285. The Lyin’ King

“Shall we speak of your past, Andrea?” I began with only  two other bean patrons in the quiet shop of coffee.

“If the Lion King taught me anything it’s that you can’t change the past,” said Andrea from the other side of  the counter as she counted out my ten used cup sleeves that entitled me to a free cup today.

“So harsh. You are referring to the Disney cartoon movie here?” I asked

“Is there any other?” she followed.

“Well, of course, my child. Of course there is and of course you can change the past. It’s simple. The past is actually quite malleable.”

She chuckled and lightly snorted into her shirt collar. “Oh here we go.”

“Did you know that there used to be public bathrooms under the street by the courthouse? Visitors from the big city thought we had a subway in Turtle Town.”

“No, not sure I can believe you. I’m from Needmore, remember?”

“Yes, I am so sorry. But after the Berlin Wall came down and détente began, your people were rejoined with the rest of the free world, yes?”

“Yes, we have a small stone wall in Needmore that commemorates the liberation.”

“Good to know, and the wall keeps the cows off of Route 522, I imagine. Yes, practical bunch out there. But there really were subterranean bathrooms with decorative green metal stairways descending to them. Do you have a small piece of paper?”

“Here you go.”

She produced a small block of white paper with a logo for cleaning supplies in navy blue ink. I miss nothing. No detail is too superfluous to record. I wrote in block letters, ‘The Lion King”… be true to yourself.’ Beneath it I wrote, ‘The Lyin’ King…of course you can change the past.’ Then I proceeded to share with her how I had led the Redskins to Super Bowl 17 victory in 1983, the strike shortened season as the quarterback.

“I didn’t know that.”

“A lot of folks don’t. Here’s a favorite  picture of me throwing the winning touchdown.”

Image result for super bowl 17 pictures

“And so you are free to spin your yarns, and these stories are just far enough away that they are hard to prove at any given moment.”

“Exactly. You sprinkle just enough facts and details into a story to give it verisimilitude, or the appearance of truth. You see, I respect the truth greatly, so much so that I imitate it freely at any given moment.”

“I know, and you confuse the crapola out of me.”

“Andrea! There is no need for such Mufasa here! Think of the little lions. Where is thy pride, girl? Think of poor Nala. You need to romp on back to Needmore and reclaim your glory.”

I was met with the stern schoolmarm look over her octagonal glasses with a wisp of her tucked maple pony tail bobbing behind her head like a ticked off pigeon.

“I think you’re losing focus here, creeping into that three per cent of fantasy that you are known to indulge on occasion.”

“I prefer to call it the Airless Summit of Mount Truth. Most folks operate near sea level or up to 9,000 feet above it, where oxygen is plentiful. Some brave souls venture higher, into the next 9,000 feet, where the air is quite thin and life is tenuous. Sherpas, mountain sheep and condors are the only forms of life at that altitude. And then there are the rare ones like me who start their journey at 18,000 feet and trek fearlessly upward through the unsustainable atmosphere known as the Death Zone.”

“You are so dramatic. I can’t believe anything you say.”

“Here come the bankers. I suppose they speak the truth relentlessly.”

“Well, they’re a bit more predictable than you.”

Teresa, “Are we interrupting something important?”

Andre, ” No, it’s more like rescuing me from a bad movie.”

Me, “Uhum. I was just sharing the daily wisdom with Andrea regarding the Lyin’ King.”

Teresa, “The Disney movie?”

Me, “The sequel, actually.” L-Y-I-N apostrophe KING. Not that bankers ever lie.”

Teresa, “Oh, every day. We’d be out of business if we told the truth.”

Cody, “Are we gonna get some coffee?”

Andrea, “Sure, what would you like?”

Cody, “Medium regular.”

Teresa, “Small. Guess I missed the hazelnut on Monday, huh?”

Andrea, “Yeah, sorry. You didn’t come in.”

Teresa, “I was stuck in a conference all day long. What a waste!!” Then turning to me, “Are you going to the ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ parade this Friday, Burrito?”

Me, “Uh, my chiropractor won’t allow it. Too hard on my glutes.”

Cody, “I’m walking in heels, got fishnet stockings to go with them.”

Me, “I would only do that if I were in prison and Bubba told me to walk this way. I mean, it seems either prison creepy or like a Lou Reed song.”

Teresa, “Who’s Lou Reed?”

Me, “He played third base for the Yankees in the 1960’s. Switch hitter. Utility infielder mostly. Later on  he wrote songs of desperation, drugs and alternative lifestyles.”

