Saturday, May 31, 2014

Join Me for Paranoia Week

I'm inviting you to join me here for "Paranoia Week," June 2 through June 8. I know you'll like it, if you like the thought of a guy on the wrong side of "forces" that may or may not exist. Even now, I'm feeling jittery thinking of it. Saying, as I just did, the forces may not exist means only one thing, I'm a goner. I'm nervous about the descent, let alone the myriad terrors I know are there.

Speaking of the descent, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow, so I won't be here June 1. I'll be going down into a full-bore paranoid fit, which takes a lot of stewing, mixing it just right, and letting it work. Only one day, you say? Yes. Like you, I've heard of many other "Paranoia Week" bloggers who've stewed for an entire year or more. They go the last mile -- sweat lodges, hot compresses, new age music, reverse yoga, etc. -- and what they come up with is quality. But I don't personally have that much time to waste, and, again, with just a day, I guarantee results.

Like I said, I'm getting jittery just thinking about it. There's a lot of annoyances on the way down, the inner sounds (and pain) of things snapping and sparking, almost like we're some kind of machine. Next, there's a vast silence, as aspects of the Self are being disconnected, in particular your thoughts talking you out of it. Then a comforting grayness, stretches of grayness. You can be quickly lulled into a dangerous complacency here. You need to keep an eye on the edges, looking toward your ears, to not slip off the edges, like on a slick highway. At the edges are chthonic aspects of the personality that, given a chance, would bite your head off.

I'm recalling the last time I passed that way. How well I remember these heavy mildewed curtains from old vaudeville stage shows. Past lives that think they're here and now. Queer performers line the hallways, stagehands fluff sandbags, electricians man quaint old light fixtures. A lot of the snapping, the electrical phenomena, is from them. The performers look extremely dangerous. Their fingernails are extremely long, and their throats are stretched beyond normal, as they try to keep in voice, expecting any moment to go on stage. They don't know it's been close to a century. If they actually sung it'd come out screeching.

There's another place along the way, a place to mention. It's a place of utter bleakness, darkness. But tied to a post there is a donkey I call Desi. He's a cool donkey, the nicest creature you meet in the land of paranoia. The rest -- I can't get into the rest -- the Hall of Unwashed Broken Mirrors, the Pavilion of Things Found in Sofas Personified, the Cavalcade of Good Monks Gone Bad, whatever. It's all evil. The only good I've run into is Desi the Donkey and the spirit of St. Rita of Cascia, the saint with the big scar on her forehead. This wonderful Bride of Christ reaches out to me, and I realize her precious message, treasuring it in my heart: Paranoia is good for your pores.

Oh, no, I'm having second thoughts! I shouldn't do this! I know I'm going to look like hell when this is over, good pores or not, and much of that remains forever. I'm 61 and look 80, thanks to this. Now, if I live, I'll come out looking like a maniac, and older. I'll have someone else's heavy clothes on, some monk I'll spoil. I might have those horrible looking woolen half-gloves, with my fingers sticking out. When they see me -- people -- they'll see a maniac, and even though I'll cry out, hoarsely, "This isn't really me!  This isn't me!" no one will listen. Who would listen to a battered, torn, worn-out, and haggard, dragged out, dragged down, buffeted, beaten, and bruised maniac?

But here's my vow -- which I hope I can keep, because if I can't, my soul is lost! -- I vow this will be the best "Paranoia Week" ever. Ever.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Which Are You, Queasledee or Queasledum?

How about you? Ever get a terrible feeling of malaise coming on -- a vague sort of inner discord, seemingly from no where -- that if left to itself becomes funk, then progressively escalates into a big enough depression that you're in the hospital?

Honestly, no, this has never happened to me. I've had the malaise and the funk, of course. But somehow -- maybe just lucky -- I've avoided the depths of it that some people experience. I'd like to think I have at least a small degree of knowledge, something within, that puts me on the upward path.

I guess it's always a positive to "know yourself," whether it's what color your parachute is, what your rainbow color is, which animal you are, which Beatle, which Stooge, which pizza topping, etc. By the way, I think a good one would be "Which movie streaming service are you?" If you're Hulu Plus, you're more tolerant of suffering than Netflix, because of Hulu's many commercials. If Amazon, you're more prone to temptation, because of all the movies you can't watch without paying more.

When it comes to malaise/depression -- Queasiness -- you might ask yourself, "Am I Queasledee or Queasledum?" I'm presenting the two, Dee on the left and Dum on the right. Just looking at them and thinking intuitively, I like Dee's colors more. Dum's bright yellow shirt gives me the feeling of malaise simply dragging on. Whereas Dee's rich blue is much more integral to me, giving the stimulation I'd need to get over it. On the other hand, Dum's shoes are red, recalling something earthy, like clay, something grounded. But, again, there's yellow, Dee's shoes, a nasty color for shoes, unless they're just tennis shoes for fun. So what would that make me right now, going only by that, 90% Queasledee and 10% Queasledum.

Notice, the heads are the same. These two could be mirror images of each other, both seated on a terribly burdened stool. It's not somewhere I'd like to sit, not for long, not with my obvious weight truly bearing down. This tells us something important, though, that the things we depend on in challenging times can actually be quite small in relation to our much larger problem. How many people I've heard of who've gotten better, transcending the enormity of their problems, not by knowing whether they were Queasledee or Queasledum, but by taking whatever small pill their doctors prescribed. That might be the true answer.

Be that as it may, we sometimes find malaise returning, and I personally don't want to bother my doctor too many times. For that, I've added the four "Dorkheads" under Dee and Dum. This gives the whole scheme added variables that come in handy for complicating things. Simply having Dee and Dum there as binary opposites -- or perhaps as close, though not identical types -- doesn't get us very far. But adding the Dorkheads, each Dorkhead can go with each of the main bodies. One, two, three, or four, see?

Here's how I see it. You come to the determination, say, that your malaise is best described by Queasledee. Now, which of the Dorkheads would you use, if any, to supplement your findings? I've had quite a number of down times when I wouldn't have added any Dorkheads. I would've said, "I'm Queasledum right down the line," or Queasledee. Then other times, I'm definitely not satisfied till a Dorkhead is added. I'm a big fan of the one looking most downward with a strong kick from one of the upward looking ones. That tells me an important lesson, that it's up to me to choose, and the rest of it's likely irrelevant.

Whatever you do with this tool, of course that's up to you. I offer no guarantees, and this is for entertainment purposes only. I'm just putting the information out there, like they do on commercials. "Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt this," as the driver drives along like any of us would do. If you're happy, stay happy. If you're upset, take your business elsewhere.

If you turn out to be Queasledee, or if you turn out to be Queasledum, with or without Dorkheads, may all your searching find you the ultimate happiness. When you get over it, then, may you be the happiest person you can be, Cheerfuldee or Cheerfuldum.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nature's Most Perfect Food - 2014

In previous years, I have summarily pronounced Tabasco as "Nature's Most Perfect Food." This year, with the possibility of shaking things up, I'm putting it in a head to head competition with a couple other great contenders. We'll see how it fares.

