Saturday, March 29, 2014

First Date


When I went on my first date it was something akin to going to my own execution except I had to pay for everything and I had to get dressed up. Seriously, I was mortified. It’s one thing to go out with some friends or in a group or something like that. But to have to go to a girl’s house, meet her parents and have to perform some sort of small talk was way past my level of social grace. I would have rather bobbed for French Fries than face her father, however.

He was an ex-Marine Drill Instructor who worked construction.

Okay, imagine of you will a sixteen year old kid who can barely breathe around most people and especially adults. Imagine this kid having no ability to be able to function in public, no fashion sense, and hair that was diabolically hard to control on the very best days. Yes, I did once have hair. But it always stuck out in as many different directions as I had follicles and short of shaving it off there wasn’t a product on earth that helped. I was five- ten and weighed one hundred ten pounds.

Oh, and asking her out? That took an amount of courage that transcended bravery under fire. I think she said yes just to see if I would actually survive it. This was my first date and it was my first time under the influence of a redhead. She let me take her home from school one day so I would know where she lived. All that was left was to pick her up at six on a Friday night and get her back home by ten.

I was petrified.

On the way home from her house I tried to memorize how to get there even thought it was pretty much a straight shot from my house. I measured the distance with the odometer. I thought about painting an X in the road in front of her house in case I forgot what it looked like. Seriously, I had some issues.

All week long I thought about what to wear. This shirt? That shirt? This pair of pants? Those shoes? I was a wreck. I tried on everything that I owned in different combinations. I thought about wearing a suit and tie. I thought about using the tie to hang myself.

So the night of the date I put gas in the car first, went back home and took a shower, got dressed, checked my wallet a dozen times and then really freaked out. I didn’t have any condoms. The odds of this girl having sex with me on the first date was as likely as alien abduction while being struck by lightning during an earthquake right after a Sasquatch attack. But, after all I was a sixteen year old male, and this girl jolted my libido with a ten billion volt bolt. The idea that things might go well enough for sex to happen really freaked me out even more.

I made it to her house alive but I had begun to sweat. I parked near the house, but not too near the house, did I park in the right place, oh dog what if they think I parked like a moron, and walked up to the door. There was no doorbell. Damn, I have to knock. How hard should I knock? What if they don’t hear me? OH MY GOD WHAT IF THIS IS THE WRONG HOUSE AND SHE IS PLAYING A CRUEL JOKE ON ME?????????


Knock, knock, knock.


The door opened and there was her father. He was everything, every, thing, you’d expect from an Ex-Marine who worked construction. He was large, very large, and he had a flat top haircut and a scowl on his face. He was wearing a pair of baggy shorts and a wife beater tee shirt.
“What do you want?” he growled and it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea at all what to say. None. Nothing. Nada. I had nothing.

There was this awkward silence where even the crickets got tired of chirping. Sweat poured down my back in rivulets so large they made sounds like rapids. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this wasn’t her father at all, that I was at the wrong house, on the wrong road, and that all of this, the entire thing, was some terrible delusion I was having. Why on earth would she even agree to go out with me? I knew I could make it to the car before he caught me. I could be out of the whole thing in less than sixty seconds.

“Uh, yes, sir, I, uh, is , mmm, is Susan here?”  I even managed to speak something that sounded like English.

Can you imagine what was going through his mind? This? This?? THIS????? This is going to potentially be the sire of my grandchildren? THIS?
“Come in.” he grunted at me and led me inside. There he and her mother, who was a gentle soul and didn’t laugh at me although I cannot imagine why, grilled me on such topics as to what my name might be, if I always spoke in a stutter, and if I was going to die of dehydration from sweating so much before I made it back to the door again. The palms of my hands were wet. I could feel my shoes filling up. I knew that before she managed to get ready to go I would already be dead of fright. As I sat in the chair I looked over at a decorative mirror and realized the object of my affection was standing right behind my chair. Later she confessed as to having stood there for quite some time and enjoyed the show. She was a redhead. They are all like that, you know.

We managed to get into the car and I was so relieved I nearly collapsed. Maybe we shouldn’t go out and eat after all, let’s just shake hands, agree we had a great time, and I’ll go drive myself off a cliff, okay? But once alone with her I was just a little, some small amount, less likely to go into some sort of seizure. For some reason I cannot explain to you the idea that I had forgotten my wallet consumed me. I checked it. Then I though perhaps I had forgotten my money. What if I hadn’t put it into my wallet, not like I would have kept it anywhere else, and what if I didn’t have enough money for the restaurant?

She cleared her throat loudly and asked me if I was okay.


Oh, hi, yeah, okay, you’re still here, aren’t you?

Actually, I had done something right. I had bought an eight track tape of her favorite singer even though I truly loathed it. Barry Manilow. Yes, it’s true, I had bought it and as we were going down the road I gave it to her and let her slip it into the player. I hated Barry Manilow. She also slid over and sat right next to me and she kissed me on the cheek.
Heaven and Hell.

I would have listened to the sound of a dog being cut in half with a plastic butter knife to have her next to me and to have that kiss on my cheek. Barry Manilow was worse than that, mind you, but worth it.

Okay, I had never, ever, been in a Mexican restaurant. I knew nothing about the menu or what to order. She delighted in asking me how to pronounce the names of the dishes and she giggled at my attempts. Ever the coward, I ordered the same thing she did and hoped like hell I had done the math right as to if I had enough money to cover it. I think she was having a great time watching me try to have a good time. But I was not only in public but I had to deal with people and I was trying not to stare at her. I thought she was incredible. I couldn’t believe she had agreed to go out with me. I couldn’t believe we were out on a date. The idea that we were out on a date freaked me out so I tried not to think about it.

When the check came I had more than enough money to cover it. It was like having a death sentence commuted. I felt a sense of relief so great you would have thought I had been freed from a gulag. The first man to set foot on the tallest mountain for the first time did not feel a greater sense of accomplishment than I did when we walked out of the restaurant. I could have died right then and there and felt as if I had done something with my life.

The movie wasn’t nearly as bad. I had been to movies, knew how to buy tickets, and knew how to buy popcorn and stuff. I had this. Right now, suddenly, it occurs to me I have no idea what movie we went to see. I don’t think I actually realized there was a movie there. In the dark, with no one to see or talk to, I think I just sort of withdrew into some sort of coma. The relief was overwhelming. Now, all I had to do was sit for a couple of hours then get her back home. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

You see why having a relationship was hard for me? Just being there was a battle. Just being around a girl I really liked was something that took most of my emotional currency. This one, especially this one, transfixed me. I felt as if I were in the presence of a goddess. We held hands during the movie and who cared what was playing?

The movie ended and we drove away into the night. As we were driving I noticed I was going to score points with her father because we had about thirty minutes to spare. Suddenly, she reached over and turned on the blinker. “There’s a place to park right there,” she said. And I nearly died.

It’s not like we had sex or even got close to having sex, but we did totally steam up the car’s windows. I think someone could have struck a match near me and I would have burst into flames. But at the same time, to me, this was it. This was evidence she did like me. This was proof of existence. It was all I could really see and feel and taste. Without the social skills I needed to navigate an interpersonal relationship, physical contact was all that I would really count on as some sort of barometer as to where we were headed.

And so the first date led to a second, and another, but eventually, it failed. It had to.


Over the years she would return to me and each time it was heaven. Over the years she would leave again and each time it was hell. Finally, she and I escaped one another’s orbits and we drifted apart forever. I know she is married has a grandchild and very likely, still likes terrible music.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Damnage

The amount of damage I could take from you was never an indication of how much I loved you. The amount of damage I refused to take from you wasn't either. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Dead Tree And Me. 2014

Green wood is a lot easier to cut than dry wood is, I say. Give me a green piece of tree to cut and I can pretty much tell you what’s going to happen when I put an axe to it. Dry or rotted wood tends to become brittle, or soft and a little rubbery, believe it or not. When I was trying to take this old dead tree down I thought it would be a lot easier than it was, but the dead wood gave me more of a fight than I bargained for.