Cody, “Didn’t he write ‘Walk on the Wild Side’?”

Me, “Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. The man in the red high heels and black fishnet stockings and Brooks Brothers navy blue blazer ensemble.”

Cody, “Whatever Bubba wants, Bubba gets.”

Teresa, “Wasn’t that in Damn Yankees, only it was Lola?”

Me, “That’s a Kinks song you’re referencing now, but it’s in the same transvestic neighborhood.”

Andrea, “Oh, Lord help me. Though I work in the shadow of the espresso machine, I will fear no evil customer. ”

Me, “Here, let me get the door for you.”

Cody/Teresa, “Thanks, Bubba.”

Me, “It’s Simba to you.”

Andrea, “Noooooooooooo!!!!”

They hung a sign up in our town
“if you live it up, you won’t
live it down”
So, she left Monte Rio, son
Just like a bullet leaves a gun
With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
She went and took that California trip
Well, the moon was gold, her
Hair like wind
She said don’t look back just
Come on Jim
Oh you got to
Hold on, Hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You gotta hold on

Well, he gave her a dimestore watch
And a ring made from a spoon
Everyone is looking for someone to blame
But you share my bed, you share my name
Well, go ahead and call the cops
You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops
She said baby, I still love you
Sometimes there’s nothin left to do

Oh you got to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here, you got to
Just hold on.

Well, God bless your crooked little heart St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken-china voice
How I wish you were still here with me

Well, you build it up, you wreck it down
You burn your mansion to the ground
When there’s nothing left to keep you here, when
You’re falling behind in this
Big blue world

Oh you go to
Hold on, hold on
You got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
You got to hold on

Down by the Riverside motel,
It’s 10 below and falling
By a 99 cent store she closed her eyes
And started swaying
But it’s so hard to dance that way
When it’s cold and there’s no music
Well your old hometown is so far away
But, inside your head there’s a record
That’s playing, a song called

Hold on, hold on
You really got to hold on
Take my hand, I’m standing right here
And just hold on.                                           Tom Waits, “Hold On”


And so, You Honorable Blogitnesses, I  submit that verisimilitude is art by another name.













284. Selfishness and False guilt

Oh the joys of practicing counseling!! I’ve learned a lot about a lot in the twenty or so years of doing this exotic psychological cooking show known in America as counseling. The trick is to continue on, round after round without getting chopped!! Unlike the famous cooking show, my clients come to me with baskets full of unlikely ingredients– abuse, addiction,  anger, nightmares, mistaken beliefs, sexual problems, anxiety, trauma, depressed mood, sleep disorder, attention deficit, family dysfunction, divorces or custody battles, etc. and I am supposed to help them cook a decent meal, i.e., fix it; make life palatable for them so that they don’t kill themselves or others.

Image result for chopped cooking show pictures

Well, if I thought about the great expectations and responsibilities of my job for very long, I’d need to see my own shrink to cope. And if you know any psychiatrists, God help you and them. Run for your life!!  Fortunately I have a leathery heart and a well guarded mind that combine to protect me from the active pollenization of personal pain particles that are released in my dusty office daily, no, hourly. The buzz of humanity’s failures and cruelties is non-stop in my comfy, earth toned surrounds of beige and brown and greenish-gold. Just a honeysuckle bush of a joint to visit.

Image result for pollen laden bees pictures

“You won’t believe this…” is a common opening. Others presume, “You’re gonna love this…” Truth be told, I do love being involved in others’ lives in a constructive manner. It pays well and sometimes not at all, but no matter. I enjoy the practice of being present for folks in distress. I’m Irish; I enjoy tragedy and have low expectations of humanity.

Let me get to the point before I pass your limits, blognoids– a few concepts have been thrust into my little honeysuckle office so many times that I had to come up with a reasonable defense. Let’s start with the concept of selfishness. My overly responsible, high functioning neurotics often impose the label of “selfish” upon themselves.  To which I respond, “Which selfish?” as opposed to “Which shellfish?”, which is another topic completely.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean we all practice selfish tasks daily that are perfectly necessary and helpful– showering, brushing teeth, using deodorant, getting dressed. These things only benefit us, you know?”

“Yeah, okay. What’s your point.”

“I call this “lower case selfishness” versus UPPER CASE SELFISHNESS or NARCISSISM.  I think you are confusing healthy selfishness with arrogant or haughty behaviors. Flossing your teeth is not an affront to any other human being. Flogging your neighbor is an active extension of a belief that your are better than your neighbor. Flossing is a humble act; flogging is a cruel and prideful one. Are you tracking me?”

