212. flittering finches in faltering flight

It’s early spring and the various birds are showing up as the snow melts away– robins in particular herald spring’s arrival or winter’s demise. The hardy cardinals wintered over along with bold blue jays and sparrows. They flit about my back yard and chirp at first light. Feathered extroverts. They are busy building nests and claiming turf. Sometimes the people around me remind me of flitting birds. Peep, peep, coo, coo, squawk!  And I mean this in the nicest way possible.  I think they just want to make it into my world famous blog with readers in Namibia and India. Well, I at least got a hit from these distant shores. Why? Yes, I do ask myself this often. Don’t they have plagues or insurrections to tend to instead of my drivel? If I were in dire straits, or straits of any sort, I wouldn’t call me.  How would I hear myself call? And I will not leave myself voicemail. I don’t like how I sound on tape.

So weird coincidences continue as people wander in and out of my life. As I walked into the bank to deposit some checks at lunch, one of my former clients was walking out.  We smiled and laughed out loud. She was extremely pregnant the last time I’d seen her. Now she has a fourth child, a little boy. “Oh my, this is so strange. My daughter (whom I’ve worked with numerous times) just asked me to call you last night as I was tucking her in. And here we are!”  Yes, indeed. It was a nice moment. “She’s struggling with normal stuff. Girls at school, you know. Anyway I quit my job, and I just love being home. It’s so nice.”  She’s a dove, lovely and pleasant. Somehow her voice coos. If cats could be birds, they’d be doves, purring about and clucking softly.

And chickens… reminds me of Gerry from Sunday School. I helped him move on Saturday while he did the grumpy old man shuffle. He pocked and squawked about. Later, he and his bride came over for a dandy spaghetti dinner that my wife had prepared. Again he tried to noodle around glutenously and say awkward things, provoking a Freudian slip by my wife. As she was talking about the ballroom dances we have learned, she mistakenly mentioned the Horizontal Tango, as if it were a recognized international dance. I corrected her. “Honey, we do the vertical tango. The Horizontal Tango was outlawed after Sodom was destroyed.” After many guffaws and squawks, Foghorn Leghorn repeated these awkward  phrases quite loudly while sitting next to me at church the next morning. “Ah say, uh, boy, Ah say now, what about that Horizontal Tango?” Did I mention we were in church? Where’s a good chicken hawk when you need one? He needed an Old Testament smoting.

Meanwhile the pastor was doing his woodpecker nail gun bursts of intense preaching where every word is so important that it is enunciated with great torque and tension into our tightly frightened eardrums. PRRRRrrrrup, “sin”.  ppprrrrrrrrrup, “repent”. PRRRRrrrrrrup, “satan”. PRRruppp. “Jesus”. The tension built to 100 lbs. psi of torque and then entire bodies would spin out counter clockwise as the eardrum whirled back into place. I tell you, folks were falling out in the aisles repenting left and right for un-confessed sins just to make the nail gun stop. “Breathe Pastor, breathe Man!!” But as most ornithologists know, woodpeckers breathe through their ears so that they can continue pecking into trees for the insects beneath the bark. It’s a form of explication, prrrrrrup, ruppp, of the text. Makes one wonder if Noah had woodpeckers on the Ark. That could have gotten ugly.

“Noah, sir, we’ve got a hole on deck three, section delta.”

“Aw, stick a sock in it, Caleb.”

“Socks haven’t been invented yet, sir.”

“Okay, how about a snake? How big around is the hole?”

“Less than a palm but more than a finger, sir.”

“Shove a turtle into it for now and finish it with candle wax.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Lord, why do you test me with these accursed woodpeckers? I told you they would be trouble on a wooden boat! But Noooo, what does Noah know?”

Alright, maybe this is not great drama and this scene would likely be edited out of a Noah movie with Russell Crowe playing the old man. Maybe in the Monte Python version we’d get the real story of the woodpeckers who created ventilation in the ark.

Okay, back on earth in modern times… I need one more bird-to-person reference to make it to 1,000 words. I’ve written about hawks, sparrows, baby bird, penguins, ducks, swans, owls, magpies and flamencos. But I’m struggling here in the home stretch.  Perhaps I should tell the sad tale of Okey Pretty Bird here. Why not?

Okey was a cockatiel, a little parrot. Sweet natured and gentle. My daughter Grace was given Okey by a friend of mine whose kids had outgrown the bird, I think. Maybe they were on vacation. I don’t actually remember. Anyway Grace loved that bird and Okey loved her back. Okey could talk; at least it could say, “Okey pretty bird” as it walked around our house. Keep in mind that we also had finches that flew around inside our house while iguanas slithered slowly across the carpeting. Our dog Nick would chase the finches and hop up on the couch to snap at them, which is how he broke the one lamp. It was a circus but fun for kids.

