by Tim Scannell

Australian Outback
by Patrick Henry

by Tim Scannell

I agree with the old saw that "Life is a hard nut to crack," which is why I do not carry a cell phone ostentatiously clipped to my belt; rather, I carry a can of WD-40 nestled in its own little leather pouch on my right hip – my fast-draw side. Every aluminium sash runner in the house glides like air, the windows a quarter, half or fully opened (dependent upon the season and the horizonality of our Olympic Peninsula, WA rains). The hinges of the 4-door – Eddie Bauer package – SUV open like whispers, like ambrous Neat’s Oil on wearied Land’s End or L.L. Bean high-top leathers. Ditto for the wheely runners of our two garage doors (nudge each lift-rope and the wooden panels 'wooooosh' rather than rattle and rumble open).

Who needs a cell phone anyway? In my view, it is rather like the answer given by Ray Bradbury to a contemporaneous invention – e-mail. Ray said, and I paraphrase, when a reporter asserted that he – Ray - could now communicate to everybody everywhere instantaneously: "Why would I want to communicate with morons around the world, when there are enough morons right here?" Exactly my sentiment, inasmuch as if there is any single, salient fact about technological prowess and increased intelligence, it is this: they are neither necessarily congruous nor coterminous!

I am not, of course, per se, against speed or acceleration in modernity. They were the fulcrum, in fact, in my decision to switch from 3-in-One oil to WD-40. The after-use dribblings of the former certainly kept the leather hip-pouch softer than a baby's bottom, but there also appeared – detrimentally and soon – variously shaped continents of oil which permeated my right side, my Levi's and jockey shorts (raising more than a few eyebrows of close women friends – until those B.V.D.s fell to the carpet). And oftentimes, to personal and public embarassment, my fast-draw fingertips slipped on built-up oozings, the white-and-red can of 3-in-One oil clattering to the grocery store floor (where I might have been oiling an irritating frozen food door hinge) or upon the sidewalk (where I lubricated many an irksomely screeching mailbox lid). At any rate, combining butterfinger-fumblings and innumerable cricket-clicks employed in massaging oil-spurts from the can (cacophonous air-burps when the tin was not above the object to be salved), I leapt to WD-40's aerosol ease!

Christopher Columbus could not have discovered a richer New World! And yes, yes, yes, no CFC's or HCF's – and to hell with the ozone layer anyway! The eruption of just Mount Pinatubo (in the Philippines in 1991) spewed more crud into the atmosphere than all of mankind's industrial activities since 1900. As an aside, I am forever amazed by so-called "conventional mainstream wisdom." (Its proper moniker is actually, "ubiquitous ignorance"!) And so my work at home and abroad (my little, rural town) is now sans stain and without cricket-clicks (these last becoming reverberant croaks as the old-style 3-in-One can approached empty).

Now, the spring-seat, wheels and bolt-nut cauling of my lawn tractor hums and purrs through the acre of grass I mow. The 4-Trax handlebars and undercarriage wire and piping hush murmurously throughout nearby forest and meadow. Windows and doors coo and sigh. And that WD-40 "extension tube"! No longer must I guesstimatingly drip-drip droplets of oil into invisible nook and cranny: the wonderfully flexible extension tube, when needed, slips into the aerosol-cap hole easily, and I can leverage the skinny straw 120-180 degrees before gently pressing merely one index finger to initiate aspiration, that tiny "psssssssssst" which I barely hear – and which, assuredly, passersby notice not at all! Firearm parts are hushed in their juxtapositional working. Spark plugs whiz from their sockets. All gears are, well – susurrant!

Johnny Appleseed gave us a wonderful gift for weary eyes to sleepily gaze upon – leaf and twig and limb and relaxing spheres of breeze-nudged, pendulous apples. The final nut to crack, for a truly serene life, is to lessen its concomitant "too-much-racket-inside/too-much-racket-outside." As a believer in free agency, of course, I accept responsibility for inner clamor and rhubarb (all such brawling private, and wholly between me and my Maker). For the squeal and grate and shriek of the outer world, however, my ears are pricked -- hand ever ready to draw: pssst…, psssssst…, pssssssssssssssst!

(Tim Scannell writes regularly for the magazine. He lives in Washington State.)

Australian Outback
by Patrick Henry


Bush Hats, Plenty Highway
(Northern Territory, Australia, 2000)
Oil on canvas, 110 cm x 48 cm
Dominant shades: raw sienna, emerald green
Catalogue No. AU00001 (U.S. $650)

The Transcontinental Express
(Western Australia, 2000)
Oil on canvas, 84 cm x 102 cm
Dominant shades: yellow ochre, vermilion
Catalogue No. AU00002 (U.S. $400)
Flight Over Bungles Mountain
(North Australia, 2000)
Oil on canvas, 90 cm x 102 cm
Dominant shades: terre verte, yellow ochre
Catalogue No. AU00003 (U.S. $800)
Storm at Sunset
(West Australia, 2000)
Oil on canvas, 105 cm x 170 cm
Dominant shades: vermilion, lemon yellow
Catalogue No. AU00005 (U.S. $1000)


About the Artist

If John Donne were alive today, he would be writing about Patrick Henry. As much an oddity now as in 1610 when his forebears defied King James I, Patrick Henry is an English Catholic. Little wonder, though: his grandfather was an Irishman from County Sligo. His father Seamus, a storyteller's storyteller, traveled far and wide before becoming a coal miner in Newcastle. His uncle became a cop on the docks in Brooklyn.

Patrick spent the 20 years of his prime in Paris and London in one long conversation with women and art, only interrupted by Baudelairean hang-overs and Marlowesque bar room brawls. Now technically a resident of Scarborough in Yorkshire, he has tasted the salt in Timbuktu, the sweet in Thailand, and painted or written poems about every nook and cranny in between.

He has published eight chapbooks, including Freeman's Mill, A Thumb's Mercy and House of Slaves. His paintings hang in Idaho, Mexico, Australia and elsewhere. He is a contributing editor to Big City Lit®, just returned from another trip of several weeks duration in Australia.

[Note: To inquire about the present availability of any of these pieces, please write to the magazine at or Box 1141, Cathedral Sta., NY 10025 USA. Ed.]