383. Counterintuitive

Here’s a disturbing question for you:  When do folks suicide most often– summer, winter, spring or fall? Most folks think winter and the holiday season is ripe for suicides. That may be, but it’s spring that consistently hosts the most suicides in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. (You know they are opposite, right?)According to the CDC April and May show a marked increase in suicides in the U.S. and other northern countries, and that suicides actually decline in the bleak winter months. One study I saw clearly demonstrated Monday as the favored day for suicides to occur. Maybe those folks just didn’t want to go to jobs they really hated. Hmmm, you’d think quitting or calling off might have been more effective.

Not to make light of suicide. I feel deeply for folks who are in such a pain filled state that they can only think of destroying the pain container instead of destroying or managing the pain. It’s the all-or-nothing approach to problem solving, similar to burning down your house to make sure you eliminate the pesky mice that run around your kitchen at night. Undeniably, it works; but this solution obliterates the plaintiff, bailiff, courtroom, reporters, judge and jury. It’s an odd sort of justice that obscures the original injustice.

I recall a local anesthesiologist who offed himself on an examining table at the hospital to protest real or perceived maltreatment. The thing is, we’ll never know what the rest of the truth  was because he executed himself as he executed his strange justice. I do not recall if it was a Monday in spring or not. Doesn’t matter. His job was to anesthetize patients in surgery and to revive them afterwards. It’s supposed to be a round trip ticket not a one way. Which is why single passengers who buy one way airline tickets with cash attract so much attention from the TSA. The guys I know who do this are not terrorists; instead, they are repossessing cars or delivering machinery. In any event, they are coming back… unlike Dr. Doom, who fully anesthetized himself forever.

Sad and disturbing. No one can grasp the unbearable weight that moves a finger to pull a trigger of the cocked pistol at one’s temple. Follow the triggered nerve back to the tortured brain that has been rehearsing this exit strategy. Almost all suicides are completed alone, which reduces the risk of revival or interference. Still, what an airless bedroom closet or bathroom it must be as the suicider sits and builds up the critical and final momentum for the ultimate terminus. Like waiting to vomit and then ride the terminal wave out of consciousness, where the constant is becomes the eternal is not. The pain and hopelessness must feel like giant aliens that must be destroyed.                                                                                 Image result for giant alien pictures

The demoniac self named “Legion” in the Gospel of Mark 5, had so many unclean spirits driving him that he smashed rocks against himself and ran around tombs naked and screaming near the pig herds of the Gerasenes.  His repetitive insanity was ended by Jesus with a command, “Come out of him, you unclean spirit.” The legion of unclean spirits came out and complied. They asked Jesus not to torment them and begged to be cast into the nearby herd of pigs. He complied and they possessed the pigs, leading 2,000 to hurl themselves into the Sea of Galilee and drown. That’s a lot of bacon, folks.

One life was saved, one mind restored. And you’d think that the folks around the Gerasenes would be pleased, but they weren’t. They begged Jesus to get back in his boat and leave. No thank you or praise or worship, nope. Just fear simmered in the melted grease of confusion. It’s been said that miracles don’t produce faith; rather, faith produces miracles. I agree. Despite witnessing the overcoming of supernatural forces, the locals wanted no part of this Savior. Counter intuitive again. If you don’t want the problem nor the solution, then really, what do you want? More confusion, I suppose.

 I recall a story of a young man’s suicide with a pistol. The parents were devastated, yet they gave the gun to the victim’s younger brother.  I’m not a gun hater, but if your older son overdoses on oxycontins do you give the rest of the prescription to his little brother? Or if the one hangs himself, do you give the remaining noose to his kid brother? Seems counterintuitive again. The math of suicide is not that hard to do, if you simply possess the courage to do it.
 semi-colon
Despite the common terminology, no two suicides are identical. Some are grandiose exits with letters full of anger and bitterness. Some are murder/ suicides involving children or partners, parents or pets. Somewhere in the convoluted thinking the perpetrator believes the survivors can’t make it without him/her, or he/she can’t make it without them… and it’s better to make it a package deal. Some are desperate hangings while the family is away. Even when clear reasons are attached to suicides, survivors ponder the WHY? I suppose this question comes from the valuing of life on the one hand, and the incomprehensibility of destroying oneself on the other hand, which is literally no longer there.
Guilt and shame follow suicides as surely as the million WHYS. Yet, if survivors look hard at the evidence, it is usually not their fault. The fault is most often in the suicider’s brain, where he/she solves a temporary  problem with a permanent solution. Overkill is a fair comment, I believe.  Intuitively healthy minds seek survival and generativity. Counterintuitively, unhealthy minds seek death and the cut off of their loved ones. A life well lived is a beautiful thing. A suicide is, no matter how meaningful or dramatic, is a disaster.

382. Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy

It all began innocently and by accident, I believe. New Year’s Eve 2014 at a dinner dance in
Gettysburg. Formal attire, my black suit, nice food and plenty of drink. And we danced when we heard a song that was close to a ballroom dance beat. There were none from the live band, so when the d.j. took over on the live band’s break, the dance floor filled up. Nice. My wife was gorgeous, slinking in a black dress with sequins and shimmer. No worries about driving anywhere since we bought the package with a room and breakfast as well. Everything was tight and right as James Brown’s suspenders.

The evening flowed with conversation and drinks and laughs. Our dance group sat with us and filled up another table. Chumminess hung around us like sweet cigar smoke. I used up our allotted drink coupons, which means that a slight buzz was humming behind my smiling face. I felt lighter, freer. I got up to dance to another song, thinking that my lovely wife had followed me out to the center of the dance floor. Wrong, she and a couple of other jokers smirked at me, all alone as “Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy” started. Wow. I was at a dramatic fork in the road: should I admit defeat and slink back to the table of mockers? Or should I gather my inner showmen and dance like I had never, or just rarely, danced before?  I had a lot of room to decide… the latter.

