Monday, May 20, 2019

What The—! Seriously, What The—!

Part 20 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Most jobs are like the work of the Psycho Squad. You do it enough and you get it down to a science. Even easier when it's supposed to be a science, gauging the behavior of folks and psychological tinkering when they inevitably screw up. Which means a lot of variables. Like eating a BLT, your gut has three distinct food groups to digest and bread's the ringer. It's so complicated a lot of people don't survive and eat something else next time. And poker comes to mind, holding, folding, bluffing, complaining, distracting each other, underhanded dealing, and secret signals. It's a tough game and I've got the scars to prove it.

With psychos you have to look for every edge. Forget BLTs, their lives are a smorgasbord of food groups no one likes. They're sick and they can make you sick if you're not careful. And they don't give a squat. They hide, they lie, they deceive. You've got to stay ahead of them. Think of yourself dealing with mental flamethrowers and you'll stay ahead. People tell me they’d like to do what I do, run the Psycho Squad or work for it, and I laugh like a bowlful of jelly. Because it helps to think like a psycho without being one. And that’s tough to maintain. I was so into it one day they mistook me for the case, tossed me in the clink and threw away the key. I was steaming, because it took an hour and a half to grind a new one.

So the people are a terror. But you don't want to focus on that all the time. The average guy has a good side and an evil side. Like the lady in the picture. Someone called me on her for having a good and evil self. Which turned out the exact opposite of what you’d think. The mirror side of her was what I'd call the real side and the young beholding side was the mirror image. Like in a hall of mirrors. Lots of reflections of yourself from many different angles. I used to do that with a mirror so I could comb the back of my head. Then it got to the point where I went bald on the front so I gave up on the back. I run my fingers through it now and haven’t seen it in years. I don’t know what it looks like. According to my fingers, there’s something there, but what, I don’t know and no one ever tells me. It's sort of crusty. There's a Psycho Squad lesson in there somewhere.

Maybe you're always looking for ways to identify whether you have a psychosis and related states. Here's some pointers: If no one acts like anything’s wrong with you, you're probably OK. Or they might be faking it until they’re safely out of your presence, then they’ll organize and invade. The best way to know if you’re about to be picked up is this: Wait long enough and if no one shows up, you weren’t about to be picked up. But remember, if you’re going to be picked up, they never just show up; they're organizing. Hang out, chill, and if someone kicks in the door, that'll be your first clue.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Better Health Begins At Home

Part 19 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

For a lot of the guys we deal with, the Psycho Squad is the best friend they have. And their so-called friends, the guys on the block, are their worst enemy. But try to convince them of that. They still turn and run. They always seem to think we're somehow the enemy. So we're bobbing and weaving, avoiding angry fists ourselves as we chase them up one alley and down another. You always hear these are mean streets, the alleys are no picnic either.

Then later I walk the hospital halls and see a lot of injuries, which is terrible. Mostly for our reputation. Because a lot of misinformed people think we have something to do with it. When we certainly don't. We play by the book, our only mission to help unfortunate souls and return them back as productive members of society. It's right there in black and white in our literature, and, frankly, my arm's getting sore lifting it to swear that we're clean. But that's a fact!

We might need to get some extra PR on this thing. One, it'd be a good way to keep the liability insurance guys happy and the rates lower. Maybe send our guys out with big foam gloves and hands, like in the stands at football games. A few huge pointing foam gloves and the public would have a better idea about us. They might even associate us with the football team, always known for playing clean. The rooms are padded, but the rooms aren't seen by the public very often. We might need to look into padding for the ambulances, the uniforms, everything. And rename the business Kid Gloves Psycho Squad, anything to keep our reputation.

How hard is it to believe that most of these characters -- several have a terrible sneer and gargle glass -- might run with the wrong crowd? You see it first thing when you're on a run. Most of the time I even leave a guy with the ambulance so we'll have tires when we get back! And of course windows, seats, a steering wheel, whatever we might need to keep a functioning unit. Then some of these neighborhoods are so tough, a gang of guys could pick up and move your ambulance just to set it in illegal parking. And that's mean. And to think these are some of the same guys I used to give butterscotch candy to as kids. This is the thanks I get? Hardly anyone just wants to be friends anymore.

Anyway, a perp might be pretty badly mangled by the time he's in the psych hospital. But I'm assuming they know the rules of their neighborhood: Don't look at someone else's girlfriend. Don't look at someone else's boyfriend. Don't mess with another guy's dog. Don't get in the way when they're dismantling a firetruck or Psycho Squad ambulance. Don't steal candy. Stop on the red, cross on the green, watch both ways in traffic, don't litter. I actually lost a friend a few years ago, knifed right in the heart. He'd unfortunately committed the trifecta of sins: Looked at someone's girlfriend, petted a guy's dog, and crossed on the red. But it's been a few years now and most of us have forgotten him.

So our job is hard enough just getting these crazies to the hospital, there's no way we want to extend our little visits by roughing them up. We're like everyone else: We want to cut every corner we can to get things done faster, not prolong the agony of being with these guys. And the only way to do that -- when the natives are cooperating -- is to bring 'em in clean and ship 'em out clean. Any trouble along the way means more paperwork, more explanations, and higher insurance. Plus dirty looks from nurses, definitely something we try to avoid...

Saturday, May 18, 2019

I'm Hungry, Lock Me Up

Part 18 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Sometimes I want to know more about my readers. So consider these questions and if you want to tell me about them. I wouldn’t mind an avalanche of responses, millions of replies, requiring a bank of highly paid good-looking secretaries.

What kind of appetite do you have? Are you extremely hungry, totally hungry, or as hungry as anyone ever? After you’ve had even the slightest food, are you totally satisfied, always satisfied, or both totally and always satisfied? Do you hope satisfaction goes away very quickly, very very quickly, or never arrives so you can constantly eat? Do you know the purpose of eating, the purpose of consuming food, and why we eat? Are you embarrassed about normal digestion processes and do you realize that the mere act of eating anything is a blatant admission that you eventually poop? Or do you wantonly go, instantly digesting, even if you've taken nothing more than a tiny pickle?

I’ll tell you what’s normal: What I do. Generally I have three meals a day, which we used to call breakfast, num num, and dinner. Now, with everyone TV-crazy these meals are called morning cartoons, num num cartoons, and evening cartoons. People are TV-happy, cartoon happy, and sitting there with huge bags of fast food, gobbling it down, and throwing the bags across the room at each other! Dogs forage through the mess and never go out to do their business, so it’s a pit. But they're mostly satisfied. As are the flies streaming through the cracks in the house, making a cesspool of filth everywhere. The people who live there are terrible people, saying mean things to each other in a mean way, “Gimme the remote, you shit!”

Anyway, back to my normal home, I shoot for breakfast, lunch, dinner. All done responsibly, in good order. Toast, bacon, cereal, sandwich, baked potato, and maybe something light for dinner. I still take the dog out — she's not shy about going — and I get some exercise along the way, then watch TV within limits. Something to make me laugh, perhaps. Other times, something serious so I’m well-informed, but I scrupulously avoid all news! I remember watching the news just a few years ago and not losing my num num, but I guess it's my age...

I’m just going to say what I always think and let the chips fall where they may: When it comes to normal, I'm about it. And even with the Psycho Squad work — which could jade anyone — I keep my equilibrium, more than any man's entitled to, taking my half out of the middle. Because I need a clear head when dealing with people that don’t. These bastards will jump you in a heartbeat and when they do I lose my num num.

There's one case I remember fondly, Stub's his name. Stub wanted to be taken in because he'd had a hunger for food since he was a teenager. And remembered that the detention center had the best food ever. And it probably did, so he got hooked on it. But when we released him he’d act out again and be recommitted. The way we handled Stub was with great creativity and mercy. We swung by the thrift store and bought him a cheap discarded cookbook. He didn’t know such knowledge existed, so he was thrilled! And now he has his own food truck across town. But he's still a psycho, never opens for business, just stays there cooking and eating oatmeal.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Never Enough Room Or Time

No. 17 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

I believe the guy had a reasonable complaint -- "Never Enough Room, Never Enough Time!" -- and I’m not always so generous with guys seized up in psychotic hallucinations. But those are true words. With the irony being, he's wasting my time and I'd rather be somewhere else. The clock's working against me, because I have a lot of things to do. And time is money! But he keeps on shouting and struggling against his helpers, "Time ... Room ... Time ... Room!"

But who can't agree with him? It’s certainly reasonable. But if it’s just something you're shouting to be shouting, it’s unreasonable, and we sit here bogged down at his side. And even if I'm making money, I could be making more money if he'd just cooperate, settle down, and be normal. "We're on the same page, pal, fighting for the same thing!"

