Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dancing Tornadoes Away

With everything we're facing from global warming, and our leaders having no political will to pull our ass out of the fire, we're going to have to try something to make it better. I know around here we're about frantic with all the tornado watches, warnings, and actual visitations -- HELL! ... Excuse me, there went another one, a full twister ... just carried away the neighbor's shed! If he sees me looking, I'll have to go help with cleanup, so I'm going to keep writing...

Of course, I've been wracking my brain, thinking, Show me a way! We can't live like this. That's the third tornado just this morning. And the night was worse, since an EF5 interrupted one of my major dreams, the one where all the hedonists who've, incidentally, somehow managed to pass with flying colors a battery of sexual disease tests, are just settling in for a luxurious orgy here on the grounds. Then I'm woke up by the shutters flying off the house -- dammit! -- the tornado just grazing the place.

Anyway, I'm wracking my brain, and an idea comes to me, something I'm seriously going to try. I don't think it's been tried yet. If so, it hasn't done much good, so they must not be doing it right. That's dancing the tornadoes away. The idea just came to me, because there's some analogy there, a tornado is twisting the night away and that's what we do when we're dancing. It's fighting fire with fire; you've got a trouble, you combat it with the same trouble; a kid eats too much chocolate, you force feed him chocolate till it's running out his ears, he either quits, dies, or kills you.

Think about it: What if mankind stood up to these SOB tornadoes rather than running and hiding? You can't run from a bully. The bully will never let you live it down. He'll be on you everyday until you finally stand up. It reminds me of the story of "The Geese and the Poodle," one of my old stories. We had geese that let a poodle chase them, till they got tired. Then they flipped around and chased him, almost scaring him to death. He tucked his tail between his legs, or would've had it reached, and ran ... and he'd probably be running still, years later, if I hadn't let him in the house (1), and (2) if he hadn't died some months later from an unrelated car running over him in the drive.

So, what if we just stood up to the tornadoes and fought fire with fire! Meaning, we dance! We get all mankind, everyone in the state, out there when there's a tornado, morning, noon, and night, dancing up a storm! The jitterbug, the fox trot, even slow dancing. But you say the tornado, being an inanimate thing and not conscious, won't care. But maybe there is consciousness there. The yogis teach the same cosmic consciousness is in everything, so that could be our trump card. Our dancing and the consciousness in us, and the tornado and the consciousness in it, come together ... it's a beautiful thing. Beyond that, we have the pebbles in the pond theory, like in time travel movies, that every change in life, no matter how small, has unknown consequences. Running hasn't helped. We need a different pebble.

Holy crap! A tornado just went across the field on the other side of the road. It took out a cow. There go milk prices!

This might even become a moneymaker for me. Because until the idea catches on, I can hand out fliers and business cards (you can get 300 of them online for 10 bucks), and stand out in people's yards and dance the tornado away from their house. I'll do it myself and collect all the money. Or get a partner and cut him or her in for 30%, since it's my idea and I'm entitled to more. Most people don't get hit. So if a tornado doesn't show up 99% of the time, even if my idea lacks in basic science, it's still going to be apparently successful. Safe customers mean happy customers means big bucks!

Maybe the native peoples of the world knew this all along. They've been doing rain dances for centuries, and appeasing the gods by sacrificing virgins, the whole thing. My idea might not be that crazy.

Friends, I need to quit. Another tornado just touched down on the half acre, and I think the blackberry patch is gone. I saw some smaller thorns fly by the window. I need to get my boogie shoes on and find my groove thang. Someone's got to stop this SOB. That someone is me!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Me and Wordsworth's Dogs

At the end of William Wordsworth's huge poem, "The Prelude," in the Modern Library edition being almost 220 pages, longer than any poem I'm ever going to write, he says, "Oh! yet a few short years of useful life, And all will be complete..." That tells me he was an old man at that point; he lived to be 80. Which is only 20 years older than me!

All this matters today for my blog because of one passage I want to celebrate, from Book Four, lines 93-190, which has some good stuff about his dog. I have lots of thoughts about dogs. One, I'm glad a great poet like Wordsworth took time to write about his dog. He's all right.

Of course, when I read it, I have to think of my own beloved dog. Who would've made a great dog for the great poet, had she not been born in the wrong time and place for it. On the positive side, she was born in exactly the right time and place to be my dog. So that's equally cool. She beat the odds. Because I'm happy to say, If you're not going to be Wordsworth's dog, you may as well be mine. Not second best, mind you, but equal or better. When it comes to poems, Wordsworth has me beat, but not at dogs.

I want to lift out some bits from Wordsworth's poem about his dog. Wordsworth had been away from his home and stomping grounds, at school, far enough away he had to stay there most of the year. Then he's back for summer vacation, then he goes up in the heights, the rocky crags around there, thinking up poetry and getting the inspiration from a favorite romantic locale.

At lines 93ff, he says his dog, a rough terrier, was among his favorites "whom it pleased me well / To see again..." I bet! Who wouldn't want to get home and see his dog? But this is more. Wordsworth was out there kindling "with the stir, / The fermentation, and the vernal heat / Of poesy, affecting private shades..." In other words, his poetic impulses were sizzling hot. But what of his dog? He continues, "Like a sick Lover, then this dog was used / To watch me, an attendant and a friend..." And this even though Wordsworth was so absorbed in his poetic inspirations that he had to halt walking a hundred times, making the dog somewhat tired and uneasy.

LOL. Of course I can relate to the dog's faithful presence. My dog's right here as I write, watching me with concern as I virtually tear my hair out, what's left of it, trying to get every word just right. I have very demanding readers and a very easy-going dog, which means if the situation were reversed, I'd be taking the dog for a walk with a constant lash at my back, or any number of other means of goading someone along. But my dog's very patient.

I'm running long, so I'll summarize the rest of Wordsworth's section on his dog. I like it how he celebrates an especially good burst of poetic inspiration by darting toward his dog and caressing him repeatedly "with stormy joy..." Then they'd be walking along and he'd give Wordsworth advance notice of anyone they'd be meeting on the way. The alert meant Wordsworth hushed his voice, since he was thinking out loud. The dog saved Wordsworth's reputation! Lines 129f, he says people would've started "piteous rumors" about him, saying that he was "crazed in brain."

My dog tries to help me like that, a little. Say I'm writing a blog, she barks anytime I'm about to hit the "Publish" button, knowing I'm only digging my hole deeper. You only see the crap that gets through, you should see what she prevents!

Back to Mr. W. In lines 131-190, he doesn't mention the dog much. Here, though, he's writing as the old man in the present time, not so much remembering past memories. So in lines 182ff, he sat in "the sheltered coppice" and heard "the straggling wind" in the hazel leaves, and it reminded him of his dog: "a breath-like sound, / Quick as the pantings of the faithful dog, / The off and on companion of my walk..." That gets me! How wistful! The straggling wind reminds him of his dog's panting. But of course the dog is now long gone.

I know my dog's getting up there, 14 years old and in failing health. Years from now -- let's say I survive another 20 years -- I'm going to be looking at photos of my dog and ... whatever. But at least I have pictures. Wordsworth had what? The straggling wind. And a great memory.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Men's Underwear -- 2013 Vs. 1913

I always said I wouldn't get involved in these pointless debates of what they had in the past vs. what we have now. For one, who is there to debate with? If we're talking about 2013 vs. 1913, there's plenty of us, but very few people from 1913. And even if they were from 1913, they wouldn't have stayed in 1913, they'd be right here with us in 2013.

