Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Junk Calls -- We Must Be Merciless


You probably saw me at one of the local parks here in the Big City, standing on a boulder, holding forth in speeches and one-on-ones with others against junk phone calls and messages. I kept going till I lost my voice, and it wasn't easy. Because some of the junk call centers knew all about it, and dropped by to plot a little revenge on me and my allies with junk calls even as we rallied. They know their time is short, but only IF...

Yes, IF... Friends, I remember when I was little, an old man took me aside and told me IF is the biggest word in the English language. That baffled my ignorant little hayseed self, leaving me entirely confused and in a daze of stymied mentality, yet trying desperately to put it together in my minced-meat state of mind, still so common yet today when new truths batter my ramparts seeking entry. The old geezer said, "Son, IF is the biggest word in the English language, because it's so hard for people to believe they have the power to accomplish anything. IF only this, IF only that ... and the motion fails for lack of a second." He went away cackling, but I pondered it...

True, true, so true. Nothing gets done, but IF we came together. Let's say we actually joined forces and did something. Say we hogtied the political forces that are against progress. Say we then hornswoggled them beyond that. Then blindfolded them and sent them to a deserted island on the north pole of Mars. Finally, at long last, we'd be able to get something done. What would it be? you're wondering. Finding a cure for cancer? Medicare for all? Humanity's hope for worldwide peace? Yes, yes, yes, all those things in good order. It'd all get done...

But first, we'd take on the junk call industry. I don't have to recount for any of you the scourge the junk call industry is to human society. You know it in all its pathetic vastness on a daily basis, with daily intimacy. We finally secured the miracle of phones for everyone, a phone in every pocket, unlimited calls with a relatively low monthly fee, messages up the wazoo for everyone. You can message someone, "W'sup?" and they know just what you mean. You're in intimate contact with everyone you want, anytime you want, no holds barred. And what do we get? Junk calls!

Well, whatever they're selling, I'm not buying. But they keep calling. You're watching TV, you're out sightseeing, you're sitting in church, you're stripped down in a sauna, and there goes your phone yet again. Someone from out-of-state, someone spoofing the area code and local prefix where they think you live, etc., all trying to cheat you out of something, and definitely screw you out of your time and energy. It's depressing. But my hope is that Society will become mean enough, bad enough, and angry enough to finally put the screws to the junk call industry once and for all. Close 'em down, and if they try to come up for air, cut off their air, and let 'em die!

Are you with me? You are, unless you're one of 'em. Tell me you're not one of 'em. But if you are with me, here's the plan: We mobilize, we tell our representatives, senators, the president, the first lady, whoever, this has to be the priority. And it can be. Remember World War II? We mobilized and made the world safe enough to have unlimited babies, the Baby Boom. Remember the Interstate Highway project? One day we decided to do it, the next week there were super highways everywhere. A week later they were clogged and needed work. But they were great that first week.

We can bring that same determination and resolve to shutting down the junk call industry, to jail the bosses, to rehabilitate our fellow citizens desperate enough to take jobs pushing their buttons, and then to burn down the entire works. Saving only a few of their evil computers and other infernal equipment in museums, explaining how humanity was attacked and yet rallied against them.

The last thing I want to get is a junk call. It rings -- oh, it's a junk call, click the button, don't take the call. But why should any of us be doing that day after day, continually, without a break? We shouldn't. Those were the calls that were supposed to be illegal all along, because it wastes your minutes. Even with unlimited minutes, it's still wasting my minutes. Shut the industry down!

If they won't shut it down for those reasons, the next thing is to treat it like an invasion of rats or the spread of the plague. With merciless combat. The plague, I don't know how we'd combat that, but we wouldn't be happy. Some of us would be standing on picnic tables, our pants legs rolled up. The rest would be carrying super-powered blast cannons, or makeshift blowtorches, doing major damage against those ugly little rodent bodies. I'd love blasting them, but I have to admit, I'd need a break; I'm seriously prone to the vertigo that comes from the same patterns over and over and the weird shifting it'd have to be with rats dashing helter-skelter everywhere.

Merciless, though, that's the key word Society needs to know. Because there's nothing beneficial to society about junk calls. Beyond the salaries the various ones get as they do their dirty work. But those who don't go to prison could find gainful employment doing something else, maybe serving as lunch ladies in middle schools. Since they're already used to a bad reputation. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Speed Reading Bixby


Wow! Even I can't believe the speed I'm attaining -- and the intellectual fruits of my labors -- when it comes to reading Bixby! It's awesome, good, and extremely decent. I'm so proud, I feel like polishing my fist and shining it on my sweater. And if I don't get a grip on myself, that's precisely what I might do. Ha ha, it's funny, every time I'm doing something proud like that, someone inevitably walks in on me and I'm embarrassed. She shows up at the door -- the lady across the hall -- and there I am, either rearranging myself after going to the bathroom or polishing my damned fist from some new accomplishment.

And I've actually been down in the dumps, too, you know, with all the personal commotion I've experienced in the never ending travails of Grandma's house needing major repairs. They literally put me out, physically picked me up and set me in the street, off my own property! You tell me, is that fair? Of course it's not fair. You think you own a property and that's when "The Man" shows you who's really boss. "You are officially evicted, get the hell off this land, get out of town, goodbye, good riddance, and if we never hear from you, so much the better." The bastards. Of course they want the quarterly property tax payment, pay up, pay up. But what would I be paying for? I can't live there. It's a mess. OK? So any little thing I can feel proud about, stand back and let me indulge myself...

Anyway, here I am in the Big City, and the lady across the hall is always showing up to make sure I haven't stolen something, I guess. I never steal anything, of course, but in these fleabag quarters the first thing they haven't got is trust. They don't trust nobody. If the Good Lord Himself showed up, they'd need to see the scars on His hands, His side, and if He ever had His appendix out, that scar too! Such bastards, treating the Lord and me like this. But what can I do? Life is one indignity after another, no delay, no slowdown, no dragging its feet, instant! Just like that...

So what am I so proud of today? A new speed reading technique I came up with for reading Bixby! You probably don't realize that an intrinsically smart dude like me is also a very slow reader. But it's true. I've started so many books, gotten to about page 3, then given up. Every book in my library's the same old story. If you ask me what happened in the first three pages, I'm a scholar. But you want a quick synopsis of page 5, you'll have to give me a few minutes. I just can't read fast, page 4, page 5, page 6, none of it, including Bixby! This is the truth, so help me.

My speed reading technique, then... Take a look at the pile of words in the next paragraph. Looks like nothing more than a jumble of letters at first glance. But once you know your goal, which is speed reading Bixby as fast as you can, you've got it. My eyes travel the page like a dog to hamburger, just faster than the speed of light. With barely room for improvement.

Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby Bixby

The technique is multi-faceted. Leave out all punctuation, first. Then pile the Bixbys in there good and thick, terribly thick, just as many as you feel like you can read. When you do it just right, you're not only reading them at lightning speed, your comprehension is through the roof. Like the chimney on my house used to be before they took out it and the roof. But that's sorrow for another day.

Because today I'm happy! I've finally discovered a technique that is all that and more, more than I could've dreamt of. Although, you never know, I might fall asleep and dream of something equally great. Don't put it past me. 'Cause those who doubt me, like this old shrew of a neighbor on my ass, are doomed to keep speed reading Bixby the old fashioned way, i.e., slooooooow as molasses.

Here's another paragraph to test out the technique. I have to admit, I'm not getting the same speed I got with Bixby, but it's still pretty darned good. But I keep stumbling over Walter; Walter seems to break my pace. Here's my solution: I speed read everything else first, then go back and pick up all the Walters in quick sequence.

Fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter fricassee shivaree curiositee chef boi ardee Walter.

Or you could just say Walter eight times fast, then speed read the rest, speed skipping the Walters. My comprehension increases something huge when I do it that way.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Pink Professor -- Public Menace Exposed


The so-called "public menace" exposed was me, not the Pink Professor. But he was there in our hometown rooting for me, and more importantly in my heart, helping me recall the Three R's of Group Dynamics when push came to shove. With the City Fathers, then their wives.

While back for Thanksgiving, I went by the house, my legacy from my grandparents. Pieces of it were scattered here and there, leaning against trees. The guys working on it had been trying to kill vermin by drying it in the sun. Except rain and snow were forecast, giving the vermin new life and hope.

I touched the kitchen wall. Lots of memories there. Forever the self-conscious type, I thought what this pathetic scene would look like in a movie. A theater full of mournful people, no doubt. I can really "cut the rug" when it comes to a beaten and bruised look. The pathos was so overwhelming, I shed a tear, then flicked it toward the road.

I thought, "If that wall could talk..." And it just might, with a few more eons of time and the correlate evolutionary development of this current infestation. By then, though, it’ll be too late for me, but maybe my distant kin can stick it out and finally make peace with the hidden world. Think of it as a message in a contaminated bottle.

Speaking of messages, I suddenly saw an official summons nailed to the outhouse door! Nice touch, City Fathers! Way to drive home your point: That an antique shit-house door, decommissioned since the mid-'60s and kept as a family heirloom, is fitter to summonses me than the actual door of my decrepit house!

I appeared at City Hall, where they put me through a chemical bath protocol, after which they lambasted me for my many alleged failures as a property-owner. I tried not to take it personally, but it truly was a slam to my ego. I hadn’t felt that low since the time Santa Claus brought me fruitcake instead of a Winchester rifle.

But the best way to take rock bottom is with equanimity, then a strategy. I knew what these perverts were up to. All around were one-way mirrors, and that told the whole story. I knew their wives and/or mistresses were viewing the whole pathetic scene. These under-performing “men”, no doubt limp dishrags where it counts, yearned to be hot stuff for the ladies. Who, if you want to know my actual surmise, were going at it among themselves right there, within five feet of us!

I looked toward the mirrors and boldly called them out, much to the surprise of the City Fathers, and finally a door opened. The mayor’s young wife was so hot she refused to cover herself. I was honestly touched, but had to play this thing real cagey. Because once I had 'em where I wanted 'em, I couldn't lose 'em now.

Quickly, with my group dynamics skills centered on the 3 R's, I improvised. The 1) aRrangement was a given, they were already in my grasp; I had only to maintain confidence. 2) Reconnoitering the situation was also a breeze. I encouraged the City Fathers with unfeigned friendliness and understanding: “Men, all of us can get off on this deal, have no fear, brothers. If you condemn the various properties around my house, say within a mile, that'll take care of our health issues. Then use your abundant tax dollars to restore my house to livability. It'll be win/win all around. And, finally, exercise your power over me here and now. Yes, yes, work it, work it! Yes, Mr. Mayor, that’s the way! And now you others, have no shame, be bold, it's nature's way! Gentlemen, ladies, let us come together, let the sexes commingle as they should, in absolute freedom and abandon!” This was my strategy.

And it was the first real excitement these guys had known since D-Day, or maybe the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll, and indeed we all got off, me first playing the role as their punching bag, which I played to the hilt, plenty of faux-worship of their royal majesties. Their darling wives were also entirely accommodating, fully into it. I hadn't seen this level of abandon since what? Debbie Does Dallas? I also was happy to engage myself in the Third R of Group Dynamics, Ruminating. Which I did on the fly, and everything under the fly. "That's it, Mrs. Mayor, show your Old Daddy who's your New Daddy," whack whack, just being playful. With enough reserve they'd know they were still boss...

I can only imagine what went on later when they were all out to dinner, celebrating the rebirth of their libidos, then what transpired at home. But I distinctly heard fire whistles blowing late into the night for something. Those dear souls had been backed up for decades, but now blared their resurrection, as all men should, yearning to make it known for the ages. If only it helps me with my house...

In the morning, I kissed the Pink Professor and gave him my last ta-ta’s and got the hell back to the Big City.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Pink Professor -- How Much More?


Whatever happened to The Pink Professor? That's the Number One question I get, and on a daily basis. At the grocery store, swimming pool, Tupperware parties, garage sales, talking with homeless friends under the bridge in the Big City, and really everywhere. And if someone asks me in daily life, I just tell them. But on the blog it has to be different. Because he told me he’d rather I wasn't spreading his personal business online. Of course, him being him, he said it in a nice way, but me being me, I find the nasty edge of every “friendly request.” You don’t call something a “friendly request” unless you know damn-well there’s nasty ways I can take it. But I can never stay mad at him...

Anyway, I told him the problem I face -- insatiable public curiosity -- and he gave me leeway to say a few things about what he’s up to. Even though he doesn’t want anything down and dirty, anything resembling the full scoop, any relationship dishing, which probably includes pillow talk. (He's into tickling me till I about pee my jammas to make me tell him everything on my mind.) So are you game for something boring, his favorite party recipes, and aspirations as a child?

He probably always had his sights on being a professor. Smart kids like him, they know what they want to be. I'm still flailing about in that area. Now 65, I retired from odd jobs, all boring. He recently retired from the university, but kept his nighttime gig as the Pink Professor figure at the Roadhouse; his great virtue is he's a softening influence in such tough environs. His favorite party recipe: nachos and salsa, heated 23 seconds in the microwave.

