393. Blues, Stay Away from me

Doug Sahm on the Victrola, well, Pandora on my laptop, but I like the old timey sound of the former technology. Long, long ago I recall hearing Doug sing “Is Anyone Goin to San Antone?” on an FM station, back in the day when FM meant more cool and less commercial. I liked his sound then when I was 16 or so. It fit with Dylan and the Dead. I bought his album Doug Sahm and Band, and lo and behold there’s Dylan and David Bromberg, and many other performers I admired all jamming together. They all knew Doug. I liked that they liked one another. It was a fraternity without Greek letters, hazing or keg parties… just good tunes.

But the point of this post is not fraternal good will nor the Blues; it is instead as old as the first book of the Bible…envy. Joel the intrepid lawyer of Coffee Nation is in Europe this week and next on a musical riverboat cruise. Not the Blues, mind you, unless you count The Blue Danube. No, he is cruising along the Czech waterways from Prague through thousands of sleepy waterfront towns whose names I am afraid to pronounce, following a very urbane schedule of classical music and gourmet food and drink along the way. He’s expecting Smetana, Dvorak and Mahler, champagne, prawns and caviar, but wait…

“Viking cruises?” I inquired.

“No, actually it’s another line that is smaller and caters to the boutique crowd, such as myself, who require the finer things in life. The ratio of guides to passengers is 4 to 1.”

“That’s amazing, Joel. So if your boat has 50 passengers, then you must have 200 staff, is that right?”

“Oh heaven’s no! I mean 1 to 4. Good Lord, we’d sink with your numbers.”

“Now I understand Viking uses drones and border collies to direct their passengers around Europe. It’s a big cost saver.”

“Well, I think you are exaggerating as usual. In any event I’ll be missing from Coffee Nation for the next two weeks. (Long silent pause.) What? No good byes? Not a single hug?”

“You are dead to me, Consiglieri. Go. Do what you must.”

Joel slinked away from the coffee shop like Judas on his way to the High Priest. (Well, that last sentence was for an overly dramatic effect and not in any way to be taken as truth.) He actually walked out like a man in suede Hush Puppies going on a wonderful vacation of a lifetime.

What he did not know was that I had managed to hack his email account with Par Excellence Euro Cruise Lines, PEECL, to switch him over to a competitor shuttler of schmucks, Angry Huns Adventures, AHA. It’s run by former members of Monte Python’s Flying Circus who create a lifelike atmosphere of pirate slave ships for the bored traveler who has seen it all. Milquetoast Masochists Magazine gave it five stars. Once the guests register they are taken into custody on false charges and shackled to an oar below the deck of an old R0man warship. It’s so real that often satisfied passengers rave that it is almost too real when their hands begin to blister and they must eat rancid food and contend with real river rats. Oh it’s great pistachio flavored panache for the discerning palette.

I can picture it now as a long black car meets Joel at the Vaclav Havel Airport.Image result for russian mafia driver pictures

“You are Joel, yes?”

“Why, yes, I am. And I am very eager to begin my all inclusive musical river tour of the Danube. It’s so exciting for a sousaphile such as myself. Do you play an instrument, Boris?”

“Shut up and get in car, Meester Viseguy.”

“But, but, there must be some mistake. I, I, uh, no need to be so hasty and rude, Big Fella. Hey, I paid a lot of money for this suit. Give me back my Panama hat!”

Once inside the shuttle limo, he is blindfolded and handcuffed. His human rights and all hope checked with his bags in the trunk for the next two weeks. Behind a double layer of duct tape he buzzes harmlessly to himself, “I am a United States citizen, a veteran and a lawyer. I know my rights.” But it’s only so much buzzing in the back seat of the newish Moskvich as Boris weaves into downtown traffic and finds the Lugubrious Lady Star just about to cast off from the ancient quay.

Bound hand and foot, taped lip to earlobe, Joel had to hop like Lowly Worm onto the Death Ship, Lugubrious Lady Star, flying the black and gold flag of the Angry Huns Adventures. He was forced under the deck into the dim and desperate galley of 47 other would be passengers; given the number 34; and henceforth ceased to be Joel.

All the other 47 wild eyed passengers were likewise duct taped and shackled to an oar. Clearly he needed to get to the U.S. embassy and file a complaint. He had to call his VISA platinum card representative and stop all payments. He had to find his way back to America and Coffee Nation. “Crack” snapped a moist leather whip expertly wielded by a large woman named Varushka in a forest green KGB outfit, short skirt and tall black boots.  Blood red lipstick outlined her snarling words.

“Comrades, you vill row or you vill taste the vip.”

