546. Power

Image result for powerless images“I feel powerless and helpless”, she said. “My dreams confirm it. I can’t lift a glass of water or even stand up. Evil attackers come after me and the kids, but I don’t know how to shoot my husband’s gun. I’m paralyzed. I tell the kids to run to safety as I try to figure out the handgun. My car flies off the road into an abyss, and I am remarkably calm, at ease. I don’t have to fight for control any longer. My situation has taken total control of my powerlessness. It’s not suicidal dreaming; rather it is soothing to feel the release of responsibility’s pressure. I can float care free.”Image result for car driving off cliff gif

“Your unconscious can be telling you something here, you know. Something wise and good.”

“Like what?”

“Stand up, for instance. To whom or for what would you need to stand up?”Image result for standing gif

“Oh, that’s easy. My father in law. He’s such a wild squirrel in our house. He watches the right wing news and yells at the developments they cover. It’s all bad to me. I can’t watch the news. ”

“So you need to stand up to your father in law? And maybe stand up to the world of the news.”

“I can’t. All the shootings and chaos paralyze me. I have no control. For years now the house work has been out of my control, and my kids are getting there too.”Image result for scared faces gif

“How about the glass of water you can’t lift? Does anyone in your house leave glasses sitting around for you to pick up?”

“Are you kidding? Like everyone– my husband, my kids, my father in law. Always. It makes me crazy.!”

“In your dream you can’t pick up one glass of water. We know in reality that you can lift a glass, but your dream says you can’t or that you should be able to. You get anxious that you can’t.” Image result for weak hands lifting a glass gif

“Yeah, that’s enlightening. Weird too. You’re getting a lot more out of my dreams than I am.”

“Well, I believe in the unconscious as a deeper, wiser level of self that shows us powerful images and symbols with intense feelings attached. Symbols are dense communication. Vivid dreams and repetitive ones strike me as the unconscious insistently knocking on the door to our conscious reality. Will you answer the door?”Image result for gothic door knocking gif

“I don’t know what to do. How to gather up control and be powerful…”

“You equate control with power. Define power.”

“It’s being in control.”

“But control of what? Chaos?”

“Yes, chaos is disorder. Control is order. Order is power, I guess.”

“Nice linkage. Did you know that chaos meant gas in Greek?”Related image

“No, I’m not a word nerd like you.”

“I’ll choose to take that as a tortured compliment. Anyway, harnessing a gas, propane or gasoline or steam, leads to power. And harnessing is essentially controlling the thing in the harness. In the process you extract or direct the energy in the harnessed thing.”Image result for harnessed horses gif

“I can follow that with my housework, but not my kids…”

“Well, they have lots of energy, right?”

“Tons, no, megatons.”Image result for nuclear mushroom cloud gif

“Okay, you harness their energy by providing order, structure, rules, pro-social values.”

“I don’t feel like I’m harnessing anything. I feel like I’m running behind a pair of huskies that got off the leash.”Image result for dogs running away gif

“Nice. You are reactive and can’t catch up.”

“Yeah, it was a lot easier when they were little.”

“Sure. Two hundred years ago we harnessed water power to run saw mills and grist mills. The natural stream mechanically powered a big wheel that ran an axle into the mill, converting water’s energy into a wheel’s energy via the harness.”Related image

“When the kids were little, that’s all I needed was a millstream next to my little stone cottage. [Deep breath.] Life was safer and slower and easier then, like an old oil painting.”

“Charming, but kids are a moving target. Once you have them potty trained, you need to train them not to bite and hit. Then you have to train them not to run in front of cars or run away to play hide and seek at the clothes store. Then they’re in school and you’re getting them adjusted to first grade. When you turn around, they’re in third grade doing fractions and you’re wondering why you can’t recall second grade.”

[Tears.] “I feel I’m missing so much of their lives and I’ll never get this time back.”

“Yes, but rolling around in a depressed state is not getting you caught up to speed with their rapid growth.”Image result for acorn growing time lapse gifImage result for acorn growing time lapse gif

“I worry about them all the time.”

“You’ve done a good job of meeting their needs so far, right?”

“I guess so. They are good kids.”

“And you are their biggest role model.”

