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.

 

 

420.To Blog or not to Blog.

 

Why do I blog?  There is no fame or fortune, no status or glory in the blog business. I have refused all pay that has not yet been offered. So why do it?  Uh, why speak to the new barrista at the coffee shop?  Let’s see– because you want to connect, maybe share some of your presence with someone else. Tenderize a brain or two. Learn something in return maybe. Though I don’t know all three of my blog followers, I’m sure they are nice folks with great tolerance and compassion. Why? Because I write some odd things in this blog, mostly for my own entertainment. My devoted followers have not cut me off yet. Maybe this will do it. However, if I’m laughing while typing, that’s usually a good sign. Furthermore, if I find just the right picture on my Google search, that’s even better.

Blogging beats billing or getting my accounts in order. You see, I write on my office computer 90% of the time. Like right now as Leon Russell sings through his nose, “There’s a slow train comin’.” It’s an enjoyable distraction after a few intense therapy sessions. Some days clients don’t show so I click on Pandora and zoom along with Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Dylan, Neil Young, or any of the 100 artists on my shuffle. Music is a big deal for me; it seems to free up ideas and help my stream of consciousness flow. Good therapy needs good therapy, I think. Otherwise the therapist blows. Blogging is one of my coping strategies that ease my blood pressure and stress. I’m not a fan of stress though I willingly engage it daily. Therefore, I need an outlet after ferrying anxious folks across troubled waters.

It used to be running a few miles back when I was young enough to absorb all that pounding. Nowadays my back and hips cry out in protest to jogging. I still hunt groundhogs for fun in the warmer months. Cold-blooded murder of vermin, so it is. And I enjoy it. Every so often I will draw or paint something, usually in watercolors. Chess, too, is a beloved activity when I can find a willing and capable partner. These are all healthy distractions and stress relievers. We can all use more distractions these days, don’t you agree?

The new administration is whirling forward in a dizzying blur. Not sure how things are going to play out. I do find it fascinating and terrifying how the media have been demonized. Sure, some are prima donnas, but the biggest prima donna of all is the Prima Donald.  And sure, he is being demonized as well. There has never been another Prima Donald to my recollection. His panties are in a wad over the silliest and vainest items. Don, buddy, you won. It’s true. Why the conspiracy theory to suggest that not dozens, or scores, hundreds or thousands voted illegally for someone else. No, for a man of your stature, the fraud must be millions. And those millions must be illegal, brown, unwashed criminals loaded down with diseases, eager to rape white women.

If you have ever talked to someone who is delusional, you will find that the delusions are never mundane, garden variety issues. If someone is stalking them or tapping their phone, it can’t be a local marketer or traffic cop or a disgruntled neighbor. Nope. That’s just not good enough. Delusions of persecution need to be big– the Mafia, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, Interpol,  or the KGB. It doesn’t sound fierce enough if the delusionoid says, “The PTA are after me.” Or NASA. Or AARP. Or the SPCA.  These latter acronyms lack the dramatic serrated edge of the former referents. Go big, my schizophrenic friends, or don’t go at all.

So, why would a sane man want to entertain a conspiracy that undercuts the system that just elected him president? I can only speculate. The Donald has been a magician over the past two years. He has managed to toss firebombs  left, right and center that distract the public and media from his last firebombs. He’s good at this sleight of mouth. But even the Donald has to step back in awe of the verbal tornado woodpecker that is Kellyanne Conway. She is masterful at deflection and redirecting any narrative. She spews more cooked noodles than any Chinese restaurant ever could while breathing through her ears.  Please, folks, you were legally elected by the system . Believe it. No need to gild the outcome into something of an intergalactic victory of our species over the Death Star of the Leftist/ Media/ Demoproglibs.  Act like you believe in the outcome. It is impressive and historic. Stop talking like the prom king is a drag queen who needs an alibi. The new truth in our post factual world is that she looks fabulous, and that’s all that matters.

Oh, oh, oh. But controlling the truth is not the same thing as seeking and speaking truth. Whether that truth is your promised tax returns or climate change; emoluments or fraudulent universities; seeing jihadi Muslims dancing in Jersey City or millions of worshipful audience members on the national mall; there are ways of determining the truth via an abundance of proof. We do this in court and in science labs. But in the big stage of what was once known as news, our anchors, experts, and talking heads allow greasy soundbites to pose as truths. What results is a  paranoid environment of mythical beliefs and alternative facts. Hocus pocus hoaxes.

Instead of seeking and speaking truth, our society seems to have become allergic to truth. We break out in partisan rages rather than calmly putting forth the known relevant facts. So many tricks are used to move the tone over the substance. Today’s soundbite is that 3 million illegals voted not for Trump. Unidentified polling places all over this country were fooled three million times. And the evidence is… missing.

What will next week bring, I wonder? A new Sharknado that Kellyanne will explain away.

