Saturday, January 26, 2013

Walker








I read somewhere that the first medical personnel who entered Hiroshima discovered many of the survivors who could walk were doing so. Scorched and burned people shuffled blindly around, going nowhere, leaving nowhere, arriving nowhere, yet in motion for the sense of motion, of doing something that could be done, and perhaps living witnesses to the way things were and would never be again, but mostly motion, motion, motion, as if doing nothing was too large a burden to bear in that moment in time. 

Walking was something I knew how to do and in fact was likely the only thing that I could do well. It didn’t start out that way. My parents were appalled at how long it was talking me to learn how to walk so at eighteen months they decided to leave me outside until I could navigate the back steps of the house by myself. I managed to gain the top step, get upright, and then fell backwards, cracking my skull on the concrete steps behind me. Or at least that is one of the stories for the event. Like everyone’s deep personal history this is a black and white photo seen from a passing car in the dark while half asleep, not a video with sound and playback. It’s clear that something happened and there was a brain injury but how it happened has never been clearly defined and perhaps it is better that way. 

It was 1973 or 1974, when my father called me from work and told me he had left a check on the mantle and I was to take that check to the courthouse and get a sticker for his car tag. Back in those days all the tags came due on the same day. A person could get one as early as they chose to but most people waited until the last moment and my father had too. He called me from work, and his job supplied him with a work car, but his personal car had to have a tag. He might have given me the check before I went to school that day and I could have walked from school to the courthouse which would have saved me a couple of miles but my father believed in walking, or to be more precise he believed in me walking. 

So I walked to the courthouse and stood in line with everyone else who had waited until the last minute. This was hellish to me. I hated being in public. I hated waiting in line with all these people. I felt like the whole of the world was staring at me, judging me in some way, and the line moved at the pace of a drunken snail who had lost his crutches.  But the check wasn’t all the information that was needed to get the tag. There had to be proof of insurance, too. So I walked from the courthouse back home and called my father with the news the check wasn’t enough.

He was furious with me, of course, and he demanded to know why I hadn’t taken the proof of insurance with me to begin with. I didn’t know anything at all about tags or insurance, or anything else about that sort of thing. This was all being done with one of those rotary phones with a three foot long cord. I went out to the car and brought in the mass of paperwork that was stuff in the glove compartment. I finally found the insurance card so off to the courthouse I walked once again.
The line was longer this time because people had begun to get off work and this time the people in the line were more surly. The line moved slower because some of the people at the courthouse had gone home. It was getting late in the afternoon and it was beginning to get cold, too. When I got to the front of the line the woman told me I needed the car registration, too, that the insurance card wasn’t enough. This wasn’t the same woman I had spoken with before so there was no point in bringing up this was not what I had been told before, and besides, this was during the days of Adult Infallibility. If an adult told someone under eighteen years old something that wasn’t entirely true then it was not the adult’s fault it had been misunderstood. I walked backed home from the courthouse and called me father to tell him I had gone up to the courthouse without the proper paperwork.

This time he was downright livid. He kept the car registration in his metal lockbox and he had the key with him. All I needed was proof of insurance and the check, now go get the damn tag and don’t come back without it. So I walked back to the courthouse, and by this time it was getting dark, and stood in line again with people who were getting seriously angry about being at the courthouse this late. A deputy came and stood at the end of the line and turned people away and I was frightened that he would send me away without the tag, too. When I got back to the front of the line I faced the same woman who had been there since early morning and she really didn’t have time to explain to me again why I didn’t have the proper paperwork to get the tag. “Didn’t I tell you what you needed last time? Okay, didn’t you hear me? Did you talk to your daddy about this? Did you tell him what I told you? Why did you come back here without it then? I swear you kids don’t know how to listen! Well, I can’t give you the tag now get out of here.” 


So I walked back home again without the tag again. My father was home by that time and he was in a very seriously bad mood over how I had handled the entire tag ordeal. How hard could it be to get a tag? Hadn’t all those other people gotten a tag without all this fuss? It had embarrassed him to death for me to argue with that woman up there and here, here’s the registration now go get the tag. 


I walked back to the courthouse and it was closed. I walked back home to tell my father the courthouse had been closed and he asked me if I had knocked on the door, had made any effort at all to get the tag. Did I know how much the late fee was going to be for it? What if he got a ticket, who was going to pay that? Had I done my homework yet? Had I actually even gone up to the courthouse or had I spent the afternoon screwing around? Because I hadn’t got the tag on time he was going to have to take off work to get it. That was more money thrown away because I couldn’t do a simple task like getting a tag. 