This has been a constant with me, ever since I saw the episode of "Bewitched" where Benjamin Franklin comes back from the past and is immediately driving a fire truck. Those from the past adhere to the things of their time only until they're brought to the future. It's something of a law, The Past Adherence/Present Forbearance Law, unless you can think of something snappier.

If we're debating, let's say, the relative merits of men's underwear from 1913 vs. 2013, were we to bring a guy here from 1913, he'd probably say the underwear of 2013 is better. And for another reason, simply because the average man from any time doesn't have any real reason to tout the underwear of his time particularly; he's not cheering for 1913, per se, but only looking for comfort, in addition, of course, to good value and other qualities.

But these debates come up anyway, because we really have this urge to compare ourselves to someone else and take sides, whether for our own self image, or, it's conceivable because someone actually believes there's merit in it. Like I said, I've always said I didn't want to get involved in such things, but -- forgive me -- this one is too interesting to simply let it go. I really would like to see a decent debate over the underwear of 2013 vs. that of 1913. And you know what, I truly believe 2013 would kick 1913's ass!

It's been a hundred years, folks, and the issue has dragged on for too many years: Is the men's underwear of 2013 truly superior to that of 1913? I'm going to say yes.

Just looking at the picture, the underwear of 1913 looks pretty tough, too tough for me. I'll give 1913 this, their underwear definitely looks durable. But who really wants that toughness? You'd be sleeping, if you were lucky enough to get to sleep, and you'd feel the toughness of that fabric. A gunny sack would be more comfortable. But the picture from 2013 shows a lighter fabric, something that breathes, something that goes with your body, not against it. It's definitely going to be more comfortable. We've made strides since those dark days when it comes to fabric. The pictures don't lie.

Another thing, going by the above presentation, the guy from 1913 himself looks like a tough old buzzard, whereas our 2013 contemporary looks cool, calm, and collected. It's something about the underwear -- Mr. 1913 turned into some kind of mountain man/hermit, with no access to a razor, with it having something to do with the underwear. Maybe he didn't want anyone to see that weird codpiece on him.

OK, I'm getting too negative. Instead, I want to focus on the qualities of 2013's underwear, and that will keep things more positive. First, I like the way the straps on the shoulders are so delicate, fitting like a dream. But look at our friend from 1913, it's definitely a tight fit at the neck; he's going to be itching all night. Then there's the legs. 2013 has shorts, much more comfortable, unless it's winter, in which case 1913 has the upper hand, not forgetting for a second the lack of comfort in the fabric.

Finally, notice that 2013 has a smile on his face. But 1913 is looking somewhat more dour, even perplexed at what's happening: Have I somehow traveled into the future and met a man who's going to taunt me for my old fashioned underwear? I'm buttoned up tight, but look at him, loose as a goose. Were we to strip down to our bare nubbins, he'd beat me in a heartbeat. He'd be nude in a jiffy while I was still fidgeting with my neck piece. Then he'd be under the covers just that quick, that nubile 100-year-younger flesh pressed against the satin sheets, waiting for me, an older and more experienced man to crawl in with him. Imagine that, a guilt-free roll in the hay, since I'm from 100 years in the past and no one knows me. I could be Rip Van Winkle for all this guy knows. And they're not expecting me back in 1913. I think I'll go for it. And maybe he'll turn me on to some halfway decent underwear when it's all over. Then next week I'll have a job driving a modern fire truck, putting out other fires. Hey, baby boy, come to Poppa...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I Inked A Pact With The Police

I recently inked a pact with the police department. The basic terms state that I'll stay as good as I am, and that they will behave themselves regarding me. Now, according to the pact, when they see me in my car or yard or uptown, they'll remember I'm OK (good) and go about their business.

This is an old law, I guess, maybe a tradition, my grandpa told me about one time. They used to do it all the time, back when the police was more or less a ragtag organization of everyday citizens. They couldn't be everywhere at once. So your basic good citizen, like my grandpa back then, or me now, goes in for the pact-inking ceremony, and everything's hunky dory from then on. I've talked about it with others and hardly anyone's ever heard of it.

But the police still know, at least they did when I showed up. I filled in the paperwork and the whole thing was arranged. I went in and inked the pact with the chief and some of his underlings, sharing a ceremonial donut to seal the deal, which I don't eat in other circumstances. We exchanged handshakes, and as a sign of citizen-servanthood, showing my spirit, I spit-polished the chief's badge.

On my way out, the whole team of officers formed rows and a walkway down the center of the station for the chief to walk me to the door, where I promptly embarked my car and drove away in adherence to the speed limit. A little under the limit, actually, as an expression of good faith.

OK, I'm good all the time. So why do this obscure official ceremony? I think there's a lot of value in it. It formally reminds the police of their role in society, that they're there to serve. And for me, or anyone, that I'm here to be a good citizen, supporting the various pillars of good order. We're looking out for one another, something I take very seriously.

Now, for the absolute truth, they being a force, and being a multitude of individuals, have a tougher job of regulating themselves. All it takes is one bad apple. So they naturally benefit more from the ceremony, reminding themselves of their duties and giving them something to consciously live up to. Also, they can exert peer pressure on any potential bad apple in the bunch. If they can behave themselves in relation to me, and others who've inked a pact, that carries over for benefits to society as a whole.

But I'm just one person. So as for me, the ceremony has lesser value, except to protect me from them. Because I already know I'm going to behave myself even without having inked a pact. But I suppose it's good to be reminded. It could happen, say I was a lesser individual, that I might have a brain fart and go ballistic on society. (Don't worry, I won't.) But with our pact, if I felt that coming on, I could reread the pact and make more honorable decisions on guiding myself in society. Again, the whole thought of any of that happening, me going ballistic, is ridiculous. However, with the pact, it's even more farfetched.

Ultimately, the law and law enforcement are for those who have not the restraint. With the pact completely inked, and with any concerns the police may have ever had about me gone, they are now that much freer to deal with those other people.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day -- Honor Your Deceased Loves

Our condolences to the Burns family.
We know the summer of 1893 was a very tough time for you.

Memorial Day has to be one of the greatest holidays. It speaks to us of the weird rhythm of life: One minute you're here, the next you're gone. I know I've thought of this rhythm even since I was a kid, playing dead under my sheets. Our deceased loves seemed fine the last time we saw them, then the news came they were gone. We shook a vain fist at Heaven, but it was all so inscrutable, not a single word of response.

Of course, nothing has changed. So what can we do? There's not much we can do, but give them a Memorial Day they'd be proud of. And if we do, maybe there will be that much more chance somebody someday will do the same for us.

It's grim, death being no respecter of persons. I personally know my relatives were saints, every one of them, and yet this had to go and happen. There ought to be some benefit for doing so much good ... not that they'd ever expect it, that's how good they were. Whole cloth.

But no, Death is a reality for everyone -- the conqueror worm and all that -- the one great fact of life. We're here, we're gone, just like that. It's enough sorrow to drive us crazy. So thank goodness for Memorial Day, standing as it does as a little island of remembrance, a place between life and death ... even though it does cause me to get a little misty in the eyes. And morbid. I think curious thoughts, about how they look now, after all these years. Clothes rotting away, by now fingernails a mile long.

I've got quite a few deceased loves, so I generally make the long, tiring trek, traipsing out to the various cemeteries. Years ago, somebody in the family should've organized things so everyone would've been buried in one mass grave. It'd be a lot more convenient for me, but they did what they did. The worst thing about it is fighting the crowds on those narrow little cemetery roads, which weren't made for two way traffic. Horse and buggy days.

