Friday, April 18, 2014

The Army Couldn't Save the Shopping Center


The Army had a new man on duty, newly in charge of recruiting at the shopping center. He figured he could do it well, having the trust of the entire United States government.

The old man was retiring. He walked with a leg that had a limp in it, which would likely only get worse. The old man limped in after the welcome party and charged the new man with keeping the office safe. Such vows aren't necessary in the military, but the new man vowed it anyway.

Years passed, and recruitment activities were extremely successful, to the point it was ridiculous. The new man recruited just fine, helped by keen macho advertising, various psychological techniques of persuasion, and a bad economy. Every time the new man -- who was aging all the time -- saw his success he'd feel a warm glow. He'd do celebratory things, as we all do, like throwing a dart at the dartboard or polishing an apple. He was the cream of the crop.

Time continued to pass, until the shopping center was showing its age, wear and tear. Plus, demographics took their toll, the bad economy he depended on cutting both ways. Shoppers took their meager dollars elsewhere, Walmart. Stores closed, traffic slowed. Rentals hit rock bottom and the shopping center management had no choice but to throw up their hands and throw in the towel.

But until the bitter end, the Army office was open. The officer was faithful, still hoping to make a go of it, even making deals with dope-heads in the vacant parking lot. "If we give them something to knock 'em out, we can shanghai them and they won't wake up till they find themselves in basic." That was a great idea, but there was still the matter of the shopping center's sad owners tearing their hair out. The place had to close.

The officer, of course, had no choice then but to order the flag lowered and vacate the post. A couple days later and the place was rubble. The officer stood looking at it. When who should show up but the old man, his limp totally gone as now he was in a wheelchair. The two met, and immediately the younger man was overcome with terrific shame as the old man surveyed the area. Who, without so much as a handshake, rolled away, tears in his eyes, shaking his head.

The new man got the message. He had been charged with only one thing, to guard that shopping center at all costs ... a charge he had neglected and failed at. His 30-year career -- try to take this in -- which normally would've been considered stellar, was ... What would you call it? ... Botched, ruined, total crap ...

The new man, now the old man, put his hand to his heart: "A few weeks and I'll be in a new office. Then soon afterward I'll retire and a new man will take my place. The first thing I must do is have him make a similar vow."

*There was an Army office in a shopping center that was eventually torn down.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gravity Rocks For Sale

I'm in the rock business! I've been selling them on eBay for a few weeks, as a scientific item, so people can prove the theory of gravity for themselves. And I would count it a privilege to have you as a customer.

I saw it on Neil deGrasse Tyson's program how Aristotle -- back in the day -- thought that a larger rock and a smaller rock would fall to the ground at different speeds. It reminds me of my own crazy theories as a kid, and only recently given up, that trees are responsible for the wind, and that steering faster makes the car go faster. Back then it never occurred to me to sell trees and steering wheels, so people had to take it by faith.

Anyway, back when Aristotle said something, that settled it. So no one tried to prove him wrong for around 1,000 years. Until one guy -- Galileo -- dropped some rocks from the Tower of Pisa and saw that they fell at the same speed. The problem turned out to be something simple: There was no one around to sell them gravity-proving rocks, so they didn't know what to do. Making Galileo, I guess, the guy to discover gravity-proving rocks. I claim him, anyway, as my forebear.

And so, now today, I'm making gravity-proving rocks available to the general public. You've heard of Civil War reenacting? And Nazi reenacting? This is Galileo reenacting, much like we've all done chemistry reenacting with our own little chemistry sets. So look for "Ye Olde Gravity-Proving Rock Shoppe," and, thanks to the postman willing to do the backbreaking work of carrying them, you will have these very valuable rocks soon in the convenience of your own home!

The basic package is this: One larger rock and one smaller. These are good sized rocks, with the heft you know they need to fall reliably. Then as a bonus, I include a smaller rock and two rocks smaller yet. Lest you think two rocks competing with one rock might make a difference. Which stands to reason, by the principle of ganging up. You might be surprised!

Of course any enterprise like this, with all of science at stake, has to have good equipment. That's why I personally handpick my rocks, with great care. Once handpicked, I eyeball them to make sure that, to all appearances, one is larger than the other. Once chosen, I clunk them. And if they're not hollow -- none has been so far -- they pass the test, they're good to go. Plus, I can affirm, without equivocation, that each rock is thoroughly gravity-tested, having been subject to gravity for decades and even centuries.

I'm like the guys who sell telescopes and test tubes, all good for up and coming scientists. Both they and I are not in it just for the money, but for the thrill of discovery. I personally think about little kids out there, any one of which might be the next Aristotle, and I want them to be dispelled of their errors early on. Why waste a thousand years? Maybe they'll need Dad to help them get their rocks to the top of the water tower -- one's heavier than the other -- but once propelled toward the ground, Junior Aristotle will be able to gauge quickly, both landed safely.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Prisoner Who Learned Bad Vocabulary

I think having a good vocabulary is very important. That's the way I was brought up. So it shocks me to hear people cussing a blue streak. It was just in the news today, some lady calling another lady a bitch.* How terrible! I'd never vote for her, not just for that, but because she's a Republican. Much worse.

