Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve: Judgment Of The Storm

Well, it's New Year's Eve again, a day for looking back on the old year passing as well as the promises of the new year coming. Of course you always hope when you reach it that looking back will be a happy time, and looking forward will be even happier. Alas, it doesn't always work out that way.

I woke up this morning feeling a little tired. The dog's had something wrong with her, and I heard her loudly hacking about 2 in the morning. I got up to see what was going on and there was a little yellow puddle of spit-up on the rug by my bed. I took it to the hamper, the dog following me, who then made signs like she needed to go out. We went out and she took a No. 2, the whole thing then sticking to her fur and needing to be cleaned off in the sink. I felt a little nauseous and couldn't get back to sleep.

I finally did doze off, and woke up to a winter wonderland in progress -- snow. It's snowing still, so this must be the day for it. I had breakfast, the toast burnt (need to check the dial each time) and my eggs messed up, meaning the yolk was hard. I thought, Crap, if this is how New Year's is going to go ... but I said I wouldn't be depressed. The snow is coming down, it's white and piling up like crazy, I need to see it as something of a promise, a new start.

A new start was what I would have! Wouldn't it be great to go out in the storm, there to eat a few flakes as they fell, thereby saving myself a little extra work later shoveling. And I could use the time to take personal inventory, matching beautifully, I hoped, the newness of the day to the oldness of my life. I took a look in the mirror, swallowing my morning pills. What a lot of lines. What's happening to me?

I went out and kicked a bit of snow and immediately stubbed my toe on a big rock. It didn't hurt terribly, so I walked on, thinking, thinking, ever thinking -- I can't stop, sometimes my thinking is torture. Thinking of everything I've done wrong in the course of the year, and how tomorrow's not likely to be any better. I'm the guy, you may recall, who brags about his willpower. Well, so much for willpower; I'm still eating bad, not getting enough exercise, I'm tired all the time, and my dog's sick. If I don't die, it'll be a miracle.

In my walk I thought I'd wander away from the yard, get down the street, and maybe my perspective would be different. Of course my feet and legs aren't used to lifting that much wet snow, with more coming down all the time. I'm thinking, I could just collapse here and die of exposure. There's nobody out today, they wouldn't find me for a week. Or I could test my limits and keep going, which I did.

Along the way I started thinking of all my regrets and personal failings. Here I am, almost 60, one foot in the grave, and what have I really accomplished? One day is about the same as any other, there's never any personal progress. Sure, I fill out the Sudoku in the newspaper once in a while, the easy ones. I write my blog. And the dog needs me; she's on her last legs. But that's it. My big hopes of sailing the world, winning a fortune in Monaco, owning a picturesque chalet in Switzerland, writing a bestseller, being the Fifth Beatle, and becoming the CEO of IHOP, are obviously doomed to failure. I can't even adequately convey the misery this gives me.

Having walked about as far as I physically could, I looked over. What?! The dog had gotten herself trapped in a big wet drift. I had to go over and use up 99% of my remaining strength getting her and myself out, once I'd become trapped. That meant I only had 1% strength left to make it all the way home! Which, think about it, it can't be done! I have no reserve.

But somehow I got home. I don't know how. Maybe the dog dragged me -- uphill. She seems out of breath, more so than usual. I was seeing these terrible red flashes when I blinked my eyes right before I (apparently) passed out. Then I don't remember anything else. But here I am, typing this. I have a cup of hot coffee, although I spilled the first cup and burnt my leg.

Yet, I'm still hoping for a Happy New Year -- and even if it's with my last dying breath, that's going to be my wish for you, too -- but I just don't see how it's going to happen...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Come Back, Vam Moose!

What's in a name? A rose by any other name might run just as fast, especially if it was a literal-minded moose with a weird name like Vam Moose. You get it, right? His name sounds like the word that's synonymous with Scram! Evacuate promptly! and Git!

There's this kid, Seward, who brought Vam Moose home from the frozen wastelands of Alaska when he was a kid up there on vacation. Vam was very small, a baby.

So anyway, he's no longer in Alaska. He's down in the United States, Seward and his new moose, and he gives him this name, as I previously spelled it out, Vam Moose. Seward seriously wasn't expecting any trouble, but Vam Moose, being fairly smart, it seems, took it literally, and scrammed, evacuated promptly, and git every time he heard it.

Seward was out playing with Vam and he forgets and calls out, "Vam Moose!" and Vam immediately runs. And Vam runs fast. He has a very sleek coat, one of the sleekest coats young Seward has ever seen in his short life. The sleekness adds to Vam's speed, there being very little air resistance to ruffle his fur and hence slow him down. So once he gets going, he can't just stop on a dime.

Once Vam kept running so far away, Seward put up posters on every post in the country, saying he answers to the name Vam Moose. You can imagine what happened. Everyone who called out to Vam only caused him to run farther away. That time, Vam was finally spotted leaping over the Florida Everglades, that's how far south he went.

Seward got him home, and it seemed like it'd be a happy ending. But it wasn't, because Seward's mom was calling Vam over nicely to eat some food, Vam heard his name and kicked the crap out of the house, and went through a window. In the melee he managed to kick over his plate of food, which went everywhere, and also cut his leg pretty badly. Enough to have stitches, if they ever manage to get him to the vet.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

That One Chair

I thought he was a very debonair fellow, and so likely to be fairly memorable. We met him -- a close friend and I -- at a party we attended, around a pool with no one swimming and everyone enjoying barbecue.

The guy looked something like a retired ambassador, even a snob, but I recall he was nice. I remember telling him about my game toe, although admittedly it was just something I shared generally with the group, so it wasn't that I was focusing on him alone. His name was Troy, that much I remember. It actually didn't stick with me, the memory of his name, but if I sat and thought about it, sounding out various sounds in my head, I could come up with it.

A lot of acquaintances are like that. If you don't have some good reason to remember them, you don't. And with Troy, it was basically just that one time I saw him up till recently. Just a further word on it, I probably should have remembered him better, because he offered me services in whatever line of work he is in, something to do with either construction, equipment for rent, or apartment management. Not being in the market for anything, I made a mental note of it and promptly forgot.

Time passed by. Years. It's been almost two years since that night. When who do I run into but the same guy, downtown, eating at the same restaurant, chicken wings. "Hey!" He didn't call me by name, and I remembered his name only after we'd parted.

But my lack of memory isn't anything compared to the close friend referred to above. I was telling her that I'd run into Troy downtown. And she went, "Who?" I tried to describe him. We were at the barbecue, he was a debonair looking guy, his hair, his clothes, his line of work, etc., the kid and wife he claimed to have overseas, etc., but none of it rang a bell.

And I was thinking, trying to remember more, and said, "We were sitting here and he was sitting over there, you know, in that one chair." This was one of the clearest memories I had, besides his physical appearance -- being fairly debonair -- the chair he was seated on and where it was in relation to the rest of the guests. But, no, even that didn't ring a bell for her.

Some people's memories are terrible. But mine is pretty good, on average.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have A Transcendent Merry Christmas

It's that time again, time for us to share our best wishes for Christmas to each one. As the song says, "It's the most wonderful day of the year."

That's something to think about, "The most wonderful day of the year." The buildup to it takes over a month, then you get to "the most wonderful day of the year," and it's suddenly over. As far as days go, just speaking for myself, I'm so hepped up by it that I could crash at any time. Because it seems like there's a thin line between enjoying "the most wonderful day of the year" and being completely depressed.

Ah, but we'll leave the pathological aspects of the holiday aside for the day. Like guns, there's no good time to talk about such things. Not with every merchant in the world just scraping by and depending on us to keep our spending up. I've done my part, both to support online merchants as well as the occasional brick and mortar guy. As the mouse in the psychological experiment knows, we must must must keep plodding along. Don't want the local scientist to be down in the mouth ... not at Christmas.

This year I'm liking the Christmas message you see above, which I didn't write but have adopted as my own. "We hope this season will transcend all of its predecessors in Real Happiness!" Undoubtedly, some blockhead came up with that. Because more normally, we hear "Have the Merriest of Christmases," or "the Best Christmas Ever." That's all our blockhead said, only in a more convoluted way.