 Okey pretty bird used to talk at Grace’s toes and would sort of lick and peck gently at them. It was cute but also dangerous for the bird and pedestrians in our house. Usually birds are up higher in the ranch house canopy. I think you know already how this sad story ends, but you don’t. I believe Grace was walking up the stairs with Okey in her hand when she missed a step and fell full force onto poor unfortunate “Okey, pruuuuttttyyyy buuuuuurrrddd.” Duh. Dead.
“This one is… For all the birds I’ve loved before. Who traveled in and out my door. I’m glad they came along. I dedicate this song to all the birds I loved before.” (thank you, Willie Nelson)

 Update: after vetting the Okey story with Grace, she reminded me that she had actually stepped on poor Okey Pretty Bird and felt huge guilt over this awkward accident. But what is even worse is that the neighbor’s cockatiel, Bibs, had learned to say “Okey Pretty Bird” before Okey left this world. Bibs continued for years afterward haunting Grace through open windows, “Okey Pretty Bird”.

211. Border lines

 antique black frame isolated - stock photo

Like a picture frame, a border line holds an edge and lends definition to something, maybe a garden bed or a basketball court. The line highlights where something ends and something else begins. In the therapy business  borderlines are personality disorders of the first order. The term refers to an imaginary line between psychosis and neurosis. It’s a sanity stripe that some folks dance on all their lives… one foot taps out a rhythm on the scales of depression and anxiety while the other foot occasionally stomps on wild, scorpion delusions.  It’s an awful mix of pathologies that usually results in erratic and fragile folks who are hard to spend any time with, who at the same time are desperately clingy and needy and fear abandonment. Their gasping struggle to hold on to others results in being abandoned over and over again. For them impulsivity is irresistible. Flailing in the deep end of Responsibility’s pool, they drown their rescuers like mythical sirens. Suicidal thinking and attempts go with that awful fence post place where borderlines sit painfully on broken glass, chewing strands of barbed wire licorice. Broken relationships and deaths are hard for the average person to endure, but for the borderline these are exquisitely excruciating exercises in existence. Imagine a swamp that rests on top of a volcano that sits on the San Andreas fault during monsoon mudslide season. The potential for bad things to erupt and splatter is very high.

I’ve read that borderlines are terminal two year olds in their temperament and folks who have no skin– only nerve endings. Everything hurts… the wind, the news, the silence, the drama, the weather, and especially boredom. I’ve also had limited experience with a few. Whew!! Exhausting. And you may be thinking “Oh, sure. How much harder can they be?”  Well, if you’ve ever been in a plane where the oxygen masks deployed, it’s like being in that crisis mode more often than not. You don’t want to get on such a fragile crazy plane again. It’s easy to become a hostage of a terminally flailing victim. Black holes in the social universe that suck up resources and potential disappears… the Bermuda Triangle of mental health… fear, rage, shame, guilt, and chaos swirl there.

BPD’s are forever bored and crave excitement the way that television executives crave market share….”Look at me now, and now, and how about now?” Attention is their oxygen. Endless selfies and soulful despairings attach to their ever changing FB pages. Theirs is the most exceptional life struggle of all time, dontcha know? It’s no surprise that BPD’s are overrepresented in the performing arts and sports and politics where praise and adulation are part of the payment system. And that would make sense because of the intense attention that comes to performers, athletes and politicians. The problem arises when the curtain descends. How on earth is the BPD affirmation junkie gonna get his/her fix in an empty theater, studio or stadium? Oh, I know, go stir up some drama– have a hit of this or spend that or have an affair with someone else’s spouse. And do it now because patience is no virtue in the BPD world. It’s just someone denying an irresistible treat that is deserved somehow.

Do not attempt to be rational with a border line. Their landscape is one of intense superhighway emotions without logical rest stops built in. In fact, there are no off ramps, only breakdown lanes for runaway vehicles. Boundaries do not exist in BPD land: time, privacy, private property, legal rights, social appropriateness, personal space, etc. are always negotiable items. And they promise they’ll never call in the middle of the night again or beg for money or sex or time. Rules, structure, discipline, truth, etc. are all wiggly concepts that can be manipulated by their unrelenting breathless neediness.

“They love without measure those whom they will soon hate without reason.” Thomas Sydenham.
Fallen angels, maybe. Passionate without limits…. Destruction seems inevitable, and there is a higher suicide rate for BPD’s, 8-10%, to be sure. How do you treat these shape shifters with compassion and integrity? I’ve been to personality disorders workshops before and heard that it can be done successfully. But it takes twice a week sessions for at least two to four years. That’s a lot of investment on both sides of the couch. Who has that kind of patience/ time/ money/ or insurance? How do you do therapy with an enraged jealous polar bear at the equator? Always it’s life at the extremes.
The poster girls of BPD do/did have the resources, but I’m not sure that they made it through unscathed if at all. Here are the top seven celebrities who supposedly have/had BPD–Angelina Jolie, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Princess Diana, and Marilyn Monroe.  Maybe you noticed that three of these ladies met untimely deaths. Swirling tornadoes of hot and cold emotions roiling across the flat lands level anyone and anything that opposes them. Succubi.
 Truly, it’s hard to comprehend such things unless you have experienced them firsthand. And then, since they won’t obey boundaries, you double down on yours, trying to teach them patience or just ignore their drama. Most of the time it is just drama, over blown and exaggerated, full of adrenaline. But there is always the suicide cloud that floats in the background, the ultimate trump card that holds folks hostage. “Don’t abandon me like all the rest have!” Fair? Not at all, but it’s one of the few tricks the borderline knows, emotional extortion. Problem solving interpersonally is not a strong suit.
So we carry them like a pie that didn’t quite bake correctly and we call it cobbler, served in a bowl. We supply the shape for the collapsed boundaries of self. Maybe there never were boundaries to begin with. I don’t know. You and I look in the mirror and see ourselves each morning; borderlines see no one looking back at them; that’s all.