Anyway, to me good vocabulary is essential, making me different, overall, from most criminal types.

OK, there was this one criminal, who was pretty well governed when it came to good language. He hadn't forgotten what his Mother taught him, that you're known by your character. He kept her teaching as it concerned vocabulary, although he didn't keep it when it came to crime. His argument was crime was what he did to keep his mouth well-fed, then a well-fed mouth can keep itself in check.

But, even though crime sometimes pays for a while, keeping your mouth well-fed, in the end, many times, maybe 7 out of 10 times, it ultimately doesn't pay. And even if you get away with every crime in your life you've left behind so much damage for others that overall it doesn't really pay.

Long story short, he was guilty and went to prison. It was one of those deals where you're in there for three consecutive life sentences. A very optimistic outlook, I admit, except it turns out to be nothing but a legal fiction.

There in prison, this guy, who for the shame of it shall remain nameless, met every species of lowlife and scum that the human experience has engendered. Big burly hairy guys with a lower jaw coming up like a bulldog. Skinny guys with that creepy paranoid, schizo look. Even basically nice guys who can suddenly turn evil and knife you. There were others, what you might call sexual animals, always on the prowl, be it the prison library or even the chapel. It's the kind of life that toughens you up, no matter your background.

Right there, if we go no farther, I am personally scared straight. I mean, sexual animals, give me a break! Regardless of him being scared straight or not, however, there he was for three consecutive life sentences, a very long time no matter how legally fictional it is.

The pattern, then, as I understand it, is that a tough crowd does tough things, extending of course to vocabulary. His went to pot. All the usual stuff that we've all heard, and some have perhaps said. "Shit, fuck, goddammit, you cockbite, bastard, turd," etc. That's what he fell into, and I'm sure it only got worse from then on out, with three consecutive life sentences (a lot of time) to perfect his delivery and even intensify the negative feelings behind the words.

It's sad -- to me it's sad -- what crime can do. Not only to society, but to the life of a person -- whether it's three consecutive life sentences or only one. You don't say something like this very often, but fortunately his mother was dead. She never had to know all the crap he did, let alone what it did to his vocabulary.

*Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does That Make Sense?

I hate to say it, but I'm addicted to the phrase, "Does that make sense?" Which is crazy, I know, since I usually have pretty good control. I don't smoke, drink, or sleep with people who eat crackers in bed; obviously I'm not just careful, I have high standards. Sometimes I do think I could be easily addicted to stuff, but it's also balanced out with an ability to go cold turkey. But this "Does that make sense?" phrase might be too much for even me. Does that make sense?

Of course it isn't new to me. I've heard it a number of times in the last few years, but those times it was in one ear and out the other. I didn't toy with it. And that's the key thing to getting addicted, for me, picking up something and toying with it. Like a new, fascinating toy. I allowed it to get the best of me, as it turned out simply through foolishly toying with it. Does that make sense?

It happened at a conference I attended, "Public Affairs." I was hoping for some cool gossip on people caught in affairs, but it turned out to be a dry as dust give-and-take on public policy, "The Role of Women in Society -- Keep Them on a Short Leash or Let Them Go?" A senator was there briefly, long enough to swoop in and make some pronouncements on the ignorance of women (I'm in a Republican district), then it was up to us to break into groups and come up with our findings. By and large, the Democrats, including me, insisted that we loved, respected, and valued women. While the Republicans thought we needed more restrictions on them, GPS tracking devices around their legs, etc.

Then there was this one bastard, who didn't know what he thought, pro or con. He was the lone voice trying to hew a middle path. He went into a big old convoluted speech, all off the cuff, where he went this direction, then that. Hard to follow. On the one hand, he respected women; his mother was a woman. On the other, he pointed out we've never had a woman president and none of the five star generals of the World War II era was a woman. Then he was back to being pro woman, then anti, finally ending with the reiterated fact that his mom was a woman, and most of his aunts. At the end of it, in a higher pitched voice, he asked, "Does that make sense?"

Here's what happened next. It was 10 minutes till the lunch break, at which point I dashed out the back door, never to return. Then I ran into a woman I know, very smart as most of them are, with no crackers on her breath, and I was telling her the whole thing, focusing in on the phrase "Does that make sense?" I started saying it in jest -- toying with it -- but ended up saying it the rest of the day, and I'm still saying it two weeks later! Beware what you ridicule, there might be some gene in you -- operating sort of like the phenomenon of projection -- that means you're drawn to it! Meaning you need that very crutch! Does that make sense?

And another thing. The phrase always does involve a step up in pitch, and delineates a clear end of a train of thought, so that might be why it's so addictive. We crave not just variety but finality. The higher pitch is like singing (1), and (2) it's a natural end to one subject, giving time to think what's next. With one other key quality, keeping others on your side. Because if they're not, they could always answer with a resounding "No!" The fact that they don't, while not being conclusive as to their agreement, gives you some assurance (perhaps false), that you might be right. Does that make sense?