On the plus side of it, I like the word "transcend" and "transcendent," which you hardly ever hear, even in church. In this case, though, the transcending, you could argue, isn't transcending in any kind of mystical way, but is only transcending previous Christmases. Still, it's fairly cool, if you can somehow top all the previous ones.

That's my hope for you, that when it comes to your Christmas, assuming there's a way truly to qualify all this year's predecessors and how transcendent they've been in relation to one another, that this one will transcend all of them in Real Happiness!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Guns Guns: Kill Kill Kill Maniac Die

Our dear country, the United States of America, is being overrun by maniacal killers. Hardly a month goes by but an original killer followed by several copycats strikes, with the hideousness of their deeds sending our collective shock level to an all time high.

Gone, apparently, are the days when people knew better. Seriously, I remember a time when maniacs sat in rocking chairs rocking back and forth, intellectually unable to even say the word gun; they weren't imagining a massacre. And if he felt like committing suicide, he just did it -- he didn't take anyone with him. Those were the days. They'd find another guy hanging in the barn and that was it.

More or less, of course, you can't help it if you're a maniac. But the current breed of maniac seems to be in an entirely different class. In addition to being a maniac, they're very cold and calculating, able to assemble an arsenal as big as Fort Knox and keep it all on the sly, so that no one even has the slightest clue that they've turned their lonely apartment into an armed compound. Things have obviously changed when it comes to knowing our neighbors. We need more nosy neighbors, like on "Bewitched."

But not having that, we need to do something else. My suggestion is that we do anything that works, measured of course by a significant time passing in which no one pulls anything terrible.

I remember when I was a kid, somebody kept an eye on you. We were all pretty much normal -- I feel I was a normal kid, although, arguably a true maniac doesn't know he is one; to him everyone else is crazy. I, however, have looked at the issue of my own sanity "from both sides now" (Judy Collins), so I know, having that added level of perspective, that I am certifiably sane. I've seen my profile in the Akashic records.

I was going to say, back when I was a kid, in addition to them (family members) keeping an eye on us, they made sure we had the teaching, the grounding, to know the difference between right and wrong, and the consequences for doing wrong. And I haven't forgotten it. Grandpa and Grandma, from the time we were in our cradles till we were dropping out of junior high, would sing us a little song, full of good values:
You'll be a happy little fellow, yes you will,
If you don't steal and you don't kill.
You'll stay out of prison and you'll stay out of jail,
You'll be a happy little fellow, yes you will.
There was no second verse. You just repeated it forever, that one verse, making it easy enough to remember. Just one verse, but look at the values packed in there. Happiness, a guarantee of happiness. An if statement, happiness coming by refraining from stealing and killing. An alternative consequence, going to prison or jail, which, thank goodness, I was able to avoid.

Of course, most of our maniacs these days end up killing from one to three hundred other people before they kill themselves, so they're not worried about jail or prison. What the answer to that is, I'm not entirely sure. It might call for a second verse, to address the changed conditions. Or very very severe gun control, getting guns out of the hands of everyone. They say "law-abiding" citizens should be able to have a big arsenal, which is fine till they decide (usually without letting us know) to suddenly become criminals.

A guy I know said the maniacs could do the same dastardly killing with a pocket knife. To which I say, you can barely clean a fish with a pocket knife! You idiot.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Is My Art

Writing here, my occasional blog post, I now realize, is my art. I'm an artist, it turns out, as much as anyone. Only instead of dabbling with oils, watercolors, or other pigments, my art is the weaving, expression, and/or putting forth of words. Phonemes, sounds in the form of letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, with a good solid chunk of virtual type as the result.

The weird thing about it, if there is indeed anything weird about it, is that they never mentioned it quite like that in art class. They completely divided it up, as I recall, so art was painting, drawing, and molding (like the time I made my dad a clay ashtray about an inch thick), and writing was just an orphaned offshoot of English class. Looking back on it now, to me, that's weird. What's it got to do with English? You could just as easily write in some other language if you knew one.

Art class, though, obviously wasn't so strictly isolated. You don't even need to know how to talk to do art. You could grunt along, living in your old little world, and still make a halfway good ashtray. Or the Venus de Milo, were you so inclined. The foreign speaker would be at no disadvantage in doing art as my school narrowly defined it. He'd just babble out something incoherent, then dazzle the entire world with a painting of waterlilies.

I guess I must have had a good education in one sense: It laid the groundwork for me to come independently to this conclusion after around 50 years, that they were all wrong about art and writing. So that I can today declare, finally and definitively, writing is also art, and I'm writing, so I'm an artist. This is my art!

I was just in a bookstore today, true story. And if that's not enough, I was also at the library. And I saw a lot of books. Mostly crap, probably, certainly a lot of it I wouldn't be interested in reading. I more or less lump several genres in the crapper, like mysteries, true crime, popular religion titles, and certainly romance. For the most part, just to make a comparison to painting, these are the paint-by-number pictures of the writing world. It's a lot of hack work, churned out cynically and worth our scorn. Then there's the good stuff, actual literature, etc., etc.

Of course I classify my own blog posts in that last category. With the good stuff. Art as it was meant to be, nothing rushed out for an easy buck, but agonized over, and full of blood, sweat, and tears. Picasso couldn't do better. Monet, Manet, and Minet, all, would throw up their arms. And that makes me very proud. I'm to be envied. I use initiative to put ideas into motion, and nobody can say I don't. I love my art!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sarge: Of Men And Mousetraps

Here's another episode, entirely true, from the life of Sarge, a guy I also call Walt.

I hadn't seen Sarge (Walt) in some time. I was saving my money, trying to avoid handymen, if I could do it myself. But then I needed something only a specialist can handle, to have my mousetraps recalibrated. Too many are escaping, either scot-free or only minimally crippled.

Of course Sarge has the skills and tools for the job. He has a real touch with a mallet, a native intuition that puts man one with machine, a level of interaction I'm not good at at all, let alone being a master. For this particular task, you have to know exactly what to do to do it right, bringing together multiple skills, involving BBs, match-heads, and a careful awl. I stabbed my leg and managed to burn a toenail last time I tried it...

Anyway, Sarge came over, and we were out by the garage. He got out his mallet and began the meticulous work at hand. I sat there watching him with affection, making a mental note that the Old World techniques are almost a lost art. Kids today, who never escape our criticism, with their video games and parental pampering are total fools. Not like Walt. With the extra added bonus that he's able to tell a good yarn without referring to the idiocies of modern trivia. His stories go way back.

Here's something you might not believe. As man and tool worked along, and as I engaged him on the old days, Sarge seemed to become noticeably younger and more vital. And none more so than when I said something about Vietnam. I repeated the old (true) legend that I was "up for the draft" two times but my number was too high. Of course Walt had enlisted and worked his way up to being a sergeant.

Once he got going, his tongue loosened up, and the mousetraps starting to sparkle, I went for the jugular, referring to that one crazy son of a bitch he shot. (See the link above). He smiled but then played coy, "Which one?" I put my hands near my crotch and made a mock grimace, mimicking the desperation of a man signing to the world that everything that he once held dear had been blown to bits. Sarge laughed and said, "You remember that?" The gleam in my eye said yes.

We had a great time then, as Walt recounted once again the old, old story of perhaps one of his greatest moments. He was very paranoid in Nam, extremely paranoid. But it was well justified, because so many of our guys were so stoned and just full of crap by nature that you had to be afraid. So he (he had an office) arranged a gun under his desk, bolted there or affixed somehow, to get the better of any crazy guy who might try to take him.

And then it happened. This one stoned son of a bitch was pissed off about something -- these are Sarge's words -- and he was making moves that he was going to come over the desk, just totally crazy stuff. At the last possible second, to defend himself, Sarge reached under the desk and blew the guy's crotch off. It was such a horrendous mess they're probably still trying to clean it up! Or piece the guy back together! It'd be hell to come off a high like that only to realize it was friendly fire that gave your wife grounds for divorce!

But it happened, and I have to say I'm actually quite glad it did ... because Walt is a hell of a handyman, and I would've never known him if that stoned son of a bitch would've had his way. Sure, Sarge had to face a deposition, but the blood tests on the guy were such that he was cleared. So everyone's happy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Killer With Devil Eyes

What a terrible night it turned out to be! And I even left home telling myself nothing was going to happen, I would be fine. I thought I would be. I left with the best of intentions.