Joel struggled to raise his hand.

“Number 34, you have question? Untape his disgusting capitalist mouth, Viktor.”

“Ouch. You don’t need to be so rough. Madam, I believe there has been some sort of mistake. I booked a musical tour of the Danube with Par Excellence Euro Cruise Lines and I think I’ve been somehow mistakenly placed on your loading list. Now, I’m sure it’s just a paperwork oversight… and what is a ‘vip’?”

“Silence, maggot. Ve make no mistakes. You vere mistake not ve. Viktor, tape again.”

The hopelessness was heavy  in the humid air below deck as 48 shackled prisoners began to row in unison. Viktor beat time on a conga drum.

Varushka called out the speeds, “Cruising speed, Viktor.” As Viktor pounded out the rhythm, Varushka cracked her whip above the shackled prisoners’ heads. “You vill keep the beat or else be the beat. Capichenakov?” she threatened.  As the old wooden ship creaked and shuddered against the river’s current, a strange music blared on the deck above. Joel thought he was hallucinating at first, then he realized he’d heard this song before. It was AC/DC singing “Highway to Hell”.

“Oh dear God, kill me now”, he buzzed into the back of the duct tape. “This must be the cruise ship on the River Styx. I should have stayed at Coffee Nation.”

–to be continued.

 

 

390. Almost Breaking Amish

Rainy AfternoonIt’s time for the next installment of The Silly Id and The Oddity, by  Homer Simpson. “Gather, my wet duckies, around the flaming hearth and hear, the stories of wet woods and rained on deer.” My buddy Clark just informed me that we have had twelve days of rain and two with sun here in depressed central Pennsylvania, home of mildewed burghers. This was not news. Some part of the mammalian brain keeps track of these dismal facts without any outside instruments. I don’t need a rain gauge to know it has rained a lot. The ground is near saturation. I don’t need a light meter to know it’s cloudy again or night for that matter. (I know you sharpies out there are going to play the eclipse card here. Go ahead. I can take it.) My pupils are dilated in the low light while my sunglasses are getting dusty from lack of use. So gloomy I can’t see them anyway.The weather, as it does so often in these damp parts, just sucks. The only consolation comes from relocated residents of Erie, who tell us they’d still be shoveling snow off their roofs in May. “May is when we dig out our cars”, they say as if talking about gardening tips, ya know? Like “Late May is when we pull up our first radishes.”

All the while I know that out west the sun is glowing clearly and cleanly, radiating and mesmerizing the sparsely populated landscape into a holy lethargy like a warm glazed donut. (In Tucson you can order glazed lethargy donut holes with a large coffee at Starbucks for under 5 bucks. Sometimes Shirley, the barrista with the face tattoo of Ghandi, gets it and slips me three metaphysical scones in waxed paper with a glazed wink. “Go forth in restful peace,” she whispers in yogic syllables.) The air is dry and fresh.  Cactuses are blooming and hummingbirds are buzzing. Feathered lizards run on grains of hot sand, leaving hardly a trace of their travels behind. Whoosh. Legal psychadelia.

The pull of what I want and the ballast of what I must do rock me like a cop car in a Baltimoron riot. I might be pushed over if lawlessness overrides the laws of gravity. (Or is it freedom fighters and tyranny?) Stay the course and get to the finish line with dignity… sure, as contemporaries die or become disabled by the myriad ailments and diseases available. Hmmmm,  this might explain why we have so many obese residents in Central Pa:  we eat chips and brownies rather than jumping in front of trucks hauling chickens to the slaughter house. Slow or fast? How do you like your death? “Neither,” you say, “I’m chicken.” Deep fried chicken.

I read a story about an Ohio State study claiming the Amish are very physically healthy, maybe the top 1% of Americans in that medical arena. The possible explanations for this statistical fact included their lack of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol; the ever-presence of fresh foods full of vitamins and minerals without pesticides and herbicides; lack of sluggishness inside fluorescent lit environments;  and the biggest contributing factor of all seems to be hard outdoor physical labor. Well, what do you know? All this industrialization and technological advancement that the Amish refuse to participate in turns out is killing those of us who do partake. Shukkamukka!! Instead of getting out in nature and doing something vigorous, we watch Survivor and vicariously survive via the boob tube with our Diet Pepsi in one fist and ranch flavored nachos in the other. One thing is certain: we will not perish from starvation. Brain atrophy or death by a million potato chips, yes.

“Amen!! Preach it!! And, while  you’re up, pass me that onion dip, willya?”