The biggest thing I hate about the crowds, besides the traffic, is seeing their disgusting plastic flower arrangements and other crap. Dime store windmills, styrofoam crosses. You think you're honoring someone with that stuff? Yeah, the stockholders of Tacky Industries, probably churning it out in Asian sweatshops with people paid a dime a year and no benefits, and locked in the factories besides. Give me good old fashioned real flowers, and crosses of genuine wood, and decent durable windmills that a ghost kid can play with for eternity.

I know I'm on my soapbox, don't get me started. But while I have the floor, let me rail against one other thing: The terrible "gravestones" (not even that) these cheapskate families have for their deceased loves. Now I'm started, I may as well finish! It's scandalous the number of temporary markers originally put up by the funeral home 30 years ago that are still there. I don't know what happened exactly. Maybe they went to Vegas and blew all the insurance money. Or maybe ... and I hate to judge ... their love for the deceased wasn't all it should be. That's not undying devotion, that's slovenliness, which I think is one of the Seven Fatal Sins, Seven Major Sins, or Seven Unforgivable Sins, whatever it's called. But ... anything! If you saved only $100 a year for 30 years, you'd still have $3,000 for a halfway small monument, which would be better than nothing. Those are the people I can't stand.

I'm proud to say, all my deceased loves have memorials erected. And I personally really didn't do much to make it happen. When they first gave up the ghost, those who were on the scene did what was necessary to make it happen, skipped meals, whatever. Then they died, and others died, and there's still a few left besides me. Hopefully, when I finally kick off, there'll be someone left to put up a modest 10 foot stone. I prefer they be bold. Tell the funeral director right to his face, we're going to be ordering a stone, so be in your office Monday morning bright and early. Go down to the quarry and get something good!

On a serious note, this Memorial Day, we as a nation have a lot of extra dead to be grieving over, of course. Just like every year, there's always some tragedy that hits the news, and strikes a cord with us, be it a mass murder, a natural disaster, or a plane wreck. It's especially bad if it happens all at once. We might have 300,000 people die one at a time, and no one cares, but you get 40 or 50 at once and it really hits home.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Guy's Oppressive Clothespin Fetish

If you've ever been in the grip of an oppressive fetish, then you'll understand very well this little post. Of course fetishes come and go. Just like you never see the same river twice, so your mentality changes all the time; what's important today won't be important tomorrow ... usually.

Then there's the guy with the clothespin fetish, that hung around forever. We'll call him Walt. Of Walt we'd have to say his mentality had a remarkable stability. Which is hard to relate to, as you know. For any one of us, it might come and go, but not him. For him, he picked it up as a child, one of his Mommy Issues, since she always hung the clothes outside. He'd be right there at her side. She'd put clothespins on his shirt, and even in his hair, then reach over and get one when needed, calling him "my little helper."

So you can see the root of it. Insidious. Years later, on his own, was when it all came to bloom. He thought, all quite innocently, he could hang up a few clothes over the bathtub. (He lived in a place without a backyard. Like most people, he was urbanized, with yards being a thing of the past.) That first bag of clothespins was all it took!

Next thing -- which is how these things go -- he was carrying a clothespin like a good luck charm. Then more pins, for various and sundry reasons: To hold up his pants, to keep his hair in place, to keep his earlobes warm, etc. There were plenty of practical reasons, too: To keep his keys on, to hang toast while buttering the second slice, to store bills in, and as a substitute for staples. Then there were the kinkier, more socially repugnant uses: The pain and pleasure they can give when clamped down on personal parts, especially when multiplied up into the hundreds. Imagine that, hundreds of clothespins clamped on you!

I can still picture a photo he took and sexted to 300 ladies in our town. I saw it because everyone knows at least one of the 300 ladies. It was like a perfect mandala down there, the circles radiating out from the center as perfect as the form of the human body can allow, also taking into account the lack of direct sight for the person putting the pins in place. The blood in Walt's body was obviously in some confusion, risen up in bright red spots in some places, then being completely pinched white in others. As a guy, I have to say this was clearly painful. But pain or no-pain wasn't his concern in that weird ecstasy.

Of course Walt got in trouble for this incident. Because that was all him sticking up in the middle. He had to do community service and not be found within 200 feet of a clothesline. Plus, he had to go in for counseling, which, as we all know, wasn't likely to do a bit of good. You don't get away from being Mommy's little helper that easily! But nothing against counselors; they have to eat, too, no problem.

Well, you can probably guess what happened. And that's all this is, guesswork. Because we don't know for sure what happened behind closed doors. But if you're guessing he had clothespins all over himself in the house, then we're on the same wavelength, you and I. And if you can easily picture this incredible array of clothespins all over him leading to ecstasy on his part, then the ecstatic conclusion leading him to a weird mix of bliss and self-recriminations, then we would also be in agreement. And, finally, if you can imagine a guy taking thousands of clothespins to the curb for the garbage man, then going out about five minutes before they'd come to retrieve them, and then going to the Dollar Store later that same morning to buy out all the clothespins they had, then you're something like me in picturing it. Meaning, you and I know the ways of human nature to a T, but being strict amateurs we haven't yet earned our first dollar and aren't likely to. Even though we, like the counselor, also need to eat.

So whatever happened to Walt? He's still around. Like anyone, oblivious to help. I saw him at Walmart the other day. He had clothespins hooked all over his shirt and a few attached to his hair like dreadlocks. What was going on under his clothes, I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that. Although, I'm guessing, had I gone up and asked him like you might ask any other guy, "How're they hangin'?" he probably would've taken it two different ways.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tiny Came Back As A Toilet Brush

I'm crediting this post to the influence of an adult education class I took at the community college a few months ago. Otherwise, I doubt I would've ever thought of it. I actually wasn't thinking about it ... it came like one of those flashes; you know how the brain works, no rhyme or reason to anything.

The class wasn't any big deal, nothing special. Probably everyone's taken it at some point. Certainly it's common enough, your everyday garden variety class on "Past Lives -- Intuitive Evolution." But it was sort of fun, a pleasant enough way to waste some time in the winter months. I just didn't think much about it after.

The funny thing about the class was how often everyone came to the "discovery" that they were famous people in their past lives. I think we had three different William the Conquerors, out of about 25 people! A couple U.S. presidents were in attendance, and of course Einstein. The rest of us were a little more reserved. If we thought we were famous years ago, we kept it to ourselves. My own thoughts about me, I'm sure I was a peasant, and in my non-human lives I can remember being a mollusk. Seriously. I picked up a dried empty shell by the lake the other day and once upon a time I think I knew the guy.

Anyway, today the class came to my mind when I had to do some spot cleaning on the toilet -- you probably know what I mean -- and I felt some intuitive sensations in the handle of the brush. Sounds crazy, I know, but a flash came to me, which was from the "intuitive evolutionary" part of the class. The flash, then a dawning awareness, then an absolute certainty, was the freaky knowledge that my toilet brush is the present life-form incarnation of a guy I used to know in high school. He came back as a toilet brush! Believe me, I know how it sounds, but if it weren't true, why would I have thought of it?

I held the brush, trembling -- having used it first -- and this guy's image came into my mind as clear as anything. And it's not even a guy I knew that well. I don't even remember his real name, just his nickname, which was Tiny. He was one of those big guys who got the ironic name of Tiny. Like Big Tiny Little, the barroom, honky-tonk piano player who used to record for Decca Records.

And it makes a certain amount of sense, the whole thing of him now existing as my toilet brush, because Tiny was a scourge toward me. How fitting it is that his karma would be such that he would reincarnate and devolve to a basic non-living (it appears) household implement for me to use. And, please, before you write in, don't blame me ... he brought it on himself.

