260. Paint by numbers: Good intentions, old regrets and the unpolluted future

“Cliches, Anyone? Two for a dollar. Get you some red hot clichés. Right here. Buy one for your girlfriend, Buddy.” I have many well worn phrases and stories that I’ve passed out in therapy sessions like old buttons that fell off some threadbare pants or an ancient stringy sweater. Some are my own fabrications in the truest sense. I made them up, I think. In an old post, 205, I mentioned the turtles, coke machines and ducks analogies/parables that have come to me in sessions, figuratively speaking, I mean. Animals don’t make therapy appointments. People do. All sorts of people, and I have to try and figure out how to connect to their pain using only words.

One time I recall a guy telling me that he felt like a man with a knife in his heart. “I’m a dead man walking. See, if I leave it in, I die. If I pull it out, I just die faster.” He was an overly dramatic convicted drug dealer in the county jail waiting to go up state.   I processed his powerful image and thought there ought to be an answer in metaphor land that could solve this bloody morbid riddle. Hmmm. It dawned on me that if one pulled the knife out ever so slowly, allowing the wound to  heal every millimeter or so, that in metaphorical theory physics, one could pull a knife out of a human heart without death resulting. I offered him this solution. Fortunately for both of us he accepted it in theory. In practical terms, however, it would be difficult to get dressed daily with a knife handle sticking out of your chest. Then there’s the dry cleaning bills. And the jokes…”Ed, you look stuck.” “Yep, I just can’t get a handle on this thing.”

Other clients explain dysfunction in their lives with vaguely broad statements like “I’m a people pleaser. I’m a peacemaker. I avoid confrontation.”  Word play helps here, so I’ve found. Not to be cruel, but I point out honestly, “You know I’ve noticed that people pleasers are never pleased. Why is that?” “Cuz we’re too damn busy keeping everyone else happy.”  In a similar manner I’ve been known to say, “Peace makers are never at peace, you know?  They’re always shuttling about making everyone else comfortable, carrying the mail back and forth between two or more pissed off parties.” Well, you’d think that I shot the Pope. “So you don’t like peace, is that it?”  “No, I believe in peace based on truth and transparency not a peace that is based on not hurting anyone’s feelings.”  Ohh!!!   And to the avoiders of confrontation, I share, “If you avoid anything long enough, do you know what you get?”  “What?”  “A _______Void.”  “Truth, Brother. Hard as a kidney stone. Amen.”

Time and water and mood states work well on a spectrum.  Huh?  Time exists in three general concepts– past, present, future. Water exists in  three states– ice, liquid, and steam. Moods exist in shrinking depression, flexible adaptation in the moment, and in expansive anxiety. Interestingly enough, depressed folks tend to move slowly and perseverate on their frozen pasts. Healthy people move appropriately in the flowing liquid now, where healthy life is lived. Anxious folks live in the what if future as they come unglued and scream out gaseously like superheated teakettles. They bang against the windowpane of tomorrow trying to avoid their present emotions; while their depressed first cousins soak in ancient ice baths. It’s only the present folks who can breath freely and move and feel genuinely.

I remember a woman who tried to stop time. Her husband died suddenly at 42, leaving her a widow mother of five children. Shock and grief overrode her reality. Understandable, right? I mean after an emotional tsunami, what else do you expect? She developed a coping strategy based on fantasy, magical thinking really. If she did not change anything in her house, if she hoarded everything, then maybe her husband would come back from the grave one day and just resume life as it was in 1972. Believing this myth was less awful than believing the waterboarded truth that she was a widow with five young kids depending on her to meet their endless needs. No furniture could be moved, no walls painted, no appliance changed out. Obviously this myth was unsustainable, but like any good cultic belief it could be edited as needed,  and  it was. The organic parts of her life continued to grow and decay despite her fervent worship of the myth. Kids grew up. She ticked on like a broken clock whose hands could only stutter in place. She stored her wedding ring in a soup can that innocent cleaners took to the dump.

Irvin Yalom wrote a book called Love’s Executioner. He suggested that it is the role of a therapist at times to execute love. Now there are two or more meanings for the verb execute but not for executioner, the noun, i.e., the killer. Who wants to tell a nice widow mother of five that her husband is never coming back and she needs to find another way to do life? Like the drug dealer above, this honesty would be a chef’s knife through her weakly beating heart. Sometimes the disorder is kinder than the cure, though both are deadly.