I don’t want to make you feel bad. I’m just muttering and stuttering aloud on an ashen gray day that can’t help but disappoint you. I mean it’s the final shot at Special Olympics for the special needs kids, and it’s raining again!!  I know, God, it’s all good somehow, but if I were throwing the slippery shot put in this chilly weather, I’d break someone’s toe for sure.  Then that someone would limp through life with a hammer toe, having to tell curious podiatrists about a rainy Tuesday in their adolescence at the Special Olympics when the shot put went kaput. My empathy stops me from such violence. Not to mention the toenail would be all gray, grisly and mangled, and hard to pedicure.No visible incision scar on the top of the foot

All of the above feels like being stuck in an elevator in a Russian submarine with the Doors playing “L.A. Woman” over and over, as Russian sailors bang the doors outside the shaft, “Komrade, be cool. Ve vill get beeg rench and free you, good American proletariat man. Leesin to de Doors.” Kind of cool the first time through, and then you want to dig up and re-kill Jim Morrison, “Mr. Mojo Risin”. You know he rearranged the letters in his name to come up with that refrain, right? Not Amish.  Anyway, when the Ruskies finally ruskue you (I know, it’s not an accidental misspelling), you are so oxygen deprived that they put you in a stale donut hole of a windowless nursing home in Odessa run by expatriate Amish widows. I bet you didn’t see that coming, didya? And it rains every day, dark greasy rain that makes Odessa feel like the far side of the River Styx. Oh blighted fate!!

And sort of like that movie The English Patient, one day you awake from the haze of your oxygenless existence in Odessa. Slowly a face comes into focus as old words flow gondola like through your filthy Venetian ear canal. Familiar somehow. “Go forth in restful peace,” saturates the dry sponge of your abandoned soul. Shirley, surely it’s Shirley. But how?

As she helps you sip cold water, the mystery unfolds at last. “Those scones were laced with lysergic acid, Dude. I’m sorry. I thought you knew. You’ve been trippin’ for three weeks now, singin’ L.A.Woman like with a Russian/ Amish accent. Too weird, man. ”

“Shirley, it wasn’t the scones. No, it was that damn rain.”Image result for psychedelic rain pictures

381.Decaf, Please

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

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

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

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

“And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room upon the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who did, Who?”

“The doctor.”

“Which one?”

“The best one in town.”

“Who is that?”

“I’m not saying.”

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

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

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

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

Relief and concern arm wrestled armlessly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s yours.”

“Awesome.”

376. Precision Dawdling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I stepped on a pop tart,

let out a big fart…”

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

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

 

345. Robbing Reality

Rawcuss Thursday to you, Blogwallowers. As you know by heart, Thursdays begin with Coffee Nation Summit, and today was no exception, nor was it particularly exceptional.  Joel was busily typing a business e-mail as the scavenging coffee crows began to roost around him like fresh roadkill. Me first. Some discussion ensued about his eulogy, which I told him earlier I had cut and pasted to personalize it for his funeral.

Groggily, “I thought you said obituary.”

“Certainly not, my august friend. Well, December friend now. I don’t pretend to know the cause or time of death. That work belongs to the crooning coroner around the corner. The newspaper will publish your obit at no charge under a picture your family will provide. They have little choice. However, I prudently wrote your eulogy before it was needed. (silky soft salesman voice) Think of it as a reverse mortgage plan that frees you to enjoy life now on your terms, knowing that an essential final need has been taken care of, so that your loved ones don’t have to face that awkward question: ‘Whazzznext?”

“Do I have to pay you now?” he inquired with hesitance in his voice.

“Of course. I don’t want to trouble your bereaved survivors with pecuniary matters when you can relieve them of that burden by paying me now.”

“Hmmmph.” Joel knew this game of verbal dodge ball was over. There was only one of him and twenty six of me, and my team had the balls.

“Well I suppose, um, I could, uh… well, look who’s here!”

Rob joined us in his sleepwalking fugue state of new fatherhood, a defenseless uncaffeinated putty puppy. He vainly attempted to make sanity chicken salad out of insane chicken poop. We weren’t havin’ none of it, nosirree!!

Steve needed to do real business with Joel and proceeded to spell his name, “Steve with a V dot com.”

Rob, “Why do some folks spell Steven with ph? What’s with that?”

“At one thyme that was how Jewish Stevens distinguished themselves from Christian Stephens. They made a Vulcan V like Spock did. It was sign language for ‘I’m Jewish Steve.'”

“Really? I never knew that.”

“You still don’t. I am encouraging you to google it and find out for yourself, Rob. Man up.”

“Oh man, why not just trust you? Wait, that’s stupid, but I don’t have time to research it. You make things hard on no thinking Thursdays.”