“I guess. But in my Christian faith pride is to be avoided. ‘Pride goes before a fall’, ya know?”

“But like selfishness there is a healthy pride and an unhealthy one. Pride and humility are not totally mutually exclusive. What if someone compliments you on your humility, says that you are like Jesus in your humble approach to life. Wouldn’t you be proud of this?”

“I guess so. This is all a bit hard to get my mollusky brain around, though.”

“Fair enough.”

“I also have a lot of guilt. Is that wrong too?”

“Depends on which kind.”

“Oh no, there are varieties of guilt now?”

“Yes, three that I am aware of.”

“And they would be…?”

“True guilt, false guilt, and imposed guilt, which is also false.”

“I need more, Sensei.”

“Okay, guilt is that lousy dirty sticky feeling of conviction that comes from doing something wrong, knowingly and willingly, or from failing to do something right when you had the chance to do so. Let’s say you see someone’s wallet sitting out and you decide to help yourself to the cash bulging out of it. Hey, you think this guy is stupid and I’ll just teach him a lesson. You consciously steal the cash. Later on you wonder if that guy may have been on his way to buy birthday presents for his kids or pay his rent with that money. Your action starts to eat at your conscience if you have one.”

“I would never steal someone else’s wallet, Doc. I’m not like that. My grandma would rise out of her grave and beat me with her old leather purse if I did. She was the model for the Terminator movie.”

“Right, I think you have an overdeveloped or over-responsible sense of guilt. Let’s look at the other side… you could have stepped in and stopped an unattended baby stroller from rolling into busy traffic, but you don’t. You think the distracted mother should pay for her inattention, and, kaboom, a truck crushes the stroller in the middle of the intersection where you are arrogantly sipping your latte.”

Image result for baby stroller in traffic pictures

“Oh, man, that’s not me. I’d throw myself in front of that stroller to save the baby.”

“I didn’t say anything about a baby.”

“Yeah, but it’s a BABY stroller, Doc. It only makes sense that a baby would be in it.”

“No, my guilt ridden friend. The baby is safely back on Mom’s lap.”

“I can’t take much more of this analysis. (Deep breath) So that’s real guilt– choosing not to do something that I could have easily done to help my fellow man?”


“So what’s false guilt? Not that I really want to know any more today. This sucks. You are a psychic tick, a talking tapeworm, you know.”

“Yes, however, I feel no guilt because I am helping you see your dysfunction. (Deeper breath) False guilt feels exactly the same as real guilt; it’s just based on false information.”

“For instance?”

Image result for dog with a pig in its mouth picture

“Okay, decades ago I lived next to a pig farm. One blizzardy day my mongrel sheltie came home with a frozen baby piglet in his mouth. I thought, incorrectly, my dog had killed the farmer neighbor’s piglet. I got my checkbook and put on my winter coat. I trudged through the snowy wind and rang his doorbell. I explained the situation and he began to laugh at my story. ‘No, your dog didn’t kill it. He must’ve gotten one off the pile.’ Sure enough, there was a pile of dozens of dead piglets outside the pig barn, which was protected by shock fencing. My awful intestinal twisting was all for naught. I had experienced false guilt.”

“Well, you didn’t know any better.”

“Exactly, but my guts twisted just the same, whether my perceptions turned out to be true or not.”

“Hey, I bet I know what imposed guilt is.”

“I’ll bet you do.”

“It’s when someone else tells you that you ought to feel guilty. They impose the reasoning on you and try to activate your guilt, whether their view is correct or not.”

“Excellent, Grasshopper. Now let us rest and eat oysters.”

“That would be shellfish, Sensei.”

“I am humbly proud of you, Grasshopper.”



