39. Insufferably

I can’t begin to praise my wife highly enough. We met in college, she was walking down the staircase as I was walking up. I checked her out and she turned to check me out checking her out. It was like dueling cashiers. It was 1974 and the personal computer had not been invented yet nor had grocery scanners. If they had been, I would have gone “blink” and Sara would have gone “blink” as we scanned each other. In a day or two we met through mutual friends that we have not seen in decades. The neural synapses fired and the transporter chemicals disappeared… and this sort of brain knowledge had not been discovered and reported either.  Basically we were two steps ahead of the CroMagnons in 1974 as disco music invaded the culture. “Stayin’ Alive, stayin’ alive. Ah,ah,ah, ah, stayin’ alive.” We’ve been running ever since then, away from disco, away from the big city, away from blatant materialism… but also towards other destinations. Trust me on this one, Bloggisatva.

Enough about peripherals. This post is about my wife of 33 years. She stepped down the socioeconomic ladder when she chose to connect with me. Her mom wanted her to marry a diplomat or a head of state, not including mood states here. I was more of a rebel with a bad mood and shoulder length hair. I’ve already outed myself in previous posts about hitchhiking to see Sara in California four years later. Why didn’t I just start at the beginning and proceed logically?  There is no fun in that. It’s been done. I have always done things the Hard Way of the Stubborn Tribe, which is a grandiose way of saying stupidly.

Her mahogany brown eyes competed with her captivating smile to slay me. She was not drop dead gorgeous but slowly pass-out-I-forgot-to-breathe beautiful, the kind of woman whose beauty sticks around for decades. A figure that has always been trim and easy on the eyes, not athletic, no, but irresistible. She is the original Miss Klutzillevania, able to drop pickle jars or trip on completely level tile floors, or both, without any warning. Zap! Pow! Crash!!! Still fetching somehow. Not full of herself or too proud to apologize. 11% Steve Erkel. 9% Mary Tyler Moore. 100% unique.

Faithful too, beyond reproach in our marriage, and I am hard to live with. I have threatened to leave myself many times over the years. I’ve told myself, “I can’t live like this anymore!” And I had no retort to myself. She has willed herself through some tough spots, more like deserts that ended at abysses that were swollen with bubbling lava. Perhaps this is why her faith in God is so robust. I helped her prayer life by giving her so much insufferable material to gnaw on. In our nearly 40 years together she has drawn closer to God and others, and this does my heart good. I believe God is the capstone who keeps all the pieces underneath Him locked together. There is no doubt in my mind that we would not be we if He were not He.

And now it’s her birthday, the same age that I am but she looks at least 10 years younger. Then our anniversary in July…so I thought I needed to dedicate a post to her. It’s a very economical combination present for the two events. (Whack!! offstage a cast iron frying pan meets an empty skull. Crushing is heard though no violence is seen.) What I mean is that I bought her a nice anniversary ring an hour ago and now I have to wait for the proper time to surprise her with it. Plus, I can’t screw up and create hostility between now and then, something I have innate skill in doing.  Pressure mounts as the time crawls by. “It had to be you” serenades from Pandora radio, sung by Doris Day. Huh? I never liked her until this moment, until this part of this song. Wow! I’m coming apart.

The jewelry store lady is holding the ring for sizing. It also helps for the check to clear in a few days. Financial sizing, I suppose. We’ve decided to renew our vows at a civil ceremony at a winery of all places in two weeks. Despite my earlier objections, I am fine with reaffirming my committed love to her. I know the rest of the journey is not as pretty as the first 33 years, but that’s how life is. Scott Peck said it was a stripping away process that leaves only the spirit. I’m down with that. I just hope that my spirit is sterling titanium splendid as I am sure that Sara’s will be.  I don’t want to go through eternity with her explaining to the other souls who Rusty Dust Cloud is. That would be insufferable.

38. tersely

The next day was like this one– hot and sweaty before noon. My brother slept in the truck that I parked in my front yard at dawn. “He is not coming in here,” my wife firmly expectorated. There are times when I will push back with my wife;  this was not one of those times. The previous day she had been correct in her assessment of the likely outcome– a hopeless entanglement that would end badly. She was right on schedule but too kind to say “I told you so”.  She was not blinded by family entanglements and unmet needs. She had been just as firm and prophetic with my insane mother years ago. (We’ll have to get back to that loose thread.)