And then it happened... We were out, at a hamburger restaurant, where basically all they sell is hamburgers and french fries, and I looked out on the darkened night, then up at some of the other diners. Suddenly a guy turns around and makes eye contact with me for just a fraction of a second before he turned back to his meal. I felt a chill go up my already cool spine as the thought bore down on me: "The killer with devil eyes!" Or to flesh it out more completely, "Maybe that guy's the killer with devil eyes!"

Of course I don't know that he was. He didn't kill anyone right then, and as it turned out I wasn't killed later in the parking lot. Although, God knows, the night wasn't over yet. And I kept feeling that terrible chill.

The guy never looked at me again, not unless he was looking at my reflection in the window. Which I'll probably never know. But one think I do know, my thoughts were racing in my mind like lightning. The security I'd just felt was shattered. In one moment my world collapsed. Because how would I know? Even if it wasn't him, maybe the killer with devil eyes was somewhere nearby. Are our thoughts and fears ever false and/or coincidental?

I had a hard time eating my meal, which by now was getting cold, although I put up a fairly good facade of a guy still enjoying his meal. I picked at it. Was the killer behind me, one of the cooks? They seem like jolly good fellows, but what do you expect from a killer in the moments before he has the joy of killing?

Then I had another terrible thought: What about the two boys over there with their parents. They were like five and seven. If they're not currently killers, maybe they will be someday. One of them could very easily grow up to be the killer with devil eyes. After all, the mass murderers of tomorrow are already with us today. A few video games, an angry father, and too many greasy burgers, and a kid's suddenly off the beam.

We made our way to the car, me not stating my suspicions. I thought there's no reason to alarm my partner. Just get to the damned car, check the damned backseat before getting in, and head for home. And then it happened ... wouldn't you know it? The car was low on gas! I had to pull into a gas station. No one seemed to be following me. I pulled up to one of the front pumps, one where it'd be harder to block me in, and got out. I whispered a quick prayer, my eyes scanning the windows of the nearby apartment complex. The minute I saw a rifle barrel I would be down, my prayer being twofold, that he wouldn't blow up the gas pump, and that the receipt printer would work, sparing me an unprotected jaunt inside.

Thankfully, nothing happened. It wasn't my time, my number wasn't up. But the fear still remains. If not tonight, when? And where? Where is he, the killer with devil eyes? Is he a man ... or maybe a woman?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Whittier The Snowman

Finally, a Christmas character I can actually like, who brings the true joy of the season to all. No troubles, no conflict, he's simply happy. Whittier the Snowman.

I have to tell you, I'm really sick of conflict in Christmas shows. I was watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the other day, and this is what I'm talking about. Rudolph is bullied by everyone from his father to the younger reindeer to Santa Claus himself! Bullied because of his red nose. I'm sick of it. I can understand the younger reindeer; they're idiots. But his dad? And Santa Claus? How terrible. Santa's supposed to be a good guy, not a bully. So Rudolph, along with his similarly rejected dentist friend, have to leave the compound and run away on their own.

The conflict doesn't stop there, of course. There's the Bumble (the Abominable), the Island of Misfit Toys, and Burl Ives shivering and about to catch his death. There's so much trouble, I'm more depressed after watching it than I was before. You only have to hope Christmas will be foggy every year, just so Santa won't be stupid enough to reject Rudolph again.

One of these shows is on TV right now as I write this, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. I'm not watching it because I hate it passionately. I think that's the one where the town outlaws Christmas, or outlaws toys, or some such nonsense. Like the Republicans, they're violently opposed to common sense. So everyone's miserable, until something happens -- what I can't remember -- but it has a happy ending. I hate conflict. All I want, all I seriously desire at Christmas, is more or less a slice of life in some little Alpine village where everyone is absolutely happy, giving gifts, with no need to exchange because something's the wrong size. No one tries to outlaw anything everyone likes. It's the ending of Scrooge without the rest.

Frosty the Snowman was on a few days ago. I'm not crazy about this show either. A little because it's obvious they're just giving a stupid story to flesh out the song. But mostly because there's conflict in it. There's an evil magician (or whatever), then there's the kids' sadness with Frosty melting. But they deal with it creatively, in that "Christmas snow" can never remain melted. It comes back on Christmas Day, and as for Frosty, since just living on Christmas Day isn't much of a happy ending, he goes with Santa to live at the North Pole. Where, no doubt, Santa will bully him till he moves to Antarctica.

By the way, in Rudolph Santa also belittles the elves' song about filling Santa's shelves. He complains to Mama that he can't stand hearing that song, and that he wishes they'd all become dentists and run away so they'd finally leave him alone. And Mama's not exactly a benign character, since she's explicitly trying to fatten Santa up. In fact, he goes from thin to pants-poppingly fat in a quick cut from one scene to another. That's one dangerous wife!

Must we suffer everlasting conflict ... at Christmas time? It's even in the original Christmas Story itself, we have to suffer Herod trying to kill Jesus. It's a relief that Jesus grows up very fast and conquers the Roman Empire as His first official act. A hero I can admire.

Which brings us to another hero I can admire -- making two, Jesus and Whittier the Snowman.  But Whittier's story is even better than Jesus', because it has absolutely no conflict. Because your mind should be free and clear at the holidays, not having to put up with pain and anxiety.

Whittier's story goes like this. He's created one day by some happy children. He comes to life, and lives to a ripe old age and never dies. His age just gets riper all the time, but with no apparent aging. The people in his town share in his magnificent powers, living forever, or until Christmas is put away. Everyone is very very happy. Then spring comes and he melts -- happily, with no one mourning. All conflict is vanquished till after the holiday, at which point everyone's life gets back on track. See that? A happy story without conflict -- and I just read it again -- absolutely no contradictions to resolve.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Neglected, Rejected Christmas Song

There's a song we used to hear that is never played anymore. To me it's the weirdest, oddest, and strangest Christmas song, of those apparently not meant to be weird, odd, and strange.

Remember "There's a Star in the Sky"? I know if you do your mouth just dropped in horror, and you're likely objecting to the fact that someone dared mention it again. Wasn't that song safely excluded years ago from our common memory? Swept under the rug, never to be resurrected? In that case, I'm sorry ... but I was somehow reminded of it, by some involuntary brain tick.

Now that I've ventured out, I'll go further. I remember how this song would bring entire groups of people to a standstill. They might be gathered for Christmas, frolicking, with everyone in a good mood, joyous and giving gifts. You'd think we were one big happy family in common celebration. Then this song would come on -- usually played by a pirate radio station that happened to encroach on the normal radio band -- and every smile would vanish. Fangs would grow in people's mouths. Normal eyes -- blue, brown, hazel -- would turn red, and very beady. They'd breathe fire. Children would turn to devils, more so than usual.

I can easily remember my own feelings of dread and despondency. I would suddenly go quiet, then tear up, and finally -- this happened occasionally -- I would be depressed for weeks. Even writing about it as I am now is making me physically sick, not to mention the emotional toll it's taking. I might retch on my computer; Good God, seriously, I'm falling apart!

[OK, I'm back ... that was a terrible feeling ... 10 minutes ago ... let me sit here again and try to finish.]

The lyrics of the song (here I'm attempting a chuckle), must have been written by a monster. Like I said, I'm chuckling. I'm amused that they've been hidden in my memory all this time without subliminally destroying my life. I'm obviously a lot stronger than I sometimes give myself credit for. I thought they were gone forever, that I had erected a brick wall against them. But not so!

Remind yourself, should you dare:

"There's a song in the air, there's a star in the sky,
There's a mother's deep prayer, and a baby's low cry.
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger in Bethlehem cradles a king."

There's other lyrics but these are the only ones, thank goodness, still cluttering up valuable space in my consciousness.

What makes them so objectionable? It's hard to state the reasons in a definitive way. It beggars a full description, much like trying to say definitively why we're afraid of snakes. We just are; it's primal. In the case of the song, part of it has to be the terrible tune, itself enough to curdle fresh milk. And curl toes.