“And I decided quickly, yes I did,

To disco down and check out the show

Yeah, they was dancin’ and singin’ and groovin’

And just when it hit me somebody turned around

and shouted Play that funky music whiteboy

Play that funky music right

Play that funky music whiteboy

Lay down that boogie and play that funky music

till you die”

I will grant you that the lyrics and overall tone of this caricature of a pop song are cretinous, but the big, funky beat is very danceable. And so I let the sonic energy pulse through my marrow until I was under the spell of Wild Cherry’s only hit song.

I felt like Iago when he says, “Some men are born great; others achieve greatness; and still others have greatness thrust upon them.” I got it in a flash. I am a “still others” kind of guy. Everything converged for this one pure moment of dance orgy synergy. I began to heel kick and shimmy. I hit an invisible bass drum with flagrant hip action. I strutted with deep shoulder dips while balancing a transparent hat on my turreting head. It was on, Mamma. The wife and fellow mockers began to laugh and clap and encourage my Dionysian moment. I complied willingly.

The thing with being alone on a dance floor with no rehearsed dance is this: it intimidates lesser men, but invigorates dance genies. I dug down with my felt bottomed dance shoes and wiggled on one foot, then the other. My arms were flailing in a rhythmic seizure that was driven by this ridiculous song that I would never listen to on the radio… but the moment had chosen me; I had not chosen the moment.

A little Michael Jackson stepping out flowed into James Brown shebang, then Jackie Wilson frenzy, some Mick Jagger swagger, alongside  Elvis windmills. I mimed a big rope and pulled myself across the dance floor somehow with sliding feet and yanking arms. At 58 years of age I did not dare to drop into James Brown splits nor attempt any flips or extreme gymnastics moves. I did spin, flagellate, whirl and dervish as that song kept going on and on. Three minutes and twelve seconds does not seem like a big deal, but if you are in Uncle Bill and Aunt Mal seizure mode, trust me, it’s a long time. My heart was racing; breath was ragged; shirt soaked in sweat. The mockers were shocked into belief and wonderment. As I threw myself down onto my chair, high fives, back pats, and verbal praises showered on me. I drank two glasses of water and tried to get my heart to slow down. Whew! that was just one song. The master singer dancers did that for two hours while singing!!

Fortunately or not, no one had filmed the arrhythmic writhing. Still, it became legend in our circle of dance friends. And you know how that goes… “When are you gonna do the funky whiteboy dance again?” Fortunately or not, New Year’s Eve 2015 came around. Same deal, different hotel and band. One of our dance gang managed to get to the new danceable music band and arranged a “Funky Music Whiteboy” rendition. Although  I was sick with a sinus infection, I dug down into the funky whiteboy dance reserves where I had carefully stored dance steps like savings bonds since the age of 10. For three plus minutes I gave the gathered throng all the funky whiteboy I could muster, plus a flying twist, double axle, chasse nudge along. These are technical terms that I will not define here. I sat down and drank a pitcher of ice water, waiting for the coroner to pronounce me dead.  Again, effusive backslapping congratulations were spread on me like mustard on a summer grilled hot dog, which I pretended not to relish. “Just doing my choreographic best, representing for the hood.” Like the year before, strangers gave me that look later on, as if I had been the streaker at a ball game earlier, and they knew it even if I had my clothes on now. Smirks come with the territory of mating behavior displays.Creepy voyeurs!

And then there was last night at the breast cancer auction/dinner/dance. Unlike my two previous performances, I knew this one was coming, expected even. Michelle, the host of the event, had been one of my witnesses just two and half months ago. She told my wife that she was gonna call me out for the funky whiteboy dance.  The pressure was enormous. Keep in mind that I am not a trained dancer but a rogue entertainer. I drank several Yuenglings to fully hydrate and lubricate myself predance. Yet, when they announced that I was gonna do it, I was in the bar around the corner ordering white wine. I came back to the ballroom to empty tables and chairs. Everyone was up dancing the wobble, led by the sweatmaster Kirk. Well, no sooner had I set my glass down than Michelle cued up Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy and the crowd parted for me to gesticulate and watubiate like I do.

I was maybe a minute into the scene when a tall woman in a silky blouse and tight black pants and black high heels made my one man show a duo. I was confused and a bit scared of her unguarded willingness. She shimmied and mirrored the parts of my routine that are not copyrighted. She was way more into this kinetic chemistry experiment than I was, so I made runs like a bull or bull fighter to avoid appearing like a couple. Undeterred she approached suggestively close. I told her, “I went to Catholic School for five years”, hoping she’d laugh and lose my scent.

Finally it was all over. Frank, our dance instructor, told me later on that dancing makes you a chic magnet. Frankly, that scares me.

 

381.Decaf, Please

I shuffled in to the coffee shop this morning as usual, hoping to get a muffin and medium coffee for the breakfast I skipped as I did yoga moves in front of CNN’s coverage of the Bloviator Trump’s vast empire of victories. “He’s only saying what all of us think. He’s not into any punkass thuggery political correctness. Nosirree.” Wow!! That (sorta) said by a former vice presidential candidate, who, God forbid, would have been one heartbeat away from leading the Free World. [Is it too late to charge John McCain with treason for selecting her for vp?]  Sarah Palin speaks in word salads, uttering tortured words and phrases in ways no one else can master or understand, nor should they. Except maybe lunatics from another dimension.