*** Please take a moment to rate this post. Thanks for reading.

334. International Blogationalism– Greatest Hits

A really neat feature of  the WordPress blog tool bag is the tracking of hits by countries. At the end of  a day, week, quarter, year or all time, I can hit the country summary prompt and get a list of all the countries that have accessed my site. I am amazed, of course, since I find my writing hard to understand, and I am the author. I think I am. Pretty sure I am. At least it started out that way.  Anyway, I have had to go to the map three times for countries I did not know existed. In alphabetical order they are the Faroe Islands, Kyrgyzstan, and Reunion Island.  Now my little Blog globetrotters, can you guess where these places are located without Googling?  I didn’t think so.  Allow me to geo-educate you.

About the time I had my first hit from Reunion Island it happened to be on the news cycle as parts of Malaysian flight 370 washed up on its shores. The astute blog reader will recall that I wrote about this doomed plane way back in Post 210. Lost. Not my best work, but then, what is best when you are spreading psychic fertilizer as a hobby? Now, true, I had to look it up since I’d never heard of the tiny nation either. It’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Why oh why were they cruising my blog? Perhaps they were lost or hungry since my blog title is a popular food. Imagine their horror when they tapped into my site via dial up, after waiting 3o minutes for a new recipe, and finding my soporific prose served on a delightful platter of greens. A lot of hangry islanders who won’t be inviting me to their next Reunion…unless they are cannibals.

I wrote about genocide and mentioned Namibia in post, 209. False Springs and  Genocide. Dang if I didn’t get Namibian hits. Actually they were nibbles. Now I can sort of understand that connection because I mentioned them by name. And Namibians have so little food in general that they usually just nibble to make it last longer between famines. But Kyrgyzstan?  I had to look it up– landlocked and mountainous in Central Asia. Apparently they have wi-fi there, glued in among China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.  I’ve often wondered where the Stan came from.  My unvetted theory is that a guy named Stan the nomad traveled through that region selling early model vacuum cleaners and got jiki with various women– Kazakh, Uzbeki, and Tajiki. Not to mention their cousins Afghan, Paki, and Turkmeni. [I have ruled out Lichtenstein from this list. It’s seems improbable according to my in depth research. Plus, what an unfortunate name for a girl, Lichten. What were the parents thinking?] Now I am theorizing that I will get some blowback hits from these countries, perhaps offering to hack me to pieces for insulting them or questioning the virtue of their female ancestors. I plead ignorance in advance. Can I get an “Amen” on that, Blog Nation?  [A thunderous AMEN rumbles across the globe.]  Okay, okay, that’s enough. STOP ALREADY!!  I didn’t ask for a tsunami.

Let’s see, where was I?  Yes, I wrote about how to make vodka in post 91. Brains and Potatoes. I am not saying what I’m saying here, I’m just saying it– a bunch of Russians lit me up. That post was a call to use one’s brain for the good of mankind instead of pickling one’s brain with home made alcohol. I can’t say for sure, but I think most of the Ruskis checked in for the recipe I scarfed off an internet site. Please don’t cut me up and make Irish Whiskey from my old carcass, Komrades.

Perhaps the best example of bait and switch blog posts was post 204. Local Navel Dancing, live, Tonight 6-8 p.m. I still get hits on that from India and the Middle East, which is why I have the justified fear of being hacked to pieces, not for false religion but for false advertising plus bad manners.  I blame the whole incident on Suzanne and Gary who basically forced me to go to an Indian restaurant with them while belly dancing was erupting at waist level, i.e. my eye level. I’m still in therapy for the disturbing visuals.

Okay, the Faroe Islands are located between Scotland and Iceland. Sail to the Shetland Islands, pet the adorable ponies, and hang a left at the fork. If you run into Norway, you took the wrong left, so turn around and take the right one. (Yogi Berra paraphrase) Speaking of Norway, in an old and bizarrely prophetic post, 158. Totalitarian Penguins, I mentioned that the Norwegian slice of Antarctica will be the launching pad for penguin revolution and total world domination. “Whaaaack Whaaaack”. You can’t make this stuff up….well, I guess you can if you have a fevered imagination and no job and are devoid of a conscience. Fortunately I meet all the above criteria.

So, you may be wondering how the name came about for the Faroe Islands. Yup, you guessed it already. The Egyptian connection ties this little known nation to the Empire of Egypt. If you know your Bible well, you know that Moses was set adrift in a basket and found by the Pharaoh’s people, then raised as an Egyptian until a bunch of plagues broke out and Revelation Zombies overthrew the Death Star. Just trust me on this.  Unbelievably at the same time Moses was basket skiing on the Nile, another prince and future Pharaoh was set out on the same river, which is why no one noticed when the baby shuffle took place and the wrong Egyptian baby was brought into Pharaoh’s house. The real heir apparent, named Sam, sailed right out into the Mediterranean Sea, where his little basket continued to float with the currents and winds, past Cyprus, Gibraltar, Portugal and other countries that have hit my blog posts before the internet had even been imagined.

