374. Misery

Miser, misery, miserable. Notice the connection?  In old Latin miser was an adjective that meant wretched, unhappy, pitiable, or in distress. Miser, the noun, is a person who hoards money or valuables, choosing a wretched lifestyle in order to hang on to his filthy lucre. Ebenezer Scrooge is the classic miser until he repents.  Misery is a state of wretchedness, distress, suffering and just bad, bad juju. In fact, you can have plural miseries, which at first glance looks like miniseries, only it’s missing the middle -ni-, and it fits, don’t you think?  Because you could feel as if your life were a miniseries featuring a new misery each weekly episode if you lived like a miser, penny pinching and always focusing on what is owed to you. In fact, you’d be downright miserable, lower than the hardened gum stuck to Neil Young’s ultra-depressed boot heels.

What I have found in the counseling field is that many self identified miserables are also bone collectors, i.e., folks who hang on to old, even ridiculously ancient hurts or debts. Remember the play/movie Les Miserables?  A lot of unforgiveness and vengeance in that story of the policeman chasing the former prisoner. Why would someone hold on to vengeance so long, even risking his own life in order to make another man pay his perceived debt to society?

My buddy Chuck shared a story of his 80 year old neighbor, Sonny. One day he and Sonny went to the hardware store over in Slippery Rock. As Chuck parked the truck outside the store, he noticed Sonny was glaring a double stink eye at another old man who had just gotten out of his pick up truck.

“Who the Hell is he?” asked Chuck.

“My cousin”, was all Sonny replied.

“Why the double stink  eye, man? Did he hurt you?”

“We haven’t talked since we were kids.”

“Why the Hell not?”

“Well, his dad, my uncle, stole some land from my dad back before the War.”

“You’re kidding me,” Chuck exclaimed. “You’re stuck on something from before World War II?”

“No,” Sonny continued, ” World War I.”

True story minus the anonymous reductions. How long can one person hate on another?  Till Death, I suppose. You don’t have to Google search bitter misers to find them. You most likely already know one or more, though they may not hoard material goods. Some misers hoard compliments, gratitude, love, or especially, forgiveness. They squeeze these blessings so tightly that no one can pluck one from their bony, pinched fingers with a John Deere tractor.

Oh, and their anger burns below the surface, like the old coal mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania in northeast PA.  The state imposed eminent domain on the few folks who chose to remain in that ghost town, below which a manmade inferno slowly bellows. No one knows for sure if the underground fire began in 1932 or 1962, but everyone agrees that it is too dangerous to live near Centralia as the coal seams slowly burn to cinders and the ground above them collapses. What a way to go! Can you imagine picking spring flowers one moment, and the next moment you are melting in 3,000 degrees of coal fire. Hey, let’s just give Johnny Cash the microphone…

“I fell in to a burning ring of fire

I went down, down, down and the flames went higher

And it burns, burns, burns

The ring of fire, the ring of fire.”

Oh, indeed the fire of anger does burn, burn, burn out a bitter man’s soul. In fact, parts of an angry man may collapse like Centralia building lots when he least expects it.  Angry folks have a greater likelihood of heart attacks. No wonder. When resentment rages for years through your arteries like a mine fire, consuming all available oxygen and living things in its path, it hollows you out. Once it gets going down deep in the caverns of your soul, only Death will extinguish bitter anger.

Unless, of course, you practice forgiveness and quit your claim on a debt that would be paid in Confederate money anyway. Yammering for your pound of flesh… from a corpse will never satisfy any need. Forgiveness is the foam that rushes on top of waves of conscious love into every deep, inflamed crevice, extinguishing even Pacific rim lava flows. In the time it takes to kiss a baby, water absorbs the heat of melting rocks. Columns of steam vapor rush away from the cooling volcanic rock. Seawater transforms itself to heal the angry molten rock and stop its plasmatic advance. Still,  bitter folks will say the water is sacrificing itself for no reason. Water did not start the fire or condone its growth, gurgling up from the bowels of the earth. The wise, however, observe that water’s nature is to transform the earth not to judge it. And so water transforms the natural landscape as surely as forgiveness or bitterness shapes the inner universe. One of my favorite Shakespearean lines is this

“The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven on the place beneath; it is twice blest: It blesseth him who gives and him who takes.”

Sweet nectar there, honeysuckle and lavender combined into one ointment– fresh love. Such fragrance held close to your nose can overwhelm the stench of burning coal mines. We still put flowers on graves today, slapping death in the face with life and beauty, however fleeting they may be. Death is the original miser, after all. You have a choice, Bloggilillies: bitterly wait in a coal mine for someone else to make things right, or let go and move on with your fragrant life.

373. Love is a many Splintered thing

So Pat and Clark are in Florida on the Good Ship Lollipop, soaking in hot tubs and heated swimming pools at night, watching pelicans flail the air inches above Tampa Bay during the day. Sun, warmth, and elderly folks everywhere. But when you are 60 plus, you are in that demographic. The concept of OLD shrinks every year like grapes turning to raisins, you notice, as there are fewer and fewer people left on the vine who are older than you. Places come up for purchase at rock bottom prices. $59,000 will buy a nice home on a rental lot next to the river.  And you learn why such a deal exists:  the previous owner no longer exists. She went Home. Died. Crossed the River Styx.  Still, it’s tempting to settle into the last chapter of one’s life. Twenty pages left and then the hard cover of a carved coffin closes the story.