“They say their biggest nag.”

“Good kids don’t just drop off the tree of good citizenship. You have molded them into goodness.”Image result for human face molds in clay pictures

“Okay, but now I feel they are beyond my control, my power.”

“Don’t underestimate your power.”

“What power?”

“The mom card. You drive them. You have the money. You have the rules and authority. You have wisdom and experience and love and affection.”Related image

“I never thought of those things as power.”

“Well, now you can. Ultimately you want to empower your kids to share control with you, to pick up their chores and self control, do their school work independently, drive themselves, pay for their own stuff.”

“I can’t see that far ahead. Actually, I don’t want to. I want things to stay the way they were when I was large and in charge.”

“Hmmmm. You want to crawl into that oil painting of the mill cottage next to the singing stream?”

“I know it’s a fantasy world. I just get so sad that life moves so fast. I can’t keep up.”Image result for oil painting of mill by stream

“Okay, but you can’t live in this in between place that is neither now or the past. You are like an undelivered letter at the post office… unread, unrealized, unpotentiated.”

“So I need to harness the power, channel the energy around me?”

“Yep. Get turbo charged.Related image

 

 

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382. Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy

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

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

“And I decided quickly, yes I did,

To disco down and check out the show

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

And just when it hit me somebody turned around

and shouted Play that funky music whiteboy

Play that funky music right

Play that funky music whiteboy

Lay down that boogie and play that funky music

till you die”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

353. Christmas in Prison

John Prine is an old favorite of mine. I bought his albums as a teenager and saw him once or twice in concert back in the day. “Angel from Montgomery”, “Illegal Smile”, and “Hello in There” are songs that have held up well over the decades. But “Christmas in Prison” has always held an ironic  place in my memory banks, especially the first four lines. What an unlikely pairing:  the season of redemption, grace and joy with the place of justice, punishment and separation.

It was Christmas in prison
And the food was real good
We had turkey and pistols
Carved out of wood

And I dream of her always
Even when I don’t dream
Her name’s on my tongue
And her blood’s in my stream.

Our singer persona is lying in his rack dreaming about the love of his life. I imagine it is a sweet torture for him to digest his Christmas meal while longing for his fair lady with unquenchable desire. Inmates still care and long for love too. Though he never tells his crime, it’s certainly a serious felony to be in a prison that features a searchlight and gun in the big yard. The reference to eternity suggests that he’s a lifer. Perhaps he’s a killer.

Wait awhile eternity
Old mother nature’s got nothing on me
Come to me
Run to me
Come to me, now
We’re rolling
My sweetheart
We’re flowing
By God!

His paean to desire begins with hope, I like to think so anyway. As he  works the figurative language, we get a strange description of a smart woman who is super sweet, maybe too sweet to digest. I’ve never done a picnic in the rain after a prairie fire, but I imagine the opposing energies could be interesting if not unforgettable.

She reminds me of a chess game
With someone I admire

Or a picnic in the rain
After a prairie fire

Her heart is as big
As this whole goddamn jail

And she’s sweeter than saccharine
At a drug store sale.

Okay, not a great poet but he’s a convict, found guilty of doing something very bad. His words are consistent with his setting and character.  His sweet torture, like an addict shooting up again, hoping for the original dragon ride that hooked him, leaves only a drop of blood and an empty syringe, full of disappointment. The chorus loses hope the second time around as he calls without an echoing response from his love.

Wait awhile eternity
Old mother nature’s got nothing on me
Come to me
Run to me
Come to me, now
We’re rolling
My sweetheart
We’re flowing
By God!

Actually, he’s not rolling or flowing anywhere. He’s doing hard time. I remember doing prison ministry twenty five years ago. Two or three of us would go to the county jail once a month and spend 90 minutes with a dozen or so men in orange jumpsuits. All of them had release dates that were measured in weeks and months. Still, Christmas in county jail is no picnic. About half of the population is on psychotropic medications that are dispensed from a cart, like the cookie cart at nursing homes. They are anxious, depressed, and sometimes psychotic. Who wouldn’t be while in jail for the holidays?

The search light in the big yard
Swings round with the gun
And spotlights the snowflakes
Like the dust in the sun
It’s Christmas in prison
There’ll be music tonight
I’ll probably get homesick
I love you. Goodnight.