Yes, of course I know it's annoying. But you can't tell me you don't do one single annoying thing yourself. At least I know what I'm doing, especially if I see someone rolling their eyes. I'm intuitive like that. They can tell me to stop if they want. They just haven't yet.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Guy Made That Piano Sing!

It was a wild time in church today. All kinds of wildness. Thanks to the substitute piano player. Where we got him, I don't know, maybe Borneo. He had me rockin' out. It was a great time!

The thing about this Borneo guy was this: He was bouncing on the seat and playing the piano so hard, so feverishly hard, that it was literally moving around the room, even with such force as to push chairs and the people on them out of the way. He blazed a path right through the midsection, turned and bowled over the first couple rows, and toppled the pulpit. The pastor in a robe of black was white as a sheet.

It's hard to believe, I know, but every word of this is true. If you can picture in your mind's eye a guy, the combination of Jo Ann Castle, Big Tiny Little, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Waller, with the hair of Doc Brown, and completely full of the Holy Ghost, you'll have a great idea of what this guy was like. He took off on his instrument, and I gotta tell you, I was wide awake! He made it sing!

And this was from the very first song, an instrumental for gathering, "Jesus, Love of My Soul / Like a River Glorious." We needed a mosh pit! I caught it out of the corner of my eye, the piano in quick motion; that's when I looked up and paid attention. He was making definite, ever greater, movement from the piano's usual spot! The first thing that popped in my mind -- the very first thing -- was Putin gobbling up territory. You don't expect it, then wham, you've lost Alaska.

He ran over a couple older ladies' feet, who simply out of an old sense of propriety stifled a cry of bloody murder. The fierce look of great pain on their faces was a genuine expression of something primal, great pain. I had to wince, then quickly turned my attention back to Borneo's thrilling performance. The pounding of his hands was crazy, his fingers a blur, with even some blood. As the instrument came closer, I was shocked to see keys from the edges coming loose and flying through the air.

Much later, at the close of the service, I heard that one guy's hearing aid had blown up, apparently doing him a lot of harm when it comes to ears. He was staggering around, clutching the air. More evident in real time were the organ pipes on the wall toppling over from the pounding vibrations. I recalled Jericho, whose walls were breached by a series of trumpets, when all they needed was a rampaging pianist.

One totally strange moment came when the floor opened up and swallowed three or four of the church's worst heretics, proponents of the so-called New Thought. Since there's no basement, it's anyone's guess where they ended up. Wherever, no doubt it's giving them something new to think about. I was happy to escape, having been to only one of their New Thought meetings. Looked like I shunned them in the nick of time.

The minister threw up his hands and made a throat-cutting gesture to the sound guy, who threw up his hands in despair. He cut the mics but the piano itself, with Borneo's jackhammer fingers, was its own source of power. I noticed terrific phenomena in the light fixtures above as they swayed back and forth. They alternated bright and dark, like angelic visitations, then demonic irruptions. Which once you've had troubles with, I can personally attest, everything in life's harder to deal with.

Anyway, so much of the stuff of the sanctuary was totally demolished, there's no telling what'll happen next week. Certainly the usual pianist will be there, but whether there's anything left for her to play, that's another matter. The church wasn't doing that great on money as it was; now what we'll do is hard to predict. I see a sausage and pancake supper in our future.

I'll tell you what I'd love to see, and we could make some money on the beer. I'd love to get Borneo back, and make him wear gloves, and everyone hook arms together while singing "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord," with everyone sloshing beer steins in time. We did that at youth camp once and it was a lot of fun.

Friday, April 4, 2014

This Putin Thing Is Good News After All

I know everyone's up in arms about Putin invading the Crimea, then next, perhaps, Ukraine, and then the vorld! I am, too, since it's always been my belief that a guy ought to live a humble, peaceable life, for the greatest personal happiness and also for the good of the community. On this point, apparently I and the ex-KGB agent, for unknown reasons, disagree.

I actually sensed all along that the guy was bad news. There was his background, right away a red flag, so to speak. Then there was all that business of him having the actual control of the country even after they had elected a president. Then the macho pose he was striking for the last several years, killing bars with his bare hands like Daniel Boone, and shirtless to boot.

And when you get me going on this stuff -- stuff I'd much rather ignore -- it can be very unsettling. Because, being an old guy, I have clear memories of the old Soviet Union and the way they haunted my childhood. There was always talk of us being blown off the map, etc., which never happened, as it turns out, but as a child I didn't know it'd have a happy ending. I was also a child in Sunday School every week, so I went to bed each night with two terrors: a literal Hell and a literal Soviet Union. They vied for which might be worse. It wasn't till I was an adult that I realized they were people very much like us and not big raving monsters. And that was just Hell. As for the Soviets, the thought of Brezhnev's ugly blockhead and shadowy features still creeps me out.

Now, looking back over all that, except for my grief and that of millions of other kids, the key thing is it did have a happy ending. Despite Ronald Reagan's best efforts to keep the grief going, the Soviets finally crumbled on their own. And we thought we were home free.