I slept for a few hours. The truck had to be returned by noon, empty. We had work to do first. I got a phone book for John and opened it to rental units. He contacted one at the other side of town, where a year later he would be arrested for being a jerk who never connected the dots in his life that spell J…E…R…K. I drove over to the storage place on Radio Hill (where the radio station used to be, Silly Bloggit. Don’t tell Andrea because she might break our fragile truce and use local idiosyncracies against me, as I have done without mercy to her.) We slammed his furniture into the 12×12 unit in some semblance of reverse order, leaving the most likely needed items nearest the door. John paid two months rent and locked the door. I did not want to consider that my brother just attached to my town in some legal way. If I had, I would have kept driving another hour to ensure that he did not have to visit my town again. Things never end well with a delusional narcissist. I knew this from many previous encounters. I just kept hoping that somehow he could be a cat instead of a possum. Stupid me at the Coke machine for 40 years.

Of course the U-Haul guy could not make me happy. I told him not to try.
“Just call your district manager and tell him that I will not pay for this mugging.” I got upset again as I related the nightmare to this powerless pawn.  My credit card company took U-Haul’s side. “They did fulfill their rental duty.” But I hadn’t signed for a piece of crap that should not have been on any lot in such disrepair. Of course, I paid the $200 + bill that John had assured me he would take care of, which, of course, he never did. He asked me seriously if he could live in my basement for a week until some big checks came to him. “No, no, no. Not in the garage, not in a tent in the yard.”

He called a local hotel and I dropped him off. Again, it was like handling poison ivy. The bumps and insane itching were just about to pop out again. Unless you washed your hands quickly with soap and cold water, or if you thought ahead to wear gloves, the itching misery was going to get you. And, of course, he had no transportation. Having lived in Manhattan for many years, he had no license. No need for a license when you park your car for a couple of years in storage and then rush the attendant when you pretend to pay your storage fee.  He had no license because he could not get a D.C. license due to too many unpaid tickets. So he tried to finagle my brother Chris for his fixed address in Virginia, “You know, let me use your address for my mail for a while so that I can get a Virginia license.” Let’s add Antisocial Personality Disorder to the multiaxial diagnosis. “It’s all about me all the time.” Or as he shared with me once, “It’s not enough for you to succeed; your friends must fail.” I don’t know why he didn’t do motivational speaking tours with that kind of material.

After a few days in our town, John needed to get back to D.C. to finish something and to pick up checks or clothes or whatever. I didn’t care. I was not paying for anything or giving him my credit card number. I did agree to drive him to the Metro station in Shady Grove. I also agreed to pick him up in two days at the same spot at the same time. When I arrived at the Metro two days later, he was nowhere to be found, thus wasting three more hours of my life.  

Anger should not be carried for days, weeks, months, years, and decades. It wears you down. I was feeling an old, familiar gutwrench, a slow burn, a clenched jaw that comes with unresolveable issues that get dumped on you by an irresponsible other. This sort of anger becomes a slow leak in your mood. It turns joy stale and damps down your happiness. The question sits in the back of your mind: “What is he going to screw up next?”

Later that summer he got in a rental house with other singles outside D.C in suburban Maryland. No tickets there, so he acquired a driver’s license and a car.  I drove a dresser or a desk down to him. He came up with a smelly Serbian guy once to pick up a few odds and ends. I was terse and minimal in my dealings with him. In about a year we would have the incident that I described in other posts– Reluctantly and Consequently.

37. obtusely

Trouble erupted at the coffee shop today. It seemed harmless at first. Chuckles was across the street at the Mental Health Assoc. Walk the Walk Walk rally. 200 redshirts made a visual statement, though the speaker’s words were muffled by the noisy diesel trucks that accelerated from the traffic lights nearby. Jake was smiling and chirpy behind the counter, and the usual harmless banter was being banted about.

And then Andrea, the sweet Queen replacement for Krista, came in and began her proprietary duties. She was taping the weekend store hours on the counter and door. Now you need some geography lessons to appreciate or condemn what follows. Andrea grew up in a tiny village in Fulton County called Needmore. It provides for easy comic material, as you can imagine. Well, nearby is a sliver of Maryland and a sliver of West Virginia, the parts of the states that they tried to give away during the Civil War but Pennsylvania would not take them. (This last statement may need to be checked for accuracy at Wikipedia.)

Anyway, since I have been creating a sketchy reputation with Andrea, I asked her if we could start over this morning. She graciously complied, not knowing that I am only occasionally serious. We shook hands and then the Needmore jokes came effortlessly, as if they were premeditated, which they weren’t.  Something about all the girls in Needmore being named Andrea. How do get to Needmore? Drive through McConnellsburg and pray. When you open your eyes, you’re in Needmore. Depends on who’s driving and how long the prayer lasts. What is Needmore known for? The annual tristate spitting tour, where for a small fee you can walk through three states and spit in all three. There are photo opportunities and mucus plaques that can be purchased at the gift store at the conclusion of the tour.  Jake added, “That is so Needmore!”