210. Lost

The only news story on any network is the missing Malaysian plane with 239 human beings on board and the mysteries involved thereto. Could it be terrorism or mechanical failure or a kidnapping by…well, who knows? Or could it be the beginning of a new reality t.v. show? Where are the creators of Lost and Survivor? J.J. Abrams and Mark Burnett.  Where are they and have they been interrogated, or, God forbid, kidnapped and forced to write scripts that real life perpetrators are orchestrating in real time? And what about Gilligan’s Island? Instead of a boat, we now have a plane. Still there’s a captain and a first mate. Likely there was at least one millionaire and his wife on board. A professor? Sure. A movie star?  My burritospecial sources are checking. And Mary Ann. Not there yet. Anderson Cooper has his staff researching this as well as Asian equivalents of Mary Ann and Maryanne and Marianne. I do hope that these folks come home, though it seems quite unlikely after a week has passed. This is not about the victims, may they rest in peace. Rather, I’m struck by the media frenzy and what has become the endless perseverating on hot topics in the 24 hour news era.

I don’t remember when it all started, the endless looping of video with dramatic voice overs. I’m thinking the Challenger disaster was an early example in 1986. Everyone over age 20 has the 9/11 imagery burned into their brains now. We were remotely traumatized.  Since then there was the tsunami, the Haitian earthquake, Katrina, Stormageddon, the Arab spring, the Boston bombers, and on and on and on it drones. Newsworthy? Sure, but worthy of being forever tattooed on millions of brains against our wills? No.

In the 19th century Karl Marx claimed that religion was the opiate of the masses. Karl, news flash:  It’s the news junkies who are the opiates of the masses nowadays. Each talking head seems to be strung out on speculation heroin that just isn’t strong enough to get that old 9/11 or Iraq War buzz. So they jack up both dosage and frequency, further and further dramatizing fairly simple news stories….

“Anderson, I’m talking with the bus driver who might remember picking up the bombers about six or seven years ago in Watertown on their way to middle school. Walter Hunsecker of Waltham is the driver’s name. Here’s what he said yesterday.”

[“Yeah, I’m sure it was them. They had the same backpacks on. I’m sure of it.”]

“But Anderson, later when the police interviewed Mr. Hunsecker, he identified an age reduced photo of Amelia Earhart as the older brother and in another photo gallery picked out Steven Tyler of Aerosmith in his high school yearbook picture as the younger brother, leading some to speculate that it was a cleverly perpetrated ruse by Islamic separatists in Chechneya trying to throw the Boston police off the scent. Mr. Hunsecker also claimed to be the Boston Strangler before he was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital for a mental exam.”

“Uh, uh, thank you, Trudy Warped, for that incredibly disturbing and possibly crucial puzzle piece in this ginormous mystery unfolding between commercials. We’ve got it covered, across the country and around the globe here at CNN. Um, where’s that James Earl Jones voice over? I miss that.

Off camera(“THIS IS CNN” in God’s voice.)

Thanks, guys. I love that bass. It’s right up there with Barry White. Uh, so, when we come back after a break, I will be interviewing Bill Murray, who as you might recall was one of the original Ghostbusters, about his insights into that green blob on Malaysian radar screens. Some say it’s a cloud, but we’ll drill down on this conundrum with one of last century’s iconic comic geniuses who has not molested any children yet, after this.”

{COMMERCIALS…5 minutes of COMMERCIALS because we have to pay for the endless stream of nauseating guests in panels of four and five, their make up and hair, their expenses, and their books, which all seem to be hawking, and the on site reporting from Micronesia to the Antarctic.}

“So, Bill, um, it seems eerily similar to the original Ghostbusters plot that some green protoplasm just suddenly shows up on Malaysian radar screens and then a fully loaded Boeing 777 goes missing without a trace.”

“Anderson, it’s sad. But if you recall in Caddyshack–‘

“I’m sorry, Bill, we have breaking news coming in from Kuala Lumpur… it’s Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, what’s it like on the ground there? I hear all sorts of popping and crackling. What’s going on? Is this some sort of Malaysian Islamic uprising?”

“Anderson, no, we are all safe. A big shout out to Bill Murray. Bill, as you know, I’m a big fan of your work, especially What About Bob? I thought you nailed that character.”

“Thanks, Wolf. I have always appreciated your keen assessment of both foreign crises and domestic talent.”

“Anderson, this entire scenario of multiple scenarios is reminiscent of Bill’s Groundhog Day.”

“Yeah, Wolf, I’m seeing the parallels all over the place. Do you think I can get any royalties, cuz this is life imitating art, so to speak. If you recall, I was a disheartened t.v. weatherman stuck in an endless time loop where every day was a repeat of itself… until I learned my exit strategy and swallowed the wisdom pill as my last resort, as Phil Connors, that is.”

“Yes, Bill, brilliant analysis as usual. And, Bill, if I might add– though I’m one of the few news junkies who is not a former attorney, I think you have a good case for royalties here. Also, I think it’s uncanny how we have repeated the same news loop for seven freakin’ days now. Remember in the movie Speed, where the authorities looped the bus video to fool the hijacker?”