Now all our enemies would be pipsqueaks we could swat like flies, our industrial might would transition to fulfill domestic and global peacetime plenty, and we would be free of Republican warmongering. Instead, we got brazen terrorism on the home front, industrialism shipped abroad, and Republicans up the ass, not only with warmongering but every other evil. This is not the world I signed up for when Gorbachev and Yeltsin were doing the right thing by committing national suicide.

So Putin's forays, gobbling up his neighbors and making feints at a larger global hegemony, might be good news after all. If it means we become more insular, nationally and industrially, we can have jobs and a better standard of living. If we're focused again on mutually assured destruction, hallelujah, because we know it's only a fiction. (And if it turns out not to be, at least we'll die heroically, not with a whimper as it'll be with global warming.) Speaking of global warming, troubles with the Russians is something the Republicans won't deny, so we'll be in it together. We can heal our divided nation, bringing reasonable people and these others, the crazies, back together.

I honestly think the best thing after this would be to give up the Internet to hackers, then at the height of their reverie, destroy the whole thing. Again, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, insularity and the fever of fearful nationalism is our only hope. And without computers and the Internet, we'll have an even better jobs outlook. Phone operators will be back, we'll be building filing cabinets once again, and getting to know our neighbors in a friendly way over coffee, not berating them in anonymous chat rooms and shocking them in endless sexting sessions.

Viva le Putin!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Death Year 2038 -- Living to 85

OK, as we all know, I'm going to live till I'm 85 years old. And we all know what year it is now. Which means, by the simple calculations I'm able to do, that my death year is 2038. (Depending on when my birthday is, it could go a certain extent into 2039, but you wouldn't really think I'd wait till the very last possible day, but who knows?)

I wonder what 2038 will be like for me, knowing what I know. It's a weird thing to contemplate, but I do believe it's still better to know. Because it frees me up in all the other years so I don't have to worry about it. It's a blessing knowing no random diseases are going to kill me till then -- very freeing. And I promise not to pray for an extension beyond 85, so 2038 (or into 2039) will be it.

I can't guarantee, though, that I won't be a little weird if it does come down to the very last day of my 85th year. Because I can't picture it just being a minute after midnight when I turn 85. Since I'd likely be in bed, and I fully expect to be conscious for death.  How about right after morning coffee? I make coffee around 5:40. I might tarry a little longer and enjoy my last cup. But what's the use of just one cup, when I have a full pot? It could be I'll drink it to the last drop, then go.

Or, it could be I'll live through lunch. But why eat if I'm going to die? I don't eat just for the enjoyment of it, but for sustenance, which implies a future. I've always thought the stupidest thing they do on Death Row is give the prisoners a last meal. It's a waste of food and time, watching the guy sop up the last bits of gravy.

That day, if I linger, I might make it till mid-afternoon. It actually makes sense that I would. My baby book says I was born around 3:30 p.m., so what time for my death would be more logical than that? It's probably encoded in my DNA. Still, there's no guarantee.

It could be the good Logos field will want me to have the beauty of a nice evening. I always love evenings -- a beautiful sunset, then the first appearing of the stars, the very last stars I'll ever behold in this present body. We came from the stars; that's also in my DNA. I can see my old withered body reaching for them, then die and mysteriously wing my upward flight, just a slow purposeful flapping upwards, mounting ever up, past the highest church steeples, and vanish in the great beyond.

Or, as we get later, maybe I will yet linger while time presses on. Between 8 and midnight, I see no reason to sleep. I'll probably go to my bookcase and say farewell to some old friends. I love the great authors. You know the ones. I can see me touching the spines of those great books, saying goodbye to each one and "See ya soon!" By now I'm wiping away a tear or two, thinking, "Today my precious treasures on the shelf, tomorrow 5 for a dollar at Goodwill."

If I make it to 10 or 11 -- I know I'll be tired, and yet surely I'll be easily revived. It can't be long now. Between 11 and 12, if it comes to that, I can see myself deep in prayer, and maybe even singing the old spiritual song I used to sing in church:
"Build me a cabin in the corner of gloryland,
In the shade of the tree of life that it may ever stand
Where I can hear the angels sing and shake Jesus' hand,
Build me a cabin in the corner of gloryland."
If I'm still here as it nears 12, I'm reaching out my arms. Old feeble arms I could barely lift at 80. Now they're sturdy and strong, as if iron, as I await my deliverance. Just before midnight, then, I ascend, my body falling gently, in slow motion, to my couch.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrating My 85-Year Lifespan

I'm really glad I'm going to live another 24 years, having recently discovered that I won't die till I'm 85. It's better than I expected, frankly, since I've been somewhat lethargic, tired, and feeling dragged down. But this news has really perked me up, big time!

Of course my resolution is really to live it up and make the most of my remaining time. Especially now that I know it's so much; I've been worried for nothing, but that's all over. I've changed my attitudes completely. No more wishing it was yesterday or tomorrow or next week and unnecessarily worrying over the challenges of the day. What are they gonna do, kill me? Not if I'm guaranteed another 24 years! I actually should've lived smarter all along, since wishing your life away only spoils the now.