To begin with, for reasons only a man can truly understand, I wanted to take the thing down by myself and with an axe. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do own a chainsaw and I do realize that I could have had the thing down in just a few minutes if I had gone that route but this was a Quest. It was something I had to do my own way. And it was a learning experience.

The first thing I learned is that it takes several years for the very core of a tree to become rotten. The outside layers fell away easily and I thought I would get done with the thing in less than an hour. Then I hit the hard stuff and realized I had to open the tree up even more, create a wider wedge, to get at the hard stuff at the right angle.

Lesson One:  The petrified center of a tree is not only harder than normal wood but it is a lot harder to get to.

The next thing to go wrong is that I couldn’t hack away at the backside of the tree because there are young Oaks there I want to grow up to be much larger Oaks. Without clear access to the total of the tree I was regulated to hacking away at just one part of it with part of  it safe from me. So I drove some wedges into the back side of it and hoped that would help.

Lesson Two: Rotten wood absorbs wedges without much damage to the structural integrity of the tree itself.

Lesson Two caused me some concern. Without wedges I had no real way to control which way the tree was going to fall. But I had carved out a huge cut on the South side of the tree and I was going to be shocked if it didn’t fall the way I planned. Better men than I have been shocked at how trees have fallen and I knew it. But the tree wasn’t falling. Because it was dead and the wood was so light, the cut I made, even though it was very large, wasn’t causing the tree as many problems as it should have.

Lesson Three: Dead wood doesn’t have the dead weight that a live tree does and this makes it stand up better when someone is trying to cut it down. In other words, there isn’t enough weight to cause the tree to fall.




It got weird. I tried dragging it down with my truck but it wouldn’t go. There was enough life in the core to be solid and the dead stuff had to break to give and it wasn’t giving. I had to do something different. In the meantime, something good finally happened; the top of the tree where it was most rotted, fell away.

Lesson Four: Watch out for falling objects.


As I said before, I had limited access to the tree because there are other trees north of it. I could swing a sledge hammer to drive in the wedges because that’s a different swing that with an axe. With an axe you have to be able to cut at various angles. With a sledge hammer you just pound away. So, with my swing limited I began to surgically remove the wedges with the axe. This took some time, yeah, but it was worth it because the wedges were working against me. And to make thing a little better, the opened up area where the wedges had been allowed for some wiggle. Wiggle a tooth and it will come out.

It took some half swings and a lot off them but I managed to get the north face opened up. After about a half hour there was some serious movement. One more swing and…

It fell.




Wow. That was a weird feeling. I cleaned up the area and went inside to have a beer. Tomorrow I would push the whole thing into the firepit and life would be good!

Not so fast.

I pushed on the tree and it rolled, maybe a quarter turn, forward then wanted to roll back. I pushed with both hands, dug my toes into the earth, pushed hard with everything I had, legs, back, arms, beard, and it rolled three inches. I pushed, strained, gave birth to triplets, and the log refused to yield. The smart thing to do would be to get the chainsaw out and end this thing.

Lesson Five: Men on a Quest will not do the smart thing, ever.


So I decided to cut the tree in two with an axe. Now, believe it or not, rotted wood doesn’t cut at all like living wood or even dry wood. This tree was a yellow Oak and the flesh of a yellow Oak tends to spiral out rather than to cut along a straight grain. After it is dead the wood tends to come out in chunks if it is cut straight on. The part of the tree I started on was much more dead than the part of the tree I had cut on to bring the tree down. I could cut straight down, shift over six inches, cut straight down again, and a chunk of wood two or three inches deep would pop right out. But this was really soft wood and it dulled the axe frequently.

Lesson Six: You never lose time when you take time to sharpen your tools.

Incredibly, it took about thirty minutes, minus sharpening time, to cut the log into two pieces. But the largest half, the half that wasn’t dead, Jim, still weighed more than it needed to weigh. I pushed again, made good progress, steered it the wrong way, nearly lost it, had to get a fence post to lever it around the right way, used an old gate to ramp it and then turn it, but finally, at last, got it into the burn pile.




The other piece? It took a minute, tops, to get it into the pit.

So next Saturday morning I’m making a fire. It should be interesting.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, March 22, 2014

For Dan, and The Love Of Trees


Dan,

*chunk* the axe bit deep into the trunk of the tree, to its heart, and I felt a shift. There was a low cracking noise and the tree began to fall.  Trees always hit the ground with a sickening sound you feel as well as hear. Since coming to Hickory Head I have taken down four Oak Trees. All four were dead to some degree or another. Only one had enough life left to have greenery still on some of its branches. One was already dead when I arrived and only a tall stump remained. Each and every one I have regretted felling in a way that only people who love trees might understand.

That’s why it amused me that you took me to task, publically, for trying to chop down a tree. You will notice that I have gone to more than a little trouble to explain what I have done. I think the people who love trees deserve that sort of respect in general, and you in particular.

Back in 2005, nine years ago next month in fact, the top of that tree broke off and fell on my house. It smashed its way into the laundry room and put a branch the size of my leg through the ceiling. It left a hole the size of a car in my roof. The contractor who took the main truck out of my attic did so with such skill I was amazed he didn’t do more damage than he did. But I really didn’t care. I had lost a tree, an ancient Oak, that I would never be able to get back again. It was the first I was to lose but hardly the last.

The odd thing was the tree looked as healthy as any I had ever seen. It was beautiful and green and full of life. The remaining stump grew leaves and had limbs for years but it was doomed. I just can’t bring myself to kill a tree even when it is really dead.

At that point in my life a woman who swore she loved me dumped me, and then returned to me when she found out she had cancer. She didn’t want me back as a lover or a partner but as someone to lean on, and I was happy she did. But I knew I wouldn’t stop loving her and I knew that she wouldn’t love me. It was easier to say good-bye to the woman than the tree, and it was incredibly hard. When it was clear the cancer was gone I went with it. She’s married and has had a child with her new husband.

I thought you could appreciate the parallel here, the tree, healthy and alive, falling, and the woman, disease free, being gone.


You felt obligated to say something about someone killing a tree. I like that in a human being. It’s a rare thing, really, far too rare. You also have gone to battle to protect those you care about and I admire that also. I get the sense from what you write that you feel, at times, isolated and disaffected. You are at times unnecessarily profane. There are times you are cryptic and I wonder why you would go to the trouble to be obtuse but then again, it may not be you.  I would offer you, in exchange for your care of trees, a theory.

I think those people who seem to be “normal” and seem to fit in flawlessly in this world have accepted a reality that is a detriment to our species and the living world as a whole.  I also believe that those of us who are harmed emotionally by this reality are the only group of people who are truly sane.

That’s my theory, Dan.

At least a dozen times since we’ve met I’ve come close to “unfriending” you on Facebook. Some of the thing you’ve written have made me uncomfortable or annoyed me. Yet there is something to be said for living outside the comfort of one’s own life.

Oddly, I feel as if I should thank you for this, also.

If I am correct in my philosophy then loyalty, love, and compassion are intrinsic values of life. This makes you more sane than you believe. It makes you a better person than you know.  You have, without hesitation, defended those you care about and trees.

I like that in a human being and I find it to be far too rare.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dog Treats are of the Devil and it's a Sign.

I rather pay more for what I need than have to fight my way through crowds of five in the afternoon brain dead and surely people to get it cheaper. Maxim: The more people the less humanity. I know where the cheap stuff is sold and increasingly I’m being forced by budget constraints to venture into zombie territory. It’s like they know I don’t belong there. They can sense my distaste for having to breathe their high fructose corn breath and to walk in the wake of their one slow step at a time thinking. They know I do not belong. It’s a matter of time before they kill and eat me, like they did Michael Rockefeller.

The one thing I can do better than they can is get up early. I’m moving at four in the morning and I know, I really know, I have them beat. I can get in, get back out, never have to dodge a dead walking body, not have to circumnavigate an aisle blocker, not have to push an abandoned buggy out of the way, and I can get out without having any writing material. Seal Team Six couldn’t get in and get back out again quicker. I’m a trained professional when it comes to shopping on the run.