Sam eventually washed ashore on the rough rocky beaches of what we now know as the Faroe Islands. He was greeted by wild wooly people known as the Wooly Bullies. They took him in and sang around fires in the winter nights. Sam somehow recalled his pre-Pharaotic life in Egypt. The people were so amazed, but one called it all a sham. And you know that they all got together and cut a record in the early ’60’s called “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

 So kids, it’s important to know your geography really well just in case your plane disappears or your baby floats away, you need to make vodka, dance navelly, survive famine or overthrow the world. If you can’t find a globe, you can just trust my blog posts.

 

 

 

328. Vacate the Premises

A few times per year I need to vacate the premises. It gets chilly, plus too much continuous time in Turtle Town, like secondhand smoke, may be hazardous to my health. I know this because short bursts of time in Turtle Town make me a danger to self and others, so it only makes logical sense that longer periods of time simply aggravate the aggravation, gravitating toward a grave situation.  My butt gets deflated and spreads out like peanut butter on a warm summer day. My hips cry out for support, but none comes, not even Tom Brady. My protruding pelvic bones imprint shuffleboard cue stick marks on my leather office chair, skeletal remains are all that remains… or maybe I’m just hallucinating again. If you listen to paranoid clients long enough, you need Haldol too.Image result for person melting in lava

Either way you just know when it’s time to leave town. It’s like knowing when you have to turn off the Neil Young song train before you hang yourself with the power cord next to your I pod dock. [CSI investigator Bob… “Looks like he was listening to Down By the River.”  Ed, “This much sadness it too much sorrow…” Bob, “Yeah, it’s impossible to make it today.” ]  This is just good self care, Blogobblers. So, off we went to the true South, where grits and alligators live in harmony, that is if no ducks connect them. Add one stinking duck, however, and the feathers fly. The duck eats the grits, the alligator eats the duck, and the grits eat… uh, let me get back to you on this one. (Think!! What do grits eat? Alligator poop, that’s gotta be it.)

Last year it was Savannah, Georgia we graced and were graced by. (We  also visited Jekyl Island and the beach nearby.  It was a-gracing maze where the wealthiest Americans once roosted in the winters… Roosevelts and Rockefellers and the Burritos.) Walking around the city of squares and live oaks covered by Spanish moss and sordid gossip, we gaped and gasped and gulped at the jaded beauty of it all… lovely and culturally osmotic how that Southernness crosses the air/skin barrier and gets into your very marrow. In mere moments you begin drawling, “Ya’ll good folk, bless your little Rebel hearts.  Come on and give yo’ Mama a big ole hug. Look at that po’ homeless panhandler, Junior . Izn’t he precious? Give’m a dollar, Sugar. Ya’ll got nuff tea to melt yo sugar? We can double fry that Oreo cookie for you.” After an hour you’re singing Dixie and talking NASCAR with religious fervor. “In Dixie Land make a left hand turn, Look away, away.”

This year our destination was Charleston, S.C.  Folks, I am blog-plugging this city, though they don’t need my plug. Our tour guide told us Charleston is the Number One tourist destination in the USA. I can’t argue with a man who drives two mules and a carriage through a three hundred year old city without hardly watching. (See that? I tossed in a smooth Southern double negative there.) It became clear that Savannah was the little brother, the distant cousin to the throne of this historic bling. Wow!! The old city of Charles Town grew by filling in marshlands that had functioned as the municipal dump. Land was scarce, so many of the Charleston buildings of a certain age are one room wide, three stories high, and go deep in their narrow lots.

 Now you’re with me, huh?  Notice the open porches, piazzas, Baby!  In subtropical temperatures and humidity levels this was a breezy form of free air conditioning. Still is. Charming. Naturally you’d have to get along with your next door neighbors when you hang out so closely without electricity or television.  No wonder Southerners are famous for their nice manners. Sardines are also known for their quiet compliance once laid in tins full of oil, which is what the humidity levels feel like in August in Charleston. I’ve never heard of a sardine bar fight. Have you?

The John C. Calhoun House was beyond words. The current owner has taken artsy hoarding to Olympic levels. Priceless, one of a kind, irreplaceable, bubble over your mind’s cognitive dam as your senses are totally bombarded by perceptions and information. I never took LSD but I imagine its effects would be like a tour of the Calhoun House– psychedelically endless and ultimately unknowable– Tiffany lamps, Russian Czar silver, Chinese incense burners big enough to cook a whole pig. “Yeah, I tripped out there once…like Vegas in a snow globe, Man, or Jimi Hendrix’s walk in closet. Totally trippy and synaptically  sizzling. Words fail, Man. Dig it?”

It wasn’t till the next day at Boone Hall Plantation that the economic engine for all this magnificent wealth stepped clearly out of the antebellum fog. 13 brick slave quarters line the driveway up to the mansion house.

Three hundred and fifty year old live oaks shade the sandy lane but cannot hide the stain of slavery. Hundreds of Africans were run through and run down on this soil, making attempts at  producing rice, cotton, indigo, bricks, pecans and a host of other crops. The extant mansion house was actually built in 1935, so it’s a bit of an anachronism. It’s an odd spirit that settles in after you visit a few of these vacated cabins. They were well built with bricks and ceramic roof tiles made on the plantation when a German family owned it all. It is a strange premise that work will set you free. Where have I heard that before? There is that neat, orderly German thing going on where precise engineering went into producing things while not a drop of humanity was spilled exploiting human beings. A darkness builds as you visit each cabin and realize that the imperial wealth of nearby Charleston was extracted from the sinews and marrow of slaves.

