Friday, April 30, 2010

The Devil's Children and Czechoslovakia.

Growing up left-handed in South Georgia during the mid-sixties was to catch the last remnants of a time when left handed people were considered just short of evil. Both my grandmothers, and assorted other older relatives berated my parents for allowing me to be raised as one of “The Devil’s Children”. My first grade teacher called my parents to see if they wanted her to “break me” of being left handed. My penmanship had already begun to be, and to this day still is, terrible. Most of my teachers blamed it on me being left- handed, but that was only the beginning.

I was twenty years old when I met someone who had been born left handed but had been hit often enough he learned to become right handed instead. Because he was a bit older than I, he was raised in a culture a little more steeped in superstition than I had been. Also, because he was born into the poverty ridden African American culture of the mid 1950’s Southern environment, religion and superstition was something he was exposed to much more often than education or science. He secretly practiced writing his name left handed until he was taken out of school as a teenager, which was common in The South in those days. Young black men did not have a future that did not involve manual labor, and as much as it was a white man’s world, it was also a right hand world.

Working in a wood yard where trees were cut up into logs, and loaded onto rail cars sent to a paper mill, was not a job of enlightenment or deep philosophy, but it did give me a change to discuss what the world looked like through the eyes of a poor black man whose education extended all the way into the ninth grade of High School. He had been taught that being born left handed was wrong. He had been taught that being born black was wrong. Until desegregation occurred he was taught eating in the same room with white people was wrong, and he ought to be beaten if he tried such a thing. By the time he and I met, it was far too late for him to think about education, but one thing he did was learn to write his named left handed, and he also learned how to spell Czechoslovakia. One of his grade school teachers offered to bring him a can of peaches, and let him eat the whole can by himself, if he learned to spell Czechoslovakia. It was something he learned to do that once, and was so proud of the accomplishment, he retained the knowledge for the rest of his life. ( I had to enlist the help of the spell checker, by the way)

For those of you who grew up after the sixties and even the early seventies, it is alien to you to consider arresting someone of one race for daring to eat in the same restaurant as someone of another race. Hopefully, it’s alien. Equally as odd, is the idea that left handed people are somehow related to, or in association with, some supernatural and evil deity. Imagine how it would feel to be told you would not be served in a restaurant because of your race. Imagine how it would feel to be hit with a stick just before being left handed. Hell, I imagine there were a lot more people hit with sticks back then for being black than for being left handed.


You think this odd, cruel, and unjust. Well, hopefully you think it’s odd, cruel and unjust. If you were part of the problem then, you just might be part of the problem now, but then again, considering my point of view on the subject, I strongly doubt anyone who is part of the problem is one of my loyal readers, unless it’s someone who enjoys having their ignorance pointed out to them on a regular basis. Of course, someone might point out being left handed isn’t quite as obvious as melanin. As my friend was trained not to be left handed, alas! No amount of beating could teach him to be lighter in skin tone. Not that certain groups of people didn’t try back then, but once more, we now see that as cruel, and unjust, do we not?

If you agree that we do see this as cruel and unjust, you might want to reconsider who we are, because there is a great deal of cruelty and injustice being served out today. Great progress has been made, for there is a very dark and very left handed man in the White House today, but that does not mean the cruelty and injustice is a thing of the past, as Czechoslovakia. Okay, what part of that did you not know; the dark, left handed, or Czechoslovakia?

What I ask for you today is to consider who you see as left handed. If you have no qualms at all about someone being left handed, and are at a loss as to why anyone would, might you extend that sense of puzzlement to race, religion, gender, mating preference, or even to some attribute you have never considered before? Where are your prejudices and why are they there? Who put them there, and when did they put them there, and why are you allowing them that space? Do they deserve it?
We, as a species, as a country, as a culture, as people, we must of course consider some people to be dangerous and wrong. Serial Killers, Child Molesters, War Mongers, Religious Fanatics, and all of those who would make profit off the misery of others are people rightfully considered a threat to our existence. Yet to this day, far too many people see far too much wrong in far too many others whose only fault is to be born who they are, and what they are, and to no harm to anyone else at all.
For the most part, we left handed people are no longer beaten for it, but that does not lessen the burden of others, who are still considered for no good reason at all, as the Devil’s Children.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Strangers are we.

The distant past of our species occupies my mind at times. A friend of mine who is an archeologist tells me there was a thriving trade between the native peoples of this land, but I can well imagine there were tribes in some places who very seldom saw a stranger. Even in the most remote of regions, I can imagine there is knowledge of other people in other places, yet history is replete with this explorer, or invader, arriving on some distant shore to the great surprise, and perhaps eventually horror, of the native people.
The horse was likely the first medium which allowed for humans to go past their own boundaries and into those of other humans, and it must have been an odd sight to see a human and an animal together, traveling at a speed unimaginable, and unattainable. We tend to view a space shuttle flight with only a slight sense of awe, but for a walking race of people, the first sight of a horseback rider must have been nothing short of viewing manned flight for the first time.
The same can be said for the first time a sailing ship arrived on the shores of a village where the canoe was the very height of watercraft technology. Can you imagine someone trying to explain to you a sailing ship if all your life, and the lives of everyone you have ever known, were spend paddling a canoe around? A giant canoe holding a hundred people and much stuff moving quickly across the water via cloth that catches the wind? Seeing such a thing must have been just short of madness to some people.

My paternal grandmother was ten years old when she saw her first airplane. She had heard rumors of such a thing in the tiny little Texas town where she lived, but no one she knew had ever really seen man fly. It was something like unicorns, or werewolves, or Santa Claus. But one day word came down the telegraph wire there would an airplane flying close to their town, and everyone turned out to see it. Sure enough, the plane flew over, and my grandmother said some people screamed and ran away. The pilot waved as he flew by and it would have been no stranger had the dead walked, or if some local creek had parted. No one knew what would come of this, and no one did know for quite some time.

We have reached a stage in our cultural evolution where we have run out of strangers, yet even those closest to us are. Think about how many people you pass within mere inches of each day and never so much as make eye contact with them. Do you know the name of the person who made your breakfast this morning? If you used a drive through window to get food you may have never even seen the cook. The person who handled your transaction, would you know this person if you saw them walking down the street? When I was a child there were no strangers in my tiny town, and everyone waved at everyone else as they drove past. How many people did you pass on the road today and never thought about even so much as a friendly wave?

I was passing a semi truck on the Interstate today and the driver was tossing something out of the window. No, not like beer bottles or trash, but he was picking something up inside the truck with his thumb and forefinger of his left hand, and then releasing the substance, or things, or whatever, into the slipstream of his truck. He did this not just once or twice, but as if he had a whole mess of whatever he was tossing. Pot seeds, the husks of sunflower seeds, fleas, ticks, nuclear waste, dog hair, or maybe even some hallucinatory pixies that had invaded his cab, none of us will ever know what he was doing. Yet he is not a stranger. He and I are both Americans, we speak the same language, we eat the same foods, we live in the same country, we both have the same problems that all Americans have, and still, had I tried to stop him to engage in conversation very likely I would have either been killed or arrested.

Of course, he might not have been an American at all, you already thought about that, didn’t you? So here we have someone from Argentina, eating some local delicacy that requires the expulsion of the excess out into the wind, and perhaps if I knew this dish existed I would be wowed by it. I will never know this either. In fact, it is now possible for thousands of aliens to pass right by me, and I would never notice if they were from Suriname or Saturn. His truck could be loaded down with illegal farm workers, toothpaste, or a giant sea creature from Ellen Three and there is no way any of us will ever know, unless a monster gets released from a semi truck, then I suspect the hits on my blog might reach five a day.

The internet mirrors our lives in just this way. How many times has some deranged murderer stated his intention to kill online and no one noticed this until the bodies were piling up? But it’s not like you can do a search with the keywords “deranged” “murderer” and “soon” and discover when this will happen, any more than you can stop a truck and ask the drive if there is a monster in the back. We’ve become close strangers. I am friends with someone in Russian, another person in Germany, a couple in England, one in Ireland, a few in Australia, and all of this has led me to become accustomed to the idea there are no intellectual borders, yet I am no closer to intimacy with anyone for this.

While it is a good thing to lose our inhibitions with people of other cultures, we must somehow lose our fear of those people we see every day. We must see them as intellectual possibilities just as we see that in some stranger’s writings. We must be able to engage those we see just as we feel comfortable in engaging those we may never see.

And this comes from a Hermit.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Chemical Holocaust

A friend of mine is married to a vet with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. To help deal with his illness, he’s under the influence of a covey of medications. To help her deal with her husband’s outbursts my friend decided to take a few meds herself. Whatever else might be said about the medications involved in this story, my friend’s ability to write has all but vanished like the promises of a government to the soldiers who went to war.

We begin in the early years of a child’s life, dealing with any sort of behavior problems with medications prescribed by men and women who receive kickbacks from the companies who sell the drugs. Television commercials bombard us with promises of cure and relief from all of life’s many problems, and implicit in all these messages is the idea that no matter what sort of side effects there are, be it heart attack, anal seepage, or driving while fast asleep, all of this is an acceptable risk to be under the influence of whatever drug is being suggested, and sold.

We, as Americans, stand at the cusp of the Chemical Holocaust. Like prisoners being herded into camps, we are now separated into the brain numbing showers by disease and disorder. You, with the heart condition, you have to take this medication and you there with arthritis, you must take this medication until your heart demands this medication, and you there, yes you! You don’t fit in so well, so we’ll give you this medication, and maybe your parents can find some peace from who you are!