I recall one fellow I met with individually. He had a six month sentence for trying to buy cocaine from an undercover stinger. Jake was losing his mind as Christmas came before his release date. “I can’t do it, man. I’m paranoid that the guards will set me up or one of the other inmates will plant contraband in my bunk. They don’t want me to get out. I’m freakin’ out.”

Image result for pennies in prison pictures

The next visit I had with Jake I took 180 pennies and made a pile on the steel  table between us. “What’s that for?” he asked. “Well, it’s your sentence, 180 days. What I want you to do is count out the days you have already served.”

He complied, and as he did so a smile broke out on his somber pale face. “Man, I only have twenty six days to go. No problem. I got it.”

I was amazed at how such a simple visual could connect with someone’s hopeless restlessness. Jake actually got out a week early for good behavior merits, but the jailers didn’t let him know till the day of release.

Wait awhile eternity
Old mother nature’s got nothing on me
Come to me
Run to me
Come to me, now
We’re rolling
My sweetheart
We’re flowing
By God!

He was a messed up kid from a messed up family. At least he got out by New Year’s Eve. I saw him off in his civilian clothes. He seemed just as anxious about his freedom as he had been about his incarceration.

Which brings me to the birth of Jesus, the redeeming savior of mankind, who cancelled our human nature debt and set the captives free from Hell’s grip. We cannot forget that crucial fact or take it for granted unless we want to be singing the blues in a jail of our own making. Not all prisons are bricks, bar, and mortar structures. Some are edifices of anger with spires of  pride. Some are sad swamps of grief and regret. “I coulda’ been a contender”, said Brando’s  boxer character in On the Waterfront. No matter. You have been set free by grace. Enjoy the reprieve. We’re flowing by God.

 

 

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

Image result for water gypsies pictures

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.

280. Point less ?

I was reading a journal article today on mind wandering. The researchers somehow determined that mind wandering actually allows the same mind to focus; and conversely, the focusing mind allows the same mind to wander in a yinny-yangy way. (My words not theirs, trust me here.) I find this finding reassuring, which seems redundant to find a finding and assure again, i.e., “re-“. However, be this as it may, I am a big fan of mind wandering. I do it all the time, to which long time blog followers can all shout a throaty “Amen!” I am a proponent of associative thinking, trusting that there is a theme evolving as the associations build. The tight sphinctered scientists among us do a lot of crisp pointing, like tour guides who point out the most important buildings in Charleston or NYC. They point and point and point so you get the point. Helpful if you are on a tight schedule; tedious if you are not.

Mind wandering is not total abandonment of rational thinking; rather it is like letting a kite have its string, maybe a half mile of string on occasions. Allowing the breezes and updrafts to have their way with a kite over the beach is a small effortless joy. Ahhh, good therapy for the string holder and spectators who are unwinding while watching their kites turn into tiny red dots out over the shipping channel. The kite can symbolize a lifted mood, a soul rising, a worry vaporized… or nothing at all.

What’s the point? Is this an experiment with a key and lightning? Is there a measurable and justifiable purpose here? Not really.

Decades ago I remember my friend Jack flying a kite off the sand of Kitty Hawk, N.C. It was a perfect kite flying day. We added fishing line to the original string when it was exhausted. To elevate the kite’s altitude, we tied shoes and fishing weights to the new line. It became an engineering marvel after a few hours. Only as early evening approached did we take turns winding in the various lines and weights until we retrieved the flimsy kite itself. I was left with a memory, a wonder, a smile thirty years later.

Jack is long dead now; however, the memory is bittersweet and alive. If I choose to focus all my Jack memories, I’d fill the sky with millions of kite strings and confetti. The nights in Georgetown; the weekend at UVA; the trip to Va. Tech; the dozens of dozens of parties and outings. The big red Oldsmobile convertible. The stupid red van. His wedding, wife and kids. Siblings, mom and dad, and friends network. His amnesia episode. It’s endless and yet invisibly attached to the single kite string that wandered up off the beach in 1980 something.