Universally, human beings ignore signs. There is no sense in posting signs. The most useless sign is “wet paint” because everyone who reads it has to touch the paint to see if it is actually wet. If you posted a sign that read, “Touch this object and you will die a horrible death, writhing and screaming, and your children, and their children, will be maimed, disfigured for life, and one major city in the world will burst into flames and a kitten will die” people would be stacked upon one another screaming like hell, rolling on the ground in agony, and more coming to touch the object. It would be like Mecca with a punk rock soundtrack.

The first sign this morning, the first sign someone would ignore would be “right turn on red after stop”. Now most people ignore this sign by not stopping. But the guy ahead of me ignores it by not turning. What’s more, he pulls out a loose leaf copy of “War and Peace” and begins to read random pages aloud while trimming his toenails by rubbing them against his windshield in hopes that, over time, the friction will wear them down. Honestly, this is all speculation because I have no idea why anyone would camp out at a red light before dawn when there are as many people on the road as there Justina Beaver fans living next door to him. But this guy isn’t moving. The light turns green and he’s still pondering the many mysteries of the multicolored periwinkle. I start to pull around him and suddenly he’s all get up and go. The light turns red again so if there was a cop around it would look a lot like I was passing someone at an intersection during a red light. Just pull that guy over instead, Officer, and look at his toenails! It will be a hoot!

The parking lot is empty. Great Glorious Grand Feelings of Grandeur; it’s like seeing a sunset over the Grand Canyon or sunrise over Fred Phelps’ grave. You have to love the way this looks right now. The damn place might as well be closed. And visions of Daffy Duck dance through my head. Mine! Mine! All mine!

Did I mention my espresso machine died? It was given to me back in 1996 and has served me and my habit well since then. But now, now, it’s dead, Jim. I’ve been thinking about living without one, and I think I can, but one of life’s many simple pleasures is writing while under the influence of espresso. I can price one while I am here and still get the hell out before the zombies arrive. It’s an iffy thing. To hesitate inside of a retail store is to risk being trapped in some way. Every moment spent inside is another way things can go horribly wrong. But I have to have two things before life can function normally again; soap and dog treats. Lucas likes treats as much as I like espresso. The people at work will be happier if I use soap every day.

Sure enough, the very idea of hesitation, the very concept that I might do anything, anything at all, other than get in and get the hell out attracts Them. They drew lots and the one who lost, or who was so brain dead he didn’t realize they were scamming him into the early shift, is waiting for me to slow down long enough to be dragged down. I am the zebra who stares in one direction for too long. I am the gnu who thinks it is a log. I am the rodent who strays that one small step away from the fence line and then looks up into the sun and sees the hawk’s shadow, blotting out the entire sky, death on swift wings has come and the world ends with sharp beak and talons…
“Excuse me, sir, but do you know how many children you could feed with those dog treats?”
Ah, the overly religious! No one, nowhere, at any time, is safe from these people. After all, the Supreme Being of All the Universe, has sent them out, to speak to me, about my indulgence in a box of dog treats. War, famine, and twerking he can live with, yes, but dog treats? God has spoken! He’s a pale looking zombie with a wrinkled suit. I think he’s been sent to prowl the dog food section because They know I have to come here.
“Can they do puppy snot on command?” I reply. “Because simple begging is boring.”  That’s the one thing They are never ready for; retaliatory aggression. They are used to people feeling judged and guilty when approached by the Overly Religious but They are not accustomed to someone actually fighting back. The field mouse pulls a Plasma rifle in the forty watt range. Tastes like chicken.
“What?” The Pale Young Man is taken aback. This isn’t in the script or scripture. “Uh, well, the Bible says…”
“When those kids can do puppy snot on command I’ll give them treats. But right now Lucas is learning Galump-galump, so they’re going to be behind the curve a little, best get a clicker and start training if you want them to compete.”  I ease away from the Pale Young Man as he is processing this new and totally unexpected information.
“I’ll pray for you!” he calls as but I am seriously on the move. I can get out of here with what I have and be happy.

As much bad press as they get there is something to be said about automated checkout. Give me ten seconds and I can be out of that building like my ass is on fire and my head is catching. Two items, ten seconds and I’m door bound, the sinner’s box of dog treats under my arm like a football. He’s at the twenty, the ten, the five…

But there is a van parked next to my truck. How can this be? How! Can! This! Be! There’s fifty-eleven-billion parking spaces open! I’m a quarter mile away from the door! Why in the name of the Sahara Desert would anyone park in the same area code where I am? Was there a sign telling them not to? But not only is the van parked next to my truck, but there is a woman trying to get something out of the passenger side of the van, and she’s parked within INCHES of my truck. She can’t get her door open all the way. It looks like someone blacktopped Nebraska out there and she’s so close to me with that Chevy Hippie, 1970’s spray painted van that she can’t get in and out of it without hitting my truck.

I get into the truck and crank it up and she turns to look at me as if I’ve just pinched her on her breast in the middle of the Pope’s benediction. She’s right outside my door and she looks like a celebrity, and suddenly the name “Carol Channing” pops into my head even though I am fairly certain I’ve never seen a Carol Channing movie or whatever it is she did. Remember the blonde wig Julie Robert’s wore in “Pretty Woman”? This woman’s hair looks like that but she looks like she’s been smoking two packs a day since the first tobacco plant was invented. She looks like the outside of a smoked ham, magnified. She’s a mummified creature with a scarecrow’s scowl and blonde hair curled up at her ears. Usually, when a woman looks at me like that I’ve said something totally stupid that does irreparable harm to a relationship. (yeah, I’ve seen that look before) Just the idea that someone might see her, see me, and think this is the case makes me want to leap out of the truck, abandon the dog treats, and seek out the Pale Young man for Divine Intervention. Instead I put the truck and gear and I hope that she sees me leaving as a good thing. She slams the door of the van shut and backs away.  I pull away and she levels a finger at me, right at my window, and forever that face is burned into my memory. Zombiefied Channing I will see on my deathbed and scream.

The path is clear. The road is open. There is nothing but space between me and freedom, sweet freedom, and I go. But I still have a dead espresso machine to contend with.

Is it worth it to go back in, ever?

I need a sign.

Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Idi Amin and I at His Birthday Party




Before we begin here let’s identify four different species of the same animal. In dreams there are three different types of settings. The first is a setting we will call Awaken Familiar. Awaken Familiar is a place you recognize as part of your real life, like your childhood home or your bedroom. If you’re dreaming about something that happened long ago in your hometown or you’re dreaming about banging your girlfriend in a dream in your own bed, the dreamscape is Awaken Familiar.
The second setting is Unfamiliar.  This is simply a place you do not recognize at all. You have no idea where you are at all and have no idea how to get to anywhere from there.

The third setting is Dream Familiar. This is a setting that seems familiar in the dream but it isn’t anywhere you have ever really been. It can be a house where you know all the rooms or it can be a city where you know all the buildings and streets, but when you wake up, you realize you have never been there and the place doesn’t exist.

The same can be said for people in dreams. There are people in dreams and you know these people as part of your waking life and then there are those people who are strangers in your dreams and then there are strangers in dreams that seem as if they really know you, but as you awaken, they were never there at all, were they?

Last night I dreamed I had been invited to Africa to attend a birthday party for Idi Amin Dada. I was dropped off at paved road but then taken by cart to a dirt road where there was a trail down a path were there was jungle on both sides. I had to leave my shoes behind and when I got to a little building where there was some sort of greeting party I had to take all my clothes off and wait for the people there to decide how I would be dressed.

The place was strange to me but I knew the people from talking online with them and they all acted very afraid all the time. One would hold up a shirt and say, “Don’t you think this is an incredible shirt?” and I would agree that it was a really great shirt, but then another would say, “That is a short that looks so American, wouldn’t you rather have a clothing that is from our region?” And I would agree to this. But then someone else would say, “You aren’t saying that the clothing our Great Leader is offering you isn’t good enough are you?” And, of course, I would say that I wasn’t saying that at all. This went on for a great while but finally I wore the shirt they first offered to me.