Because, really, who among us has enough time? And room? I’ve been room-challenged lots of times. Maybe the garage is too small to hold all my stuff. I’ve shopped for garages and it's a lot of work taking everything you want to keep in the garage to a place where they sell garages. And if it doesn't fit, you have to pack it up again and go to the next place. And as for time? Maybe I had all the time in the world before I wasted it shopping for garages. They need a better way to buy yard buildings.

But here I sit, and I won't have time or money if the rantings of this lunatic are allowed to continue! How could he have such a reasonable point without a reasonable attitude? Therein is the conundrum (mental dishevelment) and the glory (social lenience for involuntary craziness). I had to think, This guy will never be happier than he is right this minute. Go out on top, dude! But look at him, whacked out without reserve, without sense, and if he keeps it up, at some point we'll have to bring it to a sad end. The more lives he messes with, the less patience we have. This just makes us look bad. For society will collapse and fall if the helpers can't end things with some reasonable dispatch!

That's a great reason to be as normal as you can. Because they'll literally threaten you a hundred times with bodily injury but never pull the trigger if it looks like you're progressing toward the goal. But if you're merely out of it, all hope is lost and you're going down. So it's for your own good, even if you're screaming bloody murder, to let some sentience break through. Failing that, give him a hypo, tame him down, put him on a stretcher, and get him out of here!

Let the crowd diminish. "Nothing more to see, folks, let's shuffle off the mortal coil." And get him to the padded cell. That'll put the damper on his fun. And by then -- it's our hope -- he'll be off on a different mental thing, hopefully chasing easier butterflies within his personal mental miasma, and as harmlessly as possible. But it's always better hidden from public fascination, the meds lined up in order, something for the attendants to while away their time doling out.

Is it crazy to think there's never enough time, never enough room? I hope not, because I think the same thing on a daily basis. Time, obviously, there's only now. And if the attendants are indeed doing their thing, that now's a lot more rewarding. And as for room, sure, if I'm bunched up with this guy, and he's trying to fight a dozen guys at once, we're going to run out of room. Just be reasonable, psycho friend ... there, there, asleep in the holding room, now you've got all the room you need!

With time for a quick nap for the rest of us.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

All This God's Dream

No. 16 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

In my life as Psycho Squad head, maybe you know how it goes, keep your nose to the grindstone long enough -- being one of the few normal people able to do it -- and you’re Mr. Know-it-All. You’ve seen it all, done it all, you've drawn lessons that serve as patterns for dealing with future cases. Like being a doctor. The average doctor is bored, on an average day taking one of five or six courses of action — X-rays, MRI, colonoscopy, med changes, insulin, adult diapers, cough drops, etc. Anyone could be a doctor. It’s really too bad it's so regulated.

But I guess I shouldn’t say that. I have my own Psycho Squad team, incidentally without any formal training, mostly my own theories, experience, and stick-to-it-tiveness, but that doesn’t mean I want everyone else as competition, taking bread out of my mouth. Find another gig, deadbeats! We could always use another thrift store or gas station, better yet, BBQ joint. Do that and leave this grassy field to me. And just to scare you off more definitely: The other day I had a bastard bite my finger, hurt like a SOB, and it was my fingering finger...

Be that as it may, I also met a very nice guy who blessed me in a church run. You know, a church run. I had this idea that I could get some good business posting on church bulletin boards: “Having a bad God trip? Call us, etc.” You'd be surprised at how many calls I got, but generally it’s not as dangerous as other runs since they’re already in the groove, well-grounded in habits of morality; basically they’re not carrying knives and guns. When I show up at a church, I'm 99% safe.

This goes back some years. One night they called and I arrived. Their study group had a guy cornered and wouldn't let him out because he seemed to be a danger to himself and others. Naturally, they have a strong sense of what’s true and what’s false, and maintain it regularly. But this guy — Jesus something — blew their minds with the theory that all existence right down to themselves and their group is merely God dreaming.

The Psycho Squad took him in, voluntarily — sedative darts were topped off in case of trouble — and he was sitting by my desk. He explained his thinking on the point that everything is God’s dream. I thought, That’s a new one. But it stayed with me. I've thought it over, counting my thoughts on both hands. Which were soon tied in knots and I had to shake them out. But, listen, scientists say the universe has been around 15 billion years since the Big Bang. Jesus' theory was that's equivalent to a single second in God's Dream. If everything takes place in that single second, God could wake up and have breakfast a trillion years from now! Or momentarily. What happens then? Maybe nothing, maybe instant death... 

I guess it doesn't make much difference. We go on the same. Anything that happens, the good, we enjoy. Anything that’s bad, chalk it up to a bad catnap years ago. Ancient history, what’s there to worry about? So here’s the mystery: God sat in a chair, let's say, had a two minute snooze, and dreamt the vast period we’re still in. Two minutes. Then later that night, just guessing, God got a full night’s sleep. So future generations can look forward to a lot of craziness. And that's good for my bottom line. The Psycho Squad stays busy now, but then we'll go completely whack when we hit the full heart of darkness!

Bring it on. Tomorrow's always brighter than last night.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Annual Psycho Squad Training

Part 15 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

If you’ve ever had one of these jobs with real responsibility, where there's a bunch of higher authorities to answer to, you know the painful requirements of periodically demonstrating continued competence. It's all very official and extremely annoying. During those dark times of my life, I wish I’d settled for more generic grunt work, like mucking out horse stalls with a clothespin on my nose. No one shows up demanding you prove you can still handle a shovel.

For all the good things about the Psycho Squad business, there is, unfortunately — dammit to a christless hell — a lot of red tape, up the wazoo. What do you know, buddy, and how fast can you spit it out? What is your take-down protocol? Is kicking in the nuts still forbidden or finally state-sanctioned? What is our ultimate goal? What are the four R’s of Respect? They haven’t changed, folks! 1) Keep it REAL, 2) RESPOND to the situation, 3) aRREST every temptation to lash out, and 4) REPORT all problems with your own behavior and violations of the code. Probably the less said about 4 the better. But there's surely been at least one guy in recorded history who's reported ... whatever. We haven't met him that we know of.

Well, of course that's terrible stuff, but there's something even worse, which seems to be common with bureaucracy everywhere and officialdom in general, and that's the requirement to be certified, then recertified. This is a racket for somebody. Getting certified is of course a one time thing, but being recertified lasts forever. It looms out there regular as a heart attack on your 70th birthday. They're just waiting for you to have a bad day so they can take away your livelihood and allow an untrustworthy psychotic population (and I’m lumping in those who haven’t yet run amok) to live free and do their worst.

One of my early recerts was with a guy who knew the drill, and he let us skate by, giving us the answers to fill in, and he kept it very cursory as to the tests. I’ve written about the first time I got a driver’s license at 16 and how lucky I was. The stern, strict guy who was a terror to all just happened to be on vacation that day. I didn’t know it and showed up and took the easiest driver’s test in history. That’s the way I want recertification to be. Don’t make it a memory test. Everyone knows every actual case is possibly uncharted territory. You sink or swim by your wits, not by memorizing the 4 R’s.

That's not to say we don’t do it. Sure, we do it. We're willing to go through the motions and even doll it up to look more arcane and mysterious than it really is! “This time you be the perp and I’ll be the guy with the black cat loincloth and spear. I'll blindfold you and chain this 100 pound weight to your foot, representing your limited mentality, then chase you to hell and back before taking you down, metaphorically speaking, maintaining respect for your boundaries, essential humanity, etc."

Look, folks, I always pass. It's not like I'm not qualified. And with my declining memory from getting older, I sometimes do think of the 4 R's. But I also think of the 3 L's of taking a leak, 1) Look down, 2) Linger, 3) Let go. Any trick in the book if that's what it takes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

They Blew Up Outer Space

No. 14 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

At this point it’s only science fiction. And if I and the Psycho Squad have anything to say about it, that’s the way it’ll stay. They don't call me Kibosh for nothing. But, friends, even I might need your help. There have been few other catastrophes affect me this deeply, the terrible feeling that all things could be wiped out in my lifetime. I used to play at the city dump, bashing in the screens of old TVs and shooting rats with a bow and arrow. The town shut the whole thing down and told us to get the hell out. This is like that, traumatic.

So here it is, this dreaded limbo of threats and negotiations with every eye on space. Just thank your lucky stars nothing's happened yet. And I hope to hang an alien that’s how it stays. But the threat is real, and actually has every indication of not being aliens but our own species. It's ridiculous, Earthlings that far off the beam?! Haven’t they learned at some point in their pathetic lives “Live and let live”? Anyone that far off the beam, where are their values?

