66. Poisonously

“I’ve written since I was 6 years old and thought everyone else did till I was in high school. I just ate it up when a teacher made writing assignments or had us keep journals. I was shocked when the other kids said they hated writing. To me that’s like hating breathing. I can’t not breathe, nor can I not write. Sharing, on the other hand, is not a desire of mine, at least not yet. My writing is too private and intimate. I don’t hang my underwear out to dry publicly and I don’t air out my intimate writings either. I suppose I could hang my panties on the inner clothes lines, though, and cover them with my blouses and skirts, shorts and slacks, socks. Hmmmm, maybe start with an anonymous blog….plain and concrete to begin with and then work into the intimate apparel. I could do that!

“As a kid I hid in my journals. I’d spend hours hunkered down pouring my soul onto the accepting pale blue lines of my notebooks. I had to store my soul there inside journals because my mother was so toxic. I breathed in my journals, not in her presence. She pinned me down as a mental health torpedo that had been activated when my dad left her. I was a ticking bomb, and occasionally I’d flare off in small jet trails of rage, giving just a glimpse into my awesome destructive powers. She feared me and my truthful witness to her underhanded manipulations, her poisonings. So she stealthily undermined my mental health, challenging and undoing every bit of evidence that proved my worthiness.

“I broke in high school. My perfectionism reached its zenith and imploded. The pressure was too great, the air too thin for me to breathe. I considered going anorexic, but I love to eat. I was not giving up lasagna to push back my mother’s assault on my soul. I accepted the depression label instead, still pissed that I had a diagnosis when she was the pathological one. I was just one more poisoning victim on her hit list. I read once that FBI profilers claim poisoners are passive-aggressive cowards. Believe it. If you can connect them to their poison, they have an airtight alibi in place already and an alias if all else fails. They slither off to Argentina or Paraguay like Nazi war criminals…cowards every one.

“Yeah, that felt good to excrete. Here I am now, alone with some jazzy guitar music and a laptop. I love it!  I enjoy my own company, which may be a prerequisite for being a writer. If you hate yourself, how could you stand to be alone with yourself for hours a day?  Okay, drink whiskey, you say? I suppose, but I don’t feel the need to numb myself as I am just now coming alive, feeling the blood rush through my cool limbs. Ahhhh! How about some warm milk? That’s better than Mom’s formaldehyde solution.

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65.Diddly

“It’s no longer there but keeps re-appearing like a flashback with all the emotions and sensory details. I can see the wall paper pattern and the errors made when it was pasted, the nail holes where family pictures once hung in rectangles protected from the sun’s bleaching power and the sweaty skin of years of cigarette smoke residue. Cobwebs that my aunt could not reach in the curtained back bedroom defy time and gravity still, empty witnesses to my abuse. Clear as day for me, though that house was demolished fifteen years ago. My uncle diddled me there…more than once.

“Why does this stuff stick in my head when what I want to stick slides away easily? Things like patient compassion, tolerance, forgiveness might as well be banana peels for me to slip on. Whoosh, I’m down. Sin is as slippery as an eel in a vat of warm Crisco. Wholesome memories don’t have a chance of attaching to the grime and grease. Goodness passes by like rancid crabmeat while filth attaches and multiplies virally.

“Shame has pooled in the back of my throat like acid reflux. If I open my mouth, it will spill out and burn those I care about, burn right through granite. I don’t even tell God about it, though I’m sure He knows. Dialogue with anyone will poison two or more. Where will it end? And how can shame ever be over? Silence and cobwebs cover my shame.

“Grieve his death? No, only that I did not aid his demise, speed it along, you know. He was a perv, an abuser, a thief. He perverted my innocence; abused my trust and body; and stole my self esteem. What did he get out of this? Some cheap thrill if his drunk mind could even contain it. In the end his brain was just as scarred over as his liver. He didn’t know who I was or what he’d done. I’d like some of that amnesia anesthesia. ‘Bartender! Absinthe all around.’