Profit is the new Hitler. It is to the almighty dollar the makers of these chemicals do their straight arm Seig Heil! It is not the Brown Shirts that we have to fear but the White Coats. It is not a timid and obedient populace we have to fear is complicit but rather a population too damn stoned to understand what is going on around them. A multibillion dollar Death Camp is being built in our homes, in our schools, and in our minds. Nothing that is natural, willful or feral will be left in our thoughts. We are going to be anaesthetized, euthanized, and while our mental facilities and emotional property whither under the dull pearl light of the pharmaceutical’s nightlight those who have poisoned our souls, and the souls of our children, will sleep comfortably with record profits from the last quarter.

Madness is the new sanity.

Rational thought tells us if we are ill then it is good to want to get well. The lie begins when we are taught there is a cure for anything, and everything, in the shape of a pill. The insanity of taking poison to become well is lost on the rational these days. We were supposed to be who we are, not who Novartis Pharmaceuticals, or Roche Products or GlaxoSmithKline can turn us into. Why would we trust billionaires to cure us of disorders that made them rich as they pour their pills down our throats?

Is this the sanity we so desperately seek?

With each child hooked up to the running meter of the never arriving Taxi of Conformity, we lose who that child might have become. That child loses the confidence, the ability, and the desire to harness the inner wildness to some good affect. The paint artist in the inner child? Gone. The writer that turned inward while staring off into space? Gone. The playwright with a dozen imaginary friends, each with their own life? Gone too, murdered by the need to fit everyone, every man, woman, and child, into a nice quiet bundle of soothed nerves and calmed fears, and chemical comas.

Do I rail against each and every form of medication for each and every person? I do not. But chemicals should be the refuge of very last resorts. Pills should be given when each and every single other natural option has been explored and exhausted, not by the big drug makers, not by their lackeys in their white coats, and most certainly not by the government.

I self medicate myself with running, with yoga, Pilates, with free weights, and the never ending saga of three large dogs. I write. I write when I am angry, I write when I am sad, and I write to keep at bay the madness of creativity, even as I stoke those very fires when I write. Oh yes, I tempt those demons within, but they are much a part of my life. They are both what drives me and how I drive the words from the keyboard. I reject the wisdom that peace can come from a bottle of pills or a bottle of beer. A crutch is a crutch, and no difference, I lay this claim openly to you, no difference at all, between a brown bag and a white coat.

Are there medical professionals who can be trusted? Certainly. Are there good men and women to be found there, who without we would most surely be lessened as a race? Without any doubt. But as a profession, as a growing industry, as an economic force from which there is little or no escape, these people endanger us as much as some try to succor us.

What lies within you, no matter how terrifying it may be, is not nearly as frightening as the future offered by those who seek to destroy all that is still feral in us. Look at your hands; they are your way out. Create. Not as a source of absorption, but as a source of divinity. Just as no ship passes through the sea without some sort of foamy wake, you will not create anything in total peace. Breathe in the wildness of your mind, and put it to print, or paint, or carved stone, or music, or prose, or whatever you have created as your own.

Embrace your madness. Pull from it your own life, and live it.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Owls and Snakes and Sam, Sam The Happy Hound

Someone once said “Nature abhors a vacuum” and from what I could tell about her housekeeping skills, so did my ex-wife. There are times I’ve wonder exactly why some of the creatures around my property do what they do and from a human perspective it doesn’t make sense at all, but looking at it from the point of view of wildlife, perhaps it does.
The first time my property flooded my backyard became littered with dead Cottonmouths. The previous couple of years Bert and Sam had lived in peace with the venomous snakes but one night I wound up having to make an attempt at killing one before it took a shot at Bert, and from that point on the mutts declared war. For two seasons they were able to come in the backyard and not get killed by dogs, and they learned that. The third season was the wet one, and coincidently the same season I tried to kill one. Since then they haven’t come in the yard in any kind of numbers. Somehow they have learned when dogs are going to kill them, a concept that seems to have escaped armadillos.
You might think dogs are at a disadvantage against a venomous snake but you would be very wrong. A snake has one thing, and one thing only and that’s two very small fangs that cannot get through very furry parts of a dog, like Bert’s neck. Most dogs are bitten through ambush and accident, and on the leg which is a serious bite. A dog attacking a snake that gets zapped on the nose is going to suffer but because the blood vessels in the face do not run deep, the dog has a very good chance of living through it. Conversely, a snake hasn’t got the endurance a dog has. After a couple of minutes of trying to keep a dog away from him, a snake is going to tire, and one of the strikes is going to take a split second longer to recover from than it normally does. The dog is going to rush in, grab the snake by the neck, and shake it to death in a matter of seconds. As dangerous as it sounds, I have seen this too many times to count and have never seen a dog get bit. Against a pair of dogs accustomed to hunting as a team there isn’t a snake on earth I would put money on winning. This isn’t to say a dog cannot be killed by a snake, it’s just the odds favor the larger, faster, and warm blooded predator in this case.
So why on earth would a Cottonmouth come into the yard to begin with? I couldn’t figure that one out for a while. But as the pond was flooded the water in the pond was deeper, presenting a home for gators, which eat snakes. As the pond spread out it became wider and more shallow in the area around it, present a better hunting ground for pond birds, which eat small snakes. My back yard was, for a time, the lesser of evils. Now there are fewer snakes using Sam’s hunting ground as a refuge which if nothing else I’ve said is convincing, the fact they would take their chances elsewhere should.

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why a large barn owl was tormenting the mutts. At first he was just running them around the backyard, and largely I thought it was an accident, until I figured out why it might benefit an owl to have a dog, or two, chase him. The owl will land in one of the trees close to the house, get the dogs excited, then fly out into the woods, which are still fenced in, and the dogs give chase. The owls then lands somewhere near, in a tree, hoots a few times, and the dogs, once again give chase. Then the owl flies outside the fence leaving the dogs rushing back and forth in the fenced in area, which is more than an acre, looking for the owl.
So how does this doing anything for the owl?

The dogs’ frantic search for the owl tramples the underbrush and any prey animals looking to hide there get flushed. The owl knows the dogs aren’t watching where they rush, and so they aren’t as likely to pick off prey the owl may have chased inside the fence to begin with.

I’ve seen Sam and owls use each other to scare up rats. I lit a large bonfire before dawn one day and the rats that had been hiding in the brush had to make a run for it or fry. Quickly, they realized Sam was there, and just as quickly they realized he wasn’t everywhere at once. Several made it to the fence and as I listened I heard the hooting of owls as they closed in. They knew the fire would chase rodents into the dark, and they knew nothing small and furry was staying inside the fence. This was before the Loki Mutt, and honestly, rats are beneath Bert’s notice. Sam had a field day. For every one that made a break for it and lived, another was pounced on by Sam, who flirted with getting burned a couple of times. For each one who made it into the shadows, another made the squealing Death Song of a rodent feeling death by air. I heard the sound of something small in the underbrush, and the hiss of a raptor missing its prey, and a rat charged back into the light, and Sam nailed it instantly. Like birds and tuna chasing tiny fish into a bait ball, Sam and the owls were herding the rats into a tight circle of death.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Where there is life there is prey, and some predator will fill in any emptiness. We human would do well to remember we do not exist safe within the safety of the fire, or outside the dark of the night.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, April 26, 2010



Sunday Morning Storm Warning Dead Pump Muddy Dog Dead Mower Blues

The thunder storm scuds across the sky like a dark and malevolent crab. Pushing wind and rain in front of it, the creatures lashes out with a bright and electric claw, stealing light from the dawn and turning it into electric flashes. The canines are uneasy about this, and Sam tries to become a conjoined twin. The windows rattle slightly. The rain begins to fall harder. I want to film this.

There it is, bird singing wildly in the background, the sound of frogs still croaking madly, and suddenly the perfect roll of thunder, harsh, discordant, huffing, and wait, huffing? Bert has decided to start breathing like a pervert on a payphone for some reason. There’s the sounds of Lucas ganging his food dish against the wall, and at the end of all this, the phone starts ringing.

It’s Sunday morning. It’s raining like hell. Elbow is having an emergency. Sigh. Video will have to wait. The rain slackens a bit as I review the situation. Elbow babbles. The woman talks nonstop when she’s nervous and because she is a woman without running water, or rather water running into her house, she is nervous. A limb has fallen and broken the water line coming out of the tank of her well, and water is now gushing out and onto the ground. As I open the breaker box on the outside of the house, the heavens open up, and the deluge begins. None, not one, of the breakers are marked in any way. Worse, there is a slight depression in front of the box and I am soon in ankle deep water while playing with electrical switches in the middle of a storm. None of them seem to affect the flow of water from the tank. There is a better than average chance this is the one well on earth that runs off of bad luck and the power left over from ill timed, and ill prepared, repairmen being stuck down by lightning, for having the temerity to work in the rain. The girlie umbrella Elbow has loaned me, with its lacy frill and very short handle, tends to direct the torrent of water not so much away from me as towards the box. The irony of trying to fix a well in the middle of what Noah had taken so much time to prepare for is not lost on me.
Other than the main breaker that kills off half the electricity in Hickory Head, nothing seems to work. There is a box lying on the ground, half covered in dirt, rust, spider webs, and a soft prayer, whispered. I pull the cover off to discover it’s the power box of the well, and there is one very large spider inside of it. I’m not in the least bit of afraid of spider, but rather the problem is I would like to poke at it, and get it out in the open. I’d like to see how large this thing is. Shame the heavens have redoubled their efforts to drown me, and Elbow is now directing traffic from the porch. But we do figure out the box does kill the power to the well. Elbow is not a woman without some influence. She knows who to call on Sunday morning for the first assault on the well, and now she plans to bring in a professional to do the pipe work. I am not in the least insulted. Some people have dashing good looks and some are handy with tools. I got neither, but I assume that one day I will figure what I do have, and it will be better than either. I retreat in favor of a real plumber, and head home to video the storm.