Of course, I was still naked from the waist down and nudity has never really bothered me at all so it wasn’t a big deal. I don’t get freaked out over being naked in front of people or people being naked in front of me. Some ought not to, certainly, but still… So there was a woman who was Dream Familiar to me and she was lying on this bamboo looking chair smoking out of a pot pipe. Her shirt was open exposing her breasts and she looked very pretty. She offered me the pipe and said, “Sorry that I am so sweaty” but I thought the sweat made her look more desirable. One of the women who was part of the party who greeted me asked me if I thought it was a good idea to be stoned right before meeting the Great Leader and I told her no, but then the other asked me if I was going to turn down the hospitality offered to me, and so we went through that thing again where no matter what I said it was going to be wrong.

The Dream Familiar handed me the pipe and then showed me a bowl on the table with tobacco in it and told me, low enough for the others not to hear, that I could put some tobacco on top of the marijuana and no one could tell what I was smoking. So I put this thin looking stringy tobacco on top of what was in the pipe and lit it. I had this sudden feeling that the drug would be very weak and I wouldn’t be able to feel it but then I felt as if I were flying and I laughed. The Dream Familiar took me by the hand and led me around the compound and showed me wild animals that were there and it was very strange.  None of the animals were caged and they all seemed mildly interested in us but not overly so. There was an open area with a shallow pit where the crocodiles lay in the sun. There was blood and pieces of clothing in the pit and I had the idea this was where people wound up if they displeased the Great Leader.

We went back to the compound and there he was. Of all the people my subconscious could have summoned to appear in a dream, I got Idi Amin Dada. George Washington? Nope! Alexander the Great? No way! Idi Amin Dada? We have a special tonight featuring one of the worst despots known to humanity and that’s all that is one your menu. So there he was, large fat, jovial, truly overly friendly in a big way. We did the animal tour again and we stopped in front of the crocodile pit. And I got an idea as to why the people around him were the way they were. He asked if I had been treated well and I could see the two women tense up with terror even though they were still smiling as if they were the happiest people alive. I told him I could not have dreamed of being treated any better. He asked me if I liked the way I was dressed and it was odd, because everyone there was nude from the waist down, as I was, but no one seemed to notice. I told him I loved the shirt and I hoped that he would allow me to keep it so that I could always remember how great and generous he had been to me and that seemed to make everyone very happy.

We went back to the compound and Amin told me I was to go back to the hotel and I did. It was a very nice hotel, lavish in fact, but the room was very small and the bed was tiny. I knew I was going to leave and that made me very happy indeed.

Then, in the blink of an eye, I was in a Publix grocery store with the pipe woman. We were both dressed, and she told me to wait for her once I got done shopping but I had no idea what I was looking for. The shopping carts were made of tube steel, very thick and heavy stuff, and it felt like driving a tank when I pushed it around. The front of the store was totally made of glass and I could see that I was in Valdosta, but where we were there isn’t a Publix there at all. It was a familiar place in a familiar town, but the store itself doesn’t exist, even though in the dream I knew it by heart.

The dream ended there and I had to Google it just to check but couldn’t find his birthday.

Take Care,

Mike

Long Shot



You fucked it up 
You should've quit 
Till circumstances 
Had changed a bit 


You fucked it up 
You jumped the gun 
I swore you off but 
You climbed back on 


And when you said 
Of course you know 
Could I be blamed 
If I'd wished it so 
I don't think so 





You fucked it up 
Or was it you 
'cause when you said it 
I said it too 


What of it?


And all that stuff 
I knew before 
Just turned into 
"Please love me more"
"Please love me more" 
"Please love me more" 
"Please love me more"
"Please love me more"
"Please love me more"


Please love me..

Tender is the Night


Monday, March 10, 2014

Writing on the Darkside





I have as much control as to what forms in my head that is supposed to come out as writing as I do what form my sweat takes when it arrives on my skin. Actually, I could stop working out, stop working in the yard, stop going to work, and stop being around women who move me, and I could stop sweating. That would be difficult and I would not like it. I’m not sure what I could do to make me stop writing but I am sure I would hate it.

At four thirty on Saturday morning I woke up, started writing, and about five thousand words later something that had arrived in my head just that very morning was down in text. I’ll rewrite it, edit the hell out it, rewrite it again, and then I am not going to show it to you because letting it out into the wild would make quite a number of people uneasy.

This is not my fault.

I did not sit down in the cold and dark on a Saturday morning and decide what I was going to write. I fueled up on coffee and began. It was there and I let it out. That you can blame me for if you wish, I really don’t care either way, but trust me when I say, this one, like most, was not planned. Most of what I write isn’t planned when it comes to this sort of thing but I usually have some warning. Usually, a few days before something gets here I can feel it. You’ve forgotten a name or forgotten where you put something and knew, really knew, you were on the verge of remembering, you’ve done that haven’t you? Well, usually, when something wants to be written it will start circling my mind like a lost noun and then suddenly I’ll start feeling an outline then I’ll know about what it is. When I start writing all becomes clear, mostly, but there are some cases where I get half way through and it just dries up. Then there is Saturday morning.

Oh hai.

I never question anything that appears. I’m a doorman not a bouncer, Jim. I open the door and let an idea in and do my best to entertain it. The way I figure it is that even a bad idea might need a friend or, hell, it might have a friend, and that way I can meet a better idea. That does work. Sometimes, it doesn’t but hey! Who I am I to judge?

Let me put this another way; suppose you were in love with someone and they had been gone for a month and the night they came back you were all alone with them in a very nice, comfortable, bed. It isn’t likely you’d sit down with your partner and plot out some sort of strategy for the evening’s activities but rather you’d just go with the flow of whatever felt right and righteous in the moment. Later. Hopefully much, much, later,  you would stagger to the refrigerator, holding onto the doorjamb as you tried to make your way into the kitchen for some water, and think, “Oh yeah, now that was fucking good” and you might not even realize there was a pun there, it was so very good.


Writing is like sex in that sometimes no plan is the plan and whatever happens is something that you just have to hang onto. Now, you might hesitate in walking into a conversation at your local coffee shop where your friends are hanging out and suddenly blurt out the details of what had happened the night before. And it is a shame, really. There are some people who desperately need to know what the human body can do under the right stimuli and some of them will die not knowing. That is a crime. All their lives they’ve lived off carrot sticks and celery stalks and they have no idea that sushi exists. No one has ever cooked them a roast with Rosemary for them and served hot apple pie for dessert.

The problem is there are Vegans out there who would be shocked and appalled by roast for dinner and they have every right on earth to be appalled. You’re supposed to know the person you’re with well enough to know whether to slap some meat on the table or go with some pomegranate. Most of the people who know me know me as someone who writes about dogs and coffee and the things I did in my past that are supposed to be sunny so when I drag out some of the darker stuff I’ve written it’s disconcerting. So I try not to scare people for this very reason.

Sometimes, when I’m editing, and yes, believe it or not, I do try editing, try not to faint, I’ll look at something and wonder if I should take it out, leave it in, modify it in some way, and the process of tweaking begins. If I was writing about an incident where hundreds and hundreds of people die horribly I might try to leave out the scenes of individual agony. After all, isn’t that just creepy as hell? Well, look at the movie, “Titanic” and the famous “Propeller Man scene”. Oh, but that’s different, huh?

Even with masses and masses of dead bodies floating around very few people stop to consider the carnage of “Titanic” but at the same time they cringe like hell at the opening twenty minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”

Even though both were stories that were written about actual events, the scenes themselves are fiction; someone wrote those scenes. Has anyone ever sat around and thought, “Gee, that guy who wrote “Titanic” must be truly sick and evil!”, no, because most people see beyond the floaters and the panic and dying, and even Celine Dion’s voice, to see a love story.

As someone who likes to write I struggle with what to show the audience in a story and what to leave to their imaginations. I try to have someone walk into a room, leave white as a sheet, yet not have any images in their mind to relate, and let the reader’s mind run rampant. But if you knew there was some guy in that room with a serial killer then you’d begin to have thoughts you’d rather not write down and share with your friends and family.