“And what have I lost? Connection with men. Faith in men as friends. Man, I got so tight about not being a victim again– I developed a perp awareness radar that Homeland Security would envy.  I scan first for a wedding band, then on how they dress. How do they gaze at other men? How long do their hands fish in their pockets? There are other subtle tells, winks, smiles, gestures. I get ill just thinking of the bag of tricks that pervs use. They don’t know that I know; see, they don’t have a former victim radar or they’d run as soon as they caught any drift of me. I will kill if they go through their steps…never submit again or get fooled again by believing that manhood is something secret and erect. He took me blindfolded into his bestial lust; he left me brutalized and abandoned in the woods. Alone. Afraid to ask another man for directions back.

“I cannot be weak. I will take your dare rather than let you have any doubt about my strength, my courage, my glacial power. You have no idea the rage that roils below my surface and the effort I expend to just be.

“It’s not about gay or straight either. No, it’s manipulation, violation and devastation of the other, who is always younger and innocent, like a bunny and a boa constrictor. ‘Pretty snake, shiny snake, gentle snake. I can’t breathe.’ Consent cannot be given, only imagined by the narcissist perp who thinks he is giving love, joy and wisdom away…as he squeezes the life out of his latest victim.

“And I can’t do diddly about it now except breathe again and again.”

64. Barefootly

Something lightweight, please.

Diva dance music will do nicely.

I don’t wish to ponder the profound today.

Summer is slipping away

and I want to linger by the warm

concrete apron of the pool.

Maybe

put my feet in the baby pool

effortlessly. Swish them

around just a bit and focus

on the tan line that ends

at Mount Boney Ankle.

One day, one year,

I will walk a beach and

totally tan my toes.

That is a bucket list

commitment. No more

rushing around with shoes on. After all,

shoes are an adaptation that

allows mankind to walk through

and across things that they would not

do with bare feet.  Shoeless

societies are looked down on

by the shoed, but at least they know

what they have stepped on.

This is a helpful bit of knowledge in this campaign season as our political money machines pave our paths with excrement. The unshoed must go slowly and by a different course, but theirs is a natural adaptation. They don’t change the environment; they work with it and change their behaviors, avoiding ice and superheated pavement, and subprime mortgages with balloon payments. And derivatives that only the well heeled can comprehend. And battlefields littered with the debris of the war machine.

If you streamline, simplify your approach to life, you stay closer to the ground. When was the last time you walked barefoot through the grass? When she was little, we could not keep shoes or socks on my youngest daughter Jess. She would bolt out the door and shoes would fly up over her shoulders, followed by socks. Rarely did she ever bring them back inside on the same day that she detached from them. Sometimes, as I recall, we would not find fall shoes and socks till after the snow melted in the early spring. By then her feet would have grown two sizes, or so it seemed. What a pickle butt! Freedom is sand between your toes, or mud squishing there. It is the risk of injury, sure. But also the risk of a healthy nervous system as your mind takes in all that stimulation. How stimulating is a flat piece of hard rubber under your soles?

Would you prefer calloused soles or a calloused soul?  I know, “Shoes don’t kill people; people kill people.” But in our frantic race to the top we can cleat and heel and kick, squash, punt, boot, stomp, and crush others on the way. At least with bare feet you can still feel the teeth of your victims as you stride over them.

A late summer melancholy comes with the rains. Time moves on and lessons remain unlearned. The innocents get on the big yellow buses for another year of school. They will never be taught how Wall Street’s greed and Washington’s collusion cost them chunks of their future. They have new shoes from Asia that light up and hypnotize the next consumer on the bus.

63. Naively Ninalized

Nina was a scared-looking junior at the private boarding school that my oldest daughter attended for her senior year. A very Nordic straight-haired blonde with an oval face from Hanover, Germany, she and her parents chattered nervously in German as they said their goodbyes. I introduced myself and offered to be a local host family for Nina. (Naively I later realized after I had been thoroughly Ninalized.) My daughter was way less than thrilled. She picked up on Nina’s immaturity and self absorption long before anyone else did. Too late, though. Nina had a place to crash over long weekends and holidays thanks to my big mouth.