I hadn't actually even heard that he died, because like I said, I don't even remember his name ... it might have been Don, or Clint, or Kenny, something like that. No, there was a different guy named Kenny who hated my guts. I haven't run across Kenny's soul yet. He's probably still living. I'd Google him but I'd have to destroy my computer if I found him. He was another scourge, much worse.

Tiny wasn't as bad as Kenny, but still he was bad enough. We were only in one class together, and there must have been plenty of time for talking among ourselves, because I remember him always being on me for some reason. This is embarrassing to say, in a way, because Tiny had a thing about masturbation ... know what I mean? He mentioned it all the time.

He was a huge guy, so that probably had something to do with it. He used to accuse me of various things and ply me for information on masturbation. What I'm saying, I hope you realize, is 100% true. Beyond that, he insulted me in various ways, probably because I actually was small and his name of Tiny had something to do with him being such a behemoth. He definitely saw me as a victim ... which I obviously was. I didn't have the confidence -- or sufficient knowledge on projection and karma, etc.  -- to be able to tell him, "Yeah, but someday you'll be a toilet brush and I'll still be a man." If only I'd known!

So there I was, this morning, with Tiny in my hand! I thought, Oh my God! I've used him a hundred times and didn't know it was him! But today was so completely different. I had the intuitive flash. I realized it was him ... and my reaction was something like this: I felt weird about it, the terrible conditions Tiny's been living in all this time...

You know how it is with toilet brushes. They have a holder. You use it and stick it in the holder, which always has about a quarter inch of water from previous days. I look down at that holder every time and think I should clean it. But then I don't, because what's the use? ...  it's only going to get wet again. Plus, it'd mean having to touch it, then having to wash my hands for 20 minutes. Still, it's like a little cesspool of germs, down among the rest of the muck, the occasional pubic hair, etc., very disgusting. This is where a guy should have maid service.

OK, how do you think I treated the toilet brush once the flash came to me that it was Tiny back from the dead? Did I use him with malice? Did I put him through the paces? Did I slam him back into the holder with the water? No, I didn't do any of that. I used it as normal, then put it back in its place as normal. One, I don't want to break it and have to waste money for a new one; I might get someone I don't even know. But, two, I am a merciful person. Mercy is my Number One rule. If they ever build a monastery in my memory, mercy will be their basic thing.

At this point, I don't really have any living enmity toward Tiny. Even though he was older than me at the time, I think two grades ahead, he was still just a kid. He had to be around 18. His brain hadn't really entirely formed ... and I don't know that it ever did. He was a bully, yes, but maybe he had troubles at home. And as far as his own self image, being huge and being called Tiny, then whacking off and having to torture other kids out of his guilt, let's say, the whole projection thing, he had more problems than he knew what to do with.

So, no, I haven't got it in for Tiny. And as far as his return, his devolution, his reincarnation as a lowly toilet brush, I did not consciously have anything to do with that. How soul entities are reincarnated, divvied out, is clearly not my department.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I'm Very Persuasive -- Thanks For Agreeing

To all the opinions I've expressed on this blog I've gotten very little feedback, positive or negative. There could be various reasons for that, but I've fairly well settled on the obvious conclusion that it's because everyone agrees with me. I used to have a friend who said, "If we always agree, one of us is unnecessary." Which is true, I guess. Meaning, apparently, and I don't say this in a mean way, if everyone agrees with me, they must be unnecessary. Certainly I lived without them before, I can probably manage from here on out.

But that's not the tone I want to take, of course. Because there's arguably plenty of reasons for the continual existence of those who agree with me, if nothing more than their own happiness when we're apart. Plus, frankly, I don't want to live in a world with no one but those who disagree with me. That'd make me some kind of permanent martyr. So it all comes back to my own self interest. You may exist!

But to bring us back around on topic -- hoping for and trying to assure the continual existence of my friends, and the possible demise of my enemies -- what makes me so persuasive? That's something to analyze. I tend to know myself pretty well, but when I try to enumerate my good qualities, one of which would be my persuasiveness, I normally veer off into humility: "Who, me? Little ole me?" That kind of thing. I shrug my shoulders. It's very tough for me to be absolutely honest with myself: "Surely you're talking about someone else ... No?"

Then I turn analytical, as I am now, and pull out all the stops. I go for the proverbial scalpel, and yield myself to the surgery, whatever it takes, however much cutting there'd be, to get to the heart of the matter. And when I'm in that mindset, a lot of the humility falls away, and I'm able to see with a clarity normally reserved for laser beams and binoculars. It's like I'm simultaneously under the microscope and the one staring intently into the eyepiece.

It looks like my persuasiveness has to be based in these reasons:

My Clarity of Thought
I'm absolutely clear in my thought. I'm very good at compartmentalizing data, then bringing it forth as the occasion demands. The clarity is such that very little, if anything, is missed. Therefore, I'm covering all the bases.

My Incisiveness of Understanding

Going along with clarity of thought has to be one's incisiveness of understanding. This is another area where I shine. Data is brought forth, as above, then I work with it. I've always liked the phrase "massaging the data," mostly because I know the therapeutic benefits of a good massage. And that's exactly what I do.

My Ability to Think Clearly
As the data is massaged, it leads to new insights, knowledge, and truth, things coming forth on the fly, as it were. See, I'm not resting on my laurels, the original thoughts I had; I'm progressing, augmenting, and ever going forth, all the while thinking clearly. Clarity of thought is undoubtedly good.

An Understanding Unmatched Elsewhere
This is the kind of thing that could overwhelm some, but not me. After the new data has been thoroughly massaged, we're in the realm of wisdom. Wisdom is such that there are flashes of understanding. These could easily be missed by a lesser mind, such as someone who watches sitcoms on TV.

Unrivaled Thought, Thought, and More Thought
Wisdom alone all by itself withers on the vine. With wisdom comes additional thought, as the whole point of wisdom is to consolidate it for practical purposes, for it to inform thinking and hence behavior. It's when we get to this realm that we've gone beyond the average person. Sitcoms be damned, this person doesn't even have cable. (Which I do, but I'm above average.)

Understanding Like You Wouldn't Believe
Finally, wisdom in action, wisdom practiced, brings us to understanding like you wouldn't believe. It's here, a very rarefied place, where one's understanding is like the light of God, not prone to shadows. You go out on a dark night and the birds wake up. They're completely tired but convinced it's morning!

Thank you, then, dear readers, to one and all, for your agreement with my opinions and views. I look forward to many more years at this blog of teaching and leading you toward all truth, ever to be done with the same masterful persuasiveness you've come to know and trust. Please show your assent to this post by not responding with any sort of comment of your own. I'm already pretty sure I know what you would say ... so again, in all humility, I thank you.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Nudity On Display At The Library

Regular readers of my blog will remember that I am often attacked unjustly, and so I'm often provoked to respond with righteous indignation to put the hapless attackers in their place. Fury flares up in my face, and in the fire of my wrath I speak, reducing everyone to char and cinders.

I can be even more specific. A lot of this umbrage just happens to be directed at hypocritical librarians, who in my opinion talk a good game about the free access of information, intellectual liberty, etc., but then ruin it all by taking me to task over one thing or another. Be it trying to read the Bible in public, a huge no no -- "You can read the library's chained copy with the other fanatics!" -- or exercising my right to pray with my eyes closed; because they're so farking afraid the "homeless" might be "sleeping," there's a zero tolerance policy on closing your eyes; we've clunked heads over that.