I get home, take a shower for some reason that strikes me as rather odd once I’m actually in the shower, and then dry off. The sun comes out. Okay, no problem. I have to mow the grass anyway, and this is my third season of having a riding lawn mower, an addiction if I ever had one. For the vast majority of my life, and certainly my youth, was spent push a mower when there was grass to be cut. My father owned a yellow push mower that had a twelve inch cutting path and it weighed eight-eight pounds. And it has square wheels on one side too. And the grass came out of a chute in the back straight towards my face. Some people have fond childhood memories, and I do too, but they aren’t of my childhood.

The mower won’t crank so I have to jump it off. The downside is the mower won’t run without someone sitting in the seat. I have to stop the mower, find a strap, strap the seat down, and rejump the damn thing. All is well. Bert thinks he needs to cool off so he rolls in the mud and looks all the world like an alien. I can handle this. I get the backyard done, and as I begin the front yard there is a sound like crashing thunder. Struck by lightning, I have been! No, wait, I just ran over a piece of metal the size of Maine. Not the battleship, the state, on the other hand, maybe it is a piece of that ill fated boat. The mower is mortally wounded. I get the metal removed and it will not crank again. One blade has an odd crook to it as if I ought to be out with sheep. Maybe that’s what I have; I am the world’s best shepherd and have yet to lead my flock. I would get the yard shorn quicker with sheep, and lo, I push the riding mower back to the shed. Bert wants to come in but he is covered in mud. I have to dry him, brush him, and all the while I am setting a terrible example for dogs not to do something and I know it.


Thusly ends my Sunday, unsightly, and forlorn, with my yard half shorn.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Playing Possum

The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
Bert: Meh
Sam: Meh
The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
Bert: Meh
Sam: Meh
Bert and Sam was sleeping on the floor, and I’ve left the back door open so they can come and go as they please, and I can sleep in.
The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
Whatever it is, it isn’t human because Bert isn’t reacting. If it isn’t human, by and large it isn’t very dangerous. But also, Lucas isn’t barking nonstop, like he does at snakes, but just barking, then stopping, then barking some more. Sam isn’t reacting so I’m also guessing it isn’t prey.
The Loki Mutt: BARK! BARK! BARK!
I get up and call Luke but he doesn’t come so I know it’s something rather than nothing. I put some boots on and then watch as Lucas carries a large furry mass about ten feet, drops it, and barks at it.

Possum.

“Playing Possum” is the colloquial for playing dead, and I suspect this one is doing just that. The body language suggests that this animal isn’t really dead, and honestly, I cannot believe it is in one piece. Bert and Sam are unusually mortiferous when it comes to small mammals. This is the first survivor I have seen in a decade. But it isn’t pretty. The animal has a very serious cut over one eye. There isn’t any way a small mammal can be treated here, in my home, and talking someone from South Georgia into treating a possum would be rather difficult. I take a shovel and carry it out beside the pond and leave it. If it is really alive, maybe it will recover, and if it isn’t then nature will have Her way anyway. I’m not happy with this, but I cannot figure out how to do things differently.

Sam kills things. It’s what he does. There isn’t a way to dress it up and make it sound any better. Sam’s focus when it comes to creatures in the back yard is incredibly narrow. I think I could talk Bert out of it if Sam wasn’t around, but when it comes right down to it, of the two Elder Mutts, Bert enjoys it a lot more than Sam. To Sam it’s business. To Sam it is what he is supposed to do. He kills things and never looks at them again. He doesn’t play with dead things. Sam is disinterested in the dead, but Bert likes to carry them around until I take them away from hm and toss them over the fence.

I cannot figure out where Lucas stands on this. So far he seems perfectly content to watch from a distance. Sam made his first kill when he was much younger than Luke. The Loki Mutts barks at snakes whereas Sam shakes them to death. All I can figure with this one is Bert got there first, Lucas went in to take the possum away from Bert, Sam was more interested in keeping Luke away from Bert than killing. I have no idea, really. But this was a mistake all around. I should have never let an injured animal out of my sight. I should have put a bullet to it, or I should have tried to found someone who could have treated the animal. I go out to where I left the possum and sure enough, it is gone.
Hunting for an injured possum right before a thunder storm in South Georgia isn’t the most insane thing I’ve ever done, but you know, it creeps up into the top fifty with a good set of legs. Can they carry rabies? That’s a thought that will stop ya. The dogs have been vaccinated but I haven’t. I look over the pond and there is an older woman leading a child of twelve or so by the hand, they’ve espied something near the holding pond on my neighbor’s land.

I cut back through the house to watch and it is not pretty. The possum is out in the open, dazed and confused, and the child wants to rescue it. The woman isn’t letting her get close, but the kid is beginning to wail. Someone in a pick-up shows up and the kid really starts screaming. This is yours Mike. You knew better than to leave an injured animal like that. Dammit.
The woman drags the creaming kid away and the man in the truck waits until they’re back at my neighbor’s house before he shoots the possum. It’s a quick end, and I’m grateful as hell he did it clean. One shot in the head and it is over, and I’m off the hook for any future suffering.

The dogs dislike gunfire and they come in all excited about the return of the possum. Sam has good vision, and he knows the possum was out there. Lucas just knows Sam is excited about something, and Bert just knows if the other two fogs are cranked he ought to bark at the people, just because they are there. Bert’s default is to bark at people, because he knows I like him to let me know when humans are around. Now they’re all crowded around the window with me, watching the guy load the possum with a shovel, just like I did, and toss it in the back of the truck. He’s dead, Jim.

I watch the storm move in with a sense that I’ve failed here. The odds of me being able to find someone to help heal a possum are slim, but I didn’t try, and that is what bothered me. Barring that, I should have gotten the .22 out and just ended it. I don’t like my judgment in this one, and I wonder what the hell I was thinking. The rain falls lightly on the roof, and I hope the mulch pile is getting some rain. After almost a decade here, a small mammal actually survived Sam, and walked off from it, sort of.

I’m still unsure what I should have done.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alcohol and Ink

If there is one thing I know for certain that one thing would be my knowledge of what chemicals are doing once they hit my bloodstream. I know how much is too much, I routinely ignore such thresholds, and I usually pay the price later. This has been a particularly brutal pollen harvest and usual chemical cocktail overreacted and it didn’t do me a bit of good. I whittled down the list to one pollen knocker and coffee, and that’s it. Yes, I know what that means; I quit drinking.
I’m a Writer. I claim the right to drink because it’s what we writers do. Show me a writer that is sane and sober and I’ll show you someone who is hiding a bottle in the desk and a studded leather collar under the bed in a locked box. Drinking goes with writing like peanut butter with jelly, rice with Chinese food, and child molestation with Catholic priests. It’s a time honored tradition. Not drinking while being a writer is like being a Vegan football player.


The list is long. The damage is as obvious as it is dramatic. We writers, as a class of artists, have destroyed more of who we are than anyone outside what we do ever could. As many books that have been burned, for as many writers who have been banned, as many lives ruined by a public unwilling to accept the future was coming, hell, we’ve survived the worst of that. But drinking? We embrace it. We carry a flask in one hand and our sorrow in the other, and we wonder why we’re depressed. We idolize those before us who committed suicide in a liquid form, and we wonder why we’re staring at the bottom of a glass at the bottom of the night. For some reason ink attracts alcohol, and once both are in your blood you are really and truly and honestly, fucked.

Here’s my theory; we writers are by our very nature more in tuned with all emotions human. We don’t necessarily live this, but we can translate it. We do feel it. We soak in it. We’re emotional symbiotes. The people we create, the people we live with and through, all the lives trapped inside of us rushing to get out with each new sentence begin to pile up, crush one another, and then they all start screaming. Alcohol drowns out the screams. It washes away some of those souls on the rocks, as it were. Alcohol shuts off higher functions first. Judgment goes first or we would never drink again, or we would stop early and go home. But alcohol numbs the many voices, the other lives, and in a sense, makes drunk writers almost normal.
You’ve thought about it. I know you have. I have. You knew that before you read this, before any of this started, you knew that of me. You toy with the idea of emailing me, talking about it, but you haven’t yet. You are afraid if you drag it out it will become more real. You’re afraid if you say it, write it, then that makes it real. Your fear is justified, and your fear is as real as they come, and you, in your heart of hearts, know this to be true. You are afraid I’ll make it worse, by saying what you want to hear, because you know I will say it, and you know it is true.
I will say it. If you ask, I will speak with you truthfully. If this frightens you, seek help, or validation, or another drink, elsewhere.


I will not speak of that last paragraph. If you do not know there is no way for me to explain. I can be in the same room with someone for ten minutes and know if they write, or want to write. Odd thing, is I frequently confuse poets for writers, and they are not anywhere nearly the same. It’s like confusing dogs and cats, or single malt with blended. Really, there isn’t anything that is more different. They can me the same, but if they are one, or if they are the other, you would think I would know.

I wasn’t drinking heavily before I stopped. I had it down to once a week, on Saturday night so it wouldn’t interfere with getting things done Saturday morning. I was drinking alone, again, and that is never a good thing. Four beers is my limit, so it’s not like I was drowning in the stuff, and the nights I could knock off a whole six pack alone I felt it for two weeks. I liked to drink with Boone, my favorite barchick, but I quit doing that because I had to drive. You can’t look at my drinking before I stopped and say it was a problem in any way.

But it’s the flirtation. It’s like hitting on the wife of a well armed serial killer who comes home once a month. At what point is it a problem? How much control do any of us really have if we slip too far? Remember that judgment thing? Why do I tempt fate by drinking when in the past it’s been a source of serious trouble, even if it was good writing material?

Mike, you were drinking between four and six beers a week. Dude!