“Yes, that was Sandra Bullock’s breakout movie, where she was forced to drive the bus? Wolf, are you suggesting another tie in here?  Or should I say Thai inn? Like Bangkok, yuk, yuk.”

“Bill, you’ve still got it.”

“Well, fellas, it’s time for another break before we break for more breaking news. Right back atcha! I’ll be talking with Jimmy Fallon about his thoughts on Bill Murray’s theories about Flight 370.”

209. False springs and genocide

It has happened, my little bloggnats!!! yes, a warm day and windows wide open here at my office. Noisy life is thumping outside, calling squinty-eyed cave dwellers like me out into the wondrous sunshine. 70 degrees and suddenly life is languid again behind last year’s dusty sunglasses. Even though I see on the Weather Channel that snow is coming on Thursday and maybe again next week, I’ll take this false spring day as the dirty snow piles melt away. Ahh, spring sun, the golden gift from God.

Blue crocus flowers

But what’s really exciting is I had my first blog hit from Namibia. How weird is that? I had read a book last fall about planned genocides. Namibia was one of those extermination zones where self-righteous German soldiers hunted down and slaughtered the indigenous people of southwest Africa and stole their land and cattle. I’m sure the English would have done the same if they’d had the chance. Genocide is not particular to any people group, though the British were very skilled at it; so were Americans when it came to the pesky Native peoples. Now, my patient blogicianados, I’m sure you are wondering if there is any sort of connection between false spring days and genocides.

Namibia

I have a personal theory about perfectionism and genocide. It seems innocent enough when someone ( a perfectionist) has high standards and wants others to comply with these noble goals of theirs. The superior minded begin trying to educate the dull witted masses about their superior ways. When they are met with resistance, the superior ones begin punishing the resistors. They change the rules and laws. Resistors and their sympathizers are imprisoned and then executed. It’s a clean, neat, and thorough program. The perfect plan turns into a perfect genocide, because after all of the perfectionists’ pure efforts, the resistors can not be re-educated so they have to be eliminated. The darn Aztecs could not become Spanish Catholics. The nomadic Africans could not get the whole German thing. The Australian aborigines didn’t do well in Victorian society. Solution? Kill them.

Ahhh, but that’s all history. It’s just short of sultry outside right now. I’m thinking of a beach as each car passes on the main drag across the alleyway. I mentally translate their dull roars into waves breaking on warm sands. Birds are tweeting about. Life is blooming again, except it’s not real yet. Nasty winds and cold are going to whip this watercolor painting into a frozen placemat at the bottom of a trash can by next week. It’s too soon, people. Like 14 year olds in love– no roots, no bark, no strength to endure the savage elements that will follow. Teens tend to be fervently idealistic due to their lack of experience and maturity. They believe in all or nothing choices and resist negotiations and compromises. When you are thoroughly convinced of the moral rectitude of your position, why negotiate or discuss it? Just like the Spanish conquistadors, the Brits around the world, the Germans, the Serbs, the Turks, the U.S. cavalry… they knew better and with absolute certainty. And so they proceeded with absolute arrogance to exterminate resistors to their ideals.

For some reason famous spring storms come to mind, where folks thought winter was over and they were aching for spring. In New York City in 1888, for instance.

The Blizzard of 1888

45th Street and Grand Central Depot, New York, March 1888, Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection

With 21 inches of snow falling over a two-day period — the third largest accumulation on record — the blizzard of 1888 hit New York City by surprise at the end of a warm March day (March 11-14). As two storms, one approaching from the south and one from the north, met over the City, heavy precipitation and winds gusting up to almost 75 mph resulted in snowdrifts up to 30 feet high. Roads and highways were blocked, steam train service was suspended, horse-drawn streetcars and taxis halted operations, and ships docked in New York’s harbor.

A New York Central locomotive derailed while attempting to push past snow drifts in the 4th Avenue tunnel, and many commuters were stranded on elevated tracks in unheated cars. It took 14 days for the City to completely recover. The mayor responded in early 1889 by ordering all overhead wires placed underground. At least 200 New Yorkers died. Many froze to death that false spring.

Suddenly it was on them without any warning, no Weather Channel then, and pretty Easter outfits failed to keep them warm as they huddled in doorways and under bridges. Like young impetuous lovers, completely unprepared for what they had walked into, as if love alone would protect them from hypothermia, dehydration, and suffocation… they died. No ideals will not dig you out of an avalanche, kids. Wishing life was different does not make it so.

Now I need the magic trick to pull the genocide rabbit out of the false spring day hat. What are they doing in the same post? If I proceed to plant tomatoes today because it is sunny and 70, I will effectively kill every one of the plants in two days. No force of imposing my will can change this biological fact: tomatoes freeze and die at 32 degrees or lower. They will not produce fruit at temps below 55. To follow my will would only result in some sort of planticide. And yet, this is similar to what educated men did over and over again with the humans they had conquered.