Or, if you are a writer, maybe you would.

This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. I tell people who are just starting out that they are going to write outside the box, they are going to have stories that ought not be told, and they are going to edit their material so they won’t scare the hell out of whoever it is that sleeps with that writer at night. There are entire genres of writing based deeply on the darkside of human nature and most of the writers that write that stuff are as normal as white bread and peanut butter sandwiches with calamari on the side.

There are those who don’t write. You have a choice. You don’t write. Those of us who do write have fewer choices. For good or evil we have to pay homage to the Muse and sometimes it isn’t pretty. If you want to write, or you think you know someone who wants to write, you better understand that what you get and what you want might be two totally different animals. And they do not come with leashes.

For my part, I let them run.

Welcome to the darkside. We fucking have cookies.


Take Care,

Mike

Friday, March 7, 2014

Locked in, Locked Out, Trapped Like A Rat, and the Fat.



When I was a very young man I lived in a duplex with a friend of mine and we were downright paranoid after someone tried to break into our part of the house one night. We suspected it was someone trying to steal dope from us and later in life I discovered who it was and that was what they were after. But we hadn’t been there very long and we hadn’t been on our own for very long, either.

My roomie had to leave to go to work one day and took my car because his had a flat. He left me a note saying he would be back in a few hours and he’d fix the flat and since I had the day off, he would make sure he got back in time for me to get something done, which meant go to a bar and get loaded. The only thing he forgot was to leave me his keys. He took my keys and his keys and he locked the deadbolt lock. I discovered I was locked into the duplex without means to escape. The windows were an option but they had been painted shut and considering this was January and a bad neighborhood, we thought it wasn’t such a bad idea.

I needed a beer. No, I needed several beers. I didn’t feel like waiting and besides, was I not a man now? It was time for me to use my superior intellect and find a way out of this mess. First, I smoked a joint. An idea was shortly afterwards born of smoke, as the best will be.

In one of the closets I discovered a trap door into the attic. Aha! If this part of the duplex had an attic door perhaps the other side did too! I would just slip into the other apartment and go out their door. It was perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

Now, I had no idea if anyone was home next door but they normally had their television going full blast so if the Great One Eyed God was quiet I felt safe. I lifted my trapdoor, got into the attic, sneaked around until I found their trapdoor and peeked inside. Their trap door opened up in the middle of a hallway.  I felt weird. This was like breaking and entering without the breaking. But there were no sounds and no signs of life. I lifted the door up and stuck my head down. Nothing. Hey! This was going to work perfectly. I balanced myself with one hand and jumped down, shutting the trapdoor behind me and landed fairly softly. Perfect! Then I heard a male voice say, “Did you hear something?”

There was a door to my right. I opened the door and discovered it was a closet. I hid in the closet which had enough room for a broom and me and little more.


It was pretty clear I was screwed. I heard heavy footsteps falling…THUMP THUMP THUMP and heard a woman’s voice right next to the closet door, “I ain’t heard nothin’” and then more thumping and silence. A phone rang. It scared the hell out of me but no worries; this was 1980. There were no cell phones. This was someone’s landline. The guy answered it and I heard him say in his best, dying voice, “No, no, I feel too bad to go to the doctor, no, I’ll be okay, I just need to rest coff coff, I’ll see you when you get home, baby” and then he hung up.

Damn.


So there was some giggling. After some muffled noises and a minute or so there was an unmistakable headboard banging sound that reverberated through the duplex. I opened the closet door softly and closed it behind me. Time for you to go! But the front door was deadbolt locked. I crept back towards the backdoor, checked for more headboard sounds, and then inched towards the backdoor. Shit! It was locked too.

I went back into the closet to think. The headboard sounds stopped and someone went to the bathroom and flushed it. There were kitchen noises. Please dear dog don’t let anyone drop anything, I prayed. The two smoked cigarettes and talked for a while over lunch. She had to go before someone came home, I didn’t catch the name, and he wanted her to stay for one more headboard banging session. I had to pee.

Finally they got dressed and made out near the front door for a while. I really had to pee. Things got very hot and soon they were doing it right there on the floor. I peeked out of the closet then shut it firmly. Big people need love too, but there is a certain level of largeness than doesn’t need to be witnessed. There were fornicating fatties just a few yards from me. I had worse problem because my urge to pee began to get stronger. I felt around in the closet for a bucket but there wasn’t anything of the sort there. The floor humping noises stopped. I held my breath as they stopped panting, got dressed, and lo! They both left.

Without any regard as to when anyone might return I had to pee. I found the bathroom and released the torrent. It was as if the Amazon River had been held back for a decade. I wanted to hurry but the stream kept going and going and going. I tried to listen for the door but it was no use. The Flood of the Century was going on and nothing would stop it now. When the last few gallons stopped I realized I was still alone. It was time to get the hell out of there and fast, too.

He had locked the door behind him but there had to be a key to the dead lock somewhere. I searched and searched but this was akin to burglary. Then I saw it. There was a tallish barstool in the corner. That would work perfectly. In a matter of seconds I could be...but what to do with the stool once I was gone? I was more than willing to leave it in place and let them wonder but there was part of me that still wanted to leave no trace.

That’s when I saw the purse. It was sitting beside the door and I realized it had to be the floor humping headboard banging woman’s purse. She would have to come back for it. They would know the stool hadn’t been there when they left.  I was trapped but I knew that sooner or later the women on the phone had to come home or the guy might come home or everyone might come home at once. I had to get the hell out of there.

Wait! I took the purse and went into the bedroom and put it on the other side of the bed tehn went back into the closet. I would have one shot to make this work. Five minutes went by and just as I was about to give up, I heard a car pull up and then another. Great! Now if only…

The man came in and yelled back, “It ain’t there!” and then I heard her yell something to him and she came in fussing about him not being able to find his own nose on his face. They went into the bedroom to find the purse and I very nearly broke for the door. But I would still be locked out! In horror, at the very last second, I realized there was a flaw, a terrible flaw in my plan. Go? Stay? I hesitated. What to do? If I bolted I would be locked out instead of locked in, but hell, that was better than this wasn’t it? I started to open the door but it was too late; the couple returned. They were still amorous. They kissed so close to the door I could hear smacking and sucking noises. It was like listening to an American Bison eating a crème pie. They started undressing in the hallway and I hoped and prayed to all things holy and good they would not, could not, mate within inches of where I hid. What if their corpulent copulation turned one of them into a corpse?  Can you imagine starving to death or dying of dehydration while one very large woman was pinned down by one very large man, albeit one with a smile on his face? Surely, if there really is a hell, this is the sort of thing that goes on down there. Worse, imagine the pinned woman, trapped by her massive mate, discovering a voice coming from the closet, and having to deal with the idea that the closet person might die before help arrived? I told you it was good pot, didn’t I? They went into the living room and I could hear the thudding of the sofa against the wall. I was saved.
The sound stilled and I wondered if they did this on a regular basis. As far as I could tell these were the two most horny fat people I had ever known of in my life. With giggles and all manner of noise they decided to take a shower together. I was going to get out. But the man decided to lock the door and once again, I was trapped. I couldn’t find where he was putting the keys.

I pulled the string that went to the overhead light in the closet and discovered there was an iron, an ironing board, a broom, and an extension cord in the closet with me as well as some assorted junk on the shelves. The Plan formed. Very quickly I pulled the stool out, pushed the trapdoor open, then tied the cord of the iron and the extension cord to the stool. Damn, it was too short. I got down, got the guy’s belt, tied it onto the end of the cord and it was perfect. I very silently crawled up into the attic and then pulled the stool up behind me. It banged against the wall once, and I froze. The water stopped running. I could tell they were listening and trying to hear if the noise repeated itself. I slowly pulled the stool up. I got everything up, very softly closed the trap door and waited. The water started again. I took my first deep breath in an hour or so.

I tip toed from beam to beam, trying my hardest to be totally silent and made it back to my trap door. I was home. I slipped inside and dropped to the floor. YES! I was back inside my own apartment and just as trapped as I was when I had left. Damn.

