Monday, March 28, 2016

The Idaho Dumper






So I’m at my desk talking to the New Guy when my female co-worker walks in and two seconds behind her is this man I have never seen before. She turns around and takes a step back like she didn’t notice he was there but he’s looking around, head swiveling like a weather vane in a tornado. He’s a short chubby sort of guy with really black hair and really, really, red cheeks, and he blurts out, “Please mister, I gotta go right now, right now, BAD where is your bathroom PLEASE!” And my female co-worker, who has a distaste for the shared bathroom points and before she can say anything Chubs is heading for the door and undoing his pants and he’s wheezing like he’s about to explode, which he is, in a manner of speaking.

The New Guy has stood up to join us staring at the bathroom door when we hear this sound, a sound like someone is having a fingernail pulled out slowly, “AgggRRRgggRRGGG!” and then there’sa  sound like Chubs just hit his fist against the wall or his head.

We stare. No one says a word.


This goes on for a full minute with the sound dying down, a couple of whimpers escape, then the sound again, then the sound of a flush.

All this while, I’m having a text conversation with The Muse, and she thinks this is hysterically funny, but it also reminds her of a Stephen King story where an alien comes out of a man’s rectum. This is, funny, in a way, unless the man dies in there, and damn, what a mess will that be?

So there’s another flush. Silence, and then very clearly we hear him whimper, “Please Jesus, please, no more. And another flush. Then noises.

My female co-worker, who despises the fact of a shared bathroom and is extremely religious, walks out. Later she told me that no matter what happened in there, it was a man’s job, and I suppose she was right. It’s me and the New Guy, and whatever it going on behind that door.

Then, a voice. “Please, mister, anyone, please, I’m out of toilet paper.”

The New Guy looks at me with horror in his eyes.
“Please. Anyone there?”


He knows what he has to do and he knows why. He’s the New Guy. He has to do this sort of thing. I hand him a roll of toilet paper out of the supply closet and walk out of the office. It’s in god’s hands now, and there’s no sense in anyone else getting traumatized. Three second later the New Guy emerges and pants, “The smell!” and he gets into his truck and speeds away.

I look at the car that Chubs arrived in and it’s got Idaho plates on it. My female co-employee shows back up, rolls down the window of her truck and looks at me. I know what she’s thinking. But at that very moment my work phone rings, oh, I’m at work, and I have to go talk to someone. My female co-employee sits there and glares at me as I leave.

I’m back in twenty minutes and she’s still just sitting there. Chubs’ car is missing. “Have you gone inside yet?” and as she rolls up her window I can tell that no, she hasn’t and no, she isn’t, and men are pigs, especially in bathrooms, and even though she’s terribly quiet she says more in that look as she leaves than a lot of people say all day.

I go inside and there’s a smell. Not like a pig farm or a three hundred head of cow dairy, but an odd smell like something fell into a fire or …something. But it’s just this side of terrible. The bathroom door is still shut and the fan is still running. I open a window or two in the office, open the door to the outside and tell The Muse, via text, that I can hear her giggling from here. I take a deep breath and open the door.

Now, imagine your very worst nightmares when it comes to guys and bathrooms. Remember the bathroom scene in “Trainspotting”? I sure hope not because that was one terrible movie, but the thing here is that the bathroom was immaculate. Uh, almost. Okay, on the toilet lid there was what looked like specks of blood. Chubs had wiped everything down, cleaned up prettily, but there was still some spots and they looked blood red. There was a trash bag tied up in the corner where he had cleaned up after he cleaned up.

The Muse asks, “The bag isn’t moving, is it?”

Honestly, I hadn’t thought about that but once she brought it up, damn, l what could be in that bag other than used trifold brown paper towels? I go out to my truck and get rubber gloves.  The Muse tells me I have to do this because who know what is in that bag? But I think maybe not. Do I really want to know?

So here’s the thing, and this is where we get down to the bone on the subject. It sounded plenty horrible in there and I’m not altogether sure I’ve ever heard anyone have a bowel movement like that at all. Suppose Chubs was actually a chick and she miscarried in that bathroom? What if Chubs works somewhere where he’s a he there but was just born with the wrong plumbing and now somehow got pregnant and in my bathroom at work is the results of a society that cannot judge a person by their character but just by plumbing alone are we made to be who we are? Nothing else matters, right, just where the waste comes out and where babies are formed, right?

More than anything else, I have to look in that trash bag because if there’s a baby in there, dead or alive, I have to know. Now it isn’t funny at all, the smell is even worse, but there’s nothing inside but brown trifold paper towels, some flecked with blood, others, eww.