“It’s tough love, Rob. You’ll need to tone up as your baby boy grows. Consider this DAD CAMP for wusses.”

Next Doug shared family drama with the group as well as several well timed puns. “Joel, estate planning is a dying business.”

Steve gave us a glimpse at managing elderly parents and his obsession with Christmas lights. He’s the kind of guy who will find the bad bulb and replace it, no matter the time or cost. He and Doug shared esoteric bits of insider information on Christmas light repair [and changing diapers. “You never fan the naked baby or it will pee on you.”]

“They’re $3.98 for 150 feet at Lowe’s, for God’s sake. Just buy a new string.”

Doug continued the Christmas light repair lecture as sleep deprived Rob fought for consciousness. “You’re killin’ me. Just go to Lowe’s and get a set!!”

“See when the bulb filament burns out, there’s this connecting wire that burns out with it and then runs the current around the burned out bulb, so that the other bulbs glow just a little brighter since 110 watts are being divided by fewer bulbs. And this will go on until a tipping point where nothing will light up no matter what.”

“Christmas light Armageddon.”

“Go to Lowe’s and get two sets!! I’ll buy them. For the love of the Baby Jesus in the Manger, Stop with the lights stories!!”

“Look, Rob. You don’t have to be cranky with us. We didn’t get jiggy with your wife forty one weeks ago. That was you, Buddy. Look at me and mind meld along!”

I placed two empty 12 ounce coffee cups with white lids over my eyes like Mr. Magoo spectacles. “Listen, Blister Butt. And repeat after me,

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet…. Everybody sing it…”

“That’s not doing it for me, Supreme Commander. I need real eye contact.”

I moved the cups down to bouncing breast level and gave him the next verse,

” Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry”

“That is truly disturbing. Why not put that in the blog?”

“Okay.”

“I never read it. Why don’t you put me in it and then I’ll read that post, but you have to tell the truth.”

“Done.”

“I used to read it and then I’d feel like I wasted good productive time, so I’d rush off to do something I could feel good about, something with purpose to assuage my guilt.”

“Hey, I take that as high praise. You see, I am providing a much needed service that propels others to lead more upright, productive lives. After wandering in the black hole of Burritospecial, sojourners rush headlong toward sanity and meaning. They go out and lead lives of consequence. It’s just reverse psychology, Rob. The more unglued I am, the more you want to get your poop in a pile and glue yourself into top shape. You feel angrily invigorated to conquer your deficiencies.”

“That is truly brilliant.”

“Yup, like Christmas lights at Steve’s with a V. Or Doug with a potent pun.”

“No, no, no. I need a latte to go for my wife. I’ll see you next week, fully slept up and caffeinated.”

“Good, one day, my son, you will be a real man. And always remember,

  1. don’t fan the baby.”
  2. V is for Jewish Steve.
  3. We all need a little Christmas.”

“Got it.”

 

 

333. Plumbing Adventures

It’s an odd topic, I’ll grant you that, since I am not a plumber nor much of a handyman. Some men are born plumbers; some achieve plumbing training; and others have plumbing thrust upon them. [Malvolio said something close to that in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.] I am in the last category. (I know how to call a plumber. “Hey, Plumber Boy, come here. Closer.  I sprung a leak and I need you to fix me up”, or in a raspy Janis Joplin voice… “I need you to come on, come on, come on,  Take it! Take another little look at my sink, my sink now baby. You know you’ve got it, if it don’t drip no more.”) Okay, that tangent is getting awkward for everyone. Time for some plumbing dope. It stops even hard to control neural and verbal leakage.

This morning as my wife and daughter scurried about responding to Work’s siren call, two things stood out: the first one I have already forgotten, and the second one was that the sink in our master bedroom was leaking, a lot.

The Wife: “I don’t need this. The Gestapo at work are now logging precisely when we swipe into the building and we’ll be written up if we’re a minute late. I’ll just eat breakfast in the car again. Forget the fact that I have to work at home every night to keep up with the kids’ IEP’s.” (I can attest to the veracity of this last statement. My bride’s face has the equivalent of a tanning booth cathode ray burn from her laptop’s screen. I’ve been shopping for computer sunscreen ointments, but these have apparently not been invented yet. I am concerned, however, at night after she shuts the laptop down, that her face continues to glow like a fog-covered moon in autumn.) “I’ve had too much of tirement.” She says, ” I need to get to that re- prefix and soon… Will you look at the vanity downstairs and turn the water off? Oh, and the hair dryer stopped working this morning, of course.  Ahhhh!!!”