283. Deal me out, Bro’

Jerry Garcia sang it clearly…


Since it cost a lot to win
and even more to lose
You and me bound to spend some time
wondring what to choose
Goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
and play it slow
Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down
I been gambling here abouts
for ten good solid years
If I told you all that went down
it would burn off both your ears
It goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
and play it slow
Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down
Since you poured the wine for me
and tightend up my shoes
I hate to leave you sittin there
composin lonesome blues
It goes to show you don’t ever know
Watch each card you play
and play it slow
Wait until your deal come round
Don’t you let that deal go down
Don’t you let that deal go down, no
Don’t you let your deal go down
Image result for human poker player pictures
Simple formula, dontcha think? Cards are the metaphor for life. We all play each day, week, month, year, hoping to win. But win what?  We all have different goals. Real estate deals, job interviews, car deals, drug deals, dating deals… what’s your deal, man? Are you in all the way or just posting up on the ante? How many hands will you invest in?
I’m only familiar with poker hands, whether five card stud or draw poker or seven card stud. Folding is an option all along the way, if you must fold to protect your assets.  No shame there. If you can figure out odds, then you know when you have a useless hand. On the other hand this dearth of good cards could call forth your acting, i.e., bluffing skills. Though you have a nine high nothing, you may choose to play it tough, stare down your competitors, hypnotize them with bluffery. What a victory that would be in a hand of poker or a real life deal.
I’m imagining a called bluff scenario that must be fairly common in the online dating world. If your profile picture is from ten years ago and fifty pounds lighter than the present day, you know you’ll  have to show your cards at some point, most likely at hello. I know even less about dating than poker, but I believe they are both very risky activities, sometimes ending in mayhem or murder when things go wrong.
After some time spent flirtatiously suggesting chemistry and connection on line, Sally and Harry decide to meet in person for the first time at a local dimly lit Irish pub.
Image result for awkward first date in a bar pictures
Harry enters the bar, smiling stiffly and blathers unedited, “You must be Sally, right? You look fabulous, just like your profile picture. Harry, (reaching out his hand) Mc Featers, like feet, or defeat, you know, like we are walking on de shoes, ha ha.” (Nervous as a nun at a strip club.)
Inwardly both are groaning at the awkward dissimilarity to their online repartee, as if Cyrano De Bergerac had been outed as clumsy, inarticulate and gender conflicted. Meanwhile Sally has positioned herself with her best side showing from the corner of the booth with the television above and behind her left shoulder, knowing all men will tend to zone into the screen and not pay such close attention to her dyed hair and half a second chin. Of course, she is wearing an all black outfit over her spanx for the sake of illusion. Bluffing goes both ways.
Reaching up to shake, “Sally, uh,  Myerson.  Harry, glad to meet you.”
“Yes, really great. Wow. It’s amazing to see you in person. There’s just so much more to a person in person, don’t you think?”
Sally starts to cringe and blush at his ghastly speech. ‘Could he possibly be this stupid?’  “Yes, let’s order a drink, why don’t we?” she hurriedly suggests to get something in his dry, nervous mouth besides pigeon dropping comments.
“You betcha. Waitress a double vodka tonic for me and, Cindy, I mean Sally, what would you like?”
‘I’d like to slip into a coma right now, but I can’t.’ “Uh, do you know how to make Sex on the Beach?”
Harry, “Whoa, no but I can learn, Sandy, I mean, Sally, ha ha!!”
Waitress, “Sure, Honey.” Then with a knowing glance and a half pitiful wink she whispers, “Good luck with him” as she takes the drink menus away.

“So, Harry, how would you like tonight to go, you know, what goals do you have for our evening?” she probes a bit drily.
“Oh Sally I don’t set goals; I score them, if you know what I’m sayin’. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, first I want to know if we should order dinner or not.”
“Whoa, baby girl. Settle your jumpy heart. We have the whole night. We can have dinner, dance a little, cuddle up, and then get naked.”
“Harry, yeah, to tell you the truth I’m about to leave right now. The only naked you’re getting from me tonight is the naked truth. Understand?”
“Um, Um, whoa. Here are our drinks. Just a sec.” Waitress smirks and leaves the online hopefuls to their self-inflicted condemnation.
“Yeah, I think we got some wires crossed. I thought you were, you know, pushing the envelope with your drink choice. I’m sorry if I got too frisky too fast for you.”
Sally chugs the entire drink and belches. “Whew. Excuse me. This damn diet is killing me. I only eat celery sticks on Saturdays.”
“No, no problem, Sal. You want another one?”
“Yeah, what the hell?”
Waitress, “You’re staying?”
Sally, “For one more drink.”
Waitress, “Don’t you want to let that first one settle, Honey?”
“Who’s settling?  I’m fifty three years old, Honey. All the good ones are long gone.”
Waitress, “I’m sorry, none of my business. Just thinking of that old song, ‘don’t let your deal go down’, ya know?”
Sally, “It’s a little late for discretion, Sugar. My desperation clock struck midnite. I’m in overtime, ya know? Just deal me out, Bro.”