I am a writer. The list of damage done to the class of artists I claim as my own is a terrible thing. For the vast majority of my life I have drank, drank to excess, and by fortune or will, I have never done anything to harm myself or anyone around me, at least nothing that caused permanent physical damage. Writing has helped me become more sober. Wring helps silence the voices by giving them their own life, and by giving me mine. Writing and drinking, they go together like drinking and damage. Any excuse to separate the two ought to be looked at as a gift.

Take Care,
Mike

Too Fat For Fox!

Ashley Graham, who doesn't look at all like one of those Victoria's Secret Death Camp Survivors, was told By FOX and ABC television networks that her recent commercial was too racy and showed too much skin. Despite the fact that both networks show Victoria's Secret Ads, and even KY Jelly ads, when it comes to showing a woman who doesn't look starved, they both headed for cover.



Friday, April 23, 2010

Caffeine and Candy

Caffeine. No, let me try that again; Caffeine! Yes, glorious and wonderful in nature, it is the single best chemical on earth other than women. Is Caffeine a religion yet? Coffee must be, yes, Coffee is a religion and I am the Cardinal of Coffee. I am a Bishop of the Beans. I am The Latte High Lord. Juan Valdez is my patron saint. My Columbian comes in a cup.

Someone, I bless them now, gave me a coupon for a free cup of coffee at that World Conglomerate Coffee Chain, and I went in to use it. I make no bones about doing business with these people because they have great coffee. Not just good coffee, but exceptional coffee in my eyes, and if I think it’s good, then it’s better than that even. I’ll whore my money out to anyone selling good coffee and if it’s free you better not be standing in the door when I get there. I’ve got my hat pulled down, my safari hat with one side buttoned up, I’ve got my sunglasses on, and I’ve got “Would I lie to you?” by the Euthymics cranking on the MP3 player. Annie Lennox rocks. She’s got smooth, hardcore vocals and she’s backed up, at least on this song, by horns and good string work. I unplug to speak with the Acolyte Of The Counter. I also take off my sunglasses because she’s cute. She smiles back not because I’m cute, because I tip well, which I do not because she’s cute, but she is also proficient. “Shot of espresso?” she teases me. I shouldn’t because I’ve had a couple of cups at home, and I’m already feeling the buzz. “Two for one?” the guy working with her suggests as he walks by. I feel like saying, “And I want a uniform!” but who would catch the reference? I put a five in the tip jar as the Acolyte ups the size of the cup to hold the free double shot of espresso, or so she claims. These people like me. I tip well and I am always happy to be there, and happy to see them. I write in my journal as I wait for the smokin’ hot blackness to cool. “Found out about you” by the Gin Blossoms kicks in, a great coffee buzz song.

“Shine on you crazy Diamond part two” by Pink Floyd is really good work. Not just good, but really good, can you tell I’m in a good mood? Coffee is good. Pink Floyd is good. Cruising through the big hardware chains store is good. It’s early in the morning and I’ve got the afterburners on, four mile an hour walk, and the store is mine. I like the hardware store. Tools, power tools, nails, screws, power tools, yes, I can build a pyramid in my basement, and I don’t even have a basement.
The downside to caffeine is there must be a urine sacrifice each hour. I head towards the bathroom in the back, and there is some burly biker looking dude standing beside the door looking very nervous. I come in on his blindside and as I push the door open two things happen at once. The first thing is the burly biker looking dude freaks out and grabs me. Even highly caffeinated I realize that tying up with someone this size is going to go poorly for me. Hell, even if I had drank instead of coffee an equal volume of tequila I’m fairly certain something in my brain would be going, “Dude! Axes in the Garden Center! Be one with that dude!” But something else happens, remember that part? As I push the door open, the burly guy grabs me, and a child screams bloody murder, “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!”

I swing both arms up hard to disengage the burly dude but he backs off, palms up, “Sorry about that, sir, sorry about that, I’m sorry man, okay?” In the world of men, when someone who can obviously thrash you and mix a margarita at the same time and not spill the drink starts apologizing, code dictates you stop and listen, and do not act aggressively towards this person. I unplug, take a step back, and wait.
“My daughter is in there and she can’t, shi..can’t go to the bathroom with anyone else in there with her.” He’s sweating, red faced, and totally about to die. “She’s like this at home.” He adds.
“That’s the men’s room.” I point out.
“She still needs...help” he tells me. This is biker material if there ever was. I notice there is a pink purse with legs and a tail stashed on some boxes.
“You like Pink Floyd?” I ask. “I got Pink Floyd on my MP3.”
“Yeah, really, they really rocked.” He looks relieved. This too is guy code stuff. When there is resolution then everyone acts normal and life goes on. “I loved ‘The Wall’.
“Daddy!” a voice calls.
“I got your back.” I tell him and I take up guard at the door.
A couple of minutes later he comes out of the bathroom with a little girl who looks around for her animal purse, and he retrieves it for her.
“Thank you mister.” She says, and he nods at me, guy code-like.

The pink purse is an animal of some sorts, and as they walk away I hear the little girl say, “Candy wants a hot dog, but no chili” and the burly man takes her hand.

I really have to go. Pink Floyd is much better than pink purses, no offense Candy. I get shelving for a closet, and look at power tools. The music has morphed over to Holly McNarland, someone I met once at Lilith Fair in 1997. She has a great voice but seemed genuinely surprised I thought so. I see the burly man walking out with the little girl and Candy, and he stops at the hot dog vendor’s wagon. He’s carrying a five gallon bucket of paint in one hand, and Candy in the other as the little girl eats the hotdog. The caffeine craves action, movement, and rock but I watch has he walks to his truck,straps her into the child seat, hands Candy over to her, and then puts the bucket in the back seat.

I have no idea why, but this man has given me more hope for people than I have had in quite some time.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Teeth Cleaning and Cancer

Going to the dentist is only slightly less awkward than going to see a Medical Doctor, except when I got to the dentist I know there isn’t anything wrong that a good cleaning cannot cure. The downside is most teeth cleaning operations are followed by extraneous suggestions for invasive unnecessary surgery. But I actually like the people I do business with when it comes to the teeth cleaning thing. Eight in the morning means eight, not eight ten, or eight-thirty. Be there at eight, and at Eight oh something, I’ll have my mouth open like a crocodile getting pecked at by one of those crocodile pecking little birds whose names I forget right now.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for too many professionals but the poor woman who is assigned to my mouth, her I feel sorry for. I don’t floss as I should, even though I brush all the damn time, even at work. She’s a gentle soul who doesn’t like working with people but she does make the best of it, and she is good. I can imagine she gets people in there, first thing in the morning, who haven’t brushed, and the inside of their mouths must be like a living autopsy, replete with what the victim ate for breakfast that morning, dinner last night, and who knows what else. Making a living on the inside of someone else’s mouth cannot be easy, and must be, on occasion hellish. I don’t give the poor girl a hard time at all.
Normal people are nervous around me. I can sit quietly in a room and suddenly the normal people will start easing away. Maybe I should stick to the standard greetings of the day. When someone asks me how I am I usually say that I haven’t been killed yet, and I understand that’s a little unsettling, but they do not care how I am. So stop asking. Just say, Good Morning, and do not ask any questions.
“What cha listening to?” A child wanders away from his parents, her parents, the creature is a genderless little thing with overalls on, but wearing earrings in both ears, and carrying a toy truck. I’m surprised at how strong gender roles are, and how it takes me a few seconds to react.
“Charles Manson’s podcast on whether or not idles curiosity in small children should be encouraged or if evolution ought to be brought into play, if sanity and personal space is to ever mean anything to anyone.” I reply.
“Then it ain’t Taylor Swift?”
“Regrettably, until I lose function of my hearing entirely, popular music, or what passes for such, will not be passed through my brain in a digital way.” I explain. “Yet I do have a few selections from the outstanding collection of Theodor Bundy, with none other than Gary Ridgeway playing bass.” I unplug one of the pods and hold it out.
“You ain’t from around here, are you?” The child takes a step back. The child looks for parents and hopes they miss their offspring. The mother unit espies the conversation and realizes one of four has escaped. She snaps her fingers twice and the child is jerked away quickly by an unseen force. The father glares at me with furrowed brow. That’s actually a good sign. I retreat back into the music of Aimee Mann. I would very much like to break into an air guitar solo but suppress the urge. I nearly take my pen and do a Def Leopard drum solo, but suppress that also.

“….Just don’t woooooork your stuff. Because I’ve got troubles enough no don’t pick on me when act of kindness could be, deathly, deathly, deathly, definitely…”

The Tooth Girl doesn’t talk while she works on me, and she’s trained me to spit when she nudges me, and I’ve trained her to let me up when I start to move in that direction. I have to know this pseudo-stranger isn’t trying to restrain me. Honestly, I’m surprised the chair doesn’t have straps. Tooth girl mentions her daughter, a friend dying of cancer, and I can tell the latter is weighing on her, and it sucks that I cannot say something, because I do cancer talk fairly well. Nearing fifty, cancer and I are not strangers. It’s maimed and killed among those I love, and I’d like to tell her that there is victory, even in loss. But, no, that has to come from someone who loves you, for it to really mean something. I try to make eye contact with her but she sees me upside down, and too close. Nevermind. I’m glad I’m in enforced silence.