As for the lyrics, to say, "There's a song in the air, there's a star in the sky," it's a song speaking of a different song, then incongruously pointing randomly to the sky. It sounds like it was written with the express purpose of unsettling people. Then we're suddenly back on earth with some unspecified mother in prayer and a baby crying. They're both moving their lips, to me a disconcerting picture. But it's the third line, seriously, that really sends me over the edge, giving the full measure of revulsion, a star "raining fire" while some group of "beautiful" sing.

That's always made me nauseous, a star spitting and sputtering, raining, drenching the world with fire, and these weird "beautiful" singing. Bleh! It took me some time to realize it meant angels. If you mean angels, say angels. I got stuck on the bizarre imagery of the spewing star and the "beautiful" firebugs. It sounds devilish, demonic! Then it closes off with the line about the manger cradling a king, not itself a terrible line, but still horribly tainted by its surroundings. Plus, it's all so anonymous.

Now, lest you think this is just a hang-up of mine, ask yourself, why is this song so neglected? Why is it overlooked at Christmas, except, as I said, for fly-by-night pirate radio stations, whose only mission is to stir up trouble? "White Christmas" hasn't yet melted away. "Rudolph" every year still gets frequent flier miles. And all the rest. All except the dreaded "There's a Star in the Sky." It's kept out like a black sheep, totally excluded. No one likes it. No one wants it. It's the redheaded stepchild of music...

I'm really sorry for writing all this. Because I know it must have made you sick. Still, doesn't it seem like there should be some sort of statement, at least for the record of history, as to the place in the world of this one miserable song, so understandably neglected and rejected?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The 25 Days Of Christmas

Today, as I get into the spirit of the season, I'm going to start celebrating "The 25 Days of Christmas."

This is a personal celebration. I won't be checking in to keep everyone updated on it. I just feel that it's worth noting at the onset, with the additional hope that others might join me, also in their own silent way. We won't be communicating with each other regarding our joy.

The thought occurred to me this morning, that Christmas Day is the 25th. And what better way to lead up to it than with a thought, some token of recognition in advance of the great day? It could be anything, really, a holiday cookie, a special Christmas song, or perhaps a little eggnog, certainly a tasty treat if taken in moderation, because it always feels like I'm going to have convulsions if I drink too much.

But I have one little qualm. Today is already the 6th, meaning Christmas is around 20 days away. If you count the 6th as the first day, it's 19 days going through the 24th. That means I have a bunch of days to make up and no days to do it. So either I forget it till next year, or truncate it to "The 19/20 Days of Christmas," or just double up on Christmas moments to account for the first five days. I like to do things right, but in this case I simply can't. But to make something good out of a bad situation, like making lemonade out of lemons, I'm going to just do that, double up five times.

Obviously, I'm going to do this apart from blogging. If I put on a song right now, while I'm straining my brain to write, I wouldn't be able to enjoy as fully as I'd like. In fact I've always found that if I listen to music while writing the music goes incredibly fast. It might be a three minute song, but it feels like it's over in one minute, a testimony to how great my concentration is. I'm like a laser beam at the keyboard.

My thought, though, for today, celebrating the 1st and the 6th days of Christmas, would be much as I hinted at above, a holiday cookie and a great song. It might be "Rudolph" or "The Herald Angels." And of course I need to go to the store and get some cookies. I have plenty of Christmas music already. I'll try to get something chewy. Those are my favorite cookies.

This is going to be a great holiday for me ... and you. Christmas. 25 days for each of us to make the most of!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Playing Pregnancy Bingo

It's not extremely rare these days to see a pregnant woman. Not like the old days, when you had no idea where babies came from. It was all very hidden then, with long visits to aunts and staying inside behind dark shades.

I still think, even with the relatively frequent pregnancies you see, that there seems to be a lot more people born. So I'm guessing there's still a lot of confinement going on. And other ways of concealed carrying, like with tight clothes ... or very loose.

I mentioned the old days. Going back to that time, it was always worth a comment when you saw someone pregnant. Grandpa had a stock phrase for it, "Someone's been sleeping with a bull." Which was a strange comment for the imagination of us kids.

But these days, living as we do in our "Anything Goes" world -- with a lot of the common decencies of the old world now passe -- you not only see pregnant women, they've taken to normal activities! No more sneaking around to avoid rude comments and raised judgmental eyebrows.

From my own single, limited perspective, I see them around my town, meaning there has to be tons more out there, in towns and cities, doing heavens knows what. Just locally, I've seen them in pizza places, in the park, at the dog show, at parades, in church (!), and at the library, you name it!

I made up a little Bingo game for myself, just to see how I'd do in seeing them various places. I made it both easy and a little challenging. Like Sudoku, I don't want it too easy and I don't want it impossible.

Some of them are going to be very tough, like "standing up in the bus," since I hardly ever ride the bus, and no one else does either, so they're not standing much. Some of them will be very easy, like "pushing an older baby in a stroller," since where better to look? If they crossed the line once recently, recidivism is to be expected.

Again, I don't go to many high school football games, so the chances of seeing a pregnant cheerleader at a football game aren't great. For this I might need to rely on hearsay from the older town guys at the coffee shop. They've all had season tickets since the '50s. And hanging out at an adult bookstore isn't my normal activity, but it might be worth a few visits just to satisfy my curiosity ... about how many pregnancies there would be. Where would you expect more? It's all they're thinking of.

A few of the categories point to some of the more unpleasant aspects of our modern world, like, "Walking with a guy maybe the father." This one might be tough to verify, depending perhaps on how close they are to the adult bookstore. Farther away, it might be the dad. Closer, it could be anyone. Or "smoking." Smoking while pregnant was more common when I was a kid -- I still have a secondhand cough. But these days it's actually looked down on.

It shouldn't be hard to find a pregnant woman in line at the post office. Since they have ten lines and one guy working, when I go in for a stamp it takes all day. That'll give me a lot of time for a pregnant woman to show up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Could've Been A Pilot

Twenty minutes ago I was taking my dog Underbrush out for her final pee of the night. It's a clear night, and I always look up, hoping to see whatever stars happen to be out. Tonight, though, my eye was captured by a crystal clear plane going from one side of the sky to the other, lights blinking. He was doing it right.

Looking up at that beautiful craft, as I did, I felt a lot of emotions surging in my psyche. I had the emotion of relief, for one, that I am smart enough to realize it's just a plane and not a UFO. For had it been a UFO, that would've been awful. But the bigger emotion I had was one of wistfulness for the past, and all I could've been.

Seriously, it never occurred to me when I was a kid that I might be a pilot. Not once. And I was a kid who slept in the southeastern bedroom, the same direction of the airport here, where I saw the green and white lights flashing through the sky every night. I was always thinking of the airport, even though it was just a local airport and not anything major.

Now, though, that I'm grown up, and more naturally given to wistfulness about what might have been -- I'm rich in regrets -- I'm thinking, Why didn't I go into the piloting business? How cool it would have been to be jetting across the country with a front row seat on the destination. I'd be walking through an airport with my co-pilot, in a nice suit, with a carry-on bag, heading for the exit, ready to go cross country. And I would never have been like some of the bad eggs you hear of, guys who try to fly drunk. That's reprehensible to me in every way!

But what would it have taken? 1) Ambition to do it; 2) Applying myself to get the right education; 3) Then going for it! That's basically it. (Heck, had I been a pilot I would've been retiring right about now, since it is almost my 60th birthday. I believe I heard that pilots (jet airliner pilots) have to retire around 60.) But how great would those years have been. Instead of sitting here, basically vegetating in my grandparents' old house. Nursing along my game toe, from an accident that likely wouldn't have happened had I been a pilot.

That's not to say pilots don't have accidents. Some of the worst accidents in history have been caused by pilot error. The whole plane goes down. You crash in the mountains, or you crash at sea. Everyone dies, including you. There's a whole investigation, and very possibly your name and memory are mud. I was in a waiting room one time with an ex-pilot, true story. He told me a story of himself somehow missing the runway, or overshooting the runway, with the plane then going nose down or off to the side somehow. And with that one little accident he was out of a job. Smacking a mountain, if you survive, multiplies the penalty.