(I could attest to the truth of that statement as well since only the right side of her hair was dry. It was a different look that might work if she were a 20 year old punk rocker with blue hair.)

“And don’t forget to let Johnnie out before you go.”

(That’s what I forgot! Head slap.)”Oh, and we’re out of coffee, so can you pick some up in Greencastle or at your coffee shop? I like Sumatran.”

“Yeeeahhh.”

“Yeah what?  Yeah, you heard me? Yeah, you agree with me? Yeah, you’ll check the sink?  Yeah, you like my hair, which I know is not true, so don’t even try that. Yeah, you’ll let the dog out? Or yeah, you’ll get the coffee?”

“Yeah, all of that. Yup. I’m going to write it down this very instant.”

“Okay, I’ll see you tonight. Don’t forget to pick Jess up after choir and send that insurance check off, okay?.”

“I, uh, dang pen won’t write… Let’s see. Number one is, uh, let the dog out. [Yeah, fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on you again.] Okay, bye.”

Silence.

Fear rising.

Nothing but blank checks bouncing across my brain’s screen saver.

Alone and scared. Clothed and Afraid.

“Oh no. I sense my memory banks are all bankrupt!  Wait, I remember something about coffee. (I have to pee when I get nervous and when I’ve had too much coffee.) Oh, yeah, let the dog out to pee. Got that. Oh, and let him back in. I guess that’s understood. If you go to the bathroom it’s a given that you will come back, unless you have a seizure or die there. Actually, I did have a seizure in the bathroom, this very bathroom almost exactly 12 years ago. Wow. This is like an anniversary peepiphany for me!! I may need to re-assess my opening claim and claim a different sort of plumbing competence.

“I will boldly plumb vaguely connected concepts, tiny and tenuous threads of relevance. I will get the dope out. I’ll solder the disjointed joints. Run the gradients. Snake the trapped. Flush the commodious. And hook you up with high pressure hyperbole.

Plumb, verb with object:  to examine closely in order to discover or understand:

to plumb someone’s thoughts. 
“Yeah, baby, baby, baby!!! Who’s the Plumber Boy now? Excuse me for just a second. I need to get up and shake my plumber butt around. Whooohooo.!!! Shake, shake. Oh yeah. Cue up “Macho Man” by the Village People. Where is my toolbelt? “I want to be your Macho Man.
“Okay, focus. Breathe deeply and slowly. Remember your yoga intention for the day. I wrote that down on a yellow sticky note upstairs, I think. OOoooh, the list. What was next?
“The sink. I sink I can, I sink I can, I sink…huh, looks like this big gray cap nut is loose.”  Turn, turn, turn. “Hmmmm, let me dry it out and see if the drip is done.”  Wipe, wipe, wipe.
Silence as the dehumidifier does its magic. An hour later our hero, me, slides a baking dish beneath the pipe.  Two hours later not a drop in the dish. Victory is mine. I let out a powerful exhale and strut around my bedroom like Mick Jagger singing “Midnight Plumber”…
Did you hear about the midnight plumber?
Everybody got to go
Did you hear about the midnight plumber?
The one that shut the kitchen door
He don’t give a hoot of warning
Wrapped up in a black cat cloak
He don’t go in the light of the morning
He split the time the cock’rel crows
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
The one you never seen before
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Did you see him jump the garden wall?
Sighin’ down the wind so sad
Listen and you’ll hear him moan
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Everybody got to go
Did you hear about the midnight plumber
Well, honey, it’s no rock ‘n’ roll show
Well, I’m talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Yeah, the one you never seen before.
Ahhh, delirious Amen.
 
 
 
 

 

289. Something/ Nothing?

                               

I liked Todd Rundgren’s music in the 1970’s. His double album Something/Anything (1972) was pleasant enough as I recall. Not groundbreaking or toothchipping… just enough of something salty and sweet together, like tortilla chips and chewy caramels for my ears to chomp.  He played all the instruments and sang all the tracks, which is pretty impressive, I think. I recall a review in the Washington Post that called him the clown prince of rock n roll. I guess that was accurate. He made some money along the way and did a good bit of successful producing. So I suppose he knew a thing or two. I mention him as a surveyor’s reference point in time and culture that I am racing away from.