Whew!  Pink Floyd sings “the lunatic is in the hall, the lunatics are in the hall” in “Brain Damage” on Dark Side of the Moon. Never a truer word, but nowadays the lunatics are in the Convention Hall counting delegates. “The paper holds their  folded faces to the floor, and every day the paper boy brings more.” Whatever that means, I affirm, is just as valid as the trifling tripe that spews out of Palin’s pouty lips. She’s mad, I tell you, Mad. And still the crowds erupt in applause. Doesn’t matter if she’s speaking in Norwegian to Eskimos at the Equator. I guess they applaud because the demonic seizure is over. Commence the snake handling. That’s when the other theys bring out Hillary dolls and set them on fire while punching professional wrestlers hired to be beaten with wooden gavels. “Punch him in the face and I’ll pay your legal fees.” …. “We all love one another,” says the Strong Man. “It’s a veritable love fest. Woodstock for bigots. Who doesn’t love a pin the tail on the donkey game with hunting knives, or a beat the snot out of a Hillary piñata?”

So I opened the green door to the coffee shop and walked across the dull white asphalt tiles. A whacked-out unmedicated crone leaped out of her seat and screamed at my beige suede slip on shoes. Her eyes were wild. So was her hair and the clothes she swam in. I was surprised, as if a strange dog had come nipping at my heels. She spoke in mixed green salad talk– some iceberg, some kale, some spinach, some dandelions. Radishing, so it was.  I’m not sure that any of the patrons who witnessed this verbal affront could recall the blather verbatim. It was hysterical and guttural, full of anger but no thought. She might as well have accosted me in Mandarin Chinese. I know all of the invertebrate patrons went quiet and made shocked faces at the crone’s shoe mating display. Her tail feathers were spread out to make her look bigger and more intimidating. Everyone shrank back from the crazy.

I figured out in a half second that she was psychotic and was not taking the 15 medications she had just recently flushed down her toilet. I replied, “Yes, Ma’am” to her mad, Palinesque verbal pecking.  She came at me again like a goat at a matador  training camp, more comic than threatening. More gobbledeegook gushed out of her pie hole. She turned; gathered her purse and whatnot; and stomped out the door. Whew!! Crank up the Pink Floyd…

“And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room upon the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

I  scurried off to my office and worked the other side of the psychological street, non psychotic folks who managed to regulate their feelings, make appointments, and verbalize their issues. No word salads. No Chinese. No Norwegian. No Eskimos.

I  went back through the green door for lunch, thinking it was safe to get back in the water,  so to speak. I was mistaken. While waiting in line behind a collared priest, a usually shy woman named Who came up to me with a smile and a half hug, something I had never witnessed from her before. “How are you, Who?”

“Great. I’m on Abilify now”, she offered loudly and fast.

“That’s terrific.” I wanted to ask her if she’d slept in the last three days and if she was hallucinating at the moment, but she had that tequila smile and a lusty look going on in her eyes.

She asked about my wife and daughter and then volunteered that she needs to take my daughter to  New York to make a record with her brother who works in a recording studio. Whoa! It was on now, buddy.

Mercifully, young S’mantha waited on me promptly and I sat down to eat. Who continued talking non stop and loudly to the next woman in line behind us. “You need to leave that man. He’s abusing you”, she nearly shouted. “Call Women in Need. Get a PFA. That’s what I did.” Who was becoming aggressive verbally as she invaded personal space and ignored social grace.

Then she swung around to sit opposite me. My lucky day. Two nutty nuts on the same day. I didn’t even have to go to them; they came to me both times. Who continued talking in the textbook manic manner. I asked her if she had slept recently.

“They made me sleep for 7 and a half hours last night.”

“Who did, Who?”

“The doctor.”

“Which one?”

“The best one in town.”

“Who is that?”

“I’m not saying.”

Just then a behavioral health professional walked by in a white lab coat. Who said hello and obviously recognized her. “I saw you last night. Where are you working now? I need a therapist.”

Lab Coat smiled and said while nodding at me, “You have a therapist.”

Panic shot across my medulla oblongata. I held my breath so I would not vomit.

“He’s not my therapist. He’s my friend.”

Relief and concern arm wrestled armlessly.

Fortunately Who had to get to an appointment or go swimming. She couldn’t decide.

“Well, it’s a bit chilly for swimming today.”

Guffaw. “I swim at the Y. That’s where the police found me last time. I just kept swimming for hours.”

As she left, Andrea asked if I noticed a change in personality with Who.

“Just a bit, like 359 degrees. You know, you ought to apply to United Way for funding a drop in center for the demented. Just video record a typical day here and they will write you a check. A big one. Boom!”

I scanned my way to the door and asked S’mantha, “You blogging this one or am I?”

“It’s yours.”

“Awesome.”

380. A Leonard Cohen kind of day

If you get bummed out listening to Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, or Neil Young, or relentless icy rain on the roof for that matter, and think you can’t get any lower, there is always Leonard Cohen, the Canadian opiate poet songwrier. He’s deadly beauty in commotion that flows out of a bottomless, abandoned coal mine throat. Ghosts and steam rise out of echoing shafts leading from his tortured, half-buried, dying heart. He reminds me of steam grates on a New York City winter day that fumigate passersby in mysterious vapor, where homeless folks try to sleep under funky layers of old newspapers fished out of trash cans… and Leonard is the heat source way down below, brewing bitter beer in Hell. I’d recognize his voice anywhere, “Hello again, Leonard. I thought that was you, man. Come on in.”

I used to listen to Leonard back in college, the early 70’s. If you were feeling edgy or sad, making a noose maybe, he could fix that by totally obliterating any residual hope or joy in just one song. He could kick the chair out from under your dead weight and leave you literally hanging. His song “Suzanne” used to slither through my consciousness and bump into dirty laundry piles of longing and melancholy.  I smoked filterless cigarettes then, having little concern about my health or future or anyone else’s. Leonard Cohen’s songs hung in the air like blue tobacco smoke in a sealed coffin room, permeating the clothes and furniture fabric there. They moved me off any easy rock and roll street I might have been dancing across, away from sensitive singer songwriters who offered love and hope and happiness. Instead, raw, slow Leonard lightning would hit my solar plexus and bring me just short of my knees, dry heaving at his truths… dark truths that would conjure tears I had no idea existed in me. Hauntingly sad, brutal beauty stirred in my guts, deep calling out to deep. It must be the foolish, self defeating Irish in me that sags and lingers over the Pieta or a lonely Corot landscape. I remain enthralled and fascinated by tragedy.

