436. The Cruise To Hell

 

It was years ago in late fall that we arrived at the dock in Baltimore to board the massive cruise ship Discordia (POA Lines) to the Bahamas. All expenses paid, all food, all drink, all entertainment, all rights and responsibilities, prepaid by someone else on a credit card with unbelievable rates forever. Who? We’ll get to that. Needless to say, it was a feast, a feastival, Thanksgiving on the high seas. What could be better? But whom does one thank for such luxury?

Ten stories or more soared up above the harbor waters. We took the gangplank up and then a glass elevator above the glittering lobby to our floor, seventh or eighth. We had a little window balcony and two beds. A bathroom slightly larger than an old fashioned phone booth. Unnecessary really, since the party was 24/7. Once we’d put our baggage away, we began to explore the narrow hallways, the grand staircases, the endless murals of Renaissance nudes merrily debauching their fantasy lives away.

The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Peter Paul Rubens

 

Hmmm, that’s subliminally norming lewd and lascivious behaviors. Sort of classical pornography, if that is not too much of a stretch. The pantomimed message, “Drink, lust, seize, surrender your soul, revel in the flesh.” But it’s just wallpaper, right? Not hypnosis.

The crew were quietly efficient with shiny skin and flaming eyes. They were present to meet every earthly need we might conjure up. We could not guess that behind lustrous ivory teeth their tongues had been removed. Even the band on the lido deck played songs appropriate for surrendering the flesh… “Hotel California”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Positive Vibration”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in a loop. As the huge ship plowed out of the Chesapeake Bay, under the double span of the Bay Bridge, the guests’ vibe changed like a new set of clothes, from almost winter to almost nothing. We slipped collectively into a new groove, into babbling citizens of a shining suburb of Babylon, Babble On, Babble On… Onward toward the dark islands where black slaves had produced bleached white sugar for lily white Europeans not so long ago.

Once out of the Bay, countless stars glittered in the black skies above and reflected in the choppy black waters below. The power of this craft was unimaginable, able to hurtle three city blocks of human cargo forward at twenty knots per hour, cutting the horizon into two silver plumes. Our destination did not matter. The speed and power, the rhythmic momentum were all as if in a dream. Certainly, it was dreamlike. The monstrous engines below reverberated imperceptibly until sleep, when our dreams were massaged by their humming undertow. Gray noise.  Narcotically even. Such sleep! Such pleasures of the nether world suffused our naked minds and bodies.

By day two or three I began to sense something was not quite right. Everyone had every carnal need met almost before awareness of the need arose. Passengers used words like “nirvana” and “heaven” to describe their experience thus far. So saturated with luxury, they began to explore beyond usual prescribed boundaries. Couples began schmoozing with other couples and rubbing their legs shamelessly at the pool or in the hot tubs, toes touching erotic landing zones were met with excited giggles. No one seemed to object or even notice. It was all one good, fun, party. Since we were in international waters, no specific country’s law applied; and so the law of the jungle came to rule across the ship’s many splendid decks. Every one did what was good in his own eyes.

In the fine dining rooms guests ate with their hands while sitting in damp bathing suits. The staff smiled witlessly, encouraging beastly behaviors. They seemed to enjoy the mess. No worries.

Casino Table Games

Down in the casino everyone was a winner. No one lost. The signs at the slot machines and black jack tables said, “All winnings paid out at d’hotel Fornicatio, Nassau, in U.S. dollars tax free.” Unbelievable. The euphoria built up like a summer thunderstorm. Free money. Free booze. Free sex!!! The whole scene was like the hippie movement of the late 1960’s– no consequences. Free love. Guiltlessness gurgled gleefully.

Casino Slot Machines

And yet, yet, the fear of anarchy rose up with the ceaseless champagne bubbles hissing above every fluted glass. It’s not a party after five days of orgiastic efforts. It’s work to equal or exceed yesterday’s exploded boundaries. Mondays are for mojitos; Tuesdays are for tequila; Wednesdays are Wallbangers…. Thursdays are thoroughly debauched. Fridays are try it days. Saturdays, get saturated. Sunday… Anything goes. If you were conscious in the ’60’s, the reckoning was rough. After Woodstock a colossal mess was left behind on many levels.

Where is the port? We’ve been at sea for days now, I think. All the gluttonous activity topped off with lust and greed for more…. causes a loss of memory in the participants. Who knew Sloth was addictive?  It’s so easy to be less and less, to care less, and think less, and shame less. What land dwellers call morals are such a drag on the POA Lines.”Man, morals are like shells. If you don’t have any enemies, you don’t need any shells. Right?” The thing about Prince of the Air Lines is that they get it. Their motto:  You are free to be fully who you want to be, full throttle, full luxury, full time.

Finally our port is in sight, so says the Captain. But there has been a mistake. We veer away from Nassau and head toward another abandoned island to the west.