Certainly we must not put anything past them. One, a destructive urge like that is pathological. With my training, I should know; I aced the Destructive Urges test, not because I’m destructive — I’m not — I’m so anti-destructive I could spit. Complete destruction is never called for, with perhaps the sole exception of destroying anyone who would dare attempt it. Only then are destructive urges warranted. Because there can be no tolerance. We must declare it the highest priority and seal the deal for our existence, the planets, the stars, etc., with no mercy for those who'd threaten the system, our system, solar, stellar, or whatever.

Just thinking of someone like that, so far gone... I'll expound on it. What a craven urge! These are psychos that should not be helped, only destroyed. And no one will hold me back! Unless — and this is theoretical — they could be somehow captured and brought to justice, the sternest judgment, perhaps the death penalty or dealt with therapeutically. But let's say the situation is literally as portrayed above, where they’ve already destroyed the stars and half the sun. They themselves would need to be blown out of space. We would have to act preemptively, long before they unleashed more chaos than we could sweep up.

The Psycho Squad will never advocate for anyone that far gone. Maybe, yes, theoretically we’re sworn to help. But that far gone? No! That's beyond the pale, no hope. Just write them off. If they'd cause that much misery, that much destruction, they’re gone, history, out of here. I don’t shock easily — I like easy days, and fatalities per se don't bother me — but this level of wickedness, these depths of depravity sap the last of my tolerance. It's gone in a heartbeat.

First, though, and I hope this puts things in a more optimistic light, there seems to be some bluster at hand. We don't know how many stars there are precisely, but it's in the billions. And they’re pretty far scattered. No one could destroy all the stars except Nature itself if they all just collapsed on each other. And whether it’d be possible to destroy half the sun, I also don't know that for sure. It sounds far fetched. It'd have to be a perfect hit to destroy half, a payload right down the shute, boom! Instant half of a black hole. 

So there's some hope. But any psychos that attempt such a thing — whether humans in space or some other scurrilous alien breed — need to be dispatched. The local chapter of the Psycho Squad, for which I speak authoritatively, decries all such threats, plans, and deeds. We offer only censure and condemnation to the perpetrators.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Dick Meander Family

Part 13 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

If you're from around here, you're no doubt acquainted with the Dick Meander family. Maybe you don't know them well but you know them at least in passing. Once you've seen them go by -- a tangled ball of humanity, chaos and turmoil tumbling down the street, up alleys and down, through yards, kicking up dust, taking out complete fence rows and weaker trees and who knows what all -- they're hard to forget. I lost a maple tree a few years back.

No one does family squabbles any better or worse than the Meanders. Not to rub it in, but remember the main shelter house at the park that burnt a few years ago? That was during their family reunion. Of course family reunions are never good, but that was one for the books. Not only was the shelter house history, but they burnt a path from there to the interstate because their idiot baby happened to be smoking during the fight.

I actually went to school (9th grade) near the Meander place. But back in those days they were respectable. No one saw the future when Dick married Doris and started having kids. We always think of parents ruining the future for their kids, but with them it was the kids who were the bad influence. Danny was in 9th grade with me, famously kicked out of English class, with the teacher totally shaken, going to her desk for a downer. I never saw Danny again, but his family wasn’t so fortunate. They never recovered.

Ever since, if there's a cloud of dust, a tornado sighting, or any sort of disturbance in the atmosphere, even the slightest register on the Richter scale, you have to see what the Meanders are up to before sounding the alarm. And they simply don't care. They might be watching TV or maybe they're sitting around smoking or polishing pool cues or mowing the yard, when a fight breaks out and they're off, rolling across fields, yards, burning a path, every fight a fight for the ages.

In Psycho Squad work, I've had to waste a lot of time on the pesky requirements of continuing education. But some of it's been better than usual, like when we learn how the surrounding environment is a determining factor in the making of well-rounded psychos. The fact that the Meanders’ home place is right at the edge of town influenced their whole history. In previous generations, they might have gone toward the country and avoided a bad reputation. They’d just be despoiling the wild or killing an occasional cow. But as it is -- these being bolder times, morals are very loose, reputations unguarded -- they came right through town, like they were rubbing our faces in it: ‘We’re here, get used to it, gimme a light, let's unzip our pants and see what sparks...’

And the Psycho Squad has cleaned up the Meanders’ messes for years. I’ve written letters on their behalf pleading for mercy and it’s been granted. But we’re way past that now; everyone's so much more interested in their own property values and expenses than mercy. We tried medicating them, but they’ve developed a tolerance for everything but the hardest drugs. And harder drugs just make them mean, so it's all in vain.

My own personal take on it: I hate getting calls about the Meanders. But I tell myself, it's all billable! Bread and butter. Good for the bottom line. Might pay off my second ambulance early. I just have to watch what I'm doing; I lost a vehicle to them once in passing. Now we treat them like any other storm in nature, hunker down till they pass and pray to the Dreaming God above that we'll get them on the downside.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bad Behavior: Devils & Warthogs

Part 12 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Raising well-behaved adorable kids is one of the hardest things you can do. Especially these days when every kid tries to consciously out-psycho the next. I’m glad I haven’t got legitimate prospects if for no other reason than that. It’s a thankless task; were I in the market I’d take myself out and join a monastery. Or convent, depending how I swung. Still, the temptation is a bad habit to break, although lots easier with age.

So, fortunately, it’s a one-sided love affair for me these days when it comes to mating. Because everyone's understandably scared by an old man approaching the age of death. Which helps save my underlying vigor; I’m not at loose ends, not wasting my substance, but using it for the inner vigor, killing people with kindness and the force of ideas, not just looks. Any residual frustration I have, I invest it into corralling psychos and getting them help. I get a lot of laughs with some of the nurses, handling my cases with exaggerated kids' gloves. Like bloody murder just waiting to happen.

But, really, the best advice you can give another guy is, "Look before you leap, brother." And spell it out as clearly as you can without being a bore. Because sometime before that point you've already said too much. You have to just release them and know they'll misbehave, they must learn. These days are a lot looser, of course, which clearly makes things worse for them. Because at some level love partners actually want romance and restraint, not your bare-ass business dangling and bobbing and straining in their face. 

I won’t bore you with the language of romance. But if you don't get it, you're doomed to a life of skags, runny-nose cross-eyed kids, fights, divorce, estrangement, a bad reputation, and of course a persistent itch. You'll be tossing in bed, trying to sleep, but knowing you're not the only life-form in your body, and that's a huge mental weight. Itch leads to inflammation, which leads to burning, which leads to various back alley doctors, which leads to payday loans, stolen cars, and sleeping in a dumpster. With one eye open and a gun. Friends, before any of that happens, grow up, find a sweet girl and give her candy, meet the parents, take an interest in civic affairs, and be responsible.

I don’t envy anyone these days, kids or parents. Sometimes the parents are only about half grown up themselves. And the kids aren’t thought charming unless they’re in juvenile hall. There’s a whole different vibe these days, behavior up the wazoo, out the you know what (ass). Not happy unless they're underfoot, smarting off, flipping off their betters, opposed to morality, slandering the spirits above, spouting lies, burning flags, doing drugs in church, taking knees at football games, sleeping around, having kids out of wedlock younger than themselves, and putting up absolutely no fight in the fierce war against good values and basic primate sense.

What would I do with kids and their terrible behavior these days? First, arrest the parents. And once the bad influence was subdued, they’d have a better chance in an orphanage of growing up normal. That is to say, as far as doing the right thing, I’m not sure they really stand a chance. It can be tough to get in an orphanage. But get them there! Surround them with devils to tempt them but enormous warthogs to hold them back! And when they turn 18, they're a better person!

Moms and dads, love your kids, if it’s not too inconvenient. Or I will be over with the Psycho Squad, billing you for an expensive ambulance ride, more money for me and a lot more grief for you.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Sky High, Beyond All Limits

Part 11 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

It’s great for my outlook to see how much good the Psycho Squad actually does. I'm guessing 99% of the progress in society — specific acts of graciousness, the general sense of goodness, and outright love — is a result of our important work. Whatever else the species accomplishes after a lot of false starts and bluster results from the sheer benevolence of life. Remember this, life hates a loser.

But I have to be humble. Because I’m sure others could make the case that there's factors they also can selfishly latch on to, giving them at least the appearance of bragging rights. And instead of just immediately throwing up my hands and crying, “Give me a break!”, I zip my lip. Go through the motions of being agreeable. Just remember, Progress has a million fathers and there’s always a lot of 'Gimme gimme gimme' when they’re dishing out the credit. And all the while the truth is obvious, like a slap in the face, the Psycho Squad is the very heart of success.

That’s certainly how I see it in my town. This town had a sense of unnameable dread, foreboding, and future shock until I got my first ambulance. They couldn’t tie their kids down and make them behave. They'd gnaw through the ropes like cotton candy. You couldn’t walk down an alley without a gang of monsters springing up like nightmares to take you on. And unless you were literally carrying a nuclear device you didn’t have a chance. I saw a generation of normal people bite the dust. And on windy days they still blow by.