“We’re not ready to commit to living here six months a year. Not yet. It’s a different world here, though, nice and  friendly. Everyone is so helpful. They have nothing else to do. You know, it’s like a staging ground for launching into heaven… or somewhere.”

Clark pretends to complain about Pat when he calls me. “She’s getting violent, beating me about the head and neck for no reason.” In the background I hear Pat  say, “Oh, I am not!”

“She needs anger management, I’m telling you. It’s her Irish. You know, whiskey and anger. Anger and whiskey. The Irish drink cuz they’re mad, and they’re mad cuz they drink.”

Pat far away, “Heeeeeyyyy”.

“I suggest that Pat get a solid weapon such as a ball bat so she does not hurt her hand while whacking you, Tonto, who undoubtedly need correction. ”

“She’s worse than the nuns who used to beat me in elementary school.”

“Good. You are bigger now and need a stronger hand.”

“Hey, I’m the victim here.”

“Clark, remember one thing:  Everyone loves Pat. Nobody loves you.”

“That’s two things.”

“So it is.”

“But this is abuse.”

“Well, sometimes love has to be cruel to be kind. That’s how much she loves you, Dude.”

“With a ball bat?”

“Is it wooden or aluminum?”

“Wooden.”

“Yeah, that’s love.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You will break before the aluminum. With the wood, there’s a chance the bat will splinter in half with a good blow to your granite head.”

“And that’s okay with you?”

“Sure. Not just me, Clark. Poets sing of such love.”

“This cell phone is messing up your words. Sounds like you said something about poets love abuse.”

“Seriously, ‘Love is a many splintered thing’. Haven’t you heard that song lyric?”

“I remember Frank Sinatra singing ‘Love is a many splendored thing’….”

“No, man, they changed the lyrics for the movie version. The original, uh just wait a sec…. I’ll Google it to you… Yeah, it was a war movie, Losing Private Lyons. Dean Martin is sent to find Private Lyons, even though they love the same woman back in Toledo. Once Dean finds Private Lyons, played by Sinatra, he’s blown into bits by a land mine, and his head just lies there on the cold French landscape, looking at Dean with his eyes open; then he just starts singing as Dean Martin cradles him like a basketball…

Love
Is a many splintered thing
It’s the April rose
That only grows
In the early spring
Love
Is nature’s way of giving
A reason to be living
The golden crown
That makes a man a king

“And then the head just stops speaking as Deano blows up a Nazi machine gun nest.  See that?  Her beating you on your crown is a royal blessing on your noggin. Don’t you see?”

“I think you are messing with the words, El Capitan. Plus, I don’t believe that movie exists. I never seen it.”

“No, Bro Diddly, them’s the words. You just have to live in the world you’re in.”

“So, basically, you’re on Pat’s side again, is that it? And you’re gonna make up a bunch of lies to protect her?”

“Yep. Your side is the abyss. And you started the lying, Stubby. Look at the second verse, Broheme. It’s where Deano sings back to Frank’s head after he cleans out the nest of Nazi shooters.”

Once on a high
And windy hill
In the morning mist
Two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched
My silent heart
And taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s
A many splintered thing

“Then he buried Frank’s head under a flat rock. It was a movie ending no one saw coming, I tell you. Do you see how the longing and the splinters are interwoven?”

“Not really. Now, I was never very good in English class, but I know when someone is pumping canal water up my ass.”

“You know, I’ve never understood that colloquialism.”

“It means you’re full of crap and you’re giving me a verbal enema.”

“Clark, that may be true, but love and splinters, that’s truth hard as a tooth. Ya know?”

“You’re not budging are you?”

“Let me just put it this way:  if Pat broke the bat over your head and you were  bleeding with half of the bat stuck in your cranium, meanwhile you have the entire assault recorded on your smart phone’s camera, the police would arrest you for bothering Pat.”

Cop 1, “He had it coming, Murphy.”

Cop 2, “Yep, surely he did, O’Malley. Let’s have a Guiness. I’ll buy.”

Cop 1, “No indeed. You bought this morning. This round is on me.”

Cop 2, “So be it. We’ll hoist a pint of Guiness for the love of Patty Girl. Aye.”

“You Irish always stick together, don’t you?”

“We have to. The world’s leaders know that if we are ever set free from Guiness and whiskey, we will rule the world. So they try and try to splinter us.”

“Uh huh. So is this going in your blog?”

“You know it is.”

“What are you gonna call it?”

“I’ve narrowed it down to Sinatra’s severed singing head or Love is a many splintered thing.”

“Yeah, I’d go with the second one.”

“Gotcha.”

372. Time Management

My time management is weak, my chronic blogetrics. Heck, if I did manage my time well, I would not blog my almost daily drivel, and then where would you be? Don’t answer that question. It could put me out of business and ruin my fragile elf esteem. (Growing up as an elf was traumatic until I had my ears done and started on a blogesterone regimen.)  Instead of blogging I would do my billing and prepare my taxes and write checks to folks who are waiting to be paid on time. Hold on a second… I forgot to write a check to my bookkeeper. Where’s a pen that works?  Stamp. Envelope. Alrightee, back to The Velvet Underground’s Greatest Hits.