According to Wikipedia, "Food is that stuff we eat." If that's true, and I believe it is, we have to reason that some of it's likely to be better. That's what we're wanting nail down today, not only which is better but so good it deserves the sterling appellation of "Nature's Most Perfect Food -- 2014."

This year, I have three finalists, which I will list in alphabetical order, double-checked for complete impartiality: Bacon, Milk, and Tabasco. The competition will be fair, but I must insist, my decision will be final, certainly through the rest of the year, and until such time, if ever, that my taste buds and/or the inscrutable criterion "Extreme Unction" change.

Milk is a weird one, the beverage of mammals, produced right straight from bodies of the female variety. I'm given to understand that milk was my first meal, and was what I subsisted on through much of my first couple years. That's awesome to me, that I was so stuck on one thing. All I wanted was more milk, apparently. I still love it.

Bacon is a food we hear a lot about these days. At the current time, there seems to be a huge bacon kick with the public. Of our three foods, bacon is the one that fluctuates the most wildly in price. Cows regularly put out milk and it goes to market, but hog farmers know they've got food-gold, like oil, so the prices are always up and down. And Tabasco is regular as rain -- regular as rain used to be, before global warming. We'll just say now it's regular as Antarctic ice calving.

I want to underscore one other thing about bacon, that my love for it has nothing to do with jumping on today's wild bacon bandwagon; I've always had it. I love opening a pack of bacon. It's in there like the pages of a book, and you know it's going to be a taste adventure. Plus, hogs have always been a personal favorite.

I've known lots of people who raised hogs, and they depended on people like me for their income. I've seen freshly slaughtered hogs, not a good sight. I've heard hogs being castrated, not a good sound. But I figure any animal that's willing to go through all that, I'm not going to turn away their meat. One of the weirdest hog sights I've ever seen was something like 1,000 baby pigs all together in one room. Just a writhing, seething, heaving, disgusting mass of pig. I remember saying, "Get me the hell out of here!"

Milk and bacon, coming from animals, don't sound immediately desirable. But I focus on the finished product, a big glass of cold milk and a plate of nicely cooked bacon. Milk poured well before its spoil date, and bacon not fried to death, but not undercooked. So chewy, so flavorful, so nutritious, so much enjoyable fat that you can't help loving it. Washed down with cold milk. I always loved getting the little milk cartons in school. They only gave us white back in those days, unlike the current more-pampered generation. 

Then there's my old friend Tabasco. I've made it well known over the years, in real life and on this blog, that I love Tabasco. I've slathered so much Tabasco on things over the years, they really should make me an honorary citizen of Avery Island, my own little cottage, etc. Once I sneezed and had Tabasco way up my sinuses, nearly burning out my system. At the time I thought I would die, but I lived to laugh about it later.

These days, though, I've had a harder time with Tabasco. So I'm using less. I seem to be getting more sensitive to it as my aging molecules wither and die. With my mind I love it the same, but my molecules counsel restraint. I don't know what to do. I've always bulldozed ahead with my mind, but it's foolish to cross molecules. If they say they're tearing, straining, and dying, I need to listen, don't I? Or I could simply deny that bad things can happen, like with global warming, and press on full speed ahead. Who's ever heard of negative consequences from anything?

The way I'll decide the contest this year is according to the principle of Extreme Unction. Which of the three foods puts the most (and best) unction in my extremities? Right away, it's a contest. Milk, being my earliest (and only) food, obviously kept my extremities nice and rosy. It had no competition and did it alone. But having no competition also suggests an unfair advantage. As far as serving up unction today, yes, I will say milk still does. However, the old advantage is gone. Milk supplements, it's not the main thing.

Bacon has tons of unction. And my extremities find it satisfying in virtually every way. The one downside of bacon is that it often overloads my system with guilt. I'm always worrying, Have I cooked too much? Will I get fatter than I want? Should I eat it every meal? Is it bad for me? Still, just thinking of bacon there on the paper towel, the grease being quickly wicked away, leaving those lean strips in a seductive spread eagle pose, I'm always pleased and, even now, feel a tingling in my extremities.

Tabasco also carries a lot of unction, up the ying yang unction. Tabasco even makes me feel proud. I know Grandpa would love to see his boy eating a ton of Tabasco. He used to put it on my plate, a drop, and laugh himself to tears watching me trying to get it past my teeth. Then, after his passing, somehow his tolerance of it was transferred to me. So I'm no longer the boy but the man! Like Leonardo's man, my extremities are totally stretched out, and Tabasco hits them all, a bulls-eye every time. But Tabasco, fantastic as it is, is like milk in this one way, supplementary. Yes, occasionally I put it on a plate and lick it up, but not very often anymore. Because of age, the molecules, etc.

All three of the great foods have amazing unction, and each one's unction touches the extremities in ways hard to believe, or they wouldn't even be in the running. I tip my hat to all three. But the one food this year that puts the most Extreme Unction in my extremities, and therefore will hold the title forever of "Nature's Most Perfect Food -- 2014" is going to be  .... Bacon!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Everyone's Cross to Bear

I was out on the prowl again today, "people-watching." They say it's in my blood, from the source of my blood, my family. I remember they mentioned it at my dad's funeral, that he liked it. I should have watched him closer, because I don't remember that.

The task I set for myself today was a deeper one than just summarizing activities. I was looking for something more "inner." I did all this very much on the sly, taking glance or two and trying to discern as much as I could. Note: If I discern a lot of personal information, like passwords, bank accounts, various trysts they're headed for, etc., I immediately forget it all. Let me repeat, no one's most confidential information was recorded.

VERY PRETTY GIRL, 18* -- Of course she has a huge cross to bear, being indisputably lovely. Good colors, too, of the clothes. She knows how to dress for maximum appeal. But her loveliness is her cross, because she knows so many who see her want her, and so many for all the wrong (superficial) reasons. I can read the minds of other guys. Both guys who have a hard time with women and those who don't. I hate the thought of some of these bastards taking her out. Thinking, 'She's on my arm, how nice for me," so selfish. The other dimension of her cross is others' envy.

YOUNG WOMAN IN COMPLICATED WHEELCHAIR, 24 -- These are tough situations. She can barely move, going in slow motion, very vulnerable, but she's out, not staying home. A lot of crosses she must bear, I can't even get to them all. She's looking to see pity, which she hates, notices the staring, people wondering what's wrong, etc. I would guess you'd have to put most of that out of your mind after a while. Life is too short for all that. But still, obviously people are wondering, even though we've all seen every extreme in life. Such moments make me wistful in philosophical musing, the crosses people bear. I'd guess she has many acquaintances who are helpers. I hope in her many struggles she's gained strength.