 

 

425. Just a disturbing thought…

Image result for candle in a test tube picture

As the current political atmosphere gets more and more toxic, and the barometric pressure jacks up ever higher, I’ve been wondering what would happen if the media just did not cover the White House for 24 hours, and then 48 hours. Rather than feed the bonfire of vanities on all sides, what if the oxygen (endless attention and ratings) needed to keep it burning were cut off? Back in middle school science class you probably had to place a candle into an inverted test tube to prove that fire uses up available oxygen. Then, when there is no more oxygen, the fire is no more. Remember how the flame suddenly extinguished and then smoke took up residence in the tube? Yeah, I do too.

411. It’s over… right?

 

The oligarchic Olympiad of the most un-presidential presidential election ever conducted on this planet is now over, isn’t it?  Please, God. Make it stop!  Two years and at least five billion dollars have produced…. what?  The Despicable with fewer votes loses. The Despicable with the larger number of votes gets to pull taffy with congress and the media for a while, until a hearing, special prosecutor, impeachment, or some other pair of concrete boots get shackled in place. But no, that does not even add up. The Despicable with the most popular votes lost, thanks to the electoral college system.  It’s hard to say which ruthless political hyena is the bigger loser. Oh yeah, but the biggest loser is our country, unfiltered and driven by idish fears where neither issues nor facts mattered in the end. Only the twin towers of fear and hate stood. Just take the gloves off and get violent. Take the mufflers off and get hostile. Turn the conscience off and spit all over the Other. Let there be no talk of reconciliation. No. No matter who won, it is a matter of Reload not Respect or Rapprochement. Fact deniers become verdict deniers and then history deniers. If you start with a pair of liars, you end with a frothing ocean of lies, breaking on our shores in wave after sickening wave of verbal garbage.

“But he lies more.”

“But her lies are worser.”

“No, he’s the worserest.”

“I know what you are, but what am I?”

And the wounded nation groans for the next generation.

I don’t ever recall the pure hatred of the other side as opposed to the firm declaration of difference in directions being outlined. My first election pitted Jimmy Carter against the un-elected, suddenly promoted in scandal, Gerald Ford. Good trivia question there:  which U.S. president was never elected president?  Oh, political science majors are drooling while googling. John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, and Chester Arthur are the others who moved from vice to full president after calamity. Death opened the door for these guys, whereas Watergate opened the door for poor old clumsy Gerry Ford, who was not even elected Vice President, to stumble through. Spiro Agnew was elected twice. Remember him? However, these stories pale by comparison to the political pornography we have been subjected to for the past two years. Death would have been more noble for the office of the President than drowning in this moral sinkhole of 2016.

The media have functioned as porn film makers. They are just giving the people what they want, so they say, while raking in record ratings and earnings. Pollsters, pundits, professional blatherers have all gotten on the porn wagon. It is its own parasitic industry, ticks feeding on the blood of a bleeding nation. Fear and hate keep audiences glued to their favorite news outlets, drinking their favorite flavor of hallucinogenic Kool Aid. The political porn stars, Don and Hill, are hideous caricatures of character, so flawed on so many levels.

And we are the insatiable audience for this reality television, twitter feed, Facebook war on civility. Peephole creepers. Is it over yet?  No. The new stink is just beginning.  That skunk odor will help sell air fresheners and cigars, and trips to mythical places that have never existed. The campaign culture bar was lowered below ground level so that future political limbo dancers will have to knee walk through Hell, heads bent backwards, sucking the dirt from the soles of the same old special interests, shamelessly squirming to dodge custom made land mines. Hey, it’s what ya gotta do.

“The name of the new boss is the same as the old boss.”  Oh, that won’t do. Let’s go full credit to the Who…

THE WHO     “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the songI’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Sure, it will be different. Sure. The triumph of fear and hate sandblasted the electorate’s moral compasses, leaving nuclear ghosts where soulful people used to reside. Ever seen a nuclear ghost?  They are the shadows of folks whose bodies were annihilated by atomic bombs in Japan.
Onward, patriots. It had to be done, this scorched earth political assault. Once we stopped seeing the Others as  human beings and demonized them, the bombs had to drop, right?
But it’s over now, right? Wrong.
Revisit Dover Beach sometime, it ends this way…
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 

404. Born to be Mild

Joel has been on the lam for the past three weeks or so. Could be a month. It’s been a social and intellectual drought in his absence. However, time is sketchy. At our age time is measured in sinus infections and colonoscopies. The sky won’t rain; the chickens won’t lay; and the cows will not come home. I don’t really want the cows to come home, mind you, but that leads right into one of Joel’s favorite movies, City Slickers.Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

If you recall, several rather impotent midlife crisis New York men go out west to a real working ranch to find and flex their manhood. Despite many challenges and setbacks, Billy Crystal transforms from some sort of fragile wimpy dud Dad insurance salesman into a true cowboy hero. He brings in the herd after the real cowboy leader (Jack Palance) dies. Crystal observes, “What did you expect?  He ate bacon three meals a day.” Let this be a warning to you lard inhaling bacon lovers. Do you want this epithet on your tombstone? “Killed by nitrates seared in salty pork fat.”Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