Okay, where was I?  Yes, noodling seems to preoccupy my hours. Now let me justify that with this:  I don't cruise porn sites all day. No addictions beyond blogging and groundhog hunting in season. Harmless activities unless you are a groundhog or a blog aficionado with no taste or standards, i.e., an intellectual groundhog. Who on earth insults his own readers?  A guy with too much time on his hands, thasswhoo. Remember those Salvador Dali surrealistic paintings of melted watches and clocks?  That's me, except my time waste portraits would be served over steaming pasta, timeless timepieces like grilled oysters dripping over a mountain of buttered linguine. Now you're hungry for my world, right?  Oh, but the crown of time mismanagement weighs heavily on the King's head. It can literally crush a man with a weak neck. I've been hospitalized for collapsed neck syndrome twice now. I know, I make blogging look mindlessly easy, even trite, but do not try it at home without adult supervision, kids. It's like lifting weights without a spotter. The wrong run-on sentence, bench pressed inches from your throat, could slip away from you and asphyxiate you. (There's a great Scrabble word.)

I remember my neighbor Michael had a pet boa constrictor that slithered around his bedroom while he slept. I wondered how that would be if the boa ever got hungry for a snack while Michael was asleep or just too stoned to put up a fight. You see, Michael supplemented his sewage treatment plant income back then by dispensing medical marijuana without a license. If Slithers had swallowed him whole, how long could Michael have lived without water and air? I suppose if the snake started at his feet, Michael could technically have carried on for hours as the snake ingested him, all the way up to the White Afro he sported. Hmm, would Slithers later share that recipe in Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooked Meals for Constrictors? And what would she call it? Miss Slithers’ Meat Stick with Curly Frosting. Perhaps. Baked Caucasian Cauliflower? Michael was very pale.

I am a be’er as opposed to a doer. Doers are all about action and task completion. They work off lists and manage time as if they were dying, or at least billing by the minute. They tell you things like, “You’ll never get this hour back.” While that is true, it is also true that we don’t get any time back, whether we cure cancer or smoke another cigarette.  Be’ers often drink beers, which is not cannibalistic, though the nearly identical spelling might lead you near that conclusion’s neighborhood. That tiny apostrophe separates a human being from a brewed adult beverage, just barely. What? Did I hear a gasp of amazement coming from the frozen tundra of Blogland? Possibly from Das Kapital city, Wreck Ya Vick.

In Wreck Ya Vick idlers rumba along the cobblestoned Groucho and Karl Marx Boulevards drinking beer beneath the melted Dali clock in the town rhombus. Some smoke cigars while others merely use them as props. They say things to each other that have no conviction or urgency. They sing Dean Martin songs…

“When Marimba Rhythms start to play

Dance with me, make me sway

Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore

Hold me close, sway me more.”

However, unlike drooling Trump drones, they are not easily swayed. In fact, they are quite  politically savvy. Some say they like a man with an open mind. Pressed for details a man who wanted to remain nameless stated, “Because you can feel the breeze better.”

Bloglanders bounce their thick eyebrows and say ridiculous and funny things to each other all the day long.

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Even the paramedics get into the swing of things in Wreck Ya Vick. Why the other day an EMT was witnessed taking a man’s pulse at an accident scene. He uttered the imbecilic line,

“Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped.”

Because it lies above the Arctic Circle, Blogland had many pristine ski slopes. They are pure and perfectly groomed because in Blogland we ski uphill. It’s a great cardio work out, like a big frozen treadmill. But it’s all free thanks to a freed proletariat.

The Mayor of Wreck Ya Vick is Michael Iceberg, a big fan of Groucho’s work. In his acceptance speech he concluded his remarks with this line,

“Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” On marriage law he opined,

“Despite what the pundits claim, marriage is the chief cause of divorce.”

His Vice Mayor, Anthony Weiner, was unbowed and defiant in front of the press. He was heard to say,

“Women should be obscene and not heard.”

When asked about women’s rights, Mr. Weiner said,

“I like both sides of women… Lefts and rights.”

Police Chief Dick Cheney was also asked for his thoughts. He shared his dreams for Wreck Ya Vick.

“Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Attorney General Bush Limbaugh was flustered when asked for his credentials. He said,

“You’ll be hearing from my attorney as soon as he graduates from law school.”

Finally, Director of Voyeurism, Bill Clinton summarized what all Wreck Ya Vickians hold true,

“I’ll dance with you till the cows come home, Hillary. Better yet, I’ll dance with the cows till you come home.”

Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do.

 

371. Change the Filter

I have a reminder note above my computer screen; it tells me when to change the air filter in my office building. Every three months is the target. I suppose I could switch it out more often if I were a worrier, but I’m not. The first year or two I didn’t know about the filter, which is located in a large vent in the attic above my desk. Getting to it requires a ladder and the removal of a ceiling tile and a 6 inch layer of fiberglass insulation. It’s not a hard task, but it is dirty and itchy.

Once you breech the attic, you have to pull yourself up next to the vent and pull out the old filter. It’s covered in gray dust like dryer lint. You slide the fresh new filter into the slot and voila!  Clean air for a while… unlike the first couple of years when I did not know about the filter. I learned on a steamy hot summer day that the filter must be changed or else it turns to a solid concrete barrier that shuts down air flow. When the compressor feels the pressure building up, it automatically shuts down. That’s when I called the HVAC guys.

