUS IN 40 DAYS.

An example:

Rain rain go away
Where’s my damn umbrella, dude?
Rain rain go away

I mean, that is the level of haiku-writing we are talking about. I couldn’t stop. I maintained this game with myself for 40 days. I truly think I could have gone on forever, and could still be leaving him a daily haiku to this day. Sure. No problem. I was NOT GETTING tired of the Haiku Fit. I treated it like just another thing I had to get done on a daily basis:

— Brush teeth
— Pay electric bill
— Wash hair
— Leave haiku on his answering machine
— Feed the cat

So. After 40 days of this (which is actually fitting, when you think of it in Biblical terms … you know. Rain and all that.), I came to my senses and left him my last message, something along the lines of: “Look. I have no idea why you are not calling me back and so I am going to stop the Haiku Onslaught. I know you have my umbrella, and I still want it back, but this is it. You know where to find me if you want to contact me.”

Maybe a week later, he sought me out to tell me what was going on with him. It was serious, it had started on Osteo-Density Night, it had nothing to do with me, but he had to back off from me for a bit and hadn’t known how to tell me. I think he finally realized, by the 38th damn haiku, that I was not wearying of my silly game, and I would not take a hint!! I mean, this wasn’t a guy I had only gone out with a couple of times or anything. We were in each other’s lives! He climbed through my window at 3 o’clock in the morning “just to say hi”. He couldn’t just disappear without me giving him a HELL of a Haiku fit.

Later, when his life cleared up again, he did indeed know where to find me, and he sought me out. Shyly. Hoping I would still be around, and not scorn him, or hold a grudge. And there I was, coming towards him, laughing, welcoming, happy to see him. We all need to do what we have to do … Sometimes you have to back off of someone you really like … and sometimes you have to write 40 haikus and leave them on an answering machine. It’s different for everyone.

I remember sitting with him at the bar at the Everleigh Club, after the whole thing blew over, and I said, “So … uhm … what did you think of the haikus?”

The expression on his face made me laugh OUT LOUD. It was this weary bludgeoned look, a beaten-down-by-an-anvil look. He said, with grim humor, “I honestly thought that they would never end.” But then the funniest thing was he started critiquing some of them. He had listened to each and every one, and he thought some were better than others, he thought I “slacked off” on certain days … He’d listen to the message, and ponder: “Huh … that one wasn’t really up to par.” I was crying with laughter listening to him tell me all this.

“I really liked the one where you brought Noah’s Ark into it … that was cool.”

I nodded seriously. “Yeah, I was pretty proud of that one, too.”

Uhm – what??

Oh, and he insists TO THIS DAY that he never had my umbrella. Liar.

And so, in honor of the 2006 Winter Olympics I present to you:

Cracked ice through her heart
Swan-like spins flutter and fall
Kwan won’t get no gold

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12 Responses to The Haiku Winter

  1. tracey says:

    I’m HOWLING: “Where’s my damn umbrella, dude?”

    And “Kwan won’t get no gold.” hahahaha!!

    (Maybe we need an Open Haiku Fit where we all vent about the Olympics — but ONLY in haiku.)

  2. red says:

    I am ALL FOR THAT.

    Ooh… that’s already the first line to a haiku, come to think of it.

  3. peteb says:

    Kwan won’t get no gold
    Games continue, no problem.
    Ev’ryone happy.

  4. red says:

    peteb – I find your blase attitude to the entire Kwan drama highly disturbing.

  5. peteb says:

    My bad, sheila… :(

    but the luge.. the luge!!!

  6. red says:


    Write a haiku about the luge – NOW!

  7. peteb says:

    Kwan won’t get no gold
    No reckless helter-skelter thrill
    But someone else will..

  8. Clayton says:

    Olympic haikus?
    Alas, I cannot write one,
    for I do not watch.

    You’ll not be the first
    or last to claim that I’ve a
    blase attitude…

  9. Chai-rista says:

    I never paid any attention to her before you ranted about her the other day. Now I’m paying attention and she’s all the load of horse-hockey you said . . .

    Maybe I won’t skate . . .
    Keeping you wondering is
    the whole point for me!

  10. Jen says:

    Guilty skates have no rhythm? THAT’S HILARIOUS.

  11. Nightfly says:

    Kwan got a boo-boo
    Or she doesn’t like pasta
    It’s all the same thing

  12. Michelle says:

    Gotcha nice blog here