OK, here I am once again on the warpath, as our native friends say, and I'm seriously ready to go to the wall for this, hallelujah, Lord be feared. The fury's in my face again, the fire of wrath is kindled, and surely there shall be a great shaking in the land!

These guys are so farking blind to their hypocrisy, it's like they're completely unthinking. Talk about an easy profession! I should've gone to librarian school. If you can lift a bony accusatory finger and contort your face to a nasty scowl, you pass. Thanks to computers, the rest of the work's done for you. My advice, file that away if you're ever looking for an easy career. Don't throw away that matchbook! It's the easiest gig you'll ever have!

Shhh, I started talking out loud while typing that last paragraph, and now I'm getting a few glances. (Yes, I'm writing this at the library) ... The glances are coming again because right now they're watching me, since we were just at loggerheads ... they see me typing fast, they know I'm writing about them. But they don't know what I'm writing. Although I am using their wireless. So they're probably back there tapping it. It does seem like my keystrokes are a little slower than usual. Farkers are bugging me!? Well, OK, if that's what you want, I'll give you something fun to read: YOU SUCK! THE WHOLE DIPSHIT LOT OF YOU! There, I said it, that ought to raise a few eyebrows at Gestapo Headquarters, LOL. Excuse me while I finger the security cam there. That was fun!

Ha ha, pardon the digression. But I was here yesterday, too, and was watching a guy at one of the computers angrily fingering in the general direction of a camera. True story. A big honking righteous erect finger, too; the farker meant business! I just glanced at him since I didn't want a crazy guy on my tail. He was looking for trouble. The big difference today is, I wasn't looking for trouble. But if they start it, what can I do? I could slink out like a whipped pup, but why should I? I'm a man with high standards. I'm actually probably one of the few people here who even believe in the standards the library CLAIMS to support, i.e., intellectual liberty, with you the individual being the only judge of what you need to fulfill your intellectual pursuits. Now for all I know, the guy at the computer was responding to the "adult" block on the free flow of information the library has imposed. If he wants to learn about breast cancer, to heal his poor old suffering mother, completely wracked with pain and begging for just a hint of understanding, which the library callously denies, that should be HIS business!

I need to keep this quiet. One of their employees, a real iron maiden, is within 10 feet of me, appearing to casually rearrange books on an end stand. Sure, of course, I really believe she just happened to need to do that particular stand at this particular moment! I haven't seen anyone rearrange that stand for 10 years, so it must've been due. The fact is, they're on me, it's ridiculous, this is a vendetta. Intellectual liberty, my ass! They're probably out in the parking lot breaking my car windows as we speak. Of course if they do ... well, I won't say what I might do, but if I really saved my pennies I could probably afford a moderately cheap contract on them. Someone to rough up the decorative plants outside.

OK, she's gone -- I can breathe -- she's back at the desk to document the fact that I'm still typing. They're over there shaking their heads. Bastards.

So what was the problem they nailed me for? It sounds so trivial, but it did involve very minor nudity. I was listening to an album on my iPod, which just happened to be the old Blonde Redhead album "Misery is a Butterfly." If you remember the artwork, the cover shows the exposed breast of some woman. It's far from porn ... and not even very stimulating, unless maybe you happen to be a 12 year old boy and it's the first thing you've ever seen. "Look, Jimmy, a tit -- that's what Mom keeps in her bra."

Anyway, I'm listening to Blonde Redhead and one of them comes over and sees it. The lady I'm talking about reminds me of one of those old toy birds that keeps dipping its beak in the colored water. She's skinny like that and always craning her neck and bobbing it up and down. Perfect one for the library. Nothing escapes her nosiness. I had a friend who was legitimately tired -- a very patriotic guy who stayed up all night memorizing American history trivia -- and fell asleep one day. Guess who was on his ass, all ballistic, the same chick. Like sleeping is such a crime. As I recall, his patriotism meant nothing to her.

Well, you can imagine what she said when she saw the Blonde Redhead picture. I won't quote her exact words, except to say she told me in no uncertain terms that nudity "displayed for all to see" was against library rules. "For all to see" ... that's the critical point. The iPod picture is about the size of a postage stamp -- bigger than an American stamp, but about the size of one of those commemorative stamps from African countries that exploit the collectibles market by ripping off celebrities. About that big. Then take the breast, it's about the size of a pea, even smaller. If you didn't know what it was, you'd never guess.

Well, you should've heard me. I told her I could pull five books from the shelf within 10 feet of my table that had nudity. And I went over and did just that, one on funky model pictures, one on pregnancy care, and the others from the works of famous artists. Plus, I pulled out a military history book that had some nudity that aviators had painted on their planes. Cleavage aplenty, meant to bring down the Japs and Nazis. They took one look at American bazungas and knew they didn't have a fighting chance! (I wish they had books like this when I was 10; I would've never left the library. I remember we used to look at the Information Please Almanac, the page on America's Top Magazines, just to see the word "Playboy.")

She had some justification for the difference, coming down to this, that those things are in books and covered up. And, yes, while they are theoretically within everyone's reach, it still takes some doing. (And maybe she's slightly right. Remember, this is a library where kids up to 18-years-old can be restricted to the Children's Room!) Still, I countered that by saying, "When I was eight years old, I would've sniffed out this nudity and had it checked out before you could say Jack Robinson!" Eight years old, smartest kid in town.

Now she started pulling rank on me. She said that I by merely coming through the doors had implicitly agreed to the rules of the library, which comes down to this: "Your heart and mind belong to us, as much as if you sold your soul to the devil." The old biddy was very explicit on this stuff. She'd make a better warden in the prison than a librarian. She missed her calling. She could be in prison clamping electrical equipment to prisoners' genitals and making them scream. It'd definitely match her sadistic nature, rotten turd, and might even bring a smile to her dour old puss.

OK, I had one ace up my sleeve left to play. With great determination, I strode to the library's CD collection and pulled out the only Blonde Redhead CD they have, albeit a different one, right there in plain view of everyone who cared to see it. (My theory was: If they had one Blonde Redhead CD, they endorsed the others ... implicitly. Her word!) She had nothing she could say to that, of course, except to reiterate that they have rules and I need to abide by them. But she was trailing off so badly, I could only tell it was because she didn't want to lose. Well, Goebbels, you did lose!

Notice how fast I wrote this. I'm always like that when some farking, better-than-you authority jumps on my ass about something. I'm shaking. I'm so farking pissed about this. Which is what the library does to people. They've pulled a few things like this with me. They still have this one slug working here who denied me the ability to read the Des Moines Register one time because that particular copy wasn't properly checked out. It was just setting there on the table. Seriously, that really happened.

When I complained, they told me the Des Moines Register is always "walking out by itself," meaning it's very prone to theft. They were accusing ME of being a thief. Just aching to get my grimy little hands on a hot copy of the Register! You know me: Instead of going over and stealing a $100 book off the shelf, I'm holding out for a $1 newspaper, one that's already rumpled and of next-to-no street value ... like I'm running a used newspaper racket ... selling them to desperate fishermen to wrap fish guts in. Or something.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Death -- Her Parachute Didn't Open

More tragedy to report. I'm really sorry if you think my blog has become a place of misery, suffering, and despair. But that's life. Into every life some rain must fall. As well as terror, anguish, and ultimately death. I'm just reporting the facts.

Part of my problem is, a while back I made the acquaintance of the physical aspect of Death (links below), at least as he is revealed in this sector of the world; whether the same literal being who sits at my kitchen table is simultaneously at work globally (and possibly universally), that's something I haven't gotten around to asking him when we're chitchatting.