Nina came to stay at our house on a regular basis. The school was glad to have a break from her demanding whineyness. At first it was fine. She was charming in her European ways. Since my oldest was tired of her after five minutes, this left an opening for my middle daughter to bask in Nina’s attention.  They watched television together and tried to find common ground. Nina’s catch word with an accent was “Horrrrible”, television was horrible, American food and clothes were horrible, the weather was horrible.  After a while we realized that we had the royal Princess of Hanover in our modest home. Over a few visits, Grace lost interest in Nina, which left an opening for my youngest daughter, Jess, to bask in Nina’s attention. Despite the nine year age difference this was the best fit. Jess was very patient and tolerant of Nina’s presence, her 30 minute showers, her hair obsession, and her “only wear black” fashion.

In those days Erin, my oldest, kept about five iguana lizards in her room. There was a cage with a heat light, but the lizards could easily get out of the cage and often did. Charley was one of her favorites. He wandered about the house on a few occasions, finding secluded warm spots to do his lizard business. I once cut a hole inside a kitchen cabinet looking for Charley. He wasn’t there, but the hole I cut remains. So what? Raising kids is not a neat and orderly business. Oh, yes, we also had finches that flew around the house in those days. I forget which kid had to have finches. Erin maybe.

Anyway, one morning just after another epic shower, we heard Nina let loose a blood curdling scream from the locked bathroom inside the locked bedroom. She screamed, “Cholly. Oh my God, Cholly.” We pounded on the bedroom door to no avail. She screamed on. Finally, it got quiet and we could hear her unlock the bathroom door with some sighs of disgust. After getting dressed she unlocked the bedroom door. She was still visibly upset. “Nina, what’s wrong?” we all asked at once.

“Cholly was in my towel”, she uttered on the verge of tears and a pout. Seems that our Charley lizard had climbed into her towel as it hung above the heater in the bathroom.  As Nina went to dry off her butt naked self, she rubbed her soft pale skin with 40 grit green iguana skin. The screams made sense now– shock and disgust can help you find another octave in your voice. We fell out laughing and still tell the Nina story, “Cholly, oh no, Cholly is in my towel! Oh, horrrriblle!”

Nina’s welcome wore out in November; unfortunately she did not leave until June. Her last week was also epic, but I have to save that for another post. God bless you, Nina.

62. Abandoned

While riding with Clark, two stories we are familiar with came to mind. They both have to do with Alaska. The first was from a video of this old timer, Dick Proenneke, who lived by himself on Twin Lakes. The video is called “Alone in the Wilderness”. I watched it and marveled at the guy. He filmed his progress in building a log cabin with a fireplace  while he creatively used everything he had at hand to adapt to the wild, beautiful environment of back country Alaska for 30 years. What I did not know was why he came to the solitude of Alaska to begin with.

“Korea, man. He saw too much and it messed him up. Yeah, he moved from Iowa in the sixties and lived alone for the next thirty years. Never sick a day in his life after he moved up. Ate the finest food, unpolluted.”

We are both familiar with the story of Chris McCandless, whose short life is chronicled in “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. We both read the book. He went to Alaska alone also, but he was totally unprepared. He did not make anything. Instead, he lived briefly in an abandoned transit bus that had been used as a hunter’s cabin. He did not adapt to the environment and it killed him. He left no legacy except Krakauer’s sketchy re-creation of what most likely happened to this idealistic kid. He angrily rejected society after learning about his father’s double life and double family. He burned his money, abandoned his car, and floated aimlessly across the U.S. until he hatched out a plan to live alone in Alaska. Funny how broken trust often leads one to an island or a desert. McCandless had tried to canoe into Mexico earlier, but he became bogged down in swampland. Apparently he did not profit from that dead end experience.