My roomie did return and when I told him what had happened he rolled around on the floor and wailed with laughter. But he had brought beer and that made things better. After a couple of joints we decided it was wrong to keep the iron and the belt, but he really needed an extension cord. Odd sense of ethics, yes, but we were very young and really stoned. We decided to return the ill-gotten stool as well because it was wrong to steal a bar stool. And we sat and rolled joints and plotted to return to the scene of the crime.

The first thing we did was ascertain who lived next door. That would be Large Larry as we called him and his slightly less large wife, we called Loretta. Loretta went to work every morning at seven and Larry usually left after she did. Now, what was interesting is that Larry’s sweetie, we named her Lynn, would come over about ten minutes after Loretta left but never on two days back to back. The smart thing to do would be to wait until all the action was over and simply go over, put the stuff back, and then leave again. But no. We wanted to put things back the way I had found them while Larry and Lynn were at it again.

It was really good pot.


Of course, all of this was predicated on Larry not having a 9 millimeter handgun and putting holes in us if we were caught. Yet we were intrigued with the idea of returning the goods, replacing them exactly as we had found them, and letting Larry wonder how on earth his belt wound up on top of the bar stool where we had planned to leave it. And what a belt this thing was, too! It was one of those seventy’s era white belts that might have been cut from the waist band of Moby Dick himself. The thing must have been five or six feet long! We thought about keeping it for a tow strap or perhaps a runner for the hallway. But no, we wanted to return what I had taken, and so we set in motion The Plan II.

We took a step ladder, a metal thing that was tall enough to get us to the trap door but not so large as to be noisy and we duct taped, and you knew there was going to be duct tape involved in this didn’t you, towels to the legs and to the sides of it so it wouldn’t make any sound if it hit the walls.  We took a very long piece of rope with us and we brought the stolen goods. Here’s the part you’ll find the most bizarre; the plan went off without a hitch. The headboard was banging when we slipped down and it was still banging when we left. The obese was a beast. Those two were focused on their fornication vacation; we had to give them that. We were in and out much quicker than they were. Not a single thing had gone wrong.

We were sorely disappointed.

My roomie was as demented as I was and we decided that had been altogether too easy. We wondered how much we could get away with if we tried and we wondered what we could get away with if we tried. We decided to do something really strange the next time those two got together and Plan III was born.  

Do you see now why pot should be heavily regulated?

We practiced getting into and out of the attic in total silence for a weekend. By this time we had this thing down to an art. When Loretta left we would push our trapdoor open and get ready to climb. I would stand by the window and when Lynn pulled up we would ascend. We would cross over the attic as she was getting ready to come in and as soon as we heard the headboard pounding we opened their trapdoor and let the ladder down. Roomie pulled the ladder up, just in case, and I went on the mission. Everyone had a cassette deck those days and they were always playing that tears and twang country music from the late seventies that most resembled a small group of would- be musicians getting together to be depressed and playing poorly. I took their tears and twang cassette out and put in a tape we had prepared for the event and pressed play. I went into the hallway, looked up, roomie was there to lower the ladder, I went up, the ladder was pulled up, and away we went. We scampered across the attic like mice, went down the ladder, replaced the trap door and looked at our watches. We had five minutes of blank tape to play out.

Suddenly, at volume ten plus one turn…


Frank Zappa’s “Apostrophe” the middle of it, where the guitars are really screaming, the drummer is pounding it out, and it sounds like someone with great joy got together with some really great musicians, and they jammed.




Ten seconds later the music stopped. We listened at the walls and Larry was really freaked out. We could hear Lynn and Larry whispering but we couldn’t hear what they were saying. Five minutes later Lynn left like her ass was on fire and her head was catching. Larry left fifteen minutes later and we could not stop laughing. But our work was done. We knew better than to push it. We knew if we kept on that sooner or later one of them would figure it out so we vowed to quit.

Had a dog not been killed I would have let it all go. I was really nervous about being in someone else’s house even for a harmless prank. For all we knew Larry was armed. We had a great laugh over it and then we went about our business, content kami of chaos that we were. But then a dog was killed. There was a knock on the door one day and there stood Loretta, in tears, because someone had ran over a stray dog, and she wanted us to help bury it. We dug a hole in their back yard and was about to have a funeral when Larry came home. He raised hell at us for digging a hole in his yard and just as I was about to brain him with the shovel he went back inside, slamming the door behind him. I knew before I said anything what was going to happen and why.

There is nothing more focused than two potheads who feel as if someone has wrongly harshed their buzz. Okay, there must be dozens of things that are more focused; Black Lab puppies and beyond, but you get the idea. We decided that Larry must suffer and you know, you really know, that we were going to arrange for him to get busted during the headboard bang.

Plan IV:

We went over as soon as Loretta left and Lynn replaced her. We had cleaned out the better part of an ounce of pot and there were a few hundred seeds in the stuff. We scattered these all over the coffee table, and left a few joints rolled up next to the seeds. Now, the joints weren’t real pot but rather we had rolled up some grass from the yard and made to look good. We left a couple of burned out joints, roaches they are called, in the ashtray. We took a bottle of beer and poured it out on the floor. That hurt, but we had to have that smell going. We left a dozen or so empty beer bottles on the floor. We put in another tape that we had left about fifteen minutes of blank to play before the real music came on. Then we called the fire department, from Larry’s phone, and reported that the duplex was on fire.  All of this took less than a minute, mind you. We were Ninjas dressed in bell bottom jeans and tie dyed tee shirts.



We scampered up and over and we took my car and pulled down the street a bit and we waited. Sure enough, about ten minutes later the fire truck comes down the street, the cops are right behind them, and it’s all whistles and bells and red lights flashing. We sat for about a minute then followed the parade.

We pulled up and acted shocked and shaken that our duplex might have been on fire. Why, how scary! Meanwhile, the firemen had knocked hard on Larry’s door and because they were firemen they had to go in and check. Larry tried to talk them out of it. The cops got involved. Suddenly, things went really wrong really fast for poor Larry.

Then, out of nowhere, this started playing:




That was bad enough but it was at volume ten plus one turn. No one was amused. We let the nice firemen into our apartment which was spotless. We went so far as to leave a bible open on our coffee table and I asked one of the policemen if he had heard the good news about our Lord and Savior. This was, and likely still is, the very best way to get some distance between yourself and other people. If you want to try this in real life make sure your subject is someone you never want to see again, because it’s better than pepper spray and pickled beets. Meanwhile, Larry was in cuffs. Lynn was pulled out of the house and she was swearing like, well, a woman just caught screwing a married man. A woman with a clipboard showed up with a cameraman in tow. Like all things that go wrong in a human’s life, this thing began to cascade on Larry and Lynn. We retreated to the safety of our part of the duplex and put on some Pink Floyd.

Loretta came home later in the day and began to move out. We helped her and her brother put her stuff in a truck and we found out that Larry had told the cops that he thought the pot had been planted on him by his wife, and if they let him out he would kill her. Ah, oddly, they decided to keep him. Along with the pot seeds they also discovered that Larry had in his possession some cocaine, which we had not known about. The rolled up grass, they postulated, was Larry buying weed and getting ripped off. By that weekend, Larry had come by to get his stuff and Lynn helped him so we guessed they stayed together.

The next tenant was a single woman with a kid. He was possessed by demons but that is another story altogether.


End

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Imaginary Friends and Imaginary Beauty




You have to wonder what life was like before the mirror. Before we knew what we looked like we had to rely on other people to tell us what we looked like and if you stop and think about it, we’re still doing that right now. Yet before the mirror was invented I doubt if anyone was truly worried about how they looked in other people’s eyes. Certainly, our ancient ancestors who lived in caves and simple huts and tents adorned themselves with beads, flowers and shells and they likely painted each other’s faces. I suspect at that point in time societies defined beauty as something temporary and ornamental, not as something that was an intrinsic value of the person’s worth.

But even after the mirror was invented there had to be some sort of baseline established as to what beauty was. Fashion, and this addresses clothing not humans, very likely started us down the road to where we are. If a prince or princess wore a certain fashion then their subjects believed it was beauty. Does this sound strange to you? Then look at the clothes people wear these days and ask yourself why it is they are nearly all the same. Look at how clothes are sold. Look at where fashion has led us. We are told what to wear and we wear it.