Similarly noted in Coffee Nation, “Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” That virile (or is it viral?) spirit led our mild mannered Joel out of Turtle Town onto a world class motorcycle trip into the Ozarks with several other biker dudes from around the world. You see, he recently purchased a three wheeled Spyder motorcycle, which is worthy of much envy. But our local roads could not contain nor constrain his Steppenwolf heart that beats beneath a sharp new leather vest, bursting with high test testosterone.Image result for steppenwolf band pictures

“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway

Lookin for adventure and whatever comes our way

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

I like smoke and lightning  heavy metal thunder

Racin’ with the wind and this feelin’ that I’m under

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen  Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

Like a true nature’s child  we were born, born to be mild

We can climb so high  never want to die.

Born to be mild.”

Before he left for his journey, I managed to wheedle him into a napkin will, where it was clearly stated in his inky hand, that in the event of his untimely death on the Tail of the Dragon trail, I would receive the Spyder, if it survived unscathed. I had the napkin notarized by Shirley, who calls me various men’s names and occasionally gets the right one. I was torn, however, between wanting to hear Joel’s road warrior tales and driving my new Spyder cycle. Come on, you would too.Image result for spyder motorcycles images

So, Joel has returned intact with a certain swagger that comes from deep immersion in the hot springs of masculinity. His jaw seems more square and his posture post modern, beyond framing. He announced in  his purple checked shirt that he had to leave for a meeting in Shippensburg, and thus he could not attend Coffee Nation. Wow! Just Wow! We moved out to the noisy sidewalk to do our suddenly less important business, but Peter Fonda’s stunt double remained inside, finishing something epic on his Ipad.  Eventually he emerged and put on that leather vest, a funky helmet and away he road on that Spyder, like Harry Potter… into a world we mortals could only imagine.Image result for pictures of faces of abandonment

I was left without any tales of Brave Joelysses or my much coveted Spyder cycle. I felt robbed twice, as if someone stole my wallet from the guy who stole my wallet. It hurt in an abstract sort of way if you thought about it long enough. Somewhere Shakespeare’s lines on mercy seemed reversed–

“Envy is twice cursed. Like gasoline stinks on the pumper and the pumped.

It curses he who covets and he who is immersed.

Leaving both as empty as a wheel barrow dumped.”Image result for gas pump picturesUnlike Billy Crystal Joel did not return with a calf named Norman. That would have been special, by Golly. Norman on the back seat roaring through Turtle Town.Image result for cow on a motorcycle picturesBut he did return with a huge mildewed heart. Being mild is okay, my blog warts. It allows for a comfortable move forward, while remaining grounded, safe, and homogenous. The highest state of mild is “to become the dew of mildness, also known as mildew.” Wild is for crazy risk takers who don’t wear helmets. In salsa sales mild is by far the leader, not medium or hot. Know why? You can always increase the kick of mild, but you cannot unwild the hot stuff. A jalapeno without a fever is a fake pepper and will never become a gastronomical dictator.

And that is Joel. For sixty some years he has been building up to this zippiness. Aging well like old amontillado wine. He is enjoying life uncorked now since accepting Social Security and AARP benefits. Rockin it, too.Image result for amontilladoAnd I am trying really hard not to be envious, but I am failing miserably. He has taken on mythic stature in his semi-demi-god retirement. Image result for zeus on a harley davidson images Could it be that the Sermon on the Mount passed over the mild because their inheritance was too materialistic?  “Blessed are the mild, for they shall inherit the cool cycle, hang with Motor head dudes, tame the Dragon Trail in the Ozarks, and walk as giants among measly mortals.”

Image result for walter mitty imagesTom Petty told us “If you never slow down, you never grow old”, which is a nice lyric but a very hard trick to pull off into your seventies and eighties.

In any event… I guess it’s okay to have Joel back on his Spyder. He’s the man, the myth, a giant among dwarves. All the men of Coffee Nation stood a little taller that day as he gunned the Spyder and whirled away dervishly.

“You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus,

But you stepped down and you sang to us.”

So Joan Baez glorified Bob Dylan, and so we salute you, Joel. Born to be mild.

Image result for mild mannered man pictures

 

 

 

391. Baltimore Down

Had to be twenty years ago because we drove to Baltimore in the old red and white Ram van without air conditioning to an Orioles game during the summer. My wife and three young kids looking for a parking space while the clock ticked on a Friday evening. Seven o’clock and the lots near the stadium were full. I started to pull into a parking deck, but the clearance limit dissuaded me from trying to peel the skylight off the roof. So, we drove on with the crowd toward parking that was farther and farther from the stadium. We passed parked cars with smashed out windows that had obviously been robbed. Maybe I should have pulled into that parking deck. The herd turned right ahead near some warehouses within sight of Camden Yards. 7:15. First pitch is 7:35.  No attendant or gate, just an open lot that quickly filled with baseball fans’ vehicles. I’m certain that my wife said something about the safety of parking there.  Out of an ocean of ignorance I reassured her. “They can’t tow us all away.”