We were sitting there having coffee -- I like it brewed in a French press; I find it has a more robust flavor -- when he suddenly remembered an appointment. As with other runs, I accompanied him, this time to the airport. The airport is about a mile southeast of my bedroom window -- I can see the white and green sweeping lights every night -- so it wasn't much of a drive.

Naturally, I asked what was up. He said we were going to watch a lady parachuting. I thought, Hmm, sounds interesting, a lady parachuting? Death read my thoughts and said, "Yep, pretty unusual, a lady parachuting." It blew my mind, of course, the very thought, the idea, but when you really stop and think about it I guess there's no real reason why the fairer sex shouldn't also be jumping out of planes. Still, obviously the mind boggles: How weird, a lady parachuting!

We got there and I saw the young lady parachutist getting in the plane. She turned and waved to those gathered around, a few friends of hers. And with that the plane took off. Pretty soon, out she came. I glanced over at Death and he was biding his time. The chute blossomed and her landing was picture perfect. The plane came in and away they went for a second plunge, also successful. Death thought nothing of it. It was only when she was boarding the plane the third time that he glanced at his watch and start paying attention.

OK, I knew what was going to happen, and so do you. It's always the third time. Honestly, you could probably live forever if you never did anything the third time. I've known more people in my life who've died when they weren't satisfied with two times. Smoking, drinking, carousing, gambling, getting tattoos, going to whorehouses, eating crackers in bed -- all the stuff low lifes do -- it's never harmful if you only do it twice. But when you cross that third threshold, that's when you're hooked and sped on your way to the grave.

The third time, out she comes, and of course something went dreadfully wrong with the chute. I held my breath momentarily, then released it; nothing I could do would do her any good. I might as well breathe as normal. You can really mess up your life not breathing. Which is stupid if it doesn't do anyone a bit of good, as in a case like this. But you do it instinctively. Just as there's a collective sigh of relief when a situation turns out well, so there's that gasp and holding it in in times of crisis. Be that as it may, I saw I wasn't going to be a bit of help to her...

We watched, and we watched, and we watched some more. Oh, how dreadful it all was, her seemingly perpetual and endless falling. Just a streaking figure, like a downward streaking meteor, or a lightning bolt in its downward motion, without the instantaneous striking. She seemed to be dwelling in a quiet repose, not flapping her arms at all or fighting it. I could only imagine what was going through her mind: I've lived a good life. I'm about to die, but I'll die doing what I wanted. I can see my whole life's story flashing before my eyes. I've broken impenetrable boundaries, being a lady 'chutist. I just should've stopped with two. No one with any intelligence does anything the third time. Damn the luck! Help me, Lord.

It went like that, minute after endless minute. Some guys ran to the hangar for an ambulance. Others were looking for some positive way to help, but mostly became flustered and ended up running into each other and falling down. I stood there stolidly, the wind blowing through my hair, a serious look on my face, my jaw locked in place. I wondered how it would look in a movie, my look of utter seriousness and contemplation. I'll bet very cool. I glanced at Death, who shook himself, limbering up.

Time passed, no doubt moving inexorably forward and yet seemingly frozen in place. I looked at the ground, then back up at the falling figure. She was getting closer, tantalizingly closer. I could see the worthless parachute's edges flapping over her back, probably some bargain brand ... another huge mistake. When you think of it, your life is worth the few extra dollars it takes to get a dependable chute. But there's never a guarantee, especially taking the third time rule into account. I looked again at Death. No consternation.

At the end, when the lady parachutist was getting about as close to the ground as you can, like five inches, you should've seen it: I saw Death zip to the spot like a bullet train, even faster, a blur.

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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

This Is The Signal

The world waited. There was a kind of hush all over the world. A million men in uniform did all the things a million men in uniform do. The officers were at their mess. They exchanged many indecipherable whispers. Those at the higher echelons polished their medals with trepidation. One man paced his humble quarters alone.

This one man was the great man, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, answerable only to the president of the United States, which he himself, unknown at the time of D-Day, would one day be. If we could mash time, you could say he was ultimately answerable only to himself. But that wasn't his concern. He wasn't thinking of future political attainments, although it could've been in the back of his mind.

Ike, alone out of all men, knew the signal that would launch the massive D-Day operation. Although let me back up a bit, someone else needed to know, or it wouldn't make sense ... a guy in a lonely communications shack, just him and Ike. The world's hope over the tyranny of Nazism hung on a shared signal between those two men, the great man and the humble man, who might've had a heart attack and all would've been lost. (That's why we suffer the tyranny of the Republican Party today: Bad hearts from too much junk food and not enough exercise; no one's getting the signal to destroy these SOBs.)

Well, OK, what was the signal? Ike picked up the phone and said simply, "Dead dog." Just like that. I almost hated to say it, it sounds so trivial. But that's the way it is with signals -- they're not always what you'd expect. You keep them secret, like your password for online banking -- mine is "abc123" -- so no one can steal your money. In the case of Ike and the other guy, that was all it took -- "Dead Dog" -- and our soldiers went floating in and wading in, attacking the Nazis like rabid banshees; it was not a pretty sight.

The signal can be a nod, a handshake, or just a glance. I've given a few glance signals, and the other party knows exactly what I'm saying, "Let's get out of here. This party is dead." Or, "The service here is terrible." Or, "Hit the mute, these UPS commercials suck!" Not to pick on them, most commercials suck. But how do you like that one where the guy from Seinfeld is saying, "I'm happy." And everyone else says, "I'm happy," individually and repeatedly. That is so vastly sucky I've only heard it once. The other times have been muted.

Had I been in the meeting for planning that piece of crap, I would have said, "You're either kidding or you're trying to sink the whole company, in which case, congratulations!" Finally, had they taken me to task despite my impeccable wisdom, the signal that I was resigning would have been my extended right middle finger while my left hand would be making the "crazy" twirl at the side of my head and my legs would be advancing toward the elevator, after I had pissed in their coffee and all the plants. "Are you happy, now?! God knows I'm happy!" Happy, happy, happy.

A signal has meaning. We've communicated. There are inner realities, vast and minute at the same time, where these operations and their signals come together in concrete reality. At least concrete subjective reality, which, as has to be obvious, is actually the same thing. But it's worth making a distinction for the sake of clarity and perhaps discovery on the part of some, like me. If I were to look within -- wherever that is -- I could very well flash the signal and end up turned inside out. Break through to the other side. A regular retrojerk moment, although, unlike Jimi Hendrix, I would still be around.

I'm convinced -- convinced, I say -- that nothing is really apart from anything else. Which means even when we're in the gutter we're still in the fullness of the divine. But to experience it positively in this daily grind, there's a signal (or trigger) somewhere, not necessarily known to the ego but still 100% encoded in the consciousness, the consciousness being understood as described in Sri Aurobindo's "The Life Divine." Hear it, notice it.

Now, in case you don't know how it worked out for Eisenhower: The guy in the communications shack did not have a heart attack. D-Day came off as he and Ike planned it. The Allies stormed the beach, a bunch of them got killed, but enough of them made it through to retake Europe, finally leaving Hitler like the steaming pile of shit he was in a lonely bunker.

Adolf got the signal that the jignal was up, enjoyed a quickie wedding with Eva Braun so in the end he wouldn't be living in sin, ate some cyanide and died a terrible death, his 1000 year reign truncated, from his point of view prematurely.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Chilling Hand of Death

I hadn't been with my new best friend, Death, for well over a week. I was halfway relieved, and halfway afraid, too, for the separation. Afraid, because I don't know that many celebrities, and when you get to know one, something of their effulgence wears off on you even if you're not trying. I saw Ed Begley, Jr. in an airport once, so I know what I'm talking about.