My co-workers return and I realize my female co-worker is right, men are pigs, and for that reason alone there ought to be separate bathrooms. But here’s a guy who did a decent enough job cleaning up after himself and in the process made me wonder just what in the hell happened in there?


Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, March 20, 2016

"Carol": A Movie Review

Cate Blanchett has been a favorite of mine for many years, especially after “Elizabeth” in 1998.  Rooney Mara has made a comfortable living without a true breakout performance, even after “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. More than anything else, Blanchett lured me into watching “Carol” and, once again, I’m glad she did.

Based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith, and set in the early 1950’s, working girl Therese Belivet, played skillfully by Mara, meets socialite Carol Aird, an older and much more sophisticated woman. Therese is in a dead end relationship with a man she doesn’t care for, and Carol is in the midst of a divorce. Slowly, but with certainty, an emotional relationship forms between the two and just as inevitable, things get physical.

But this is a lot more than just a romance between two women at the most wrong time, it is a love story set in a time in history that just plain couldn’t be much worse for either. Carol’s husband, Harge Aird, artfully played by Kyle Chandler, is a ruthless misogynist who doesn’t seem to realize that’s who and what he is. He sees Carol’s attraction to other women as rebellion or mental illness and he’ll stop at nothing to keep Carol away from their daughter. In the meanwhile, Therese is fending off her would be suitor, Richard, also well done by Jake Lacy, and Richard thinks that by declaring his live for Therese, well, that’s all he has to do to get her to marry him, isn’t it?

More than anything else this is a very dark glimpse at the lives of two women in the very peak of the greatest generation’s heyday. Everything is going well, everyone is happy, and dammit, no one is going to ruin it all for everyone else simply because they want to be who they really are.

The scenery is stunning, the casting perfect, the score on top of that time, and suddenly, the early 50’s come to life again, yet this world is not perfect for everyone, or every love.


Take Care,

Mike

Artist in the Sun




Anyone who had kept company with artists knows they are an eccentric lot of people as a rule, and the more talent found in a human being the further away from shore they seem to be swimming. I went thirty-two years without writing and my first computer set me sailing well past the first set of sandbars at the beach. I just wish all the artists I once knew were around to see it. I knew a dizzying selection of paint artists at one point in my life and it was like living in an opium den. They were all very young and very passionate about their work and I wonder what would have happened if I could have just realized how lucky I was to be in that sort of atmosphere thick with the smell of paint, sweat, and hormones. There was something incredibly erotic in seeing a twenty -year old woman kneeling on the floor, her face inches from her painting, cheeks flecked with paint long dried from the wee hours of the morning and the sun revealing her half naked body, her mind and sold and spirit immersed to the point she did not see me, did not notice I was there at all, but I think if I had stripped down and offered to take her right there on the floor she would have acquiesced gladly.

The connection between creation and sexual release is an odd thing, really.  All of my Muses have been female, and nearly all of them have wound up in bed with me. Creativity is foreplay for physical passion and sex supercharges the creative.

The first artist I dated had an electrical current running through her soul that amped her up to the point of spontaneous combustion. Yet she feared her sexuality and denied her creativity. I hadn’t made the connection between the two in my own life at that time and it seemed to me that her clock for desire and her yearning to paint coincided well past the point of coincident. She wanted a normal life with a house and a husband and two kids, three cats, and a church to go to so that she might apologize to the universe for being who she was.

She was lying on a towel near a pool and there beside her was a friend of hers who desperately wanted to be an artist but had not discovered her talent or medium. Clearly, it was no oil paint but she splashed around in it like someone looking at a mirror under a mud puddle. She could almost see who she was but briefly and unclearly was the vision. She also carried the twin burden of being an only child and being very pretty. Slightly vain, and easily distracted by suitors, whom she was never pleased with for very long, she was uninspiring outside the superficial. What she wanted out of life I could never tell, but then again, I never looked more than twice to see it.

The real artist lay basking in the sun and she smiled at me as I sat close enough to smell the heat coming off her body. Often she resisted the idea of the two of us being more than friends who slept together after drinking enough, but her body called out to me and there was no hiding the fact that there was a connection and she had to accept her own desires as brutally animalistic or the makes of true love, or something in between. I left early in the conversation, flirted with her friend long enough to make her jealous and I knew she would paint that day, and sweat over it, and then after two beers call me to see if I was home, and she would show up after a shower and fumble with her excuses for being there.