She tell me the dentist wants to speak with me and I walked out of him last time because he left me waiting for ten minutes. This time he walks in, looks in my mouth and asks me if I was ever in the Army. HA! I knew it! Army food does very distinctive damage to the human mouth! All my theories have been… Oh, the can opener on my keychain, yes, Army issue, nevermind.
He asks me if anything has been hurting me and I tell him the recession. He tells me use one of the toothpastes for sensitive teeth. He starts listing them and asks me if I want a sample, and I just cannot tell him he’s misheard me. I’ve got a couple of chipped teeth, most guys do, and he asks me if they hurt, and I say no, they were chipped in the mid 70’s in a barfight. He looks surprised and I start to explain that I started drinking very young in life, and he asks me if I said a firefight, and I say, no, a barfight. Oh…nevermind. He shows me an X-ray of my teeth and tells me there is no rottenness in my teeth, and I ought to be okay. HA! The last guy wanted to cut on me. He looks down at his notes and see the “let’s get this guy’s insurance to pay for cutting stuff he doesn’t need” and decides against saying anything.
I get a new toothbrush, and some toothpaste I won’t use, and go get coffee. I write a page or two of notes, and feel much better about the day. I’ve got newly cleaned teeth, and no one I know is dying of cancer right now. It’s a good morning.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Disney People

My sister had a very depressing friend who made Eeyore look like the bluebird of happiness on Ecstasy. People would get up and leave the room when Kevin walked in. This man was banned from bars not because he was violent, but because he was depressing, and aggressively so. He demanded his pound of flesh in sorrow, and like some sort of parasite of the Psyche, he usually got it, too.
Kevin’s Big Deal was the fact, or at least he claimed it to be a fact, he caught his best friend and his wife having sex. Depending on how much Kevin was drinking, or the phase of the moon, or which way the wind was blowing, or which one of his meds he had taken too much of that day, you might get the version where he was returning from the hospital after visiting his best friend’s dying mother. Or you might get the version where they were having sex on the kitchen table. Or you might get the version where Kevin had just rescued a dying kitten and was rushing home to give it to his wife, and his best friend trampled it on the way out.
Oh, and it did how much good to point out the story had changed?

Anyway, for reasons still unclear to me, my sister agree to go out with Kevin, and after their date, she locked herself in the bedroom of her apartment and watched Disney movies for the rest of the weekend, a sort of a dialysis of the soul.

I’m a dyed in the wool pessimist. You cannot rescue stray dogs and not have some sort of real idea how black the souls are of human beings. They’ve done it before, they are doing it right now, and there is damn little you can do to stop them from doing it again. I own guns not because of hunting, but because of people. We invented nuclear weapons, Wal mart and Disco; is there any real reason to hope?

Then there are the Disney people. Like my sister, they really think that there will be a happy ending and if we all put forth enough effort, the birds will sings, the butterflies will flutter, the rainbows will glow, and love will find a way. They live life as if they’ll win the life lottery, and all that is bad and evil ( and Kevin) will fade away with the dawning of the new sun. I think these people are delusional at best. I think they’re dreaming, and sooner or later, life will wake them up, and they will discover when the credits roll, nothing at all has changed in the real world.

What I really hope, however, is they are right.

Even if they are wrong, we over here on the darkside, have to right to point out it is raining on their parade even as we speak. In point of fact, we have an obligation to encourage them to be who they are, even if all that cheerfulness and optimism wears after about fifteen minutes. We have to remember no one like to listen to how poorly their stocks did, or how painful their last kidney stone was, or how there’s some scientist in Switzerland who is trying to create a black hole that will suck us all down like a cold beer in 2012.

Given company to keep, you have to go with Lady and The Tramp over Cujo every damn time.


While I’m a chronic pessimist, I try to be, at a minimum, polite, and when I can, nice. Being a pessimist, or a realist, doesn’t give you a commission to go out and piss in anyone’s Wheaties. And you sure as hell do not have the right to be mean to people, just because you think life sucks. Just because life sucks doesn’t mean you have to, too.


There are a lot of people out there who have given up on life, and living. Anyone whose very existence proves one person can touch the lives of others and cause happiness and joy is an affront to these people, and it is paramount to discovering they are living a lie. It’s not a lie to realize that life can be cruel, but you have to live. I rescue dogs. I rescue snakes. And when I run into one of these chronically happy and cheerful people, I try to accept the fact that I might be wrong about people, and there is some sort of hope.

There are some pessimistic people who are nothing short of philosophical bullies. These are the “Oh the sky is falling and if you can’t see that then you are stupid and I get to say so.” This is nothing more than an excuse for abusive behavior. The bottom line is there are some people who cannot stand to see anyone else with a smile of their face. It’s pure and undulated cowardliness of the first magnitude, and nothing else.

Kevin wasn’t so much a bad person as it was a scared person. By believing the worst case scenario he had nothing left to fear when his first date with my sister crashed and burned. By expecting everything was going to go to hell he felt validated when it did, and with that, missed the disappointment he might have felt had he only believed he was worth believing in. By giving up before he started, Kevin showed the world he was right, that he knew the future, and he was right.


People like Kevin lose everything before they ever have it. They beat down any hope, happiness, or joy in order to escape failure. Someone once told me I was living proof there was hope for humans. We had been drinking and I fell out of my chair laughing at her. “How”, I laughed, “can you say that, after what you saw what someone did to Sam?”
“Because of you did for Sam.” She told me as she joined me on the floor.

The Disney people are annoying as hell. But if we have to hope anything at all, we have to hope they are right.

Take Care,
Mike
Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
- Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Babble Owned

I once dated a Babbler . She was an engaging woman, certainly, but there were times she simply could not stop talking. Worse and worse, sometimes she would paused and say, “Do you know what I mean?” or “Can’t you agree with that?” and anything other than a simple yes or no would be cut off with another torrent of verbal vomit.
Kids are like this sometimes, and they’ll start a stream of consciousness type monologue that could go on until the child died of dehydration. Interestingly enough, I once saw a five-year-old sit bolt upright in his sleep and rattle off a five-minute soliloquy in a language hitherto unknown to those awake. His mother and I just sat there and listened, neither one of us willing to break the spell, and when he was finished, he went right back to sleep. She told me she had seen this sort of thing before but it was my first trip in, and I wondered how many times in my life I had done that, and if I still did.
Women and children first, as they said on the Titanic, but do not think my own gender is immune. I know a male Babbler, and because I work with him, and because he’s exceedingly useful at times, I have to endure War Stories. This man is a Babbler with an analogy. Whatever problem you were having, he knew someone who had the problem before, and therefore he could walk you through exactly what happened to this person, in frightening detail, in word for word dissertation of each conversation, whether you wanted it or not, and come to some resolution... eventually.
Truth be told, the King Of All Babblers is a man who runs an appliance shop in Valdosta Georgia. The only way to get out of there is for someone else to come in, or for his wife to come get him for lunch, or divine intervention on the magnitude of stopping a hurricane.

Even dogs have canine versions of Babblers but they are known as Barkers. My neighbor had a dog that barked twenty-four seven three sixty five. I bought a white noise CD that played ocean wave sounds throughout the night so I didn’t hear the gunshot at three in the morning. No, he didn’t shoot the dog, but his wife took a shot at him when he came home late right after the dog finally had gone to sleep. She found a good home for him, someone that could spend a little more time training him, no, the dog not the husband, stop that.

The Babbler I dated and I discussed what made her talk so much and she disagreed with me as to the severity of the problem. I wore a wristwatch with a stopwatch function and I told her I was going to time how long she could be silent, and she agreed to go along with this. I put on a CD so she couldn’t claim she was bored, started the watch, and waited. The silence was nice. I liked the idea of just sitting there with her without the burden of having to…”But I have a lot to say”, she declared forty-five seconds into the experiment.

A had a friend whose girlfriend was a Babbler and she took exception whenever he pointed it out when company was over, but if he didn’t the rest of us were prisoners to the natter. She liked to talk during movies, no, the home kind, not the theater, because her husband would have killed her. He was the type of person who would publically and loudly confront movie talkers. “You wanna take that damn baby to the lobby?” he would shout if someone brought a crying infant into a movie. Wow! Talk about results! But against his own girlfriend’s onslaught of run on conversation, he was mostly powerless.

A friend of mine was a Babbler of the First magnitude, and she was made worse when she was nervous. She and I had always gotten along very well but in small doses, and when I went over to her house one day she introduced me to a friend of hers, and I thought we connected. So I talked the Babbler into having the woman over again, with me there, and I told her I wanted to see if there was something happening, and lo, the woman called the Babbler and hinted around at the same thing. Remember the nervous part? The babbler was worried one or the other of us might not like one or the other of us, so she did not stop speaking the entire night. The woman and I traded notes to have a conversation, and eventually I asked her out on a sticky pad and got her number in return.

Thanks to the speaker phone function on my cell I can survive phone calls from a friend of mine who is a Babbler. She will call and launch into conversation without pause. I just put the phone on speaker, lay it down somewhere, and go about my business and wait for her to run out of breath. I’ve eaten entire meals while she was rattling along in the background. I’ll pick the phone up and say something like, “really!’ or “you have got to me kidding me” and it’s like nudging a slinky down the stairs. I forgot about her one day and was in the middle of answering an email when I heard the chatter in the background. I went and retrieved the phone, mentioned I had never heard of anything so weird, and she never missed a beat.

At some level, the Babblers have to know they are babbling. Surely, they have got to think, “Gee, it’s been fifteen minutes since anyone else got a word in edgewise.” But this never happens. They never do stop. I’ve yet to have one ask me what I could do to help. But if one did, I’m certain it would be a while before I heard the end of it.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Climber, returning home from dawn patrol

The Alien in the shoebox. The Grave in the drawer.