Andrea attempted to retaliate with clever jibes. Sadly, she has little experience in interpersonal verbal combat and got hung up in her efforts like a toddler with duct tape. A line of dignity and hometown pride had been crossed, however, and she was gonna defend her people with all her might.

It got heated. Andrea smiled hate my way with squinty eyes. Clearly something more was needed here: Grace, peace, mercy. The pitchers for these three healing fluids were empty and Andrea had no intention of refilling them. She said, “You asked if we could start over!!” Shockingly, she was shocked or mildly surprised. I asked if we could start over again. She said, “No. See what just happened?” 

After some debriefing with Steve at my table and Ron bellied up to the counter, taking Andrea’s side in this stand off/ sit down, it was clear that someone had to be the bigger man. Since Andrea is a young woman, I decided that it fell to me to extend the Hand of Peace. I felt like Yasar Arafat as the cool air hit my empty sweaty palm. No shake, No peace. [ Reminded me of church sign boards, “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.”] I was not disturbed, though I was being accused of being Disturbed, which was a little disturbing.

Finally, after all the witnesses exited to their productive lives, it came down to just Andrea and me.  She said she’d like to be cordial again. We shook. I offered her a free coconut cupcake. She declined. My work was done.The healing had begun. I told her that I forgave her and left before she plunged the scissors on the counter into my torso. And that is sort of how it went down…obtusely.

1.  unfeeling, tactless, insensitive; blind, imperceptive, unobservant; gauche, boorish; slow, dim.

36. Loosely

Blogrades, what to say? I have a few loose ends out there, and I am very comfortable with loose ends. Sorry for you if you are not. What do you do with Persian rugs and their tassled ends? Or split ends?  Leave them alone if you are on the White House tour. “Loosey goosey” is what uptight controllers call relaxed folks, as if being relaxed will end Western civilization and release the Kracken. What’s wrong with being loosely together if your shoes stay on? Life is not a constant crisis. A crisis has to be a sudden diversion from the norm. Crisis will slice your cheesey life like tight piano wire and serve you on chipped china in a dumpster. Why live there? Crawl out and chill with me.

My peer supervision group members are all retiring or moving this year. I’ve been a part of this group of men for eight years. They have been a wonderful resource professionally and a collective joy to know personally. Sadly, I don’t expect to see the likes of them again in one room. Altogether they represented over 100 years of experience in the mental health field, including my demon experiences. What can you say except “I am so grateful for being in your presence, for your acceptance, your endorsement and encouragement, your kind wisdom.” What a crater will be left by their absence. Not exactly the Rapture experience, but I am being left behind due to my relative youth. May God bless you, Guys. Now, I am the sole cat herder left on the lonesome prairie, or so it seems. Maybe I could put an ad in a professional journal for five mental health catboys to chat around a collegial campfire monthly. I wonder who would respond…”Hi, I’m Ted. I saw  your ad for a catboy. I’m looking for post-midlife monthly catharses. Here’s my resume and my social requirements. Um, kind of shabby place you have. We’ll have to spruce things up if I’m gonna stay.”

” Yo, name’s Vinny. I usta drive a cab in Manhattan. That’s why my left arm is tan and my right one always grips a wheel that ain’t there no more. I’m looking for some meanin and poypose. I had enough of getting directions if you capiche. Nice couch. What’s with Ted?”

“Hi, Al, well, Albert. My mother named me after Albert Einstein. That  was before my father left us. He was trapped in a refrigerated ship that transported pork products to India. And when the Jasper, that was the name of the ship, arrived in Delhi, my father fell out stiff as a board. He quickly thawed out and married a local girl, but we never heard from him again. I’m not bitter, but I am looking for male mentorship that won’t leave me. And I can’t bear air conditioning. Hi Vinny, Ted.”

Loosely connected but comfortable like a classic pair of leather sandals. Who needs tightly crafted seams if you have three or four good connections? Flex, my man. Choose a loose noose or you’ll choke your goose.

Today’s coffee nation summit was a loose connection of men who floated in and out of the shop around 8:30 and later. It’s Thursday, an anchor in my week that connects me to some neat guys who have time and a desire to connect. Tasha was working the bar this morning and outed me about this blog. “It’s just what I expected”, she said, which is not exactly a compliment. “He talks a lot…like that.” I accept the feedback, though I am not sure that Tasha gets me. I am a lot cooler than she thinks. Meanwhile Krista, the former Queen of the coffee shop, sat behind the male only bastion of banality and corrected papers from her class on drug abuse. DJ commented that she should not be teaching middle schoolers how to abuse drugs after she said she taught on drug abuse. Again, there are very loose ties from one thing to another. Not exactly stream of consciousness; no, here in Franklin County it’s a crik of consciousness.