She was twenty-one and I was twenty-five, but she was much more mature and seasoned. Often I wonder what would have happened if I had thrown caution to the wind and worshipped her as I wanted to so desperately, or if she had encouraged me to. I wonder if there was ever anything but oil paint and alcohol and lust. At the same time if even after decades of space between us if I’m still wondering if there was more, certainly, it would seem, there was.

I know where she is, that her son is now older than she was when we met, and she has gone through three husbands, and she lives in a small town that is close to everything she always hated about life being lived by people in such places. She surrendered to the idea of normalcy, that the creative is a hobby, not a calling or spiritual tattoo, and I hope that in this, somehow, she has found peace, for there is nothing else to be had in that life.

There was a time when she was there with me, and we were still basking in the warmth and rays of our own sun. It was a liquid thing, bright, smooth, yet with crashing waves and utter darkness at times. There was no room in this white hot star for anyone but ourselves and the blindness by which we traveled was eased by sense of touch only. There were no words for who we were or what we felt or how it was going to be for we both knew that nothing could possibly be so incredibly, wickedly, terribly, wonderfully warm and burn forever. The last time I saw her we both watched the fire snuffed out completely and forever without any attempt to rescue ourselves from the world of darkness that would forever descend.

There is something in having a Muse. It’s a form of marriage unlimited and unfettered and undefined by law or by human beings. It’s a union deeper than the soul or the spirit and it will last longer than any human life which it serves, which is does not, really.

The Creative is the only Universe. And it is only there we truly feel.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dreama, The Waftspring.

One of my favorite things to do in my crèche was to read the scrolls that the old Tocsin had written about the town of Hesper. I’m unsure if he copied older scrolls as the Acolytes did the teachings of their Order, or if he had some other means of discovery. I had begun copying some of the older work that had become increasingly fragile when I came upon the story of how the gates of Hesper were built, and how the villagers brought a curse upon themselves that the Cleric at that time was unable, or perhaps, unwilling to remove.

There are so many tales told to the young by those who are older than it takes a lifetime to sift through those which are true, those that are outright lies or told in jest, and those that have been retold without proof, and thought to be true nevertheless.

When the village of Hesper began building the walls around the town there was great concern as to how the gates were to be constructed. Even with the charms and spells of the Cleric, who was no small force with the Grace of Illumination, there was still great worry that some creature might gain the gates and therefore the village. The Magistrate, who did not overworry about such a small village so terribly far away from everything else in the world, nevertheless sent forth a man named Portus, and his skill was that of fashioning gates and doorways.

Portus studied the design of the walls, and bid the citizens to make the gates out of multiple layers of different woods, with no two layers matching another’s alignment, yet fastened tight to one another with bolts rather than nails. Instead of a solid oaken work he designed a device from more springy wood that would absorb great blows and bend rather than break. Yet the outer layers would be iron barked Oak which would not burn easily and would resist even time itself.

Now, even as the doors were being fashioned by those with their craft in wood, Portus knew he would have to attach the gates to the walls and with him he had brought a great forge and a quantity of steel and iron. Yet just a few months in Hesper had convinced him that if siege was laid to the town, or if some great beast assailed the gates, help would come from the Magistrate in time to witness the last carrion fowl lifting away from the bodies, if help came that soon. It was more likely, and Portus knew this in his heart, that one day there would be no word from Hesper and there would never be again.

At this point in the scroll there was a smudge that covered two or three sentences. I could not tell what had been written or why it had been so abused, but it was intent was clear enough; no one was to read what had been written next. But the story continued…

Portus began taking a large pack with him, and he began going with two guards into the hills around Hesper, and he took with him a Pixie as a guide. Three silver pennies he gave the creature for each day’s work and the people scowled at such wealth being spent on a Pixie that might yet turn on them. The Pixies that had lived around Hesper before the people had moved in helped them at first but resisted the idea of trees being felled and crops being planted. The wildness of the woods were what they loved most, but it was the building of the quay that they deemed most dangerous. Anything that resisted the River Motus the Pixies considered very dangerous and unwise to the extreme. Yet for their own reasons, the Pixies allowed one of their own to guide Portus on his search, and it was nearly two months deep into before he found that which he went to discover.