All those guys  come from up north, come to think of it. Leonard & Neil–Canada, Dylan–Minnesota, Lou Reed–New York. Hmmm, Joni Mitchell is Canadian also, and she could toss your soul into a deep well in two stanzas, ropeless and hopeless. I know depression rates rise at you move away from the equator, so consider this observation one more proof of the intersection of psychological pathology and geography. North of  42* N equals longitudinal attitudinal dysregulation. Jimmy Buffet comes from the Gulf Coast. And lots of other rockers came out of L.A., Southern California. I think you see the sunshine pattern, right?

Wet, gray, cold, low pressure days simply elapse like trash fires that smolder all day. Not enough oxygen or fuel to thrive. It’s hard to tell what time of day it is. 10 a.m. looks the same as 4 p.m. so your sense of time is skewed further, even though we turned the clocks ahead Sunday morning. My watch and car clock are still an hour behind. I’ll change them when I’m good and ready, okay? Maybe by default in the fall. I love the old cynical observation that even a broken clock is right twice a day. So even the clown who refuses to set his clocks ahead is correct twice a day? No, I guess he just remains behind. He’s not broken just stupid.

What is time anyway other than man’s feeble attempt to measure and then control nature? I’m sure Leonard Cohen has something to say about time. His song “Closing Time”, as a matter of opinion, feels like battery acid on the tongue and a fork in the eye. The video version is shot in black and white because the lyrics and mood are so not colorful. People and clothes and chairs float across the screen as he moans the fallen angel lyrics. Yeah, there is beauty in brokenness, but you need an unbroken background to appreciate the ruins. If all the world looked like Detroit or Syria, photographers would find other subjects for their lenses. These desolate places can strike visceral chords in us because we have seen pristine beauty, ordered and glorious. A little Detroit or Aleppo goes a long way, thank you.clostimevid

This is true of Leonard Cohen as well. Ruins and ghettos, devastation and devolution have no future. Cold, wet late winter days must yield to pure spring bursting forth Life’s force. It must and shall overcome the doom and gloom of desperation. It’s not any more naïve to believe in redemption than it is to believe in eternal damnation. The bitter existentialist says, “This is it. There is no more. Suck on it.” I prefer to wait and see for myself for what lies beyond. I expect one day Chernobyl will be the name of a nice medium sweet red wine and not a nuclear disaster story.

Then again there is Leonard’s “Hallelujah”, written way back in 1984. It winds through the historically religious use of hallelujah while also moving beyond exclusively religious context. This holy word is given common purpose, affirming the Life force beyond (or is it beneath?) King David, more like his adulterous passion. Leonard mingles the profane with the holy as he moves between choruses of Hallelujahs, claiming there are two versions of Hallelujah, a holy and a broken one. In his last verse Leonard seems to give a proclamation: despite or because of all his shortcomings, he will praise the Lord of Song with his broken hallelujah.

Yeah, and as usual he cuts your heart in two– one auricle for you, one for me. One ventricle for you, the other for me. Wine pumps through one side, formaldehyde cures the other. Leonard, you kill me… but please, will you sing this at my funeral?

379.Unglued

Unbelievable. My second vinyl fake wood floor is letting go of the subfloor again, and I am getting perturbed, which is a combination of per(fume) and turb(ulent), i.e., turbulent smelling, in the Australian dialect, “Crikey Mate, don’t maaahke may explaaain.” I am mystified yet again why flooring adhesive that is universally accepted by other subfloors and composite vinyl floor products refused to bond in my office hallway. It’s not in vitro fertilization here. It’s basically just a big peanut butter sandwich on the floor… but the peanut butter is mysteriously disintegrating. What?>>>??

I imagine the chipper sales guy at the big flooring store is going to have to get tough and throw down on this one. He was quite accommodating on the first floor failure, a regular Guy Smiley. “Hey, it happens now and then. Chet probably didn’t let the glue set up long enough. We all make mistakes. Sorry about the inconvenience.” I’m thinking that this time it won’t go as gently and he will have to blame the customer for crimes against plywood substrates or something just as ludicrous. He’ll probably send out his fixer dude, like the Mafia does, to clean up messes with a lot of bleach.

“Hi, Lawrenc Proctor, from CSI… ” chews audibly on spearmint gum, “Customer Service Intervention. Friends call me Larrrrry. Enemies don’t call.  Heh, heh. After  a cursorory inspection, I can see clearly that your building has excess moisture and/or vapors that seep into our very reliable products. Bottom line is this: the failure of the adhesive to bond is exclusively on your side of the equation, my man. See, my company has paid two unrelated guys to install quality flooring twice already. We can’t go three.” Demonstrates with fingers next to a menacing face.

Continues, “Makes me wonder if we don’t have Munchausen’s vinyl floor syndrome. Ever hear of it? Only known cure is full exposure to the light of truth.”

“I’m aware of Munchausen’s Disorder and Munchausen’s by proxy. Both involve the  factitious presentation of illness in order to gain unjustified attention from high status medical personnel. What on earth does that have to do with your flooring not sticking twice?”

“I think you do know what’s up, Doc. I am a doctor too, in a manner of speaking. Floor doctor.  Flooring people are drawn to my aura like moths to flame.  But the flame is hot, let me tell you.”

Whipping around dramatically with a finger in my face, “Did you spray a silicone product on your floor prior to the first installation. You installed the subfloor, right?”