This was Mitch’s first official summit as a participant. He used to sling coffee, but he quit so that he could tour with a rock band for two months. (Guitar player) Now he’s back and seeking divine guidance. He is toying with the idea of going into formal ministry, which is great since he already has the soft heart for others. His heart was also carmelized by a certain young lady over the past couple of years. This is a slow process of cooking something in oil over a medium flame until it changes into a sticky, cooked down taffy substance which can be stretched like a circus tent. Pastors have at least one class in skin and heart stretching before they are released for active duty.

Lance the riddler showed up without his phone riddle app. Tim the silver back had to go to a meeting of all things. I am considering putting him on suspension because he has a full time job. As the original charter member of the Coffee Summit Nation, I find it hard to accept his success in the work world as anything but failure in the Summit Nation. Fortunately the Egginator was present and supportive of the mission. He is poised like a ruffled potato chip, ready to dip into the mix at any given moment. If he knew any martial arts or packed a gun, he could handle security for the Summit. Until then we will have to limp by with security provided by DJ, former Blackwater Security Service Dude who goes to the doctor a lot since retiring from that organization. He once ran cover for Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton in Iraq, so he says. Further, he claims that Angelina needed one limo for her body and another for her famous pouty lips. That is lip service. Now Hillary was easier to transport, having been a First Lady and all. Makes me wonder if celebrities drop names of common dullards like us in their blogs. Not really.

So, it is all loosely connected. And to unloosen any part of it would tie things in knots.

35. Demonically

I’ve known a few folks in my life who carried evil spiritual entities with them. These critters are called demons. Now, for me to explain, you must believe in or at least suspend judgment about the spiritual realm. I have much too much experience with them because any contact is too much. I’ll try to discuss them as specifically as possible  but briefly as well. What are demons like?  How do you know when a demon is present? I can only tell by the other’s eyes. They get snarly and glaring, hate filled, which is not the normal reaction I get with folks. They may speak in a voice that is raspy or altered from their host’s speaking voice. The first one I ever heard speak bellowed, “She’s mine!” However, it’s the eyes that show another presence, and it’s a hostile one.

If I said I  had a big one sleeping on the floor next to me as I type, you probably wouldn’t believe me. You can’t see it. I could be making all this stuff up. On the other hand, if you have suspended judgment, you may still be with me and briefly imagine a grown woman writhing on the floor making vomiting noises and hacking up spirit-infested spit for the past two hours. It’s your choice. And why I am not afraid of repercussions from the now sleeping slug? Let me explain.

Where does this stuff come from? Well, in my rather limited experience I’d say from Hell. Let me speculate here–if you allow for the supernatural, and you accept the existence of Satan, then accept also that demons serve him,The Prince of Darkness, Father of Lies. Not only do they serve him, but lots of them are noted in the New Testament, where Jesus casts them out of their victims by legions. Angels attend God; demons attend Satan. Many on each side. What is key to understanding is authority; the demonic seem to understand legalism and twist it to their advantage. Ultimate authority, however, rests solely with God. And this is why you need not hyperventilate in the presence of demons. Lean on God’s authority and power. Poof!

What is their job? For each negative feeling you can conceive of, I am suggesting that there is a corresponding demon; that means there is likely a demon for hate, envy, anger, hopelessness, death, suicide, lust, fornication, guilt, shame,etc, and especially fear. And doubt, that is after all the first human mistake/sin… doubting God. Once the host/victim is attacked, these little tar balls come into the host’s mind and sometimes into their sight. They agitate and distract their victims much like hives or poison ivy capture a normal person’s attention. There is not much else you can think about when you itch inside your skull. Fear swells up in the victim and the theme park of nightmare rides opens  for one lonely soul, be it Michael Jackson or Elvis or Jim Morrison or you. It’s on.

Why do demons do what they do? In the short run to control and intimidate the hostage. Besieged by hordes of insanity-provoking insects, broken down by sleeplessness and desperation, the host will negotiate. For what? Some action or inaction that advances Satan’s agenda. If the host practiced satanism and decided to retire, it’s comparable to trying to leave the Mafia. They don’t like being exposed or taxed or disempowered. Their agenda is then to silence or cause the host to suicide. Fun guys. “We’ll be back to break your knee caps, or kill your dog, or shame you beyond belief.”

How do they get into someone to begin with? Again, limited experience and speculation. But a shattered mind leaves lots of entry points. I believe that trauma has a lot to do with it, especially childhood trauma that occurs without a secure haven for the victimized child. The tales I’ve heard are horrific and  seemingly hopeless. When hope is gone, the victim is willing to negotiate. Once these evil tapeworms and moths get into a host’s soul, they eat away as much as they can as quickly as they can. If the host then participates in satanic practices, such as bloodletting and blood drinking, the demon of guilt will see to it that the host endlessly gargles guilt in an attempt to wash away the metallic taste of blood. Unfortunately it is an unforgettable taste that is tattooed onto the tongue and then the neural pathways that pulse in one’s memories. The victim is further victimized by her memories and the twisted blaming done by demon voices.