Old-slave-mart-facade-sc1.jpg  The shame is not simply a Southern burden, though, even if Neil Young says it was. “I saw cotton and I saw black, tall white mansions and little shacks…Southern man when will you pay them back?”  Well, just like the darn duck in the earlier allusion, somebody bought all that cheap cotton. And somebody sailed those slave ships. And somebody bought all the slave made products at rock bottom prices. The market place was not the South. It was the disapproving, highly moral, can’t resist a bargain world that kept the slaveholders in business. Hmmmm. How about that? Not sure much has changed since the official end of slavery. The world still chooses to look away, look away, look away from the misery beneath the bargains we capitalized consumers enjoy.

I know that free market folks like to speak of the freedom that capitalism has inspired, how it has modernized and improved living conditions for the masses. I’m just not sure how I’m going to be real with the enslaved workers who made my cheap cotton t-shirts and socks when I meet them in heaven. Someone may have to vacate the premises.

312. Facebook Fascsim

Hitler and MussoliniI just finished my first Facebook Fanatic encounter. Wow! It was creepy and felt like a bar fight from a different time zone via Skype. I briefly opined about my least favorite human being, Donald Trump, and a highly educated, erudite scholar sucked on to my whimsy like a leech. It was actually funny from my side, but I am troubled that Professor Righteous is grinding his molars tonight instead of sleeping peacefully. An old friend once shared the saying, “That guy is so tight that you couldn’t pull a pin out of his ass with a John Deere tractor.” Here is another example of such a vacuum sealed  tightness. I posted a brief snarky comment about the Trumpster being an insult to thinking people and smart dogs, and my cyber adversary took off, accusing me of calling him a stupid dog; me being a liberal; not a Christian; a hypocrite, and more. He even said that I was Trump-like in my rhetoric.  Well, I asked him, if you find my impersonation of the Great One insulting, why cling to the original, Mr. Logical?

Man, it was fun. I teed up twenty words and he wrote an angry reactionary dissertation like a mad golfer hitting a jumbo bucket of balls. I speculate that he’s probably still seething with rage against these meager snarky comments. I wish there were a way to cash in on words generated by others on the internet. From one jokey line of mine, this guy made himself a running joke of a thousand words or more. Vitriol makes a bad salad dressing, Dude. I don’t care how good your olive oil is. He is still chewing on the rubber worm bait, thinking it’s some opening shot in the Revolutionary War. No chance.

Charlie Chastiser got his panties in a wad. And being a moralist of the first order, he declared war on all the folks who did not agree with his extremism or the Donald. It was great stuff, lessons in rhetoric and logic were self soothing for him. But guys like that worry me. I fear that his vain attempts to rally the troops will fail and he will wind up in a movie theater with a legally purchased submachine gun and kill everyone who came to see a mildly spicy chick flick starring Ben Affleck… all in the name of National Purity. He has swallowed the poor victim pill and can now justify all genocidal tendencies. In the post-homicide interviews with his neighbors and coworkers, they will say things like,

“He was a very intense man who broke the decaf pot when it was introduced as an option.”

“He was very neat and punctual.”

“His desk was immaculate… but I didn’t really know him well.”

“He had a cat.”

Inside the loner’s mind he monologues to no one…

“Surely others cannot have value or meaning when they fail to toe my Fascist line. And I wouldn’t have to be a Fascist if they would just do what I expect. So, logically, I must exterminate them in the name of my superior beliefs. I am, therefore, a modern knight killing in the name of a just cause.”

It’s a scary world, blogistas. Don’t trust me, please. I am not a reliable source. I prefer good stories to great ideologies. But do trust your own assessment of weirdos who cling to ideology like a lab monkey clings to its wire cage mother’s breast. Something is wrong with such fear driven intensity. It promotes survivalistic reactions, an “us versus them” mentality.  The Donald is good at channeling this primal anger. He bloviates against the Chinese, as if they are a monolithic group of same think.  The Yellow Threat. He blows hard against Mexicans, as if they are all greasy rapists  posing as lawn care technicians in high brow neighborhoods just waiting to pounce on Republican housewives. The Brown Threat. He knows, because, you see, he has talked to one Border Patrol agent in New Mexico once. And that is gospel, after all. God Bless America. The White Threat to the multicolored world.

Image result for xenophobic pictures

To reject xenophobia is not an unpatriotic act nor is it a soppy milk toast liberal position. Being xenophobic does not make you a red blooded American either, whatever that is. Immigrants built this nation. Some came legally as slaves or railroad workers. Some came illegally by jumping ship in the harbor. Some came through Ellis Island. But please, do not believe the mythology that everyone came with good hearts and tears at the Statue of Liberty. After all, she didn’t get here from France until 1886. And let’s not forget that some U.S. citizens were here to begin with. Our Native People tried to stem the flow of the self righteous and better armed European illegals who used the self serving rationale that they had a God given right to occupy “unused lands”. It didn’t turn out too well for the Native Peoples, but let’s not dwell on that ugly chapter of U.S. history. No, America would never again relocate other people groups based on fear or greed until the Japanese were interned in WWII. Xenophobes have feared Catholics, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Germans, Jews, Mexicans, Moslems, Russians, etc. over the past two hundred years. It’s the same old “us vs. them” reaction steeped in fear of the different.