When I was a child, so small that the memory is as faded as one of the most ancient of scrolls, my father and I discovered a Waftspring. Just as there are places where water will come forth from the ground, rushing and bubbling, and frothing, so are there the Waftssprings. Here is where the purest of all airs are issued from the earth itself, and instead of dissipating like a vapor the Waftspring will instead create of pool of air, unseen yet the air within so pure there is no mistake of its boundaries. There are creatures within the world whose offspring must be raised in these places and by their presence alone can Waftsprings be tracked. However, jealously are these venues guarded and the incarnation of the Waftspring rarely brooks trespassers of any form. Yet the Pixie brought forth the incarnate of the Waftspring, in the form of a woman who was slight of form, fair of complexion, and with a mane of red hair. She called herself Dreama, of the Sky Canopies, and demaned that Portus leave.  Portus offered to bring her two chests of jewels from the village, and to sully her Waftspring not at all with smoke or vapor, if she would lend him the air he needed to forge the hinges of the gates. For a week, and then another, Portus wooed Dreama’s Waftspring and finally, under the conditions that no smoke leave the forge, and no slag fall upon the ground, and payment be made when work was done, Dreama allowed the work to begin.

The heat of the forge was created by a single glowing ember being touched to the coal. Instead of smoke, the heat transformed red hot, then white hot heat without a trace or hint of smoke. Dreama’s air poured into the forge and melted the steel as if ice had been brought out into the Summer’s sun in the stony fields. For a month and another did the work go on and it was slow and painstaking, for not the first rise was smoke did Portus allow or would Dreama stand.
Who knows why it was done or if it was done with intent, or if it was done out of excitement for the finished job or if in some way, the restrictions put on Portus in such a strange and faraway place from his home had built up ennui or spite. On the final day of work Portus picked up a flask which held water and ran a stream of water onto the newly forged gates and a small steam arose. Worse, the water ran into the forge and a cloud of smoke arose. Dreama shrieked once and disappeared along with her Waftspring.

As the gates were being constructed, the hinges were hammered into the wood, and great oxen were to pull them into place, the Pixie approached the village and demanded that Portus make payment to Dreama, and damages for the Waftspring. Moreover, the Pixie demanded that the Steward of Hesper expel Portus from the town forthwith, and allow him to tarry no more in Hesper or allow him to return again.

The Steward of Hesper, Jubal, was a man just named to the position, loath was he to surrender any of the small amount of treasure secured to the town, and even less was he inclined to anger Portus who represented the Magistrate while in Hesper. And why, Jubal asked, would he involve himself in a dispute between two parties unrelated to the gates of Hesper? The village had made no deal with Dreama or the Pixie. Jubal refused to treat with the Pixie anymore and bid her begone.

The gates were erected with great ceremony and there was celebration. Yet on the day of the celebration there was a slight, slow, rain of the floating seeds of the dandelion plant, a rare herb used to treat compulsion in children. There were not over many, nor were they a nuisance, but all noticed the seeds floating in the wind, and wondered if this were a good sign, that so rare a medicine might fall from the sky. But there was word from one of the outliers, one of the peoples who lived in the hills around Hesper. He came in and said there was a woman, red of hair, slight of frame, and pale of skin, who stood upon a rock with a dandelion plant in her hand, and she blew the seeds towards Hesper. When the Cleric of Hesper heard of this he held his staff on the walls of Hesper and cried aloud in a language both harsh and incomprehensible to the people below. A red glow came from the floating seeds and the people cheered, ignorant of what they had just witnessed.

The Cleric made haste away from Hesper and found Dreama floating within the tops of the trees near Hesper, and upside down she was, and supported by vines cleverly wrapped around her body.
“What is it you have done to my people?” The Cleric demanded.
“I have extracted payment for my services.” Dreama replied without anger. “Will you gainsay my work or my will?”
“I will ask of you what it will take to cease.” The Cleric said evenly. “For they do not know anything of your power and less of your will.”
“Treble payment for my work and my worry, Cleric. And at the very moment they hold to their words I will cease my curse.” Dreama demanded. “And they must live with what I have done to them as I must live with their damage to me.” And with that she floated away, and none saw her again.
The Council of Elders of Hesper and the Cleric met and discussed the curse. The Cleric bid them to pay, and quickly be about their business, but none would budge on such a loss of treasure without first understanding the nature of the curse, and they beseeched the Cleric to try to remove it first.
“Nay!” exclaimed the Cleric, “This I cannot and will not do. For if I alter such powerful magic with mine then by right the Waftspring can seek help in this matter and we know not what she might bring upon us, and in good truth, we know not what she has done. Gold and silver can be replaced. But to tempt the wild power found in the woods and hills is short of madness, but not by a full measure. I bid thee to pay this creature and hope she feels charity towards us and will undo ever it is she has done already!”

But the Elders of Hesper would not hear the Cleric.