Anyhow, it occurred to me that if the kid had met the old timer on his journey, it might have been the perfect match. Instead, it was a classic tragedy. McCandless either starved to death or poisoned himself accidentally. He was not Dick Proenneke, but then Dick Proenneke didn’t attempt his solo act as a young college graduate with bitterness on his tongue and a trust fund waiting for him. Proenneke left with knowledge, skill and wisdom born from a lot of experience. He was not an idealist; he was a survivor. I don’t think it is unusual for idealists to die of starvation or for survivors to live on deer jerky and tree bark. Idealists refuse a lot of compromises while bearing down on a pure idea.

Survivors take what they’re given and adapt. Clark is an adapter/survivor/scrounger/artist.Too bad the kid didn’t meet Clark.

Proenneke and McCandless saw the same problem– man’s inhumanity. Both sought solitude in nature’s wilderness as the answer. One survived and came back to society enriched, while enriching those of us who know his story. The other died impoverished, learning his last lesson too late, “Happiness means nothing if not shared.”

61. Humbly

Blog citizens,

Today I’d like to hear from you. This is my 60th posting, and a bit of a milestone for me. (There is no number 1.) I started blogging in March with no expectations or directions.  As I peck out my little posts, I wonder if there is any connection occurring, any value added to your day.

I’m hoping for specific feedback– likes, dislikes, what were you thinking, don’t ever do that again, etc. I am not collecting data or e-mails for a sales pitch at a later time. I am not that savvy. I would greatly appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

A while ago one of my former students was in my counseling office. She made the connection that I had been her teacher twenty years ago. I said, “I hope that I did not scar you for life.”

She responded, “No, you actually saved my life. Do you remember digging through the dumpster after lunch for my dental retainer?”

“Strangely enough, yes, I do remember that. I believe we served corn that day with tacos.”

“Well, it was the first day I’d worn my retainer, and my dad would have killed me if I had lost it.”

That little snapshot meant something to me. It was a tiny puzzle piece in a huge mosaic that no longer exists in the material world. Her feedback, however, was a gentle connection to what was and still is. I still dig through dumpsters for lost stuff.

60. Defragmentedly

I should be billing insurance companies right now instead of slurping coffee, listening to Springsteen, and pondering the next blog nugget.But I don’t always do what I should despite five years in Catholic elementary school. Growing up between the hippies and the days of glitter rock may also have something to do with this phenomenon. Then there is the undeniable family order thing, third of four boys. Never do what your older brothers did.

Last night the air was cool and sweet here in central PA, so we had the windows open for the first time in months. A cricket orchestra played outside for my entertainment. At first I only noticed the vibrato of one tenor cricket’s chirrup, chirrup. I noticed that he dropped off every third or fourth chirrup,unlike the white noise machine in my waiting room that chirps like an electric metronome made in China. After a while I noticed that other higher pitched crickets were also giving it a shot. They were so high and faint, and there were many more of them out there. It’s too late for fireflies, but this cricket orchestra reminded me of aural fireflies alighting on my eardrums, pulsing to their own rhythms. Their sounds were just as intoxicating as the sight of a field of floating fireflies. I made a mental note: don’t forget these crickets; there’s something magical here. That’s how I fell asleep: awaiting the magic promise. No hallucinogens were in play.

It’s wonderful to live in the moment–worry free, regret free. And rare as Mongolian rain. So much competes for our attention that distressful tension is born. We fragment and pieces of our soul whirl out away from our cores.We need singular experiences to break out of this tension. Moments that are undivided, unfried, untangled…pure as a baby’s breath. Such experiences draw back the lost shards of our lives.

My friend Clark shares a lot of such moments with me. We went for a bike ride yesterday after a heavy rain. The simple motion of pedaling along country roads past open farmland is a pure experience. In a kinetic way it’s the Chinese metronome on wheels. We try not to mess it up with too much chatter. To start we pedaled past a waiting hawk as we turned onto Table Rock Road. The hawk was too immersed in watching for his next meal to even notice us. Cool. I like hawks a lot.