282. Into the Mystic

[ After visiting Brovania, the ancestral home of apartment gypsies and Ramen noodles, I feel a need to look at life on the coast of consciousness.]
“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic
And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home, mmm mmm
And when the fog horn blows
I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float
Into the mystic

Image result for water gypsies pictures

When that fog horn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float
Into the mystic
Come on girl

Too late to stop now”  Van Morrison, poet


Van creates musical atmospheres that are nice to travel through even years after hearing them. Though I’ve never been a sailor or known a gypsy lover, I can taste a bit of both in his song. It’s simple enough: A sailor man has been away from his gypsy lover girl for too long and he can’t wait to hold her again. The foghorn is a welcome sound after being out to sea; it also warns him of potential dangers, even death, as he is getting closer to his loved one. There is both urgency and timelessness in this simple song. Moving “into the mystic” happens in present, past and future time. The mystic is not tied to history or politics, economics or technology. It exists outside of these structures in a billowing silken sail made of love… which I can relate to.

noun: mysticism
  1. 1.
    belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.
  2. 2.
    belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.
    You know like everything else that’s attractive, mysticism is double-edged. If you go with definition 1, it’s cool. A higher Zen-like knowledge or state of being comes over you like a holy cloud. All religions seem to get to this absorption with the Deity– oneness. It’s a great place to visit but impossible to live there because your desire filled body gets in the way, calling you back to otherness .
    Then there’s the second definition that’s less attractive. It’s syncretic and creepy. Requiring a map and a conspiracy theory in order to figure out the inscrutable mysteries and secret codes. You might have achieved oneness but nobody else is there– no Deity just disembodied delusional voices in your head. Unfortunately for folks who do live in definition 2, they struggle to visit reality on brief occasions as they walk relentlessly around their downtown streets. There goes one now, swatting at gnats that are not present on this cool spring day.

I like to think that I’m in the first level, with a healthy appreciation for intuition, associative thinking, creativity, and yeah,  the mystic. Not the occult version, no. I prefer to believe in an oceanic mystic and osmotic experience that is open to everyman as one praises and meets God. A balance is reached in that ocean just as a balance is reached in the arms of your loved ones.  Separateness and longing surrender to one warm amniotic embrace.

Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line, Severing rightly his from thine, Which is human, which divine.     Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know where to draw this mystic line, maybe in the sand of a Zen garden, with a handmade bamboo rake. Why rake sand? Not because you are OCD and you want all the grains to fall the same way, but to lose your otherness and join that elusive oneness of the mystic mind. The burden of otherness gets to be too much too often.
Lying on your back at the beach with eyes closed breathing in rhythm with the waves breaking at your feet… that’s the mystic too. Life is in you and around you and through you. Your sweat dries and becomes humidity as you breathe air in and hook up oxygen with your blood cells. You realize in the mystic moment that you are the lilting breeze, the falling leaf, and the damp soil on which it lands. What you had for breakfast grew out of that very same soil. One and other and the same.
Image result for leaf falling pictures
Divisions and boundaries dissolve in the mystic just like salt in water. Oh, it’s still there in every sip and will return like dried sweat on your skin. It all makes more sense in dreams, this mystic dimension. Time and space and gravity and form all work differently in the land of dreams. What is another paradox is that our bodies and minds are refreshed when we go there for only a few minutes per sleep cycle. I suspect that dreams are the mystic harbor where our ships of consciousness rest and replenish ever so briefly, weightlessly formlessly mindlessly, slip safely into the arms of God.
“And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it”
Sail on, Blognauts, Into the mystic.

281. South Central Brovania

Image result for dudes with beards picturesInside the boro limits of Turtle Town Is a little 2 bedroom apartment known affectionately as Brovania. That’s hyphenation talk for “brothers in Pennsylvania”. The two Bros who live there are Mitch and Byron, former barristas from my coffee shop. Nice guys, both of them. And single. It seems that nice young single guys are fairly rare, vastly outnumbered by nice young single ladies. This imbalance causes much anguish on both sides of the dating football or croquet mallet… or any other bad metaphor you can come up with, my bold bloggnats. It appears to me (as an old geezer from two generations back) that modern dating is far more fragile than it used to be. The vetting process is longer, even arduous at times. As if each person involved were a possible fake Rembrandt that needs to be tested and insured before it can be loved. In my old days it took a smile, eye contact, a little chat, a suggestion and then the promise of the next day… until a string of days ran unbroken into an exclusive relationship. There were no “friends with benefits” that I knew of in the 1970’s.  Nor were there long times of testing and making sure of relationships. We just dove in, or maybe it was just folks like me who dove first and checked water depth second. Some friends’ marriages wound up with broken necks. Mine was merely strained.