Nothing happened in a month, nor in a trio of months, and finally the long winter set in. Life went on as it did usually and most forgot the Waftspring and her payment. Yet the wife of the Tavernkeeper, Vinshaper gave birth to a child nine months to the day of the curse and more than one marked this passage of time. Eagerly, Vinshaper told the Cleric that a Blessing of Good Health was in order and the Cleric obliged, for why would he not? Yet there was no doubt there was something odd afoot. The child was bright and merry, even as an infant, with the bluest of eyes and the fairest of skin. Both of the Vinshaper’s were as dark as night of both eyes and hair.
When the Quaymaster’s wife gave birth a month later, the child was ad dark of eye and of hair as the Vinshaper’s were but the Quaymaster and his wife were as fair as the noonday sun. Throughout Hesper there were whispers of curses and infidelity and when the daughter of the local Miller stopped her monthly course the Miller ran wild with rage. His daughter was not married and he kept her close inside his own home or  the mill, and none dared cross his wrath. He demanded that the Elders punish her for wantonness and demanded of the Cleric that he use his Illumination to reveal the father of the child. It was at this time the Cleric called a Gathering in the town of Hesper, and all were required to attend.

It was a year nearly to the date of the curse of the Waftspring, and the Cleric spoke to all and said his concern that the damage to the town of Hesper could not be revealed.  It was the Cleric’s thought that the seeds that the Waftspring had released into the air were a symbol and device that the seeds of the men in Hesper would be tossed as if into the air, and none could guess where they might have found fertile ground. Indeed, many thoughts of the villagers were of this mind and there was much pushing and shoving as to whose child this was or another might be. But the Cleric had a full measure of the Grace of Wisdom and declared that it was known full well that children could be and often were born without the hair or eyes or faces of their true parents, and, in this he lied, he spoke there was no magic that might decide the true father to any child born in Hesper to another father.
Yet the Miller demanded justice for the chastity of his daughter and she plead her innocence. The Cleric knew the pregnancy might be the workings of Dreama, the Waftspring, but it could also be that a young man had slipped about and coupled with the daughter. Not a year away from the Rite of Marriage she was and many a younger girl had given birth.  Indeed, the thought had occurred to the Cleric that the Miller’s daughter might have tarried with Portus, for there was a great fear of the Miller inside of Hesper.

The Elders had no choice but to accede to the demands of the Waftspring. They emptied the town’s treasury and took the chests to the place where the Waftspring had first been found, and discovered her awaiting them. But even as they began to speak both she and the chests were whisked away on a great wind and they were all left standing there with their gold and their hats, forever gone.

The Miller’s daughter gave birth to twins in due course and the Cleric had sent for Portus with a letter to the Magistrate demanding he be made to stay if he was the father to the children. Portus arrived and great restrain had to be given to the Miller for his accusation was one of rape, or seduction.

Portus proclaimed his innocence, and he had brought with him a small amount of jewels to help offset the offence given to the Waftspring, but the Elders were angry still, and the villagers not assuaged. The Cleric took a braided chain of flowers and placed them upon the head of the Miller’s daughter as she held her children. He chanted aloud and the flowers arose from the girl’s head and hovered for a moment. Tiny points of light arose from the children and then the braided flowers began to drift as if blown by the wind, towards the Cleric. Portus stood to his left, with strong men on both side of him.
“The Flowers will rest upon the head of the father of these children!” The Cleric said in a loud voice and the flowers drifted straight towards Portus and then alighted on the head of the Cleric.

There was no more information on the scroll.


 end

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cleaning Out The Cobwebs.





I really wished I had not watched “Still Alice” last night because it rattled my cage a bit more than I thought it would. More than anything else on earth, I fear, deeply fear, Alzheimer's disease. It’s my monster under the bed, it’s the creature in the closet at night, and it is the one thing that hope I never see up close again. Julianne Moore’s performance in the film is heart wrenching and compelling but it is one of the movies I do not think I can ever watch again. It brought me nearer to the disease than I like, even though I know such movies really help raise awareness.

My friend Peg and I are going to celebrate our 30th year of being friend next year, or maybe it’s the year after that, we can never remember what year it was; 1987 or 1988. She’s always been a career person, driven, focused, hard charging and nearly grim in her expectations of the students she teaches at the University. But the years have taken their toll on her and even as we talked about the people we haven’t seen in a while the list of mutual friends is growing shorter. We talked about “Still Alice” and we share a common fear in this disease.