As far as our relationship, we're OK. And I want to keep it that way, going out of my way to keep his personal business personal. But again, I can say a few things without being too invasive, like the fact that he wears baby-soft PJs to bed, but prefers me au naturel.

But let me bring this back to his work: it's no secret that he's a great reconciler, like when two morons are fighting over scoring a game of pool. Pink always soothes the troubled waters; he's a bridge over them. When I'm around, I serve as a complement to him, with my ability to cast insults with reckless abandon and eschew the bitter consequences of my actions. Then he does his soft-shoe thing again and everyone can see how mellow he truly is. In our personal time, though, once I've had my fill of the Eskimo-nose cuteness, I bust.

One of the things that pushes me over the edge is him allowing himself to be used by these Roadhouse creatures. I get that he has a mission, but everyone needs their space. And if it takes a person — a do-gooder without an off button — till the middle of the night to reconcile the divvying up of a bushel of bar peanuts in the shell, who am I to bitch and moan? I’ve heard (and don’t hold me to this) that other people keep more regular hours, with the wee hours of the morning pretty much to themselves. They’re not on the hook for calls to negotiate the terms of a flagrant motorcycle absconder making restitution or other legal arrangements to get out of eight months in jail when it’d probably be to their ultimate benefit to actually do a little time; it'd teach them a lesson, that you do the crime, you also have to do ... whatever-it-is...

Because the rest of us have a life, too. Most of us grew up respecting the generous boundaries of the law. And if you don’t feel like doing that, then don’t expect the rest of us to be there round-the-clock to bail your sorry ass out, thereby curtailing our lives together — when maybe we had other plans, ever heard of that? And what if we simply don’t want to be wasting our time with the dregs of so-called humanity that wouldn’t have two brain cells to rub together were Einstein himself their nursemaid. Spare me, folks, the pleas of "Humanity!" That went down with the Hindenburg, and the less I hear of it in these modern times -- possibly the end of days -- the better.

Yes, I reached the boiling point a long time ago! And now I say, How Much More?! Leave the Pink Professor alone! In fact -- let me put this out there! -- if I hear of just one more motorcycle loser cracking peanuts in the crook of his arm, then stealing someone’s woman because of this great bar trick, then having his own noggin cracked open in the ensuing melee, then needing a 24-7 nursemaid for his precious care lest he bleed to death or find himself in unremitting convulsions — Call Pink Professor Hand-Holding Unlimited day or night — I will scream, then find myself on an interminable stampede, stomping heads in a certain all night bar and grill! You don’t think I know how to knock heads, do you? Well, you try me -- you heard me, just try me! I start stomping, I don't quit! Because I've had it. I’m up to here with it, and according to sources, I’m liable to snap. That's right, you heard me, losers: I'm this close -- you see this? -- you see what I am? Just that close! This old ME! ME! ME! shit's gotta cease...

Frankly, friends, I believe the Pink Professor is overworked. But I’m sure it'll all work out in some way for the best. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Pink Professor -- Rabble At The Door


Don't you just despise the rabble of mankind? Yes, yes, thank you, me, too; they can be the worst! And it seems like it always goes something like this: A benevolent patron blesses their lives a few times, then they get spoiled, then he's out of sight for a while, and when they find him, they're right back, clamoring, begging for favors.

It's so awful because the Pink Professor lives his life for service. He really does. That's one of the things that drove us sort-of halfway apart. He has a hard time staying home. The guys at the Roadhog Roadhouse always need him. Most of the time they want to burden him with their halfwit problems, like how to scrounge up enough dough to drink themselves into a stupor, or worse, women problems. It’s pathetic that that's such a problem for these guys; those women are robbing you blind; stay sober and you might notice it!

Pink and I were out for Thanksgiving and there the rabble was. We dropped by DQ for a taste of their divine ice milk creations and there they were. And later we were at his pad/compound for a little R&R and catching up, and, damned right, there they were. In honor of Thanksgiving, get a life, turkeys!

Pink and I tried to stay in good humor as they pounded at the doors and windows, clamoring for his attention. Which got old fast. The rattling of the gates, the pitchforks, the burning torches. We get the point! You have needs! Still, we tried to cuddle and take in some well-deserved "me time," till finally I erupted, “If I hear one more of those awful bar and grill creatures shouting ‘PINK PROFESSOR!’, I’m liable to explode! And I don’t mean in a good way!...”

Maybe my crying out toned them down. The racket died down. But most of them had retired to the park across the street to strategize. When Pink said, “Could I ask you a professional question, not on the clock?”

ME: “Shoot, darling ... anything.” PP: “As the King of Group Dynamics, what do you think is the best way to fend off a clamoring mob?” This brought me to a whole different mindset. Involving the many nuances contained in my Three R's of Group Dynamics: aRrange, Reconnoiter, and Ruminate.

ME: “Hmm. My mind’s still a little flush after ... our exertions ... but let me think, darling. Well, the verdict is not 100% bad, but damn near. Let’s apply the 3 R’s of Group Dynamics. It’s tough to (1) aRrange, because we’re locked in the compound — albeit cuddled up snugly in this warm bed, a feather bed if the sensors of my nude supple body have kept their suppleness, and at 65 and half dead that’s not a given... We also have limits aRranging, because they’re a mad clamoring mob, different from my controlled seminars. We can do (2) Reconnoitering well enough, within limits, patching into the compound’s video system, also outfitted with a live audio feed, giving us the ability to both see and hear, with the luxury of not needing the encumbrance of clothing or the inconvenience of climbing out of this comfy, sumptuous bed. And, naturally, (3) Ruminating follows easily enough. What are they saying? What is their tone? How sharp are those mattocks they’re waving? Should we release the hounds? By the way, you fed the dogs last night? Right?

Pink jumped up and ran to the pen where the dogs were — some vicious breed, the exact name of which I forget, but they might be related to rabid dingoes (dingoes aren’t susceptible to rabies, but with reverse engineering, some natural immunities are overcome.) As PP hied it out of that warm moist bed, I thought of the Tom Jones album, What was it, “If You Got ‘Em, Swing ‘Em”? "Hung Like Iron?" "All Pendulum, No Clock?” Let me Google it, oh yeah, “The Lead and How to Swing It.” Take your pick, it’s all verrrry good, dahling.

He came back with a guilty look of responsibility on his finely chiseled face, practically a rock jaw in motion, pleasant to a fault. “I slipped on the pee mop [used for the dingo creatures] and hit the switch, and the dogs lunged through the aperture, the swinging door, and ... and ...” I waited, afraid for what he might say, “and we won’t need dog food for a while.” Great news all around!

I brought us back to our conversation on Group Dynamics. "In this case, our aRranging took care of the problem, however brief the respite may be." Because having that particular breed of animal running the streets en masse could have further consequences. But let's say they ran for the country, hunters will get them. I certainly wasn't going out to Reconnoiter them, I Ruminated.