I saw him at the Kennedy Center in 1973, I think, with his Nirvana band. (No, not that Nirvana band! Duh!! They were still in elementary school then.) I wore gold glitter across my metrosexual collarbone and sprinkled more on the tops of my literally blue suede Converse sneakers. And, yes, filthy ones, I wore other clothes. [Strike that last image from the record, your Honor.] It was a fashion statement I will never need to restate, unless it would get me out of prison early. Get this: during the show some joint burning pothead (not the Burrito Manchild ) was being escorted from his seat by security when Rundgren stopped the show and told the wannabe cops to leave the guy alone. Strangely enough, they complied. Who knew that celebrities on stage commanded civic authority? Keep in mind that Richard Nixon was in the White House, and at the Opera House next to our auditorium, Washington’s finest sashayed in the great hall under JFK’s bronze bust while the other glitterati pranced about during a shared intermission. Someone should have lost his scheduling job for that faux pas. When hauled before the review board the next day, in response to the question, “What were you smoking?”, Ted the scheduling director pleaded simply, “something, anything”. “Shoot him!”

Bust of JFK in the lobby of the Kennedy Center

Fasten your seat belts as I whip the narrative violently away from this scene. The other day I believe a musical person by profession at my Sunday School table told her husband that he should never agree with me or say “Right” if I just said “Right” or “Never” if I just said “Never”.  Okay, hurt me. I believe it was a case of Something/Nothing. Robert was confused.

“Can I say ‘Right’ when you say ‘Right’, Dear?”

“Yes, but not when he says it. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I whispered, “Right on, Robert. Right now. You’re righteous. Right?”

He looked at me like I had an ice cream cone on a hot summer day… and he didn’t. “Oh no you don’t, Buddy. Not a single lick.”

“Ri…. ri…ri…”

“Robert!”

Crackamundo, he heeled.

I get a good bit of this reaction from others. I must provoke a certain socially acceptable disdain in folks who feel familiar and comfortable enough to mildly insult me. They tell me I bring it on myself and I can’t disagree. I think it is a pheromone that I emit.

The other night after our ballroom dance class a bunch of us went to a local restaurant and had a drink and an appetizer. I sat across from my lovely bride who sat next to Don the dancing dentist. Within a short period of time Don felt familiar and comfortable enough to drill and fill me. He asked my wife where our daughter got her musical ability. My wife said something like ‘Well, I took piano and guitar lessons, but my husband did not. His family didn’t do much with him.’ To which Don replied something like ‘So you contributed something and your husband contributed nothing’ or something like that.  To which I complained, “Don, don’t you even use novacaine before you stick a knife in a man’s gums?”

We chuckled nervously. I wanted him to think that I am a dangerous ex-con with a hair trigger temper and pistol under the tabletop. At least I wanted to think that he thinks I’m  more dangerous than an ex-hairdresser with a sparky blow dryer in hand. I am no marshmallow, Dude! The bullseye on my back is an unfortunate birthmark not an invitation. But alas! It’s a target for the disenfranchised to franchise like a McDonald’s. (If  you have any ideas what that last sentence means, would you please personal message me? I’d really like to know.)

So, the theme, the overarching theme that I must support with related drivel… hmmm. I seem to have lost it along the way. This is of no concern to me since I don’t usually follow the rules of proper writing. I just accelerate to maintain control. I first over heard this statement in a small English pub outside of Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia in 1973 or so. Some American military guys were talking quite loudly as they sucked down pints of ale. One guy was reviewing driving training he’d received State side. He was yakking about driving through a culvert when he blurted, “I accelerated to maintain control”, as if that were the punch line to an extended joke. I was seventeen and alone. I wound up chatting with one of the military dudes. He was righteous and much smarter than I was. He told me of the vast peacekeeping mission of the military, how they were agents of peace. I did not believe him, still don’t. However, I had a copy of a science fiction book that a former classmate claimed to have written. Wilbur even autographed it for my girlfriend’s gift.  This military guy clarified that the Great and Powerful Wilbur was lying, which was true, of course, but it wasn’t nearly as cool a story as having gone to school with a famous science fiction author. Just another something/anything that turned into nothing. Why do folks insist on the truth when a faint gauzy blur will do just as well? We know Bigfoot doesn’t exist, but why crush us?

“Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine”
Something cannot come from nothing. Right?
“I’ll have an Anything with a twist of lime.”
Oh where is Todd Rundgren when you need him?

265. Low octane blood sugar

Ever get that deflated state of mind and body when you haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 4 o’clock?  Your heart is thumping and your mind is jacked up about sumpthing or other and you wonder if you have a fever or a touch of mania. You feel Snoopid. Deep breathing and lots of water get drained off. You know better than to use caffeine.  Hooo baby! Bodily warning signals are going off all around, but you manage to postpone sitting down and eating. Finally you inhale a bowl of left over pasta with chicken and mushrooms without tasting a thing. A quart of water washes it down. Eyes closed as CNN anchors prattle on between commercials. “What these jihadists seem to want most is…” Mute. Darkness helps dissolve the inner staccato buzzing of flies playing soccer in a jar that is your brain. In an impossibly insective yet Hispanic falsetto, “Gooooooal!” My flies seem to be Guatemalan.