“No! I mean, Yes! I did install the subfloor, but your own installer actually complimented my subflooring installation. I know in my spleen that’s not the problem. No, I did not spray anything on it. Besides, why would I sabotage my own floor for which I paid your imbecilic company $800?”

“Simple: Attention. You work alone all day. I’m sure it gets hard and lonely at times, huh Buddy? You’d like to hang out with the big dogs, right?  Maybe write your own blog. I get it… but there are healthier ways to relate to flooring professionals. You could go to the annual conference in Rochester, just for starters.”

“I can’t believe this. Don’t start patronizing me, Larry. You are welcome to inspect my subfloor after you remove your second sucky vinyl floor application. Munchausen’s!! Unbelievable!”

“Lemme tell you why that’s not going to happen. I believe you know that the silicone would have been absorbed in the first layer of vinyl and left a residue that polluted the seal of the second. You are good, Mr. Burrito. Crazy good, leaving no evidence except the faint scent of WD40, which I detected as soon as I reached the top step here. Ahh, yes, the almost perfect flooring deception. You nearly pulled it off.”

“I’m willing to grant that one of us is insane, but I’m not surrendering to that label just yet, okay? Ever hear of Lawsuit Syndrome? It happens when a jerk contractor  defrauds his customer and tries to slink away from contractual obligations and product warrantees. It’s only known cure is expensive litigation in court.”

“Now, let’s not get testy here, sir. No need to get upset. I’m sure our regional manager can help you reach resolution to your problem. He’s in our Harrisburg office, next to the state hospital, and I ‘m sure he’d be glad to meet you up there or at the coffee shop of the hospital, just off Second Street and Chestnut.”

“No. You are not going to pawn me off onto someone else who lies better than you do. What is he? A floor surgeon or a floor psychiatrist? Here’s what’s gonna happen:  You are going to replace my floor and get it right or else refund my money and I’ll have a competent floor installer do the job. Or we can do this in court over an expensive lawsuit with court costs that you will pay. This is not my first rodeo with a bad business dude.”

“Are you threatening me? You need to know that I have a permit to carry and discharge a 50,000 volt Tazer. If I were you, I’d stop resisting.”

“Okay, that’s it! I’m calling the police. And I need to warn you that I am carrying idiot spray, also known as bug and hornet foaming pesticide. I can accurately shoot a disabling jet stream within a two inch target radius from 22 feet, Larry. Draw!!”

Before the crackles and zaps of Larry Tazer even began to sputter, I had hit him with a liquid ounce of Spectracide Wasp and Hornet spray at the bridge of his nose. Predictably he began to gasp and cry that he was blinded and could not breathe. I grabbed him by his ear and he begged for mercy. “Take me to the hospital, man, for the love of God!”

I told him to take a message back to his boss– “Larry Proctor does not sleep with the fishes… yet. Don’t send fools to do a wise guy’s work.”

Baron Burrito von Munchausen

 

 

378. Go Dog Go

One of my children’s favorite bedtime stories was a simple book called Go Dog Go by PD Eastman. It was/is so uncomplicated and innocent, just like childhood should be. Dogs race around in cars and stop at this absurdly large tree canopy to party like wild dogs. Through out the nearly plotless story two dogs meet sporadically and the female asks the male, “Do you like my hat?” to which he replies, “No” and then they race off while the narrator says, “Go Dog Go”. Wonderfully childish stuff. The climax of the book is when the male dog finally says, “Yes” to the female’s last hat offering and they go together to the tree party. Silly, simple, unsophisticated. Only a child would enjoy such a book.

Singularly uncluttered illustrations left a lot of empty white space on each page so that the dogs in their cars were unmistakable. Lots of room too for a little girl with baby shampoo scented hair to lean against her dad and point to each silly dog with a tickled fascination. Which often led to a bit of real tickling and giggles. Sure, we know dogs don’t talk, drive cars or climb tall ladders into a cloud-like tree canopy to party, but we suspend some of what we know to sample little pizza slices of fantasy. Our little ones have less knowledge to suspend so it’s easier for them to fall upward into fantasy.

My grandbaby called me Dinosaur Grandpa recently during a Skype session. I didn’t catch the connection to any experience until her mom, my daughter, said, “Don’t you remember chasing Leah around the house at Christmas, pretending to be a dinosaur? You were going ‘Roar!! AAARGGGHHH!! Blaaaaaa!!’and crawled after Leah as she shrieked for her tiny life.” Well, yes I did, but I didn’t realize that would be a lasting distinction for her two months later. Makes you wonder about what the lasting impact of bad behavior would be on a little girl’s pure mind. (Scar tissue holds such children in thick bondage to past pains. Trust me on this one.) It’s a funny dance we do with our vulnerable ones who want to be chased and scared one minute and cuddled and reassured the next. Somehow, like coyote pups fighting one another in their mother’s den, our toddlers are hardening their knowledge of the big bad world, practicing safety and seeking security in fantasy play with trusted playmates.

The Wizard of Oz was a scary favorite movie for my kids. Watching as an adult is an entirely different experience than a five year old’s experience. The wicked witch was so real to my kids in their innocent worlds. They would curl up in a growing revulsion of Miss Gulch and then the Wicked Witch herself. Of course my girls identified with Dorothy and her magical ruby slippers, “glitter shoes” as my Jessi would call them. She had to have a pair of red glitter shoes. Once at church she tried to take a pair of gold glitter shoes off another little girl’s feet. Funny thing about those ruby slippers of Dorothy:  they protected her and drew deathly attention at the same time. Why is it that being a pretty girl with blingy shoes makes you both favored and targeted simultaneously? Not fair, but girls learn to harden themselves against the wickedness of the world. It’s not just in a movie.