And why don’t these things bother me?  At first contact they scared the crap out of me, and I felt fear swell up in me. Their existence consumed me as a bystander witness. However, I am a stubborn guy and I hate to retreat. I learned about the other side of the spiritual realm; applied some logic (which, I believe, demons despise because they cannot do it); dug deeper trenches in my faith; and pushed back along with other Believers. I noticed that the demons retreated or complied with orders that came from the mouth of Jesus. “What you (believers) bind and release on earth will be bound and released in heaven.”  And in many other passages Jesus tells His disciples that they will drive out demons in His name, by His authority. Along with some pretty committed folks, I have pushed back hard.

Most folks have nowhere to put this sort of information. There is no category in their minds for demons and Satan and spirits at war. So they ignore or dismiss it. I used to do the same thing till they came knocking on the coffee table in front of me. Boom!

34. Possumly

Image result for crazy equationsDear Bloggo, it is delusional thinking that causes you to try and make someone be different than they are, and yet you persist. We all do. We engage in what I call Suck Math. It goes like this…

You should call or visit me. You don’t call or visit me. You suck.

And there is a variation of suck math that goes like this.

You shouldn’t disappoint me. You disappointed me. You suck.

Turned on the speaker, suck math goes in deeply like an embedded tick.

I should save money. I don’t save money. I suck.   or

I shouldn’t smoke. I smoke. I suck.

These are simple things, but if they are swept into huge piles, they can smother a person, like the guy who smothered when a grain elevator buried him in uncooked rolled oatmeat flakes in Iowa. Or was it grits? It took a month to clear out the elevator and believe it or not, he was perfectly mummified. No stink either.

Image result for coke machine photosI used to tell this anecdote. I came upon a man one night in the alley near my office. He was shaking and kicking and cursing at a Coke machine. I asked him what was the matter. He said, “The damn thing took my money and didn’t give me a Coke!”  I asked him when this had occurred. He replied, “About three weeks ago.” Now I admit that I made up the scene to make a point. The problem began as a defective, unthinking machine’s failure to deliver the goods. Very quickly the problem switched to the defective, unthinking dude who failed to problem solve. He kept treating the machine as if it could change and be what he wanted and needed. Yet he remained thirsty and frustrated and dense. His foolish and distorted perception kept him locked in a futile struggle with a sophisticated refrigerator. He lost before the first carbonated beverage was thrown.

Image result for possum picturesWhich brings me to my real point: I once determined that I was going to turn a possum into a domesticated catlike pet. I was 11, I think. My local buddies and I “hunted” and “trapped” anything that moved in the nearby woods where we spent thousands of unsupervised and unmolested hours in childhood. We caught snakes, birds, frogs, turtles, lizards, toads, fish, a groundhog for about a minute, and anything that moved.  One day we had a young possum treed in a black walnut tree.  Chris Young, the neighborhood Goober Game Warden, climbed the tree and poked the possum into letting go of his grip. He fell to the ground and played  possum (the possum not Chris). We caged him. Again, you know it was the possum, right?

My buddies could not take home a caged possum, so I wound up taking it home and putting him in the little shed that attached to the back of our house. I provided water and food, but the possum was not impressed. Plus, I think they are mostly nocturnal so I missed his best hours. I was determined (like the guy at the Coke machine or you, Bloggo) to domesticate this wild catlike critter.

Image result for possum picturesI got home from school early one day and put my plan into action. I drew a warm bath and put lots of shampoo and bubble bath in the water. I put on gloves and extracted the possum from his cage. I dropped him in the water, which turned black in seconds. The thing was filthy, greasy, stinky dirty. I tried to scrub his wet fur. He was having none of that. He bared his little possum teeth at me and hissed. I drained the tub and refilled it with fresh water. Dark mucky streams emanated from the little possum like black blood. He was dirtier than fifty gallons of water could dilute. I was running out of time and the humid stink was attaching to the walls of the bathroom. I drew one more tubful of water, which turned dark grey. Progress, but I had to move fast before my crime was detected.

I tried to dry the possum in the towels available in the bathroom. It was like drying the underside of a New York City cab in February. Unspeakable.  The humid stench was heavy, and here is where I think I made my fatal mistake. I took my brother’s Right Guard deodorant from the back of the toilet tank and sprayed the possum and the air all around him. I figured that I’d run back in the house after I put the possum back in his cage and take a shower. I needed one anyway. That would be my cover story, “I was really dirty.” I hurriedly took the possum back to the shed and set his still damp hide in the cage. It was November.