The compound back on lock-down, we locked-down ... in the chamber of privacy ... a feather bed whose origin was surely a serious blow to numerous bird species ... And pulled the curtains ... tightly ... around that bed of wonders ... And that’s all she wrote, all she dared share when putting quill to parchment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Celebrate Guns With Me


Guns, guns, guns. Please don't pop my bubble by saying there's something wrong with guns. Guns are great, society sucks. We really should do something so psychotics aren't given free access. That's common sense, like forbidding rabid dogs from sleeping in your children's rooms. But for those of us who are "normal," i.e., not at all given to shooting up schools or hospitals or even pointing guns at another human being unless entirely in self-defense or war, they're OK.

One of the things we always had in my family was guns, shotguns and rifles. They were just communal hunting guns. No one had his own gun. They were on the rack, and of course when you had something to shoot, you went over and got a gun to do the shooting. I said we never pointed them at another person. Not even accidentally; you're supposed to be entirely aware of your environment. But one of the last times I was ever out hunting with Dad, he was an older guy, I was a full grown adult. And we heard some shooting, and these idiot bastards were shooting at a pheasant as we had come over the hill. It was up to those bastards to be aware of their surroundings. We were both aghast.

I don’t even have a gun now. And here I am in The Big City, with enough crime, everyone can have their share, while they work on Grandma’s house, trying to restore it to minimal livability; it’s somehow become a shambles, enough bacteria in there to make a Petri dish blush. Just give up and retire the science biz all together. Not to mention the mold, reportedly bad for your lungs and other living parts. Mold doesn’t know the typical restrictions against it in life. It has its life and its ways, and the rest of us be damned! “We mold have free reign over the world!” Like those idiots coming over the hill with their guns.

OK, I don’t have a gun, as I said. I had a rifle and shotgun, but I pawned them and bought BBQ pork ribs with the money. I’ve looked at guns while shopping a few times since, then always come to the same conclusion, I’d probably end up dying with a gun trying to defend myself and property, just the opposite of what I want. Whereas, yielding a little, not heightening any confrontation is generally the best path to survival. The path to survival is not guaranteed, of course, when there’s bad hombres afoot. But I’m in only one place and hombres have a billion places to be.

Still, I do celebrate guns, mostly by way of memory. Cousins and their guns, shooting up the timber, making it unsafe for any living thing. That taught me a lesson. Too much shooting, nothing wants to be near you. Making your own shells, that’s enlightenment; given the proper tools, you definitely have the power. And other silly stuff about guns. We used to have a kid in the neighborhood who’d shoot us in the back with his BB gun, not often, but more often than parents would want to know about. I think that guy’s probably a decent guy. Last time I heard he was still alive, but we’re not in the same circles. If I ever see him coming, though, even though I celebrate guns as a thing (family history, etc.), he’ll have to disarm before we get together.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Lifelong Learning Is Da Bomb


We can all agree, lifelong learning is great. I've been a lifelong learner nearly all my life. I was sick a few days as a kid and didn't learn anything those days. But mostly -- 90% of my life take away those few days -- I've been learning new things.

One thing I learned is that everyone's different, that is, everyone I've met, a relatively few people; they've all been different. Most of them were as dumb as the next guy, but I didn't tell them. I did what is proper, kept the insults to myself. Some of them wouldn't have understood anyway. Those are the people I try to not have much to do with. On the other hand, it's equally bad to have people around smarter than me. Thankfully, again, we're only talking a few folks, a couple people. Know the feeling?

So how much do I know? How am I supposed to answer that? I know enough to eat when I'm hungry, sleep when I'm tired, stretch when I yawn, and go to the bathroom, usually. And I'm smart enough, if I miss, I take my pants off and wash them. Me being extremely smart might not be literally true. But I am smart enough to know how dumb I am, which at times is damned dumb. So I'm smarter than most.

Lifetime learning, though, that's what we need, right? A few years ago I took the training to be a substitute teacher. Week after week -- what was it, a grueling 8 weeks on Saturdays -- I sat there with other prospective substitute teachers. They gave us in lurid detail the horror stories that go with the profession, but I stuck with it. They had us in the classroom, just observing, and I kept going, right up to the moment when I got the paper saying I passed and was qualified. The biggest thing I learned, without even doing it, is being a substitute teacher is no life for me. The key thing is, I learned the craft, and learned I wanted no part of it.

Now here I sit -- hiding out in the Big City as they work on Grandma's house, overrun with vermin both visible and invisible -- and I continue to learn. I was at one of the libraries and was reading on how you get the taxpayers to pay for house repairs, and believe me, this is going to be one huge bill! Because they have to gut the entire place. Every wall needs replaced, as well as the foundation, and of course the roof. I'm guessing I'll need new wallpaper, and I’ll be shocked if that backed up toilet makes the cut. The library info laid out the attitude I need when I show up at the governor's office with the bill: Start crying before I go in, look her straight in the eye, and beg for mercy.

But the biggest thing I want to share today has to do with you, not me. I want you to get out there, my friends, and get with it! You haven't learned everything you can. With lifelong learning, you'll have more satisfaction, a greater sense of self-worth, and the ability to truly shine in a world of dullards, dopes, and dummies. Just knowing anything, you'll run circles around almost everyone you meet. Just knowing next to nothing you'll be the smartest guy in town. On the other hand, say you've done your level best and everyone's still smarter than you, give up.

I'll give you a great example of lifelong learning, from a couple guys I knew, Clem and the Judge.

Clem was hanging out at his shack. And someone was at the door. He yells, "Hang on, I'm coming!" Then he gets there and, oh, it's the Judge. And what was that look in the Judge's eye, as he led Clem out, away from home into and through the trees, then up into the heights, the glories of nature north of the Big City? Hmm, something to learn more about...

Clem sees what's happening and goes, "Oh, Judge! You naughty naughty man! I think I might lose control of my temperament. I'm breathing much faster and deeper than usual. I might've just found my true calling, yodel-lay! Lifelong learning really turns me on... It's amazing, I swear I'm flush, a little dizzy, but loving it! Yes, yes, yes, I must experience more and more lifelong learning! It's such a rush, my right hand has relinquished the rose you gave me; it's fallen 100 feet to the valley..."

He suddenly thinks maybe the Judge did indeed mean "book learning" for him, and says, “I'm reaching in my pocket for a dictionary to learn more..." But, no, he was right the first time, the Judge had other things on his mind. "What, Judge? You're flipping me over instead? Is this global warming I feel, climactic change? What a huge difference it makes! Oh, oh! Let me drop these suspenders over the cliff, sir! Now, go for it, Judge, yes, latch on to the hair on the back of my neck with your teeth, yes, that's it, perrrrfect leverage, what big beautiful solid white teeth you have --- OH OH OH, yessss sir! You really know what you're doing! Lifelong learning is da bomb!!!"