Still, I've been pretty lucky. I haven't had real bad luck. So I probably would've been a successful pilot, had I only done it. By now I would've been an expert in the various facts of aerodynamics. But now it's never going to happen, that's for sure. Too much time has slipped by. And so ... here I stand in my back yard with a pissing dog, watching other guys fly by. It's sad.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The King Of Group Dynamics Returns

Oh God, it's been a long time! A long time coming, baby! Getting back to group dynamics. Where I ought to be.

Here's how it happened. I met a guy at a restaurant downtown, who told me he was in the inspiring talking biz. Roger was in town for a two day thing at the Holiday Inn, giving talks on "How You Can Be Your Best." And he was a little down because on the second day he'd had a surprise resignation, he said, one of the group facilitators for the discussion portion of his presentation.

I got a big fat grin on my face, and he, making something of an intuitive leap, said, "What? You?" I gave a real sly smile and said, simply, "You got it, Ace. I'm an old timer in the group dynamics biz!" We'd already shaken hands a couple times, once upon meeting and once upon agreeing that the coffee was good, but he extended his hand a third time, each of us having found, at least temporarily, something of a soul mate. (We later were to shake hands a fourth time, upon departing.)

We talked it over. He wanted to know how good I was. He pointed to a couple over by the wall. She was crying, he was looking at the newspaper. He quizzed me: "What's up with them?" I said, "She's sad and he's stubborn," just like that passing the audition. This would have been a prime opportunity for shaking hands again, especially with me adding, "And a hot chick like that, he should be kissing her feet!"

I met him later at the Holiday Inn. He had a nice room overlooking an indoor pool, probably heated. I noted the close proximity of his room to the ice machine, and discerned he might be an alcoholic. I asked for my money upfront, which he was apparently used to, as he offered no resistance.

Imagine then my lack of surprise when I returned at 6 p.m. (the meeting would start at 7), to find him passed out in a drunken stupor, and ice scattered everywhere. I had no alternative, since I'm such a die-hard freak for group dynamics, but to borrow one of his nicest suits and head down to the meeting room. I figured, you know, a subject like "How To Be Your Best" would be something I could easily wing, because, frankly, who's better than me?

At the meeting room, I reviewed the Three R's of Group Dynamics: 1) aRrange, 2) Reconnoiter; and, 3) Ruminate. Since I'm the originator of the 3 R's, it took me very little effort to master them. As far as aRranging goes, the tables looked fine, the podium, and the windows. I said a prayer for luck and expertise.

Some of Roger's other helpers were there, checking people in. They didn't know me, but I assured them Roger was fine, only passed out cold, and that I had his personal blessing. One of them had charge of the multimedia and I quickly reviewed the points. It was all standard stuff, like "You can be your best, Believe in yourself, You're the only you," and some interesting things about having learned in Kindergarten everything you need to know. I suddenly realized, If that's true, I wasted seven years of my life before finally dropping out...

The crowd gathered. Many of them looked like whatever inferiority complex they had coming in was justified. They'd be putty in my hands. My opening was, "Each one of you is the best person here. What do I mean by that? I mean exactly what I said: Each one of you is the best person here." With everyone sufficiently complimented, I got into the meat of my presentation. I stepped through the various truisms of the subject, then we broke into groups.

I told them they would need one leader and one secretary/reporter, because we would be sharing our "findings." My honest opinion is this is always a waste of everyone's time, but, hey, it's on their dime. Anyway, it gave me a chance to stretch out and flex my group dynamics muscles, with lots of reconnoitering and ruminating. I gave a nice shoulder pat to each leader and a thumbs up to each secretary/reporter, making them delve into the subject that much more diligently.

When we reconvened the group, I honored their diligence by faux-wiping my brow and saying, "That was a lot of great work, a lot of work!" A spontaneous demonstration was their response, with the several tables of participants hoisting their leaders and secretaries on their shoulders and parading them into the hall and back. I took this as a monumental testimony to my group dynamics chops.

The secretaries gave their reports, that "Being Your Best" is simply a matter of making it happen, as each of us has the hidden potential and its immediate fulfillment upon this discovery and acting to make it happen. I joked, "I hate to say that I just worked myself out of a job, but that's exactly what's happened!" The honor was all theirs, I said, heaping upon them effusive, prolonged praise. I've always found this is the number one group dynamics technique for them to give me even greater honor. We hugged tenderly.

The whole thing was over in two short hours. I returned to Roger's room just as he was coming to. He was all anxious about the meeting "coming up," and was frantic when he heard it was already over. "What the sam hell!" he bellowed, "Why didn't you wake me up?!" I told him he was too drunk -- drunk as a skunk -- and that I had covered it.

He had no choice but to admit that he had been bested by ... the best!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Bad Breakfast Means A Bad Morning

You know me, I'm never one to complain. I've done pretty good keeping it in. But there comes a time when even I -- I, with the patience of Job -- finally have to say enough is enough.

I am getting very frustrated, very tired, and frankly very put out with certain restaurants. Of course I'm talking about the ones that never seem to have enough food on hand, so that they have to make multiple runs to the grocery store while you're sitting there waiting.

The meal that I really notice it happening most egregiously is breakfast. Whether they simply have no faith anyone's going to come to their place the next day, or whatever it is, it's getting increasingly frustrating for me to be sitting there waiting for breakfast, only to have them running out of food. And the worst part is they try to conceal it, meaning you have to wait even longer in apparent ignorance.

There's a few places where this doesn't happen, of course, usually the more established chain restaurants. It's always the local places, where no one's buying in bulk, and where they're more or less scrimping by. But in my opinion all they're doing by the penny-pinching and/or lack of planning for the next day is only driving customers away. I for one am about finished...

This became a serious problem for me at a restaurant that's a very cool restaurant, at least in appearance. They have a real nice, quiet atmosphere, mainly, it seems, because other people must be fed up with the poor service. But we still go there occasionally, always thinking maybe they will have learned their lesson. We've been there three times in the last month or so. Will I never learn?

A couple times back, I made a terrible mistake: I ordered a small orange juice. I wasn't thinking anything about it, assuming they'd have enough juice to cover a small order. But no! They brought the juice to me, which had obviously started out a few dribbles in the bottom of a pitcher, but then was watered down sufficiently to mostly fill my glass. I called the waitress over and complained, which I'm not one to do. A half hour later, literally a half hour, she came back with a fresh glass. In the meantime, who knows what had happened back there! Someone had to go out for new juice!

The next time, it was more than that. The menu had a few things crossed out, things they couldn't make real fast, along with prices changed with little scraps of masking tape, like they were updating them constantly depending on whether the grocery store had sales going on. Naturally I didn't order orange juice. I figured coffee would be safe, and bacon seemed like something they'd have in stock, and eggs. My companion had pancakes and a fruit cup.

We got our coffee right away, and I thought, Magnifique! Then it was only a matter of getting our food. Which, unfortunately, turned out to be, as they say, easier said than done. As we waited, my companion tapping his watch, the waitress was a no-show.

After a while, since I was getting cold, I went out to the car to get my jacket. The place must be behind on paying their heat bill, too. While there, I looked up and -- what?! -- the waitress, the manager, and apparently a couple of cooks, two guys in tall white hats, were coming quickly around the corner with a full shopping cart. They pushed it around back.

I returned to the table and told my companion what was going on. He shook his head in disbelief. Then 15 minutes later, here comes our food, the waitress only moderately out of breath. She apologized for the inconvenience and told us there had been a problem with the humidity, so the cook was having trouble getting the eggs right, sunny side up. Very flimsy excuse. But she'd take the coffee off the bill.

In the end, I decided to just mess with her. I asked for Tabasco. She looked at me in disbelief, turned rapidly, and ran out the front door.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Valuable 1941 Nickel

Somehow -- I don't want to give away too much about how I got it -- I came across a valuable old coin, a 1941 Jefferson nickel. I had change in my pocket, I emptied it out, and there it was, a genuine 1941 old coin, just like that. I didn't do a single thing, knowingly or unknowingly, to end up with it!

Before I got it I was feeling perfectly normal. After discovering it I pulled down the shades and started googling it. According to a site called "Cointrackers," there were hundreds of millions of these made. But since it's from 1941, there aren't a lot of them left in circulation.