We followed the crowd into the stadium and had a fun time cheering and doing the Macarena to loud music. I don’t know if the O’s won. What mattered is that we had an all American experience on a lovely summer night in Baltimore. Around 11:00 p.m. we retraced our steps back to that mystery lot only to find the first toenail of our nightmare torn off and bleeding. A tow truck was hooked up to the last car on the lot while the car owner screamed at the driver and tried to convince him to release his car. Meanwhile a Baltimore policeman stood by explaining that this was a private lot and a little sign behind a sumac tree said so. It seemed clear immediately and thoroughly that the cop was part of the scam, pretending to be authoritative. He explained that we were trespassing. “Okay, but where is my van?”

“Likely on the impoundment lot  in Linthicum. They open back up on Monday morning.”

“Now, no, wait. You can’t do that.”

“Sir, it’s done. You should not have parked here. This tow truck was called by the lot owner. He’s just doing his job.”

I didn’t think I’d get anywhere with the cop or the tow truck driver. I turned to face the firing squad of my family, “What are we going to do now?” they all asked at once. The cheers and Macarena were gone, forgotten. The fun, the peace, the simple pleasure… all towed away to an impoundment lot in hell.

“Ah, let me ask this other rent a cop.” I approached the crossing guard cop at the intersection as we wandered back toward the lit up stadium. “Excuse me. Our van was towed away and we were told it’s outside the city in an impoundment lot.”

“Ah, no. We don’t take’m there. They tow’m over to the other side of the Inner Harbor and drop’m off on side streets over there.”

“In the neighborhood behind the Science Center?”

“Yeah, down Charles Street where it ends. Your car is down there.”

I  turned back to my wide eyed family. “What are we gonna do?”

“Let’s walk over to the Sheraton and see if we can wait there; and if I can’t find the van tonight, we’ll just get a room.” Minor sighs of relief came to know we had a plan and possible destination in the dark sultry air. The desk staff at the Sheraton could not have been nicer; however, there were no rooms at the Inn that night. “There’s a huge softball tournament in town this weekend. Every hotel room is full.”

Unbelievable. We explained our predicament and the nice lady at the desk told us we could stretch out on the couches in their lobby for a while until we reached resolution. I decided to jog over to Federal Hill, a two mile jog from the  Sheraton, but I  was in good shape back then at age 40.  Not fast but steady. Off I jogged, telling myself I’d find my van and drive it back victoriously to the Sheraton, and boy oh boy, wouldn’t the kids be excited to see that. It got eerily quiet as I jogged across and away from the waterfront and into a shabby, unfamiliar neighborhood. No one was on the street or sidewalks. Up ahead a bunch of young men were playing basketball under bright lights at a school yard. I didn’t see my  van, which would have stuck out like a chicken in a guinea pig farm. I looked and pondered the darkness and my empty options, and kept on jogging as if I knew where I was going.

Sadly I gave up the search and jogged back to the hotel lobby. The kids were drowsily curled up together alongside my wife. I felt defeated but I was not going to show defeat. “What are we going to do now?” my wife inquired.

“I’m going to get a cab and drive around some more. Maybe a local cabbie will have some ideas.” Surprisingly my wife accepted this stupid idea of mine as having a chance, a better chance than me jogging all night.

No sooner had the desk clerk put the phone down after calling a cab than one showed up at the  front door. It was too fast. But the grizzled driver assured me he’d been just around the corner when the call came. I could not believe him and the laws of science at the same time. I got in and explained my situation.

“I know where  your van is, man.”

“That’s impossible. The cops told me it’s on Federal Hill or in Linthicum till Monday, and you’re telling me you know exactly where it is.”

“Yep. you can waste your money looking around Charles Street, but it’s not there. These slimy bastards tow them across to a lot under the 295 bridge along Gwynn Falls. It’s a racket. The cops are in on it.”

“Let’s go to Federal Hill first, okay?”

“Sure. It’s your money, man.”

As he started the meter my eye followed his hand down to the bench seat where I saw a .45 loaded and unholstered. “What’s with the gun?”

“It’s Baltimore. Gotta show folks you’re serious. I’m moving to Denver next week. I’ve had enough of this place.  Wouldn’t mind shooting a few locals before I go.”

‘Oh great,’ I thought. I have a psychopath Taxi driver zooming me around Baltimore with a death wish. Steven Seagall and Robert Deniro floated across my memory banks. ‘Someone is gonna die tonight.’ I realized I was more afraid of my taxi driver than I was of the local hoodlums.

But Marty was correct. No van, nowhere. “You ready to find your van now?”