As late nutrition gets caught up with my blood sugar deficit, I wait. I recall pumping gas at the old Exxon station back in the early ’70s when leaded (yes, leaded) gas was 29 cents per gallon. Cars would hiss and clip clop into the station just off the D.C. beltway on mere fumes. “Ping-ping” went the sensor bell. “Filler up!” the customers would bark at us. Self serve was not common then. We’d get busy checking the fluids and washing the front and back windshields. Service was expected and sometimes demanded. Funny thing is that as gas prices increased, service disappeared. It became something only for the elite or was legislated to remain in New Jersey. Go figure:  the more a commodity costs, the less delivery service you get with it, unless you live in Jersey. So, the hangrier a person gets, the lower his/her expectations drop for service associated with meeting that need… thus no gas attendants and no wait staff in general. Remember when folks actually made careers out of selling clothing? Now it’s mostly point and shoot, self service unless you are at a high end haberdashery.

Let me consider this paradox. If true, then I should expect service at the most expensive restaurants to decline and eventually disappear. Thankfully that has not happened. Can you imagine make-your-own lobster bars and steak houses? And would you tip yourself for excellent self service? “My man, the calamari was superb!” “I know, Sir, for I am you.”

 Oh, that’s a cafeteria or a buffet. Doink!

So we are back to food and brain activity. I don’t really know much about either, just that the absence of the first leads to the absence of the second.

I did not plan it this way, but I was involved in an afternoon court case recently as a witness. Naturally I was anxious since attorneys tend to ask innocent sounding introductory questions that lead to bloody machete slaughter of little lambs a little later. In my case the thing to be slaughtered was my credibility for the presiding judge, no jury. As the afternoon wore on and my breakfast wore out, I began to sing to myself, “I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury. I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury…” I tried not to sway and smile like Stevie Wonder in the witness box. But let’s be honest: Stevie can testify.

 I wish I could have seen the thought bubbles above the other folks’ heads.

“Did I let the dog out at lunch?”

“This medication really constipates me.”

“Boom! That woman is a bitch!”

“Why did I run for judge? It’s more like sludge.”

“My spanx are cutting off my circulation and my bladder signals.”

“This guy seems to be singing that bass song to himself… ‘I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass, no treble.'”

Well, there is really no reliable way to prove what others are thinking if they are thinking at all. The other attorney, for instance, introduced herself by saying, “I tend to ramble on, so if you don’t understand one of my questions, just ask me to repeat it.” Now that is thin competition, if you ask me. She was the equivalent of the other brand that loses to Bounty Tough Towelettes every time. Not the quicker picker upper, i.e., useless.

Uh, I mean, she’d be an okay vice president, I suppose, as long as the president is very healthy and well guarded. Just think Joe Biden in a skirt.

So, a hangry mind cycles on the questions being asked and evaluates each one over and over, as if chewing on words were as fulfilling as chewing on venison jerky. Not so, my bloggoiters. If you don’t feed your brain in a timely manner, it goes spanky on you, and I’m not sure that’s a word, but if it is, then it means something negative and shady.

The hearing ended in real time but continued in my sugar depleted brain. I recalled again and again what the smart attorney asked. I evaluated my performance over and over. I needed to get out of the cycle. I was obsessing like an OCD client worried about a shark attack in Nebraska. Unlikely. It was just my unquelled mind. I needed some fuel and time to process it.

Fortunately for the me and the world I found leftover pasta with chicken and mushrooms in the fridge. Bingo. Direct hit on Hangry’s Hanger without a hangover. I can see how tempting it might be for lawyers to drink their lunches and dinners. That rocket fuel of alcohol goes right to the brain without much delay. And the good times roll as surely as Mustang Sally without a subpoena. But no, I don’t go there, friends. Alcohol works like Ambien for me. I’ve been called a Two Beer Queer because I get sleepy after two good beers. And I am not ashamed of this label. In fact, I embrace my low tolerance for all forms of alcohol and LGBT causes. That is to say, I embrace the LGBT community and have a high tolerance for, no, I uh, have a strong endorsement for them. I just need a nap. However, if nominated for vice president, I will serve.