Anne of Green Gables was a powerful series for me and my girls. Megan Follows stole our hearts along with all the cast in the Wonder Works tele-version of the classic series. We hated Rachel Lynde, the nasty nosey neighbor who warned Murilla  “orphans will poison your well”, planting the seed of doubt in stoic Murilla’s thinking. She mocked Anne’s red hair and lit her anger fuse. Quietly, though, Anne found comfort in Matthew, Murilla’s bachelor brother. He accepted and loved her, it was clear. My girls fell in love with these characters, and all of us wept when Matthew died in the story. This experience was not so much fantasy, though it was not real. Like some folks do today with Downton Abbey, we used to cancel competing activities so that we could be home on Sunday evenings to watch the next installment of Anne, our new best friend. We even once planned a trip that we never took to Prince Edward Island. It was just too expensive or we were too strapped financiallyOh well, I hope to be present with my granddaughter when she meets these lovely characters. Perhaps we will finally make it to PEI after all.

All three of my daughters became big readers, which pleases me to no end. Reading good literature is like crosstraining for your mind. You meet the most interesting people and places and time periods in novels. Whether it’s To Kill a Mockingbird, another dark favorite that pits childhood innocence against institutional adult racism, or Little House on the Prairie, my girls found enough reality traction that drew them in emotionally and intellectually to other times and places, hearts and minds. They will forever be different for the better because of these experiences. As good as the movies are, they never approach the novel’s glorious gift of a limitless imagination. In the safety of a book’s pulpy pages my girls could paint their own pictures of the awesome Laura Ingalls Wilder or brave Scout, creepy Boo Radley or wise Atticus Finch.

Here is my conclusion. It’s a beautiful thing to watch your kids grow in knowledge, wisdom, love and experience, from the simplest to the most complex levels.  I’d gladly sign up for those days again with the hope that I would be wiser, more loving and patient the second time around.  I guess that’s what grandparenting is all about, though. You get a do over with the next generation…

“Do you like my hat?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then let’s go, Dog, go. Wooohooo, party on the tree top!!”

“Read it again, Granpa.”

Whispering, “Will you chase me like a dinosaur.”

Whispering  back, “Okay, ready?”

Nodding with grinning expectation and dancing eyes.

“Roaaaarrrr!! Arrrggghhhh. BLAAAAAA!!”

“No, no. Don’t eat me.”

“You better go, Dog, go.”

“eeek shriek eeek giggle badabuump. All fall down.”

The End.

377. Playing Horseshoes in the Dark

“I haven’t been myself lately. You know, communicating fairly. I’ve just been stuck on the recliner while my incisions heal. The less I can do, the more I want to control my husband and kids, who are doing the best they can to step up for me. It’s not right, I know. I just can’t help myself. I’m hypercritical when I should be hyper grateful,” moaned Sheila with mild anger and smoldering self disgust.

Eddie, her husband responded, “She’s been meaner than a badger. I went into overdrive because I know how she likes to keep the house. I gave 150% until yesterday when she nitpicked me about something stupid. I lost it. I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me!’ So I just quit. Shut down totally. It’s hard enough to do double time with appreciation and support. It’s impossible without it.”

“Yeah, I hear you. So Sheila, Eddie stepped up and gave it his all to carry your weight? Is that right?”

“Yes, he did a great job.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No, uh…uh…I…uh… just get so cranky and unfair…the words stick in my throat. I should be doing it.”

“Telling him or doing the work yourself?”

“Doing the housework. It’s my job and I want it done my way.”

“Look, I don’t know any other guy who would do the stuff I do. I’m not bragging; just telling the truth. I’m not your typical husband.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t you tell Eddie he is exceptional.”

“I want to… I just have this Miss INDEPENDENCE streak in me that is so angry. I should be doing all the stuff he’s been doing. It’s my responsibility and I’m disgusted with myself.”

“And you are taking out your anger on me and the kids!!”

“But you can’t do the work, Shelia. That’s your doctor’s order. Right?”

“Yes, but it makes me feel so out of control.”

“Sheila, Eddie needs to hear how he’s doing. Otherwise it’s like playing horseshoes in the dark.”

“I’m not following you.”

“Imagine Eddie is throwing horseshoes in the pitch dark. He thinks he knows where the target is and how far away the stake is. He’s throwing blindly, hoping to hear metal hit metal, like a bat operating on sonar. You need to tell him if he’s hit the target or not. Is he close?  Your words are like light for him. The more  you tell him, the higher the wattage bulb for the horseshoe metaphor.”

“Where do you come up with this stuff? Do you play horseshoes?”

“No, I’ve just been married for a long time. So, can you tell him he is exceptional and that you appreciate his efforts?”

Deep breath, “Honey, you are exceptional. And, and, uh, I don’t know any other man who would do what you do willingly. You know my expectations and jump to meet them. Thank you. I do appreciate you. Will you forgive me for being such a bitch? I’m just so disgusted with my uselessness.”

Eddie, “Absolutely. Thanks. I forgive you. I love you, not what you do.”

Sheila smiling, ” Whew! That was pretty simple. Hard but simple.”

“Like killing someone, huh? It’s not complicated, but it is hard.”

Eddie, “The horseshoe image clicks with me. If you don’t tell me what’s up, Babe, then I am in the dark, just guessing at what you need. Keeping me in the dark handicaps, no, dooms me to fail. I can’t fix what you don’t tell me. If you do share your thoughts and feelings…well, it’s like everything lights up, even the horseshoes. That would be awesome to have neon lit stakes and shoes.”

Sheila, “Oh, how cute, Eddie. That would be fun!”

Eddie, reaching for Sheila’s open hand, “Yeah, that’s my girl.”