I thought about this years later and honestly it seemed not to be just five or six years later, but thousands of years later, centuries uncounted later, but really, it was just 1980, but in 1980 my past seemed so terribly far away because at nineteen, five years in more than a quarter of a lifetime. Time seemed to stand still for days on end at that point in my life, not that my life had a point. I was a dishwasher at a truckstop and my biggest concern was making enough money for pot and alcohol. For some reason it fascinated me to sit on my front porch and drink. The duplex was a wreck, the porch not much better, but it was my first home away from my father’s house and that made me mighty. Or at least mighty drunk.

From my house on Wylly Avenue I would walk. I would walk the railroad track behind the duplex until a train came, or some crossroad beckoned me. I would walk with only major roads as guides as to where I might end up. I would walk down tiny side streets filled with tiny houses and the tiny lives of the people who lived there. There were tiny gardens and tiny trees. There were televisions that were so loud I could hear the programs from the road and I remember recognizing the voices from “Happy Days” even though I never really liked that show at all. I stopped and listened to the sound and at that point in my life I would have rather read that watched television but the sound was a home sound, a sound from my past, and at that very moment I felt a separation from myself, as if just being there, and just hearing the sound of a rerun in the afternoon, and not hearing it from where I once lived, made me more of who I would one day be.

There was a small street, a dead end street, where there was a white house with blue trim. The house was small, low, and it seemed to me the ceilings would have to be close to the heads of the people inside and a ceiling fan would be out of the question. There was three rows of glass windows in front that cranked out the panes as a set in each window, and each pane was perhaps two feet long and six inches wide, louver-like in nature. I stood looking at this house and a man came out and demanded to know why I was staring at his house. At that time I was five feet ten inches tall but I only weighed one hundred and ten pounds. I looked like a tall thirteen year old to most people and not many people I met believed I was nineteen. I didn’t answer the man and there isn’t any way that I could have. I didn’t socialize well at all. I couldn’t speak to strangers and being a dishwasher at a truckstrop meant I didn’t have to talk to people at all, except waitresses. So I ran.
There wasn’t a reason to run but what else was there to do? I found the railroad tracks and walked back down a few miles to the duplex and hunkered down with some cheap vodka. That had been close. A human being had spoken to me. I had to keep that to a minimum if I could, and I could. The odd thing is I never could find that street again. I never rediscovered the short house and the crank out windows. I felt compelled to look, but now my walks seemed oddly dangerous because someone had spoken to me.

There was a pair of brown tennis shoes I wore from the time I was fifteen or sixteen until I was in my twenties. I didn’t know how to buy shoes. I didn’t know anything about shoes at all except that I wore them. I had a pair of shoes bought for me in High School that I still have today. I keep them around because I wore them on my first date but they were never really comfortable. The brown tennis shoes I wore until the inside lining wore out and the soles wore down nearly as far. I put off buying new shoes for so long I couldn’t make the effort to buy new shoes, if that makes sense. It was like something that once I did I had to own up to the fact I hadn’t done it for so long, as if action were an admission of guilt. I wore those shoes so long I actually limped a little for a while because they wore unevenly. I remember the new shoes I got felt heavenly but I was afraid to walk too much in them because they wouldn’t last as long.

I’ve ventured back to this part of my life a time or two and I never connected my father’s making me walk as a form of punishment with my compulsion to walk when I had been drinking. But perhaps it is the same sort of mindless action that humans who have been abused participate in when they in some way seek out the same types of people who abused them, or become abusers themselves. Or perhaps it was all just motion for the sake of motion and the need to do something more than nothing. Or perhaps those whose lives become disrupted get on the hamster wheel of life and go for a walk because they have no idea what else to do.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing In Public.



The idea that writing is somehow the intellectual property of the already successful or those whose smiling face adorn the jackets of published hardcovers is a thought that has doomed many a writer. How can it be that someone who isn’t a writer one day wakes up and is a writer? How is it this person who was not a writer could be worthy of the attention given to writing? I’ve never met a writer who didn’t start out being in love with books. That love affair is something akin to worship so for a person who is not a writer to decide to write is something akin to heresy.

Good book propelled me to write better but bad books began the writing process for me. I would read a book and think to myself, “Hell, I could do that well with it” and then wonder how I would have done the book better. Clearly, unless you are Asimov you are thinking of making one of his works better, but there were many lesser authors who I thought I could help, and far too many I thought ought to have kept their day job.

There was a point in my life when I was very broke, living in an apartment, living in a strange town, and just beginning to write.  I began to write for myself, at first, and because I didn’t think my writing would ever amount to anything I didn’t keep much of what I had written. But there was a story that I kept pecking away at, kept hammering away at and kept rewriting until I thought there was an off chance that it wasn’t terrible. I decided to show it to a friend of mine and even though he was impressed with the ideas and the concept, he pointed out some grammar and style flaws that would have doomed the thing in tenth grade English classes.