Friendly Mike’s HVAC tech came out and immediately assessed the situation. My heat pump on the roof was fine, but he needed to use the $200/hour  boom truck to get there. The compressor was just locked up due to a pressure switch glitch. Before you knew it, Larry was climbing into my attic and swapping out filters. He showed me the year old filter that should have been changed out four times by then. It resembled a thin  concrete sheet cake ready for icing and candles. If I took it to the bakery for decorating, the attendant would ask, “And what would like to say on the cake, sir?”dirty air filter photo: dirty cabin filter filter2.jpg

“Eejit… that’s all.”

I think Larry got some satisfaction out of my disgusted reaction. “Wow, Larry, that’s a lot of dust, man.”

“Yup, four hundred dollars worth… yuk, yuk.”

I vowed then and there to never let this happen again in my living lifetime.

Larry offered to come back every three months to do this again. And why not? It was nearly free money for him. Foolishly I agreed to the deal. I say foolishly because the next time he came he put in a filter that he charged $12.00 for, plus his service call fee. I watched him do his routine and was amazed at how simple it was. ‘I can do that’, I thought, without Larry’s service call and overpriced filters. I stocked up on filters of the same type, getting 4 of them for $12.00. Then I couldn’t wait for the system to get dirty.

Mummy Mummies preserved bodiesNinety days later I opened the dark dusty attic tomb to look for the mummified air filter. In my one hand was a flashlight, an air filter in the other. I plucked the old dirty filter out of its slide and inserted the fresh clean one. Simple and satisfying. Yeah! Such a mundane action gave me a boost of manly competence. I felt like doing an Old Spice deodorant commercial then and there. “I am the Dust King! Bow to me, Ye Evil Dust Motes.” I replaced the insulation and ceiling tile without too much mess. Put away the flashlight and ladder. Went back to my routines… thinking about that filter. I had saved the lungs of countless hundreds. Though they would never know, dust free air was thanks enough.

Okay, I associate this and that and the other thing as you already know if you’ve read any of my previous posts. I can’t help it anymore than your kidneys can stop purifying your waste water or your liver purifying your blood. It’s in me, man.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a mental filter you could change periodically, one that would catch all the crap of life and keep it from recycling through your brain? How often do you make a mistake and feel stupid for a really long time afterwards as you perseverate on the error? I’m not talking about murder or Wall Street Ponzi schemes here. I mean something as simple as missing your trash pick up on Monday morning. You just forgot it Sunday night. Oh, and it was also recycling pick up day, so you missed that too. You feel stupid and even less than competent because you failed to do something so simple. For the next week you walk by the trash containers and feel stabs of guilt and embarrassment. “I’m a moron. A loser.” The overflowing receptacles seem to mock you as you try to ignore their smell, height and girth.

“This will never happen again,” you vow to the squirrel on your deck.

And we have other mental filters that get dirty, filters of guilt and shame, even pride and self interest. A wise young woman named Angela once told me that she had to choose between her divorced parents, who had been at war with each other for her entire life. Freedom and low maintenance were available at Mom’s home. At Dad’s there was contention and constricting rules that suffocated her. He would not listen to her reasonable and logical requests. “My house, my rules. My way or the highway. Do or die.” He was a binary thinker; black and white were the only colors he acknowledged. She wanted to escape Dad’s control, knowing full well that Mom would switch the script once young Angela moved in with her.Image result for black or white pictures

On the other hand she worried about her younger siblings left behind at Dad’s. He hadn’t been the tenderest or most patient father to them when she was present. What would happen to them in her absence? His new wife would be unavailable for months, she knew. Everyone else in her family seemed to be entitled to go on pursuing their lives and livelihoods, but Angela was constrained to stay behind and pick up their messes. She loved each of her family members but not their messes, the blaming, the tough love, the high drama, the double standards. She just wanted to filter it all out somehow without hurting any of them. Every so often she would get so full of pain and anger she felt she would explode and vaporize. She needed a filter change.

Drugs and alcohol were out. Sex too for now. Just too complicated and hard to control. She settled on cutting herself in a neat 3x 4 inch rectangle across her abdomen with a new razor blade. She then cut vertical lines across the short side and horizontal lines across the long side until she had her bloody drama filter. Finally it felt good to breathe again.

“This will never happen again,” she swore to the empty room.

370. What Guilt?

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott

Guilt:  a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offence, crime, wrong, etc. whether real or imagined.

In my business, since I work with human beings, I hear a lot about the subject of guilt, that nagging feeling of self loathing that convicts you when you have done something wrong or failed to do something right, assuming you were consciously choosing one outcome or another.  Growing up as a Catholic kid, I learned a lot about guilt and sin. You don’t even have to sin to be guilty if you believe in Original Sin, the sin of Adam and Eve that is attached to the human race. Then there are venial and mortal sins. Venial sins are lesser than mortal, as  you might guess. Mortal sins, unrepented of, lead to eternal damnation. Game over. Venial sins just put you in purgatory, which is like a moral rehab hospital in Catholic cosmology. You do your time and get cleaned up, purged, so you can be reunited with God. In the Middle Ages you could pay off your sins by paying church officials indulgences. I don’t think that program is still in effect these days.