I reluctantly agreed and he sped off across the 95/295 elevated highways. I had no idea where we were going, but I knew it was not a good place. He drove around a deserted industrial area and I began to wonder if he might want to shoot me just for kicks and dump my body down by the creek. Heck, he was going to Denver next week and there was no way to  track me.

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.

 

329. Relax, loosen again

The blue horizon just sits there, level. Dividing a pale blue sky from its dark ocean self. Is the sky half empty or half full, or half full of emptiness?  Sixteen floors above the beach that horizon is the halfway mark of the sliding glass balcony doors I am gazing through this late October afternoon. Little white caps appear like silverfish  and then are gone as the waves roll into Myrtle Beach. Our last day of deep relaxation and peace. No phones, no schedules, no pressure, no worries. My little brain is plumping up again — a reconstituted prune– due to the week’s luscious inactivity. I feel like I am finally recovering from screamotherapy, also known as office work. Blogging is the only thing approaching work that I have done since last Saturday. Ahhhhhh. I know from experience, though, that this blissful pause will not last beyond Tuesday coming. Like a massage. And maybe that’s how it should be. If only we could reload more frequently with such bliss instead of wandering like desert bound camels far away from living water. “Mike, Mike, Mike, what day is it?…. HUMP DAAAAAAY.” Only galley slaves celebrate Wednesdays, my Bloggumps.

Before leaving home, people asked what I planned to do at the beach. DO? Nothing. No plangenda. Eat, rest, breathe, laugh, drink beer for lunch, sing silly songs, nap, shop with my wife, go to a show, and sleep. “Don’t worry about me. I will survive without achieving a thing.” I don’t want to jet ski or golf, parasail or fish, drive go karts or buy a time share. Those things require thought and ambition, not to mention money. I just want to watch the tide go out and come back in, like Otis Redding sang. And I’ve been successful all this glorious week in walking slowly up the beach and back, picking up broken shells and parts of sand dollars, as if these broken things were gold nuggets and rough diamonds, marveling at the whimsical genius in each shard. I’ve thrilled at the creativity of it all, at God’s hand in the tiniest of places. Ghost crabs and herons, sharks and ospreys, conch and scallop shells, children and old folks. It’s all good if you just let it be.

“How silly!” you might be tempted to say. “I can buy perfect shells at the craft store.” And you certainly can. Please do so. But I suspect if you are reading my eccentric meanderings, then you are not a perfectionist, unless you are doing a research project on sociopathic media.  As for me, I like brokenness, imperfection, flaws, nicks, dings, and apparent defects. You see: you can’t break it if it’s already broken, right? So there goes all that perfect pressure if you start with dents and rust. I find this especially true in the folks I call friends. They are eccentric, naturally, if they can tolerate me. Heck, they have lowered their standards to hang out with me, so it’s the least I can do to likewise lower mine.

Being a word nerd I like etymology, word origins. Relax comes from re+laxare, which means “to loosen again”.  Which makes me wonder aloud, ‘When were we laxare to begin with?’ Another way to ask this is ‘When did we get so uptight and rigid, so constipated?’ I suspect it happened during the industrialized socialization process known as high school. Most of us were herded into large warehouses and homogenized into teams or levels or some such commodification. Suddenly everything mattered or else we would not graduate, and therefore be unemployable, and therefore be homeless and wind up dead in jail for vagrancy. All because we did not pass ninth grade geography that no longer resembles today’s maps. Okay? Where did Rhodesia go? And the Soviet Union? And when did you last use Algebra II/Trig?”I once made a wooden Christmas drum for my mother-in-law and needed to figure out pi r squared. But that’s about it for me and higher math. The drum looked nice.

In high school I was taught that the Great Lakes were biologically dead. The Cold War would never thaw out. The sun would never set on the British Empire. And I could not succeed if I did not go to a good college. Now, the Great Lakes look great. The Cold War is lukewarm history. And the British Empire has shrunken down like a wool sweater in the dryer. All this is forgivable because we can just shake it all off as a snake would shed its old skin. But the tense sphincter factor of getting uptight about succeeding in life is not. Just being a regular guy in a relaxed manner became tantamount to being a loser. You had to grab on tight and never let go of the success train to achievement. Get busy, get educated… advanced degree, get a job, get rich, get married, get pregnant, get ahead, get a good retirement, get cremated. I must admit, this never appealed to me very much.

Listening to music, hanging out with my friends, reading good books– all trumped being super focused on my GPA or my gross annual income. I found it exhausting to care about others’ opinions of me. I like to say to my clients, “It’s hard enough to fly your own helicopter; trying to fly your neighbor’s helicopter at the same time will kill both of you.” Translated this means, “Work on your own life. Don’t bother with others’ views of your life.” Relax. Breathe. Just be.