So from now on, I won't even celebrate holidays till they're here. Christmas tree up on Christmas. Like that. Even boring things I will enjoy -- although I won't allow them to go any longer than I can absolutely stomach. I will enjoy everything. If people are singing to me "Happy Birthday," I will look from person to person, making meaningful, soulful eye contact. And so on. I will not make a bucket list, because it wastes too much time. My bucket list will be everything cool I can get to, not rushing one thing for another.

I will only do good in life, because I don't want to be known for bad, and because if I did bad I would waste precious time regretting it. But as for the credit of doing good, I will allow some quiet savoring, but not too much. If people want to pat me on the back for something good, I will allow it until it seems like overkill. And I will be the judge on what constitutes overkill, and the judge's decision will be final. There's really no reason to dwell on the past to the point of overkill.

I guess you could say I'm going to live the next 24 years like a Zen Buddhist. Which I understand to be like this: Appreciating everything to such a mind-boggling appreciative extent that some would say goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Picking up a handful of sand and arranging each tiny rock, or something ... I can do some of that. The key thing is to enjoy it, then not grasp as if to cling to it.

I think this really applies to flowers. All my previous 61 years, I've taken a glance at flowers and said, "Next!" But now will be different. In my remaining 24 years, each flower will be precious to me, like children of God. And grandchildren. Everything will be precious. I will even encourage people to catch and release fish. Or to not even catch them at all, just release them.

OK, I think you get the point. This is a "No Overkill Zone." I've no time to waste. I'm off to buy the prize turkey in the butcher's window. Then after a delicious meal I'll spend a little time seeking out newborn kittens.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Great News! I'll Die When I'm 85!

I've got great news! I don't die till I'm 85! Isn't that great? That means 24 more years of quality life right here on good old green Mother Earth. I can lay back and really enjoy myself now, without the day-to-day anxiety that shkitttt [throat-cutting phoneme].

And I actually have been very anxious, basically to the point of sweating through my jogging clothes, which I use for pajamas. Tossing and turning, sweating, staring at the ceiling, the physical pain's sometimes too much. I pray, calling out to the Logos field, then I remind myself that calling out isn't necessary, that its presence is in every cell. That's comforting, but, still, who wants to die? Not me.

Now, as you may recall, it just so happens that I have plenty of experience with Death as an entity, the force of death personified (see links below). I've been present when various ones have died. If interested, you can read about it. All that said, it's no big surprise that he appeared again, this time not in his usual black robe but in a white one, looking as kind as the Wizard of Oz in his human shyster form.

First, he thanked me for our friendship. I asked what he's been up to. He gave the throat-cutting phoneme, brevity being the heart of wit. Then we got down to business, my anxieties, with him asking if I really wanted to know. Finally, I nodded, adding, "I really really really really really really want to know..." At which point he said simply, "85. Mark it down." He touched my shoulder and imparted certain other knowledge without needing to speak. And with that he was gone.

"Oh boy! 85! Around 24 years of added life!" Because he didn't say it'd happen the day I turned 85. It could be the very last day of my 85th year! How about that! That's closer to 25 years! A whole quarter of a century! In joy, I sang the song "76 Trombones," knowing I have 9 more trombones than the title of the song, which is a ton of brass! The last time that much brass was in one place was when the Joint Chiefs told LBJ Vietnam was lost. Although it continued to burn.

OK, I said Death imparted to me certain other knowledge. In that were warnings, 1) that if I tried to commit suicide, the guarantee was off, and, 2) that foolhardy behavior such as playing on the interstate, deep-sea diving, and being a policeman in a tough metro area could be met by death. But "normal" foolhardy behavior, like eating wrong, not exercising enough, and quarrels at family reunions, would not be met by death, but could be met with physical/mental incapacitation. So if we get into it at a reunion next year I could be a vegetable for 23 years. Ouch. Reminder to Self: Leave weapons home.

Still, all this is OK; I can accept it. I'm not going to commit suicide. I'm not going to play on the interstate. I don't live anywhere near a sea. And I have no desire to be a cop. I will try my best to eat right. I hope to start exercising as soon as the spirit moves me. I'm going to do my best...

So 24 years left! Wow, that's great! No more anxiety. What shall I do first? You know what? 24 years is quite a while. I might lie in bed and read for a while. I'm a little drowsy. Then I've got the whole day before me!

Death Links:
Death -- I Now Pronounce You Dead
Out Drinking with Death
Death Goes to the Dentist with Me
Death -- When Your Number's Up
Walt's Suicide -- Death by Water
The Gaping Maw of Death (Woof! Woof!)
My Picnic With Death
The Chilling Hand of Death
Her Parachute Didn't Open

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Running for Governor -- Beggar Blowback

First, let me express my sincerest regrets for my blog post, "Beggars -- Don't Risk the Legal Liability." I agree it was insensitive and hurtful, and I apologize to anyone, especially beggars, who may have been offended. As it turns out, such unfeeling comments, particularly as regards begging veterans on every corner, are politically incorrect as well as detrimental to my future.

