Sunday, June 18, 2017

Insomnia and Districting Bears

There should have been some sort of warning that I would become married to insomnia but instead it slipped up on me like a stripper asking me to buy her a drink. Most people would like to stay up later and get more done, and maybe they even drink coffee or stab themselves in the genitals to stay awake, but me? I’m running on autopilot. I couldn’t sleep right now if I was dead.

It really started about an hour or so ago, with the barking of my neighbor’s dog and my neighbor doesn’t have a dog but there is one there and he is barking. They’ve experimented with various forms of canine over the years but this is a rough environment for dogs who are not safely ensconced in a pen during the day and sleep inside at night. Most people who have outside free ranging dogs around here do not have them for very long. This is the woods’ hood.


Sleep was something I could do all day when I was younger. Frequently, I would sleep until noon and sometimes, and this was far less frequent, I would get off work and just go to bed, at like five in the afternoon, and sleep all night and wake up the next morning feeling great. I miss that. I miss sleeping. I miss the feeling of being rested and being recharged. But I have coffee and writing so there’s some positivity in this.

The odd thing about being a writer is watching the words form in front of you on a screen and as you’re trying to get your thought out there in some sort of reasonable fashion you have these thoughts like, “Gee, I’ve never used the word ‘positivity’ before, ever, is there a reason for this?” And you stop and stare at the word until you are completely convinced you’ve misspelled it and actually typed some other word that looks somewhat like the word you were trying to use. You wind up looking it up in the online dictionary and there is great peril in wandering around in a dictionary for an hour or so exploring words that look like positivity but have nothing to do with what you were writing, which has been abandoned because you were districted. Distracted. What in the hell does districted mean? I’ll be back, wait here.


Damn, that’s a word? I bet I don’t use it, ever, but then again, now it’s there and I might. This is like reaching into a vast bag of colored beads and trying to string them together to make a necklace, and as you string them you also take one or two out, restring them, and then you find one that looks odd and you wonder where the hell that came from, but you use it anyway and wonder if it works. Yeah, writing is like that sometimes.


And right now I can visualize in my head, as if I would ever visualize anywhere else, some character speaking about some area being districted, and you know this guy is in the military and he’s talking about refugees or prisoners or some area that has to be policed by the military will is never a good thing for anyone involved. There’s a story there but it will have to wait until more beads slip onto the string.


Before the internet I had a few thousand words in my vocabulary that I had no idea how to pronounce and still couldn’t on a bet. Yet You Tube has pronunciation videos on nearly every word known to humankind. Writers tend to use words other people do not because a sentence that has the word “hit” in it three or four times tends to bog a reader down. Strike, pummel, bruise, or beat, just might be better and sometimes we have to go looking for trouble. Online dictionaries, for all their perils for distraction, are goldmines. I still have a collection of hardbound dictionaries that will always been mine, but I have to admit I haven’t picked one up in a while.



A friend of mine told me that when she couldn’t sleep she would take a shower and masturbate. It didn’t always work, she admitted, but it always left her clean and less stressed out. My well would be dry and my arm muscles would look like a bodybuilder’s if I did that. And I’ve been given a list of things to try; green tea, various supplements, warm milk, essential oils, and various prescription drugs. I woke up in my truck one night, naked, and the truck’s engine running, but I was still in my driveway. Ambien. Roll the dice if you feel lucky. That was genuinely scary.


I used to sleepwalk on a regular basis but I haven’t done it in a while. I would wake up standing in the living room and it was always a bit disconcerting. I’ve always had nightmares and some of them have made great fiction, but some of them are best left where they lie. The truly scary dreams are those that when you wake up realize could very well happen. I had a dream about being chased and caught by a bear, and bears are real creatures. They are also really scary real creatures and you don’t have to dress them up or make them worse. They’ll do just fine with what they have and what they can do. You better be packing if you try districting bears.


I bet that last sentence has never been written before.



That’s the thing, really, when you write, is that you want to write something that’s new and good, and you hope that what you’ve done isn’t going to sound like it was written by an eight year old who is missing two random letters on his keyboard and just doesn’t realize it because he’s hyped on lemon drops and old Ren and Stimpy cartoons. You hope that if you have to be up at night because you cannot sleep, the least the Universe can do is make you interesting for it.


Take Care,
Mike






Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Is Coming. Shit! It's here!



Of the four days I had off for the three day weekend, I spent two of them outside doing yardwork. The heat was bad, but not nearly as bad as I have known it to be, and Sunday night wasn’t really that bad, but I did do more sweating than sleeping. Even when the windows open and the ceiling fans cranked it was still warm. Very warm. Monday night was even worse, and as I tossed and turned I feared all the sweat leaving my body would eventually dehydrate me and I would die. It’s happened before, I’m certain of that.

I grew up in a world without air conditioning. It was never “too hot” because the climatic conditions were simply what they were. If it was one hundred degrees and you had to work outside all day then you worked outside all day. If it was eight-five in the house at midnight then you slept through it. People had lived for thousands of years without complaining about the heat and we knew damn well no one could afford air conditioners. What of it? The sun rose and the sun set. It was hot and it was less than hot, but the world kept turning and no one burst into flames and no one died from the heat. The whole world of South Georgia sat under the same sun t always had and there was nothing anyone could do, or thought to do, about it.

The first apartment I lived in that had AC, I was thirty-four years old. I suspected I wouldn’t use it very much but one hot day lead to one hot night and I eventually got used to the idea that other people, and by other people I mean women, liked AC. The same person who had worked under the sun when he was a younger man found himself sitting on the sofa drinking beer, watching television, and sucking down the nice cool air being forced from the vents.