A lot of what was presented as indisputable facts in the early 1970s turned out to be wrong, mere opinion, or just partly true. And I’m fine with that. Hey, there were no personal computers around then, no Google, just for a starter point. They didn’t know any better. I never learned how to write a research paper or do a chemistry experiment or solve a quadratic equation. Still, I’ve had a nice life, a great wife, three great daughters, my own business, and yes, laxare. I’ve been told a thousand times about how life could, would and should collapse on my Chicken Little neck. To date it has not. Like my broken shells I have found beauty in the tiniest places… and breathe joy deeply and loosely. It feels good, my Blogstaceans. Real good.

Keep the party going.

 

 

322. The Battleship and the Daisy

[Once, a half dialogue dribbled down like this, like a watercolor monologue or a torpedo’s jet stream.]

“It’s like this”, she said. “You are a battle ship, armored and loaded for warfare. No soft spot on your hull. A floating uncrackable Brazil nut. You can muster your energies for sure destruction, mutually assured destruction, to be sure. Your relational invincibility makes you vulnerable, though. Because I can’t get to your steel-plated heart to change your course. 007 couldn’t complete this mission. So, ‘Boom’, our world ends. Dr. No wins.”

“On the other hand, I am a daisy whose soft petals sometimes fall. I am fragile sometimes and need to be held gently. You know, as a girl I counted ‘he loves me; he loves me not’, always frightened of ending on ‘not’. I can’t end on ‘not’. I refuse to grant you ‘not’ status. We are rooted in each other.”

“Still, you just go ‘Boom’ when things don’t go your way. You attack before you are attacked. No warning, maybe one demand for ransomed love, usually not. Only shattered windows and smoke follow your shoreline shellings. I know every hero needs a good villain, but that’s the movies, Mr. Bond. Listen to me:  this is real life!”

“I, huh, I need your protection and comfort, not your aggression, criticism, and condemnation. Circle that battleship around and protect me, please. Open a door, a port hole to your soft soul. I am not your Savior but I know Him. He loves you too, not your armor. Don’t you know that by now? Doesn’t that lonely ache scream out, ‘Abba’?”

“How? I just don’t know how we are going to make it work. All these years we have adjusted course and reformed a bit, amended, edited, throttled back. But we have not transformed to where we have any chance to succeed.”

“And survival is all we have to show for the years together, like some teetering rock in Utah that has survived centuries of erosion. Desperate Desert Dalis, we balance so precariously on toothpicks. A word, a look, a small failure and the whole thing collapses. Erosion will win if we don’t. Ours is a surreal relationship that won’t pass scrupulous scrutiny. Just look. Things are not what they appear to be.”

“If we don’t die first or find a way that is bigger than both of us–The Way of mutual surrender– then we’re just dead dust. I don’t trust you or myself to find that way through without surrendering to God. We suck by our odd, selfish, impatient, shellfish, greedy, lazy, miserable selves. Dessicated crustaceans in an Asian food market.”

“And that’s just what we are– not special or noble or exceptional. That’s all so much false advertising on t.v. Left to our own vices and devices we deserve nothing but trouble on our own. We are bloated ticks on an old sick hound dog. We need God, who is good and seeks us. Who knows why? The answer is not on our side of the equation, where we stack all our good works and all our failures on one side of a scale and God’s grace on the other. His grace will always weigh more, way way more. Our deeds are hollow as pigeon bones.”

“I can’t explain it. I take it on faith. That’s all. We are always a toothpick away from destruction.”

“Which is why we need to stay on our knees, face to the ground. We cannot fall from this humble mound. It’s when we are tall and haughty that we trip over pebbly sin.”

“Are you listening? How can a daisy pry open a battle ship?  Dear God! There must be a vent, some opening you breathe through. And I will pour my petals into that vent until your pistons pause, your gears gum up, and your engines stutter. I will smear my pollen all over your radar screen and uncorrupt your warped messages with powdery triple negatives. I’ll wrap my supple green leaves around your evil sensing antenna. Send an army of devoted honey bees into your cruel captain’s cabin. I’ll float my fragrant allergens into your nostrils, causing fits of blind sneezes. In any way I can, I will disarm you, my pirate love. We are not at war.”

So Isaiah wrote, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

This cold war operation has run out of time and fuel.”

“Can we live in peace and gently garden? ”

“We will plant hectare upon hectare of pure daisies, my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

317. Don’t Call Me Cupcake!!

Joel and I walked into the coffee shop together. Barristas Becky and Cali noted that we were both wearing shirts that were pink or coral. We did a two step for their entertainment and a little shuffle. I suggested that the girls wait on him first since at his advanced age he does not have long to live. They complied.

Then Becky wanted to take our picture, not sure why. Posterity? Security?  We declined. Then she offered us free cherry cupcakes if we would model them, since they were pink and matched and it was very girly.

Image result for girls taking pictures with smartphones

We posed happily yet wearily. Not really. I just wanted to type that. “They were weary of the world, these two world weary soldiers from World War II.” We sat down at Table 1, seats A and B.

“Are you going to put this in the blog?” Joel asked as he chomped into a chicken salad wrap.

“Maybe, if it gets legs and walks farther into my deep twisted cortical brain center and passes through the ulterior medulla matrix.”