I knew another woman who was so bitter about men who had hurt her throughout her life. Her solution was bitter isolation in a bunker lifestyle. A vicious guard dog named Sarcasm patrolled her property day and night. “Bitter Acres. Go Away!” her sign announced to visitors who never came. Listening to her strategy of eking out a miserable life till she died a miserable death, it occurred to me that bitterness is like a barbed wire bra worn to defend against potential perpetrators…but the only one to be hurt for sure is the wearer of the contraption. “That’s easy for you to say. You were never raped by a relative, were you? And you don’t have to sit across the holiday table from him every Christmas and try not to vomit while he spouts his Christian platitudes and conservative right wing politics.”

No, thank God, all I have to do is try to meet the survivors at the bonfire where pain and grief and worry are incinerated. When the dead are too many or too big to be buried, a fire of bones is in order.





259. Sun drunk Scrabble

Sot it’s the day after Christmas and the four of us are lying about the sundrenched family room reading four different books, curled up in chairs or sprawled on the two sofas. I think we must look like cats or lizards lazily basking ourselves on warm rocks. Kind of feels like being at the beach, napping on blankets or laid out in a lounge chair. Ahhh. Nice. No wind or seagulls. Four different mental realities inhabiting the same brilliantly quiet physical space.  Yesterday we drove two hundred plus miles in the new car. Comfortable and quiet, true, but still a lot of miles, to see family and eat heavily. Tomorrow it’s off to NYC to return my first born child to her Brooklyn apartment, then off the Catskills for a visit with my wife’s cousin…  and eat heavily. Today needs to be motionless and restorative. Easy on the calories and beer.  Slow on the chocolates. Perhaps we are experiencing a sugar overload. My diabetic friends, please comment here. I already know that I need more water and time on the treadmill, but just try to get a cranky lizard onto a treadmill.

A game of holiday Scrabble is in order. I have not won in a long time. In order to settle old scores, we keep the old score sheets that prove my middle daughter won last Christmas.[ No chess for me this year as my brothers-in-law were both working over Christmas Day. ( Yes, the hyphens are needed there to demonstrate family by marriage and that they are not attorneys.)] A shame indeed.  Some games with chance involved you just can’t win. On Christmas Eve we played a warm up game of Scrabble and at one time I drew ten vowels in a row. It was absurd, but without consonants all I could play was AU. Then EEEOIAU. It’s all good, though. It’s family and Erin does not do celebratory dances after a high point word like I do. Which may contribute to the sheer joy my family derives from beating me at Scrabble. Triple word score set ups go down like drug deals until the lazy Susan board comes around to Big Daddy. And I feel like the school cop in the boys’ bathroom. Nothing!  “What smoke, Officer Dimwiddie? ” Then there is nothing of any value left to hook into on the suddenly unfertile board. But I am not a bitter man. I know my day of conquest will come. If I exercise and eat lots of fiber, my high potency consonants will arrive in a nice mix along with those pesky vowels.

It sometimes starts with going first, which is rewarded by being a double score. If you have any sort of word in your seven tiles, boom, you come out of the gate strong, and the other players have to hook on to your raging bull letters. It can be very intimidating if you are overly dramatic like I am.

“There you go, R-I-P-P-E-D! I’m ripped. 22 points for the Big Daddy.”

“That’s nice, Dad.”

“Why is that doubled?”

“Because it’s first; otherwise it would be a penalty to go first. We’ve played this game for 40 years and that’s how it starts.”

“You think you’re so smart.”

“Smart is only five letters, girls. I’d rather be capable for a triple word score plus the bonus fifty for using all seven letters in one play. Let’s see….that would be about 200 points. And if it’s the final word play of the game, then I deduct your unplayed tile values from your score and add them to mine. So the possibilities are endless, another seven letter word.”

“I hate you.”

“HATE is such a short and unprofitable word, Honey. Can you play DESPISE?”

“Ahhhhh. Mom, make him stop. Why did you marry him?”

“I can answer dat von, my dearsky. You see it vas long vinter in vestern mother russha. Your mother vas very hungry. I vas last husband on shelf. In those days there vas no choice.”

“Okay, we can do a rematch but no voices, Dad, and no victory dances or I’m done right there.”

“Dang!! You squeeze the fun right out of the guinea pig.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know, but it has a certain physical aggression to it that I like at this moment.”

“You are impossible!”

“No, I challenge… too many letters, Honey. How about unreal for twelve points?”