[Rick is such a good neighbor, hardworking, honest, decent Christian man.]

We can thank The Donald for digging up the immortal head of the Hydra so simple minds can play with it again. This week’s feature is “Phobia from the Planet Xenon”. Feeding the hate and fear machine will always draw an audience… just like horror movies manage to continue their tradition, reproducing faster than mice. However, every so many generations the throttle gets loose and a majority sate themselves on easy to digest propaganda, no hard chewing required. In that dark world dentists and minor office clerks become judges, jurors and executioners, all quite legally, thank you very much. The xenophobic genie is hard to get back in the bottle once uncorked.

297. Dx: Imperfect People Disorder

“The problem is this:  you live in a world of imperfect people. No one is smart enough or drives well enough or talks fast enough to suit you. And you are entitled to a reality that suits your needs. Heck, you’re what?  13 now. You are completely able to make adult decisions because of your superior IQ. Is that what you are telling me?”

“Yeah, my parents just don’t get it. They are slipping behind my abilities. I feel like they are skiing behind my speedboat and I have to pull them along, but really, they’re just slowing me down. My mom doesn’t understand, no, can’t understand quantum physics like I do. I’ve told her once what it’s about, broken symmetry and entropy and stuff. Her eyes glazed over and she kept having to say ‘What?’ It’s annoying!!”

“Mmmhmmm. It’s a form of rudeness and disrespect to your superior abilities, and yet you still need her to drop you off and pick you up from sports camps and school functions.”

“Yeah, and she’s always on her phone. I can’t stand that. Distracted drivers are now the number one cause of fatal car crashes.”

“Yeah, I saw that on Facebook. Now when you drive, how will you do it?”

“In-tell-I-gent-ly.  If you use your native intelligence to full potential, well, it’s not that hard. Driving requires less than one per cent of your available brain power.”

“But what about all the other drivers who are not as gifted as you?”

“That’s a problem. I think you ought to have a minimum IQ to get a driver’s license. Only smart people should be allowed to drive. It’s stupid to let stupid people drive on the same roads with lawyers, surgeons, judges, and CEO’s of cutting edge tech firms. If one of these leaders is killed by a moron, that’s a huge loss. If a moron head-ons another moron, no loss.”

“Because low IQ folks bring no value to society, right?”Image result for dumb people pictures

“Absolutely. They are here to be ruled. If you can’t compete, you sit the bench or sweep the floor. Not everyone can be a starter. Those are facts.”

“So, it’s hard for you to be surrounded by imperfect people, huh?”

“You have no idea. I’m in the 99th percentile in achievement tests I take. I’m smarter than a lot of my teachers. It pisses them off,  so like, they’ll try to catch me not paying attention and ask me a question.  Wrong!  I can multitask. So their little traps backfire on them and they get pissed that I beat them at their own game. So then they change the storyline to manners and arrogance and disrespect crap. It’s unscientific and subjective. But it doesn’t matter. Same as my parents: They make the rules for now, but don’t expect me to respect stupid people.”

“So what do you think the per cents are for smart people like you?”

“Well, my measured IQ is over 135, I’m sure. But I think it’s a lot higher… so let’s say I’m in the top one per cent, maybe even higher.”

“Must be lonely up there.”

“Sure is. You can find a dumb person in a second. Finding an exceptionally smart friend is next to impossible.”

“So your friends are not your intellectual equals?”

“No, I mean I like them and all, but they are pretty dumb. They do stupid things and we laugh, but they don’t get the deeper issues of life either.”

“How about finding a girlfriend? If you struggle with your mother’s level of intelligence, and she is an accomplished professional by the way, how do you think dating or marriage is going to be?”

“Uh, she needs to be smart and good looking and ambitious. I mean, I’ll be making six or seven figures and living the cool life, so she’ll have to be okay with my choices. I don’t want a dumb chick who will make me look bad, ya know?”

“You are pretty sure of yourself.”

“It’s easy to be confident if you have the smarts and talent to back it up. Okay, so like in baseball, I’m on base a lot and score most of our team’s runs. In basketball I’m usually the leading scorer. So if I plan on being a neurosurgeon, why would it be any different?”

“I don’t know. I’m wondering how you’ll interact with dumb patients and nurses and other professionals who don’t measure up, though.”

“I think that they will be so glad for my expertise that they will spare me their pettiness. At least I hope they will. In any event I will be at the top of the food chain, so I can call the shots for the most part.”

“Yeah, like a polar bear or an eagle or a lion. The king of the jungle. You’ll be the king pin.”