Back in my St. Louis Catholic Elementary School days in the 1960’s I tried to be good or at least tried not to get caught being bad. A daunting task when you have three brothers and 150 boisterous neighbor boys trying to be heathens. The trouble was that the teachers and priests at St. Louis were excellent guilt peddlers to their young and not so innocent charges. All their work paid off on Fridays when Confession was held behind the secret curtain in a booth at the back of the fairly modern church, architecturally speaking it was modern. We would line up in two lines per booth. Little boys in crew cuts and flattop haircuts, white shirts, navy blue pants and a navy blue bow tie. Girls in white blouses and navy jumpers with white socks and saddle shoes. Quaking in anticipation of God’s justice uttered by an invisible priest on the other side of the purple curtain.

The confessional booths in our architecturally modern church were wired with sensor pads in the kneelers.  As you knelt down, a little light turned red outside to indicate “busy”. As you stood up, a light on the outside turned green, indicating “Go”, maybe to Hell if you had the wrong stuff to share. Now if you shifted your weight back and forth as fourth grade boys liked to do in order to have blinking lights bragging rights, the lights would blink strobosocopically into a blur of brownish orange. The goal was to run up more blinks than the guy before you had managed, without getting caught by the teacher monitoring you outside or the priest listening to kids confess sins inside behind the yellow lit sliding screen that smelled of incense and holiness.

John Digeorgi and James LaFrankie are the only boys’ names I can recall from those diabolical days. I’m sure one of us was pulled up by our ears in the midst of setting the blinking confessional light land record.  You see, it was a given condition that justice would be swift and harsh in those parochial school days. One legendary story came from the eighth grade class where Sister Josephine Stalin was striding toward a wayward bad boy with a paddle in her hand. The boy was trapped, away from the classroom door, so he jumped out the first floor window to save his fleshly behind. I don’t know if he ever came back. It doesn’t matter; the legend lives.

Anyway, I wanted to share the three guilts: True, False and Imposed Guilt. I defined true guilt above. It’s that awful, nauseating feeling that comes over you if you have a conscience, that motivates you to make the wrong you committed right again. E.g. you broke the neighbor’s window while hitting golf balls off a tee in your back yard. Hey, it happens. You feel fear, then some sadness, then maybe you try to think of who else can be blamed for the broken window, but there are ten other boys waiting to tee off or tell on you so you decide to expiate your guilt by knocking on the Coopers’ door and confessing your sin. Later you pay for the damage, thus ending the material and spiritual conflict.

False guilt, on the other hand, feels just like true guilt, but it is based on false information or incorrect thinking. For instance, when your unlicensed sheltie dog comes home in a blizzard with a frozen baby pig in his mouth… well, you know right away that Coco had run over to the Hades’ adjacent pig farm because we (yes, it was my dog) had no fence, no leash, and no sense. Okay? We lived like freakin’ hippies back then.

Well, because I knew the neighbor and had his two sons in school, I did the honorable thing based on limited information. I got my checkbook, bundled up against the blowing snow, and trudged over to their house, about a quarter mile away. I rang the bell, wondering what a pig cost ($200? maybe) and Mr. Hade answered.

“What in the world are you doing out?” he inquired.

“I’m sorry to tell you that my dog killed one of your piglets.”

He laughed a deep belly laugh and stepped back a few paces. “Come on in out of the snow. Your dog did no such thing.”

“Mr. Hade, Coco came home with a baby pig in his mouth. It had to be from your herd.”

He laughed again. “Not possible. Your dog could not get into my barn. It’s hotwired to keep predators out. He probably just got one off the pile.”

“The pile?” I asked, stunned at this turn of events.

“Yeah, when the sow rolls over on her young’uns, sometimes she smothers them. We just throw the dead ones on the pile out back.”

“Oh… I feel foolish. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Oh, no, no problem.”

At least the wind was at my back on the way home. “The pile!!!” I was ready to write a check for big money. Stupid assumption! False guilt.Image result for i'm stupid face picturesImage result for math equations pictures

Finally we have imposed guilt. It’s also false guilt. The difference is that someone else imposes guilt onto you, usually with the words should or should not. E.g. your mother tells you, “You should have gone to law school, you little schmuck! Now look at ya. You’re a nothing, nobody, Georgie Costanza.”

The reverse is also used. “You shouldn’t have gone to Atlantic City, but you did, Mr. Bigshot. Now you’re broke and you suck!!”

The shoulding business is so common I have called its use, Suck Math. It goes like this–

You should do x.

–You didn’t do x.

Therefore, you suck.