“How about I quit? Give me 18 across, 10 down. So that’s 28 in your face.”

“I’d prefer you insist. That’s worth 15 times 3 equals 45 up your nostril. ”

“I bet you would. How about something extra? Give me forty points. And it’s a double. So make it 80, Bartender.”

“Ouch, you little word punk and your zingers. Give me 55. I’m out too. Just deduct all those lingering points on your rack and add them to my tab. Thanks for cleaning up.”

“Dad, stop with the disco booty dance. It’s not right. No daughter should ever have to witness that!”

“They say that this man Shaft is a bad mother…  Shut yo’ mouth. Just talkin’ bout Shaft.”

“No, not the Shaft dance. Mom, Call 9-1-1.”

“They smile in yo’ face, all the time they wanna take yo’ place, the backstabbers, Baaaackstabbers.”

“Put the spatula microphone down and take your meds, for the love of God!!”

“Good, just remember that word for next time when you have a plethora of a’s… spatula. That is a keeper.”

“This is why we only play once a year, Dad. Now back to russha with you. Lonely sanity beats well fed insanity any day.”





258. Kim Young Fool, 50 Ways To Lose Your Leader


Caution: a politically incendiary message follows. Read at your own risk.

 No squid soup for you! Pouty puff.

I’ve made oblique references to this greasy, spoiled child before in jest. He’s a baby tyrant who eats sticks of butter for snack, so I’ve come to believe in my own mythology. But apparently Little Butterball needs to be taken seriously now. (What he really needs is a severe spanking in front of the U.N. , but that won’t be happening anytime soon.) The little prince can’t be disrespected because he has a divinity complex and must be loved and revered or else he’ll hold his breath and unleash nuclear weapons. The free world must be North Koreanized, i.e., lobotomized, in order to prevent his highness any further disappointment. His charge d’affairs, Dennis Rodman, tried to sell the Pillsbury Pirate Dough Boy King to the world while drunk last year. He failed. Truly, that’s a tough gig even for a sober man to put lipstick on such a suckling pig and say, “He’s family friendly, folks, and he don’t stink too much.” Only a drunk would take the dare.

“Go ahead. I dare you, Western Capitalist Pig. Market me.”

And now this pudgy toad has ordered his techies to hack their way into the world’s computers to do in cyber space what he cannot do in three dimensions on a well lit battle field. Well, if they can chop up international security systems in free countries, why don’t they use their skills to get rid of Doctor Frayed Knot, Delusional Ding Dong of Pyong Pang? I mean, there must be 50 ways to leave your leader… 50 ways to lose the Loser.

The problem is all inside his head

I said to Gee

The answer is easy if you  take it logically

I’d like to help you in  your struggle to be free

There must be 50 ways to dump your dumpling

50 ways to punk the punk king.

Taze him in the crack, Jaik

Make a little plan, Hwan

No need to be coy, Soy

Just listen to me.

Whack’m in the knees, Hee

Blow up  the bus, Gus

No need to discuss much,

Shoot him in the back, Geun

But get yourself free.

I hate to even refer to Young Fool as a leader. He’s more of a hostage taker’s grandson, living off the extortions and exertions of  his father and grandfather’s hocus pocus reigns. They managed to spike the kim chi with LSD decades ago so that North Koreans believe these clowns are God himself. Why are these deities so square-headed and human then? When you look at them together, you can believe in cloning ala SpongeBob.