Perhaps there is less trust left on the planet, you know, like fossil fuels. Everything is tested and surveyed– our political candidates have focus groups for their campaigns; television shows and movies are previewed with mock audiences prior to launch. I want to yell, ‘Hey, if your ideas are worthy, why are you shaving them for public  approval?’ Leading from behind is what that is called, I believe.  Ahhh yesss, it’s about the consumption and profit motive. “Trust me, friends. I want what’s good for me.” Your approval equates to their power and money. Even Enterprise Rental cars called me while I was in the bathtub to see how I felt about my recent rental car experience. “Wet. Warm. Clean.” This after the hospital sent me a survey about my recent $2,000 ER visit for a paralyzed neck. (This had nothing to do with the state of my marriage.) Please comment below: “Um, SHOCKED  but insured, thank God, rather than bankrupted.” But dating? You need trust, which is truth over time. Both, not one or the other.  On-line sites are everywhere advertising great outcomes for their users. Sure, it’s possible. But every week Comcast sends me slick advertising urging me to switch over to their bundle of services, while my phone rings with offers of reduced utility bills. They are all moving product or services. Maybe I could bundle my internet, with E-Harmony, and my electric bill. Buy, save, now. It’s exhausting if you take any of this endless feedback loop seriously. But dating??? It’s swimming with sharks outside of Brovania.

After a while all this quality control crap becomes so much background noise to tune out. So I’m tuning out and wondering how life is inside Brovania. But I need not wonder for long because the boys Facebook (verb use here) all their major activities. I know where Mitch is more often than Mitch does with only occasional F’book cruising. The old saying “Youth is wasted on the young” has a lot more grit and traction the older you get. Folks said that when I was young. I didn’t get it then, but I do now.  Reminds me of an old poem by Irving Layton that intrigued me as a kid.

By walking I found out
Where I was going.

By intensely hating, how to love.
By loving, whom and what to love.

By grieving, how to laugh from the belly.
Out of infirmity, I have built strength.

Out of untruth, truth.
From hypocrisy, I wove directness.

Almost now I know who I am.
Almost I have the boldness to be that man.

Another step

And I shall be where I started from.

I would add that by aging I have learned how to be young. And I treasure that innocence and optimism that the boys from Brovania still exhibit. The freshness of young love, a good buddy to hang with, a local brew, the unlimited horizon. The view from Brovania is awesome once you learn that life is lived looking forward but understood looking backward.

Reminds me of the time Sam and Chris and Mark and I took off in the middle of a summer night and went camping at the Meadowlands State Park just south of Paris, Virginia. It was a straight shot out Route 50. We pitched a tent in the dark and fell down laughing. In the morning we realized we had not a single crumb of food. We manufactured some fishing poles out of discarded hooks and fishing line. In no time we had caught several blue gills and cooked them on a grill. No one had a fishing license, I’m sure. We did have a bag of pot in Sam’s glove box, which we enjoyed to excess.
On our way out of the park the road was so rutted and bumpy that we got out and rode on the hood of Sam’s Ford Falcon to help balance the front end and stop bottoming out. Wouldn’t you know that a county mounty rolled up and wrote Sam a ticket for reckless operation of a motor vehicle or some such thing. Sam reached into the glove box for his registration just under the ounce of pot. It was  a long moment till we all exhaled. After a lame lecture about safe vehicle operation, Officer Barney Fife let us go.

I’ve never forgotten the incident. It resides next to the memory of driving back from Dulles Airport under a full moon without headlights in Dwight’s old green Volkswagen bug. He turned on his lights only to see a large doe standing in front of us with the original “deer in the headlights” look. We hit her and then the front trunk blew open, which caused great panic among us four guys. When Dwight finally stopped the bug just short of the pine woods on the right shoulder, we watched his spare tire bounce away into the woods. It was another long moment before we all exhaled and saw the deer hair stuck in any crack in the VW. The hood was forced back into its original shape. We retrieved the spare tire while laughing outrageously. Dwight was an official Deer Slayer. “By turning on my high beams, I saw where I was going.” That’s not a poem. It’s just a message smuggled out of Brovania.