“You two are too young to be Led Zepellin fans, I guess. But they had a hit song called “Communication Breakdown” in the ’70’s. Let’s see, click on lyrics…. there.”Image result for led zeppelin album covers

Hey girl stop what you’re doin’!
Hey girl you’ll drive me to ruin.
I don’t know what it is that I like about you
But I like it a lot.
Won’t you let me hold you
Let me feel your lovin’ charms.
Communication breakdown
It’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insane!
“What I like is how the song bursts out impatiently in the guitar licks to reinforce the content of the lyrics. It just wouldn’t work as a slow number. Likewise, when we talk to one another under stress, we need to slow down and be totally clear.”
Eddie, “We’re more into classic Country music, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta.”
“Yeah, sure. Stand By Your Man. One of my favorites. Let’s get that up here…”
Stand By Your Man

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times
Doin’ things that you don’t understand
But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man.
Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.

 

Eddie, “That’s a real woman.

Sheila, “Bullseye, Buddy. That’s how I want to be for you.”

Eddie, “Deal! Man, I love counseling!”

Sheila, tugging on Eddie’s wrist,  “Is it just me or did it get a lot hotter suddenly?”

Eddie, “Definitely you got hotter. Let’s go home, Sweetie. Doc, can you give us a few seconds alone? I think I have a double ringer twirling on the flagpole of love. How about that? Poe tree.”

Sheila, “I like it, you big farrier.”

“I’ll be in the front room listening to Barry White songs if you need me.”

 

 

 

376. Precision Dawdling

The Nation met this morning and inspired me as usual to chronicle this meaningless meeting of human mediocrity. Let me first say that tomorrow is my 60th birthday and the fellas knew it. Steve and Doug were waiting with a chocolate chip muffin on a napkin. Adorning the muffin were two wiggle candles, one yellow and the other green, that resembled DNA strands without the connecting rungs… or bug antenna set on fire. Pick the one you feel is more appropriate. A plastic conifer tree stood at attention in the center, guarded by a plastic clown head that somehow resembled Donald Trump. I was touched as I snuffed out the two snakey candles and peeled the wax paper cup liner off the base of the muffin. MMMMm, not a bad way to start Coffee Nation.

No sooner had I begun eating my muffin than Joel arrived in a spiffy gray pinstriped suit with a black bow tie. Sharp as a diamond studded platinum tack in Al Sharpton’s silky lapel. Steve compared him to Harrison Ford in his fashionable tableau. I just called him Hair Ass, Son, with an Asian accent, and left it at that. Joel noted that his deceased father-in-law celebrated the same birthday as I. “He lived to be 99… and was a miserably smart, horse’s ass who disdained me from the get go.” Harsh words from the usually mild mannered Joel, but I was beginning to see things that only a father-in-law can perceive. Well, that eruption struck me as a methane burp from old decomposing feelings.  Therefore, I decided to share my evaporating weird dream from last night so as to steer a new course for Joel’s psychic dingy, away from the wicked shoals of cranky coral.

I was getting dressed , somewhere in my dream, for the birthday dinner party my wife had set up at the Gourmet Goat in Hagerstown. She had invited 15 folks to join us. We were waiting in a familiar glass house having a glass of wine with vague anticipation, or was it dread? Oddly, Donald Trump was a guest and behaving unpredictably civil. I asked him, “Donald, would you like a drink?” He declined without a bit of attitude, insisting that he did not drink alcohol and loved Mormons, Muslims, Morons, Mandalas, Mandelas, Mandolins, and that was just the M’s. Though it did look like he was passing a kidney stone.

The house began to fill with cousins whose names I did not even know.  They looked familiar and were dressed up for the dinner party.  I counted heads like my border collie does with folks in my house. He likes to keep inventory. He was abandoned by an accountant who moved to Oklahoma with the petrochemical surge in 2010. Fracking idiot!  I was keenly aware that we had way too many Indians for our reservation. As I looked around in my dreamscape I saw my sister-in-law and her kids; my wife’s cousins and their kids; and a deceased aunt who told me, ” I knew you wouldn’t invite me so I invited myself.” She looked good for a dead woman; wore a nice white satin dress; hair perfectly coiffed. Things were getting weird, though, and as  usual my bladder nerve was the director of this movie, so visuals started pulsing faster and faster. My dream self searched frantically for a bathroom or a bush.

That’s when Steve from Coffee Nation pulled into the driveway in a red car. He was early as usual, but had to go buy a helium party balloon at the grocery store. He was in a hurry and no one was in the empty Giant store. Creepy. Being an engineering genius, he went to the helium tank and inhaled two lungs full of the gas… and began to float like a Macy’s Thanksgiving blimp. He grabbed onto a shopping cart for ballast and sort of bounced out of the store, hovering six feet above the ground, resembling a gymnast on a runaway jet ski, only it was all in whoa slowa motion.

Meanwhile back at the house everyone else took off in various vehicles for the restaurant, leaving me behind to select a sports coat. As I exited the newly acquired second story, I realized that I was in Mexico, far south of the restaurant. Just then a Jeep with four Mexican soldiers showed up and arrested me in Spanish. I tried to explain to them that I had reservations for 15 at a restaurant north of the border, but they just looked at me like I was speaking English. I made a run for it up a flight of stairs that simply ended above a walled garden. Two little girls ran around me, teasing me with toilet paper and the key to the locked bathroom door that stood across the courtyard.  I heard the heavy footsteps of the Mexican gendarmes pounding up the stairs behind me. I closed my eyes and took a leap of faith.

I braced myself for a hard landing, but when I opened my eyes I found I was standing on Steve’s back, just like I was surfing without water beneath me. Wordlessly I communicated to him that he needed to vent some gas so that we could get moving laterally as the gendarmes lowered their rifles and aimed at me/us. He complied and we took off in a zip. In dream time it was a matter of seconds before we arrived above the restaurant 2,000 miles away. I know because Steve was singing Margaritaville and only had time for two lines…

“I stepped on a pop tart,

let out a big fart…”

The next thing I knew I was droning above the multitude as one of my cousins ordered a shark steak off the menu. Suddenly a 14 foot bull shark crashed onto the table and devoured him. The rest of the party looked away and ordered the chicken in unison.