Kim Jong Il’s deathmobile. The father of Young Fool. I don’t think this was photo shopped, but it could set a land sailing record with the right wind conditions.
 Kim il Sung. Grandfather of Young Fool.  These guys remind me of used burial property salesmen from the 1960’s. “Have I got a lot for you?”
“You got lot for me?”
“Yes, I’ve got a lot of lots for you.”
“But there is someone in my lot already.”
“That’s why we call them used lots. Somebody has broken it in for you.”
So, sore butt Kimmy cannot be mocked, although he mocks himself in those state run propaganda trailers that we occasionally see on the news in the capitalist west. His fully devoted soldiers rush smilingly into icy waves to revere the King of the Rodents. How can you take the guy seriously? He is the political equivalent of Newman, from Seinfeld, hard to take at all.
 “Hello, Kim Young Fool!”
“Hello, NEWMAN!!”
But with Young Fool a phalanx of I.T. engineers is commanded to steal your medical records, mess up your credit cards, and block your choice of movies on Netflix. Why?  Because Young Fool is a weiner. Kim Young Fool Weiner, KYFW.
Like a Kansas radio station handle…
“This is KYFW radio in PingPong, Kansas, coming at you with 50,ooo megawatts of illegal hacktricity. We’re playing all the hits for our fearless leader Kim the Weiner Young Fool.  Let’s get it started with Cry Me a River sung by Diana Krall.
“You drove me, nearly drove me, out of my head
While you never shed a tear
Kimmember, I Kimmember, all that you said
You told me love was too plebeian
Told me you were through with me and
Now you say you love me
Well, just to prove that you do
Censor me a movie, censor me a movie
I cried a river over you
I cried a river over you
I cried a river…over you…
Hack me a movie, hack me a movie,
I hacked a loogie over you.”
Okay, get your bulgogi on with this next hit, a request from Sing Sang Sung in Lawrence. It’s the theme song to Ghostbusters.
“If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call (Kim Young Fool)
If it’s somethin’ weird an it won’t look good
Who ya gonna call (Kim Young Fool)”
Our Supreme Leader has managed to shut down an international movie company.  This is a major victory in Hollywood. Weiner Boy has broken the stranglehold of Evil Western Democracies by stealing personal banking records of hundreds of unimportant Americans. He even found secret recipes for KFC Original Recipe Fried Chicken. Now he has bent the West into humble submission. Bi bim bap to you!! Butterman.
It amazes me that an international corporation, a movie industry giant at that, would bow to Junior Boy Scout Mafia pressure. I don’t care about their movie. It likely sucks. I do care that a flabby schoolyard bully has won a victory, however temporary it may be. Feed the demon and it grows. Spit in his face and he slinks away.
I think rather than shying away from insolent children like Kimmy Boy, Jimmy Fallon and Conan and the other comic geniuses we have should absolutely roast this guy’s chestnuts over an open fire of First Amendment glory. Just because Kimba the Lard Butt Lion can intimidate a movie studio does not mean that he does not suck.


257. The Lone Ranger

Well, we could all use a little cheering up, I suppose. It’s the tail end of the year, and like the last hour of a party, there’s litter on the tables and smoke in the air. Some tidying up will be needed in the morning of the new year. The floors are tacky with spills, and the 90 minute soundtrack of 2014 has repeated for the third time. Cheetos and pistachio shells are scattered about. Time for cheer, oh yeah. 2104, you were something.

So let me tell a positive story that inspires you, blognados. Perhaps you will draw a deep breath and relax, even move boldly through the unknown of 2015. Back  in time, back before all the electronic stuff came to market, there were simple toys for simple children. Balls, dolls, train sets, bicycles, sling shots, and board games. It was basic stuff that came from catalogue stores or was placed on something called “lay away” by parents who paid weekly on their Christmas gifts. Credit cards had not come to dominate and seduce the multitudes yet. The J.C.Penney and Sears Roebuck catalogue came to everyone’s house through the mail back then in late summer. And housebound mothers and kids would flip through the pages anxiously, hoping for the magical goodies on the glossy pages. These catalogues were not ever considered junk mail, no. They were encyclopedias of materialism, promising transformation of dull lives into something else, something more, nearly divine, museums of grandeur. Who could argue with avocado and teal blue combos?

Living Room (1962)

One Christmas I ordered a Lone Ranger makeover kit that would transform me from a suburban proletarian’s third son into a masked hero who sought no fame for his sacrifices. It was more than I could have realistically expected, a double holster with two plastic cap gun six shooters, a hat, and the black cloth mask. All worn over a pair of jeans and a western shirt. Man, look out bad guys, cattle rustlers, whiskey sellers, bank robbers, and claim jumpers! Justice was about to be unleashed!! The entire transformation package may have cost up to seven dollars in real 1960’s money, which is the equivalent of  about $500 in today’s money, I think. I hoped for and imagined all my heroic adventures would play out in the narrow woods that were left undeveloped by the first wave of urban sprawl builders. We had forts made of sticks and leaves and sometimes a sheet of plywood over a hole. A kid with a mask and two  plastic pistols would rule that no man’s land. I touched the page of the catalogue and wrote down the order number code, offering hopeless prayers heavenward, “Oh God, please let me be a Lone Ranger hero. Amen. I promise to behave and only to kill bad guys who deserve it.”