Along the rolling hills we saw five more hawks gliding across the fields and through the trees. Each hawk glide was a pure moment for me. Like exhaling colorfully, as Lauren likes to write in her blog. Good stuff comes up if you clear your mind of all the debris that life’s storm drains throw at you. You know what I mean. The noise, the stress, the expectations, the heightened sensibilties. Watching a hawk glide on rain cooled air in search of a mouse is none of the above. It’s basic.

Clark pestered me for a few years to join him hunting deer. I grew up in the D.C. suburbs and only ever hunted parking spaces at the mall. I was not familiar with guns or the whole hunter thing until he impressed such things on me over venison roast. I thought it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to be a deerslayer if I could fill my freezer with delicious venison. Last fall I pulled the trigger twice. My second bullet hit a big doe and I was in the venison zone at the tender age of 55. Simple, basic, untangled action in a cold December woods.

Crickets, deer, hawks, bike rides, and Clark–somehow they are alike in my recently defragmented mind.

59. Groggily

Ever since getting off the plane from Tucson, my throat has clogged up with mucus and raspberry pain, like a raspberry bush sprouted in my throat. It’s fuzzy, and irritated plus the rasps along the vocal chords vibrate with each breath. Occasionally a threatening sensation sets off a coughing spell, especially when I lie down to sleep. It feels like a nasty moth or flying beetle has landed on the irritated raspberry branch. Oh, Robitussin, cling to my raw skinned larynx, my lizard tongue, my cottage cheese vocal chords!!! Put out the smoldering golf ball coals embedded in my neck.

Then there is the clogged head feeling, stuff that needs to drain is not able to release. My head swells and a slight fever rises. I come and go in waves, like a small boat on easy waves rolling under it. I rise and fall behind my dry eyeballs. I am not sick enough (I think) to go to the doctor and yet not well. The mucus has dried up and shrunken back, but I still sound like a Mafia loan agent. (Notice that I did not say “shark”.)  I avoided the phone for several days because I did not want to scare folks with my graveled voice. Dry eyes, fatigue, even the arches of my feet ache slightly. Watching television feels too hard! Recline mode engaged. This has got to move on…and it does in small increments.

I rest when I can. I napped at the bank drive thru window the other day until Brett, the rising teller/real loan boy (notice I did not say “barracuda”) got on the microphone and asked me if I was asleep. “Not now, Brett”, I growled. That was a week ago, and here I am whining seven days later, thinking about a nap after being awake for three hours. Ray Charles is singing “I’m Busted” and I can give him an Amen!

‘ I know it will lift, and that I can’t quit, but I’m busted.  In the dog days of summer it’s just a doggone bummer to be crusted. I feel like a good garden spade left out in the rain now I’m rusted. Won’t somebody please, take this pressure from me cuz I’m robitusted.’

Okay, enough whining, wheezing and whimpering. What’s the point?  There must be a point. Actually, no. Bowling balls have no point. Phlegm balls have no point. Even points under high magnification (check Wikipedia here) have no point. That deficit enables them to keep rolling groggily along. I am blogging this under officially sanctioned impairment and am not responsible for any stated or implied guarantees…cuz I’m busted.

58. Counter-intuitively

The thought arose that the woman in front of me needed to hug the cactus, to find and embrace her beauty. I recalled the old novel The Thorn Birds and the legend of the bird that pierces itself on the thorns of a flowering tree in Australia, as it tries to drink the nectar of the beckoning bloom. In her case I thought that the cactus spine of truth would lance the poisonous septic lies in her tormented heart. “I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I hurry through brushing my teeth so I don’t have to see myself.”

My leathery heart wept its oils and resins that keep me supple. I understood her hurt and felt it indirectly, like indirect sunlight. It’s not nearly as potent or blinding as the original. But it’s a fair judge of how intense the real thing is. I hurt in her shade. Let’s call her Lisa, Sad Lisa.