So what would you do if you found some alien looking creature in a shoebox? There it is, small, with tentacles, and eye stalks, and spines on both its backs, spots and weird colors, jagged teeth and green fur that makes you think it might have been born in my refrigerator, and it looks up at you as if you, yes you, are to raise it, and bring it up in your home.
Okay, if you’re young you certain consider showing it to your parents, but they are normal, right? They would kill it, you are sure of that, and in some odd way, you feel as if you’ve seen, or rather sensed the blood on their hands. You stand there with the shoebox in front of you, poised to walk into your front door, and you realize that showing this thing to your parents might be a mistake. You will hide it, for a while, in the very back of your closet, and keep it small, tiny, and concealed, until you can figure out what to do with it next.
You discover it is invisible, and rides on your shoulder, this creature. You stop on a small bridge at it whispers in your ear, the water, the swirls, the eddies, the reflection of the sky in the water with a stick that breaks the surface as it reaches towards… what are you doing? A teacher asks you why you are staring off into space, and demands you pay attention to some rote memorization of a long dead poet. Being able to recite a poem means you understand it was born. The creature whispers that the teacher might make a good victim in a short story about a serial killer on the loose in a small town and you smile. This wins you no points with the teacher.
The pine cone, and that stone, the creature tells you, would make a great photograph, and you pause to look. The light, yes always the light, it is perfect, and you wish you had taken your father’s camera and suddenly you realize everyone is wondering what you’ve stopped to consider the pine cone. You’re supposed to be playing left field and the ball rolled right past you, and what the hell are you doing out there?
You’re looking at an apartment, your first, with someone who loves you even though you’re weird, and when you open a drawer you discover some child has drawn a picture in the drawer. Look! The creature whispers to you, a kindred was here, someone who wanted to express something, and look how the lines of the face are drawn to represent wrinkles, the child was trying to draw someone old, perhaps a grandparent, but you discover later your lover has painted over it, because it is crude and ugly. The flat white paint is a grave for the grandmother, and no one understand why you’re crying one night, far too drunk to be believed, and you cannot tell them in the drawer in one room is a grave, and every time, every fucking damn time you open that drawer there is everything that ever happened to you.
Go. Go, you tell your lover, no, wait, I’ll go, we’ll leave you here in this place of graves. Your grave is here too, you tell your love, and for the billionth time in your life you see That Look. You take only what you think you will need; your journal, some clothes, your paints, your shoebox, and you walk away again. Your parents call terrified at what you’ve done, the story of your terrible outburst while drunk frightens all, again, and you walk away again, and you stand on that bridge, and you think about throwing the shoebox in, for the billionth time, and then you see the water, and you see the stick is gone, but there is a turtle, and it’s smiling at you. I’m sorry, the creature says, I am so terribly sorry, but I cannot be anyone else.

The faces change but every time you hear The Speech you know what someone will say because you’ve heard it all your life, it’s like a television show where the actors keep quitting, and they hire new people to try out for the same pieces, and the creature reminds you this would make a great short story, the story of a show that keep changing actors, but the dialog was always the same, and it would be slightly different now matter…Are you even listening to what I’m saying? You’re ten, or eighteen, or thirty, or eleven, or six, or forty, but it doesn’t matter because you are still who you are, and no one, no one else has ever been anything but who they are, and they have always said this to you. The creature tells you to write this down, to get up out of bed, who cares if you have to be at work in a little while, you must get this down right now, and you do, because it is, after all, who you have always been.

The shoebox lies open in the living room of your new place, and you have tossed the lid away forever. Your parents hate this place, and they tell you it’s horrible, but you don’t care. There is a desk built into the wall in the bedroom, and the porch lets in lots of light. The creature stands beside you now, part of your life undeniably, and it watches, and nods as you paint. You’ve broken free of it only by accepting that it is you who has whispered in your own ear, and all the creature has ever been is a focus point for your own talent. You cannot be who anyone wants you to be, because they never were and never tried to be who they were supposed to be, who they were. You paint from memory the face of an old woman, drawn in a drawer, and you know that no matter what else happens, there will be no grave here.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, April 17, 2010



Snake People: Please raise the bar, and put the snake down.

Okay, I admit it; snakes and I have a past. If rescuing snakes gets me some sort of points in the afterlife I pretty much have it made. I’ve got three dogs I’ve rescued and I’ve taken in a stray cat or two but that’s pretty much over with until Sam moves on. Yet for some reason it’s the snake thing that sticks with a lot of people.
Recently some moron stuck a python in the face of someone else, the cops were called, the snake person was arrested for assault, and I got twelve emails with links to the story. Twelve! An even dozen people felt a reptilian compulsion to share a snake story with me, including one person who I really do not know very well at all.

Now the story in question does have everything I really love in a snake story. It involves human stupidity, a great deal of ignorance, and it has a happy ending because the snake isn’t killed in the end. Snake stories do not have happy endings as a general rule. Snake stories usually end with a dead snake because of ignorance and stupidity. Down in the Everglades, ignorance and stupidity has led to people dumping their “pet” Burmese pythons into the wild. These animals have successfully reproduced and are now taking over. Because of the recession, which was caused chiefly by greed, stupidity and ignorance, there isn’t a lot of money to be had to try to kill the snakes, and the irony of this is not lost on me. Usually human beings will go to great lengths to kill even the most harmless of snakes, but in this case, when the snakes in question are threatening to upset the balance of one of the last truly wild areas in Florida, they cannot spare any resources for the problem. I was facing a deluge of photos via email when that python ate the six foot long gator and then the gator clawed his way out. How serious is the problem in the Everglades? Six foot long gators do not have a natural enemy except much larger gators. If a python can kill an animal this size then this is trouble we have not known.
The plaintiff in the snake assault case is claiming he had no idea what species of snake was being thrust upon him, but it wouldn’t matter because he’s terrified of them all. This would be ignorance. He also claims he had to bathe repeatedly in theory to get the snake cooties off him. This would be stupidity. The defendant in this case, the man who assaulted someone else with a serpent, is a moron of the first magnitude. Clearly, he understands that most people are just plain freaked out when it comes to snakes. Had he taken the next logical step in thought it would have led him to keeping snakes away from people, not getting them close to people. He’s going to jail over this simply because if a jury of twelve people gets the case, ten of them are going to suggest he be executed, one will run screaming from the room, and the last will pee on himself if any evidence is presented. There are people who would throw their children into a fire rather than get within an area code of a snake and this idiot is waving one around in someone’s face.

As a snake person, I can tell you the very first image people have of snakes is one of extreme fear. Accordingly, these same people view snake people as the type of people who shoot up heroin while playing Russian Roulette in the rain on the Interstate. If you want to be a snake person, your first obligation is to keep snakes away from people. If you can’t get people to trust your intentions the only result that will come of this is more dead snakes. I may be just me, but I think we have enough of that going on, except in the Everglades of course, where you can’t pay people to kill snakes.
People are terrified of snakes but they also have a certain fascination. As a snake person, you may as well give up converting anyone over the age of twenty to the ranks of those unafraid. Don’t bother with the old timers because they still believe all the outrageous myths they learned from their parents. Oh, and speaking of parents, if you ever scare a child with a snake you will be exceedingly fortunate to make to a trial. Children are actually your best bet for education against superstition and ignorance; do not blow it for a cheap fright thrill.
Short of getting Americans to switch over to atheism or the metric system, getting people to accept snakes as harmless and beneficial creatures are one of the most difficult tasks you might attempt. I can tell within a few seconds whether or not I’m wasting my time talking to someone about snakes. The facts are as simple as they are clear; the danger of snakebite is grossly over exaggerated. Fireants kill more people each year than do snakes. Honeybees kill more people each year than do snakes. Hell, children kill more people in the United States than snakes do. Yet there is very little that can be done to combat generational ignorance.

And then we have the snake assault moron. Morons in the news


Great move there, dude, thanks for shooting yourself in the foot.

I am an advocate of the theory we humans ought not kill any creature we do not intend to eat, or isn’t a noxious pest like fireants, roaches, and those people who talk during movies. I feel we have an obligation to live in peace in as much as we can with dangerous creatures, to the extent we must, we must, accept some responsibility of risk. Those snake which are totally harmless we ought to let them be, and those who are not as harmless, we should accept them for what they are, and honor their place on this earth.
But first, we have to stop morons from scaring people with snakes.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Girl At Factory Creek

I was one of the last people to drive over the old bridge at Factory Creek in Early County before it collapsed. Hell, I was one of the few people who knew the road existed at all. It was a single lane dirt road with deep washes in it, and almost no one knew about the waterfall down there. I have no idea what happened, or why it happened, but once the bridge went out, the place became more popular, and suddenly it was crowded.

We called it Reefer Falls, because it was a great place to kick back and drink beer, and smoke pot, that is until it became an attraction. It was a great place to park and have sex until the traffic started getting heavy. I took a girl down there one Summer day in 1978 and that day is branded into my mind for all eternity. She was my first redhead, the girl I thought I would marry one day, but very little I planned in High School went that way. Waterfalls are great white noise, and the water and the heat eliminated all external stimuli. I remember her taking her wet hair from in front of her eyes, and tell me she wanted to have the baby, and wanted to marry the father of the baby, and of course, that wasn’t me. I still loved her, fiercely, without reservation, and I still believed if you loved someone enough that would make up for the fact they were not in love with you. Everyone knew she had broken up with me for someone else, and everyone knew she was pregnant, even if she wasn’t showing. But there on the banks of that creek the thought that she and I would not be together forever was battered to death by the falls, and by the heat. Being with her that day, those hours, meant we would be together forever. She agreed with all my sentiments, as long as they changed nothing, and she agreed to all my advances, and why would she allow me inside her body if she was not going to allow me inside her heart?
It didn’t work out that way. I never knew the truth, and never will, but either she had a miscarriage or an abortion, and for a few months we didn’t see each other. When her parents allow her to date again it was the best time for us, a regeneration, and we went back to Factory Creek but on the blackest night. We belonged in that place, we owned it with our passion, and that night I was sure was the beginning of always. But by the next Summer when I graduated she was pregnant again, and married. The Summer of 1979 saw a new influx of people down to Factory Creek, a migration of sorts, younger people had discovered it, and in the space of less than a year it seemed as if the whole world was now showing up at a spot I had once spent an entire day alone with my thought, and an entire day with my dreams.
It was a subspecies of blasphemy for all those people to be there. It was desecration. On the banks of the creek where I had made love to the girl I was supposed to be with forever now sat a row of ditzy High School freshmen babbling about how hard class was, and under the falls where we had played that day a group of loud mouthed idiots screamed and hollered. They threw their trash on the ground and broke bottles in the creek. Cars were lining up on the old road and it was hard to get in or out of the place. Two idiot fool girls who were half drunk and totally stupid spray painted “Refer Falls” on the side of the limestone face bordering the falls, and forever marked the site with sheer idiocy.
The girl and I drifted further and further apart with each break up. Her marriage came apart and she came to me for a short while, but now the expectations were much lower. I didn’t believe her when she told me she still loved me, because I didn’t believe she ever had. The sex was still great, but the spaces in between seemed filled with more of nothing and less of anything else. The uniqueness of the girl had been paved over with who the woman had become.