Of course you know I'm a candidate for governor of our great state, and you've probably seen in the paper my opponent capitalizing on my gaffe. The blowback was swift and certain, some of it sincere, with probably most of it being just another political knife to the back. The opposition was quick to pounce, as they no doubt would've been no matter what I'd said. I might be finished, although I can still hold out hope that the incumbent will say something worse.

I'm starting to hate politics. All the secrets you have to keep to be a credible candidate. Hey folks, I've lived life; I've been around the block; of course a few little peccadilloes are bound to accumulate. But I believe I can ride out the storm, just as long as all the messages and pictures are deleted as requested, and some of my aliases remain untraceable. Of course I'm kidding, just joking around a little before the election and the day I belly up to the public trough with the best of 'em.

Still, this beggar controversy beggars the imagination. Who knew these guys had their own agitating PAC? All this time I figured their money went into booze and ciggies, drugs and cheap hookers. It's a total surprise that they're actually political animals, pooling their resources and looking for an upper hand in society. They're more connected than you'd guess, probably because of their time on the street; they're nothing but social.

Now -- you know how it goes -- they're going to be on me about every little thing. You know the type; they'll take anything but a heartfelt apology. I could say "God bless you" and they'd crank up the slime machine: "Oh, so now you're blaspheming God! Who is this guy, thinking he has the right to order Almighty God around? Let alone insinuate himself between God and the average voter, seeking, no, demanding, God's favor! What is he implying, that decent Americans can't take care of their own religion?!"

These animals make my blood boil! Little did I know these skunks -- and I'm including my worthy opponent in that number -- would be the only thing standing between me and the governor's mansion. It's sad. It really is, that politics has descended literally to the gutter, where every cigarette butt is a prized possession.

Well, here is my solemn vow, yes, before God -- when elected, I likewise will use the levers of power, to do good for society in general, but to crush my opposition. The incumbent himself, all the way down to the gutter snipes he's using to undermine my character and candidacy. Assholes! I will grind them into the dust, and incarcerate any survivors.

The point is, I'm keeping my good spirits about me -- my optimism -- and I do stand behind my apology. If you've been offended, I'm truly sorry that you're so sensitive. I believe you should actually look at life through something other than rose-colored glasses. If you do, if you can manage that one simple little thing, I'm sure you will gladly cast your vote for me.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beggars -- Don't Risk the Legal Liability

I used to be the world's most generous soul with drifters and beggars. I have a history of helping some of these lost souls, not so much with money, but with rides, etc.

Ho! Just saying that recalls some examples. When I was a teenager I picked up an old guy named Howard Johnson and was carting him around like a pet guy. Took him to my teenage friend's place and he was hanging out with us, 60-something with us 17-year-olds. I even had some hitchhikers over to my place one night and they shared my bed while I slept on the couch. Of course to do that now would be ... the chances are nonexistent.

I'm still an extremely nice guy, just not that nice. Or should I say, not that crazy, foolhardy, and stupid. Because you can get into some real legal trouble with beggars. That's my contention, anyway, even though I don't have any personal experience of legal troubles. But look at some of these guys. Who looks more devious than them? Who's had more free time to study law books (like prisoners do) to know all the legal loopholes? Back when I was a kid, when I picked up Howard Johnson, we didn't have the internet, let alone the internet in libraries.

Here's how stingy I am, not out of meanness but a fear of legal liability: I will not give a beggar food! No way! Once you've given food, you are open to all kinds of liability. That's why restaurants have food licenses, are subject to periodic inspections, and have insurance. Because people can get sick from food-borne bacteria, and sue the pants off you. We go out for pizza and sometimes have three or four pieces left over. It'd be the kindest thing in the world to give it to beggars. Unfortunately, it's also stupid. The last thing I need is some beggar fingering me to the police. "That guy made me puke!"

One time I saw some guys walking down the street with leftover spaghetti. Spaghetti! Someone thought to save their spaghetti leftovers. Like it's not 99 cents at the grocery store for enough spaghetti to choke a horse. They'd apparently come from an Italian restaurant, because they were drunk and I guess Italian themselves, probably. So what did they do -- in their drunken condition -- but give the leftovers to four beggars. Who when I passed by were simultaneously eating their fill and consulting law books. If I were the idiots that gave it to them, I'd be changing my clothes in a back alley and looking for a quick facelift.

Whether a masterful disguise would really help, though, is up in the air. Because it's just as likely the beggars had attached a sensor to their clothes, with the ability then to zero in on them via their iPhone, to be able to track them after their "sickness" came on. "Hey, my belly hurts!" Dirty bastards.

Other than fear of legal troubles, which is 99% of it, I hesitate to give to all the "veterans" on the street. I know there has to be an actual veteran here or there down in the mouth, but are they really on every corner, every single day of the year! I don't think so, but maybe they are, since veterans have been used to many privations, maybe even being promoted all the way to generalizations. Forgive me. Even if they are veterans, there's no less a chance they might sue the pants off you. "He gave me a quarter coated with the polio bacilli! That's why I'm sick, that bastard!"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wise Man Kliptoph of Another Planet

You realize mankind is in big dutch, huge dog doo, right? Disasters, global warming, high gas prices, kids rotten to the core. How long I've thought the basic problem is an abundance of ignorance and a lack of wisdom! "What we need," I've said, "is wisdom from above ... either God or some Wise Man from Another Planet." But after all these years, from my first striving for wisdom at the age of four till now, I never expected anything to come of it.