I didn't see Death because I was out of town, so I wasn't available. And apparently everyone survived where I was. Then when I got back, he dropped by, telling me he had some local runs to make and asking if I wanted to tag along. I was all like, "How many times can I be found at the scene of multiple deaths without the cops thinking I'm involved, even if I'm not?" He gave a wink and said, "Don't worry." I took that in the obvious way: If a potential crime doesn't involve issuing speeding tickets, it's way down the list.

Before we left, I had the thought, It's a little cold, not freezing but not comfortable. So I packed a few things and we hit the road, me driving, with his black mist hovering over the road in front of me. Thankfully, he stopped at lights, a nod to my obsession with public safety and laws.

Finally, we found our way to the seedy part of town, one of the seedy parts, and a gang of psychos had taken the field in one of their endless turf wars. I was comfortable in a regular dress shirt, but when Death hovered up over the field, and the truncheons were flying and several gang members lay dead, I felt a slight chill. I put on a sweater and a light jacket.

I asked Death where to next. He whispered, "There's a cop killer on the loose." I thought, Good God, I can't have prior knowledge of this and do nothing. But since nothing had yet happened, and I didn't know the particulars, what could I do? I followed Death, then parked some distance from the scene of the crime, when, Here came a car squealing around the corner, an obvious speeder being pursued by a cop! He was shooting for the wheels but hit the driver in the head.

The car swerved out of control and flipped and took out some guy's white picket fence. The other perp was out and in a gun battle with the cop, managing by some lucky shot to hit him right between the eyes. I raced to the scene and saw it was too late; the officer was bled dry. I made a mental note: Life is tough. Then as I ran I felt a chill and put on a heavier jacket.

Next, we were on the scene at a fancy hotel. Lucky floor 13, as it turned out. A businessman was at his desk, ruling proudly over his vast domain, that office, and berating his son for being a good for nothing shiftless wastrel. The son addressed him in a respectful way: "Father, I'm sorry life has come to this, me being such a monumental disappointment to both Mother and you." It was all very melodramatic, as Dad waved off the son's apology but refused to embrace him and weep over him.

In my opinion, he should have cried out, "My son, I love you with an unending love. You are the joy of my life." Instead, he smacked his own head and hissed, "Plus you're dumb as a sack of hammers," at which point the hammer clicked on the son's gun, a stubby little thing, perhaps sawed off, and he became a suicide all over the office. I glanced up and saw red splatter on the mirror, causing me such a chill that I simply had to put on a heavier coat.

Last, and this was the worst one of all for me, we were in the hospital room of a lady, older but not completely old, dying of cancer. Some family was milling around in the hall, a daughter was swabbing the woman's lips with a little pink sponge, and their minister was sitting in the corner, examining his fingernails and wringing his hands.

Death and I, both in mist form, were in the corner. I was a little nervous, not so much for the family but for myself; my mist was a little too close to the sharps disposal bin and I started worrying that some might get in it, then when I rematerialized I might have a used syringe or razor blade in my spleen.

Death kept checking his watch, until the appointed time came. He hovered over and enclosed the woman, who breathed her last. The monitor went flat and everyone could hear a sustained beep. The family came running in, the daughter with the swab stopped in a hush, a nurse checked her watch and pronounced the exact time aloud and clearly, and the minister saw an opening and opened his book. It was such an awesome moment that I felt the world's worst chill hit me, the world's worst. Quickly, I drifted back down the hall and put on my coveralls and heaviest coat.

Death caught up with me. We made a beeline for the car, as quick as I could with so many sweaters, jackets, and coats weighing me down, not to mention the coveralls. He was ready to roll but I said, "No!" I've also been having trouble keeping my feet warm, so I had to change my socks right then and there ... or I'd never make it.

Dead 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

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Pester Prophecy

There it is now, the once mighty gas station. Proof that life is bittersweet. That things change and pass away, leaving behind empty buildings with no respectable burial and memorial.

What optimism and pride they had going in with this station! Ozymandias come to life! Even though it looked small to everyone else, they were all up in your face about it: We're number 1! We can't be beat! Ha ha, even now I'm shaking my head. But I've never rejoiced in the station finally going down. I'm more an impartial observer of human nature and human pretensions, not a judge. It's just that I've just been particularly gifted (cursed?) with the longer range view, that always sees the balloon popped.

Of course people don't always like to see me coming, which I also understand. Honestly, it's true, prophets know the whole story. We're able to see not just the narrow truth of the moment, but the feelings others have about the process in process, that we're cranks. Sometimes you'd just like to keep your mouth shut...

In the last few days we had a weird May snowstorm. So I went for a drive around town to see it, and couldn't help noticing the forlorn former Pester station on its corner, which I've seen many times. But this time, with the weather and the snowy untouched driveway, it was a lot different than it used to be, years ago, when customers were in and out constantly. I remember the glory days, then the struggles to keep it going -- open and shut -- and finally what essentially became an abandoned site.

Looking back, I'm remembering a friend of mine, a guy from high school, who worked there. Back then,  you'd get a job and automatically think, This is it! I'm here till retirement! Nothing can interfere with my hopes and dreams! I'm young enough to trot out and pump gas! When I'm 30, I'll still be fast. When I'm 40, a little slower. At 50, my son will help me. At 60, I'm the patriarch, manning the register. At 65, I retire. But the gas station will be here forever!

Looking back, I started remembering the day the spirit of prophecy hit me, hit me hard, hit me good, hit me so good I shook like a leaf. You know? It's a burden. Dark clouds stream past your inner eye. You see something like murky waves coming against a dark indistinct shore and receding. You see something like bats fluttering madly in a cold cave, dropping disgusting guano everywhere. And you're scared, which then becomes perplexity, then there's a strange warmth, then confidence. Buttons start popping off your shirt; you're spiritually hulking out. Your chest is very hairy.

Well, that day -- in the early '70s -- I happened to be at the Pester station. My friend smiled broadly and spread his hands, as if to say, "What a magnificent place, huh? This is a vast, inviolable domain, the best that ever was. Like a fortress, the 8th Wonder of the World." I wanted to lie, I seriously wanted to run away, to sob and beg that this curse would be removed from me. But I couldn't budge. So I lifted my mantle and enclosed my friend there in the darkness. And then, between him crawling out to wait on customers and returning, just the two of us, with words to this effect, I prophesied:

This vast gas station that you see today, advertised ceaselessly on the radio -- "Pester, ding ding, It's a gas!" -- and indeed very popular, one day will sit deserted, completely abandoned. Those upright racks of oil, so neatly arrayed, will be gone, as will be all this merchandise: Cases of Pepsi, air fresheners, cigarettes, maps, the peanut machine and all the rest. The cash register, gone. All the signs identifying the station, the price of gas, and other in-store specials will be removed. And you, even though you're confident today, one day you shall leave in despair. There's more, much more, but the vision is fleeing.

Of course, he told me I was cracked. And maybe I was, but look again at the photo. Do you see any gas pumps, cases of Pepsi, signs, merchandise, a peanut machine, anything that would even remotely suggest I was wrong?

Before I left -- I remember this so well -- I approached him again and told him it was no pleasure for me to reveal these mysteries, but I was compelled. Maybe it was so he'd be able to envision his future differently and dream anew, or maybe there was just some other reason, unknown to all, just the spirits messing with us. As for the rest, in addition to reiterating that the prophecy would come true, I said, "You don't believe me about the station's desolation. Give me your phone number and someday I'll message you a picture of it."