But the Psycho Squad did establish itself, and we set a few ground rules for evildoers: Submit to goodness, yield before it’s too late, or find yourself under our thumb! Because we put the word out, “Make my day! We’d simply love to take you out! Mess with us, we’ll mess with you, bad, big time bad!” And various other threats. The truth of it can be told now that we’ve prevailed. But we were scared out of our minds and could’ve been beaten easily. But we took the pose of gunslingers, that confident bow legged stance, and for the true killer move we purposely left our zippers down. The universal sign for “We got it!” and “Argue with this!”

It’s funny how that hit people. We were known for it. And for years we literally kept our zippers down as part of a Psycho Squad’s trademark. Then slowly, as we became known for other aspects of the work, we spiffed ourselves up. Kept the zippers neatly up unless, of course, other things were going on. Then it’s appropriate to send the signal, ‘It’s right here, virtually in sight, if you have anything on your mind besides the movie.' Those old challenges were settled.

Still, what a lot of work it was. The Psycho Squad took on so much action in our town we had even the most dangerous cases. Now look at us, “Sky High, Beyond All Limits,” successful in stratospheric terms, striding over the world as though we belong there, as though we own it, dwarfing everything in sight, with our zippers proudly up. And helping others keep their sanity as well.

Of course -- then or now -- these things don't just happen. We're on the scene, always on call. Because we know life is a thing of delicate balance. We never forget it. People go whack all the time. We had one guy, I called him Easy On, Easy Off, not much of a switch. His brain was atrophied beyond recognition. Doctors ordered brain scans and it had all the properties of macaroni and cheese. Sticky, hard to keep warm. They brought us in to counsel him. I took him out in a field and spelled it out for him in a way I can’t repeat, trade secret. He immediately got with the program! And my gun wasn't even loaded.

There was a lady, too. Hate to leave anyone out. She wasn't happy with her old dependable red car. Even when it got her everywhere she needed to go. So we worked with her in two ways, direct patient care and behind the scenes. The guy who runs the junk yard loaned me the same model of car, but one completely demolished. We switched her car for this one. You can guess her terror. She came out, had a meltdown and went into a coma for a week. They fed her intravenously the whole time. Then we put the old car back in place, and when she woke up she was so happy she drove away and no one ever saw her again. That's a happy ending.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Best Therapy In The World

No. 10 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Among the great goals of the Psycho Squad is -- raising my right hand and lifting my eyes to heaven -- "To restore precious equilibrium to those unfortunate souls who have had something go wrong with them, be it a short-circuiting, a mainframe failure, the need to mentally update to the latest OS, or trying to compute with punched paper tape in a gigabyte world." It's a huge vow, because think of the tape in those circumstances shredding and catching fire trying to keep up. That's something we hate to risk.

I know, friends, sometimes I come across Machiavellian [an apparent bastard] in the way I describe the things of the Psycho Squad — because, face it, with my level of experience, there’s a certain hardening and even resentment that appears when you can’t just cure everyone and get a decent vacation. But to be completely honest without tooting my own horn, I’m the most compassionate guy in the business. I’ve been told that by some of the patients themselves, the good ones. Because there’s some real dummies who have the wrong idea about me and aren’t afraid to say so, lots of blubbering and one syllable words, most starting with F. Not everyone can be cured, that’s the lesson...

Do I ever finger angrily in their general direction? I'm not going to say I do and I'm not going to say I don't. One guy said he saw me and even phoned it in. But I could've been pointing at a UFO for all he knew. And I could stop anytime I want. UFOs are rare. I'm not that invested in it. I could show the whole lot of them where to get off anytime I want. Or tell them off to their face even with their own grandmother standing there!

Remember, it wasn’t my idea for people to have these mental problems. I just piggybacked on an existing problem that needed workers. And since my dad worked in the Psycho Squad, it was a natural path for me. In fact he’s the one who taught me the great compassion I have. He kept it real. I’ll try to tell you while keeping the blood and gore down to a minimum. He demonstrated it with rabbits. Because we used to do a lot of rabbit hunting and I had to learn the whole gruesome process. Which, on second thought, I better not describe or I won’t have any readers at all… Let's just say that -- blood or no blood -- a certain amount of compassion is good.

And let’s also say I was brought up in a compassionate environment. He lived by those values and that’s the way I operate today. Other guys see our patients and potential patients — if you see a cross-eyed guy staggering down the street you'll also see him later in our ambulance — as just more money, money, money. But I see humanity in a pickle and me as a helper, and the money, money, money comes later. Which I can then righteously frolic in and toss in the air.

It’s charming — looking at the graphic — what little kids can see when they look at the clouds. Some of the things are easy to imagine. I mentioned rabbits. I can see rabbits in the clouds nearly everyday. Because they’re fluffy and their ears might be straight up, at an angle, or tucked back. The key thing in the clouds is nothing bad's happened to them yet. They're fluffed out, healthy as a horse.

But you can see other things, depending on where your head is: If you see the innocent things kids see, you’ll live long and prosper. But if you see guns, knives, grenades, bags of loot, and other nasties, the Psycho Squad will be seeing you very soon. “Hands behind your back, please, this is a plastic tie. It will not hurt you unless you struggle unnecessarily. We are here to help. Please give up and relax, sir, and this will be much easier for you. You’ll be out before you know it, within the next few months if you're lucky. Remember, we passed the quiz, we are certified, we are your friends."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Be Normal, It's Not That Hard

No. 9 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

I always try to be an encouragement to my psycho friends, "C'mon, be normal! It's so easy! Try it ... Put one brain cell in front of the other and think! If you try it, you'll find it's just like ice skating. You put one foot forth and tippie-toe along -- have confidence! -- and pretty soon you're sailing across the beautiful ice! Gliding like that..." When naturally they crumple. So much for my theory that good coaching solves everything, when you're talking to a guy whose head's stuffed with mush, and maybe even the mush isn't connected.

But, patience, I keep trying. I'll always believe, Put your mind to it and great things will happen. And don't we all have aspirations? I was taught that. And if I didn’t believe it, I’d give up. I’d hate to look out on life’s landscape and see nothing looking back. Rather, I look out and I’m part of it, along with everyone else, with hopes, dreams, and possibilities. The overall prognosis is good. If we could just get rid of the pessimism which so often marks our lives on a day to day basis. Think, people!

It probably should be established what the baseline in life is, what we should all be or strive to be. It’s called Normal. A very simple word, huh? Although normal doesn’t always mean perfect or completely whole. It means not too many challenges, not too much personal hot water or stewing in it, but a basic path right down the middle. Like a karate chop, split the difference. Someone holds up four fingers, you don’t bite them off.

The big emphasis needs to be on our mental life and maintaining a decent enough standing. A guy has a stick. He does things with the stick as a sort of tool. All normal enough to understand. But he doesn’t poke his eye out. That’s far from normal, unless it’s an accident, then it’s a normal consequence of life when it’s gone bad. But once you've literally poked out an eye, all kinds of nasty things can easily follow, and I'll probably have to wrestle you to the ground.

So what about mentality when it’s off the normal track? It’s normal in the sense that things can go wrong. But it’s abnormal if the organism is out of whack and doing things against its well-being. Without giving an exhaustive description — which would be dry and boring — this is where the Psycho Squad springs into action. We look out on the world as though with an all-seeing eye. What we see looking back is a more or less normal sector. With a fairly large abnormal sector, causing crazy havoc for itself and others.

It's great to rev up the siren and make our wondrous forays into the night, because we're hoping to bring wayward minds back toward the norm. We give a quick diagnosis, say, holding up two fingers pointing to my eyes and theirs, hoping to see something registering, and if not, that’s a moment of crisis. Is the person armed? Can he or she be a threat to our normal lives and limbs? From there many paths present themselves, which we see in a flash. “Get this person to the hospital! Hup to! Hup to! ... And while you're at it, if you've got a sec, check again for guns."

Say you're the victim, the patient. You'll be happy when you’re back to normal. And, really, normal’s not so hard. Fingers to eyes, try to keep up. Let these things register in your psyche. Like falling off a log. Which takes absolutely nothing but gravity and the normal imbalances we all have, the normal inability to keep our footing on normal rotating slippery logs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Innocence On Her Breath

 No. 8 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

The lessons of the murder scene were clear: 1) You're surrounded by psychos; 2) They'll try anything. They're not bound by good behavior. And I'm just going to throw in ... 3) Esmereldy wouldn't kill anyone, let alone 13 men around a big wooden table, a nice table that anyone would be proud to own.