I bought a book on grammar and style and started trying to figure out what was wrong with each sentence I wrote and what I could do to help it. Some of them, I did realize where doomed structures, built on sand and painted with lead paint. Others were salvageable. Like anyone who wants to write I learned to rewrite.  And after that I learned to rewrite again.

I had been writing for about five years before I ever posted anything online. Until that time I was pestering a few friends but people who care about you will be careful with your feelings, mostly, and I wanted to know what total strangers thought of my writing. The reviews I received were mostly good, with some style problems but it was a start. I got an email from a stranger who said what I had written had made her cry and that was a feeling I will never forget.

The first writing site I joined was a pleasant surprise. I had never had anyone really like the way I wrote but suddenly there were people who did. Through the years I have come to realize there are some people that will never like what I write but there are people who always will. Those are the people I write for because those are the people who like what I write when I write for me.

The fear of going public with writing is a real fear. Writing is magic and no one wants to discover their efforts aren’t going to levitate feelings or saw emotions in half.  Yet if there isn’t ever a public showing a writer truly will not know if there has been a rabbit pulled out of the hat, to the delight of the readers, or perhaps something far more miraculous. 

This is a personal story. All writing is personal to me and all writers, great and unknown, are my breathern. Writing is my one true form of creativity and the only thing I have ever owned that I pulled out of the Universe with my own effort, even though I owe many more writers out there many thanks for their help.

What you do is worthy. It is worth the effort to package it up and display it to the world. The world needs it. The world wants it. What you have written is made up of the same stuff as stars and no matter how tiny the light seems to you at this time, someone out there will stare at it with wonder.

If I knew nothing of you at all I would still give you these words to take with you if only they might inspire you to write. But I do know you. You would not be reading this if I did not. And to you I give these words as a gift that is nearly empty for you do not need anything from me. You already have it all. You possess within a power greater than any human being might be able to give any other.

What you have within is made of the same stuff as the stars and the universe, and everything that there ever was, ever will be, and is.

Write.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dad I'm on the Phone With Dad.





Creativity is the ability to separate the mind from the shackles of reality. Until last night I didn’t really understand those people who claimed they never dreamed, or claimed they did not remember their dreams, and finally, I got some insight on why there are some who either do not dream or whose minds eliminate dreams from memory more quickly than others. By remembering a dream I allow my mind to take ownership of a construct that cannot exist in the real world. By doing this I admit to myself memory is selective and faulty to a degree that may frighten or confuse those whose creativity is stored away like an unlit candle both pure yet un-illuminated.

But the dream started out oddly. The first part centered on a conversation I was having with a friend who described the work habits of a mutual acquaintance as predatory in nature and almost immediately I awoke from this dream and felt a sense of dismay that I knew was not supposed to be real. I know the conversation did not take place but I also knew there was little I could do about how I was feeling at that moment in time. I felt as if I should have gotten up and gotten away from my attempt at sleep because I didn’t think I would sleep again but I did.

I woke up trying to see the clock. There was a round container of some liquid in front of the clock, not a glass of water, but some other fluid. If I edged the container one way I could read the numbers more clearly and if I edged it over the other way the numbers would become blurred. I woke up and was reaching towards something that disappeared in front of me. The container had not existed. There was no fluid and the clock read 3:00.

Again, I felt as if I could not sleep but once again I drifted off. There was a walkway, where a stone stairway came down, first to the right of where I stood, and then directly towards me and on either side of the stairway were lush gardens of ornamental plants and flowers. The stairway was not very steep as it led down to the right and there was a small stone landing and several broad steps for the transition before the stairway led towards me. The sun was nearly behind me and to my left, and the shadows cast on the stairway from the plants made an assortment of patterns on the stone. There were many containers made of red clay, but not the orange colored red clay, but bright red, and it seemed a happy place, this garden, and I had a sense that this was happening in the future and this was not earth.

Suddenly I was back in my old room, back in my father’s house, and I was the same age as I am now, and it felt very strange to be in that room again. Even at Christmas I do not go back into that room, and likely I will not again. But in the dream there I was and the ancient telephone that I used as a teenager rang. It was my father. He has the habit of saying “Mike1” when I answer the phone, and I’ll say, “This is he” as if he doesn’t recognize my voice, ever, when he calls. So the phone rings and its my father and he tells me, “ I got caught by a buzzsaw” which makes sense because I was at a bonfire earlier in the night and someone used a chainsaw to cut some wood. That isn’t the strange part. The strange part is that in the dream my father walks into the room and starts talking to me while I’m on the phone with him. Back when I was a teenager he would do that, just walk into the room and start talking if I was on the phone. In the dream I told him I was on the phone, and in the dream I told the father on the phone to hold on a second, because someone had interrupted us. The father not on the phone kept talking and like the days of old, I had to tell who I was speaking with on the phone, who was also my father, that I would call him back.