As to the coin's value, the Cointrackers site said it ranges from 35 cents to $7.00, which is a damned lot for a nickel. $7.00! Meaning, I wasn't going to put it in a parking meter. And actually, except for this blog post, I wasn't even flashing it around willy-nilly. Only to certain people who could be trusted.

I took it around to some of the coin shops of my town. I moved all my ordinary change over to my left pocket and kept the '41 nickel alone in my right pocket. I went to Todd's Used Coins first. Todd was out for lunch, but the girl at the counter, taking a quick look at the nickel, immediately paged him, and he came right over. He looked at it, verifying for me that it was indeed a 1941 nickel, and that the visage on its face was a picture of Thomas Jefferson. He looked it up in a book, then wrote a number on a slip of paper and passed it to me. I looked and he had made me an offer of 25 cents.

I thanked Todd for his time but went on. Another place, right next door, is called the Universal Coin Emporium, or U.C.E. I went in and the owner -- the oldest guy in the shop -- met me. I asked if I could share my find with him, and he was amenable to it. He was very nice, in fact. He asked if it would be better to have a small black cloth for a background, which he provided. The nickel looked great on the cloth.

He said, "Ahhh, yes," in a very satisfied way, and checked it out carefully, front and back. He also was able to verify its province in time and place, that it was an American coin, to be precise a nickel, from 1941, with Jefferson's visage on one side. He pulled down a coin guide off the shelf and referred to it, announcing that the "tails" side was a building having to do with Jefferson called "Monticello." It looks like it has a dome on it. Very curious!

This guy -- I didn't catch his name and he didn't say -- offered me 75 cents for it, American money. I thought, you know, that's definitely a step in the right direction, but far from 7 bucks. On the other hand, he said, being a coin shop, he's buying things for resale, so he needs to make a profit. Anyway, he said, he would probably price it at $5.00, because there's some wear, and it might take him a while to sell it. When I turned down his offer, he said he might go $1.25, but not a penny more.

I wrapped it up in the black cloth and left, wanting to try one more place. A place called Dick's Coins, "If It's Money, We Want It!" emblazoned on his window, door, and even a bumper sticker on the car out front. Dick was very busy and really couldn't be bothered. But still, after I waited for an hour, making myself very conspicuous, through a lot of heavy sighing and tapping my watch, he made time for me. He came over and was very nice, "Let me see the damned thing..." He looked at it, and acted like they were a dime a dozen, to coin a phrase, and tossed it back at me.

I went slinking back to the guy at the Emporium, proudly, and told him I'd take the $1.25. And he was happy to pay it. I asked for the payment in coins, hoping to score another collectible, but they all turned out to be regular 2010-12 quarters. Nothing valuable. But enough for a couple cans of soda, pretty good for a nickel!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Halloween, Thanks To A Payday Loan

We want everyone to have a Happy Halloween, which should go without saying. But of course there's always a few folks who won't be able to, due to the bad economy, or perhaps just because they're naturally poor.

Everyone's story's a little different; people's situations and circumstances vary, so you're likely to see anything. There's folks who are filthy rich, easily able to afford to hand out entire boxes of Whitman samplers to Trick or Treaters. Then there's medium-wealthy folks, going for the premium chocolates, only not by the entire box. A larger group is the middle class, giving away decent enough candy, but strictly limiting it, to say maybe one or two candy bars. You go on and people get progressively poorer, all the way down to the folks who steal apples just to have something, anything to hand out. Then worse, those who are so dirt poor, they not only don't give anything, they steal from the kids when their backs are turned!

In there somewhere, probably with the dirt poor and the apple stealers, you have a few well-intentioned folks, who really feel the embarrassment of poverty, and the shame that is theirs that they can't participate fully in the holiday. So kids egg their house, or tent, or what have you. Halloween can be a very dangerous holiday when you have disappointed kids. I remember when I was young. There was a couple of old folks. Their excuse was they lived on a "fixed income." So the old wife made this crap that we hated, called "Divinity." Big mistake.

So me and some of the bigger kids cut down a telephone pole, and muscling it as a gang with quite a bit of force, drove it right through their front door like a battering ram. Our momentum was so fierce we went right through the opposite wall, leaving their place a shambles. One or both of the old folks later committed suicide in their garage. And the story doesn't end there. Later some other people moved in, and I don't know what it was -- the bad vibe? the karma? the possibility that it was haunted? -- but the husband of the later couple also committed suicide in the same garage.

Obviously, it's important to get Halloween right. And now, finally, poverty isn't an excuse. Because you can take out a payday loan, or get a title loan on your car, to make Halloween as good as it should be! I got the flier above in the mail today, and I thought, Finally! What great news! If you need a costume, they've got money to lend. Or candy, decorations, and party supplies, they've got you covered. With payday loans up to $500.

Yes, you can get a good start doing Halloween right for $500. Although if you want to get one of the deluxe Kiss costumes, they're actually $499.95, so that might not be the costume you'd get. For that you'd probably need to take in the title of your car, because you could get up to $5,000, which naturally would be enough to cover quite a bit more celebration. Sure, your car's in hock, and you'll play hell getting it out with what are presumably fairly high interest rates, but at least you'll have the fun of that one day. If you're really lucky, or really diligent, you might get it paid off just in time for a new loan next year!

But just imagine, you really could have quite a bit of fun. A genuine Batman costume is also $499.95. Get one of those, a few Kiss costumes, a bunch of big tombstones for your yard, and some of the expensive animated ghouls that jump out of their caskets, plus candy, etc., etc., and you'll be the hit of the block. What kid wouldn't love you! Of course it's also nice to have a car, but as trade-offs go, giving up your car for a decent Halloween, it's a no-brainer.

Don't let your empty wallet scare you! Have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This Halloween You Die!

'Tis the season of monsters, ghouls, evil witches, and zombies. Halloween is once again upon us. They all want to be scared. Well, I've got a prophecy for you, and a very reliable at that ... this year everyone's going to have something to be genuinely scared about. Mark my words!

We used to walk through the graveyard and always think how cool it'd be if it really opened up and ghosts were chasing everyone around. We always thought that's the kind of world we need to live in. Every year we'd lose X number of people to the ghosts. The authorities would try to forbid Halloween, of course, through their constant misguided desire for "public safety," but naturally we'd rebel and go out.

What a wild night it'd be! That was our fantasy. To be in actual spooky danger and not just the tiresome danger we normally get, from neighborhood psychos, depressed mass murderers, etc. No one thinks that's any fun, for whatever reason. We wanted ghosts, monsters, real ghouls.

To have actual supernatural phenomena, that's different. We can't fight them on equal footing. They've got powers beyond our own, the ability to recompose decomposed bodies, to become invisible, and to throw fire, etc. They rise up, maybe with a mouth ten inches tall and very narrow. They're melting before our eyes. They're embedded in someone and clawing their way out of someone's stomach. There's no end to the danger.

OK, here's my bold  prophecy: This is the year it happens! This year the lid of hell is coming off!

Mark it and mark it well, heed it! It's happening this year! It's starting this year! Halloween will be a terrific mess all over the world. Children, teenagers, and adults who've never grown up will not be coming home! Big steam pits will open under their feet! The dead will rise this year, on Halloween! Monsters will roam the land. There will be all kinds of misty fog over cemeteries, even in places whether there isn't the slightest humidity. Spirits will materialize and drag the living to their demise.

Halloween -- starting this year -- is going to be as terrible as anything we've ever heard of. The fires of hell will erupt, and the devil himself will be flying over our cities. I've already seen it in vision. And as for the monsters, just to elaborate, there won't be anything to stop them. And this includes some of the classic Universal monsters -- Dracula, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, and others -- they will literally be out in force.

The terrible thing about all this is that no one will likely heed my warning. I expect people to think Halloween is going to be the usual bit of "fun" that it always is. Going for a bunch of candy, like always, even though it leads to diabetes. We still look at it as harmless.

How terrible, that you will not listen. Those who invoke the spirits will be destroyed. Please, please, stay home, and keep your doors bolted.

If there's any good in Halloween at all -- and it's small -- it's this, that the ones consumed this year -- our children, our loved ones -- will reappear next Halloween. We the living, those left behind, those missing them, will be able to catch one more glimpse of our loved ones, just before they attack us and drag us, as well, to a hideous death.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You Got Anything To Say?