But that's what the old mogul who lived there -- Boris -- would've had us believe. "It was Esmereldy, I just know it!" he insisted, his suit soaked with blood, a big knife with his fingerprints (doubtless) all over it, and him the personal enemy of those killed. How'd we know they were personal enemies? You wouldn't kill a roomful of friends, that's clear.

I got there about the same time as the cops. But they were a little earlier, since they'd already handcuffed Esmereldy, now sitting in the corner. Darling, sweet, innocent Esmereldy! Everyone's friend, not an enemy in the county, generous to a fault, always giving out little horehound candies to anyone not already sucking on something. And she might even stick one in your vest pocket on the assumption you'd want it later.

The cops had done short work on the case, as I said. Mostly because State was playing Tech in the big basketball game. And they were tuned in to it, leaving the suspect to wait till halftime before heading back to the station. I went in trying to talk about the case but they hushed me, waving me back. So I went back in and saw Boris, trying to look all innocent, and Esmereldy, bound but not gagged, bowed but not broken.

I sat there thinking. Then when the first half ended the cops came back in and were about to wrap it up. I pointed out all the pools of blood around Boris, the fingerprints, and as a long shot, even mentioned the life-long feud he'd had with the victims. Then there was Esmereldy, with her endless supply of horehound candies, offered freely, never expecting the slightest favor. Quite the contrast.

The head cop thought it over, scratching his scalp with the barrel of his gun. A second cop went snooping around Boris, dipping his finger in the blood and tasting it. He said, "Hmm, he's right, blood." And the third was even more forward, getting right in Boris' face and saying, "You always hated us, didn't you!?" He used to play in the area as a kid and remembered Boris as the meanest guy in the world.

I was getting anxious. In the confusion it was becoming clear I had no decent way to bill this job and get paid. But even if I didn't get anything out of it, just to clear Esmereldy would make it worthwhile. Yes, Boris was a mean guy when we were kids, and if truth be told he was implicated in every murder in the area for 20 years running. But he always went free, blaming the maid, butler, or paperboy.

I'm no lawyer, but I made a convincing case to the cops. "Guys, halftime's almost over. And if I had to choose between a sweetheart like Esmereldy, always giving out horehound candies, and this old bastard Boris, blood dripping even yet from his sleeves, this time I'd pick...." I paused for effect and alternated my pointed finger toward the suspects: "My - mother - told - me - to - choose - this - very - ONE." The finger pointed straight at Boris! His head sunk. I thought he'd given up, when his hands came up with an army bazooka. "Stand back!" he yelled, then began firing the thing! He took out the china hutch, a nice piece of furniture.

The cops moved back, taking cover. It took me -- remembering my many citations for bravery in the face of psychos -- to do something. Esmereldy saw my personal quandary, that I lacked confidence in the sight of danger, and by sheer intuition tossed me a horehound candy drop. I love the things. Once in my mouth, I was rejuvenated and marched boldly toward Boris -- stomping, really -- and single-handedly disarmed him. But not before he'd blasted out the electricity...

Now the cops really sprang into action! No electricity meant no TV! They moved en masse against Boris and in seconds had him in custody. We got to the police station in separate vehicles, so I had no idea what was going on in the paddy wagon. But there had been a minor scuffle and Boris was dead, somehow decapitated, no one knew how. They had no choice but to chalk it up as "just one of those things." 

Esmereldy let out her great hillbilly girl rebel yell when State beat Tech. We concluded the evening with horehound candies all around. The next morning I woke up with Esmereldy at my side. I'm hazy on the details. But guess I was wrong about her innocence.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Women Spirits Protective of Beds

No. 7 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Old mysteries involving ghostly visitations goes back before my time with the Psycho Squad, actually to my dad’s time when he worked on the Squad. At that time there was quite a stigma that went with the work. They hadn't yet gotten to the point where everything was psychological, so they occasionally had to battle ghosts.

I grew up hearing these stories that a kid likes and hates to hear. I actually don't care for ghosts or anything about them. I used to be in the printing business and we bought the equipment from a hunchbacked guy who died very soon after. I was one of about seven people at his funeral. After that I often felt his ghost with me when I worked with his stuff. So I'd freak out and get very little done. But it turned out happily, because I’d leave a note of what needed to be done, then come back the next day. The type would be set, sometimes the job done, leaving me to collect the profits...

But back to the lady in the bustle. This is one of those cases, dime a dozen back in the day, of old women coming back from the dead and terrorizing guys unfortunate enough to have purchased their second hand beds. Men-haters, I’d call them, since you never heard of them terrorizing the female owners of their beds. Which, according to my surmise, meant they were frustrated with their husband in life or overly protective of their privacy under the sheets. Cold as clams. We don't get much of it now, because more recently-deceased women both lived and died with the looser morality we all know and love. We're just lucky they're not pinning us down as we sleep!

But since I'm not in the exorcism business but the psychological helper business I don't usually cast out spirits like this anyway. It's easy enough for guys to give the bed to Goodwill and let it be their problem. And I have to make a living in modern times. Meaning the problem has to focus on the guy with the wallet himself. “You think you saw big bony fingers and a bustle that wouldn't quit. Our minds play tricks on us all the time. Remember looking at clouds as a kid? If you scrunch your face and cross your eyes you can see prunes on apple trees. Keep your face normal and if you hear these weird noises and see these weird bustles and things, stare at the bathroom mirror till your eyes are focused. It's all you... But just for the heck of it, it might help to confidently adjure the air in the general direction you were looking.”

It actually does work. My first exorcism was like that, someone called about 3 in the morning. Could I come to their place? Because there was a ghost or more than one. They saw the legs of someone passing by in the closet. And they heard noises in the basement, like a ghost was about to do the laundry but wasn't familiar with when to put the softener in, so he clunked clunked clunked with the washer lid. I went over, a little scared but believing it'd be OK. They were crying, explaining the whole thing. I went through the house adjuring the ghosts and casting them out, invoking the divine, etc., then to the basement where I checked to make sure the washer was level. The spirits were calm while I was there. And when I got done, that’s the way they stayed, thankfully. The people were happy and lived happily ever after.

The downside of the story is this: The guy's dad came up from Texas a few months later and wanted to meet me. He had trouble with his car, so I let him have one of my cars cheap and he was going to pay me later. He was short $70. Well, dumb me, I can handle ghosts, it’s the living that give me fits. I trusted him for the $70 and never got it. I even called his number and they hung up. But I wouldn't go all the way to Texas for $70 only to have him, like his family’s ghosts, fly the coop.

Plus, I wasn’t up and running my own Psycho Squad business yet or I might’ve scared him straight. A bag over the head, a joyride in the ambulance and he’d be begging me to stop at a payday loan joint so he could pay me back. His kids never had ghosts again, but that dad’s haunted me all these years.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Ascension of Okibbeha

Part 6 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

My problem with The Ascension of the Great Okkibeha, and any such incident, is always suspicion that it's some kind of ruse. Because, let’s face it, the magic’s gone from everything. The spiritual realms these days aren’t held in high esteem, not credible to our modern way of thinking; it's nearly always a fast-talking guy in a traveling carnival with a blue curtain and puff of smoke. It's true, every one of life's "miracles" -- from childbirth to four leaf clovers -- somehow involves that guy.

And anything that depends on faith is out. The knowledge we have today allows us only to believe mundane happenings, such as that horrible roar outside is a car without a muffler, not a farting unicorn. There actually is such a car in my neighborhood, and if my claim sounds the least bit untruthful I could personally launch a satellite into space and take a picture of it for you. So that’s one form of knowledge, easy to believe given enough satellites and cameras, but there are stranger things. As in the case of Okkibeha, because I’m saying she did ascend into some kind of spiritual realm. And that’s not just my claim, since I didn’t personally make it up, but the claim of ancient Egyptian priests who just happened to materialize before she departed...

Born Cindy Lou M——- to a farm couple in Iowa, family memories say she manifested an incredible interest in ancient Egypt as well as detailed knowledge. Most of us — myself included, usually smart enough to rattle off all kinds of trivia — couldn’t recite five minutes of Egyptian lore. I know there were lots of pharaohs and Egyptian citizens in the land of Egypt way back when. But telling one from another, get outta here! Similarly, I’m not that great with flowers, but I've seen people pick them and pin them to dresses.

Well, everything seemed to be coming to a head for Cindy, or the Great Okibbeha. She kissed her mother and father goodbye and called down an ancient staff of attendants from the sky, and ascended a makeshift throne. This was all in a barn, about the time The Psycho Squad got involved, having been notified. We took the call and buzzed out there, sirens full-blast. As we came over the hill, we saw what looked like a palace lighting the horizon. Which was the family barn. The light rose higher and higher, then when it reached a tremulous peak, a breaking point, all was suddenly black except for a much narrower beam of light piercing the clouds. As it turned out, Cindy/Okibbeha had said bye bye to this level of existence and taken off, robe, throne, and pretty backdrop all.