Weeks went by. The weather got colder. Anticipatory anxiety grew. As the Christmas decorations were brought out again, I could taste the courage rising in my belly like acid reflux. I licked my wind blown, chapped cowboy lips as I practiced my Lone Ranger lines, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”  “I was just doing the right thing, Ma’am. No need for any compensation… but shucks, if you want to kiss the Ole Lone Ranger here on the lips, that’d be okay with Tonto, I suppose.”

I had no horse named Silver. He would only have gotten caught up in the briars of our narrow woods and there would have been zoning problems with a horse in fenced suburban yards. I never reached for that impossibility. Where would I park him at night? What would I feed him?

There was also that kid four houses down on Virginia Hills Avenue who dressed up as Zorro and just schwashbuckled his way into our violent war games. I would have to shoot him with the cap gun to teach him not to bring a mere sword to the field of battle. No one knew his name, though I think it was Wayne Newton and he eventually moved to Las Vegas. See the resemblance? Zorro unmasked.

Christmas decorations were up in folks houses, the old fashioned basic bulbs that were hot and big and bulky, which we would unscrew and throw into the street to hear them pop as they exploded on the asphalt. Whoops! That is outlaw behavior. I’d have to shoot myself with my longed for Lone Ranger pistols. I vowed to change and leave the dark side once I got the Lone Ranger kit for Christmas.

Until then I figured I had to get all my antisocial activities out of my system. Since it snowed that year early we boys naturally made snowballs and hurled them at cars from hiding places where no one could possibly identify or catch us. It was so much fun to bombard a car or truck as it pulled down the street. If you had enough arc on the snowball, you could plop it down almost vertically on the target vehicle. Then the driver would be clueless where the snowball had originated. Rookies simply hit the vehicles broadside and were easily apprehended by angry drivers. It’s hard to run in the snow.

One time I recall bombing a station wagon at night. I stood behind this enormous oak tree and tossed my slush sphere as the car drove along Kings Highway at a good clip. Boom!! It was a great strike and I felt so safe and invulnerable in my bad spot. Why even the Lone Ranger wouldn’t be able to find me…but the man in the station wagon pulled around and came up behind me as I was ready to throw another snowball. He had on a dark ski mask and scared the moisture out of my throat. He put me in his car next to his kids in the back seat. I was a criminal. He yelled at me. I was dead road kill. He asked me where I lived and I told him.

I was ready for the gallows when he told me to get out. Maybe the Lone Ranger would swoop in at the last second and shoot the rope I was to be hung by. Suddenly the station wagon pulled away in an aggressive act of grace. I deserved a bad consequence, but that dad let me go. Maybe he had been a car bomber in his childhood. All I know is that I didn’t need the Lone Ranger kit any longer. I had met and been delivered by some masked man already.

256. Shameless Blog Comments like slugs on pecan pie

Permit me to ask for your forgiveness at the beginning of this post so neither of us feels conflicted at the end.

If you write a blog, you already know that non English speaking scammers from around the globe send illogical and ungrammatical comments, hoping that you will respond to their “insights” at obviously commercial addresses. They are chomping at the blog trough to separate cyber fools from their money. The most common ruse is the standard fake design engineer who, completely unsolicited, tells you how to improve your blog technically by adjusting terms that you don’t know to begin with. I delete those without even reading them. They are a cut and paste universal app, apparently. I suspect that these mystery elves don’t even know the text of what they post; they are simply trolling for gullibelly fish in the internet ocean.

Arkvek: What have you caught, my darling cyber-butter slug?

Schmucktiel: Oggggggggle Eyes, two American bloggers and someone from the NSA.

Arkvek: MMMM, tasty. How much you think? They buy our bamboo toothpicks and tongue depressers? Maybe we get VISA number and buy new bucket of honey lard sludge.

Schmucktiel: Ullllugggllll, of course they vill vonce I slime their computers virally. I vill make them madly anxious to click on my button vonce they take my sweet bait.

Arkvek: You push my buttons, my big mug of slug.

Schmucktiel: Arky Baby, vait von minute vill you?

“Dear Web Administrator, I notice in website you have dormant widget where active fidget should be. To promote great use of you web site and increase traffic immediate, I reroute your tetrameter and inculate the obfuscator. With such new technologic advance, you can be great even. Just click icon above and I do the rest.”   Bob Vealson. Ve vent to high school together, remember me broski?

Schmucktiel: Ven dey cleek, I peek. Oh ho ho, huh, huh.

Arkvek: Oh Schmucky! You make me happy proud slug wife.

Schmucktiel: Stop or I blush. You know old slug sayink, “You blush; I flush. I don’t van to flush, Arky.”