The county finally paved the road and built and large culvert just above the falls. The road cut a black and wide path from Coheelee Creek to Odom’s landing, destroying some of the most isolated spots close to the river. I came back one after I had gotten out of the Army, and the road ripped a channel through my memories, and my mind. Gone forever were the places I loved as a teenager, and in their place was a road too busy to be fun.

Though I know where she lives, and I also know where to find her, I haven’t spoken to the girl in over a decade. It’s like going back to the very first place I made love to the girl, and discovering some pot bellied redneck with a piece of meat on a stick yelling at his wife to clean the grill off. I cannot look at that place and still see magic, not with all that has happened and changed, and the last time I saw her I walked away, unable to come to grips with the very same concept, change, and still remember what was. It seems wrong in both cases that so much has been diminished and yes, I do realize that change diminishes only as I see it, not as all see it.

I don’t even so much as have a photograph of her as a young woman. I still remember the tiny mole on her neck that eventually was removed some way or another. I still remember the scar on her right hand from the grease fire. I still remember the freckles on her face, and how there was a cluster of them, like a constellation of stars massed together. Oddly, I still remember the first words I ever spoke to her, in 1977, the first day of school,

“Hi do you know you’re barefoot?”

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, April 15, 2010

If I was your Goose would you be my Meg Ryan?

Do you remember the movie, “Top Gun” which starred Tom Cruise? The movie came out when I was in my first incarnation in this part of the world, and I was fresh out of the Army. The military lends itself to transitory relationships, and I migrated from being in the Army to hanging out with Air Force people station at Moody Air Force base just east of Valdosta. Tall Tree Apartments, where my sister was the manager, was home for a lot of the Air Force people, and truth be told, we all spent a lot more of our time drunk than we should have.
But “Top Gun” was an event. The movie is based in the adventures of Naval Aviators, but the Air Force people adopted the movie as their own. I’ll try to explain it as best I can, and the only thing I ask of you, is you never ask me, “WHY?”
Every time the movie came on HBO or Showtime we would throw a Top Gun Party. Everyone had some part in the movie to play, and everyone played their part. Remember the part in the movie where there are guys on the carrier deck and they’re waving their arms, or doing something like that? Well, we had a couple of guys who could mimic the carrier deck guys perfectly. And dialog? Remember the “Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” scene? Now that was something to watch. Mostly that was all I could do because I hadn’t memorized the movie like some people had. But I did sing along with that part, because everyone did. That was one of the high points of the movie. That was one of those alcohol bonding moments for us all. We could be sitting around the pool drinking or hanging out at the Deli Bar, or in the middle of something else entirely and suddenly someone would say, “She’s lost that lovin’ feelin’” and it was on! When we finally got a VHS copy of it there were residents of Tall Tree who threatened to burn the tape, and the building down with it. We just figured they had lost that lovin’ feelin’.
This was a long time before what was known as “surround sound” but we didn’t need no stinkin’ surround sound. We were surround sound. All the parts when there was someone speaking on a radio to someone else we had three or four people doing each part, complete with sound effects. Whatever you think you have experienced in the way of movies this was something totally different altogether. There would be one woman in the kitchen making Margaritas speaking the female lead flawlessly, another in the living room watching the movie speaking the same part, and then if someone by the pool could hear the movie, they would be dialoging sans visuals.
Sometimes we would be out beside the pool and that sound from the soundtrack, “Danger zone” by Kenny Loggings would come on the radio and the carrier deck hands would break into their positions and poses. These guys were as perfect as any drill team, as serious as any actor being paid for the part, and any mistake, no matter how small was tragic. If someone blew their part out by the pool that was a sure sign we needed another Top Gun party, and it was a given it would happen.
The really odd thing is because the military is transitory, characters came and went, but the movie lived on. We would lose a deck hand, or a fighter pilot, or even a Meg Ryan, but there was always some new person who just moved in who, lonely, drunk, or bored, or perhaps all three, would embrace the Top Gunness of us all, and begin to study the intricacies of the confrontation of Ice Man and Mavrick in the bathroom scenes. You had to do more than just memorize the dialog, you had to be able to live the part, you had to get the inflection down pat, and you had to do it while drinking enough beer to anesthetize a rhino.
We looked down on those people who would not give it their all.
We lacked a common past, and we lacked mutual old friends, and we lacked any sort of commonality at all in our lives, so we created our own culture. This would be our ritual, our Mass, and our secret handshake. No, not just anyone could do the Tom Cruise parts, and no, not just anyone could start the lost lovin’ feelin’, and not just anyone could do the deck hands wave, unless they receive some sort of encouragement from the group. For a woman to engage in the Goose and Meg Ryan piano scene with a man was part of the group’s courtship ritual. That was something you just didn’t do with someone unless you were going to sleep with them, and you never did that with someone else’s mate. Doing the piano scene with someone was high excitement. The better the scene was done, the better the sex was going to be, oh, everyone knew that. To blow that scene was to have some sort of group crisis, where everyone would demand some sort of do over. And for a couple who was in trouble not to do the scene together was a sure sign they were not going to last. When a couple broke up and one of them did the Piano Scene with someone else, well, that was like the ultimate divorce.

We lost too many people at once, we were getting bored with it, and it had to end sooner or later. It had become too important, too much the same thing over and over again, and we were not attracting new converts. My sister’s real divorce had a lot to do with it, because nothing was fun for a while, and when we lost two of the main people to transfer, it just wasn’t the same. We lost that lovin’ feelin’ and it was gone, gone, gone.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

For Debra's Wings: A Tale of Woe.

I was twenty, maybe, and she was eighteen, and I was still so young sex was new and magical. But this girl, had a tattoo, and that made her an angel of sorts in my eyes. She was the first lover I had ever had with a real tattoo and it excited me no end. It’s a very long story how I got to Lacrosse Wisconsin, and an even longer story as to how I would up spending a winter there. But this is about the woman with the tattoo, and how much I loved her.
She had a cool name, too, people called her “Woe” because her name was Wooleen and she hated that name so she shortened it to Woe. She got pregnant, dropped out of High School, got married, then got divorced six months later, and a week before her son was born she watched her ex-husband kill himself trying to rewrite the meter to they could steal electricity. He had cut off main breaker in the house and Woe had the thought he was being drunk and stupid, because he was thinking it was safe. But he had beaten the hell out of her on more than one occasion, even when she was pregnant, and she went outside and started to say something when she heard a small noise, saw a little puff of smoke, and he just dropped dead. “I thought, you know, it ought to be more dramatic, you know, and there would be sparks and he would scream, and jerk, you know, but he just fell over and didn’t move again, you know?” Woe had some drawbacks and one of them was using the phrase “you know” over and over again. I won’t quote her doing that anymore, you know.
One of the reasons her husband beat her is she got the tattoo. His theory was the ink was bad for the baby, but beating her wasn’t. She got the tattoo because he broke her heart; the tattoo was a blue heart on her left breast, and it was lined with yellow (gold) and it had a jagged black crack running through the middle of it. Woe told me when she fell in love again she was going to have the crack filled in and maybe the whole heart would be read again. I remember thinking I was supposed to say something at this point in the conversation but I was staring at her breast.
I wonder how much of humankind’s history is filled with such moments.

A year after her son was born, and a couple of months after I started dating her, she showed up with a tattoo on her back. It an angel flying with a harp, and the artwork, even though the angel was small, was very good. Woe worked at a bar and some customer offered to buy her a tattoo if she would let him watch the guy burn it. I wasn’t very happy with the arrangement, but I did like the tattoo. Woe’s manager knew a good thing when he saw it so he let Woe put up a tip jar for her next tattoo, and let her show off as much as she could, legally. The next tattoo went up a month or so after the last, and this time Woe got a snake coiled around her thigh, something it was rumored she did for me. The ink started a few inches below her thigh, coiled around three times, and the snake’s head went up the side of her leg and onto her back. It was the same body style as a Diamondback, but to make the diamond there were four musical notes lined up, diamond shaped. I think it was fifty six notes, or something like that, but she said those were the first notes of “Stairway to Heaven”. We got back together right after that tattoo, but some things are not permanent.

People saw Woe as this flirty hard drinking money in her eyes barmaid but she really didn’t like bars at all. She hated cigarette smoke. She didn’t like her music loud, but she knew the louder the music the more likely it was to draw attention, and attention means tips. She started wearing a bikini in the middle of winter when she was behind the bar, and that bought her a new tattoo.