Till the other night. I was messing with my Roku. You know the channels on Roku? There's the biggies, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus... Then there's thousands of unknown, obscure crazy channels, popping on and disappearing. Mega churches, fly-by-night movie channels, foreign barbarians, etc. I was watching this activity, the flashing and disappearing, when one flashed on and kept flashing. All it said was "Wise Man Kliptoph of Another Planet." I thought, Hmm, then I came under such a compulsion to click it that even Norton Internet Security couldn't have stopped me ... I thought they might have the great film Mutant Girl Scouts from Mars, so I clicked it.

But instead of movies the screen filled up with the image of a Wise Man from Another Planet. Obviously Kliptoph, and the broadcast was live! Not just an old VHS creature-feather bootlegged from YouTube. I watched the swirling black and white image on my color TV and was transfixed. All the apocalyptic problems of the ages registered as one solid image in my Ajna chakra: Man is in a sorry state. Multiple disasters. Death. Ignorance. No wisdom. Sloppy seconds.

At first I thought Kliptoph was just a dream, but he wasn't. I said, "Pinch me if I'm dreaming," and no one did. I asked why he'd appeared to me. He explained I was "The Chosen One," which was exactly what I've always wanted to hear, despite my years of ignorance, failure, and psychological instability. As "The Chosen One," I would deliver Kliptoph's words of wisdom to a world down in the mouth, on the edge, in the ditch, hopelessly mired, at its wits end.

I wondered how to inquire of him. "O mighty Kliptoph?" "Dearest Kliptoph?" "Heavenly Kliptoph?" "Kliptoph the All-Merciful?" "Kliptoph the Exalted?" "Above Average Kliptoph?" "Dreaded Kliptoph?" He said just "Kliptoph" would do, and since it would be just him and me he would assume I was talking to him, so even saying "Kliptoph" wouldn't be all that necessary. OK.

"What planet are you from, O mighty Kliptoph?" He looked at me with great beneficence, then answered, "Hagsmile." I had to laugh, having never seen a hag's smile I liked.

"Heavenly Kliptoph, what wisdom would you seek to impart to a world lost in foolishness and ignorance?" His eyes crossed in a transcendental way and veered upward, obviously into the vast library of his knowledge and understanding. I could see him mentally pulling from the stacks, assembling the materials together, and turning enormous mental pages while seeking up and down, looking for marginal notes. At that point it became an hour of non-stop teaching, most of which, because of my horrendous attention span, went in one ear and out the other.

So I'm sorry, it ain't much, but here's what I remember: 
A robofeath in the metulgrip is worth two in the bush ... An ootz of prevention is worth a pitz of cure ... Only you can prevent methane conflags ... You can't put a square plemp in a round plump ... Take all you can gusta, but gusta all you take ... She's too pultrix to be a minute over sovontwin ... Whatever doesn't termtomb me makes me girthulker ... The pombal doesn't fall far from the barkstilt ... You catch more flits with polsticky than with sarfunk ... Change your unhides everyday. You never know when you might have a failadunt and need to go to the medspital ... Always have kumpash. Remember, "There but for the divinsmil of Inscrut go I" ... Ask not what your patrum can do for you --- [transmission garbled] --- your patrum.
I feel wiser already, from just having been in Lord Kliptoph's lustrous presence. It's a lot more than I ever got from mere earthly sources. All praise to the extraterrestrial wisdom of Kliptoph the Exalted. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Krishna to the Rescue!

I had a terrible hard day's night last night at a church meeting. This one lady -- generally a real peach -- must've been having a tough time of it. Because she severely offended me. I was running through the list of things that I could do to retaliate: Smart off, walk out, scream, or throw something. But over the years I've mellowed, now knowing that to do any (or all) of these things is not wise; whereas I might feel great in the heat of the battle, it's tough to go back next time.

To me, that's one of the greatest lessons to learn. Life isn't a movie with a neat ending. In real life, there's always tomorrow, with your reputation on the line. And unless you're prepared to disappear to another city, state, or country, you're going to run into people at the grocery store, post office, or health club. "Hi, how ya doin', heh heh."

OK, I came home and did all the things you do in a situation like this. It preoccupied me. I thought of the Seinfeld episode where George thinks of what he should have said in an argument with a guy at work ("jerk store.") But I didn't just come up with one comeback but 40 or 50, none of which I could say in real life. As above, the problem is showing up next time.

Then it hit me, one of the oldest damned truths there is: If you're steaming mad, the only one you're hurting is yourself. So I did what I needed to do, reached for one of my many spiritual books, in this case the Bhagavad Gita. (A guy I used to know in Sunday School as kids, later when we were in college, "turned me on to" the Gita, as he called it, with Bhagavad apparently being something of an optional word.)