I always listen to Pandora when I write my blog posts. Pick Rolling Stones Radio and you get the entire milieu of rock and roll that surrounded their classic hit songs. Rather than drilling the Stones’ greatest hits into your brain, Pandora floats around the era, filling an aural shopping cart with nice choices from the same aisles and shelves where the Stones live. An atmosphere is suggested to hover in your memory and massage old thoughts and feelings you have not moved in years. “Time Is On My Side” is followed by Zepellin, CCR, Hendrix, a Beatles song, Cream, the Animals, etc. And there you go– 1970 all over again.

I’ve heard more than one tight lipped doctor dismiss dreams out of hand as mere defragmentations of the waking mind, a cleaning process the brain goes through each night, with no other significance. Some even mock the concept of the unconscious mind as an unprovable fantasy construct. These guys point, point, point to their trusty data points that measure something but require no faith. Anecdotal records are simply coincidences and not reproducible, so they would have you believe.  But allow me to disagree.

Years ago I had a boy client who had lost his father to a long battle with mouth and throat cancer. He longed for his father, an avid outdoorsman, to be in his life and teach him how to canoe, and fish, and hunt. He had a repetitive bear dream that disturbed him. In it he was running next to a bear in the woods. As I pushed for details he told me the bear was not scary at all. And they were actually running around a quarter mile track in the middle of a pine forest. He was disturbed by the “nonsense” of the dream. I sketched out the scene to his liking and he colored the bear a reddish brown. As an afterthought I asked, “What color are the bear’s eyes?”

Without any hesitation he responded, “Bright blue”.

Now that’s an odd detail, I thought.

Later on I was processing this dream with the boy’s mother. She told me about her deceased husband. “I used to sponge bathe him at the kitchen table after they took his tongue out. He’d sit in his underwear and make growling noises for yes and no. I understood him, but I think it scared the boys to see their dad that way.”

“What did your husband look like?”

“Tall, six two or so, maybe two hundred and fifty pounds. Handsome, I thought.”

“What color was his hair?”

“Oh reddish brown. And he was hairy all over, not just on his head.”

“Really? Like a bear?” I asked.

“Uh-huh. I called him my big teddy bear.”

“And his eyes, what color were they?”

“Oh, my, the brightest blue you ever saw.”

“Well, how about that? I think we’ve found your son’s dream bear.”

Gasp. Tears. A billion kite strings filled the space around her and wet confetti maple leaves poured down all over her aching memory bank.

 Merely the brain defragmenting, kids. No need to panic. If you can’t prove it exists, then you can’t point to it.
So we point less.

 

 

 

139. Running with Jimi

I had an intense nightmare last night. I was being chased by FBI agents while running through my old geographic area, Alexandria, Virginia, with Jimi Hendrix. Jimi was wearing a bright yellow embroidered suede jacket over purple corduroy pants and blood red boots. He had his afro pulled back into a frizzy, semi- dreadlocked mullet, held in place by a shiny moss paisley bandana. No hat. He did not talk to me as we ran from car trunk to alleyway to open streets, ignoring traffic signs. I recall being jammed up where a street dead-ended into an alley and a garbage truck was picking up a dumpster. Panic rose in my belly as I realized then that we had to walk out in the open park pathways while a traitorous informant who had never heard Jimi’s music ratted out our location to J. Edgar Hoover, curiously long dead. Jimi breathed quietly through his nose, unperturbed.

I looked in all four compass directions, scanning for uniformed cops or undercover guys in detective gear. My heart was racing. I had no idea why we were being pursued, especially since Jimi had been dead for so long. But you know how dreams go, there is no logic to them, just a racing visual documentation of methamphetamine intensity. I know I kept thinking that we needed to get into the woods across the street from my childhood home. We’d be safe there for a while. I knew we could hide in those familiar old overgrown woods.

Running with Jimi Hedrix is not an easy thing to pull off in broad daylight. He’s an iconic figure who is easily recognized even by folks who have never heard his music. Like Che Guevara. I never heard one of Che’s songs, but I could pick him out in a police line up in the 1960’s. A handsome totalitarian, murderous Marxist rascal, he was perhaps the polar opposite of Jimi, the love machine. “Peace baby.”  Che’s face emblazons many a tee shirt today just like Jimi’s does. Overlap. Boom! I awoke when my real life dog whimpered to go out and pee at 3:00 a.m. My heart was fluttering. I could not forget the stroboscopic scenes in my mind. I felt a sociocultural duty to save Jimi. I let Johnny the dog out in the darkness, trying not to confuse the unconscious with the semi-conscious.