The fellas interrupted my mad tale so that Doug could present me with a brown tee shirt he had made up for me. It had a nice coffee logo with Coffee Nation written boldly in a circle. On the front chest where pockets usually go was a smaller version with Supreme Leader underneath. I was touched, but wait, there’s more. Doug folded the front of the shirt up like a belly reveal shirt and upside down in white letters it read, “You need to GROWASET”. It was utterly perfect precision dawdling.

 

375. Ahhhh

“AHHHHHHH!!!” The sound rushes out of me unconsciously on this first warm sun-filled day. I don’t even try to take a deep breath, but I do anyway as I  cross the street with a sudden skip in my stride. Expansive energy, so hard to find all winter as I watched for ice patches and slush pools, rises in my perky legs. The sapphire sky expands above, letting out its belt a comfy notch or two. Winter is all about conserving heat and avoiding wind and rain, looking down, shriveling up. But today I’m wearing my hushpuppy suede shoes, knowing that rain is not forecast; and my eyes seek the happy unhooded horizon.  What the heck!  Ahhh, my body is not cramped from all the chillension that comes with freezing rain and driven snow. Spring is not far off; it can’t be. The birds are swarming over farms again. Squirrels are busily digging up their final acorns buried last fall. I can nearly taste the lilacs of spring as surely as I have smelled snow coming. “Slow down in the sun”, my body whispers to my peppy self. “Soak up that vitamin D and smile back at the strengthening sun.” Good advice, body. ‘Ahhhh, thank you, thank you, very much’, I imagine a relaxed Elvis telling me.

A Southern man awakens in me, urging civility, bourbon, and slow cooked pulled pork with three sides. “Ahhh said, Ahhh said, boy, you gotz to get on yo’ hammock and sway in the gentle Gulf breezes. Bad timez and worries, they’ll wait for ya’ll. Aint no future in hurryin. Soon they’ll be a buryin you. Bourbon refill? They ya go. Life and good bourbon be for sippin’ not gulpin’. Yeah, you know it’s true when the warm starts in yo’ belly an yo legs feel like jelly.”

Ahhh, slipping into a hot bath, I don’t even notice that same utterance leaves my mouth till it bounces back off the tiled wall. My low back is pinched at two points and the hot water is like an old lover who knows just what to say. “Hello, tendon. It’s been a long time, I know.  Babydoll, you remember how to stretch, don’t you? Just call all your jangled dandelion neurons together and blow. Blow them all away. Now hold me like you did when we were both young.”

Or slipping into a swimming pool in Tucson when it’s 100 degrees in the sun, “Ahhh” pours out of every skin pore and a choir of ten toenails shouts “Amen”. Your plump earlobes and even the back of your starched throat relax. The hushing almost sounds like water poured on a campfire but not quite so spitty and sputtery. These ahhhs are not about the sharp end of anything but the smooth start of something soothing… silver butter knives spreading warm cream cheese on a perfectly toasted, honey soaked bagel. Yeah, baby. I am a wearer of my hobbled senses now in the post-Ahhhh era. Oh, and they fit like spankz on a summer night. [Not that I have worn spankz on any night, I’m just free styling here, blogapotomases. Curb your kinky thoughts or I will delete you for ever, ever. Don’t try me.]

The first sip of good coffee early in the chill, misty morning or a sip of cold lemonade on a stagnant summer afternoon elicit the same Ahhhhh. “Yeah, that’s good.” Deep answers deep out in the next orbit beyond the material world. It’s the place where Buddhist monks chant Ummmmmmmmm for centuries. Occasionally we crack open a window, not even thinking but just being random… and we hear the monks’ UMMMMMMMM vibrato massage the marrow of our tired bones. Ahhhh. It is the window of whapportunity, whatever that may be. Leave it open to the saffron sound waves and your soul will merge with your rhythm and blues inside a symphony of sandalwood incense. Trippy, yes?  AHHHHHH. [***This is still a drug free blog workspace, just in case you were wondering. I submit to weekly random drug tests every Tuesday at noon.]

The long yawn after a deep night’s sleep filled with dreams of delight and awe.  Awake without full control of your limbs, ahhhhh. Man, that resets everything, as half tears lubricate the corners of my eyes. It’s all good, Momma. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Let Stevie Wonder sing. ’cause I’ll be standing on the side when you check it out.

When you go to your doctor, and the doc wants to look  at your throat, what sound is required? The universal Ahhhh. The sound is part of what is known as the therapeutic response. When your chiropractor adjusts your spine, what do you say?  Ahhhhh. And your masseuse or masseur rubs that coiled snake knot out of your trapezius muscle, what’s the word?  Yeah,  Ahhhhh. It is a gasp of relief and pleasure simultaneously experienced. When a difficult problem is finally solved, Charlie Chan says what?  “Ahhh so”. When a rescued damsel in distress gratefully hugs and kisses John Wayne, what’s he say? “Ahhh shucks ma’am. Tweren’t nothin but a thing.” When Bill Clinton was caught in his spankzy moments, what did he say? “Ahhhh, I feel your pain.”

The first cousin of Ahhhh is Awwwww. It is the irresistible response to cuteness. You see your little grandbaby and up rises the vowel of oy gushed through contented vocal chords. Awwww. Golden retriever puppies nip and play with each other on a blanket across from their reclining mother. You just can’t help it. Awww, so I have noticed, is more often uttered by females than by males. And Ahhhh is more often uttered by males. Why?  It would take several volumes of deep psychobabble to even begin to explain this phenomenon. For now, trust me and enjoy the moment. Awwright?