In Central America the Spaniards killed and enslaved indigenous people to extract gold wherever they could. They believed incorrectly in a fantasy city of Cibola, the city of gold. A rumor, a lie, a fable led to real suffering and death of individuals and whole cultures. When lies are taken as truths and truths are seen as lies, bad things happen. People die like tomato plants in sub zero temperatures. Oh, national ideals and religious purities sound so good to the initiated, the chosen and the saved. Whether the dreamers are communists, Crusaders, Taliban, Zulus, Hindus, manifest destiny Yankees, or German nationalists, the outcomes are hauntingly similar. Fields of death and destruction bloom after absolutely lovely ideals erupt.

208. Full Fool Throttle to Nowhere

I don’t think too long about where to start posts. I just go. Extraverts do this:  we get in the car and drive for about twenty minutes before we turn to our introverted spouses and ask, “Hey, by the way, where are we going?” Occasionally we just happen to be headed in the right direction; for instance, if we live at the end of a long dead end road that has no turns for fifty miles or so.  Efficiency is boring sometimes, well most of the time. Racing to a familiar place is too. This may explain why I feel no attraction to NASCAR races. They just go nowhere really fast. If all goes well for all the drivers, they don’t crash, and a couple of hours later they wind  up in the order they left…. Okay, I know there are strategies and fuel stops and tires and little adjustments along the way to nowhere. But the goal is still the same place they have passed 100 times or more while making a continuous left hand turn for a few hours of a chase scene.  I’m surprised there are not more neck injuries in the spectators from whipping their heads in circles for hours. Full fool throttle, yeah, it sounds cool for a movie title or an energy drink, but if you add the small print (to Nowhere), it loses something.

Charlie Sheen comes to mind. Geez, I wonder why. I don’t know if he’s asked anyone for directions in life yet. He’s full fool throttle alright, and there have been plenty of crashes and shoving matches throughout his volatile life in the double zero car.  To begin with, he drives against the traffic, like he’s a Brit driving in the right hand direction. Oh, Charlie!  You may have tiger blood, but  your neurotransmission fluid is a quart low. A pit stop is in order.  Adolescence is a high energy phase of life. It ends, though, does it not? In a crash or a victory lap or just later in the pack. But eventually adult faculties are supposed to take over.

I don’t need to go to NASCAR or Hollywood for another example. I can recall a former friend “Darvon”. He was a couple of years older. We went to the same high school and then college, but I did not meet him until college. Sort of wish I’d never met him. He was full tilt, fool throttle. I guess it was my sophomore year when we met. I was living with three other guys on Grace Street in Richmond. Second floor. I posted about blowing up the gas stove in post 8 However Explosively. “Darvon” was a frequent visitor to our place. He was devious and cruel in his humor. He liked to play mind games with folks and then pretend he knew nothing about the very trap he had laid. For instance, he once broke into a friend’s apartment and moved all the furniture into opposite rooms. Later he acted surprised when Cliff told the scary story.  His apartment was about a mile from ours. One night I let him borrow my car to save him the walk home. Just my luck, a guy who was wasted on drugs or alcohol ran into my car, crushing the left fender and seemingly ruining the hood. My car was considered a total loss and I received a whopping $360 check from my insurance company. Much later on, I succeeded in fixing the fender myself for an investment of $60 and my labor, netting $300, which was a huge windfall for me in those days– 1975 or so.

Streaking had been popular on college campuses, my grandchildren. It was usually done by drunk males at night through a crowd. It died off pretty quickly. One night “Darvon” and various other guys were hanging out at my apartment drinking alcohol of some sort or another. We talked about the streaking phenomenon and how it had come and gone. In the stupidity of sophomoric self indulgence we decided to bring it back. We meaning my roommates and “Darvon”. They ran across the street. Then down the block. Then a couple of blocks over past the home for retired nuns. I pray for their pardon today, but they may have made a nun’s night back then. Who knows?

Funny Nun Caught Smoking -

Well, “Darvon” was competitive and had to be the alpha dog. He decided to streak the governor’s mansion, that would be the governor of Virginia. Fool throttle.

The mansion was about a mile and a half east of where we were domiciled, but “Darvon” was jacked up and ready. He wore only socks and red high top Converse sneakers, a floppy Caucasian afro, and a demonic grin. I know that my roommate Bruce drove the pace car next to him; that was a green Buick Skylark he called “the green snake”. Not sure who  rode along. But there they were at 2 or 3 a.m. putting down Franklin Street toward the Virginia state buildings and the governor’s residence. It must have been an interesting procession under the orange mercury vapor streetlights, only missing the Olympic torch.

I stayed home fully clothed, as I had throughout all of the shenanigans. The boys said I was their conscience or babysitter, or something halfway in between. Anyway, a blind man could see what was coming. As they drove and “Darvon” ran triumphantly onto the grounds of the governor’s estate, armed guards appeared with flashlights and guns. “Darvon” was taken down. A search was not needed. Why on earth Bruce was not also arrested, I’ll never know. He was taken to the police station, though. The next day he brought home a blank incident report that he’d swiped. He filled that out with outrageous details which we kept as a souvenir of the evening. “Darvon” was given thirty days in jail, I believe. However, due to overcrowded conditions, he only served a few days and returned to college to continue his studies in antisocial behavior.

I’ll just stop  here. I think I have supported my odd topic like a jockstrap.

207. Two years/Lou Reed/Erin & God

Black Holy BibleNo, this is not a Biblical explication. I just thought it would be nice to start with a picture of the Good Book. Suddenly I have acquired borrowed credibility… or damnation. Depends on where you look and how you digest what you find. Don’t worry:  I will return it properly.