The next day, after my folks yelled at me and my flimsy cover story, the possum was playing possum eternally. He had frozen. In death he sort of reminded me of our cat Stanley who had been run over on The Parkway last winter. Flat and furry and very quiet. We had buried most of Stanley last winter, all but one back paw that sort of waved at us from his shallow grave all winter. Now Stanley had always been an outdoor cat and died that way. No one tried to change him into a possum, so his death had a little more dignity than the unknown possum. It was not exactly murder, but certainly Possumslaughter fits.Image result for possum pictures

The lesson to extract, take away, or conclude, oh Bloggo?  Don’t create impossibilities and then attempt to solve them as if they were possibilities. You’ll lose every time, which is what delusional means in the original French.Image result for impossible images

33. Crazily

It’s a short drive from where you are to Crazy, Utah, which does not exist, but for the purpose of this blog entry, let’s pretend that there is such a place. When a person “goes Crazy”, he or she leaves reality and floats or rockets into another place that sane people all agree is not reality. Reality dwellers know what time it is, what day it is, and where they are. They don’t believe things that no one else believes, things that are thought to be impossible, like Angelina Jolie telepathically communicating her desire for me each night at 9:10 p.m. EST. I mean, it could happen, but most rational folks would agree that she is not doing this any longer, especially since I have outed her in this format. So there you go,  Angie. Tell your therapist about that.

Reality-based people cling to scientifically provable stuff and what is written in big newspapers and most of what CNN reports as news. They understand when “Fly Me to Moon” plays at a wedding, it is not a lover’s real command or request; no, reality dwellers are so sophisticated that they can also operate in figurative and metaphorical language, a sort of nonreality that is still permissible within the rules of reality. They know somehow that the vocalist is expressing an impossible wish for his or her lover to sweep him or her off their feet emotionally and most likely sexually as well. In this construction the moon is a place of wonder, a nirvanic utopia where lovers visit periodically when their passion swells to tsunami wave strength. Whew! It’s getting tiresome just trying to lay out one side of the sanity railroad track.

Sane people are not allowed to hallucinate either, unless they are having a mystical religious experience or a temporary flight from reality fueled by a drug. Again, the sanity rule book (DSM-IV TR, which looks like Soviet Missile hieroglyphics) allows for some periodic, explainable lapses in continuous reality. However, if you stay at the rave too long, you must move to another chapter of the rule book– psychotic disorders.

Welcome to Crazy, Utah. Population unknown.

In my town we have four psychotic folks that regularly show up. I don’t know any one of them well. They are hard to get to know for obvious reasons. They are schizophrenic at least. One fellow is paranoid. Unfortunately for the local reality dwellers he is built like a Marine drill sargeant. He stalks about town, screams at light poles and passing cars. You don’t want to walk behind him or make eye contact with him because he will begin a paranoid rant, as I found out when I had to walk behind him down an alley to the mailbox on Main Street. He whirled around on me, as I predicted he would.

“I’m put together like Bruce Lee and I can bring it. You’ve seen my movies, right? Don’t mess with me!” followed by a string of profanities.

I used my reality dweller skills and ignored him. I just imagined it was bad customer service at a fast food joint or a scene from Black Friday at Wal Mart, where somewhat sane shoppers turn on each other like lab rats on cocaine and fight over Barbie dolls or I-pods. Just another scene from a weird movie… which is where Mr. Lee dwells.

One day he opened up the local coffee shop door and screamed at no one in particular a word salad of obscenities in a raging voice. He likely believed that the coffee shop crowd were talking about him negatively. Jake told me that everyone froze during his rant, including Jake. Then the guy slammed the door and went on to confuse others on the town square. Fortunately Mr. Lee does not follow up his verbal aggression with physical aggression. His path is the other rail of the sanity railroad. Maybe medication can connect him with the holy rail of reality that runs parallel to his path. Maybe not.

Saint Guy putters around like a holy Irish saint. He wears religious articles and engages in goofy conversations with very soft hearted locals. He makes puns and jokes with patient people, but he is mostly using the other person like a puppet in his own monologue. At Tito’s Mexican Restaurant and Store one night he bought six bottles of shampoo and was wearing down the sweet hearted cashier with his monologue. When I got behind him in line, he engaged me.

“Did you know that the television crew were on the square today? Yeah, they were covering something newsy. Security issues. Homeland security. I think they installed listening devices in the Ben Franklin statue on top of the courthouse. Probably recording this conversation right now.”

I excused myself, didn’t want to be recorded. Like the old saying in real estate, “The three most important factors in real estate? Location, location, location.” I walked back to my office muttering, “Medication, medication, medication.”