Please tell me, is anyone out there having good conversations anymore? I'm wondering if it's just me, but I'm not generally even overhearing good conversations anymore, let alone being a participant in them.

Maybe this is something that just requires a certain setting that's outside my lifestyle as I'm living it these days, such as a bar and several pitchers of beer. Since I don't do that, I wouldn't know if that's still happening. Still, like I said above, I'm out and around, and I'm not overhearing anyone else really into it either.

My mouth used to work. Used to. I remember it flapping all the time, with big crazy laughs and flights of imagination. I was thinking of this a while ago, some of the big ambitions we came up with in conversations, like making video documentaries. But none of it ever happened. I still think of it when I'm watching a video documentary: "We could've made this!" Big stuff, big plans. Now what is there? Everyone's snipping funny pictures of dogs and sharing them on Facebook. Conversation these days is, "Pray for me, I've got a disease."

There's work conversations, of course, as short and sweet as possible, just to get it over with. And conversations with your doctor, who's always in a great hurry and can't be held back. Beyond that, waitresses seating you, the guy at the grocery store, nothing. I got into a tiny conversation with the guy at the grocery store. It turned out that he and I were born the same year.

As for anything, though, if I'm not reading a book, nothing's getting through. Authors have a lot to say. The actual in-the-flesh encounters aren't yielding much. Leading me to think, indeed, there is really nothing left to talk about. Which doesn't sound entirely convincing.

It must really have something to do with aging. We already know, whatever our ambitions are, they're crazy, as well as our opinions. So to preserve what reputation for sanity we have, we've just shut up.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Three-Fold Hallelujah

As part of my spiritual regimen, in meditation, I've been chanting the Three-fold Hallelujah. It goes like this: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah," then a pause.

I know, just seeing it in print like that doesn't tell you much. But here's how it sounds: The first Hallelujah is said in a strong voice at a particular pitch. The second is completely identical to the first. Then the third drops the "-lujah" part down a note, making it lower. Followed by a pause that is silence.

Whether this does me any good, objectively, I don't really have the standing to make that determination. However, subjectively, I know it does. In recent days, I've seen the sky ripped in half and great visions of heaven. But enough about that.

So, I was describing all this to my minister, who listened carefully and respectfully, then tried it himself, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah." He paused and did it again, and said, "Yes, that sounds like a very good thing to say. I like it."

Then he asked me a strange question that I wasn't expecting: "Which Hallelujah of the three do you like the most?"

Hmm, that's really a tough question, isn't it? because I think each one has its good points. And I'd hate to have to pick just one, because what would be the point? It's the Three-fold Hallelujah, not a chant with only one Hallelujah. I looked at him, searching his face for a clue; was he putting me on? But his face, as usual, when he sets it in a determined way, was stolid, unflinching, unwavering, and, I hate to say it, without a hint of mercy. I felt a trickle of sweat burst forth on my forehead, and knew I was probably flushed, and suddenly seemingly vulnerable under his piercing, unrelenting stare.

Since I couldn't escape, I began reasoning it out: The first and second Hallelujahs are identical. The third is the only one distinctively on its own. So what it comes down to is this: Do I prefer of the ones that are doubly pronounced or the one standing alone? And beyond that fact, what of the sound? Do I prefer the first and second's tone or the third's? Does doubling make the first and second tones less precious, playing on the third's distinctiveness? Or is the third somehow inferior because it does stand alone? The first and second seem like they're being said as a progression worthy of eternity, with a single focus of concentration, and even bliss. The third, one might argue, in its denouement is something of a let-down, even an unfortunate claim that eternity is not real, and an expression that only finiteness (it being the third of three) is real. That would be depressing, although I'd have to argue, every good thing has to end, except, of course, eternity itself, presumably.

So I'm thinking, thinking, thinking, worrying, stewing, busting a vein over my answer. I look over and, in the meantime, Pastor has turned away and is filing a bushel basket of old sermons. He sees me return to life, and I tell him my choice: I prefer the second Hallelujah. Even though it's identical to the first, still it has a place in the order. It repeats the first, true, but it also leads to the third. And even though the third is the third, with all the problems that might suggest, without a third you wouldn't have three. And the fact that it is the denouement and with its lower note is something of a let-down, it does make a legitimate third, whereas a third identical to the first and the second would simply terminate the sequence ambiguously. As it is, in relation to the third, the second is the last note of real strength. So the middle one, for me that's where it's happening.

I urge you to consider this as part of your own spiritual life, the Three-fold Hallelujah. But it might be best not to tell anyone, so they don't put you on the spot.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 Days Hath September

I came out of my self-imposed hibernation to wish everyone a Happy 30 Days Hath September Day!

This is one of the first days most of us ever heard of. When I was growing up, learning about the days of the year, no lesson would be complete without mentioning it. And thank God, because it rolls around every year.

Other than that, there's not much to say about it. Although, just giving it a minute's thought, wouldn't it be wild to have your birthday on September 30? As many people do, no doubt. Since no one can help when they're born. It's all up to their mom and dad. Still, let's say you were born on Sept. 30, and they were teaching you the calendar and your birthday and "30 days hath September" were the same day! You'd never forget it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Water -- A Great Diluting Agent

This post is about some troubles I've been having with heartburn. If you've ever had heartburn, you know what I'm talking about. You get this basically indescribable bad feeling in your throat. It feels like something you wish would go away.

At this point, I'm dealing with it myself. When it first flared up, I took antacid tablets, and they soothed the burning sensation. But then I had an appointment with the doctor, so I told him about it, and he prescribed some medicine for me. I took the medicine right along, very faithfully.

But I started noticing some weird stuff going on that, according to research on the web, are side effects. Unpleasant, disagreeable stuff, like loss of balance, dizziness, and vertigo. I took a trip out of state and the drive was rough. I had to stop every half hour or so and get out and stumble around just to get myself mentally halfway back on track.

So when I got home... I should back up... On the road I still wasn't really chalking up the weird stuff as side effects of the heartburn medicine. I didn't know. It was much later that the thought came to me that it could be a result of the meds, and I only thought of it when the loss of balance became so much worse. Peeing on the wall was the last straw.

I quit the meds, and everyday became just a little bit better. Finally the bad side effects were more or less gone. But guess what came back, the heartburn!

OK, this is where water comes in. I thought, hmmm, water is used to dilute things. You always hear it. If you want to dilute something, use water. Then I'm thinking, there's something in my stomach that's not quite right; if I dilute it with water, that might make it better. To a certain extent, but not fully, I've done that. I have drunk maybe an extra three or four glasses of water in the last few days. And I might drink one in the next couple minutes, thanks to me writing this and having it fresh in my mind!

Well, maybe it's what they call psychosomatic, or the positive benefits of wishful thinking, but I actually think it's helping. My heartburn isn't near as bad. Water is part of it, plus I have taken a grand total of two antacid tablets today. And another thing, which is extremely tough for me to do, I've been trying to chew my food just a little more than usual. Because I heard once that a big part of digestion has to do with chewing more. But for me it's tough, because I like to gobble my food down so I can have more time for more interesting things. That, and my teeth aren't the greatest and I don't want to overburden them with chewing.

I really think the water thing might help, drinking more. Because, aren't I right? Isn't water what they use for dilution? I've never really heard of them diluting stuff with anything but water. If I get better, thanks to water, I might literally save a fortune in doctor fees. It's worth a try!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Our Hungry Feathered Friends

I'm updating everyone on how my feeding of our feathered friends is going, which I mentioned two months ago.

I would say everything has gone apace, pretty much like you would expect. When our fine feathered friends get the taste for food, it's very hard to shake them of it, and I haven't tried! They're still here eating! All I can say is, What an appetite!

It's even starting to look like maybe I'm now the only thing between them and extinction. Because they'd probably starve quite literally to death if it weren't for me. They're all so lazy, all they do is hang out in the trees and wait for me to divvy it out. Which, as long as my health and my budget hold out, I will do. But if something happens to me, they'll probably all die. Of course I'm very proud to know I'm so necessary to nature's continuation as far as being alive, not dead.