Looking a bit edgy over his round lenses, “Don’t go all psycho babble on me, please!”

“Easy, laddie Buck.  Did a hornet fly up your butt this morning? You are not your usual jovial soap bubble self. Where is my Bubbles?”

“You know most people just write about what happened in their rather dull days. It’s not challenging or disturbing, but you have to twist everything into knots… No wonder that guy on Facebook was so upset with you.”

“Don’t start, Joel. He was a Trump supporter, which is sort of like being a proud jock strap.”

“Yes, that’s true. I just don’t feel like being agreeable today. I’ve been living in a motel room for the past four weeks while contractors gut my house.”

“I thought you were gutless and therefore unguttable. That’s impressive. Which motel?”

“You can’t put that on the internet. I could be robbed or bothered in some way by the nitwits who read your blog drivel. Then I’d have to sue you for exclamation of character.”

“I wouldn’t use your actual room number.”

“No!! Out of the question.”

“Now Joel, just because your pantyhose are in a wad does not mean that you can insult the vast millions of good people who read my blog devotedly. What did you do to get so cranky?”

“I don’t want to tell you.”

“I see. Do you want me to guess out loud? Three, two, one. Okay, Uh hum: DID YOU GET BEATEN UP AT THE DRAG QUEEN CLUB AGAIN?”

“Shhhhh, stop it! For goodness sakes!! I have a reputation to uphold. If you must know, I hit myself while pulling up a stake in my yard this morning.”

“You hit yourself with a stake or were you trying to drive a stake through your heart to kill the zombie Dracula who sometimes rises in your chest when the moon is full?”

“No. It was a metal stake for surveying purposes. And it hurt.”

“That’s a lot of self loathing.”

“It was an accident, a clumsy and unfortunate mistake.”

“So now you want to turn your disfiguring physical pain onto the helpless and shiftless who are littered around the urban landscape here?”

“You are referring obliquely to yourself?”

“Yes, Jedi Knight.”

“Well, it does soothe me a bit and it’s too early to drink liquor.”

“Hmmm, liquor has the same impact as expressed anger. Do you think alcoholics are merely folks stuck in anger mismanagement then?”

“Possibly.”

“I find chess to be a nice way to sublimate my antisocial tendencies. I go to war with 16 plastic pieces on 64 squares and no one gets hurt. Except sometimes I get carried away with a checkmate and hit myself in the face with the very stake upon which I wish to impale my opponent’s king.”

“Well, that’s all very good for you, but I don’t play chess. It’s too cerebral. I could hemorrhage.”

“I know. You like a good glass of brandy, gooey cheese, the cat on your lap, and your sousaphone on your shoulder farting out “When The Saints Come Marching In”.

“Yes, at the end of a long, productive day I find comfort in that setting.”

“Studly Do Right.”

“Are you mocking me?”

” No, I have been mocking you for ten minutes now. Mock, yeah, Bird, Yeah. Mockingbird, hey everybody have your heard…”

“Andrea, I need your assistance. This undesirable lunatic is mocking me.”

Andrea, “Joel, he’s your friend.”

“No he isn’t. He’s a coffee shop stalker. A blog terrorist.”

Andrea, “You came in with him and I understood you took a cute cupcake picture with him. Becky told me.”

“Oh dear, please don’t post that on the internet. I have a reputa….”

“Shun to uphold, we know, we know. Just one thing, Joel.”

“What?!!”

“Don’t yell at me, cupcake.”

“Don’t call me cupcake!!”

“Look, I think all this living out of a motel is killing you, man. You need to get off the road or you’re gonna wind up like Willie Nelson– stoned, cold broke and hotly in debt to the IRS.”

“What I need is for you to leave. Don’t you have anything to do today?”

“Community service hours, Buddy. I got that TUI last month, remember?”

“Oh Lord, forgive me. What is a TUI?”

“Texting under the influence, of course. I was walking and texting when I ran into a blind man walking his dog. We tumbled. His dog’s leash got wrapped around a baby stroller somehow and away they ran, the dog, the baby in the stroller, and the pregnant mother. It was not a pretty sight.”

“And the blind guy?”

“He didn’t see a thing.”

“Andrea, for God’s sake, do something!! I beg you.”

“I’m sorry, Joel. He is in the top five of our customer rankings.”

“Well, I can get my monkey bread delivered on Fridays.”

“Joel, you’ve got to stop beating yourself up.”

“Aaaahhh” Joel exits trying to unhear the recent world weary words he just heard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

274. Equilibrium

I have no idea why I chose this title. I sometimes just start with a word I like and try to write into it. Maybe that’s what I’ll do here. I like to define my terms before I explore and explode them.