Of course I ignore these idiots. Delete permanently. A pound of salt should do it. They are like bed bugs that live in the mattress of the internet. When some warm blooded mammal is sensed, they scuttle toward the steamy streams of electronic life and feast opportunistically with impunity.

I want these parasites to starve and die. It is high time for some international punity. A salt pox on you Schmucky, wherever you are!! And your ugly slug wife.

Other creepers attempt to compliment the post which they have not read and get you to click back to their site out of gratitude I suppose.

“You have said something so true. Your content speaks clearly what everyone thinks and agrees to. Please to keep writing, if you would thank you.”  Zsa zsa @ knock it off coach purses cheap.

These shameless hacks deserve something more than a simple delete. But I can’t think of what fits the crime. Maybe posting their insipid comments internationally with their yearbook pictures next to them on-line would give them the shame they seem to lack. A Hall of Shame for Parasites. Ugh!  They can certainly turn you off to that world wide spider web.

So I’m halfway to my 1,000 word goal line and I ‘ve just referenced two nasty critters. For proper balance I need two more that somehow tie into blog terms.  Hmmm, bar flies, gnats, mosquitoes? No.  Spiders, scorpions, cicadas, preying mantis?  Oh, maybe black widow spiders.

More than one of these disreputable uninvited guests has attempted to get a hit back to an obvious sex site. That sort of thing creeps me out. Naturally I delete those without any hesitation. How gross to troll internationally with lurid sex talk in the vain hope of getting a desperate American blogger to respond to sizzlekitten@ hotsex.net. I feel like I need a shower and then saniwipes for my keyboard after one of their visits. Yuk!! I like freedom folks. I also like good taste and not tawdry raw venery. That’s a double meaning word– hunting in medieval times plus sexual indulgence. In this case it’s more like trapping than hunting, but never mind. You are the prey.

Blatant disregard for others. Like the internet equivalent of a neighbor who burns his trash after you have hung out your fresh laundry. And the wind causes them to collide. Now your laundry is not bothering his trash, but  his incinerator is bothering your laundry. This stuff is not hard to figure out.  I don’t want your toxic crap. Okay? I just wish I could exact some justice in the matter.  I don’t want to hurt these guys too much, just enough to make them stop.

Finally, let me thank the awful programs that slink into one’s computer somehow disguised as Windows Updates or add ons of some sort. I’ve spent most of this day turning my computer on and off trying to get around some Pro Optimizer. They seek to help you fix problems you don’t have. Which ought to be a tip off. If someone offers to cure you of cancer but  you don’t have cancer, run. Call Schmucky. Put out a hit on him. Punity for all and all for punity.

What creature would represent this last type of vermin?  Ah, yes, the unkillable cockroach.

 You don’t think you could possibly have roaches, when one day in the dark as you press the power button on the keyboard, you hear a distinctive crunchy squish. Yep, you gottem. Pass the saniwipes again. I’m sorry you had to hear that, but I apologized at the beginning.

“First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Thanks!|掲示板}” at Boutique Nike tn 2013.

They are crawling all over me.




255. Christmas in Needmore

Though I’ve never been to Needmore, Pennsylvania, I can imagine freely what it’s like at Christmas. For the past few years I’ve pondered what life is like there in general, ever since sweet Andrea began managing my coffee shop. She’s from Needmore and proud of it, dontcha know? Or at least  a little puffy and oversensitive in her defensiveness. Sort of like Canadians are proud of their often overlooked  country, eh? And even though those Canadians sheltered six American Embassy workers during 1978 in Teheran, I have no such implied debt to the Needmore Embassy and Consulate, which is located in the dry goods section at the back of Crouse’s General Store. On the other hand, am I risking a hostage taking incident by lampooning Needmorons? Hum. Ho. What to do? Go for it. It’s an hour’s drive from my computer, and I doubt they have trained hostage takers or assassins. However, we underestimated the cunning of those Iranian militant “students” back in the Carter era, didn’t we? If I don’t post in another week or two, look for my lifeless body in Needmore.

There was that episode of 30 Rock that used a fictionalized Needmore as the hiding place for Tracy Morgan’s character. But anyone even remotely familiar with the REAL Needmore knew that buses don’t come through town, nor is there a town square where cars park. Simply put:  There is no there there. (If you are not a native American English speaker, you won’t be able to make sense of the previous sentence.) So with such an inglorious introduction, let’s visit Needmore at Christmas. And remember, Tracy got hit by a bus after crossing the line of decency with Needmore, so step carefully my friends.