This is my vow to our feathered friends: As long as there's a hungry feathered friend anywhere in the world, my job is not done. I don't care if it takes me to every continent, to every country, and to every city and town, and every backyard in every town, they are going to eat. And as to the food, I don't care what it costs. I'll take out loans if I have to. I'll hold fundraisers. I'll sell pancakes to the neighbors, anything to get the seed, whatever it takes.

You want to hear my lowest point in this whole thing? I had a terrible rash -- a terrible rash -- break out on my left arm, the underside. I treated it myself for a week but it kept getting worse. I put Listerine on it, Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, and tons of soap, but nothing would help. Then it suddenly occurred to me. Maybe in feeding our feathered friends, I had come in contact with some kind of bacteria, the creeping crud. I said one morning, I won't feed them anymore. Because it might've gotten worse. But then I went to the doctor and he said he didn't think the feathered friends had anything to do with it. He gave me medicine and it's clearing up very well, except for some red discoloration (scarring?) that's still there.

So the upshot to that is, I didn't stop the feedings. Our feathered friends are getting their daily portions. And there's a ton of them! I want them to use the honor system, not to sit and eat more than they need, as long as others are waiting in the trees, but it's real hard to regulate.

Everyday I'm up before they are, getting the feeder filled, etc., and refreshing the water, and everyone is very very happy. I've done a lot for them, but they've also done a lot for me. They've certainly taught me the importance of breakfast, which doctors say is the most important meal of the day. That's obviously true for our feathered friends. It's so important they literally fly in for it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Believe In An America

I believe in an America where a man can start his underpants down around his ankles, and by pulling them up can get them around his waist and cover his ass.

I believe in an America where it's up to each man to tend to his own underpants. Who knows better than each man himself, in the privacy of his castle, where his underpants stand? He can look down without any help from anyone and see whether they're on. And if they're not, he can get them up over his feet, lift them up next to his ankles, then pull them up around his waist and cover his ass.

Be he rich or be he poor, if he has a place to stand, only momentarily, this is a task, a effort, an undertaking, he can accomplish.

The pilgrims and pioneers, we know, were the ones who started it all. They came over on ships, and according to the old world standards, a fact of history to be accepted and, with all due allowance made to varying cultural mores the world over, not to be deprecated, they were bare butt naked. Totally naked but for a kind of smock or tunic or robe, meant for the most part to keep them from being totally naked. It wasn't much, but they called it clothes. It helped keep them warm. But one thing it did not do -- it did not do this -- it did not cover their ass in that total way that underpants does. They could still feel the sway of their natural assets. They were uncomfortable with the chafing, but what were they to do, having grown up with different cultural mores, and totally idiotic ones at that.

Well, when they got to America, some Guiding Divine Providence, perhaps it was God, opened their eyes, that they might realize that except for those smocks or tunics, they were naked. So they sewed the first primitive underpants from leaves and weeds. And from there it was a hop, skip, and jump to the more comfortable cloth underpants we know today.

Boys and men came together around the sacred circle. The chieftain was in the middle with the communal supply. Then, and I know this sounds weird, all the participants ran around the perimeter of the circle, until they were nothing but a blur. One by one, and in some unconscious order, similar to the motions of birds, they spun inward, and accepted a pair of underpants from the chieftain. He made a silent sign to each, and each, individually, performed the ritual of getting his underpants around his ankles, then pulling them up to the waist secure, so they covered his ass.

And evermore may it be. We are not a naked race. We are proudly clothed. We wear underpants here in the America I believe in, in the America I know, and ever shall.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hair In The Bathtub Drain

I stand amazed in the presence of a hair clog, and wonder how it could ever be, eight to ten hairs and a tub backed up, threatening to run over. You're that close to catastrophe, simply because water can't find a way around a few pestilent hairs!

Hair in the drain, that's all it takes. You could build a dam out of hair and get just as good results. Beavers could skip the gnawing of trees and just lay in some hair. Lay in a few hairs in a random pattern and the water will stand forever!

You couldn't do it with rocks. If you put rocks in the tub, the water would still find a way around them, and down the drain it'd go. Or anything else except hair. Paper, bricks, even a nuclear bomb. You can't plug a bathtub with a nuclear bomb. It can't be done. Only hair. Hair and nothing else.

Somehow hair, by its fineness, has an immediate ability to form a watertight seal, and stops water in its tracks from draining out. I had a hair clog in the tub. (This anecdote is based on a true story of what could conceivably happen.) It literally took two men, seasoned plumbers, working all night, and they couldn't break through or remove a measly ten hairs! And I thought it'd be cheaper to pay by the hair and not the hour! Boy, was I wrong!

Some of the memorable hair blocks that I've seen, other than that one, and they run the gamut, would be:

1) Fairly good flow -- Only a single hair
2) Moderate flow -- A couple more hairs
3) Impeded flow -- Five to six hairs
4) Essentially blocked -- Seven to eight hairs
5) Completely blocked -- Nine still drains after some hours, 10 is hopeless. Anything greater, the hopelessness simply intensifies.

What can we do about it? There's nothing we can do. It's going to happen. Alternately, we could clean the drain after every use. And if everyone could somehow stop losing hair all the time, that would be the perfect solution.

Here's how I've found it's best to clean a hair clog: If you can get a good hold on it, it's easier to pull out. But pulling one or two hairs at a time is time consuming as well as frustrating. The best method is whatever takes the least amount of time and effort, like most things.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ice Can't Sink A Ship

Where have I been? I haven't written much lately. That's no accident, because I've been very blah and not feeling up to it. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the political scene. Presidential elections get to me. The Republicans are so completely shitty as a party, anytime the country flirts with putting one of those bastards in power again, the consequences being so mindblowingly horrendous, it's enough to depress any reasonable person. Which I am.

But then, like today, when I hear of something also revolting to me, although truthfully not as revolting, I just have to shake off the doldrums and come out and state my case. So, like the tortured genius artist with his first album of original material in 10 years, here I am again, today to offer a well-deserved defense of ice. That's right, ice, the slick stuff that water turns into when it goes from its liquid self to a harder shape.

All this has come about because I just happened to see part of a show on National Geographic about the Italian cruise ship that sank a few months ago. What was it called? The Cordon Bleu or something like that. I need to Google it. Oh yeah, the Costa Concordia. It was an accident that costa lot, and left very little concord with the passengers, who might have been eating Cordon Bleu, till it all went down.

As far as accidents go, I don't really know much about it. It seems like a rather minor thing to someone like me who doesn't know much about it. Most of the folks got help, I'm assuming. Whether anyone died, I don't remember. Be that as it may, that's not my point. That's not what outraged me enough to shake off my politically-induced blahs and come back to writing. If you had 100 people trip over the same little crack on the sidewalk, three or four of them would die. Next paragraph! 

What I saw on the show -- and I only saw about a minute and a half of it -- was that ice was the cause of the rip in the ship. Or at least, That's their claim! For I have a very hard time, an impossible time, believing that ice can do that much damage. And if it turns out I'm wrong, then so be it, but I don't think so. Still, if I am wrong, and presented with enough evidence to convince a staunch unbeliever, I will be the first to confess it. But I don't think that's going to happen.

The charge -- the false charge -- is that ice was the culprit! That the ship, apparently veering off course, slid up against a bunch of ice -- frozen water -- and somehow (no one knows how) it managed to cut a lengthwise hole in the ship, basically from the front to the back. This then, they claim, opened up what they call compartments of dead air, that then allowed a situation where air was going out and water was going in. To me, that's a standoff. But to the so-called experts, water beats air every time.

OK, so last night as I was thinking of this subject and thinking how I might mount a credible defense of ice, I had a glass of iced tea in front of me. I clinked the ice around a bit. It tinkled, that's all. I swished it harder, and the noise was a little louder. Then I sloshed it like the town drunk, and it made a somewhat louder noise, but in no case, no matter how hard I sloshed it, did the ice cut a hole in the glass. And, mind you, the glass was plastic, not the tougher material they make ships out of, iron. 

The results of my experiment prove that ice is harmless.

I've seen films of ships busting through ice. And never have I seen a ship go down in it. At least not very often. Meaning there had to be some other reason for the accident. Whatever else it could have been is anyone's guess. It just could not have been ice. OK?