I recalled another woman, Robin, who told me that as a kid she wrapped herself in a blanket and rolled on the floor to simulate a hug, something her alcoholic mother and abusive father never gave her. Later in her life she found that opiates gave her a similar warm rolling feeling that could be depended on. They also helped numb her father’s incest. Like her poor surrogate-parent blanket, a tragic, epic sadness wraps this memory and brings a tear to me every time I think of her nightmare life. She had been a student of the violin as a kid, but just a rotten tooth junkie in jail. Turn that into a concerto, if you can, and bleed.

In the same section of my memory I found yet another heartbreaker story– of the girl who played Barbies while hiding in her closet. Her half brothers acted like hyenas, chasing and hurting her. Not directly, no.  Instead they violated and executed her favorite Barbies while she shuddered helplessly. They called her “monkey face” and she believed them. They had a father and some twisted authority that she lacked. “Barbie” went on to replicate another tribe of unfathered children who made messes. Her life was tragi-comedy, though, as she learned to defend herself with a wicked wit. “Poof! It’s all gone now.” And who can blame her?

All of these women were repulsed at their image in the mirror, though I found each one beautiful in very specific ways– how their smiles broke or their eyes lit up. I could not say, “Hey, you are beautiful.” It would have complicated an already complicated business, a business of raw vulnerability and tenuous trust. Wounded women show me their scars and open gashes, hoping that together we can heal them. I get quietly overwhelmed with reverence for their courage. I have to dig deep into my compassion cistern when the pain gets too intense.

Physical beauty is not the goal, although how you keep your outside is a pretty good indicator of how you feel inside. Grooming and styling and hygiene, and jewelry and make up can help accent joyous eyes, a radiant smile, a gentle voice, a soft touch. Her children tell Lisa she is beautiful and she cries. Her husband says it too. She laughs and mocks his taste. When strange men look her way, she cringes in fear, knowing that hers is overreaction. “What beauty? I’m a trash heap inside. I don’t want anyone looking at me cuz I’m afraid they’ll see into the garbage dumpster.” The voices of her adolescent abusers still ring in the recesses of her skull. They put the garbage there twenty years ago, but they are nowhere to be found now.

I’ve known other women with this sort of shame,  which is the worst emotion out there. They know that they are fatally flawed, unredeemable rejects. Nevermind the evidence! This emotionally driven “fact” is like a tick that sucks their lifeblood while simultaneously infecting them  with Lyme’s Disease. And what to do?  I say, “Hug the cactus. Lance the psychic boil.”

It makes no sense to them to believe in a place they have never seen. It might as well be Tibet, but I continue to prepare them for the thin air of freedom. It’s a place of unbearable lightness that lifts the dumpster, cures the shame, and transforms the mirror image into an oil painting.  It’s no more mythical than their self imposed prisons.

57. AsKermitdently

It was late morning but already approaching 100 degrees when I decided to walk the granddog Kermit around my daughter’s neighborhood off Silverbell Drive. I wanted to move before it became a death wish to do so. We leashed up and wandered over to the tiny park at the end of Copper Moon Drive. Kermit chased lizards and bird shadows across the island of cool green grass. Above us in a mesquite tree was the local hawk, who recycles rodents for Pima County. He was beautiful and fearless in his perch. I felt emboldened also, feeling rather hawkish actually. “Raptor Man of the Sonoran Desert”.

Feeling the dog’s energy tug at the leash, I began to trot out of the neighborhood. I remembered the three mile walk we had done just two days prior; I made a left turn onto Silverbell and left into the ADJACENT upscale neighborhood . We trotted and jogged on the shady east side of the avenue. Kermit began to pull for the shady spots, however. She had no problem with heat or dehydration on this same walk two days ago, but now we were three hours later in the day– the difference between preheat and broil. I urged her to move again, trying to speed up our pace and shrink our time of exposure. We jogged on past a lady washing her trash cans. I almost asked her to wash down the puppy and give Kermie a drink, but I thought we could slog through the course ahead. She had earbuds in her ears and was in an awkward position, so I passed. I remembered a playground and a gas station where surely there would be water. Still, a decorative fountain gurgled across the street and I wondered what heavily chlorinated water would do to Kermit. I remembered drinking pool water accidentally as a kid and decided against chlorinating the pooch. We plodded on.