Peg has called me so that I might help her clean out part of an old shed she has. Many years ago, many a hundred years, even, this shed was a smoke house. There have been many owners since then and each of them has added a layer of junk and dust and debris in the shed. The part we’re cleaning out this morning is mostly a pile of old lumber that has been stacked in three heaps. It’s inside the shed so some of it is usable but there is a lot of deadwood in the piles.

There’s rats’ nests and a lot of dust and there’s more than a few spiders. There are also relics; metal tools whose handles have rotted away decades ago. I know what one or two of them are but there’s some mystery in some of the rust. I left my phone in the truck to keep it safe and to keep me from looking at it, so there are no photos, yet.

 Too much work around loud machines and too many rock concerts, not to mention over a half a century of being alive, have left me hard of hearing. Peg is soft spoken on her best days so I can’t hear about three quarters of what she says. I know she has to speak louder to be heard in class yet for some reason she refuses to speak so I may hear her, so I do not. We have to wear dust masks so this keep me from seeing her lips move and I have this odd feeling that she doesn’t realize I can’t hear her at all. I hear a sound that could be her voice, but there’s no way to tell.

There’s pieces of a water bed in the shed. I remember it back in the mid-nineties when Peg first moved out here and I lived in Tifton. The water bed was in the spare bedroom and that’s where I would crash out when I was too drunk to drive home. We’re back in time by nearly twenty years now and running into objects I remember being new.
There’s a dog bed, a water dog bed, Peg bought years ago so that the first dog that died with her, Katie, could have some easement of her pain from arthritis. There’s a heating pad that goes with it and I ask Peg if she wants to keep it or toss it. I have no idea what she said or what she thought I said, but suddenly I look up and she’s putting both of them in my truck.

Wait, what?

After the relics have been examined, the boards are stacked neatly, and everything put the way Peg wants it, we go to lunch. I cannot believe how tired I am but Peg is truly spent. She has problems with her shoulders, one knee, and an elbow. I’m not moving around very fast either. On the way home Peg nearly whispers to herself and I nod and watch the road. She was in a wreck three weeks ago and she still flinches at intersections. I’ve been there and done that and it will affect your mind. She takes a side road home then another, and I can’t figure out why she is prolonging the drive. I can’t hear her, she hasn’t had a response from me in half an hour, yet she’s taking back roads and driving slowly. I have to pee.

When we get back I discover she’s put the dog bed in the backseat of the truck without cleaning it off. It has an inch of old dust on it and is filthy. Worse, because it is a water bed of sorts, it’s leaking twenty year old water into the floorboard of my truck. I cannot believe she did this, really. This was once a woman of great care and even greater precision. Every action, every movement, every second of every day was preplanned and productive. Now she mumbles and dawdles. Now she wanders the back roads and speaks mostly to herself.

I really wish I hadn’t watched that movie last night but I think it’s a wake-up call. There is a lot I would like to write but just as my body is failing me my mind might begin to go as well. What am I going to do if in a year Peg starts to fade? Who will take care of her? Who would take care of me? What would happen to my dogs if my mind began to break down like my hearing already has? How badly would I become damaged before I was too far gone to realize how far it had gone? This worries me. And after today, I look at a friend of over three decades and I do not see the same person who I knew thirty years ago.

I wonder who she sees in me.

Take Care,

Mike

It's Just The Insomnia Writing.




It seems I’ll be awake for a while longer tonight than planned. Insomnia, my constant companion now for many years, has come to visit and there isn’t anything I can do about except what you see here. Bear with me for a while and I will ramble on about something, tis to be sure. I’ve been thinking of beginning again a story I never finished but feel as if I must now. That happens. Stories begin, stall out, and then continue. This one has been stalled out for a while now but it has crept back into my world like a shadow exposed only by illumination.

I remember quite clearly the birth of the story. I had a dream in which there was someone within the walls of a very dark building, a building made of stone, and I could barely hear the sound of the person within the walls over my own heart beating but I knew there was someone there. Who was this person and why were they inside the walls and where were these walls, and … Well, the story formed slowly as I began to try to answer these questions. The first question to be answered was “where” and that decided a lot of things from that point forward.

The dream had the feel of ancientness to it. The walls were inside of a castle of sorts, no, no, that will not do, it was a building with religious significance. Yes, and the person who was listening was not I, no, but a child, a boy, who was being punished and the person inside the walls was someone who was also chained to their own past by this religion. But the climber could not find a way to help the boy, but he had an idea.