*** continue the fun at 52. Mitchlessly


280. Point less ?

I was reading a journal article today on mind wandering. The researchers somehow determined that mind wandering actually allows the same mind to focus; and conversely, the focusing mind allows the same mind to wander in a yinny-yangy way. (My words not theirs, trust me here.) I find this finding reassuring, which seems redundant to find a finding and assure again, i.e., “re-“. However, be this as it may, I am a big fan of mind wandering. I do it all the time, to which long time blog followers can all shout a throaty “Amen!” I am a proponent of associative thinking, trusting that there is a theme evolving as the associations build. The tight sphinctered scientists among us do a lot of crisp pointing, like tour guides who point out the most important buildings in Charleston or NYC. They point and point and point so you get the point. Helpful if you are on a tight schedule; tedious if you are not.

Mind wandering is not total abandonment of rational thinking; rather it is like letting a kite have its string, maybe a half mile of string on occasions. Allowing the breezes and updrafts to have their way with a kite over the beach is a small effortless joy. Ahhh, good therapy for the string holder and spectators who are unwinding while watching their kites turn into tiny red dots out over the shipping channel. The kite can symbolize a lifted mood, a soul rising, a worry vaporized… or nothing at all.

What’s the point? Is this an experiment with a key and lightning? Is there a measurable and justifiable purpose here? Not really.

Decades ago I remember my friend Jack flying a kite off the sand of Kitty Hawk, N.C. It was a perfect kite flying day. We added fishing line to the original string when it was exhausted. To elevate the kite’s altitude, we tied shoes and fishing weights to the new line. It became an engineering marvel after a few hours. Only as early evening approached did we take turns winding in the various lines and weights until we retrieved the flimsy kite itself. I was left with a memory, a wonder, a smile thirty years later.

Jack is long dead now; however, the memory is bittersweet and alive. If I choose to focus all my Jack memories, I’d fill the sky with millions of kite strings and confetti. The nights in Georgetown; the weekend at UVA; the trip to Va. Tech; the dozens of dozens of parties and outings. The big red Oldsmobile convertible. The stupid red van. His wedding, wife and kids. Siblings, mom and dad, and friends network. His amnesia episode. It’s endless and yet invisibly attached to the single kite string that wandered up off the beach in 1980 something.

I always listen to Pandora when I write my blog posts. Pick Rolling Stones Radio and you get the entire milieu of rock and roll that surrounded their classic hit songs. Rather than drilling the Stones’ greatest hits into your brain, Pandora floats around the era, filling an aural shopping cart with nice choices from the same aisles and shelves where the Stones live. An atmosphere is suggested to hover in your memory and massage old thoughts and feelings you have not moved in years. “Time Is On My Side” is followed by Zepellin, CCR, Hendrix, a Beatles song, Cream, the Animals, etc. And there you go– 1970 all over again.

I’ve heard more than one tight lipped doctor dismiss dreams out of hand as mere defragmentations of the waking mind, a cleaning process the brain goes through each night, with no other significance. Some even mock the concept of the unconscious mind as an unprovable fantasy construct. These guys point, point, point to their trusty data points that measure something but require no faith. Anecdotal records are simply coincidences and not reproducible, so they would have you believe.  But allow me to disagree.

Years ago I had a boy client who had lost his father to a long battle with mouth and throat cancer. He longed for his father, an avid outdoorsman, to be in his life and teach him how to canoe, and fish, and hunt. He had a repetitive bear dream that disturbed him. In it he was running next to a bear in the woods. As I pushed for details he told me the bear was not scary at all. And they were actually running around a quarter mile track in the middle of a pine forest. He was disturbed by the “nonsense” of the dream. I sketched out the scene to his liking and he colored the bear a reddish brown. As an afterthought I asked, “What color are the bear’s eyes?”

Without any hesitation he responded, “Bright blue”.

Now that’s an odd detail, I thought.

Later on I was processing this dream with the boy’s mother. She told me about her deceased husband. “I used to sponge bathe him at the kitchen table after they took his tongue out. He’d sit in his underwear and make growling noises for yes and no. I understood him, but I think it scared the boys to see their dad that way.”

“What did your husband look like?”

“Tall, six two or so, maybe two hundred and fifty pounds. Handsome, I thought.”

“What color was his hair?”

“Oh reddish brown. And he was hairy all over, not just on his head.”

“Really? Like a bear?” I asked.

“Uh-huh. I called him my big teddy bear.”

“And his eyes, what color were they?”

“Oh, my, the brightest blue you ever saw.”

“Well, how about that? I think we’ve found your son’s dream bear.”