Did I believe this story? Not entirely, at first. We called out to her: “This is no joke, Cindy, come out! Olly olly oxen free! Yo, Cindy, Cindy Lou! Where'd you hide the barn? Don't be afraid, we’re with the Psycho Squad, an emergency help squad that helps those who need it, usually the wacky. We only want to make things better for you!" I sent Benny over to some smoldering bales of hay to jab his pitchfork a little deeper. "Cindy, your Mom says you’re behind on homework. Come out, we will stabilize you and find a tutor to boost your home ec scores. Making a pan of biscuits isn't that hard.” But none of it did any good. "Obstinate little bitch," I muttered.

I asked for her parents’ phones. The photos indeed showed various strangely-costumed men posing as Egyptian priests, but the place where Cindy had allegedly sat was nothing but a ball of light. So I didn’t know what to do. The Squad was there, so we gave the parents a few downers and shipped a couple of traumatized cows to the vet, and that was it.

Her mother then told us of the mysterious prophecy, that Okibbeha had been manifested again in the earth, born of a virgin, and is prophesied to return in 10,000 years, by which time most of us will be passed on. I don’t always believe such things. But the pitchforks didn’t hit anything and the heavenly beam of light, a million watts without electricity, had to mean something. It meant this much at least: I’m risking the Psycho Squad's credibility by believing it. Gotta put it outta my mind. And Cindy's gorgeous mother a virgin? That'd be the biggest miracle of all, hubba hubba!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Pa Went A Little Nuts

Part 5 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Live and learn. In this post you'll see one of my treasures, the pinnacle of counseling techniques, blue ribbon stuff, makes you wilt. It's not really a technique, just nature, shooting an arrow of realization into a troubled soul. Pa Butler's a good man, only confused for a bunch of reasons. Like old age, confusion, worries, truckers sleeping around, getting divorced, losing their reputation. The cops don't put a guy like that up against the wall. They know he means well.

The Butlers were lovely neighbors of my grandparents. They've known me since the day I was born, and over the years we got old together, them with a huge head start. They got into radio with the CB radio craze. And being close to the interstate they made a lot of trucker friends. That’s a joy but there's also a tragic side; those guys get old and die like everyone else. Or crazy, wrecking their trucks. And all that takes a toll on good people like the Butlers. To sum up their diagnosis, Pa went crazy and threatened to kill Ma for the insurance money, and she might’ve had similar ideas; she was getting a lot of catalogs in the mail.

I tried to feel them out when I was in the neighborhood. “Ma Butler, how you feeling up here, mentally OK or a little dingy?” She tried to act innocent, while sweating it out, sliding the catalogs back into the drawer. And as for Pa, it seemed suspicious when three of Ma’s chairs were put on the curb for the garbage, each one blown to bits. But Ma never suspected, chalking it up to gas pains.

Regardless of age and normal allowances, the time came to take Pa in at the very least, since Ma deserved better than that. Dearest people on the block. But how do you swoop in and bust down the doors, gang-tackle the perps, and pull them out while simultaneously hog-tying them? And if you need a stretcher, with their narrow stairway, forget it. We had to lure them out. Using a girl up the block everyone thought was white trash. Ma and Pa were on their radio and knew we were coming for her.

I radioed them and told Pa, “She’s got that idiot Billy by the nuts and is threatening to make him a soprano!” He radioed me, "10-4," which, quickly looking up the code, is a type of acknowledgement denoting understanding, message received, uh, er, Roger. When the noose was tight, I beckoned Pa and Ma to come out so the girl could see friendly faces and not be afraid. Which worked. They stood on the curb -- charred easy chairs flanking them -- waiting to see dark purple bruises on Billy, perhaps blood streaming down his leg, and didn’t know what hit them when they were suddenly tangled in knots.

They were crying, a sad deal. Ma was collateral damage, and unfortunately she got a little nicked when they tried to cut her free. Then I told Pa bluntly, “It ain’t Billy, Pa... You’ve gone a little nuts, and these nice men want to make sure you don’t pose a danger to yourself or Ma.” He was straining, cussing, giving me the full force of his anger. I told him man to man, “Pa, it’s your turn, pipe down... You’ll be back, better than ever... I’ll check on Ma till you're home and wash the car if you think it needs it.” He melted in the team’s grasp and they carted him off for service. He fingered in everyone’s general direction except mine.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Stanley -- The Spirit of Evil

Part 4 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

Cases involving people yielding themselves to evil —  body and spirit — are among the saddest to me. But that’s just because they always seem to go the same way, down the tubes morally and socially. But I’m resolved not to talk politics.

Is it wrong to hate evil? I’ve always hated evil. I got it from the Lone Ranger. He was a do-gooder in a world that seemed to have about 12 people. Himself, Tonto, and a few others. The others were evenly divided into two camps, the good townspeople/ranchers and the evil people out to cheat them because of the railroads, claims of gold or water rights. If it hadn't been for this same boring story week after week, I might’ve never learned morality.

And with me in the work of the Psycho Squad there’s always evildoers. Saddam Hussein wanna-bes, apparently, without land to conquer or nations to terrorize. They take their half out of the middle, acting goofy around people, breaking in, trespassing, often getting their jollies under the influence of something strong, booze or narcotics, so they’re only about half there, but it’s the half that’s entirely bad, the worst part. I'd love to run a full-page ad. A big picture of me surrounded with a description of my morality and how I got there. Then some earnest rage tearing people a new one, ripping them up one side and down the other, but ending with a positive plea, "Get with the program, you half-wits!"

In a typical day, the police often call me. It happens more often than I like, because my favorite cases don't involve evil but are just guys who forgot to take their meds and are acting out. I can get those straightened out right away. They go from shackles to home right away and adapt themselves quickly to normal. Five minutes of billing and I'm done. It’s the people who are objectively evil even when times are good that get me down. And someone — do-gooders unaware of my preferences — will call the Psycho Squad. We take down the information, then kick it around. “Does it sound dangerous? Is there someone else we can pawn it off on? Shouldn't we leave a guy that bad for the police? Take ‘em in, throw away the key? It’s not Stanley, is it? Tell me it’s not Stanley! Anyone but Stanley!”

You can almost spell Satan with Stanley if you bought another vowel. But Stanley must not know how to spell, because this loony bin reject half the time thinks he IS the Dark Lord. It’s a sad case. Looming large with his inflated ego. Which is essentially what Satan is, good boy gone bad, left the family and by inflation lacks the smarts to go back. I’m almost of the mind to quit feeding Stanley's ego, because there might not be much left. But if I could get him in a clear mind and explain to him the mythological elements of what he's doing — that he's a base idiot with a Big Idea personified — then he'd have some worries. With the spark of realization and a brick to the head, he might be normal.

This is an issue Hollywood could clear up. Every time they show one of these (ho-hum) Satan programs, run the disclaimer, “The following show is fiction. If you fall for it, the Psycho Squad will get you! They are bad ass and when they're done you will wish you were in hell!”

Friday, May 3, 2019

No One Likes The North Wind

Part 3 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

These are the cases the Psycho Squad gets. They say beggars can't be choosers, even though I'm not quite there. It's just when it comes time to pay the bills it's nice to know someone has a problem worthy of the name. "Don't come any closer!" Joe bellows. I put my hands up in the fake surrender gesture, "Whoa, big fella, let's not get huffy. Take a breath -- that's good -- now let it out." Which might've been the wrong thing to say. He blew me across the parking lot.

I know how it sounds -- unbelievable -- but these are the ways a man's mind goes when an evil wind's blowing. Being a mortal man isn't enough for some. He's so whack he thinks he's the North Wind. But I don't have time to judge, especially with that breath. A rancid mix of whisky and Italian breath. Not only were two kids in personal danger, but I had a larger population in the Big City to think about and a toxic cloud.

With long experience, of course I knew the guy. One, that’s a fake beard. And the cape, apparently meant to recall the dark clouds associated with fierce winds, couldn't obscure his features. I’ve dealt with him before. One thing right away, he’s not a pervert, just a poor misunderstood soul. Given that knowledge, a violent response was out. It'd have to be psychological. Take his persona at face value and address him from there. He wants to be the wind, he has to realize even the wind takes a breather, comes and goes, stirs and subsides. It called for a little hypnotic repetition, Breathe in, breathe out. Everything's getting calmer and calmer, there's barely a stirring of even the slightest breeze. Calm and pleasant, getting stiller all the time. Until... peace...