I started blogging two years ago, unsure of where it would meander. Here it is two years later and 200+ posts behind me. I think it was a good move; no, make that a therapeutic move for me. Stuff builds up in my mind and soul and nervous system, wordless stuff that has to be captured and organized somewhat, cooled like humidity turning to dew. I try to capture this strange dew and put it into concepts and sentences and paragraphs and hit 1,000 words for some reason. Lou Reed’s song, “I’m beginning to see the light” comes to mind. It’s simple but like a simple nail or screw, it holds something larger together.  He didn’t take himself too seriously nor do I. I just spew what’s condensed in my life– whimsical, goofy, tender, poignant, harsh, odd, eccentric, shameful stuff.  You decide if it’s a waste of time or valuable. I trust that no one is holding you hostage and forcing you to read my blog. If this is the case, please log off and call 911.

Well, I’m beginning to see the light

Well, I’m beginning to see the light

Some people work very hard                But still they never get it right

Well, I’m beginning to see the light

Wanna tell all you people now, now, now Baby,

I’m beginning to see the light Hey, now, baby, I’m beginning to see the light

Wine in the morning and some breakfast at night Well, I’m beginning to see the light

Here we go again, playing the fool again Here we go again, acting hard again, alright

Well, I’m beginning to see the light, I wanna tell you Hey now, baby, I’m beginning to see the light

It’s kinda softer now I wore my teeth in my hands So I could mess the hair of the night

Hey, well, I’m beginning to see the light Now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now Baby,

I’m beginning to see the light, now It’s kinda softer, hey, now, baby I’m beginning to see the light

I met myself in a dream And I just wanna tell you, everything was alright Hey now, baby, I’m beginning to see the light

Here comes two of you Which one will you choose? One is black and one is blue Don’t know just what to do, alright

Well, I’m beginning to see the light Alright, here she comes Hey, hey, baby, I’m beginning to see the light

Some people work very hard But still they never get it right

Well, I’m beginning to see the light Oh, it’s getting a little softer in here now Now, now, baby I’m beginning to see the light

Oh, it’s coming ’round again”  Lou Reed, 1969

 

It was my oldest daughter Erin, way back in her teens, who told me that she found Lou Reed reassuring because he says “It will be alright” in various songs. Okay, I like reassurance and I love that my precious daughter might feel reassured also. I guess that I believe this simple truth, “It’s going to be alright.” There is a simple faith or self delusion underneath this belief.

Lou-Reed-rp04.jpg Erin saw him once in a parade at Coney Island, a place in one of his many songs, “Coney Island Baby”.  Lou was the parade marshall being drawn in a rickshaw by a drag queen. Anyone surprised? It’s funny… she also played his epic song “Sweet Jane” in her high school talent show,  back in Turtle Town. That was brave now that I think about it. She’s a pretty brave young lady. Then again, Lou was pretty brave in a passive sort of way.
Look at that mug. Doesn’t he look like a lost Corleone brother? Or Satan’s cousin? Michael thirty pounds and thirty years later.  A bad Corleone, but they were all bad. Inside a big black Lincoln Towncar–
“Lou, Sonny says I gotta kill ya and then dump ya body in Jersey. And then be home for dinner. I think we’re having lasagna tonight.”
“Is this about the heroin, Vinny?”
“Yeah, so’s there’s like two pounds missin from the Bayonne shipment what you picked up, Louie Boy.”
“MMMMM, well, it was worth it, man. It was like, I don’t know, pharmaceutical lasagna, man. The Mafiglio family got me hooked on it, Vin. And honestly, I’m digging it.”
“Well Sonny sayz you shouldna oughta don nat.”
“Okay Vinny… but one last favor, huh, from one good ole boy to another? Capiche?”
“All right, Capiche. You know I don’t like killing you, right?  I always liked you, Lou. And I’m outta Tums for the stomach acid I get whenever I gotta whack a friend.”
“No, no, it’s alright, Vinny. Just one last request, okay? Let me play my songs one last time.”
“Aw shure, Lou. For old times sake, yeah, go ahead while I pick out a dump site for ya.”
Ladies and gentlemen, he never stopped until he died. I’m not sure what became of Vinny. And so, my blogging heart goes out there minus the Godfather allusions, the heroin, and the repertoire. I will keep slogging on until one day like an old lounge singer who was semi-famous in the early Sixties, maybe like my neighbor Ronnie Dove, I will carry on till I fall over onto the front row tables of a Ramada Inn bar in Charlotte with a burst aorta. I’m not sure if that’s a promise or a threat. But I both threaten and promise you to carry on faithfully to that end.
Lou saw the light of nuclear explosions behind his eyelids, I’m afraid, like those awful black and white videos of the desert atomic bomb detonations where buildings and things were vaporized by an abysmal wind.
But that’s not the light I’m beginning to see. No sir. I’m looking at the light in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Yeah, I’m beginning to see that light.