“Someone has to be at the top. Talent and IQ rule. Cream rises, right?”

“Oh yeah, and milk just sits there. Not to mention skim milk.”

“So, do you have a diagnosis for me? My parents said something about a narcissistic personality? Is that even a diagnosis? Plus, my friends are dying to know.”

“Yes, it is. It encompasses a sort of fixed personality, a set of beliefs about oneself, that you are special even if there is no evidence. Narcissists lack empathy. They believe they are entitled to preferential treatment and should be treated deferentially. But that’s not you. No sir.”

“So do I have a diagnosis? I mean I don’t want to waste my time in therapy if I don’t have some incredible set of issues, ya know?”

“Oh, yes. I get it. And I’ve thought about your condition long and hard. Aside from being here to guide your parents and peers, I think your issue is that you are surrounded by imperfect people.”

“Absolutely. It sucks. Forrest Gump was a good movie but not in real life. I want smart people who think and act like I do.”

“Exactly. That’s why I’m diagnosing you with imperfect people disorder.”

 

 

 

 

 

282. Into the Mystic

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

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

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

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

Too late to stop now”  Van Morrison, poet

***************************************

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

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

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

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

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

252. “Call the doctor or I’ll kill you!”

I tend to exaggerate, but my wife did say something like this to me this morning. You see  a month ago she’d written on a piece of gray cardstock that my doctor’s office had called me for a follow up appointment … because she does not want to be a widow at 58, especially since I have finally learned to dance with her and show some promise for retirement. I had faithfully used that reminder card as my bookmark for the past month. She bugged me a few times and I said that I would call the office to schedule, but here I am thirty days later, senseless and defenseless. She’s worried that I may have some hidden cancer that is eating me up, metastasizing as I am fantasizing about being younger and buffer than I am. I told you that I tend to exaggerate. Now keep in mind, my blogstas, this is the same woman who once told me to unloosen my belt and unthaw the frozen roast beef. To which I replied, “You want me to tighten the belt and refreeze the meat?” The current threat is ironic, I think.  It boils down to this paraphrase, ‘Prolong your life or I’ll end it now!’ In some strange way I think I still have to unthaw that meat and I am it, and I am scared.

So this  got me thinking about other ironic communications in my life. Years ago in Sunday School class our then single gun-toting cowboy Josh was famous for saying off the wall things that would occasionally make sense. His favorite color was/is camo. His favorite shoe?  Tony Lamas boots. Favorite truck?  Dodge Ram. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but Josh offered that the devil comes on like sheep in wolves’ clothing. He meant the opposite; however, he had such a history of twisted clauses and phrases that it was anyone’s guess which way he wanted it to roll. The imagery is weird either way, but I’d never heard of herbivores skinning out a carnivore for a new suit.

That is the beauty of irony; it’s completely opposite of your expectations. Shame on you for thinking that way! Incomplete communication is the heart of many trick questions. Here’s one that occurred to me. “Which one of the following months has 30 days in it– June, July or August?”  Well, they all have thirty days, but if you push and pull a bit, you can imply that the answer ought to be June alone. And that vague gap is what lawyers drive wedges into to end contracts or nullify agreements or just to be mean.
At the coffee shop this morning the Nation was meeting in earnest. Two games of chess were played satisfactorily. (I dominated.) However, Joel, the consigliere exchequer of the Nation, was making noises behind us, two tables thither. It’s cold this morning, which got me to bust out the Eddie Bauer down jacket, affectionately known as Mr. Fluffy. Joel has a bizarre attraction to my fluffy jacket like the old Charmin toilet paper commercials proclaimed, “It’s squeezably soft.”  He has heard me say that it’s $2.00 a squeeze if I’m in the jacket, and $1.00 a squeeze if I’m not.  Anyway, we bantered back and forth about his predilection and how it meets a primal mammalian need to suckle. I offered to clip a binky on my jacket for next week so that he could have the full experience. He declined saying it was too weird. To which I responded, “Why is it okay for lawyers to pinch and squeeze their customers, but when their customers want a piece of the action, it’s a no squeeze zone?”
Ah, the suckling irony of it all!
Earlier this week, Tuesday night to be exact, I worked until 8:30 p.m. and then checked my cell phone– three texts and three voicemails. I could quickly guess that Danny’s Garage meant my car was ready, so I began walking the two blocks to pick it up, hoping that the keys were under the mat as usual. Two texts were from my wife reminding me to pick up our daughter at 8:30. One voice mail was, I was sure, her attempt to confirm why I had not responded to either text message. I’d been fully engaged with clients since 2:00 pm without any break, that’s why. I hustled to pick up the car, then the daughter, and answered another voice mail with a live phone call. It was exhausting. Guess what? My wife was upset with me that I had not texted her back a simple “ok” to confirm that I’d received her three reminders. At 9 p.m. when I was finally eating supper, I did not have room in my brain to store her complaint. So I just stared at her like the substitute village idiot.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon. As I was leaving my office to pick up the dry cleaning and go by the bank, I noticed a reminder text from my bride to pick up our daughter after her work day. Though I already knew this and had it on my calendar, I panicked and fumbled with my phone. I quickly typed “k” to acknowledge her text and avoid future pain. But my phone would not let me send that. No, technology was using me not vice versa. I tried again as I was driving, which I think is a crime unless you have just picked up 30 pounds of dry cleaning.  I missed the k key and typed “LLL”. I was screwed. The phone tried to edit me and refused to send that also. Finally I typed blindly “PLO” and sent it by mistake.  Uh, what’s the deal here? I pondered how she would interpret this error… “Are you comparing me to a terrorist organization?”
Sure enough, an hour later she called to inquire about the PLO. I told her that’s how you spell “ok” when you are driving a five speed SUV and you are scared of your wife’s retribution. Okay, I guess sometimes the truth is the best policy. She chuckled and gave me three points for the effort. “You know you could have just waited till  you got home to safely text me.”
“I know, I know, but I needed to unloosen my belt and unthaw the meat before you kill me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