ME, 61 -- I'm ambivalent about what my life's meant. My so-called accomplishments, comparing them stacked up next to my regrets. Big regrets. Aging speeds up as you go, for me most recently felt in all kinds of frightening pain and changes in my knees. I believe I can honestly say, No one's suffered like me. Another cross is my worry that I look suspicious to others, like a dangerous old codger, say, to the pretty girl, 18, although in truth I'd be the best friend she ever had if some lech came swooping in. I'd go into a karate stance, and kick him firmly in the--

MAN, ABOUT 30, FIT, STEADILY EMPLOYED -- I'll call him Joe Above Average. Stickler for rules, takes a lot for him to cut loose. This cuts both ways. It keeps him steadily employed in a moderately responsible public position. But he wonders if this is all, everything he was actually cut out to do. Still, his nature isn't primarily to question but to continue in the same channel till something shifts on its own. His cross, then, is just moving over the border into malaise, to soon return to normal. Must be a queasy feeling, since he normally avoids such things. (I've had personal dealings with this guy, so I know he's a stickler for rules, even when pointless.)

LITTLE GIRL, 4 -- Cute blonde in light, loose dress, a dress tie in her mouth. Everything's reasonably new for her. I see her holding Daddy's hand. Every day's a decent-enough day. Her cross has to do with vague security issues, possibly fear of the dark. She's seen glimpses of scary movies; in this age of Netflix, it's hard to miss. But Daddy and Mommy are close enough, and there's a nightlight in every socket, so it's a still a very tiny cross.

SCRUFFY MAN, 32 -- Wearing one of those strapped undershirts as his main shirt -- my brother and I called them "goony dresses" when we were kids -- and it's tight. Also has a camouflage hat, scruffy hair, more than a tad overweight. This guy's not too worried; he knows where his next beer's coming from. He's got a decent enough hold on life and is obviously comfortable, going by a fairly slovenly look in public. His cross is a persistent nasty smoker's cough and mortality. This, however, is not directly a concern, but he worries which boy ought to get his half-restored mid-70s classic pickup. Other than that, "I'll just smoke and hack away, then die, no biggie." Let me modify his cross, half-cough, half-pickup.

LIMPING MAN, 45 -- He's lived a good life -- having an efficient nature, focused on a particular specialty. It might be air conditioning work, or some other repair job. His thinness is such he could really squeeze in there and work on things with the best of them. But there's this terrible limp, after a compressor (guessing) fell on his foot, and he's going gray. His cross is the fear of change, needing to keep up on developments in the appliance biz. He hopes things will still need fixed, since a lot of people just throw things away after a few years and buy new.

OLDER WOMAN, 72, CANE -- She has an advantage in that she doesn't need the cane all the time. As a cane, it's more or less a crutch, not literally. She's living a decent life in her retirement, likely a widow, but happy enough, reading, working an occasional crossword, watching basic cable, and working on a few safe hobbies. Sewing activities. She's well-liked by the other ladies at her church, although I'm sure the ones who are extremely cane-dependent resent certain things about her. She's traditional, but easy-going. Her cross has to do with future concerns, obviously involving the cane, but more than that, mortality. She knows the abyss is in the picture. More than the abyss, though, she fears she might become a burden to others. I should ask her ... nah! I'm sure I'm right.

* Ages estimated, but I'm sure I got the genders right.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Nice Guy Certification Program

Let's say you're a nice guy. You see some other guy who looks like he'd be nice. Then you're disappointed when he turns out to be a crumb. To me, that's disgusting, because I always expect more out of people. But I've come to realize that not everyone's had the same advantages as me (family, attitudes, proper number of chromosomes), and that they are what they are based on that.

Once you become suspicious, though, and reluctant to engage with others out of this disappointment, you're on a track that's less than pleasing. To you -- being a nice guy -- it's foreign and funny-feeling. Maybe you're not a people-person or extrovert, as I'm not, but you still like to be friendly with folks and get to know them. You never can tell if it's your niceness that will inspire them in some way. An opportunity not to be missed!

Something I believe would go a long way toward making our relationships better would be a certification program, which in the end declares we are indeed "Nice Guys." We'd have a card for our wallet, an actual certificate for the wall, and maybe a medallion to wear as a necklace. I think it'd be great -- say I'm a stranger in town -- to sit down at a table and look around and see a couple guys with medallions. I could go over and not have to wonder if they're nice guys.

So I'm working on the program for this, which could be done in part online. What I've got so far is that there would be some quizzes, some long form work, and some interviews and get-togethers. Eventually, we could have branch offices in major cities, then everywhere, where people could come. That'd actually be better than online, because most of the people I've met online aren't very nice. Something about computers brings out the monster in them.

Speaking of "bringing out the monster," lest you think all this is sweetness and light, the interviews won't just be nice stuff -- I'm not that naive -- but more like psychological torture. Got it? We have ways of dealing with you. Because people's true demeanor comes out when they're under pressure. We will be very accusatory, reduce them to tears, and lambast everything about them, very demeaning and insulting. In general, it will be unpleasant. I can see us having private duty police (on staff) who are good at slapping perps around, who don't take no crap from nobody. They're willing to put the hot light on you and let you fry. You'll be submitting to treatment no man should have to bear. Because we want to see the real you, the nice you.

I'm not willing, you see, simply to issue cards to a bunch of crumbs. In that, yes, there'd be more money, but it would defeat the purpose. What I am willing to do -- as nicely as I can, with a greater focus on being realistic -- is put you through your paces. Which you will appreciate. When I put my signature on your "Nice Guy" card, I want to know, 110%, that you are what you said you were. So the short answer is, If you're not truly willing to prove how nice you are, we'll leave you with the obvious dregs, as forever questionable.

There will be some things about this that you might not expect. Such as: Before you even receive our packet, you might receive a packet from "an enemy organization" -- also us -- striving to see if you've ordered the "nice" packet under false pretenses. I'm very suspicious, because I've seen every kind of double-handed, two-faced, bottom-of-the-deck dealing, scurrilous phonies in my life. And everyone of them had a computer! I'd rather they didn't even apply, but if they do, certainly I want to ferret them out. Trickery will help with that.

Then, to come up with the psychological tests, I won't just doing that myself. But I'll be working with some of the dregs of society, along with good people -- most of these having psychology degrees, some from the most nefarious universities we can find -- to make the questions and situations so scientifically tricky that no one will be able to achieve a really good grade. If you're not nice, you'll fail by 30 points. That's easy. But if you are nice you'll only pass by a point or two. Everyone who passes will pass with a D-minus, which will be a good grade!

Please, though, don't worry so much about the pain before you, the pain you will have to endure. Look ahead to the glory of having certification on something that's truly worth the trouble. Folks will know you've been through hell and back, then through hell again and barely back, and have been shown to be a nice guy. You will be someone -- with your card, certificate, and medallion -- that they'll want to be with. They along with you will literally be refined company.