I decided to call the building the Sacellum, which is a temple without a roof. This building clearly had a room but there was a new building constructed around the place where the old Sacellum lay, and the name was never changed. After all, it was still the Sacellum that kept the religious order at that location. The order was led by a Cleric and under him served Priests, and under those men served Acolytes, who trained to be either Priests or Monks. Priests mainly served in the Sacellum or moved on to another site to serve another Cleric while Monks were more local in their duties. But it was the Cleric who was the master and leader of the order in the Sacellum, which was located near the village of Hesper.

Hesper lay on the banks of the River Motus. This was a very wide, three leagues where Hesper lay, and very swift river. Yet winter freezes even the Motus over in ice, and for half the year Hesper and the Sacellum are snowbound. Life is harsh, very harsh, and there is very little room for compassion when it comes to food, lodging, and life itself.

Of course, this story is set in a world where magic holds the greater part of power over anything else. There are also sentient beings, monsters, who inhabit this world, and the humans must placate them, negotiate with them, or make war upon them. The Cleric and the village Elders decide what to do about the local denizens as well as the local citizens. There is a high and thick wall built around Hesper but even this isn’t proof against some creatures. Mainly, the wall is built to keep Motus from devouring the village. The Sacellum is a kilometer or so away from Hesper, on much higher ground that slopes into the mountain range that serves as Hesper’s eastern border with Motus to the west.  

The new building that was built around the Sacellum, and no one remembers when it was built or who built it, is large enough to serve a couple of hundred Acolytes, most of whom will not finish their vows to become Priests or even Monks, but they will return to their old lives after a certain period of time. They are slave labor for the Order until they take their vows, or until it is clear they aren’t going to, yet most are there on their own accord. A few are sent to the Order as payment for some service rendered by the Cleric

Hesper is a very tight knit community of about two thousand people, all of whom are related in some way or another. Everyone has a useful skill of some sort, and the Elders of the village, despite their titles, aren’t necessarily the oldest people around. They tend to be tradesmen who the village rely on the most; the blacksmith, the baker, the stone mason, the harbor master, and that sort of thing.


Ah, but the boy in the basement, what are we going to do with him?


As it turns out, his family was wiped out by the plague. Orphaned and considered tainted by the fact his parents died of plague, no one will take him in. He must wait, however, for his execution for the manner in which he is to be killed is to be tossed into a hole in the ice of the river. During his stay in the cellarage of the Sacellum, he defends himself against hordes of rats and he hears someone in the walls.


The day of his execution arrives, he is dragged out onto the ice, and suddenly, the irons bells of the Sacellum stop ringing. The Tocsin, who is the person whose job it is to toll the bells for different ceremonies, has fallen from the bell tower and is dead. The Tocsin is considered to be Graceless and without merit yet no ceremony can be held without the bells, and without a Tocsin…

Hey, let’s make the kid the new Tocsin!


And so begins the story of the Tocsin of the Sacellum and how he weaves his life around ringing the bells, slipping about inside the walls, and watching the people of the village and the boys of the order.


Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Happy 352th Birthday, New York City: Here Are 17 of the Best Songs About NYC

Happy 352th Birthday, New York City: Here Are 17 of the Best Songs About NYC


New York City may not sleep, but it does age. Today the Big Apple celebrates 350 years of being New York City, after being officially renamed from New Amsterdam on Sept. 8, 1664.
From the best of times to the worst of times, songwriters have captured every corner of the city and the lives lived in its five boroughs through music. Artists ranging from Nas to Billy Joel have found themselves in a “New York State of Mind.” Ryan Adams and Frank Sinatra have sung about “New York, New York.” In “Visions of Johanna,” Bob Dylan sang about the girl he saw on the D train, while straphangers such as The New York Dolls, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Townes Earle and Duke Ellington have all sung about the subway. From the Bronx to Brooklyn, the Lower East Side to Rockaway Beach, over the last 350 years, musicians have paid homage to the town they call home or the city they’ve stopped in along the way.
Whether it’s Azealia Banks singing “212” or the Rolling Stones getting “Shattered” or The Strokes singing about “New York City Cops,” the city has been a muse for many. To celebrate the 350th birthday of the city, TIME is taking a look back at some of the greatest songs every written about NYC. Due to the incredible number of songs written about the city, there are many songs that didn’t make this list, like Le Tigre’s “My My Metrocard,” Grand Mixer D.S.T.’s “The Home of Hip-Hop,” The Magnetic Fields’s “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side,” and the Village People’s love song to “Fire Island.” In theory, the entire soundtrack fromRent could be on the list, and there’s not much that screams (at four in the morning, while banging on a trash can in the alley behind your apartment) New York more than Law & Order original recipe star Jerry Orbach and the original Broadway cast of 42nd Street singing “The Lullaby of Broadway.” It’s a list that, like the city, could go on forever.
But barring that, here are 17 of the best songs about New York City:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Things That Go Bark in the Night.




