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.”

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175. Missed Appointments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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