The final product of suck math is “you suck”.  Oh, guilt mongers. I don’t have enough time to give you full treatment. See, I’m way over 1,000 words and feeling a little guilty that I stretched the attention span of my three faithful followers. And with their medication load, that’s just too much. So I’m just going to stop here.Guilty as charged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

369. Rupture

office worker with lower back painSomething powerfully painful hit my weakened back ten days ago, my blog passenger pigeons.  A roaring freight train loaded full of aches and stabs and rippings blew through a failed crossing sign at belt level. Can’t say exactly what triggered the awful inflammation  where  my  lower left back meets my hip. Shoveling the historic snow, maybe, or carrying my dog back into the house after he got disoriented in three feet of snow at 6:30 a.m. In any event Ground Zero erupted in a geyser of pain on January 29. We were at the Snowfall Ball, and my wife wanted to dance, naturally. I wanted to oblige her, but I felt the nagging paring knife pain where the tendon inserts as I lifted my left foot. The rest of my muscles began to compensate for the hurting one. In no time at all my hips and back were pouting then pulsing with pain. Sitting down or standing up felt like a rusty hinge was being forced to stagger without WD40. It was bad. I took some ibuprofen and suggested that the wife dance with other old men. A couple of old timers obliged, and why not? She looked so pretty and I was just rusted shut on the shelf. I danced a few rumbas and tangos until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had a glass of red wine and went to bed.

The knife pain began to feel like an arrow had been shot into that bull’s eye spot, and then a harpoon, followed by a small caliber bullet and then finally a rocket propelled grenade. It’s the same old injury I first experienced 13 years ago. At that time an audible pop was witnessed by my fellow teachers as white hot pain seared my back, and then I locked up in a contorted state of bear trap muscle spasms. It was rough, partners. Imagine being tied to a wild horse by your left leg, and it gallops crazily across a desert wash, stopping only to kick you with angry hooves now and then. It was like that without the horse or desert.

Pain killers and unconsciousness look like good options from that perspective, where even a sneeze will rupture neural cease fires across the battlefields of your agonized synapses. You think ‘I could use a coma right now’, a dreamy state of consciousness with reduced nerve chaos, not a comma, which is a punctuation mark meaning pause. I’d take either, though. I’ve never been a fan of fireworks or super hot peppers, which is close to what I experienced in my low back– a Fourth of July extrapainaganza display of gasoline-soaked scorpion peppers. Being vertical in gravity was enough to start the next display of electric anguish sparks. Getting horizontal was all I could think to do. Oh, to float on a surrealistic narcotic pillow.

In my injury past, two or three days would be the end of the penance and I would gradually go back to my old bad habits. In this episode, however, I was still locked up tight on the third day as I rose again… not miraculously erect like Jesus did but very nearly worthless, staggering sideways. The good thing about being in a near coma is that you can’t get into as much trouble with your wife and family. I can’t think of any other upside to relentless pain, except maybe it keeps your focus on God longer than usual. You can’t go ramming around. When life is a merry two step, you can easily lose focus of what really matters most. So, maybe in that regard pain is a gift that leads to humility and gratitude. If that is true, then I should be very humble and grateful.

Against my will, my torso pulled itself into the letter S, forcing a very awkward gait that I have seen in elderly folks who look like Mr. Magoo. I want to be the letter T, ramrod straight, shoulders back. Not the scoliosis dude. To attain T form, I had to lie on my back on the floor, for a long time. You can’t do much work on your back. My dog came over and licked me. That was special. Still, the feeling of worthlessness pervaded my zombiefied mind. I told my wife, “I feel so worthless….” and then added,”… it’s probably hard to tell from my normal level of functioning, though.”  She snorted, “That’s what I was thinking, but I didn’t say it.”

“It’s true though, Mrs. Magoo. I’m just lying here waiting for a detective to outline me in chalk.”

“Oh stop your whining.”

“No really, imagine the conversation…”

Cop to coroner, “What’s the cause of death here, Doc?”

Coroner, “Stupidity. It takes a lot of men eventually. I’ve seen a lot of it this week.”

Cop, “How so?”

Coroner, “A guy like this acts like he’s still 25. His will wrote a check that his body couldn’t cash. Look at him, a beached walrus, out of shape, probably didn’t listen to his wife’s advice.”

Wife, “No he didn’t, officer. The coroner is correct.”

Cop, “Sad, really. He never got to collect his social security.”

Wife, “His lovely younger wife will, though.”

Coroner, “It’s okay. You know that there isn’t any money in the social security fund, don’t you?”

Cop, “Uh, no, I didn’t know that.”

Wife, “I didn’t either. Sounds like sour grapes to me, fella.”

Coroner, “Yeah, it’s the biggest Ponzi scheme since Bernie Madoff.”

Cop, “What?”

Coroner, “Sure, everyone contributes every payday, right?  And then once a month the government sends some of that money back out to folks on Social Security. So a guy like this contributed all his working life and he can’t collect a dime now. See?”

Cop, “Well, yeah, but how is Social Security a Ponzi scheme, Doc? I want to know.”

Coroner, “It just is. Trust me.”

Cop, “I need more than that, Doc. You can’t just say something like that, so inflammatory, you know, and then walk away with no details.”

Coroner, “Silly man, that’s what our government does every payday. It takes your money and says ‘Trust me’.”

Cop, “Huh, I’m seeing it now, Doc.”

Wife, “Trust me, fellas. He got what was coming to him for skipping yoga and never listening to me.”

BS, “Honey, you are enjoying your role way too much.”