We can agree today. The wisdom of Clem is the real deal: Lifelong learning indeed done be da bomb.

Friday, November 16, 2018

No Mercy For Vermin


What ever happened to me? How did I develop this pathological sense of mercy for everything? I’m trying to trace it back. If it’s compassion, when did this travesty called compassion take its evil root?

I should’ve learned the sayings that life offers for wisdom, and heeded them. “Give her an inch, she’ll take a mile” is a good one. Pretty soon it’s a little more, then a little more, then a little more, till there's nothing left. Which applies to me, too; if I get anything at all, of course I want more. And next thing I know I’m bloated and floating away.

For some reason I’m thinking of Willy Wonka, which I don’t know very well. But there’s a kid in that that bloats up similarly to the way I would’ve, except I don’t think he floats away. I know Moe bloats up and floats away, Three Stooges. He falls into some rubber mix, which quickly adheres and dries, then the others pump this suit of rubber slime full of air, and off he goes. You have to be lighter than air, or lighter than the amount of air they’ve pumped into your rubber suit. Good lesson to remember.

Back to vermin. I really am sympathetic — more than I need to be, anyway — to all creatures. But it doesn’t happen the same way every time for every creature. Compassion, it kicks in. Then I kill a fly instantly; they’re bugging me. I whack 'em dead. But in that case, my compassion is the quick killing. I’m not dismembering them slowly. Although I did have some fly paper strips, briefly, which ended up catching 10-12 flies. They didn’t appear to suffer, which was a true concern of mine.

Why? Why? O, why? I guess that’s the way bleeding hearts are wired. But now it’s gotten me in a jam; Grandma's house went to pot. Although, the full truth is more complicated. It’s not that I’m just so compassionate I can’t kill vermin en masse. But when it comes to vermin, there’s more to it than “kill or not kill.” There’s how it needs to be done, and not so much for their sake but for your house. You could kill vermin wholesale by burning your house down. Saves money on expensive treatments, return visits, etc. The huge downside, Bye Bye House.

So therein it is, the meat of the goody, problemo numero uno. A potentially complicated route to deal with vermin. You have to go to Vermin School, then they make you an Exterminator Extraordinaire, conferring on you various honors, titles, certifications, and finally a state license. You see a fly at 40 paces, you know its province, ways and mores, how it responds to the many elements of life, from sugar to rat poison. Really, how often have you see flies, for example, land on rat poison, and presumably eat their fill, and fly away, and not harmed in the slightest? Either they know when to say when, or there’s something in their constitution keeping them fit.

And it’s the same with rats. A rat could get tangled up in fly paper — I actually had it on my hand and it took three or four washing to knock it down to only moderately sticky — and not get away. But there’d be nothing lethal about the coating. Just being tangled up would be the worst of it. Then he gets back to the nest and rolls around in your house’s insulation, and keeps going like that for about three hours, and suddenly he's a furry possum.

I had possums coming in the yard and killing the chickens. Greedy little bastards thought they had the right to take food for their own sustenance, right under my nose! The way I handled those verminous (and ugly) possums was with a shotgun, or rifle, can’t remember which.

The honest way I should’ve handled the vermin, that have 99% destroyed Grandma’s house, is to pour money into better and different exterminators. Better, because with education the newer guys replace the old guys set in their ways. And different, because many minds have many possible solutions, not just the old tried and fail methods of Rex down the road with the same old poisons he was using in the ‘40s. These are cyborg vermin, not the happy-go-lucky vermin Rex knew and probably drank with after hours.

That’s probably it. The exterminator (Rex, in this case) saw the symbiotic relationship he had with vermin. They were his living, and if they died, he’d die too. So he knew the old ‘40s methods had long been surpassed by cyborg vermin, etc., etc., with the terrible ending that now Grandma’s house is shit and I’m out. The new guys won’t be calling Rex or his sons. No, they’ve got canisters on their backs, masks, hoods, and big guns like Electrolux vacuums. With the same motives as Rex, making it mysterious enough to keep their business secure. But they have such a larger field of business, because the old-timers screwed us up for decades.

Bottom line: Compassion is passé, kill everything in sight.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Big City -- Cats and Sirens


By now you know I'm living in the Big City. I was in a medium-sized town, and if they ever get my house fixed I'll go back. But the place became a nasty shambles, thanks to something, I don't know what all, unless it was simple neglect on my part. OK, I'll cop to a little bit of the blame, but the place wasn't that great ever. It was there before I was born, and who knows what all happened to it! I know a tree fell on it sometime in the '40s. So that's not a good start for me; they shouldn't have built it so close to where trees would grow.

Other than that damage, there's these little critters called vermin, that come in assorted sizes and descriptions, all of them bad. They range from microbes, the hardest things in the world to see, to out and out rats. You see one rat, you never want to see another. They're terrible -- believe me -- when they disappear under something and you don't know where they went. They're under there looking at you. Little red eyes. And to think I used to shoot them with bow and arrow at the city dump. That was fun. I didn't realize they were nasty as they wanna be.

Anyway, the town's trying to garnish my Social Security on some of the forced improvements on the house, even though I'm perfectly happy to let them do the work and bill it to taxpayers. I'm sure most of my readers can appreciate that. It's not that I'm irresponsible, it's just I have the good sense not to let responsibility go to my head. They can pay the bill and write it off, easy. Say they don't make improvements on the city park for a couple years. Right there you're looking at a couple thousand bucks.

So, the actual fact of the matter is, I got the hell out of there. I'm trusting you guys not to turn me in. And I went where no one can find me. I don't care if they search a thousand years. Notice I'm not saying which Big City I'm in. There's so many places to hide here, sometimes even I'm lost. But, and this is brilliant, I'm constantly going around in plain sight, and no one notices. You vanish in plain sight in a place this big! Ha ha, I laugh about it day and night, and just to rub it in, I finger in the general direction of my old town. Take that, you clueless morons!

There is one little problem. I want to hide whenever I hear a siren, but in the Big City there's so many sirens -- it's nearly a constant cacophony. Different from home, where the noon and 5:00 whistle's about it. In the Big City, I'm very tuned in to the sirens. They have the WAH WAH, WHOOP WHOOP, WEEEEE, and several others I'm trying to forget. The nearest thing we have to it back home are the howling cats. Remember, I said there's rats. Well, where there's rats, there's cats. Sitting on the fence, profiled in the moonlight, howling all night, signalling one another where the nearest rat was spotted.