Oh, how contrived! Here is Betty Bigelow, the unofficial ambassador of Needmore and Bingo Director of the Fire Hall on 522. She graduated third in her class. She’ll be sure to tell you. I’ll let her do the tour from here on.

“Off of Pigeon Cove Drive lives Toothless Tommy Conklin, the town idiot who leads the tristate spitting tours in the good weather. We call it ‘The Great Expectorations Swinery Tour’. It’s huge what that single event does for our economy.  Now that the cold has settled in, he hangs around between 522 and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He dips minnows out of Barnetts Run and sells them to eager fishermen in the summer and sometimes to the pizza shop in McConnellsburg as ‘mountain anchovies’. We all know what they are, but city folk can be so naïve. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas he cuts down unguarded pine and hemlock trees and sells them to the few lost tourists who come up from Route 70. Two years ago he got caught red handed cutting down Edna Parson’s white pine tree, a nice seven footer, with a hacksaw at midnite. Edna, who sits on the Board of the Baptist congregation of twice saved once shy evangelical disciples, gave him a thorough tongue lashing and told him to make it right before God and his fellow Needmorons. Well, Tommy came back with a roll of duct tape and used half a roll firming up the trunk of that poor tree. And Edna, being a good Christian woman, told Tommy thanks for repenting and making amends. The doggone tree blew down with the first strong wind through the hollow. Though with all that tape around it, the tree looked like it was on a hinge. Folks drove by real slow afterwards to take videos and still photos of the hinged tree on Edna’s lawn. It was something to behold. Not a single light on it either, but it amazed locals and foreigners equally. Wound up on page 3 of the Fulton County Investigator too, with a full picture and caption under it. Said, ‘Needmore Tannenbaum comes unhinged.’ I got a copy in my scrapbook under my mattress.

“Now with a population of only 170 souls, Needmore can’t afford a parade or a fancy manger scene on the square… also, there’s no square or triangle. We are asymmetrical people. Not even a traffic light for a sprig of mistletoe or holly. But hold on!  Don’t be too quick to judge. The Needmore Baptist Church puts out a crèche that defies words. See, Bob Witherspoon puts up a shanty with an electric bulb in the roof. He borrows a few bales of Leonard Smitten’s straw and lays out a ceramic Baby Jesus in a Longaberger picnic basket that’s got to be worth near $100. No one would think of stealing it except for Tommy. Nobody could prove it, but the rumor is that Tommy stole and sold off the third ceramic wise man, the one with the broken off right hand. So, until the recovery and reunion, we’re down to just two wise men in Needmore. But that’s all you really need. I can tell ya’ll, being third in my class was no day at the beach with all the peacocking and flamenco strutting through the halls of Southern Fulton High School. Two wise men is plenty, sure enough, even for the Baby Jesus.

“What’s truly remarkable is that we have pygmy sheep and goats scaled to fit in the shanty manger.  Plus Bob’s border collie Upchuck lays there just as good as gold, even though we all know he’d  love to herd those pygmies into a tight formation and run them around like a tiny marching band at half time. You should see what that dog can do with a flock of geese. It’s a wonder.

“Where was I? I just get lost in the grandeur of the history and pageantry of our little village. On New Year’s Eve we crown the new Miss Needmore Milk Princess and Cheese Queen.  It’s a daughter/mother combination contest/pageant. The only one of its kind in the entire nation. For eleven years it was won by Priscilla Blunt and her step mom Roxanne Wilson Blunt. Now there was some jealous talk that Roxanne only married Priscilla’s dad Arnold so she could get the Cheese Queen crown, but, c’mon people! Needmorons can see through such duplicity and chicanery.

“I’m afraid that concludes ya’lls’s tour.”

254. A state of lethargy

We took a bus trip over the Thanksgiving holidays. South, my friends, to Savannah, Georgia. It was nice to be in the South. Folks seem a lot friendlier and courteous. They also drink a lot, I noticed. You can get a carry cup at the bar so you never have to leave half a beer behind you, or in front of you if you walk out backwards. This seems like a good idea until you notice that out on River Street there are guys with full beers staggering along the cobblestones and singing badly as they approach you, your wife and daughter.  Looking at it that way, you know it may not be such a great idea.  Some ideas look better going away from you than coming at you.  “Go Dawgs!! Whoohoo!!!” On top of this imminent danger hover the various steep, very worn slate, historic steps that rise about thirty feet to the upper level of Bay Street. newsflash 1: I guess you can’t fall up them. newsflash 2: drunks always seem to have soft landings anyway.