Next the team rushed in, subdued and restrained him fast as ABC 1-2-3, and cleared the scene. Innocent bystanders relieved, the victims returned to mom and dad, leaving us to stand there stoically. "You went a little wacko, huh?" A quick visit to the clinic, get his meds straightened out, restrict him from watching TV weather, as well as the all-important billing process, and he'd be on his way.

But as simple and clear-cut as that is, he still got huffy. “How dare you accuse me of—?” I stopped him right there. “No one accused you of anything.” Then I got strictly clinical: "This craziness may’ve been kosher in the days of Robin Hood, men in tights dropping from the trees, but it doesn’t fly now! All it takes to spoil the charm of life for everyone is one weird clod like you!” What could he do with those condemning words but hang his head in shame...

The fact is the Psycho Squad's clientele is so varied with strange ideas up the wazoo that nothing can be easily dismissed. You learn to suspect the worst, then assume whatever conditions led him to his present behavior would ultimately thwart him. They always go overboard. Say he really is the North Wind. His blowing days are done for now.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Rex's Tiny Swimming Pool

Part 2 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

One of the common causes of mental malaise -- the feeling of it, no secret to anyone -- has to do with the things we own, possessions and status. And that's nothing to mess with. Ask anyone. I know because I've lived, been there and learned. You look out on the world and see others more prosperous than yourself and wish you had it as good. In this case, this guy's hopeless feeling's were as obvious as anything: a heavy dose of envy, jealousy that he didn't have a swimming pool like his neighbors.

I grew up in an average town, and guess what, the neighbors across the road had their own swimming pool! And there was my family. When we wanted to swim, we had to do it in farm ponds (with relatives) or the state park that had an average beach. But one time I did get to swim in their pool, a really fun experience. All these decades later, it's no longer there; it's been filled in and is just a lawn. With the neighbors gone, who knows where, probably heaven. Proving the old adage, You can't take it with you. Unless they actually did, since, again, it's not there any more.

Anyway, we know people tend to get anxious if they worry too much about things: What's wrong with me? Why can't I have nice things? With enough thinking like that their eyes glaze over and they're not quite with it. I'd guess all of us have suffered it at least mildly. You just can't allow it to get too strong a hold on you because then you can't be happy. Instead, if you're always able to look on the bright side, the things of your life, what you do have, that helps. Compared to lots of people in the world, you're miles ahead! I said to this guy, "You've got a tub, Rex! OK, it's not a swimming pool, but it's the next best thing, a little pool." A personal pool. Certainly a guy can bathe in a tub. Plus, I bet he's even got a bathtub somewhere; in the bathroom going by educated guesses.

All Rex needed to do was step back and realize how great he had it. But in the people-business -- in the Psycho Squad we do lump Pool Envy with the broader condition of General Envy as at least proto-psychotic behavior. And if you think that's weird, I had to help a guy once with Lunch Meat Envy. How can anyone have that? you wonder. Yeah, that is weird; I ate so much lunch meat as a kid I'd go ballistic if anyone even suggested it. My team wrestled me to the ground once when I merely saw a lunch meat sandwich. The only way they could bring me out of the delirium was rubbing cheese under my nose.

I didn't rub it in with Rex in this case. Just coaxed him along, assuring him I was there to help. "Go put on some trunks. We'll warm the water and I bet you'll be thankful after all for what you've got, a pretty nice tub! You know, Rex, they don't have tubs as nice as this in Pakistan..." Rex soaked for 20 minutes, smiling the whole time, a happy ending for all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Psycho Squad

Part 1 of 30 -- Psycho Squad

We have wreckers for cars that break down. And ambulances for nervous breakdowns. That's basically what you need to know. And people to drive them and ride along.

I've had wreckers come help me; that's a complicated business. You'd think, hook the hook to the bumper and drag it in, simple. But, no, there's lots of different cars, the places where the hook needs to go varies. You even have to have it so when the wrecker stops, the car stops. Get that? It has to be cinched up real good and tight. Then the other thing, they have to be able to turn corners without it flipping off or getting twisted at the chain, etc. It's so complicated, if you have the slightest qualms about having what it takes, go into brain surgery instead. It's easier and the pay's better.

That's where I come in, one of society's heroes, somewhere between the wrecker guy and a brain surgeon. In fact, that'd be a terrific logo, a wrecker pulling a head to the service station. That'd be a funny logo, something everyone would remember. And it tells our story in its basics; just as a car breaks down, we break down. It's nothing to be ashamed of. No one blames a car when it has problems. I guess I have, but it doesn't do any good. But who among us hasn't kicked a car or even taken a sledge hammer to one?

With people though -- and I'm a people person, not a cannibal but I love people -- I treat them as well as possible. The least little thing, of course, and they'll sue the pants off you. Especially if the problems are more mental and not observable, just the symptoms. They can imagine you did all kinds of things. And say they've got split personality disorder, they think they know what you did from five different angles. Tough to disprove even if you have a split personality guy as sideman.

Anyway, it's a tough business, but gratifying. It's good to know you're doing something everyone else only dreams about. But those folks can wake up and take a sedative and go back to sleep. We have to face it, this is the reality of life, terrible, boiling over crazy, you wake up with the heeby-jeebies and that's the way you go to bed. Half the time I'm afraid to face another day, but then I think, at least days are twice as nice as nights. Especially with a full moon. It's been a while since I was surrounded by psychos on the highway. Say you're threatened, just howl yourself, keep 'em confused, they don't know who they're looking for. Then phone for backup. 

I wanted to do this job since I was a kid. I also wanted to marry a redhead. Three redhead wives later, I thought, try a blonde. So here I am, doing the job. The ambulance is a seductive mistress, also redheaded, a red light twisting the night away.

One of my old classmate friends wanted to help people when he graduated. So he went to work for a home with mental cases. They were locked in, he was locked in with them. He showed me the bite marks on his skin one day, even dropped his pants a couple inches. Teeth marks from people with teeth better than mine! I thought the obvious, you gotta be crazy. I’d really hate to be their dentist...

These are my adventures. Which I try to keep tame. If nothing interesting happens on any given day, that's good, that makes me happy. The more boring, the better. Lack of bite marks, my goal. Avoiding redheads? Lock me up and throw away the key if I cave. Bald's better.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Guidance Counselor Go Bye Bye

Part 30 of 30 -- Guidance Counselor series (bye bye)

The end of the school year came and as it turned out was anticlimactic. Especially looking in hindsight. Everyone had to deal with end of the year issues, getting your hats ordered for graduation, etc. Then there was the whole deal with the locker, which I should’ve never had to deal with. If there's a problem, call the insurance guy.

We always have the world we have, though, and that was how it was back then. There was a definite ending point in view. And everything from that point is your place in the world as they foresaw it, or different, and making do, getting by, trying, striving, failing, trying again, relationships, having children, starting blogs, learning about computers, life insurance, burying your parents, scattering their ashes to the four winds, and looking forward, most of all, when you learn later in life that the guidance counselor eventually met his fate. With his cremains out there somewhere. I never sought them, and probably this close to my own death -- cough cough -- I’ll just wait to see his spirit in the great beyond. And go toe to toe.

But he had nice words for me as we parted, looking to make my life easier, “Don’t call, don’t write.” It’s true, it’s saved me a fortune on dimes and stamps. Which I know I could’ve done the responsible thing, given the dimes to the March of Dimes and the stamps to soldiers to write home with. But I banked the whole thing, keeping what was my own for my own purposes.

When I walked the stage to get my diploma, family over here was proud of me. They let out a cry of happiness that evaporated immediately. The other kids who’d been in the guidance counselor’s office were proud. A few of them didn’t make it, so weren’t present, so I don’t know if they were proud or not. Since they were likely hanging out on Skidrow, it’s not like we were going to see each other very often. Have I ever dreamed of being on Skidrow? That’s as far as it goes, I’ve imagined it without really ending up there.

The other big memory at graduation was seeing the guidance counselor among the rest of the faculty. There were the teachers I liked, the teachers I disliked, the school secretary whose deft handling of my money and the giving of my weekly lunch ticket is eternally impressive, a few hangers-on, like teachers from junior high, including the bastard who nailed me for nude magazine pictures in 9th grade, and of course the guidance counselor.

I never saw him again and if I ever did it would’ve been too soon.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Graduation--No More Guidance Counselor

Part 29 of 30 -- Guidance Counselor series

The big day for Graduation at long last arrived. No more teachers, no more books, no more guidance counselor’s dirty looks. Which turned out not to be literally true, because there he was on the stage and giving everyone the eye. Friendly or dirty, depending how he felt about you.

I was fairly proud not just of graduating but of everything leading up to it. When the big moment came, that which I’d stumbled my way toward for 12 long years (plus the time you sleep in Kindergarten) turned out decent enough. I somehow managed to pay for the flowing robe and hat and made it to the school on time. Pretty good, if I do say so myself, for an incompetent guidance counselee! Put that in your dirty look and smoke it!