Whatever you think you know of a dog’s temperament the truth of the matter is this: given the impulse to do so, a large dog already has the ways and means to become a mortal threat to you. Lacking that sort of impulse, a large dog can still damage you in a way that really matters. So when I let the Cousins out at two last night, with Tyger Linn fired off way in front of the pack and Lilith Anne holding back at the rear, I went back to bed without a thought as to what might go bark in the night. The cousins are holding down a quarter of a ton of mass between the two of them.

Marco Ladakh announced himself to some Jehovah’s Witlesses last week and put on an impressive show replete with very loud noises and slobber flying through the air. I’ve never seen that side of him and it was a reminder that as much as I dislike the JW’s, or for that matter, anyone who arrives unannounced and unwelcomed, it’s a good idea to have a door between the large dog and the small humans. I’m not sure if there is a human translation to the exact meaning of what Marco was saying but the JW’s totally understood his body language. The three females made themselves heard as well, mind you, but Marco had this one.

I drifted in and out of sleep then heard Tyger’s very distinctive “Let us in!” yelp and all four came in wagging their tails and excited. Tyger Linn wrapped herself around my head when I got into bed so I knew something was up. The Coyotes, I guessed, were near, and after about fifteen minutes I heard their yelping begin. It’s interesting that they waited a while after the pack had come inside to make their calls. None of the dogs so much as raised a head at the fuss.

Near my head is Tyger Linn, who always has to be closer to my face than Lilith Anne Magnolia Mutt, who is content to lying at my right side. The four days that Lilith were gone filled me with an angst that I have never felt before and much of it due to the Coyotes. Had they caught her out in the open and alone I would have lost her and lost her in a very sickening manner. Yet the Coyotes know, intrinsically, instinctively, that battle with even medium sized dogs is fraught with peril, and fighting large dogs is something to never considered lightly. Dogs can go to vets and be patched up and operated on whereas a wounded Coyote has only fate to guard it if there is a grievous wound. What gain is there in a fight that leaves pack members bloodied and open to disease? What is proven by war that opens wounds in the flesh and the heart? These are not creatures of scorched earth and needless violence. They are of the shadows and drink deeply of stealth, except for their callings.
The Coyotes can and will kill dogs if they can but they aren’t about to come over the fence to go to war with four dogs and they may not consider a member of this pack alone and outside fair game. Pack animals know boundaries and they know what it means to cross over the lines, fencelines and those lines that have allowed their pack and mine to live in peace. Were they silent when Lilith was missing because they simply were not in the area? Or did my searches for Lilith push them back away from my territory, deep into their homeland, and warn them that something I valued was out there? Are they intelligent enough to know that by me being out as far as I went, calling for her, looking for her so very deeply into the woods, did that trigger in their own pack an understanding of how much value I put on her safety? Did they not seek her out for this reason? Or is all of this just an anthropomorphic fantasy that I have, joining my wishes and desires into a tale of a dog protected by my love for her, against the darkness of the night?




I reached down and petted Lilith’s ears, bringing her out of sleep, and she crawled forward a bit. This is my world, of warm beds and ear pettings yet less than fifty meters away are Coyotes that howl. It is a very fragile luxury that we enjoy, life is. The Coyotes seem to content in calling, yapping, howling, and now that my pack is whole I like the way it sounds. They went quiet when Lilith was gone and I will be forever grateful for that.

The sounds of the night return once the Coyotes move on. There is a leaf hung on a spider’s web and it taps the window pane sharply. There are doves calling, even this late, which is rare. There is the sound of a train, many miles away, and on that train is a person traveling through the darkness, having their own thoughts about the night. There is the sound of the wind in the trees. Mostly, I can count dogs by listening to their breathing as they sleep. The two closest to me drift deeply into their own dreams and the two on the floor snore softly. Tomorrow’s sun will bring another day and I have no idea what comes with it but now is not the time to care. Now is the time to allow myself to relax and let my body repair itself and hope my mind will stop its stirrings. The pack is whole and they are safe. The outside world is silent. It is time for sleep and to be grateful for this time we have together.

This all may be some fantasy, some dream, some illusion, and nothing may be real, but there is a time to dream, and that time is now.

Take Care,

Mike

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