Well, that really did it! He goes, "Now I know you're crazy! You can't send me a picture on the phone, Dick Tracy!" I had to smile; he wasn't ready for this one.

Friday, May 3, 2013

They Drove For The Love Of Trucking

I've been cooped up at home for a long time, seriously, and I forget sometimes what's going on in the world and the things I don't like. Like the issues I have with modern trucking. I guess I'm like anyone else: out of sight, out of mind. And to think the interstate goes by just south of my house, within a couple miles. But it's not loud, you can barely hear it from that distance. So I forget, leading me, after six months or even a year, to travel, so I can be reminded.

OK, so I'm out there yesterday, taking that interstate, then switching over to another one, like that all day, going from Point A to Point B, like a lot of people in cars on the road do, and I'm getting a serious reeducation into the ways of the world. The farther I go, the more the memories come rushing back. And I feel all the emotions you would expect, especially my sense of building rage, due mostly to three things: 1) Incessant roadwork; 2) Too much congestion; and, 3) Trucking for money.

I'll bet I saw 40 trucks with signs on the back, displayed there for any potential truck drivers who might be easily lured, of companies begging guys to drive for them! A few of them were honorable: "If you've ever had the dream to drive truck, please fulfill it ASAP by calling our career hotline," etc. That's not so bad. A few were less honorable: "If you're looking for an over-the-road career that will help you keep the peace at home by not being there, please call..." Not as good. But most of them were downright despicable: "$$$ We pay top dollar for drivers, earn big, huge, enormous $$$ driving for us!" And naturally they had a phone number, luring whatever poor sap's sorry enough to call.

I'm just going to say it: That made my blood boil. Although, shaking my head, I kept it all in context -- that's the way the world is, that's the way it's gone. The Almighty Dollar! Everything is just naturally reduced these days to a financial goal, the vision of dollar signs dancing in your head, as the be-all and end-all of our existence. You wake up dreaming what you're going to make and it's the last thing you think of at night. Continually calculating. It's very easy to picture what the poor truck driver's doing as he's driving down the road, scratching out on a notepad the hours and miles he's driven times the cents he's getting for each mile. Money, money, money!

So what have we lost? So much... I'm not the oldest guy in the world -- I'm 60, OK? -- but I remember clearly when truck driving was a vocation, even a craft. A young man wanted to drive truck simply to drive truck, for the love of trucking. Money wasn't his big interest. And the truck lines we had back then, it's worlds apart from now. They weren't tainted by money. It wasn't their consuming interest. They just liked the idea of getting cargo in their trucks, packed in there all good and snug, and taking it down the road, sometimes just for the heck of it!

This is serious stuff. A guy I used to know had his regular job and that's where he got his money. Then he saved up for a nice truck and simply took it on the road, hauling stuff because that's what trucks are for. If you bought him as much as a sandwich, he'd be offended. And I couldn't swear to it, but I'd bet he came darned close to the coveted Million Mile Club, because I know he racked up big miles ... doing it in an honorable way, insisting on it as more of a craft than just any other money-grubbing job.

And coincidentally -- or maybe not -- that was back when a trucker would pull the horn for kids passing by. Remember that? Because he was just another guy, not this money-hungering hack, so busy figuring up his next month's check that he doesn't have the time for another human being, a kid. It was Man and Machine, Machine and Man, together in a beautiful synergy that showed off the best of each, and yet both were somehow One. I know I really took those days for granted, and now they're gone...

Maybe old men like me aren't meant to travel the highways anymore. The good old world as it once was has passed us by. Companies are manned by computers, set to melt down to liquid ore if the bottom line fails to increase by the minute. And those living beings who tend their electronic masters are so jaded, if you were to meet one on the street, you'd walk away depressed by the encounter. That guy's eyes were like sharks'. And then the drivers themselves, they'd run you over if it meant another dime. They're in a strange haze, popping pills and blinking at the bright sunlight, drifting from lane to lane from the constant vertigo.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Three Trucks

In my travels today, I saw three trucks going up the interstate together. It made me think of this story:

The three truckers all worked for the same truck line. It was their job to get the company's goods from Point A to Point B. The boss himself sent them forth, giving them only two rules: 1) Do not go over the speed limit; and, 2) Stay together.

But as they drove, the first one started thinking: Being first, I have to set the pace, but it's almost impossible to go the speed limit 100% of the time. If anyone will be guilty of breaking the rule, obviously they'll blame me. So if that's what they're thinking, I may as well fully exceed the limit and dare the others to keep up. If they keep up, we're all guilty. And if they don't keep up, they'll be guilty of breaking the second rule. Plus, it might be to our benefit to get there early, showing our efficiency. Very brash, but he had them over a barrel.

The second one's thinking: He's speeding up and we're falling behind. He's going at least 10 miles over the limit. I shouldn't go that fast, and yet I can't fall behind. Does one of the boss' two rules take precedence over the other? Surely the more important rule would be not to break the law, and yet, perhaps the first driver knows what he's doing. If he gets there quicker, with more efficiency, maybe he'll be commended. And we'll be condemned because we weren't efficient, while breaking the other rule anyway. So he speeds up.

The third one brings up the rear. He thinks: What's this? Everyone's going way too fast, but I need to keep up. I have the advantage in that there's no one behind me to obey the law and report me. And neither of the guys in front can report me because they're breaking the rule themselves. The thing is, if we share the guilt, we will also share the consequences of our actions, if there are any. If we're asked about speeding, we can always lie. Whereas anything could happen if we're separated; violating the second rule might show us to be incompetent.

The third one's thoughts continue: It's obviously better to arrive together than for me to keep to the speed limit and break the second rule. Or is it? Maybe the boss has it fairly well timed out, and if we speed we'll get there too early. I believe it might be easier to explain falling behind than breaking the speed limit. What would've been the reason to stay together in the first place if it didn't have something to do with mutual accountability? So he slows down.

The second driver then notices the third truck falling behind and thinks it over: It could be there's something wrong with his truck. Meaning we're not together. Or it could be that he's had a sudden realization of the dangers of getting there too fast. He's probably mentally calculating the advantage he'll have over us as to why he fell behind. He'll have us dead to rights, accusing us of violating both rules, whereas he would've violated only one rule. Plus, if I fall behind and driver number one continues on, that will put me in good not only with the third driver but the boss when we're questioned. Because there's safety in numbers, two against one. The first guy will show up, having sped, along with our united accusation, and he'll be blamed for our falling behind, our conscience having overridden the rule. So the second truck slows down.

The first driver keeps going for a while, then notices no one's in the rear view mirror. Of course he knows how terrible it'll look if he shows up without them. So he slows down and completely turns around. He drives back, thinking it over: We've all violated both rules, but if we get back in the pack, we can talk it over and decide mum's the word. Then we can drive the speed limit and stay together, as we probably should have in the first place.

He gets back to the other two, who have pulled over to the side of the road. They're glad he shows up and explains the situation: We're all equally guilty, leaving out the part of him being the first to speed and leave them behind. The others agree: We'll be a lot better off if we don't point fingers, but if we simply go the speed limit and get there together.

Which turns out to be exactly what happened! The boss says, "You stuck to the speed limit and you stayed together. Excellent! I honestly didn't think you could do it." He gives them all huge raises and his three beautiful daughters' hands in marriage. Finally, years later, the boss dies and leaves the trucking company to his honorable sons-in-law, the happiest ending any story can ever have.