240. Time is short

No time for silliness, my silly blogwillies. Get that smirk off your face and stand up straight! It’s time for sober realism. Or somber surrealism. Pick one.  It’s the end of the world as we know it…. We could say this every day, dontcha think? We do say it every day… on the news anyway. “It’s the worst case of the dreaded Ebola virus since the last one. Epidemic Domestic Violence. HIV/ AIDS. Anthrax. Epic Abuse. WMD. Chemical weapons. WWJD? Catastrophic. WWTMW. Expialadocious.” And that’s just the sports section.

 

“Oh my furry whiskers, I’m late. I’m LATE!!”

So, in order to save time and live expeditiously, we began planning our funerals at coffee summit nation this morning. Steve volunteered way too much information about his post-life needs. He expressed his wishes that the nation would function as his pallbearers, providing there were six of us, sober, and at least four capable of weight bearing loads. Dustin has a bad back but was assigned side, left duty between two taller members in good  standing. He can still call cadence without actually supporting any of Steve’s corpse’s weight, unless Steve consents to post mortem mummification. As in life, so too in death.

Steve asked that I would give the eulogy if I did not precede him in death. I am considering preceding him just to get out of that gig. What would I say, ” Steve liked pain. Amen.” Further, he requested that the pallbearers wear black suits with white shirts and black ties and dark sunglasses like Men in Black or the Blues Brothers, depending on our collective mood– high tech or old school blues. Furthermore, which is more than further, he wants Taylor Dayne’s greatest hits played at his funeral. He said his widow Robin will understand and appreciate this 1980’s touch. Well, in my journalistic effort to document her greatest hits, I found that Taylor’s real name is Leslie Wunderman. Okay? Uh, I was crushed almost as thoroughly as when I learned John Wayne’s real name was Marion Morrison. And John Lennon’s real name was John Lennon. Do you see a drift toward crisp, one syllable Nordic stage names here? But never mind; we have no time to waste. Steve is aging and we must plan his memorial. Fortunately we still have him presently carrying on across the table this dreary morning about needing to go to Vegas and be tazed. “Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“And so, let us remember him in death as we did in life. Steve liked pain, NASCAR wrecks, Taylor Dayne, lots of napkins and mindless violence. Amen. Please lower the carcass now before the shedding of the tear gas. Thank you all for coming. There will be a reception at the coffee shop following Steve’s internment, if his name really was Steve and not Rod Blogoyavich or Petroff Nogoodnovich.”

Meanwhile Gene brought his class picture from 1965 to the table for our inspection and to see if we could accurately pick him out of the black and white line up. Only the newest provisional member, David, was correct. Which means that, counter-intuitively, the longer you have known someone, the less likely you are to be able to pick him out of a childhood photo line up, thus proving once again that eye witness testimony is shady at best.

To test our theory we had Gene commit a simple crime in full view of pedestrians and commuters and then hang around for identification. He kicked the glass out of the Gypsie gift emporium door and then sat back down. Ten minutes later the Turtle Town police showed up. When they asked us if we’d seen who did it, we identified Gene and his younger version in the old class photo. The cops arrested him, thanked us and hauled him away as he tried to con his way out of it with “it was an, an, an, experiment, officer.” I hope he gets out in time for Steve’s funeral. I don’t want to carry all that dead weight alone, mummy or no mummy. I think it’s odd carrying corpses around, unless you are in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

It’s unfortunate, indeed, that life is so short that we must occasionally throw one another under the troika, as they say in Russia. But we can’t be wasting time. No sirree. However, as I consider this profound thought, it brings the entire Coffee Summit Nation’s purpose into question. Our sole expressed and implied mission is to waste time, to avoid work, and to contribute next to nothing to the greater good. I guess that’s three missions tied tightly in our one-sided napkin constitution, thus the previous troika allusion. (The original magna napkina is getting harder to read after five years in my wallet.) If this mission statement is true, then something important needs to happen soon for the Nation to continue in its false sense of urgency. We must invade another table or challenge the banker contingent to a uselessness contest. You see, three snappily dressed, snarky bankers from an abbreviated bank (M&T) stroll down to the coffee shop every day whilst we are harmlessly wasting our time. They laugh and make comments about the Nation, but one day Boy oh Boy, we are gonna go off on them like espresso steam spigots. We may have to wait till Gene gets out of jail and Lance remembers what time we meet so our numbers are in our favor.
Steve may have to postpone his funeral and take one for the team until we re-establish hegemony in the downtown community of nations. Oh, so little time and so many delusions.