And so this is why I think there are many people who cannot remember their dreams. In my dream there was a mutually exclusive pair of events occurring simultaneous. I write so my mind is more geared towards something not based in reality being more acceptable to how my mind operated. The idea of time travel, a futuristic society, bilocation, and so much more are things I think about on a regular basis while someone who doesn’t write may never address even one of these issues as the subject of something he or she might create.


This isn’t to say the creative mind or the creative person is a better person simply because that person can remember dreams while another cannot, but I do believe there are thoughts in our dreams that invade our normal thinking processes and being able to identify what they are and why they are there might help some people.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Little Girl Dog





Lilith is showing every sign on earth of being my dog. That may sound a bit odd but not every dog a person lives with is their dog. Some people never make a canine part of the family and just keep them as lawn ornaments. Some people keep dogs for reasons I cannot explain. Not taking a dog in as part of the pack is just plain wrong and it’s like keeping some rare and irreproducible form of art on a chain in the yard or out away from the house in a pen. I cannot be around a chained dog.  I just can’t.

But some dogs cleave to a person tighter than others do. Sam and I have never had that bond and he’s been with me for a dozen years, nearly. Lucas and I picked up on it after ten minutes. Bert and I grew into it and our relationship changed for the better after the divorce but Bert was always my dog. I think he knew what was going on before I did. And it does happen that way; sometimes you choose a dog, sometimes a dog chooses you, and sometimes you choose each other.

Lillith likes fire. I’ve never seen a dog with an attraction for flame before but the process seems to mesmerize Lillith as much as it does me. Even when it’s warm out she likes to sit beside the fire and watch. Moreover, she likes to play in the ashes. I’m going to have to put some tin up around the firepit to keep Lillith out of the embers. This is a strange little dog I have here. 



I’m not sure where Lillith lived before the rescue people got her but I am sure anyone who cares anything about a dog would have never willingly surrendered this little girl. I keep calling her little but the truth is Lillith is beginning to pick up some mass. She is nearly as tall as Sam and Lillith is bulking out more than Sam ever did. Still, Lillith is quite lithe and light. She’s more agile than Lucas and she can take him down at a dead run. Some of this, I suspect, is Lucas playing along with the game, but Lillith is a fierce hunter of the Wild Loki Mutt.

There’s never been a dog I knew who was as aloof as Lillith. Maybe that isn’t the right word. She will lie down on a blanket somewhere and that is where she will stay. The other two dogs and I will be in a different room or go from one room to another and Lillith stays put. I didn’t think too much about this, me being a Hermit and all, but then I thought “What if she doesn’t feel welcome here?” So I started calling into the room with us whenever she was away for too long. It took Lillith a while to start asking to be petted and when she did it seemed to make her nervous. She would approach me with great caution and tap me with a paw then back away and wag her body at me. An invitation caused her great joy and excitement. I started seeking her out and lying on the floor with her to get her used to the idea she was supposed to be affectionate with me. Lillith has come a long way and now she’ll even put both paws on me when I’m writing to get petted on a dog’s head. But she is so very polite about it.

Sam has never really liked any other dog except Bert. I think Sam tolerates Lucas because Lucas could dismantle him but won’t. Sam certainly isn’t as enamored with Lillith as Lucas is. Lucas is totally in love with the little girl dog I brought home. The two of them would make a great breeding pair if they were not both fixed. Watching those two at play is one of the things that makes life where I live what it is. Space for dogs to play is heaven on earth. Twice Sam has snarled at Lillith and taken up aggressive posture and twice Lucas has stepped between them, not pushing, not growling, not really asserting himself in any way except for that of proximity and mass. Oh hai I am the Loki Mutt and you are growling at my girl so I will stand this close to you until you realize how close to my mouth your mouth is and maybe those growls won’t come out of your mouth anymore. It’s the equivalent to a gorilla walking up with a bat in each hand during a domestic dispute.  If you really, really, really, want to amp up the volume then that’s just fine I’ll just stand here with enough force to kill you outright. Sam, twice now, has slowly backed away from the Moose Mutt.

Other than playing hard with Lucas, Lillith hasn’t shown to possess an ounce of aggression. She licks Sam on his face when he growls at her and she shows her belly to everyone who meets her. Lillith is a sweet tempered little girl. She wants to be rubbed on her ears and be held. This is a dog that will take a position at my side on the bed and lay longside next to me with her head on my shoulder.

So when someone sent me an email saying, “You’re going to have trouble with that dog later on” because Lillith is a Pit, it pissed me off. Lillith will give me as much trouble as my training of her allows me to have. I am the person responsible for her behavior. I am the person responsible for her attitude when something happens. I have been training dogs for a while now. I think I know what I am doing and I damn well do not need some apartment dwelling petless internet news addict to tell me the disposition of an animal living next to me. 



Take Care,
Mike