Equilibrium equal scales

1. a stable condition in which forces cancel one another
 
2. a state or feeling of mental balance; composure
 
3. any unchanging condition or state of a body, system, etc, resulting from the balance or cancelling out of the influences or processes to which it is subjected

I’m often confronted with the old equal versus fair debate in counseling sessions, whether it’s between an adolescent and a parent or between spouses. The question arises, “What is fair?” Sometimes fair is equal, but usually it’s not, because not all problems are quantifiable.

Let’s say a teen aged kid wants a cell phone. He has two younger siblings, ages 9 and 4. Do they need a phone?  No, nor have they asked mom and dad for one. So the smart teen boy does not pull the equal card out within the family. Instead, he starts with his peer group.

“I neeeeed a phone so I can keep up with my friends and check on homework. Plus if I’m ever locked out of the house or kidnapped, I can call you or 911.”

(Notice the red herrings dropping out of the adolescent atmosphere like medieval miracles in the form of large Swedish fish. “Father Minotti, the red fish are falling out of the skies. Praise God. It’s a miracle. And this boy, he must be a prophet or an angel. And, Saints be praised, they are sweet and tangy!!”)

Dad, “Son, you have straight A’s and can’t really do any better academically. You have rarely called your friends about homework in the 8 years you have been in school. You also passed over the fact that we have a land line, a computer, and our personal cell phones at your disposal. Likewise you have never been locked out of our house because you know where we hide the spare key and your grandparents live two streets over. Nor have you or any of your friends ever been kidnapped or been in need of 911 services. So the reasons you have given for neeeeding a phone are imaginary, “what if?” scenarios. I would prefer to negotiate in the real world. Okay?”

Son, “Gosh, you don’t have to get all mad about it, Dad!! You guys NEVER let me do anything!!” (Attempted guilting to soften up the parents for the next pitch. The big unhittable “Fair” curve ball is coming along with a generous serving of exaggeration.) “I am the only kid in 8th grade who doesn’t have his own cell phone. Do you know how immature and demeaning that is to me? I’m out of the loop. I miss all sorts of important growth opportunities to mature and be socially useful.” ( Altruistic prosocial reasons sprinkled on the red miracle fish.)

Mom, “Like what?”

Son, “Like Facebook and Youtube. There’s really relevant stuff on those media.”

Dad, “Son, every time you have used my cell you’ve googled sports statistics and song lyrics or tried to watch movies. Plus, I know for a fact that the Harrison twins don’t have cell phones. I’m pretty sure Shirley Shoemaker hasn’t let Alyson have her own phone yet. There’s three out of what? 21 kids in your class?”

Son, “Ughhh!! The twins are dorks, Dad. You know they are. They wouldn’t even use phones if they had them cuz they’re too busy building Lego landscapes in their attic. They probably built a cell phone out of Legos. And Alyson still plays with Barbies.”

Dad, “You used to love to play with those dorks two years ago. And you still have Legos boxed up in your closet. Or have you forgotten?”

Son, “Huhhhh!! Those… are…collectibles. Just like my Magic card collection. They are investments. I’m just sitting on them till the price is right…which is why I neeeeed a phone, so I can track the prices of my collectibles.” (Entrepreneurial angle)

Mom,”Honey, how many million Lego sets and Magic cards do you think are out there? I played with Barbies and held on to  a few like Christmas Barbie and Bicentennial Barbie, and you know what? So did every other girl and gay boy in the world. So they are actually worth less today than when I bought them and I never even took them out of the box. There is something in economics called equilibrium when enough buyers match enough sellers….It’s a Keynesian model….”

Son, “Mooooommmm!!! It’s not the same thing. I know my stuff is valuable. You speculated on a common commodity and lost. I’ve done my research. Just one of my Magic cards is worth $500 because nothing in any deck can kill it. Don’t you know anything?!! Maybe you should adopt Alyson Shoemaker, then you would have your precious equilibrium.” ( Parry for shame that a parent would express preference for another child.)
Dad, “Son, show some respect. Let’s reel it back in. Weren’t we talking about a phone?”

Son, “Yeah, but it’s pointless. (Go for broke nihilistic drama to the max.) Just forget it! I’ll play with mom’s Barbies and my old Legos in the attic like the Harrison twins. When my friends call about prom, just tell them, “Eric can’t go. He is in the attic.” You know, psycho boy beyond all recognition or hope.”

Mom, “Eric Wilson Myers!! Stop it right now! We love you and want what’s best for you. We’re just nervous about allowing the big ugly world to come to your innocent ears and eyes 24/7. You’re just 13, Baby. That’s all.”

Dad, “Eric, it’s true. We don’t want you to be the boy in the attic who lives in his own world of fantasy and delusion either.”

Son, “Which is why I neeeed a phone, Dad. I don’t want to live in an attic with imaginary friends. I’d be dangerous to myself and others.”

Dad, “Okay, we’ll add you to our plan. But you’re gonna have to share your password with us. No bull, no arguing. Okay?”

Son, “Yes, Dad. I think you’ve made a really responsible decision here that you can be proud of in the future. You guys are tough negotiators.”

Mom, “I hope that’s true, Honey.”