175. Missed Appointments

There is an expectation when two parties make an appointment that it will be kept. When the appointment fails due to one party not following through, there is disappointment. Perhaps both parties feel disappointment, but definitely the one left holding the bag is disappointed. I’m in the appointment business. I meet around 30 clients a week and juggle 15 to 30 phone calls per week, plus an assortment of e-mails. I make mistakes. I hate it, but I do. It’s never a fun moment when two different clients are in the waiting room expecting the same appointment time. Oh no. It’s worse than mistakenly walking into the women’s bathroom, which I did in the Frist Museum in Nashville two years ago. I kept hearing this woman’s voice in there while I was in a stall. I thought, ‘Boy is she ever gonna be embarrassed when she realizes she’s in the men’s room.’ I was shocked when I heard a second and then a third woman’s voice echo in the suddenly huge vault. I knew then that my village was missing its idiot. I ducked my head and walked directly out the door and into the men’s restroom to wash my trembling hands. It’s also bad when no one is in the waiting room, which is a more common experience.

Let me think of famous missed appointments. They are hard to find because they’re not memories we want to recall. Guilt and shame cover these hurts. When I was preschool age, I believe, I have a vivid memory of waiting for hours on a Sunday afternoon on 14th Street near the Washington Monument for a bus that did not run on Sundays. My mother and little brother were with me. My mother kept looking for “11C”, the local bus that stopped in front of our suburban house. I don’t know why we were there to begin with, but eventually my father drove up in an old Buick and picked us up. It’s a strange and silent memory that holds much more, I suspect. I was too young to question my mother’s sanity at that point. Later that would come in bizarre conversations about things that, like her fantasy bus, would not ever arrive.

When I was in 3rd grade, I was supposed to be an altar boy at St. Louis Catholic Church and School. I went to the school with boys whose brothers were already altar boys. They knew the ropes, or should I say robes? Anyway, practice was after school and I managed to miss those by riding my school bus home to familiar turf. I could tell you who got on at what stop because of the twice daily repetition over several years. Bus F, Mrs. Reed was our driver for a year or two. Never an issue that I can recall. Peace rolled down Kings Highway, past Berkshire Drive, along the Parkway, past Virginia Hills Avenue. If we missed the bus, which we did on occasions, we walked the two miles to school. Like Jerry Seinfeld’ famous whine, “But I don’t want to be a pirate!” I didn’t really want to be an altar boy.

church ship priest

Missing… somehow I was supposed to be a priest. Someone thought that was a good idea for me, the third of four sons. I think it’s a leftover medieval concept. The oldest son was to inherit the estate; the second son was supposed to be a soldier; the next son went to the clergy; and I guess they ate the fourth or fifth sons during long winters. Missing out on altar boy life ruined my chances for the priesthood, thank God. I can’t imagine a more gloomy life than being a priest. I was more outgoing and spiritual than my three brothers, so I can sort of see the reasoning behind lobbying me, but that’s an awful thing to do to a young man. While the country was breaking out of its conservative 1950’s cocoon, I was supposed to be spinning a new cocoon of celibacy and self annihilation? Nahhh. I feel sorry for the guys who bought that package. It’s like buying your father’s burned out Oldsmobile from him and thinking that you now rock. Sad.

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Fourth missed appointment: I was supposed to maintain my birthright appointment and anointment of Catholicism. I let that go about 15 years ago. I describe myself as spiritually anorexic back in those days: I was starving for spiritual food, but all I got was ritual and hocus pocus, a promise of later fulfillment. I gave it forty plus years and did not see desirable fruit. Instead I felt like I had to apologize for the anemic modern ways of the Catholic Church and its horrid past theo-political exploits. The turning point came when I went on a mission trip with my oldest daughter to Mexico, which I had always believed was a Catholic country. What I found out was many Mexicans had the Virgin of Guadalupe in their front yard and had no idea about Jesus. It was superstitious hocus pocus that finally severed my spiritual umbilical cord with Catholicism. In a way it felt like a junior high romance that just didn’t offer a realistic future relationship. You can’t live in the past.

Truth be told, we don’t really know how many missed appointments we have missed in life. Unless someone tells you that you missed the love of your life or the ideal job or the perfect house, how would you know? I prefer to focus on the positive side of perception– kept appointments. In this blogging business I expect to meet my self imposed limit of 1,000 words per post. Somehow I figured that was my frame to fill. In counseling sessions my frame is an hour. (Writing 1,000 words takes much longer than an hour, folks.) I am currently engaged in multiple appointments that resonate with truth for me. My job, my family, my faith, my social life all seem to vibrate in pleasant, complementary frequencies. I am a contented man.

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