Back in ’98 I was thirty-eight, and I was working with a guy who was nineteen. We were outside and it was hot, really very hot, and the guy on the radio told us that it was one hundred and five degrees. The young man made the mistake of asking me if we could go sit in the truck, because it was so very hot. I told him if he could do more push-ups than I could then we would pack it up and go in for the day. Fifty pushups later he was spent. I knew he would be. He had grown up inside a house with the windows closed most of the time, with a color television in his room, and no idea what it was like to work in the fields. I breathed this stuff, back then, I absorbed the worst that South Georgia could throw at me, and I laughed. And even at thirty-eight, I still had enough of my native immunity not to fold. The young man finally broke and found a ride back in while I stayed out in the heat.

The heat index soared up to 112 degrees a couple of years ago and I walked an abandoned road for a walking path. The ground held a layer of thick heat filled air and the low brush trapped it there. I covered my face with a piece of cloth held in place by my hat. The pace spoke to me, four miles an hour, and I held it for an hour, four miles, and then I hit the road to pick up some speed. Fifteen minutes later I realized the asphalt of the road was likely twenty degrees warmer than the air and I had to call someone to come get me.
The decline is obvious and age takes its toll on everyone.


Still, there’s a certain enjoyment in that sort of heat. You can feel your entire body when you’re in it. Every square inch of your skin expands and weeps sweat. Hit the trail and feel the rivulets of salt water trickling down your legs, your back, and into your eyes. Your body becomes a machine lubricated on the outside. Boots are soaked from the inside out. Breathe in the heat, accept it as your atmosphere, embrace it as the fish does water, and move with alacrity. Your pulse rate climbs with the mercury. And the fourteen hours of daylight that Summer brings will slam tons and tons and tons of searing heat down upon the ground in the most direct form of radiation you can feel on this planet. Not even shade can protect you from this. The moist air holds the heat and forces in into your no matter where you try to find solace. This is South Georgia and the heat is South Georgia. I grew up in this. It belongs to me.


Monday night I turned and tossed, and Lilith pawed at the back door to get out of the house. I let the dogs out, except Tyger Linn who stayed on the bed, and it was cooler outside. Not by a lot, but enough to make the ponies and Lilith Anne want to be outside rather than in. Then they barked for an hour at something and I made them all come inside. The thermometer told me it was eighty-five in the house at four in the morning. The air was as still as Death.

Last night I finally kicked the AC on. The cool air poured out of the vents like a benison and Lilith slept with all four legs sticking up at the ceiling fans as if that was the require position of prayer, to the Gods of Cool Air. Last night no one wanted to go out and when they did go out them all came back in at one time.

There really will be break in the heat until the last part of September, if then. Another three and a half months of this before there is a break. I need to start heat training. I need to breathe fire again.

Take Care,
Mike


Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017: Remember Viet Nam.





If you never had the chance to speak to a veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War Two, don’t worry; most of the men who fought there never spoke about it very much. The ground war in that particular part of that particular war, especially that fought by the United States Marine Corp, went far beyond the pale in brutality and horror. It was a horrible, grinding, and lethal series of battles where there was no mercy, no compassion, and few prisoners taken.

The next conflict in Korea for a war that has been more or less forgotten by most people, except for MASH reruns. Yet 37,000 men died there in just over three years or so. We did not win nor did we lose that war, it was a simple holding action that got a lot of people killed. That region has yet to recover from the war, and we still have people in uniform over there.


I did, in fact, have several opportunities to speak with veterans of the war in Southeast Asia. We started out trying to prop up the government of South Viet Nam, after we helped partition the country, bombed the hell out of a major city, Hanoi, and then we invaded Laos and Cambodia.

Estimates are that we killed over one million people in that war while we were there. We left a devastated countryside and destroyed infrastructure behind, as well as a large population of children fathered by soldiers, and a great many people poisoned by Agent Orange. Each year we maim hundreds of people, and kill a dozen or more, with left over land mines.


When veterans returning home from the wars of World Wars I and II, were greeted, they saw parades and parties, confetti and fanfare, honor and respect.

Veterans returning from Nam were called “baby killers” and they were spat on.


No less than any of our men and women in uniform who have fought in any war, anywhere, at any time in the history of this nation, the veterans of the war in Viet Nam fought bravely, with distinction, and with honor. No less than any other group of men or women in uniform, these men fought bravely, and they went not because they wanted to go, but because we, as a nation ordered them to go. We elected the politicians who created that war, and we, the American public, instead of turning on the men in office who wore suits and told lies, turned on the men in uniform, who sacrificed their lives.


I have to say that here in South Georgia these men were honored when they returned, at least by the common men and women. I have to say my family never turned their backs on the men who served, ever. I have to say that even before I wore the same uniform as some of those men, I still respected what they did even if I thought the war as wrong, horribly wrong, and there were men in office who should have been dragged out of their homes and hung from lamp posts for it.


So today, Memorial Day 2017, I want you to remember those men who served in the jungles of Southeast Asia. I want you to remember some of them never returned. I want you to remember their courage, their sacrifice, their commitment and dedication to this country, and I want you to remember they came home to a lot less than any other group of veterans who ever fought for this country.


If enough people remember these men, maybe we’ll never have to feel the burn of shame for the way some people treated them, and the way the men in suits hold office, turned their backs on them when those men returned home again.

55,222 men died in that war. I want you to remember them today.


Take Care,

Mike