The last two schizophrenics are solitary pacers. One is a 40ish guy who walks briskly every day in an east/west pattern. The kids in town used to call him “Cockroach”. The other pacer is a late 30’s woman who walks north/south generally. Both are thin, no wonder. The guy wears big industrial yellow mittens and a knit hat in all weather. The woman mutters and swears at people who are not there. I’ve often wondered what their world is like, what thoughts they think in their solitary power walks. If they have moments of focused Reality, Pennsylvania or if they always reside in Crazy, Utah.

Wherever you are, Blogito, it’s a short drive to Crazy, Utah. Just ask Ben Franklin or Bruce Lee, if you dare.

32. Needlesly

Needles, California, 110 degrees. It’s August, what do you expect. I am realizing that I am mostly water and the desert ahead is mostly a dry sponge that will suck the moisture from my dying body. Worry begins to rise up in me with the early morning sun. My head is hot under my shoulder length straight hair. (It’s 1978 Bloghessatva.) My brain is tired. I’m losing track of time. The Pope died twice on my trip. Was that a sign for me? I was in Tennessee two days ago, I think. I crossed the Mississippi River back there, didn’t I?

I stayed just beyond the gas station with the soda machine in sight as I put my thumb up again. Heck, I was finally in California. What is one state ahead of me when I have crossed eight behind me? Wrong question. The right one would be this:  What is one charcoal grill tunnel ahead of me? Forget what’s behind. This was deadly, and I had been forewarned by mysterious desert dwellers on my way to the Magic City of L.A…. “Whatever you do, son, don’t linger in the desert.”  I imagined a long blackened finger of a dead uranium miner, click, click, clicking in the washed out, sun baked road shimmering in front of me (I told you earlier that I tend to be overdramatic.) croaking like a roasted gecko, “Do not linger here, son.”

A younger guy in a pick up truck stopped for me. His windows were down. Uh-oh, no A/C. On the bench seat between us he had sodas on ice in a cooler. ‘Awesome! Here we go’, I thought. As we got up to speed, I noticed that 110 degree heat at 70 miles an hour is painful on your skin. I felt like I had my face stuck in a hair dryer. Still, this hair dryer was barrelling on west toward the Pacific Ocean and my lithe, tan girl friend. Bring it on! I could be a mere hours away from holding her and ending this wild hare adventure. The driver offered me a soda. I drank it down and had that same feeling that there was a hole in my foot where the cool liquid drained out as fast as I consumed it. Man! Only a fool would get out and walk in the desert like I had last night. Was it last night or the night before last?  I really couldn’t say. My brain was a tuna noodle casserole speed baking at 250*.

On we drove, hard, loud, rushing, hot. We had to yell over the wind tunnel to converse. He gave me another soda. I realized that he was a seasoned salty desert dweller, someone who planned ahead. He would die happily hydrated one day. I knew that he had checked his oil and tires and radiator before challenging the unforgiving desert elements. I comforted myself with this thought of how brilliant he was. He was my savior at the moment, saving me from the ocean of my own stupidity. The best thing was that he was not Charles Manson. More like a Nelson Mandela. (I may have started to hallucinate as heat stroke and dehydration vied for my death certificate’s cause of death.) We sped on toward Barstow. No cops, no other cars, no people or signs of life. I slept with my windburned eyes wide open, trying to contain all body liquids. I would not have to pee for a week, maybe never again. I tried not to open my mouth for fear of dehydrating my tongue and having a tongue heat stroke. What would I say if help did arrive in time? “Ahh hant hay hany hing. Hah hung his huck.” My lips would dry up like oyster shells and peel and flake off into the dry wind. At the autopsy they’d notice, “His bladder is dry as old leather, Grissom. And his kidneys haven’t done anything in days.”

Barstow, yes. I must have come back to consciousness as my new best friend, savior, hero, Willie Nelson Mandela told me, “L.A. is that way. I’m going north. Take care, buddy. Keep cool.”

31. Effervescently

Effervesence is a nice word to say. Four happy syllables living in harmony, like a nice little family of mom and dad and two girls taking a stroll in the park. It’s an early summer day, morning, the birds are busy. The parents got up early because the girls were up and felt the pull of nature overriding their love of kids’ television. Vessi and Censi, twins with dark hair and freckles and green eyes, chattered all the way to the park, excited to be the first people out in the cool Saturday morning air. They weren’t sure, but they thought a doe jumped at the edge of the field and into the thin woods beyond.

“Daddy, do deers live here?”

“They visit at night, like we visit during the day.”

“Where do they live? Do they have a house?”

“No, they don’t live inside. Their home is the woods.” “Look, a groundhog is sitting up over there!”

“Oh, he’s cute. Mom, can we keep  him if Daddy catches him?”