I miss all that, compared to the constant sirens.

I picture these Barney Fife PO-lice learning their siren technique in training school. Itching to get out there and make their mark in the world. (Let's say they're library police, like where I am right now typing this. They'd love to get out there and hit the siren!) Anyway, the old PO-lice professor at the training center is a big man in their estimation. “You men — and I see we also have some women cadets in this modern age — have a grave responsibility to carry out. Not only to learn the siren, but to be the siren. The siren's message is our message to the community. You’re telling them there’s trouble, get the heck out of the way. And if you’re sleeping, wake up, look out the window, we’re about to come speeding by. We’ll never tell you what we're doing, or whether it was accomplished, but you can rest assured (in the minutes between now and the next siren) that it was something important. When you push that button, or twist that gadget, men, and you ladies, that’s your own wake up call to every neighborhood between here and the outskirts of the city -- 35 miles away -- telling one and all, 'I will get my man.'"

The whole crime-fighting business has that as its biggest goal, to make society safe enough, that — if the Almighty allows, and He hasn’t so far — we can get a night of sound sleep without the sirens howling, blaring, and otherwise announcing their noxious presence with predictable regularity. Could it be that day is in sight, perhaps just over the next hill, or yonder mountain and horizon, person, place, or thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly it won’t be today, so let the sirens blow!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Veronica's Magical World


I used to have an old friend, Veronica, who would take (partial) credit for it being a sunny day. “See what my prayers did?” she'd say, pointing happily around. The weather wasn’t her only spiritual talent; she saw herself as key to a lot of positive aspects of life. I thought, maybe yes, probably no. But what can you say, “Hey, great job!” I always wondered how she could think that way, but it was OK.

My problem, if you'd call it a problem, is I’m more "realistic," but it's my own realism; her outlook to her was also realistic. I never gave her much credit, but I could be wrong; everything I think isn't a fact. Maybe she was right. Because there’s all kinds of scientific ways to demonstrate that the world isn’t what it seems to be. Just get a microscope and look. I wouldn't mind thinking how Veronica thought, if people around me could stand it.

We got the first snow of the season. Minor, so far, and it’s still coming down. And I had to remark, “See what my prayers didn't do,” since I didn’t want it to snow. But maybe Veronica, now passed on, wherever she is — heaven — thought I wanted or needed snow. It’s interesting she didn’t think that in August when it was so hot, but instead waited till November when it’s not so rare.

Still, even if there’s nothing to it, that seems like a good way to think, if you can manage it. It's hyper-optimistic. If I could just think that every little thing is happening just for me, that’d be a happy world. I wouldn’t have to tell everyone, of course, like going around taking credit for it. Say a family was in a 10-car pileup on the interstate because of the snow, I’d hate to have them show up at my door with legal claims. So I’d try not to take all the credit. 

OK, let’s say I indeed have Veronica in heaven, still doing the same things she did in daily life, praying for sunny days and favors, then joyfully claiming the results as her own. I could let this blog be a plea to my other friends and loved ones who have passed to also pitch in. I could get up and think what I want, knowing they heard my thoughts. But if there is a one-to-one ratio on wanting and getting, I could just leave out the dead middleman and pray it myself.

What would be even better than passed-on advocates in heaven would be their actual presence along side me. Then every little thing I saw, I could credit one or another of them. I see a candle flicker, that’s Mom passing by. "Hi, Mom, how ya doin'?" Or I’m taking a bath and think, “No reason to waste water,” that has to be my Dad. I had a best friend who died around a year ago. I’d actually love him doing a few funny things in my life. Like giving me better blog ideas. In my opinion he was a genius.

Hmm, for some reason the sun just went down, sunk in a second! ... and it’s only 2:00 in the afternoon. It’s pitch dark and it was bright as noon five minutes ago. Never mind wondering what’s going on, excited scientists. It’s just Veronica telling me, I need more rest. Good night, one and all!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Re-Elect Gus Grissle Dog Catcher


In these troubled times, with the Republican party the scum of the earth, it's hard to keep a civil society. Life is hard enough, as everyone knows, but these rabid fiends -- no friend of man or beast -- add to the general sense of misery. There's no easy solution, short of 40 million moonshots, which would take a lot of work. So we're stuck simply trying to get along.

Of course I personally never vote for Republicans, ever, with one lone exception, and that's Gus Grissle for Dog Catcher.

Gus is an old neighbor of mine, and, by god, I know he's more or less good with dogs. As I've heard at the coffee shop a million times, Gus keeps the loose feral population down within manageable limits. According to the Daily News, attacks by loose rabid dogs on children as well as adults are down to a respectable average of only 160 a year. A stat to be celebrated in a small town. I was personally attacked twice, but if you attend to it right away -- skip the hospital, there's cheaper antibiotics on the black market -- you'll usually recover sufficiently to limp along and recognize family members, although it’s often intermittent.

Naturally, the best remedy is prevention. An ounce of prevention definitely feels better than a ton of painful injections. And that's why we need Gus Grissle. He's our man! Because it's important to have a guy who's not afraid to get his butt out there, patrol, and bring these monsters in. As to the few healthy dogs that are loose, he's also the man to get them back to their families. Although I wish we didn't have to waste time and resources doing so much of that, because it's eradicating the attack dogs that has to be number one.

Obviously, we need a good man for dog catcher, a man sensitive to the needs of dogs as well as dog-owners/parents. As a dog parent myself, I want a dog catcher who won’t necessarily take my dog right to the pound, let alone shoot her without at least the courtesy of a phone call. Dogs are funny though. They don't know Gus is only helping them. My dog's been nabbed a few times, so now if I want her to behave, I just have to say, "I'm gonna call Gus Grissle, and he's gonna come get you," or just the word "Grissle." She growls, then goes to her crate and cowers. I coax her out with a doggy treat and we're back on good terms.

Gus knows a thing or two about dogs. But it’s not just his knowledge of dogs that makes him the best candidate. The best thing about Gus is that he actually wants to do it and does it. He's diligent. And think of it, it's a dirty job, thankless, most of the dogs you snag hate you, and you stand a good chance of getting bitten every single day. This isn't a cushy office job; these aren't office dogs, they're mean street dogs. The kind that talk back and take no crap.

This year, friends, I had to vote absentee for Gus Grissle. Because I’m presently in the Big City while they work on Grandma’s house. And the house is basically open, with protective tarps. A big concern is that anyone could get in if they wanted. Say a bunch of tramps were living there with their tramp dogs, it’s to my benefit to have Gus just up the street, looking out for me. And to send those tramp dogs packing.
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Older post: Gus Grissle for Dogcatcher, 2015 election

Saturday, November 3, 2018

While My Catarrh Gently Seeps


I believe it was the Buddha, as well as my Grandma, who said, “All life is suffering.” Whatever it is, whatever happens, you’re up, you’re down, you’re flat on your back in the hospital. There’s a major inflammation in your lower tract. It can’t be traced. Even surgery gives no relief; you’re worse off than when you first began.