Now how does one get into such a psychological pickle jar, dodging sweet gherkins and dill chips, pearl onions and bits of garlic while swimming through greenish vinegar?  (I went to the bathroom also. I know what you’re thinking.) I wonder about Freud and his cocaine use at times like these. I tried to reconstruct my recent history to uncover links to the bizarre narrative of my dream. I had been watching the movie Chaplin the other night. It was very well done; Robert Downey, Jr. did a heck of a job portraying Charlie Chaplin. There was the political back story of J. Edgar Hoover who set out to ruin Chaplin and anyone who was not a pure American, whatever that may be. And in some odd way, Chaplin’s Tramp is a comic-tragic iconic figure like Jimi. The ugly, fear-gorged Americans in Chaplin’s day made him out to be a communist Jew. He was neither. They were just rabidly stupid. Jimi was viewed as trouble too, I think. If anyone scared the conservative silent majority of Richard Nixon’s imagination, it was Jimi “Burn Your Guitar” Hendrix. Like Chaplin he was a sex hound, I think. So there is sufficient overlap between Hendrix and Chaplin for my dream.

Image result for j. edgar hoover pictures

And then I ingested an hour of CNN overcoverage of the bomb blasts in Boston last night before going to bed. All those swarming bodies shifting from exultation to disaster in a split second. Runners lost their footing and the limelight as two explosions took center stage. Cops turned into runners, their focus switching from the sprinters in front of them to the splinters behind the police barricade. In the blink of an eye terrorism visited the U.S. again. And a corps of reporters larger than the entire Homeland Security and CIA combined began their smothering overage, saying the same damn things over and over. Interviewing new faces and officials who said the same thing over and over and over.

Perhaps that is where my tired brain left reality and went to sleep for some rest. And lo’, what awaited me in dreams?  A Jimi Hendrix/ Charlie Chaplin/ Richard Nixon/ Che Guevara/J. Edgar Hoover marathon chase. The Tramp was a lovable rascal who was always in trouble, chased by cops or immigration officials, child services officials or landlords. He was anti-authority in a good way, since Authority in Chaplin’s films was always fat and pompous, easy to hate. Without words every gesture had to be exaggerated. Now it seems audiences want nuanced close ups and lots of yakking. My dream had no words, not one. However, if I ever make a soundtrack for this dream, I’ll be sure to include Crosstown Traffic….”so hard to get through to you“. And All Along the Watchtower…”two FBI riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl”. And The Wind Cries Mary...
“The traffic lights they turn up blue tomorrow
And shine their emptiness down on my bed
The tiny island sags downstream
‘Cause the life that lived is, is dead
And the wind screams Mary

And finally, Fire… I have only one burning desire, let me stand next to your fire“.

Good night, Jimi Hendrix. Let the cat out and turn off the television, man. Peace out.

136. The Fun Club

I always wanted my own play house or tree fort when I was a kid in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Unfortunately that never happened. My family lacked tools, talent and materials to build much of anything. Also, there was only one tree in our yard, the same ugly elm tree that was planted dead in the center of every front yard in the cookie cutter neighborhood of post war Virginia Hills. A young elm is not a tree that is conducive to supporting a homemade fort in its branches.  Of course, there were other trees growing in folks’ yards, but in the 1960’s they were weak saplings just trying to survive in the hard clay of the area. In the neighbor’s yard behind us, (the Emkirs at one time), was a small circle of mimosas, lovely to sit under on a hot summer day but totally incapable of supporting a boys’ clubhouse tree fort. So I lived without. Not exactly the desolate Great Depression tale of my folks, but it was the cross I had to bear during the Great Society of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

No one in our working class neighborhood did much that could be considered gardening or landscaping. That took time and money and must have seemed foolish to veterans of WWII and Korea and Vietnam, the gritty men who lived on Dorset Drive and the Parkway, Virginia Hills Avenue and Enfield Drive. Kids in those days were told to “Go outside and play”.  Being constructive was for men. Tired out men did not play. They sat in lawn chairs and drank cheap beer on warm summer evenings in wife beater tee shirts that were never gonna be fashionable. They smoked short cigarettes that had earned their lifetime loyalty– Winston, Lucky Strike, Camel, Salem. Like the cars they drove, things were pretty darn basic back then. Hand crank windows, no air conditioning, a.m. radio, and an ashtray with a lighter. Had to have a lighter since everyone smoked then, even in grocery stores.