Turning left on the big road that parallels Silverbell, I was not sure if we were half way or a third, but I could see that there was less shade available on the “shady” side of the road. Again, Kermit sat at the first dark spot and I began to wonder if she was going to make it. I had my cell phone just in case I had to call for air conditioned back up in the form of a silver Prius. Common sense was being counterbalanced by stubborn pride, though. I did not want to hear the “What were you thinking?” comments from my family, not out of concern for me but for the well being of the pup. Kermit gave me the “What were you thinking?” look as she huffed and drooled away precious water. “I trusted you, Gramps, and look where it got me!”

I started once more, downhill slightly and I could see the school across the road. ‘Oh, relief’, I thought. I noticed a young family of five on bikes waiting and drinking water in the next shade spot ahead of us. They parted and said hello.  The couple and their three sons could not have been any nicer. I asked if  there was water at the school. The dad assured me there was and pointed out the green fountain. Bingo! Eureka! Geronimo! We were saved. The mom passed me an extra water bottle for the dog. I poured the lukewarm water into my cupped hand while Kermit slurped it up. “I’m from a place called Stupid, Utah;” I explained. I thanked them and ran across the scorching pavement into the school playground. There was water in the fountain, though it was hot to the touch. I waited for a full minute but the temperature did not reduce. Kermit sought out the shade and was not interested in the puddle I was making on the concrete sidewalk. I began to feel vaguely like an animal abuser.

My phone rattled in my pocket. (“Rattled” is probably not the best verb choice here in rattler country, but there it is.) My wife asked where I’d gotten off to, which is a habit of mine, to wander away with only vague details of my direction or intent. I tend to do this at inopportune times before and during shopping excursions, weddings, funerals, graduations, coronations, big shows, etc.

(I had done this years ago in Boston. We were getting ready for the fanciest wedding I’ve ever attended. The girls were primping for over an hour. I said, “I’m going for a run while you primp.” I had a vague idea that the groom’s house was along an old trail that ran past our hotel. So I ran into the town of Lexington. It was so much farther than I’d imagined, maybe 6 miles. When I got there, the house was deserted. I drank from their hose and started back to the hotel. I had not a dime on my person or a cell phone. I realized that I had run too far. Fortunately the return run was  slightly downhill. I ran for my life, imagining the Hell awaiting me if I missed this wedding. Obviously the painful lesson did not stick.)

I explained that we were not far away and I’d call for back up if necessary. Still, I was concerned for Kermit in her black fur coat. This 3 mile hike was turning into the drama in the desert. Somehow a nice little trot down the street had turned into a life or death escape chase.

Off we went for the next leg of the dehydration drill. We ran across the road and jogged right into the midget football team car wash fundraiser. About 10  ten year old boys with soapy sponges and squeegees were surrounding dusty cars along with four or five dad coaches behind the corner gas station. Kermit immediately laid down in the solid shade of their tent and I introduced her to the kids and dads. “Can I pet her?” asked one boy while the next stood beside him with a dripping soppy sponge. “Can I wash her?”  The dads cautioned against scaring my dehydrated puppy. One squinty-eyed coach warily told me to spray the dog just in case she snapped. (Probably the defensive coordinator)  Another seemed to know dogs and said, “Rub her fur backwards so the water cools her skin instead of just slicking her fur.” Kermit would have stayed there for the remainder of the day, but I had to shove off for the final leg of the endurance trial. There was no shade along the remainder of our run.

We gutted it out, breathing fiery air for the last quarter mile. The last street we ran was slightly uphill; the houses looked bleached by the intense solar radiation silently showering them.  As we burst into the cool air of my daughter’s house, I heard, “Where did you go? What were you thinking?” as Kermit laid down on the tile floor with wide dry eyes full of shock. The death march was over and we had survived. Any death march you can walk away from is a good one in my book. Apparently the management thought otherwise.