206. Escape

Leaving stress, chaos, brokenness and drama behind you is a good thing, I think. But often we overbuild a solution that then needs a rescue for itself. How silly, to fall in love with your strategy or scaffolding and miss the original objective. Imagine a person falling out of a canoe above Niagara Falls. Let’s just add the bit about this being a suicide attempt that was reconsidered, then suddenly turned into a desperate fight for life. The potential victim hangs on a dead red cedar tree fifty feet from the drop off while his riderless canoe glides over the falls to a certain crushing, mangled death. Meet hapless Joel, victim 1.Keywords: anindya, niagara, nature, river, lakes

On the U.S.A. shore a fireman/lifeguard Ron dives in to rescue the stranded person… only to become stranded himself due to the unbelievable pull of the river’s current and his own lack of measured problem solving. He and Joel cling to one another, hoping that someone smarter than they are figures out how to rescue them.

On the Canadian side a water sport enthusiast named Angus jumps on his jet ski and zooms out to the two stranded men, only to discover that he did not check his fuel. Once he rendezvouses with the other victims, he becomes helplessly jammed up next to the tree, foolish and fuelless, simply adding to the danger instead of relieving it. The victim count is now up to three impulsive males. Caution, this is not a news flash: where there is an abundance of testosterone, there is often a lack of critical thinking.

Not to be out heroed, the New York State Police dispatch a helicopter with a man, Eddie, in a basket to the falls. The pilot, Phil, positions the helicopter above the three stranded men and lowers the basket; however, the river’s wind current pushes the basket out away from the tree stand while the downdraft from the falls jerks the copter about like a toy. Eddie spills out helplessly onto the little island of humanity, which is beginning to resemble Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment in full throttle thinking mode. It’s a whopping mess of a scene by the time News 8 and the Live at Five crews report with cameras and choppers and trucks with satellite dishes. Out of the Live at Five truck steps the perfectly coiffed, stunningly gorgeous Erin McGyver, an up and coming feature reporter who is looking for a score to move her name into the big markets and out of Buffalo.

What no one on the scene knows is that Erin was an alternate to the Summer Olympics for the Women’s Archery Team, which finished a disappointing fourteenth at Bejing in 2008. Erin had mastered a trick shot as a teenager in Wyoming that involved tying a roll of dental floss to the feather end of an arrow and then shooting the arrow through a keyhole at 100 yards. Since her teens she had flossed countless keyholes and life saver candies at county fairs and rodeos out west. Shooting an apple off an audience member’s head was so lame; instead she shot crabapples off and then olives then worms made of pimento. In her final year on tour she had perfected the ear lobe piercing shot from 50 yards. She was the real deal, ladybugs and blogworms. Some whalers felt good about being able to harpoon a mature sperm whale from twenty yards back in the day; but the Erinator shot minnows out of the grasp of flying raptors while riding bareback on a wild mustang at night. Yeah, Boom!

Erin assessed the situation and realized that this was both a great story and her audition for national market glory. She walked back into the t.v. Winnebago and exited five minutes later fully armed for the task at hand. She carried her super carbon fiber compound military grade UltraBow outfitted with a 50x scope and wind speed meter. The bow picks up wifi and has tiny Bose speakers at either tip. Erin dialed in all her Diana skills, the goddess of the bow and hunt. She leaned into a burly oak tree on the riverbank and steadied  herself for the shot of her life. It had to be a firm hit shoulder high into that cedar tree without piercing any parts of the four flailing men hanging desperately onto the trunk.

Erin eyed up the elements, the wind meter, did some quick calculations, took a deep breath and then exhaled with a pre-Industrial Age scream. Everyone on both shores and on the little tree island whipped around to see this Amazon woman reporter turned archer draw back her bowstring. Pause. And finally release. The arrow appeared to have something attached to it, and indeed it did. Erin had neatly secured a fine cable to the back of the carbon fiber arrow, so now that it flew across the U.S.A. side of the river, a fine line was being drawn behind it.Khatuna Lorig Hunger Games

THWACK!! The arrow exploded deep into the cedar’s trunk, shoulder high. Erin then expertly tied off the loose end of the cable around her oak tree, drawing it so tight that a circus trained penguin could walk across it to the stranded men. However, since there was no circus trained penguin handy, she walked back to the Winnebago, exiting two minutes later with a  carabiner clip and an empty quart sized water bottle. In the next moment she had  siphoned off nearly a quart of gasoline from the reserve tank of the r.v. What a superwoman!!!

While the area became crowded with EMT’s, firemen, sheriffs, state troopers, INS agents, FBI, ATF agents, Homeland Security guys and U.S. Marshalls, Erin calmly kept moving with laser focus to the solution she had decided upon ten minutes ago. She attached the quart container of gasoline to the thin cable she’d secured to the savior tree in the middle of the river, using the simple carabiner clip she’d kept from a recent rock climbing adventure in Vermont. She appeared to kiss the carabiner before slinging it racing out to the four stooges on the cedar tree, but in fact she was smearing lip gloss on the top of the carabiner to reduce friction and increase speed. Amazing?  No, just another day in the life of Erin McGyver, superwoman.

Once the gas arrived, Angus knew what to do. He poured it carefully into the tank of his jet ski, still lodged on the makeshift island. He slid onto the driver’s seat and hit the start button. Blue gray smoke sputtered out the exhaust and the crowds that gathered on both sides cheered loudly. Joel, Eddie and Ron hung on to the back of the machine as it slowly pulled all of them to the U.S.A. shoreline.  Each of the Americans was greeted with a blanket and an application for Obamacare. Unfortunately Angus was arrested for illegal entry into the United States by the Border Patrol guys who had just showed up and felt they needed to assert their authority in this alpha male environment. (Don’t worry, dear gullible ones, he was exchanged later for three Congressmen who had been arrested at Justin Beiber’s last Canadian-based party.)