Now, with the advent of cameras and television, we started to become obsessed with not just fashion but beauty. Now companies could market an ideal that could never be reached yet could always be strived for. Thinner models, bigger breasts, high cheek bones, and shiny hair were the secrets to the pinnacle of beauty and a multibillion dollar industry, as well as an impossible societal expectation, was born.

Then came computer generated graphics. We  went from demanding women only look like a very few women who won the won the genetic lottery to demanding they look as if they were created by a machine, in effect leading us to desire a mate outside our own species. The women we have created with computers not only do not exist but they also force women to think very narrowly, very slimly if you will, as to what is possible if they want to be beautiful. Movies, television shows, and nearly all aspects of social media adhere to the ideal. Women are born into bondage, slaves to the idea their self-worth is defined by commercials and there are only a very limited number of them who will ever get close to it, by design. Men are trained to seek women whose looks define who they are and those incapable of attracting the butterfly to the flame are doomed circle the candle themselves.

But you very likely know all of this already, don’t you? I’m not telling you anything that you, and every woman born in America, doesn’t realize by the age of five. Certainly, by the age the hormones kick in, the shackles are in place and nearly everyone, male and female, devotes a certain amount of their lives to the False Goddess of Beauty.

Believe it or not, nothing I have to say to you has anything to do with fashion, beauty, photoshop, or whether or not clothes make the man. All of this is the very best example I can give you as to how you are trained to believe something. You are bombarded by it, immersed in it, and saturated with it, day and night, week in and week out. You believe because you see that everyone around you believes. This is the way that all species train their young; the young learn from those who are still alive to teach them how to survive. We have an instinct to copy the behavior of adults.


Stop right here for a moment and consider how you reacted to the story of children seeing people and things that no one else could see. Did the word “creepy” seem appropriate? Did you feel an uncertain unease with the idea there might be, slipping and sliding around you, some sort of other world that only kids could see? It might be harmful, right? It might be…ghostly. It might be something that isn’t fed to us by society and therefore not subject to being controlled or even controllable.

We’ve been told the spirits children might see, if they are not making it all up, are “ghosts” who are dead people returned from their graves and that is scary, right? But what if we’re wrong and we’ve always been wrong? What if these things children interact with are naturally occurring beings who are shaped and formed not by evil but by the children themselves?

Is this so very hard to believe? We’ve taken the wolf and turned it into a lap dog have we not? That’s quite a feat isn’t it? I have a dog that weighs in at over one hundred ten pounds that loves nothing better than to lie on top of me and be petted on a dog’s head. What seems more likely? Does the idea of a canine cousin of a wolf becomes as docile as can be seem more preposterous than a child making friends with some ethereal being who enjoys playing with the child?

So why only children?


Imagine, if you will, if someone told you they had an imaginary friend. If that person is a five years old it would be “cute” unless it was “creepy”. If someone twenty-five told you the same thing your reaction might be to wonder if this person is “hearing voices in their head”.

Children lack the preconceived notion of impossibility. Their play is as real to them as glamor magazines are to adults who sure as hell ought to know better than to think a woman weighing eight-five pounds is going to naturally support a D cup.

What they see, who they see, what they believe they are experiencing is real. It is part of the natural world that is around us even as we look in the mirror and wonder why Kate Upton isn’t looking back at us. Quite frankly, I think Kate might make a fairly boring imaginary friend, and it’s time more people thought so too.


Take Care,

Mike

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why This Morning Was Funny ( and I still laugh)

By the time I arrived at High School the social structure had been permanently fixed. We were who we were going to be for the last four years of our preplanned lives and there wasn’t a lot that would change anything, not that anyone had any plans to change anything, ever. The guy who was the star quarterback, Ben, was going to be the guy who was going to be the star quarterback and he was dating the cute little cheerleader and they would go onto college, graduate, get good jobs, marry and have kids. Ben went to a good college out of state and his brother was left to carry on the legacy.

His kid brother, Barry, was a smaller version of Ben, but they both had that aw shucks good ole boy look about them and Barry dated the terribly adorable freshman cheerleader and he was going to be the next big thing. The only real problem is Barry wasn’t that big at all. He was a foot shorter than his brother and many pounds lighter. Yet the social order had been fixed so everyone knew he would step into his brother’s cheats and life would go on.

But it didn’t.

The next school year saw us with the reality of Ben being gone and suddenly life was a little more real for his younger sibling. Barry was brave and he stepped up to the challenge and he was very serious about everything, but Ben was gone. Barry’s life changed. It wasn’t supposed to be this way at all. Barry had always tagged along with Ben, helping out with mowing lawns for extra cash and being Ben’s shadow at church functions but without Ben there Barry seemed to lose focus. He stopped mowing lawns after school. He stopped being active in church. Barry was now his own man, so to speak, and he wasn’t his brother after all.
Barry wrecked his car one night, totaled it while drinking and that ended the Big Blue Mustang. That car defined Barry and the wreck defined who Barry would be. The terribly adorable cheerleader broke up with him. Barry walked off the practice field one day with the coach screaming at him. The ordained and predetermined life he had lead came to an end just as surely and finally as death.

I found it both very uncomfortable and intensely fascinating to talk to Barry. He came to me one day wanting to buy some pot but I wasn’t about to sell him anything. As far as I was concerned he was still part of a system that was more than happy to allow people to wither away rather than educate them. But he had been demoted. He had been shamed. He wasn’t dating the terribly adorable cheerleader anymore and that was going to come back to haunt him in a way he hadn’t foreseen.
Barry got drunk with one of the local potheads one night and they started talking about who had done what girl. Barry made mention that the terribly adorable and he had been using the Big Blue Mustang as a love nest and that she had lost her virginity there long ago. The local pothead related this story to his girlfriend who called out the terribly adorable cheerleader in the locker room for losing her cherry in a car. That started a firestorm of he said/he said and Barry’s social status slipped to the point that he wasn’t allowed to eat at the same table as his old friends. The terribly adorable cheerleader stated very loudly and to anyone who would listen she and Barry had never even wander off first base.

Ben came home from college one weekend and Barry came back to school with a black eye. He tried to get back on the football team but by that time it was far too late. Again, Barry quit and this time it took. Barry was off the team in more ways than one.


There was an open grassy place where everyone who brought their brown bag lunches sat and ate and that was where I liked to be. It was like an ocean where everyone had some island they liked to visit and most of the in-crowd stayed in-doors rather than come outside and play. The disaffected, the lonely, the outcasts, the pot smokers, the drunks, the abused, and those who simply couldn’t stand to be around those who were living a perfect life, sat on the grass and munched contently, like non cows.

Samantha was one of those girls who, had she only been petite, would have been thought of as pretty. Had she only come from a better family she might have been popular. Had her body only had some grace she might have been athletic. But Samantha was tall and her body had curves. She stumbled when she walked. Samantha’s father changed tires at a tractor shop so she wore hand me downs and second hand clothes. The in crowd respected her intellect but they didn’t want to eat with her. Samantha brought a small blanket to school each day and ate her lunch with a book. A sandwich, an apple, and a half pint of milk, along with whatever book she was reading; Samantha was her own island.

I have no idea if you remember those stickers in the back of library books but every book had a sticker than was stamped with the date they had been taken out and returned. The sticker also held the name of who checked book out. I read books that no one had ever read before but mostly there were a few names. Samantha’s name appeared in many of them and I knew she had to know that I had read many of the same books she was interested in, too. Alas! I had the social skills of a falling tree and Samantha had an inability to speak to the opposite gender. My attempts to reach her included me babbling like an idiot while she stood there and turned very red.