It was a nice reprieve from the sucky weather we’ve been experiencing up north lately. You know how tense you get just from being in the damp cold? Then you walk into a warm restaurant or store and ahhhh, you instinctively relax. Seems pretty simple really. And we did just this at various points of interest. The lovely cathedral of St. John the Baptist was one long ahhhh for us as we meandered along viewing the stained glass and murals. I forget which saint it was who was carrying his own head in his hands. His halo was empty. It appeared to be an overhead shot of a pilsner beer placed on the shoulders of a man walking along with his head in his hands. Sort of like the drunks on River Street from the night before. Funny how the most bizarre stuff is what you remember.

On River Street an old guitar player named Walter engaged us and persuaded us to listen to him play his guitar and sing some toothless blues songs. He invited my daughter to sing with him. She obliged and sang “What a Wonderful World” alongside Walter. He never asked for money but we knew the drill and happily put some in his can. Where he had strategically placed himself possessed some strange acoustics. Somehow it produced an echo in the little brick circle where he stood. Walter explained that there was an old tunnel underneath that spot which accounted for the strange echoing. “When I’z a boy, we ud break on into it, yeah, till they covered it up. Dats wheya da echo be com from.” I asked him to sing Sam Cook’s “A Change is Gonna Come”. He complied in a voice that wheezed like a rusted out muffler on an old Chrysler Imperial.

On Thanksgiving evening we ate dinner at Paula Deen’s restaurant, The Lady and Son. The food was good, buffet style. The wait staff were fabulous, like Disneyworld employees, smart and gracious, good looking, young and talented. What surprised me was the fact that roughly half of the customers were black. I had assumed, incorrectly, that with all the bad racist publicity that surrounded Paula Deen two years ago blacks would not support  her. Happily, I was wrong. I guess forgiveness is the business of business.  In any event I felt good leaving the restaurant/store and waddling back to our hotel. I am a fan of forgiveness and  second chances. I don’t believe in perfection.

You know, if you eat a lot and take bus rides everywhere, you gain weight. I figure that I put on a half pound per day with the extra food and deficit of exercise. It was a challenge to eat more than twice a day with the rich food and abundant availability. All your energy goes toward trying to digest the three egg omelet with everything on it plus the bagel and bacon with hash browns and grits breakfast. On the bus we sat like 29 upright pythons trying to digest what we’d gorged on. Fortunately we had limbs to brace us on turns. Still, with negligible blood flow to our brains, a state of lethargy crept in, slowing our breathing, dropping eyelids, inviting somnolence. A serpent of sleep constricted our brains gently, rocking along with the hum of radial tires across an asphalt carpet. ZZZZZZZZZZZ

Lethe was one of the five rivers of Hell in the Greek myths. here’s some cool background info on it…

In Greek mythology, Lethe /ˈlθi/ (Greek: Λήθη, Lḗthē; Ancient Greek: [lɛ́:tʰɛː], Modern Greek: [ˈliθi]) was one of the five rivers of Hades. Also known as the Ameles potamos (river of unmindfulness), the Lethe flowed around the cave of Hypnos and through the Underworld, where all those who drank from it experienced complete forgetfulness. Lethe was also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion, with whom the river was often identified.

In Classical Greek, the word lethe literally means “oblivion”, “forgetfulness”, or “concealment”.[1] It is related to the Greek word for “truth”, aletheia (ἀλήθεια), which through the privative alpha literally means “un-forgetfulness” or “un-concealment”.

I find etymology fascinating, my bloggentas. Some words carry rich histories in their letters, speaking deeper than mere surface connection. But  here we were crossing the Savannah River and entering an entire state of lethargy. And what we forgot is maybe more important that what we remembered. Ahh, stress for one. Forget it. And who won the Civil War? Who cares? If blacks and whites eat elbow to elbow at Paula Deen’s on Thanksgiving, it turned out well. And bitterness, resentment, class consciousness, indignity, who needs them? Let’s all forget some more. Four things were forbidden in the original charter of Savannah– slavery, lawyers, Catholics and Jews, and liquor. Eventually all would be allowed due to self interested pragmatism. There’s a shocker. Oh well, go back to sleep children. We’ll be there soon.