As you can see in the publicity, this isn't just for "Nice Guys," but gals are welcome, too! If fact we prefer it that way, if for no other reason than a lot of guys like to mix with gals. And if we don't know how nice they are, that's a huge hurdle. We're even putting the gals ahead of the guys! Like Ladies Night. You can go to the head of the line. And face first the struggle, turmoil, and torture of the testing process, so you'll be ready to receive "Nice Guys" coming through after you. That'll be good incentive for them and even something of a reward.

Another big feature I'm looking at is "Nice Couples" applying together, who will save a dollar on the whole works.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day -- Death's Day to Shine

Happy Memorial Day! I always think about that "happy" and whether it's appropriate, but I've heard it enough, it must be right.

I'm not doing much for Memorial Day, as usual. They fought and died for my right to sit on my lazy buttootie, so I'll honor that. No trips to the cemetery -- I hate crowds. I'll miss the parade -- looks cloudy, hate to get wet. I'd put the flag out, if I had one. I'm just in a terrible way.

The parade, you've seen one truck of waving vets, you've seen 'em all.* Although it is quite cool how they have the trucks festooned with little flags. I can just see the folks doing that, taking hours sticking those flags on. I honestly can't remember how they even do it, tell the truth. Surely there aren't little flag holders everywhere on an Army truck. What would that be, some kind of retrofitting? Or are we spending so much extra time and money in military procurements to make sure our trucks have 800 flag holders?

That'd be worth looking into. That might be why a lot of guys died. They're trying to scurry off a truck that's been hit and they're caught on a flag holder. So many of them, it's like a mine field. Like all that barbed wire they had in World War I, between our trenches and theirs.

World War I. This is a big year for World War I, because it's been 100 years since it started. I was talking to a guy the other day, a geezer, really, except I've known him since high school. He reportedly spends a lot of time and money on war literature and other mementos. Civil War through whatever; probably has an empty room ready for the next war.

In our discussion, I quickly blew through my limited knowledge of the First World War. Which consists of everything I know of Eddie Rickenbacher, since I've been reading his book for the past six months and I'm still not done. It's interesting in places, a total boring bastard in others. I felt gratified that my old friend agreed with me on the WW I flying aces, that they wasted a huge amount of time after a hit, driving around the countryside looking for witnesses to sign for them, to vouch that it was indeed their hit. Isn't that dumb? Do you suppose every infantry man jumped out of the trenches and ran ahead to get verification that he shot a guy? Anyway, it was my theory -- and this guy, a self-taught expert agreed -- that it was only the novelty of an air corps in those early days that prompted such a stupid idea.

Grandpa was in WW I. I don't know what he did exactly. He never said a word about it. Don't remember him being in any parades. Exercising his right, too, I guess. I honestly don't remember him even going to many parades, for anything. Just sitting around the house here, going out on the half acre, moving the outhouse every couple years, and hunting and fishing. My uncles were all military guys, like in the heat of WW II, the three boys this side of the family. The other side of the family, I had a couple uncles in Vietnam.

Funny thing about that. You know how the government's always screwing the veterans in one way or another? One of my uncles who was in Vietnam, after the war, died, not war-related. Somehow the government didn't get his headstone right. They always put which war you were in, and they put "WORLD WAR II," which meant he would've been around 5 or 6 when he enlisted. They must have a big assembly line of headstones and a guy daydreaming and forgetting to change the matrix.

The way it worked out, my mom went through all the bureaucratic gyrations you have to go through, and for the length of time it takes the government to solve anything, including a relatively easy problem like this. It may or may not have involved a contact with a senator or congressman. In the end, though -- she would've made a great bull rider -- she stuck with it and they got the correct "VIETNAM" tombstone to her.

What happened to the old one? There was someone in the cemetery without a tombstone. So she took it to a stone-etcher, someone who does that for tombstones, and had a different one etched on the back, then flipped it over. So out there somewhere in "The Silent Centuries" cemetery  .... Someday, when archaeologists are excavating it, they'll go, "What the hell happened here? This tombstone has a flip side!


*My true feelings on a truckload of 90-year-old vets, is I'd love to hug and lip-kiss them and rub their head and celebrate them without end. But you can't do that. They'd look at you like a madman, which you'd be. Inside they'd be thinking, "I'm the same guy now as I was when I was 40 or 50, an average guy on the street -- or maybe even your mean boss -- and you didn't want to razz me. Why razz with me now that I'm old? You're looking down on me! You're demeaning my humanity, manhood, and sacrifice?" Which wouldn't be true, but you can't disagree with one of these beautiful old goats.

Angels and Demons Play Red Rover

They're all arrayed for the greatest battle ever in cosmic history, the battle over my precious soul and the world. Oh yeah, nothing small. Sometimes I think I'm nothing. Then I realize, Dad mabbit, I'm as good as they get. Except for the bad teeth.

On one side, wearing gold trimmed wings and hoisting flaming swords, are the illustrious angelic forces. The opposing side has the demons, also illustrious in their own way, bringing the fragrance of cinder to the proceedings. I'm in the chariot with the one true deity Krishna, watching to see if Red Rover will break the line.

Because this is something like the Ultimate Contest -- so important that the Magic Butler's ascent to Heaven is frozen in place till it's decided -- each side is especially rapt. Red Rover has the life of the spirit racing through his spine, from his Eilo bottom to his Meniggesstroeth top.

Lately, of course, I have been friends with the demons. Demons 1. Demons 2. Hence, the battle, as the angels are very much against that sort of thing. Yet how often the angels have helped me! Hedgerow 1. Hedgerow 2. But who knows whether a similar alliance with demons wouldn't have kept me more well-rounded? Whatever, they both appear jealous, so it's one or the other, with my proxy in the fight, Red Rover, running the line. I believe the score is something like 50-50 out a best-of-100, with the deciding run ... NEXT!

The big difference in the last run is that Krishna has told me that many in the struggle will perish. So if I'm rooting for either side, it should be the angels, since those are the spirit of my body parts they represent. But the demons are old friends and acquaintances. So I'm torn.

Are angels better than demons? That's the question. For all their so-called goodness and assistance, it sure seems like angels are quick with resentment and a superior attitude. Whereas demons, always kicked down, seem to be thankful for every dry morsel you throw them. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln thought the angels of our nature were worth lifting up. But he's the same guy who killed vampires at night. Which hardly sounds like a fair fight, right when they're sleeping. So Lincoln sucks.

People who like angels are supposedly the strong. Strong? Think again. Every little old lady I've ever known, who couldn't get her walker out of the quicksand-thicket of short carpet had angels on her curtains and TV. What kind of strength is that? And people who like demons are supposedly the weak. Weak? Don't they break chains in the tombs? If they're so weak, what are we doing chaining them there in the first place? I'd like to be that weak! I'd join the carnival and make money in the freak show.