The real wreck came one morning when we were supposed to give some sort of speech in front of a class with a visual aid and I managed to get through it without hurting myself. My visual aid was a live snake which meant the teacher would have done anything to get me to sit down and put the snake away. Samantha had a poster and one of the pieces of paper she had taped to it had slipped away. She glued it back on, but in the process, allowed a thin line of glue to get on her face. It looked like a mutant booger had slipped out of her nose. It waved and dangled when she moved. Samantha realized I was staring at her and it made her nervous. Finally, when we were both reaching the breaking point, she blurted out, “Stop staring at me!” and it startled me so badly I couldn’t help myself and I said, “You’ve got this thing on your nose!” The classroom erupted with laughter.

Later that day as we passed in the hall Samantha snarled at me, “Asshole!” That was a sign, I thought, we were done. I think it was the first time she had ever used that word towards anyone. I still have that effect on women.


The real fallout from the disputed deflowering of the terribly adorable cheerleader is that Barry was exposed not only as someone without much honor but also a man who was very likely a virgin. His freshman year had ended well but his sophomore year had been a disaster of very epic proportions. His junior year began with Barry adrift. The football people hated him. The intellectual crowd was beyond him. The dopers didn’t trust him. Barry was a kid without a clique.

I knew what he was up to the minute I saw him tie up on Samantha’s island. I knew that in Barry’s mind this was a sure thing. The one person at school without anyone else Samantha was perfect. I lit a cigarette and smiled. This was going to end poorly, oh hell yeah, and it was going to be worth the watching. As Barry presented himself as a man with some sort of shared interest, Samantha turned bright red. It was going to take some doing to get past that point, I thought, and I was right.

So began the pursuit. Barry had someone to talk to and something to do now. Samantha’s parents would not let her date, at first, but Barry wore them down. He went to church with them and mowed their grass. He bought flowers for Samantha and I began to think he actually meant it. For all practical purposes he seemed like a man in love. But deep down inside, I think he was on a Cherry Quest.

I never did prom. Normal dates froze me in my shoes as it were. I couldn’t dance and I sure as hell wasn’t about to try to talk my father into renting a tux for me. The real test, I thought, to see if Barry was serious about Samantha, was if he took her to the prom. He asked, she accepted, and I sat down with the idea that this may have been true love. But there were some cracks here and there. Barry still had a very bad habit of getting drunk and talking about his sexual prowess. The rumor that he was just trying to be Samantha’s first was floating around and the rumor that Barry was desperate to end his own virginity never went away either. I lit another cigarette and watched as the two of them spoke about the prom, secured to her island. I thought I could see stormy weather.

There was no way on God’s grey earth I would have ever been invited to the after prom party in the woods but I had scored some killer pot. I refused to sell any the week before the prom so the night of the prom I was highly popular, pun intended.  There was an old house in the woods where the right people partied and there was a keg there. I was there with the other dateless guys and dateless girls and those who were decked out, well, it was their party. It’s was an odd scene, really, with the perfectly decked out guys with their very pretty girls drinking from red solo cups right beside those guy and girls who were trying very hard to wear nice clothes well. Then there were those of us who were just watching the show, staying out late to see how the other half lived. Oh, and then there was Barry and Samantha, who actually, made quite a couple, at first glance. Barry was in a white ruffled tux and looked every bit the popular guy he once was. Samantha was in a white dress that might have passed for a wedding gown. They weren’t drinking beer but had mixed up Pink Panty Pulldowns . I do not think Samantha had ever drank before.

Missing from this party was the upper crust. The football players and the cheerleaders were off at the beach. Barry must have realized that his mistakes and miscues had cost him that trip and I think at that moment he really hated his current life. He knew I had the very best pot but he sent one of his friends to be to get a joint. Barry and I had a past, it seemed, and tonight of all nights made that past seem a little too real for him.

I weighed one hundred and ten pounds when I was in high school. I was five feet ten inches tall. I was an albino Ethiopian with really bad social skills. But dear dog almighty, I loved to play football. I could catch anything in the area code that stayed in bounds. My hands were sure. But my real skill was speed. On kickoff returns and puts I burned trails through the grass. My passion was defense. I wanted to kill quarterbacks. I hated them. Quarterbacks were usually the most popular kids and skill had little to do with it. I could lay them down. I could hit them. I could make them look foolish and I did.

You would think someone my size could be easily blocked but no one wanted to keep me out of the backfield as badly as I wanted to get in. Tim, the best sandlot quarterback ever, and the man who taught me how to disengage even the largest blocker, always picked me first to be on his team. “I won’t get any rest in the pocket if I don’t,” Tim told people when they asked why.

Barry arrived on day, with his own ball, tossing it in the air and catching it, and told us he was just watching. He waited for an invite but no one was biting. He was slumming and we knew it. One of his friends, Jack, and Jack was the last person I ever knew with that name, showed up a few minutes later and wow, what do you know, two more people, two teams, magic! But Barry and Jack had to be on the same team. Barry walked up to me and said out loud, “I hear you can catch”
“I hear you’re a quitter.” I said and you could have heard a grasshopper fart. I didn’t want to be on Barry’s team. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to put him down on the ground and I wanted to know, really know, if I was good enough to beat him.

It was on.


What Barry didn’t know was how each person on their field felt about him being there. Bruce was a farmer’s kid who got to play once a blue moon. His friend Greg was an undersized bulldog of a runner who I hated to see come at me at full speed. There were kids there who would have fought, killed, and died, to have Barry’s chances in life. And we all hated him.

Barry didn’t realize how fast I was. He dropped back to pass and I blindsided him, my friend Curt coming in on the other side to meet me in the middle. Curt, Tim, and I harassed him for every minute of an hour. He was too short to throw over me and he screamed at the other guys for letting me through and that hurt his chances. After I hit him hard enough to shake the ball loose he declared it to be half time. Without a word he walked away. Poor Jack had to find another ride home. Barry had come to light up our scoreboards and left in the dark.


But Barry was still more popular than most of us that never made it to the prom that night. We were the hangers-on and he was still Ben’s brother. But that night I saw him realize again that he had dipped down below where he was supposed to be in life.  I could tell he wasn’t looking to repeat the mistake of patronizing anyone there. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to really be with Samantha that night. He kept drifting away from her and she was left to fend for herself and she drank far too much out of that red solo cup.

I never could stay with a crowd. I had to get away. I climbed up in an Oak tree that had a dying treehouse and smoked a joint alone. I could see the bonfire, the beer drinkers, the girls in shiny dresses, the people sneaking away to smoke pot, and I noticed that Barry and Samantha had disappeared. I wondered how many teenage girls saw this night as something special and how many teenage boys saw this as an opportunity. I wondered if Barry finally had sex with Samantha if he would dump her without a look back. Deep down inside, I liked the girl a lot. We both had read Lord Of The Rings before anyone else. I read Crime and Punishment and she read it after I did. ( I reread a lot of my favorites) and I knew she liked the same kind of stories I liked. I hoped Barry treated her well and I hoped the night ended on a high note, no pun intended.

Ever hear a teen age guy scream?

The sound was a piercing thing that cut through the smoke and beer haze and stopped all other sound. “No! Ah, Dear God! No! STOP!” and then another scream. Samantha staggered into view and her white dress was stained with red.

She killed him. Holy mother of dog she killed him; that was my first thought. Samantha staggered, nearly went over backwards and then fell to her hands and knees.

Samantha threw up. It was a projectile of red fluid and Pink Panty Pulldowns were coming back up.


“BRRRRRAAAAAPPPPPPP”  issued forth Samantha and the party was about to be over. Several of the girls put their hands up to their mouths and swallowed hard.

“BRRRRRAAAAAPPPPPPP”

“BRRRRRAAAAAPPPPPPP”

Then Barry staggered out of the dark and all the bar food, all the snacks, all the stuff that Samantha had eaten was right there on his white suit.

“She puked in my lap” Barry said.


I damn near died laughing.


In the end, that ended it. Samantha’s parents forbid the two to ever see each other again. Barry’s senior year was marked by hard study and infrequent social outings. We never discovered what they were doing when Samantha puked but she hinted darkly he had tried to take advantage of her state and she had a poor reaction to it, to say the least.


So this morning, when Sam the Happy Hound puked in my lap after a treat went the wrong way I couldn’t help but laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

Take Care,

Mike