 

 

 

368. Porn Eyes

A provocative title, yes. Sadly it’s a common reality for many men of all races and demographics that they are porn addicts. Can’t live through a day without a mind numbing hit of deadly eye candy. Like any narcotic or other compulsive behavior, the pleasure thrill leaves early on in the unholy hajj toward the heights of heavenly bliss. The addict’s creeping eyesight is corrupted by a toxic mind that constantly hungers for another shot of porn. In psychic sand storms, beautiful naked images are mindlessly devoured like so many potato chips, peanuts, or any other junk food binge vehicle. The thrill is gone, man, so taboo themes creep in to super charge plain old sex, similar to how one spices up plain chips and dip as the taste buds retreat. You know, you can’t taste salt after your taste buds are over salinated. This is not news. It goes back beyond Sodom and Gomorrah, cuz those dudes were already good at perversion by then. That was not their first rodeo.

“You are the salt of the earth”, said Jesus. “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Overconsumption does not lead anyone to appreciation. Rather it creates the gross state of numb boredom and waste.

It’s a shame, a Great Dismal Swamp of Shame, that men who have gorgeous, sexy wives will self gratify and slowly alienate their legitimate, available, and willing love partners. Instead of growing a garden of intimate bliss and planting vines of deep sensuality, these dead-eyed men strip down vibrant sexual subjectivity into its inanimate objective parts. Their fantasized playmates have no names or personality; they only have parts… like car parts– cams, pistons, fenders, carburetors– that do not connect into one, God-made love partner. They become cyborg robots in emotional junkyards, replacing parts. All day long they replace parts. Or act like reductionist chemists who reduce a tomato into 32 lifeless components.

See, it’s easier, so much easier to exchange parts than to engage the breathing, thinking, feeling whole person in an atmosphere of patient love. Such fullness requires more work than any poker game; whereas porn is simply a broken down man hypnotically slamming a broken down slot machine expecting something different, as he pulls the handle and watches the images spin. Uh oh, you lose again… because you cannot win this or any other addiction game. Every time you use, the goal posts move farther away as your spirit deflates further.

I remember a gang of boys in high school who stole cars; parked them in nearby woods; and then stripped the wheels, tires, stereo systems and any easily removed accessory from the raped automotive carcass. Eventually they were caught and prosecuted. Turns out one of the cars they had stolen belonged to a government employee whose national security-linked computer was locked in the trunk. The Big Boys of law enforcement helped local cops bust the gang of thieves. Just like porn addicts, these gangsters did not know how valuable the whole was. They just saw replaceable parts and greedily pulled them off stolen cars like hyenas rip apart a fallen zebra.

Are you sad yet? This plague is tragic because it does not have to be. Are there more porn addicts or alcoholics? Porn by a long shot. Google Porn Addiction Statistics  and then Alcoholics Statistics and prepare to be blown away by hurricanes of disgust. God made human sexuality in all its glorious complexity; simply disgraceful men made pornography, which is the corruption of beauty and love. The root word of pornography is Greek, porne, which meant prostitute. Graphy still means writing, but nowadays it means documenting with video. Likewise, Porn still conjures up the viral spirit of prostitution.

Porn is easy to find but hard to lose. Graphic carnal knowledge and ecstatic imagery is a mouse click away today, my friends. In my youth it was magazines in the woods that had been smuggled out of some kid’s father’s stash. You had to work hard to see the forbidden fruit in those patinated days. Expropriated magazines radiated more than plutonium in trash bags hidden in a hole covered by leaves. If a porno Geiger counter were available, one could find the stash by listening to the beep-beep-beep rising in pitch and frequency. The magnetic display needle would slam against the highest setting as the sex detective scanned the woods where young boys played with plastic guns and sticks and Playboys. Invisible energy leeched out, seeped out, wafted out of the trash bag container poisoning young male minds. Rotting carnality just an arm’s length away, the shiny nude photographs eroded innocence as surely as cancer erodes whatever it touches. Objects outside of any relationship, culture, or code jump out at the viewer– an oyster nailed to a tree; an owl flying through a hospital ward; a baby in prison. Impossible to unlook or forget these images once tattooed on a revolted conscience.

We knew some dads even had 16mm porn movies, but that was way too complicated to attempt rigging up.  We knew about the drive-in on Palmer Highway. Triple X movies were all they showed. I blogged about that adolescent, rooftop experience in an earlier post. The triple X porn movie on the drive-in screen was not memorable, however. The wild police chase and narrow escape with my buddies was etched into my grey memory matter. I smile and savor old memories like that one. On the other hand, the porn addict is haunted by his old violations and perversities, unshared and utterly alone. And that is another aspect of porn use that is not immediately understood– it isolates the addict from real intimacy and isolates him from himself. Instead of connecting to others deeply, the addict uses airbrushed images of perfect others to remain perfectly disconnected. The shame cycle is simply ramped up by repeated failure to escape the addiction. Self disgust mounts and more porn is used to escape the negative emotions caused by the addiction to begin with. Pornography strip mines the soul’s majestic mountains.

And just in case you think that church doors filter out streaming porn from genuflecting male minds, the stats are just as bleak for Christian men. Viruses don’t care if you go to church, and Porn is a billion dollar virus industry.

 

367. Toro Trouble

Wow, let’s start big, a snorting bull coming out of the chute, 2,000 pounds of kicking and bellowing beef pumped full of adrenaline and outrage. Boom! I am given to exaggeration, as you know already. I like words and their drama just a little too much, until I am thrown off my beautiful verbal bull and hit the hard prosaic clay of real life language.