Angels, for all the good we think they do, have big heads. And insinuate themselves in lots of situations for personal gain and favors. Ever read Guideposts magazine? Those same ladies with their stuck walkers are always having angelic visitations. That has to be an ego trip for angels, as much as having these gals on a leash and giving them a nasty tug every little whip-stitch. "I give you doily, you give me article."

This stuff is constant for these ladies. And every one of them has a framed color 8 x 10 of a precious dog, now dead. I ask, if angels are so good, why didn't they spare their dog? Selfishness. The dog always noticed them there and barked their heads off. But with the pooch out of the way -- prematurely -- the way was clear for them to move in. One last thing: Ever seen even one of these 8 x 10s where the soft-focused dog wasn't strangely cross-eyed? I'll tell you why: Angels ran 'em ragged.

I haven't got time for the many virtues of demons. Except, next time you see a guy under a bridge out like a light, with a stolen bottle, now empty, think of the peace of spirit of that dear soul. He knows he'll wake up -- probably, hopefully not -- and there'll be a nice, kind demon there somewhere, sleeping in the hottest part of the campfire, who'll help him forget today as well. I never heard of a demon killing a beggar's dog. Just the opposite, in fact; in the absence of a campfire, a very warm spot for sleeping is inside, right next to a dog's heart, with its soothing beat.

OK, back to Red Rover. The angels blow in a prolonged chorus their several conch shells. Eilo blows Saddlesore and Wart answers with Toadpee. Cheetah sounds Harlot, Amen on Overbite. Asterechme delivers a sustained blast on Clarity, Tricky comes in on Dicky. And, finally, Chaos deafens everyone in the valley with his terrible sounding of Kontrol, only to be trumped by Meniggesstroeth delivering the greatest blow ever on his conch, the redoubtable Einstein.

I'm suddenly full of fear, fearful of losing either side. I have personal reasons. I need all these lugs in my life. And, if a bunch of them are gone, it'll throw the balance of nature all out of whack. You know what the Eternal World Soul Motor sounds like, of course: Chugga, chugga, chugga, wheeze, chugga, chugga... If it's out of whack, it might be Chugga, chugga, clink, wheeze, spitz, chugga, fizz. No good. Something exactly like that, sounding minor when you read it, could be the destruction of everything.

Krishna, though, called me to silence. Saying, "You are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these others. Nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. Therefore, get up with determination ... and let Red Rover run!"

With that, I'd learned my lesson. I basically live by two undying principles: 1) Don't pull a gun unless you're prepared to use it; and, 2) See No. 1. So I waved my flag and Red Rover was off! It was one of those slow-motion sequences, where we see Red Rover with a slow-motion head of steam. The demons are in slow-motion, too, jumping in sequence like pistons.

On the angels' side, in slow-motion, they have that look of, "I pity the po' fool who even thinks about it!" Red Rover looked like he could read Meniggesstroeth's stern mind and had his first taste of fear. I saw Krishna reared back, his mouth open in slow motion; I could see his teeth weren't that great either. Could he be in Amen's corner?

O! Damn! That's it! Guys with bad teeth stick together! I opened my mouth proudly and threw my power in with Krishna's -- Even if it meant self-destruction, we went for it! Red Rover felt our will and veered off his path, turning for the weakest link, the nexus right there between my bad teeth and sensitive testicles, breaking through the angels and winning a stunning victory for the demons!

That's about it. Not much left. The Magic Butler escaped to Heaven, so that's good. The earth opened and consumed me and Krishna. The angels and Red Rover all died. The demons jumped on the rented horses and got away. The world ended. And Red Rover's cross-eyed picture's still on display at the Pleasant Girdle Home for the Female Infirm, located on a chunk of earth flung into outer space.

Meniggesstroeth, Asterechme, Amen, and Eilo, are the angels of the brain, right eye, teeth, and testicles, respectively, according to "The Secret Book of John," found in The Nag Hammadhi Scriptures, edited by Marvin Meyer. Krishna's quotations are selected from Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Go Away, Dad, It's Still May

It seems like every year it gets worse, the encroachment of one holiday on another, and opening up the shopping season way too soon. You hear people crying out about it, complaining, and even picketing stores -- Who can forget the great anti-Christmas sit-in of July '74? But they still do it, the moneygrubbing stores, worshiping the Almighty Buck! If they had their way we'd have the tree up in April and Easter in October.

Of course I see it personally every year. I've gotten used to the cycle, and, being as easy-going as I am, for the most part I just shut it out. I expect to see Valentine's merchandise the day after Christmas, and that's that. And the fact that 99% of retail workers have to work Thanksgiving to get ready for Black Friday, I'm OK with that, just as long as they keep their end of the bargain, the promise to keep Thanksgiving some time in the last six months of the year.

But give 'em an inch and they'll take ... Mother's Day!?

Am I seriously supposed to believe what my fool eyes and my other fool senses are trying to tell me?! There better be some mistake here! Even Mother's Day is up for grabs!? Excuse me, this is too much -- cough cough, let me catch my breath... Good Christ in Heaven, is nothing sacred anymore? I saw it the last couple years but didn't say anything, because I was hoping my mom wouldn't notice, and I wouldn't have to explain it to her. But now that she's passed on, I'm taking the gloves off. As for her, I'm glad she didn't hear. I can only picture her rolling in her grave, had we not opted for cremation.

But it's true! There's no mistaking it. It's still May, and has been for some time, close to a month, and I saw it right away, Father's Day gifts out and for sale so early. Of course I don't personally have a dog in this fight, since my dad's also passed away, traditional burial. But I don't think it's a very nice thing to give Mom (the memory of mine and everyone else's still-living Moms) the short shrift. Screwing her once again, this time out of her day-month of recognition.

No doubt there's some lousy dads out there -- deadbeats -- who are OK with this. You have to guess that some of the moneygrubbing guys in retail are dads. Either out to line their pockets, or, to put an even worse spin on it, to totally diss their wives and girlfriends by whom they've had children. Dads, does that show real care for your wife and the various mothers of your children, that you can't even make their day-month special? You have to take it for yourself? I remember when men were men...

The gifts on display are plentiful, too, no shortage. We're not talking about what they do for St. Patrick's Day, which is to have a 10 x 10 foot area of green hats and necklaces in the middle of January. Far from it! There's entire sections of the store, large areas, devoted to things Dad would like: Slacks, shirts, ties, sporting goods, fishing supplies, hardware... Go right on down the line. Anything and everything Dad might like, they've got it, nothing missing, no holding back. Just blatantly ... right there ... in your face, bold as life.