The “wheel of life” is a concept from one of the major faiths. On this wheel of life, once you’ve spun it, you see what you get. All the usual aches, pains, diseases, and, last but not least, inflammations. Cuts, sores, piles, wounds, chafing, burns, sunburn, and catarrh. Proving the old adage beyond dispute, If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. With no end in sight, no good end anyway. Death, the grave, decomposition, and so forth till you’re lost and completely forgotten.

I see ambulances racing down the street all the time. Your life is precious. The sirens are wailing, they go through stop lights, because you can’t wait, the time is now, your need is urgent, every second counts in this drama of life and death. Minutes later you’re at the hospital, where they spend the next two hours getting your personal information, insurance, height and weight. Then it’s three hours later until a doctor's available. You could be dead by now, you know, but at least you saved 8 seconds at that last red light.

I probably should look up Buddha before I say definite things about him. But I’m winging it. From the little I know, nearly everything about Buddha is up for grabs anyway, depending on what country you’re from and what line of Buddhism you follow. So whatever I say is true somewhere in the world. The story may be familiar to you: Buddha’s dad kept him in the palace, not wanting him to see the outside world. Because Buddha Sr. knew the outside world was full of suffering. Then Buddha Jr. went into the outside world and discovered it was full of suffering.

Which I also discovered. You pick up on it right away, the first day of kindergarten. A kid on the playground breaks his arm, you kiss a girl on the jungle gym and she ends up with someone else, the teacher counts you tardy if you’re not in class when the bell goes off. Then there’s the rest of existence out of the sight of your protective parents. Now, too, once you’ve seen the suffering in the world — duplicity, backstabbing, lying, and sin — you even notice it in your parents, how unfair they are, even unjust. The foods they want you to eat, vegetables, are terrible and provide no nutritional value that you can’t get with straight sugar.

I also think cable TV is terrible suffering, except Monday Night Football and the Sunday games. You want it, you get it, it doesn’t make you happy; pillow commercials day and night. That’s the meaning of suffering.

Sex is suffering. The words “Regrets, I’ve had a few...” surely were written about sex. But what can you do? It’s the highest aspiration and at the same time the lowest. Great in concept, devastating in practice, unless you’re about to have a baby, then that’s a good payoff, but of course he or she will suffer, disappoint, die, etc. Abstaining is also suffering. But if you want to suffer and yet have more interesting payoff than dying rugrats, keep it zipped, wear coarse underwear, lock your hands behind your back, sleep and never wake up. Say you do wake up, keep the underwear on; it’s not painful enough to hurt you, it just keeps you on your toes when you walk or shift.

A couple of the diseases I should look up: Catarrh and Piles.

Catarrh? I got a catarrh once for Christmas and mom and dad even threw in catarrh lessons. A guy taught me several chords and I strummed myself silly, like other strumpets. Catarrh is also an old fashioned word for a dreaded condition, having to do with something like bad breath, a queasy tummy, or possibly worse. You’d think catarrh music is beautiful to listen to — say, Segovia — but still there’s also this damned curse of catarrh. When the catarrh’s out of tune, or the strings have lost their twang. On my catarrh, I used to take a file to the strings just to clean them of the filth on my fingers, like if I’d just dug potatoes. But a little dirt is good on catarrh strings, like the grunge music of the 90s.

I used to know a girl who played catarrh. She pulled off the G string and got the party started. Making beautiful music together. Which reminded me, oh yeah, I forgot the coarse underwear, which (as a reminder) keeps you on your toes when you walk or shift.

What about Piles? I should look this one up, too, but I think my sweet imagination is better than the medical encyclopedia. We know what it is when the dog leaves piles behind. They start at the behind, and that’s where they’re left. Some excrescences. Some are blatantly dropped, that’s the majority, the heart of the matter. Other piles cling, causing discomfort to the animal, no doubt, then their scooting across the floor messes up the carpet. Here in the Big City, the place I’m staying has hardwood floors, which the dog finds both comfortable and uncomfortable, depending on the effort she goes through to relieve herself.

The word piles is a good term, definitely evocative. Like if you had piles of money, like the Disney character who kept his money in a vault and was diving in it day and night. Piles and piles of piles can be a deadly thing, though.

Cuts, sores, wounds. That's all self explanatory. You get enough cuts, sores, and wounds, you’ll look back and discover you wound up in the hospital. I never cut myself. I’ve heard of people doing that, crazy, terrible fetish. The most pain I cause myself is biting my lip. But it’s not so bad, because I catch myself before there’s any pain. You have to think it through consciously. “I cannot eat myself. What value would that be? Eating is meant to nourish the system, not take the system away." You might remember the story in the Bible where the poor man Lazarus had dogs licking his sores. He was so despondent he took some comfort there. Dogs will lick you if you give them a leg up. Or worse. But that’s not what you should aspire to.

Buddha, he knew what to do about suffering. See through it. Transcend it with insight, realization. The exact science of which you can find in various Buddhist treatises. And from any guru you happen to meet, who finds you worthy to learn the secrets. (Everyone’s worthy, it just takes a while standing in line to make it happen.) Which is itself suffering, to a good purpose, to teach you patience till you learn the rest.

In the meantime, you can observe life itself and get enough teachings and eventually leave the line. Dogs walking by teach you a lot, as sketched out above. Or pick up your own catarrh. Pound out a tune and you’ll find the truth. A man, a woman, they’re very good, but suffering hopelessly if you dive deeply enough. When you find that place, the time for gurus and pills is ended.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The True Warrior Doesn't Say


What we’ve always heard and experienced, guys come back from war and they don’t want to talk about it. You have an uncle, or three or four like me, and they’re tight as clams about the war.

Maybe that’s why I don’t say much about my lack of war experience. I will say this much, I could’ve gone to war. Uncle Sam judged me a prime 18-year-old specimen, good enough to be called at any second. But it didn't happen; I was glad. But after years had gone by, I actually wished I had gone. You get to retire after a measly 20 years. And of course the parades where everyone’s singing your praises, that's a great perk. I could’ve stood there in a crowd of people at one of these ceremonies, solemnly waving, then kept my lip zipped, because the warriors I've known rarely spoke.