We kids had forts made of sticks and leaves, and many years later we had big boxes and shipping crates that served as hideaways, but by then girls and candles and cigarettes and beer were part of the equation. Those were nests for unsupervised horny adolescents not innocent tree forts or kids’ clubhouses. The best thing to do with those nests of nadirity would have been to burn them alongside the Christmas trees we burned each January and thus purge the earth of two sand grains of adolescent sin. {Note: nadirity is a construct made from the root nadir, meaning lowest point. Yes, I made it up, thanks to Mark Craver.}

When my girls were old enough to want their own playhouse beyond our basement, they were maybe 11, 6 and 2 years old. I say that they wanted it, but if I were being totally honest, it was my idea. I wanted them to have the experience that I had wanted as a kid. A fort with a window and door and a ladder and a slide and a sandbox. One summer I decided that they were getting their own play house at the back of our yard. I laid out $500–600, what would have paid for a week’s vacation at the time or a month’s mortgage, for the materials needed. I had a very simple plan: an 8′ x 8′ deck that sat up 4′ off the ground above an 8′ x 8′ sand box. On the deck would be a little house with a slanted roof. The single room measured about six by eight feet and was seven feet tall. It had a single window and a hinged door like a horse stall.

It took me several days to put the parts together– pressure treated 2″ x 6″ decking on a 4″ x 4″  frame set in post holes with concrete. I wanted everything to be solid, plumb, square, level and worthy of time. The house part was 2″ x 4″ construction covered with T-111 siding. It was a thing of basic beauty. My girls could not wait for occupancy. Before I had the guardrail installed on the front walkway, my daughter Grace pushed the neighbor boy off and shattered his elbow, requiring surgery that night. My wife and I were watching him, and I did watch as Grace pushed him and he doubled over and collapsed into a ‘V’ as he fell four feet and his elbow met a rock. It was one of those moments when you just knew that you weren’t gonna get any closer with that family. You had come as far as you could. It was time to eat them or turn back…or something like that.

In any event, my three daughters and two of the neighbor girls took occupancy and declared that the fort was to be called THE FUN CLUB. The two older girls, Erin and Suzanne, appointed themselves dictators for life without chance of overthrow. They began making up rules for their younger siblings to follow, which was briefly tolerated in the new colony. But like their British predecessors, they overstepped natural law and fueled a rebellion. Grace and Kristy seceded and took the Gerber baby Jessi with them. Basically they waited until the older girls grew bored and then squatted in the abandoned playhouse. However, while they were a united colony, they wrote and sang their theme song in all their throaty glory.

“This is the fun club; this is the fun club; this is the fun club so let’s have fun! fun! fun!” to the sped up melody of “You are my Sunshine”. Very primal, like spring peepers croaking out their calls into the stillness of spring nights.

The older girls moved on to post-Barbie appointments with destiny while the three younger ones kept a diary and collected dues for future expenses that were never incurred. Pennies and old pink sticky notes adorned the FUN CLUB for a couple of years and then we used it for storage until the ladder steps broke and the roof began to leak. It was an odd arrangement to store summer chairs and toys in an old playhouse four feet above an old sandbox. Cats and groundhogs enjoyed the structure, though.

Years blurrily passed. I don’t remember when, but I found myself tearing down the playhouse and exposing the deck. And then I cut the 4′ x 4′ posts and dropped the deck onto the sandbox frame where it has sat now for a dozen years or more. It’s an odd sight to see an 8′ x 8′ deck at the back of one’s yard. The uninitiated would never guess that there had once been a FUN CLUB on that very spot; a spot as pure as the white sand that filled the box beneath it. My childish dream had come full circle.