It takes away the specialness of Mother's Day and Father's Day. You know what I think a good dad would want, the all-American red, white, and blue dad? For the store to clear away all those things that appeal to men. Just get rid of them, put them in storage the last week of April. Then keep May, the whole month, centered exclusively on Mothers. And then all the workers work overtime the last day of May, starting around 10 p.m., bringing Dad's stuff back on the floor. So that Dad gets June, the way he's supposed to.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Run Away and Join the Circus

I seriously hope there's kids out there who still want to run away and join the circus. I bet there are. What a fantastic life that'd be! I think it'd be great. For a lot of us, though, we don't really see that many circuses anymore. So the temptation isn't quite as strong, plus I'm getting very old. But in the small towns I just know there's still have to be little circuses coming through. Allowing kids the opportunity. A little fly-by-night operation would be perfect for a kid to run away to; start small and work your way up. I'd do it in a heartbeat, given another chance.

Of course it's something I always wanted to do, but, dammit, never did. I should've gone for it. I was always so concerned about the feelings of my parents and grandparents -- who loved me so much and were so good to me, just my bad luck. Had they been like other kids' families -- scoundrels, turds, and cranks -- I would've been gone in a heartbeat. Whether the circus would've wanted me, that'd be their problem. They would've thought of something for me to do, keep the clowns happy or something.

It could be that circuses back then, when I was a kid, had so many runaway kids, they just farmed them out to all the countries circus performers seemed to come from -- Mexico, South American countries, and Romania -- where they were trained. That actually wouldn't have been so bad. You're in South America, you learn from the masters, then you're part of bigger circuses. 10 years later your parents are in the audience and there you go trotting by, standing and jumping rope on the back of a plumed horse.

One of my favorite books -- and I can't seem to find it -- was always "Toby Tyler," which, unfortunately for him, when he runs away and joins the circus, it's a terrible experience. They treat him like crap. On the other hand, that wouldn't be so bad. You prove yourself, you work your way up, you dispose of your enemies. I can't remember all the details, except, Toby, Why limit yourself to that circus? Run away again and again till you find a more kid-friendly one.

I was thinking, maybe someone could come up with a program -- put together by parents and circuses, to allow their kids to "run away" -- or just to be driven in the car -- to a circus, serving an apprenticeship, etc., to see if they like it and would excel. I get the feeling that circuses are in some danger of slipping away. So what better to revive struggling circuses with but cheap labor, with kids not even really in it for the money? Then, assuming that a bunch of them would never want to go back to their families -- it'd be tough to go back to parents who abandoned you to a circus -- they'd have all kinds of experience, and would be able to make that circus flourish and found others.

The program I have in mind I'm tentatively calling "Toby's Big Secret," because it at least recalls the secrecy of running away to join the circus. A bunch of "Tobies," then, have that experience. They're with the circus for X number of days, months, or years. It's good for everyone, a win-win for the circus, as well as the parents. If the child never comes back, at least they're earning their keep and learning life lessons. I think it would've been fun if "Toby's Big Secret" was a program when I was a kid. Instead, I got to go to camp for one stinking weekend, that's it.

"Toby's Big Secret" could also be used in conjunction with children's "Last Wish" organizations. Let's say I'm a dying child -- and let's be realistic, that's what we're talking about -- I would be the best clown in the world! Seriously. The best clowns are those that evoke pathos, the crying clown, the big sagging sad eyes and bowed head. Even to the point of carrying a dead flower in a pot. If you're a child in the death throes, no one would make a better clown. With the diminutive size, you'd have the place in tears. I'm honestly choking up, thinking of myself like that. With the audience reaching out to me, crying like babies, and somehow curing me. Now I'm cured, let's say, I milk the act forever, since they're also throwing money.

The biggest danger in joining it with "Last Wish" activities is that they might give you more dangerous things to do, knowing your time is already short. Which, I guess -- and I say this reluctantly -- if I can't be a clown and have the audience loving me, would still be a great way to go. Helping steady the elephant's feet so it doesn't step on the beauty queen. That doesn't mean it won't step on you. But what a way to go! How would you rather die? In a hospital, going bald, down to skin and bone, your healthier siblings standing there crying, the parson hat-in-hand droning trite prayers, and your parents stuck organizing pancake benefits? Or with five tons of raging elephant coming down on you, then hoisting you suddenly on its trunk and flinging you through the air, impaling you on one of those giant tent poles? Give me the circus!

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Wife the Orangutan


It was a dream come true. So many times I'd dreamed of having that one true love. Which then always eluded me. You know how dreams are, this becomes that; it's all inexplicable, and forms don't persist, and the normally imaginable is replaced by the utterly fantastic.

That happened one morning, in the last dream of the night, that I was in love with a huge orangutan. She and I were sharing a deep moment of eye contact. I hesitate to share my thoughts at that moment, but thank goodness I woke up or we might have prematurely erased the boundaries of propriety, absent marital vows. Crossing this boundary with an orangutan would be put me in a Huff Post story, destroying my life and opening me to the threats of bullies, and then stories about that.

The thought, though, wouldn't go away. Her size, the muscles, the tenderness of her fur, the depths of the eyes, even the quirkiness of her smeared-on lipstick. It's that desire for mature relations where there's still a hint of innocence that does something to you. It's true for the saint and the sinner, the witchdoctor as well as the man of medicine. They see it everyday and they're not turned on -- nothing they'll confess to, anyway, but flutter those eyes in a motel room, and pucker those tentative, quivering lips, and Katy, bar the door! Cigarette time.

I drove by the zoo -- must've been 800 times, thinking, Is this right? Neighborhood Watch noticed me after 100. I was trailed by cops every time after 300. I ran out of gas around 500 and was beat up by boy scouts. Some time between 798 and 800 -- I guess it was 799 -- I turned in.

I hustled myself to the orangutan exhibit, where our eyes met again and again. Must've been 800 times. The zookeepers noticed me after 100. I was monitored by the other orangutans every time after 300. I was exhausted around 500 and beat up by the aviary. Some time between 798 and 800 -- I guess it was 799 -- we fell in love.

It was only a matter of her downing a case of energy drink, washed down by a single pot of whole bean coffee, and a touch of Tabasco on the tongue, before she broke loose. We fled immediately to an ordained friend, an extremely traditional hidebound guy, outspoken in his opposition to any deviation from societal norms. So strict is he there's no plumbing the depths of it. He readily married us, me in my normal clothes, she nude except for a lampshade on her head as a veil. We said, "I do," and I carefully lifted the shade and beheld my bride.

We were understandably nervous about what would come next. I hesitate to write about something so tender. But we drove by the motel, must've been 800 times. Some kids sneaking in the pool noticed us after 100. A guy looking for handouts stood up every time we went by after 300. I stopped to check a tire around 500 and was beat up by a gang. Some time between 798 and 800 -- I guess it was 799 -- we checked in.

Then it was off to our room, which we went to directly the first time. I will let it fade to black, leaving aside the close to 800 times we consummated the marriage, and the other way stations it took us to get there -- the 100, 300, 500, 798 and 799. We didn't have time for all that, working as we did through the entire King Konga Sutra. Had I known orangutans were so tireless and persistently demanding -- Downtown's an entire city itself -- I might have found someone else, a goldfish or even a woman.