 

 

 

213. nothingness

How can you hang a noun ending on something that does not exist in the material world? Okay, abstract nouns, I get it. But the -ness of nothing? The state of being nothing. What’s that? I imagine it’s like pulling into your designated parking space at 6:43 a.m. as usual and then the defining lines fade away. Your space boundaries vaporize. And then your car follows suit. It leaves you there on your butt on the asphalt. Whoa!! Did you take a hit of acid with your Cheerios? Did someone put a psychedelic sugar cube in your coffee? You reach into your pocket for your cell phone, wondering if you should call 911 or your insurance agent. But your hand disappears into the feel of your pocket like a phantom sensation from an amputated limb. A rabbit down its hole…You yank your now stumpy wrist out of the void only to see your vacant sleeve hang limp. You can’t stand up because your legs are just breezes in fast disappearing slacks hung on a laundry line blowing out to the horizon like a great blue heron. Your sensory system is rapidly failing, overwhelming your ability to intellectually deal with this unreality. Cognitive concern turns to fear which turns to panic. Gravity becomes irrelevant. You float like a wisp of smoke or a line from an old song on a distant radio…”breathless, you leave me breathless.”

Derealization, you think. Okay, I can name this phenomenon and therefore claim and control it. “Al Haig, I’m in control here,” you say to nobody, not realizing that these are the last audible words that will come out of the face hole that used to be your mouth. Is it possible, you wonder, that listening to Jimi Hendrix and the Dead can destroy the listener’s neural pathways and put him in an LSD coma by proxy? No, no, no. But you’re not sure. The Loch Ness Monster of Nothing is rising wildly the way flames fly up from a bonfire, which after all is the fire of bones. This is nothingness, you guess, cremation in a downtown parking lot. Disembodied consciousness is all that remains, or is it cremains? Ghastly paranoia, well, no. It’s just noia at the extreme end of the leash. This is really happening, dammit. Why do I not cast a shadow? My tattoo devolves into a small ink puddle.  “Sic semper tyrannis” updrains into a hypodermic needle of black fog. What’s happening? My wholeness has turned into a void. I am a hole outside the real.

No one can hear what I cannot speak out. I can still see and hear and smell, but I can’t be seen, heard or smelled. It will pass, this dissociation, won’t it? I have moved across the time/space c0ntinuum. That’s all. I must have gotten the other Kevin’s coffee order, the four shots of espresso and I am just racing out ahead of reality, waiting for it to catch me. Right? Right. I’ve  broken the sound barrier, that’s all. Sure. But my heart rate is not all that accelerated except for the panic. Plus there is no bladder irritation that would come with mega doses of caffeine. Where does that leave me? Not so much lost as stolen.

I know I am not dead. At least I am pretty sure. I read a book on after life experiences and this is not what was described. No angels attend me inside a beam of brilliant light. No demons either. I could not write a book about this lost body experience. No hands, see.  And I don’t want to. I want my body back. I want my voice to make sounds that my ears hear. I want skin over muscles that can feel the wind and humidity… like it was before I became a gas. I feel as if I checked my body in the coat check and now that the concert is over, I’ve lost the ticket…my body has been hijacked by deaf theater ushers. I scream silently, “Give me my body back!”  Nothing. She looks away as if… well, I guess I don’t exist…materially.

Dream? Even cruel ones end with this much activity. Once the brain begins problem solving, it wakes up the body… which I still am lacking. Think harder! I shouldn’t have gone out on that existential limb, wondering what the spiritual world was like, the after life, the great Beyond. Cuz here I am with an experience but not an answer. What is emptiness, the gap, the blank space? Perhaps if I had Asian philosophical roots, I could enjoy this swirling balloon release. The whoosh I don’t hear is my life emptying out itself. This is great news if your name is Lao Tzu and the end of desire and seeking The Way is the beginning of true consciousness. But my last name is Irish. I used to be sure of that.

What to do? Wait, it’s always about waiting, the art of waiting. For what, though?  Oh, yes, nothing. If I had hands I’d slap you off your bull, Lao! I desire my bodily desires back. I want to be hungry and thirsty and tired… or do I? This whole time I have been fighting nothingness instead of embracing it. I’ve been trying to conjure up exits based on my own strength. But I have none, and that is humiliating. Eviscerating… which is maybe a good thing. If I just surrender my will, my guts and desires, I can sit on that bull with Lao and find the Way.
Hmmmm, the spirit thing is not so bad. No sooner do I think something than I am there. It’s like Googling an entry and BOOM! I’m there– Singapore, Mongolia, Newark. No, forget Newark. In fact, since I have transcended my desires, let’s skip Vegas and Miami, Bangkok and Amsterdam.  Rather, I am simply a grain of sand on a deserted beach, a particle of a speck of dust on the ocean. Even that is too much thingness but will have to do for now.