The ceremony was supposed to be outside but was held inside because of rain. So even the weather was against me, because had it been outside, the guidance counselor would’ve been obscured by trees and shadows and maybe never brought to mind. Since it was in the school, we got the same glare of lights throughout, like at basketball games. Nowhere to hide.

Of course the scene was orderly and nice, with laughter for variances. Say someone did something out of line -- jump up and click their heels -- everyone laughed. The folding chairs had school color decor on each end, the junior orchestra was in good form belting out a few of the usual tunes. The faculty were in their places, apparently on their best behavior, not wanting to betray their true nature when so many unaware folks of the community were present. They wished it could've been outside more than the rest of us, so their biting comments and dirty sneers could've been more blatant.

The guidance counselor was on stage, like some kind of scholar. It kept running through my mind, “You almost graduated from Barber College and here you sit! Thanks to the GI Bill and the way your path was narrowed by fate! The simple fact that Barber College doesn’t have a wrestling team, and you thought you might be Coach of the team here! Then, if that’s not enough, the idea that they’d make a wanna-be wrestling coach, almost barber, the guidance counselor, how bizarre! Education isn't the orderly well-thought out profession they pretend. They grab any warm body. True guidance isn’t at work, except that of rank convenience for someone. A lowly staff person was no doubt responsible for this travesty. After making a decision of convenience, not merit, they got an extra hour to watch TV (some deadbeat guy) or have her hair done.

I saw him on stage. Every paradise has a snake in it, and this snake I had nailed. I zeroed in on him, watching for him to reveal himself. When in one moment of revelation -- when the principle had said something witty and the gym was joyous in laughter -- I caught a glimpse of him flitting his serpent’s tongue out quickly. He recovered before slithering off, maintaining his seat against further revelation. A bolt of lightning would've driven the revelation home.

It gave me a chill. But I put it out of mind. Then we were going through the alphabet, and when my letter came, near that time, our row stood and we made our way to the aisle, walking solemnly, stoically, toward either our salvation or doom. I passed the piano and prayed for strength that I wouldn’t crumple next to the principal and end up pointing to the guidance counselor, only to see him jump up like the assassin of my Spirit Animal Abraham Lincoln, and kill me before exiting the gym with a painful limp and later being hunted down like the filthy dog he was and burnt alive in one of the neighboring barns. A barn that would’ve been built for that exact fate, had it only happened.

Instead, what happened, our eyes met for a second but nothing consequential. I thought it over, “Oh, nothing, huh? Playing it safe for the rubes? Keeping up the responsible guidance counselor ruse." I got my diploma, turned the tassel from here to there and lived happily ever after. To that point.

It’s better to graduate than not. So I’m grateful I did rather than didn’t. Even when I go to graduation ceremonies now — I avoid them when possible — I wonder if a similar drama is playing out before me. I tend to ask around if anyone knows who the guidance counselor is, then watch him or her. But everyone seems real normal, nothing overtly hostile.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

My Winning Communism Speech

No. 28 of 30 -- Guidance Counselor series

I know I wrung the guidance counselor many times through the wringer. And I’ll wring him out a little more today, with suspicions of ulterior motives, but for the most part this is positive about how he helped me accomplish my persuasive speech.

Have you ever given a persuasive speech? It’s very artificial in a class, since everyone knows it’s a persuasive speech. Of course they’re looking more for technique and less to be persuaded. Whereas, say I were to give my persuasive speech to a more typical crowd of indoctrinated Americans, it's likely they would’ve been repelled instead of persuaded. Almost persuaded, but lost, running dog lackies.

And who knows? I didn’t think it at the time, but maybe the guidance counselor only helped me because he thought it’d bomb and I’d look bad. As it turned out, no one was persuaded but I did OK for content and presentation. I even studied enough on Communism that for that week I was really into it.

We heard a lot about communism then, supposedly bad, blah blah blah. I thought, Give me a break. How can most of the world be Communist and Communism be bad? I was mostly thinking about China, which had people by the ton and manufactured most of the cheap things I bought. Seemed pretty capitalist to me...

OK, the guidance counselor was suddenly alive with helpfulness. I had no idea that he might be setting me up for a public hanging. But if indeed those were his evil motives, the kids in class were mostly bored and nothing I could’ve said would've yielded anything like a public hanging. Only one kid there was a radical — this was before Fox News — and I thought he had to be faking it. His hair he kept purposely short, his shirt was tucked in his pants by choice, his belt nipple-high, he carried a briefcase and identified with the word 'warmonger.' Even he didn't mind the speech.

I no longer have my notes and supporting documents except for what I have above. But you can tell what the tact was. To expose American propaganda about communism and show the actual truth that it's a good path for society. American propaganda tended to put a negative spin on communism, showing the people sad and in chains. Whereas the true teaching, communism’s testimony of itself, showed it as entirely good, the people happy, dogs breeding with each other like normal, etc. All hunky dory, the dog population proceeding apace, the people happy, dancing on the publicly held lawns, more or less a field day for everyone everyday!

I was immediately repulsed at American propaganda for not even admitting that the Communists saw things in color like us. But everything was a dingy scratchy black and white. Was that reasonable? I actually asked my dad, who was strictly anti-Communist, and he vouched for the black and white scratchy theory. I asked a guy at the Chinese restaurant, since I didn’t know any Russians not in hiding, and he said, “No talk 'bout, order pwease.” I had a crab rangoon and left, disappointed at not knowing more about worldwide governance.

One of the things that really rang true for me was some good information I got on American capitalists being pigs. That definitely rang true in my experience, letting me know I was on the right track. That went over very well in the speech. No one rebutted the point, nor did anyone produce compelling proof that we weren’t pigs. The graphic I had on American children being pigs was pleasantly received, many laughs.

The guidance counselor gave me a thumbs up on the thing and sent me forth. When I figured out his angle, that I might’ve been publicly strung up for my foreign viewpoints, I was of course disappointed. But it was par for the course for the guy, a capitalist bastard with a stupid wrestling coach mentality in a stereotypical guidance counselor’s body.

In the grand world of communism — and someday we'll see it at long last — we’ll string up guidance counselors like him. Or reeducate them, which no doubt will be a waste of time, meaning his hanging will be an hour or so later.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Spit In My Spaceage Locker XL5000

Part 27 of 30 -- Guidance Counselor series

Here’s one for the books, my filthy locker that needed cleaned before I could graduate. And the guidance counselor took the same position as the school administration, that it was my responsibility either to clean it or pay $100, a lot of money.

This one needs a tiny bit of explanation. I was assigned the locker at the beginning of first year (of three years in our town). It was literally next door to where the wrestling team met and far from where I normally hung out. I immediately quit using it when I met a girl who let me share her locker. Her locker mate had dropped out. Then a guy I knew from Sunday School who was my original locker mate dropped out too. So our locker was abandoned.

Somehow, then, the locker abandoned by me "popped open." And unknown wrestlers and others, experimenting with chewing tobacco and other scummy pursuits, spat in it over and over. If they wanted good luck, they spat in the locker. If they had a tough opponent coming up, they spat in the locker. Over the years I periodically went by it and noticed it was open and I’d push it shut, but since the lights were bad down that hallway I didn’t notice the mess.

So the time for graduation came and I was tagged for having a dirty locker! It took a while to realize they were dinging me for the original locker, unused by me for three years. But when I went to look at it -- damn right, it was dripping with spit, with plenty more, years worth, encrusted everywhere. And not just that but dust balls that float randomly through the air. Everything you’d expect a sewer to be if sewers came in locker form. And now they expected me to pay $100 to clean it up...

Well, guess what, I said a little prayer, “Help me out of this mess. Some a-holes spat in my locker! Amen.” The very next thing, one of the janitors that I was halfway friends with came down the hall. He didn’t know the spit locker was mine but was sympathetic when I told him. Sympathetic to the point of taking me to his closet and sharing some of the original literature that came with the lockers.

You see a piece of it in the graphic. That brand of lockers was advertised as self-cleaning! Meaning, cleaning it should not my problem. And if the self-cleaning mechanism was broken, it was the school’s responsibility to fix it. The fact that the lockers were put in in the early ‘50s had nothing to do with it.

I explained the problem to a friend in the debate club, and he presented my case to the school board, who had to agree, the defendant didn’t owe a cent. The school was at fault!

So where does this leave the guidance counselor? Thanks, bud, for stabbing me in the back once again. After the great times we spent together, you doubted me one last time. But a big thanks to the janitor and his wife Deidra, who also had me over for donuts. She commiserated with me, saying how sorry she was that some bad boys spat in my locker. I patted her hand and told her truly, “That means a lot to me.”