“Honey, your Dad can’t catch it. Besides, it might be a mommy groundhog that needs to feed her kittens or baby hogs. I don’t know what they’re called.”

“Chicks, baby groundhogs are called chicks.”

“Dad, that’s wrong. Chickens have chicks.”

“Girls, Daddy is teasing. He’s trying to be funny but not very.”

“Can we bring her snacks when we visit?”

“Um, look. She must have seen us. Down she goes in her hole.”

“Yuck, they live in the dirt? That would be so dirty. Mom, I don’t want a pet groundhog anymore.”

And the happy family continues around the bends of the path until the girls run to the swingset and monkey bars, like little chimps. Mom and Dad marvel at their kinetic energy and feel the little geyser in their own stomachs, a pleasant bubbling up of Effervesence.

30. Breathlessly

Blogisimo, mon ami, your comments are welcome. “Line one is open, this is Dr. Frazier Crane, Seattle. I’m listening. But not for Niles or Daphne, I’m busy.”

It’s raining again in central PA. You can’t make a song out of this drippage, unlike “A Rainy Night in Georgia”  or the many other rock rain songs in the catalog. I remember doing a two hour college radio show with my friend Mark at William and Mary just on rain songs. I wish that I had a copy of that show now, complete with the conversations we had while the songs played. I know we had Clapton and Bonnie Raitt, Dylan, maybe the Band and the Grateful Dead. Some blues too. It’s way back there in my memory closet, behind the blanket from Mexico and the pink hat I bought my wife but my daughters used for dress up. Plus Mark died 8 years ago. A fine white oak tree in his prime just stopped living. Not cut down or hit by lightning. It was more like life’s poison finally overcame his rhinoceran strength.

Okay, I guess I’m going down that road. Mark was a huge person in many folks’ lives. He was Colonel Craver’s first son. I admired Mark and how he walked the line of an Army colonel’s son and a weed smoking poet. Heck, I liked Colonel Craver, though he scared the crap out of me. I knew that he liked me. Mark suffered a lot, I believe. His passion was a burning co-suffering with others, with art, with his dogs. He had a photographic and encyclopedic mind, despite the frequent  pharmaceutical baths. I have come to see him as one of my heroes, actually, though we were born just a day apart.

Mark is too big for this format. You can Google him at– Mark Wayne Craver. Some folks make a scratch in your life, others a dent. Mark made a crater-sized impact in my life that I do not wish to fill in.


It’s an underwhelming mood shift that settles in

My guts while reading Mark’s words, recalling his voice

His presence, how he seemed to whisper from a deep place

Honoring his choices

His memories haunted him for salvation—his and theirs

Always accurate or at least so capable of persuasion

So much I wish I had shared in the light of his fire

Deep, deep and far away familiar

So close and yet closed down

I recall driving around with his loneliness

He wanted some distant holiness 

And I wanted the dull instant kiss

Haunted now by what I missed

How he moved into a deeper language than I knew

We ate Chinese food at a shack in Vienna

When he lived with us briefly

He knew so much more

 He tossed me like a dishrag one day in play

Held my life in his meaty hands and released me

There was the Datsun he traded on the van

That blew up in the West, man, what a trip

 The time he came up with the gang to Edenville

He knew so much

More and more, he absorbed it all

 We lived parallel lives

Two red highways with different numbers

Mine was straight

His curled, burning at both ends into carbon

More and more the voice had to rise up

Justice, a supreme court justice was his goal

Back in high school and who would argue with him?

He read so much more and the mind laid waste his body

 He wanted to write the opinions and defend them with passion

Till too much injustice cut him off at the knees

The poison splinter of resentment

swelled and split the granite agreement

Of Roger and Janet…all fall down, please.

 Don’t I recall his recall of stories thirty years old

That he held out breathlessly as if they’d just passed

Sara says it must have been painful to never forget

The photographic trauma tracks of his past

 You and I are blessed by small dementias

We don’t wrestle God over forgiveness

Or punch out liars in shabby motels

 We don’t walk the plank over accurate body counts

And speak with insane pride of the maimed

Friends who refused to be interviewed by Hanoi Jane

 We don’t stop cars bare handed and throttle the speeding driver

We don’t do so much, and there is still so much more to deliver.

We don’t shoot rabbits penned up together

We don’t love our dogs with endless devotion.

 We don’t teach with harpooned passion

Or write from the fungus under the bloody nail

We don’t dwell with foreigners

Or wait humbly for them to bring us a chair

 We don’t rescue the weak

Or challenge the temporal strengths of the strong

We don’t hibernate all night

To face the crystal pink dawn

On a Harley

We don’t pile six into a Volkswagen and drive off

Anymore to nowhere in particular

And that emptiness of don’ts scrapes my spleen

When I inhale the vapors of my friend.