While all the chest thumping continued outside her r.v., Erin McGyver quietly prepared for the calls from Bob Costas, Sports Center, Piers Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, and the President. She had elegantly escaped not only the Buffalo market but mediocrity and anonymity forever and ever. Amen.

205. Something about turtles, soda machines and ducks

Unless it’s a snapping turtle, they aren’t intimidating. They are slow and almost helplessly defensive; they retreat into their shells when danger approaches. They close up like an elevator door with a low whoosh as they exhale. In come the legs and tail. Nothing hangs out for a predator to nibble on. They are reptiles, as I’m sure you know. So there is no mammalian warmth possible from even the cutest of turtles. Nor can  you get milk from a healthy pregnant female. I like most turtles, especially the small ones that you can pick up and investigate closely. Big tortoises are cool, as are mature sea turtles, but you can’t easily get next to these creatures. Something about turtles is prehistoric, dinosauric if I may say so.Juvenile Blanding's turtle

No matter, you can’t get milk from a turtle. I tell some of my stuck clients this odd advice. It’s up there with “You are not a duck”. Quite often I have clients who want what they cannot get from another person– spouse, parent, child, friend, boss, employee, etc. They try and try to get what it is they want or believe they need– a compliment, deep intimacy, respect, a promotion, work ethic, or something else that is not present… but should be. These folks get so hung up on what should be, i.e., their expectations of the other person, that they can’t see the forest for the trees. They lose perspective. To grab their attention and burn an image into their brains, I ask, “When are you gonna stop trying to get milk from a turtle?”

“What do you mean?” is the usual response. So I explain.

“Turtles don’t give milk, no matter how hard you try.”

“I know that.”

“Okay, but if your partner were a turtle, you’d send him cards or feed him grass or play nice music or clean his cage… all in the hope of getting him to give you milk.  You can moo and graze and watch videos about cows, but that turtle is never gonna give you milk, even if you strap on a set of artificial udders.”

“Uh, but he should meet my honorable, reasonable requests. It’s just common sense and common decency here.”

“Right, and he’s had six years or is it sixteen to figure out how to give milk. How much milk have you gained?”

“None. He’s a reptile. I just don’t  want to admit it.”

“You just did.”

“I know and I  hate you for making me see this truth.”

“Oh well, Irvin Yalom called therapy ‘Love’s Executioner’. I like that title. Attachment assassin.”

“Thanks for peeing in my corn flakes, doc.”

“No additional charge, my friend. It’s just what I do.”

And so it goes time and again. Insight comes from sharp pain. Wisdom comes from cords of splinters under your skin.

When soda machines and public phone booths were common sights, I used to allude to the guy in the alley at the Coke machine. I approached him one night as he kicked and punched the soda machine while cursing it and calling it everything but a Coke machine. I said, “Whoa, Buddy, what’s going on here?”

He replied, “Dang stupid possum scum took my dollar and didn’t give me a Coke.”

I inquired further, “When did this happen?”

He said, “About six months ago.”

At which point I noticed the machine was not even plugged in.

Naturally my clients ask, “Did that really happen?” My conscience compels me to be honest. “No, but you get the point, right? If you’re still kicking the Coke machine, after a while the problem is not the machine’s.”

“Okay, doc. I don’t want to be that stupid guy. You know, for a minute, you had me going.”

Then there are my feathered friends. Once I had a lovely young lady client who was so confounded and disillusioned that she made bad choices that brought her into my office. She seemed determined in her belief that she was unlovable, doomed, and irredeemable. Despite some impressive achievements in academics and sports, she felt no real value for herself. It was a hard sell for me to reflect her beauty, truth, and worth back to her. I suspect she feared a landslide or an avalanche of crushing consequences if she accepted the first grain of my truth.

We got along quite well. I sensed she needed more fathering and endorsement in her young life. One day I told her, “You know what your problem is?”

“No. What?”

“You are not a duck.”

“Say what?”

“Nope, not a duck.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, do you know the story of the Ugly Duckling?”  Shockingly she did not. “Oh my gosh. Uh, this bird is picked at, ridiculed even, and develops low duck esteem because it is not as pretty and developed as the ducks around it, you see. It is cast off and has to eat alone, full of little bird angst and pain. Until one day it sees these glorious big birds gracefully glide onto the pond’s surface. These regal birds come to the Ugly Duckling and recognize it as one of their own. Turns out that this bird was not a duck but a baby swan. A cygnet. And that is your problem: you are a swan who is trying to be a duck.”

A funny half smile/ half sob developed on her lovely young face. Tears mixed with honey and vinegar welled in her rims. Something in that childhood story touched the child in her. “I’m a swan,” she whispered to herself.

“Yup. In so many ways. Stop trying to be a duck.”

“I will try.”

“Good. Now get out of here.”

Over the next few months we had a few emails back and forth. I knew she was healed when she signed off, “The Swan”.swan couple portrait in the marsh at sunset -