But the deed was done, and the marriage was real.

The story doesn't end there. I'm writing this account on the eve of our 85th anniversary. Yes, it's now the year 2099, and, yes, the zoo still drives by occasionally, looking for her. No one told me orangutans lived so extremely long. Or me, for that matter.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Demons or Supernatural Helpers?

Call me demon-possessed, because in the last couple of weeks I've become possessed, at least mentally, by demons. In the morning I look at my cereal and think demons. At noon I'm working on a bowl of oyster stew and I see demons, of course. And at night, whatever I'm eating, I'm splitting it with three or four of my demon friends, and so going to bed hungry.

I, like other kids in Sunday School classes through the years, learned several things about demons, mostly that they're no good. I also learned that when they speak it's always gravelly and low, barely discernible as language, and generally quite looney. They ask you to disavow your reason, your family, your values, and even your humanity, and join them on a joyride that's extremely fun for the first little bit, but then takes a less cheerful sharp turn toward destruction. That means something to me; for one, I don't watch Fox News.

But I don't get that from demons. Neither in theory, nor now, in practice. In theory, I think the whole subject quickly becomes abstruse and boring. Like when you start throwing in Plato (I've heard of him) and some of the lesser known writers of antiquity, and the twists and turns of the Greek word "daimon" and how it relates to nature forces, whether they're merely personified symbolically or pictured as literal heads over particular aspects of nature, caves and grottoes. Are you still with me?

By the way, they didn't mention any of that in Sunday School. Which made it much more exciting. Demons were these terrorists from hell who put people through all kinds of torment, throwing them into the fire, and possessing them so they lived in tombs and broke chains like Hercules. A lot of their activity, by some totally weird coincidence, seemed to look a lot like epilepsy. Making us suspicious of very common neurological troubles. Side note to my cousin Shaky: "Sorry about those years chained in the root cellar."

Now, in recent days, I've had the privilege of knowing a being who goes by the name "Tricky the Demon." OK? Do I sound crazy? 1 x 1 = 1, 2 x 1 = 2, 3 x 1 = 3 .... Do I really need to prove my sanity? Tricky came to me with a Magic Butler and liberated me from the false doctrine that scratching itches is bad. For which I thank him, with kisses. Because I've seen more alt realms by feverishly scratching -- or letting the Magic Butler scratch me, especially below the waist -- than I ever saw in my more sedate past.

Anyway, Tricky's opened my thinking to the deeper insight that there must be all kinds of other helpful demons out there. Stands to reason, huh? And bigger and badder Magic Butlers. But when I tell people this, they're put off by the word "demon." Like a lot of other words, they've demonized the word "demon" to the point that their mind shuts off when they hear it. It's like "scumbag," "bunghole," "dill weed," "ass wipe," and, in the Bush years, "french fries."

So in the last couple of days, I've been surveying my friends, relatives, and a few strangers I know from Facebook, on which they prefer, "demons" or "supernatural helpers"? It's probably no big surprise that they scrunch up their face and curl into a fetal ball when they hear "demons." But they become light as a feather and twice as radiant with "supernatural helpers." Just like you look when you read Guideposts magazine all day. So supernatural helpers it is!

Tricky says he's OK with that, Tricky the Supernatural Helper. And I might need to work on the Magic Butler, too, because "magic" sounds fake and frivolous, and "butler," like secretary and garbage man, obviously needs a more modern equivalent, "personal assistant." What's a good replacement for "magic"? I guess for now it'll have to be Magic Personal Assistant, or just find out if he has an actual name.

I'm thinking, with the ancients, that if these supernatural helpers were in charge of the many functions of nature -- thunder, lightning, rivers, clouds -- then they'd have all kinds of specialties today. With the more desirable ones being like a well-stocked smartphone (many apps), able to perform many functions. My Magic Butler seems to have that, and I don't even have to recharge him every hour.

Incantations to my new demon friends: "Demon of dating, have you found anyone yet? Speed it up! I'm getting the mating jitters again!"  .... "Demon of reading speeds, try to harmonize your actions with the demons of my eyes and mind!" ... Then let's say I need to take revenge on someone who's wronged me: "Demon of annihilation, you're a demon, don't worry about the police! That guy's a bastard! Kill him!" .... Now back to the more domestic stuff: "Demon of toast, I prefer actual butter, not Blue Bonnet!"

That'd be a great life, being the demon of toast.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tricky the Demon -- Itching's Alt Consciousness

Previous "Itching" links:
Itching = Alt Consciousness Portals?
Secret Journal -- Scratching an Itch (or Not)
This Infernal Itching -- A Thorn in My Flesh
I feel a little guilty, but I'm overcoming it more and more. The short answer to guilt is obviously I wasn't cut out to be an ascetic. Whether not-scratching actually does you any good, it's looks like it can. But there must be some evolutionary reason why we scratch. It was probably those who didn't scratch who were overrun with bacteria and died. It explains why we have fingernails, and it's not just to give nail salons something to do.

I did my best with the idea. I had the idea suddenly one day that if I didn't scratch that might mean I'd be transported into other realms of consciousness. I'm always getting ideas like that, when I should just sit quietly after one comes and ask myself, Is it really likely that every stupid stray thought is a revelation? Or pick an idea and stick with it. If it succeeds, great. If it fails, at least I stuck with it. They used to advertise cars going 0 to 60 in 8 seconds. That's how fast I act on impulse.

Still, even as I think of it now, it makes a certain amount of sense. Portals to alt consciousness exist, and are likely round, and you can easily picture a round space encompassing every itch point. Even with my lack of discipline I'm smart enough to know that. But everything's changed now -- for the better, I hope -- and I'm back to scratching.

You'd be amazed at the heroic measures I took over the last couple weeks. I didn't shower for a week, thinking the more clogged my pores got, the more I'd itch, and the faster I'd attain the alt realms. I was half right. I had five times as many itches, but the commensurate realms were few. Until! I did have one, but at first I didn't think of it as alt consciousness. By and large, as my discomfort rose, I had only discomfort. It felt like things were crawling on me. Honestly, I had to look a few times, and I believed I saw something darting behind me when I was near a mirror.

So that was the alt realm! Which confused me, because it didn't seem like a reward for not scratching, because it had more to do with tempting me to scratch. Weird, huh? But that was it! I did the ascetic thing and the alt realm came disguised as sin. Which I hesitated over but gave into. Now I see, it was the reward, the payoff. Like I said, at my lowest point, I thought I saw something darting behind me, and finally I caught a glimpse in the window. There was a being ducking and hiding. I called out to it, and the name Tricky the Demon came to my mind.