As it is, we all have our experiences — happy, fun, sad, traumatic — and we don’t always talk about them. One, no one really wants to hear. I’m with people all the time, and you’d think the conversation would be, “Hey, you, you’re clammed up good and tight, not contributing even a peep to the conversation, stoved up tighter than a drum.” “Oh, I don’t know about that,” I might protest, hoping they don’t delve any deeper than they already have. You need to find a way to distract them, “Hey, look! is that an exploding Hindenburg?!” As everyone checks out the ball of fire, they’ve forgotten us warriors.

I still haven’t heard what the war was like. Which is another reason I should have gone. Then I could be the one sitting there inscrutable, savoring the terrible memories that must be the source of why I’m so clammed up. Any old war would do. The big one was WWII. I used to know some guys, and true to the whole thing, they clammed up. They were likely thinking, “This guy’s not saying a thing about the war because he knows I wouldn’t answer him anyway.” So we kept very quiet about it. Same reason we don't ask a brother about his honeymoon; there's surely details he wouldn't want me to know.

That’s the best way, just be cagey about it. And if you are unconsciously cagey, 100% resolved to the fact that warriors don’t speak, you never can tell, he might break down and spill his guts. Of course you can’t be too interested or he’s back to silence. I had a guy one time tell me about being on a ship going to Europe that was jam packed with guys, they were on top of tables, under tables, under chairs, maybe stacked on top of each other at times, such as when the ship made a sharp turn. The way I pictured it, it was wall to wall men, bumped, jostled, and crowded for a month (or whatever it took to make that terrible trip.) Hearing even that much was a rarity.

And I didn’t wheedle him for information, just let the details come in, giving me an appreciation for that aspect of his life. And I was glad I didn’t experience that fiasco myself. Two’s company, three’s a crowd. A whole ship full of guys packed in there, rolling over and crunching one another for a long time -- since I’m an introvert and part-time germaphobe -- would be a living hell. The biggest thing I never heard from that guy, or anyone else, was what the war was actually like, whether you killed anyone, etc.

A couple of my uncles were in Vietnam, early on and as an extended career thing. In planes, at least one of them in the refueling business. We always looked at their formal fuzzy color portraits on the wall and imagined what they might be up to. Then they’d be home, one at a time once in a blue moon, and we kept right on imagining what they might’ve been doing, because they certainly didn’t say. It was either too terrible to mention, or so innocent and benign it’d ruin the mystery.

I do some of that myself. There’s plenty I don’t talk about. Wherever I am, I just sit there in stony silence, offering nods to whatever (Are you OK?) and maintaining my man of mystery status. “Why don’t you say anything?” “Ain’t got nothing to say?” “Nothing?” “Nope, I mean, Yep.” “Yes, I have no nothing, I have no nothing to say.” Or plenty of nothing, however you choose to quantify a plenty that still comes out zero.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

My Friend D— Died in a Terrible Accident


In my usual way of thinking I try to keep mortality out of my mind. I’m so used to living — it’s become a habit — I’m not thinking of dying. That said, the opposite is also true. I’m a walking precaution against dying. Like the nervous bird forever bobbing its head, watching for danger. The habit of survival. I swerve to miss a three-car pileup or sidestep a hole to not trip.

This is actually something you don’t want to think about a lot. Even if it’s not far from your mind. Because the more conscious you are of the process, the less reliably your defenses work in the background. It’s true. The more you consciously think of anything, the more you are consciously responsible. And background processes are very reliable. If we could go through life entirely unconscious and yet happy, we’d avoid the whole mess.

OK, since most of it’s delegated to unconscious processes, that leaves me consciously able to watch out for others’ safety. So I’m a warning-a-minute: “Watch out for that hole, someone’s following us, have you got your keys?," etc.

But I suddenly failed! Coming out of store with friend, D----, I turned my head for three seconds to check out the sale on bottled water, which I don't even drink, and even though I'd very recently warned her to look both ways, I let down my guard for three seconds, leading to a terrible end... When...

It wasn’t the driver’s fault. Unless the fact that he was going 45 mph in a dangerous parking lot is set at his bumper. No, despite my prior warning — was it a case of her being pigheaded? — she walked right into the truck’s path. But it couldn’t have been intentional, not the way she was protecting her sack of groceries. Clearly she meant to live at least long enough to eat a four-pack of yogurt; she didn’t mean to die before that.

Still, I can’t see any value in restricting cause and effect to the physical. There’s also the mental. She had bad habits, one of which was depending too much on me. Because I usually do give constant warnings. But you still gotta look at for yourself, Doris! What if you’d lived and I’d died? You would’ve died anyway if you couldn't wise up to danger. Did she deserve to get run over? She probably didn’t technically deserve it, but the jury’s still out on whether there was a moral verdict waiting for her to receive sooner or later. Still, who am I to dump on her? People make mistakes, they pay the piper.

It took me a couple days beating myself up to finally reconcile things; this wasn’t my fault. Get on with your life. Easy come, easy go. Another day, another dollar. Plus, I have to save my energy for the guy’s trial.

I hate to face the guy again, as much ragging on him I did. It wasn't a good picture of me, cussing him up one side and down the other. Blaming his passenger for distracting him, without evidence. And I even blamed his truck, an old fashioned model that you usually only see at garden centers, with the hood up and a bunch of flowers where the motor used to be. “What are you driving that rickety old piece of shit through the parking lot at 45 mph anyway, Stupid?!”

It took the police to calm me down. I was in a rage, lunging at the guy. And his stupid antique truck. What kind of tires are those? Model T’s?! The police calmed me down fast, Officer Rix pulling a gun and threatening to blow my brains out. He calmly explained, “Your friend was a complete klutz to get herself run over so stupidly.” Which of course I had to accept as true.

My own purchase that day was Neapolitan ice cream. Three flavors for the price of one. I meant for me and Doris to enjoy a bowl each, had only she lived. As it turned out, though, tragically, that meant two bowls for me. It’s a good way to drown your sorrows; eat more ice cream.

So ... one friend down, several friends left. Who really should listen to me more. Permit me, this is rough. ... Doris will never get another chance to do the right thing. She had to let her mind drift off who-knows-where, thinking, “I’m 100% safe, nothing can ever happen to me, my fate’s a long ways away, I’m young-ish, invulnerable-ish, I’ve got lots of plans for tomorrow,” etc. People like her are always making plans for tomorrow, completely unaware that the clutching hand of fate is already clamped tight around their neck.

But I definitely saw it. In the seconds after exiting the store and the screech of the tires and her scream, the sky was cloudy, ponderous, foreboding. But was it already too late for Doris? That’s for philosophers wiser than I to debate. She was definitely run over and by the time I got home my ice cream was softer than I like.

It made me think, God took my friend’s life to teach me an important lesson, which was probably “Look Out for Trucks,” which I already knew.