Really, Krishna is definitely one of the most understanding representations of God around. Am I right? He always seems to make just the right connection you need, whatever it is, since -- and most people don't know this -- he stands for your soul; there's no actual division. Hope I'm right about that. I probably am.

So thinking of this donnybrook last night, it was KRISHNA TO THE RESCUE! with this great verse:
One who works in devotion, who is a pure soul, and who controls his mind and senses, is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. Though always working, such a man is never entangled. 5:7
That put it in immediate context for me. I'm dear to the lady, she's dear to me. It's just a matter of controlling our mind and senses.

There's been lots of times I've gotten help like that. Just to mention a few -- not to brag, but maybe they'll be useful to you, too, in similar circumstances. How many times have I been denied some transient pleasure? I'm not usually, but it's been known to happen. Once I was mowing the half acre -- with the old push mower, no motor, 100 degrees -- and I was daydreaming about the last piece of DQ birthday ice cream cake. I kept going. But my Cousin Roto was in the house taking a nap. I got done, and of course the cake was gone! KRISHNA TO THE RESCUE!
The thoughts of my pure devotees dwell in me, their lives are surrendered to me, and they derive great satisfaction and bliss enlightening one another and conversing about me. 10:9
Roto and I conversed about the cake and the Gita. He's kind of dumb, but I eventually convinced him we were deriving great satisfaction and sharing bliss. And because of the cake, that he'd shared more than I.

Another big problem I tend to have has to do with getting old. Sometimes I envy the animals; they either don't know they're going to die or they simply don't care. I had this dog "Fritz" (Link 1; Link 2) years ago who knew he was going to die; he dragged himself under the stairs, like he wanted to die where I wouldn't find him so I wouldn't be sad. Of course I found him right away and cried like a baby. KRISHNA TO THE RESCUE!
For the soul there is never birth nor death nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. 2:20
There's a million problems in the naked city. These are only a few. But for every problem you or I may have, don't forget, Krishna's always there for you in the Bhagavad Gita, ready to RESCUE you.

Excerpts from Bhagavad-Gita As It Is by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, copyright 1972 by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Minimizing Things Through Expertise

Which came first, familiarity or contempt? We know familiarity breeds contempt, but what bred familiarity? It's the age-old question that I'm an expert in avoiding. Hence, if you want more questions than answers, look to me, who admittedly doesn't know much. And since I don't know much, to me everything looks huge. It's only the real experts who can take huge things and effectively minimize them.

You see, for the experts, big challenges are little. They have gained this perspective through study and experience, consolidating their gains until they're able to stride, Godlike, over their particular field of expertise. With the eventual payoff for them being a fresh pot of coffee.

I too have known things -- in the distant past -- in jobs I've had. I started out in the printing business, which since, now that I'm out of it, has made enormous progress in technology and techniques. I could never find a place in the industry now. But I always had the consolation that, lacking any other opportunity, I could go to Mexico and work, Mexico always being 20 years behind the United States in technology. But because it's been over 20 years since my departure, even Mexico has left me in the dust.

OK, let's turn to the experts and their minimizing. When I see a jet airliner I think, "What an enormous, awe-inspiring machine -- way beyond the Wright Brothers and their dinky plane. Now planes are vast in every way, with potential I can only wonder at." But to the expert pilot, it's just another day at the grind. He sees the airport looming, a mere 500 miles ahead, and says, "Let's set this bird down." Or, maybe there's a problem, they're approaching the wrong airport, and he casually says, "Let's turn this tin can around and get 'er to the right barn." And they make plans for a nice cup of coffee afterward.

Doctors are one of my favorite experts, since they're so obviously minimizing it, this time for the sake of ignorant patients and their ignorant loved ones. (I'd love to be a fly on the wall in hospitals, since this is a joy to watch.) Doctors see their relationship with them as familiar, while secretly knowing they know it all and we know nothing. So you have a consult where this kind of minimizing takes place: "This little rascal (the tumor) is about the size of my fingernail, nothing really. We'll get it out in two shakes of a lamb's tail -- lickety split -- and you can get on with your life."

But when he's with other doctors things aren't so rosy. "Even a single cell is of course enough to kill him a dozen times over, and it's already the size of a fingernail -- huge. I'm giving him only a .0038% chance of survival, and that's totally incapacitated. Now let's get coffee."

Even our men of the cloth -- our own minimizing term for the modern shaman, defanged in our estimation -- are holding back, having seen it all. "Your loved one has gone to a better place," they say, although they usually personalize it, increasing the minimizing: "Edgar's in a better place. You'll see him again." Were he to tell the truth, he'd have to bring in all kinds of competing theories of the afterlife, and even get into the whole thicket of theories on life itself. Everything from the universe being a vast living organism and all of us part of it down to our more typical view of the universe as dead matter with an omnipotent God, a larger version of ourselves, looking out for us. Take your pick, but remember, there's everything else in between.

So what's the problem? The parishioners would look at him with disgust, and he's expert enough to know it. Why bother, especially with a hot, steaming hot, piping hot, delicious pot of coffee waiting him back home.