“You need to take the trash up to the street. It’s trash night.”

Try as I might to make that green trash dumpster into a toro verde, I can’t pull it off. If I had a matador suit on with an Elvis cape, perhaps; instead I have only navy sweat pants and a fleece over flip flops. If my raven-haired wife held a crimson rose in her brilliantly enameled smile… as the crowd roared for Felipe the Matador trash man…”Keel the bull, Felipe”… I would baffle that green-eyed dumpster with cape play never seen before, leaving him exhausted by the side of the road, tamed and ready for the landfill.

In my blog world I can fling words around like celebrities toss hundred dollar bills in posh night clubs. But real life will not abide such foolishness. “That’s $2.42. You can’t use a credit card for purchases of less than ten dollars, Sir.” That’s so pedestrian, bordering on disrespectful. “Hey, kid. Do you know who you are dealing with here? These facial tissues will wipe away tears of princesses and duchesses, drag queens and drama kings. So suck it up, Buttercup, and run my card. Blog stars like me don’t carry cash. Too bulky in our skin tight yoga jeans.”

“Security. Check out line 6. Fazers on stun.”

As I go limp from the sudden blast of 50,000 volts of authorized Tazer Power, I pull the magazine rack down on top of my body, protecting my flanks with gossip mags full of rumor and vile lies about the Kardashians and Taylor Swift. The rent a cop smirks at the register jockey. “Sweet! I love that singed neck hair smell as they fall like cigarette butts into the ashtray of law enforcement.”

“You guys get to have all the fun, Sweeney. I’m applying to the rentacop academy this spring if I can pass the physical.”

“You need a 25 BMI or less, Winkie. You look like a 32 to me, if I was to guess.”

“You’re a meathead, Sweeney. I’m at 23.8, a semi-ripped BMI for males my age. Uh, isn’t that your car being towed away?”

Like a hysterical Ukrainian grandmother, Security Officer Sweeney polka waddled quickly out the automatic doors, shouting, “Stop. I’m the law here. Uncrank that lift. Release my vehicle. Do it now!! Stop resisting.” He waved the spent Tazer menacingly at the tow truck driver who responded by raising his hands in submission to the forcefully delivered yet empty threat.

Meanwhile I regained consciousness just beneath the commotion radar, so to speak. Crawling like Private Ryan across commercial grade asphalt tiles, I made my way to the impulse buy cooler and pulled down a twelve ounce can of Red Bull. In one long swig I emptied the pale red liquor and felt revived, untazed even. (Perhaps Tazers simply decaffeinate their victims.) My heart started pumping like, well, like a bull in a soccer stadium. My adrenaline surged. Heck, I was pissed off. I began to snort and paw at the slippery tile as I drew myself up on all fours. I was angrier than Al Gore in Florida, circa 2000. I just came here to buy a box of tissues, and I was assaulted by a mindless cop, faker than that whipped cheese wiz in a can. The pressure built into rage, then outrage. I could only see red, nothing above knee level. It was not so much tunnel vision as stuck garage door vision.

Across the open grand aisle a woman in a long red skirt sashayed by nonchalantly. I couldn’t explain the surge that rushed through my tense muscles. I had to charge the red blur or die trying. Mariachi bands roared in my ears calling me into the ring. An old dented trumpet warbled above the rising din.  “Hmph! Bellow!” My destiny awaited in the produce section. I charged wildly into the red.

Suddenly Winkie was back on the public address system, “Attention shoppers. We have a mad man acting like a bull in the grand concourse. Please do not attempt to subdue him. He seems to be in need of medication. Security to Produce please. All Officers. Code Mauve.”

I knew my time was short, but I could not resist the inner toro torque that welled up in me. My chest expanded and I felt a little tail pushing up and out at my rear, trying to erupt. I trotted forward, then burst into a full, vicious gallop. I had to pin that red blob against the fruit endcap that displayed ripe plums and nectarines as surely as a magnet must cling to a proud grandmother’s refrigerator door.

Just as I took my last gallop stride, the lady in the red skirt skipped backwards, leaving me to collide with the green sheet metal of the display case. A thunderous crash resonated throughout the Super Wal Mart. Witnesses later said it reminded them of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain only with fruit in a Wal Mart and a bewildered woman in a red skirt and fashionable black heels.

As I turned to face the terrified crowd of midday shoppers behind their stainless steel carts, I realized that a piece of copper plumbing from the guts of the fruit display was jammed onto my head like a pair of metal horns. My moment of truth had arrived. Sweeney and his underlings encircled me with loaded tazers aimed directly at my flanks. I smelled their sweaty garlic fear above the pungent odors of cabbage and broccoli.

Sweeney, “On my command, men. One, two, three!!!”

Six rentacops unloaded their 50,000 volt tasers simultaneously at my head. Something miraculous happened at that moment. Aaaahhhhh!!!!!  The spirit of a thousand dead toreadors sang out. 300,000 volts of deadly electricity arced across my copper horn set and returned to their origin points. In a flash six rentacops were knocked backward three feet into a state of temporary syncope. It was done.

I stood, brushed myself off, and spoke into Winkie’s walkie talkie, “Wal Mart shoppers, Ask not for whom the Bull toils, he toils for thee. Have a nice day.”