She filled in her back with the sky, clouds, the sun, and some stars. The angel was going to join others around a ringed planet, but that was to come later. She lay in that session for a few hours, but when it was done she looked like a living mural. We got together again, for a weekend, and she explain to me she wanted her skin to relate to people what she felt because there was no way in hell they would understand it any other way. I asked her if just maybe if she quit using the phrase “you know” so much it might help and she bit me. I bit her back, and well as a few other places and I wonder if I had stopped to ask what she was thinking if that might have been better.
The tattooed bikini wearing barmaid was beginning to gain some fame so a guy in Madison drove over to check her out. He wanted her to come to his place and work, and offered to give her a place to stay, and pretty much bought her away from us. A few of us loaded up to go see her and damn, that place was nice, and Woe was pulling in all the attention from college newspapers and that sort of stuff. I went to see her a month or so later, and I wondered what he latest addition would be. I knew she was going to get some sort of tree with an apple in it, but when I sat down I saw her hanging half out of her bikini top, and the heart was a bright red, with no cracks in it at all.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How TB Gets You The Best Seat in the House!

I went to the doctor today for my allergies and sure enough there were ten billion people in Part One Waiting Room. This particular pill pusher has devised a system to keep customers happy by making them think they aren’t waiting ten million hours to see a doctor. It keeps getting more and more like Disney in the sense there’s the two hours in line for the two minute attraction, and there’s a rat running the system.

I’ve discovered Procedural Masks. No, silly, this has nothing to do with some trick a lawyer pulls in court, these are great pollen masks, just don’t wear them into convenience stores. So I’m figuring wearing one in the Part One Waiting Room is just fine. The Part One Waiting Room has a television that is volume controlled: whoever yells the loudest for their favorite channel controls it. I’m surprised, really, there are not more people, but I haven’t been educated yet. There’s room for a few more people, and there are a lot of empty chairs. I’ve learned to sit in the one place in the room where the television cannot be seen, and you will sit alone. Not today. Some burly redneck comes in, sits down beside me, and starts bitching about the women in the room controlling the television. I’m reading “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury and I’m liking it. I’m wearing earplugs because I’m listening to music. I stare at the guy for a second, and then start coughing like my lungs are turning inside out. I mean I lay down on the cough, and the Procedural mask jumps around like a leaf in a dryer. The redneck stops his bitchin’ and looks at me, as half expecting something to fight its way out of my chest.
“Sorry, bout that, man” I rasp, “That TB ain’t no joke, I tell you.” I wipe my mouth with my hand, wipe it on my pants leg, and then stick my hand out to him, “I’m Mike, glad to meet’cha”.
I get that same look when I’m holding a live rattlesnake.

He retreats without shaking my hand, and gets as far away from me as he can. I grin behind the mask as two women who have overheard the exchange get up and move three chairs away. The receptionist looks at my chart. She looks at me and frowns. I cough again and she starts looking me up on her computer. Time to move me on down the line, it seems.

Waiting Room Part Two is a broom closet with a thermometer in it. See! There is no reason on earth to put me into the broom closet until someone is there to tell me I have a fever, or not, but I sit there for ten minutes. The Frowning Receptionist comes in and frowns at me. “Mr Firesmith, I have no record of you being here for Tuberculoses.”
“Well, it’s not like they put you in an ambulance for it.” I snark back at her. Without taking my vitals, without asking me a single question, without so much as wondering if there was a problem, the last time I was here they called an ambulance to come get me because I fell asleep in the waiting room. I had an “appointment” but after an hour I dozed off and this woman, sans medical experience of Bert, decided to call an ambulance because I had “passed out”. Needless to say, I didn’t get into the damn thing.

I’m some sort of freak in the medical community. I do not give a damn what they want. I do not give a shit about some new wonder drug for my already very low cholesterol or some pill that will give me a new mortgage rate, or whatever. I’ve been treating this one medical problem I’ve got for longer than this silly little bitch has been alive. “Don’t you have a phone to answer?” I don’t really say this but I stare her down. Put a moron in a white lab coat and you still have a moron.
A pseudo nurse comes in to discover I’ve gained three pounds since last year, my pulse rate is exactly the same, my temperature hasn’t moved, and blood pressure matches to a number last year’s low reading. For this I waited fifteen minutes? But here’s the kicker…Waiting Room Part Three.

There’s along row of chairs in a hallway where people who have been vitaled now wait for…something else? I sit down between two bored looking women and start hacking up a lung. “Damn, TB!” I finally gasp. “Who knew it was transferrable sexually?” The two women squeak and retreat. The doctor wanders by and sees me sitting there with four seats on either side of me, empty. Three people have retreated to the television at Waiting Room Part One. Frowny Face pulls him to the side and frowns at me. He doesn’t like me either.

Last time I was here I refused antibiotics, which I think are evil and I refused to take a Cortisone shot, which I didn’t need. I did tell him I wanted Codeine and that blew his mind. He looks at me, looks at the other patients, and sighs. Lesser of evils, yea. “I can see you now, Mr. Firesmith”

We sit in a room just slightly larger than a broom closet. “No antibiotics, “ he reads, “I remember you” he doesn’t sat it but the word ambulance forms on his face. “He reads some more and sighs. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want?”
Well, gee, thank you for asking! Why the hell NOT? It’s my damn body, it’s my money, it’s certainly my time we’re on, and you, after a half dozen times of seeing me, you suddenly realize that short of there being some sort of multi-legged organism doing the Rockettes kick while growing out of my forehead, MY OPINION IN THE PREVAILING ONE!
“I want to see an allergy specialist.” I tell him. “I want to find out what I am allergic to, and get shots for it.”

“I suggested this three years ago, “he reads to me.
“And three years ago I told you when I was ready to see a specialist, I would.” I reply.

“I’m ready.” I say.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, April 12, 2010

His Horse

Sometimes it seems if I have the memories of different people. The landscape is changed, everything is familiar yet odd. The members of the family are not quite the same but they too seem to be caught up in the same temporal vomit. The lines between what was at one time but then was no longer and the line between that and what came next is blurred, fuzzy and yet sometimes it is crystal clear in a way that warns me something changed while I wasn’t conscious of it. Sometimes, I wonder if I didn’t start drinking to have some sort of tangible reason for my mind being unable to grasp reality in the way other people do. At least when you’re drunk you know your mind is fried, and even when you’re sober you still feel the ghost of bad judgment haunting your mind, as if your trained it that way.

Have you ever watched someone light a cigarette? It’s more dramatic at night, when the person is standing still in the dark, and if your hear them fumbling around then you can prepare for it, wait for it, and then the bright flare and you see the face bathed in light, smoke, and habit. Some people bow their heads as if praying and some soft appeasement to the god will be sent out with the first breath. The flare retreats into the lighter, and if it’s one of the old fashion species of flint and naphtha then you catch that first breath of incense, that olfactory burst like the smell of a chemical sun. There’s the click of opening and closing of the old species of lighter, unlike any other sound, and you know it when you hear it anywhere.

Like the clack of a cigarette light you know the sound of someone’s car, or truck, whatever they’re using to get to wherever they were to you, or somewhere you happened to be, and maybe it’s the engine noise or the way it creaks into a turn, or maybe it’s the same music over and over, or like a fingerprint it’s all the swirls and eddies of it all rolled in ink and no matter how hard you try to cannot define it but you know it when you hear it, or you did know, or now, years later, you ever realized it, but that sound of that car, or that truck, is all you have left of that person, and no matter how hard you try there isn’t anything else at all. Or maybe it’s less than that, and your mind has to reach for something, anything at all, and there just simply isn’t anything there at all that doesn’t cross contaminant into something else, but that POS Pinto with the red tape on the left lens in the back is all you will ever have, and even that needs a jump.

There’s that stain on a part of jeans, primer paint that always seemed to leave that paint odor in the air, and one day you find them in the bottom of the closet, and you remember the day the paint and the jeans met, and you stare at them as if it’s more than a little obscene for clothes with paint on them to have outlasted so much from that piece of time. You try them on, and it’s that same feeling you get when you borrow clothes, as if you body is trespassing somewhere it doesn’t belong. Habilimentary adultery, you feel as if this isn’t right, and as soon as you realize there isn’t any way in hell you can fit into them you toss them out, or worse, back into the closet. Somewhere in your mind, you very nearly wonder if you’ve done this before.

No, I didn’t stray, and I’m not rambling and I haven’t wandered off again. I’m trying to put the pieces together, like a puzzle made of colored water frozen into ice, and it’s melting, one color dissolving into another, changing both, obscuring one entirely, spreading out quickly to the others like fluid wildfire, until the photo of the puzzle doesn’t fit the mess in front of me anymore than it would the Mona Lisa.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far are triggers, catalysts, grey matter breadcrumbs left by someone we once were, leading back to somewhere we left in a place we cannot seem to wholly get back in less than a billion pieces. We have no idea why it works this way and we fail with stunning regularity in trying to control it. Nothing we seem to do makes it any better at all and almost everything we do makes it worse than the time before. Doing nothing at all allows it to sink below the surface until a trigger is gently pulled, or snatched, or brushes against some foreign object and blows up in our faces.

It cannot be entirely by chance these things are embedded in our minds like cerebral ticks. But what if there are accidental and our deepest memories are nothing more than the mental form of male nipples? We have fur on our feet and we tend to remember odds things for no reason yet no one ever wonders aloud why they have toenails, and that memory of your fifth birthday came back to haunt you after decades, decades, decades, simply because you smelled grape Kool-Aid.

Why do our minds do this? Can we edit, or delete the triggers? Do all cultures have these things stuck in their heads, and here we go, what do they look like? Surely they have some form, some chemical make-up, some knot of tangled nerves that serve as their home, don’t they? Do some people have more than others? Why so they form? When, at what exact moment did the smell of grape Kool-Aid, the click of a lighter, the sound of an engine, when did all of this, any of this, become part of our minds to the extent it is now some self code for a flash of moment in a life?

Take Care,
Mike