Gasp. Tears. A billion kite strings filled the space around her and wet confetti maple leaves poured down all over her aching memory bank.

 Merely the brain defragmenting, kids. No need to panic. If you can’t prove it exists, then you can’t point to it.
So we point less.




279. Wired

It wasn’t quite like this picture but it was close enough with the wire mess in the upstairs closet of my office building. It looked like a bear had eaten a small pig that had been wrapped in fine electrical wires, and left. When I got settled in after moving, I determined that I’d fix the mess, which I assumed was all the wiring for a former security system. See, my building had been an outpatient drug clinic for a while, so every window and door had an electronic sensor wired to it. There was also a fire alarm system built in that no longer worked nor was it necessary. I’d been told by the fire department inspectors to actually remove the fire alarms since they did not work and were not required.
Officer Dewey Duty: “We don’t want folks to have a false sense of security by relying on fire alarms that actually don’t work.”
Me: “Sure, no problem. It’s like relying on Social Security in your retirement.”
Officer Dewey Duty: “Uh, yeah. Just remove them, smart aleck.”
Me: “Roger that, sir.”
Officer Dewey Duty: ” It’s Dewey, Dewey Duty.”
Me: “Yes, sir, Mr. Duty. Officer, sir. But what about my obsessive neurotics? Do you want to steal their imagined rescue?”
Officer Dewey Duty:  “I’ve had about enough of you, jerk face.”
Me: “Rogerrrrrrrr, okay. Sorry. Please just pass me. Take the $100 and leave.”
I set about doing the code conforming immediately, but I overgeneralized in my enthusiasm. I over-identified the dead wires. There were actually phone lines and high speed internet lines that all bundled back to this messy wall panel. I was undeterred and defiantly ignorant. I took wire cutters and cut till every last skinny wire was in two  pieces. I unscrewed the metal and plastic panel and tossed the wire clump into the dark land above my ceiling tiles. I cleaned up the wiry mess and carted off the plywood backing plate. Heck, it seemed as neat as a fresh grave.
The next day I noticed that my land line was not working. No signal at all.
“That’s weird,” I thought, not making any connection to the wire cutting frenzy of the day before.
So I called the telephone company, who sent out a technician. After just a few minutes and obvious checks, he asked me, “Have you had any recent construction in the building?”
“No. I just tore out the old security system wiring.”
“Uhhhh, where is that wiring harness?”
“Back here in this closet. It was a mess and I put it out of its misery.” I opened the walk in closet for his inspection. “Right here is where it was; I put the bundle end up above the ceiling tile. Now it’s tidy and neat, dontcha think?”
“No….you didn’t.  These are all telephone lines. There must be a hundred wires here.”
Gulp. I saw big money signs and the word STUPID tattooed across my forehead. “No kidding?”
“You cut all your telephone lines.”
I started laughing. “I guess I did. Yep.”
He looked at me as if I did not understand English. “No, I mean you CUT all of your telephone lines.”
I laughed a little more. “Yeah, crazy, huh?”

“You cut ALL of them. Every one of them.”
“Yup. What can be done?”
“I might be able to find one line, but it will take hours to connect them all back together. You cut them all.”
“Well, I really only need the one to my land line. Do you think you can find that one?”
“I’ll try. I have this sensor that can show me a match, but you’ve got at least a hundred cut wires here.”
[ By now I was fully aware of how many wires I’d cut, but apparently Bob the technician was flabbergasted by my work. He had never met a village idiot before.]
“That would be great if you could. You know all the rest of the outlets don’t really matter anymore since we have Wi-Fi and cell phones. Weird, huh?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” he muttered as he weeded his way through the chaos I had created.  About 20 minutes later he found the correct green wire combination that restored my land line’s dial tone.
“Awesome!  I’m back in business, Bob. You are my hero.”  If I’d been the hugging type, I would have given him a crisp, professional hug, but I’m not so I didn’t. Plus I don’t think Bob was nearly as pleased as I was and he still thought I was an escapee from the local mental ward.
As Bob was ready to leave he said to me with what I believe was disgust, “I’m not even gonna charge you for this visit.”
And he didn’t. I think he felt that I was probably too stupid to open my own mail, let alone write a check and mail it. But I felt validated, prophetic even. Ahead of my time. When the Wi-Fi era archeologists exhume my old building and find no hardwired telephone or computer lines intact, they will gasp, “This guy was either a genius or the luckiest village idiot there ever was.”  I will let history judge me.