Who, it turns out, was only ducking and hiding because he wanted to see me really squirm, I mean, really really squirm. Maybe for my own good, but still ... sadistic little bastard. I'll skip over the preliminaries. He told me he was here so I could go back to scratching. I resisted with all my might! I shall not scratch! But he was persuasive, saying he had the injunction to come up and assist me.

His voice was like honey, sweet to the ears, seductive like a beautiful woman, although his form, reddish, deformed, and obviously demonic was much less of a turn-on. He said in words so soft and sweet how gooooood it'd feeeeeel to let myself gooooo, etc, with very drawn out seductive language, like maybe he was selling Calgon. I said I felt bad about scratching and he had an answer for that. Which turned out to be a Magic Butler, materialized here for the job of scratching me!

So I went out for the day, trailed by Tricky the Demon and my Magic Butler. Every word of this is true, by the way. Maybe I started off confused, but this was the only alt portal I was going to get, and it was a fantastic one. In addition to scratching me, the Magic Butler is doing all the things that regular butlers do, more or less by the wave of his hand. And Tricky the Demon and I have been luxuriating on the couch, binge-watching old movies and eating free Whitman Samplers that he's teleporting in from somewhere.

I love it. All the luxury I'm getting, Tricky isn't making it, it's teleported in. Anything I want, I haven't paid for a thing. And apparently it's all untraceable. I'd guess the warehouses would have video cameras. But all they'd pick up would be the thing vanishing. Heck of a way to live, I know, but I don't see a downside. Tricky really is the Prince of Tempters, and so far I'm not noticing any ill effects. It's all great.

Anyway, I've changed my opinion 100%. Itching is out; full, free, and purposeful scratching is in. It really is true, you barely see anything when you fail to scratch. But when you're scratching -- I mean going at it with the full force of gusto, just short of drawing blood, all of life is open to you and the possibilities are endless. This is the greatest thing I've ever experienced. And that covers a number of things, of which the less said the better.

The good news, I'm back to scratching. The Magic Butler's scratching me, and himself once in a while. The places I can't reach, or don't want to because I'd have to wash my hands, I'm letting him get. Everything in front, above the waist and in plain sight, I'm going for. Tricky lies on the couch and looks at me, a playful smile. His eyes scrunch up when he smiles. He's truly delighted to see a guy in comfort.

So this is my thing now! It all worked out and it all makes sense. Alt consciousness comes from scratching and the grace of Tricky and the Magic Butler coming at my lowest point. I'm like Martin Luther King, Jr. -- I went down the mountain, I came back up, or however that goes. I imagined I saw it from afar, then I lived to arrive there, and now my children -- which I'm going to need a woman to get some of -- will someday play with children of the opposite color and be judged by their character, which will likely be very much like mine, beyond reproach.

I'm very blessed. I got alt consciousness from itching and scratching. Which maybe, like Dorothy said, I had all the time. But like her in Oz and waking up, maybe the Magic Butler and Tricky the Demon are just guys in the hood, the mailman and one of my cousins. With a bunch of old Whitman Samplers. They seem real enough. Life's still full of mysteries, like a box of chocolates, teleported in from somewhere. Over the rainbow?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

As the Blast Furnace Goes, So Goes Prohibition

I'm sitting here sketching out ideas, trying to flesh out our "Push for Prohibition." I've personally been very disturbed by the number of people I've seen going into liquor stores, then back out. They usually have a paper sack, and I'd guess something overly-potent inside, likely of the bottled variety.

I know what you're saying: Prohibition was done to death! True, we gave it a whole 15 years try, big whoop... But the War on Drugs has raged on for over 50. And don't give me that lame Dillinger argument; he's been dead for close to a hundred years. This time I think people would actually welcome Prohibition. Get the booze out of their way, remove temptation, they wouldn't miss it. We're so health conscious today, we wouldn't miss it past the first weekend. Forget Dillinger, probably the biggest opponent today would be the powerful paper bag industry!

I can see the paper bag industry in my mind's eye. They struck out on the grocery store front, with the dominance of plastic. Plastic's got it over paper big time. It has the handles to hold, you can carry more at a time, and it doesn't make that terrible clunky paper noise. Then there's the lunch boxes that took over the lunch sack. They're more durable and interesting. So all they've got left is liquor. Sacks, an entire industry held in place by winos who can't change their own underpants. Disgusting. If we get the push going for Prohibition, I think we can easily demonize the sack industry. Call them "Strange Bedfellows Together in the Sack" on a few shady TV ads and that'll be it.

OK, getting Prohibition in place still won't be that easy. You have to go the whole route of amending the Constitution. One idea might be called the "Fight Fire with Fire" strategy. We get Congress drunk, they pass the bill, then when they sober up, we go, "See, you shouldn't have been drinking. Exhibit A!" Then we schedule the votes in the states during Oktoberfest; with the beer steins a'sloshin' and the thick-pigtailed, knob-nippled German girls very exciting when tipsy, we'll have the votes.

But just to be on the safe side, I'm looking at doing this thing stealthily. I don't want it to be the usual agitation, where one side -- the Democrats or the Republicans -- dig in because the other's for it. I want to pass Prohibition like a thief in the night, where the only ones actually paying attention are those in the paper sack industry. And like I said, they'll be hogtied with negative ads.

I'm hoping to do it like SETI looks for extraterrestrial life, with lots of computer nerds in their local communities looking for patterns, intelligence, and evidence, then adding it to an overall conglomerate, micro to macro. It'll be like a tsunami, one no one sees coming. And who knows, once we all sober up, maybe we'll be alert enough to find extraterrestrial life. And let's say they're drinkers, we'll ambush them, steal their technology, dissect them, and once again establish ourselves as the undisputed lords of creation.

I'm going to need someone to identify all the groups that do business at liquor stores and what their transactions are. I'm thinking it'd come out like archetypes: 1) Male, 2) Female, 3) Other designations descriptive of gender choice, 4) Young adults, 5) Medium adults, etc., then the different ways they crave, how they decide to go to the liquor store, what to buy, where to drink it, etc. This intelligence will be key in knowing precisely how to target our ads. In a particular demographic, my age, for example, we'll play the old records of Foster Brooks, now quite politically incorrect. He used to be funny, now he's not. That'll bring many to our side. And so forth.

I really like the more psychological archetypes above, i.e., on craving and various decisions. Because this is what you key in on when you're doing things both stealthily and intelligently. You're screwing up the mainspring. Once you've screwed with the mainspring, nothing works as it did. You start tweaking people's behaviors -- what they crave for, for goodness sakes, there's no telling what else we might be able to ban: Television? Sports? Politics? I'm a do-gooder, so I'm not going to do bad, but if these ideas should fall into the wrong hands, they could literally have us sitting in high chairs drooling all day, with our biggest desired consumer item being the bib! Some nefarious slaveholder with five city sectors of drooling adults, thinking he's their daddy, and all they want is a new binky. Food for thought.

Another asynchronous, angular tactic we could use in the Push for Prohibition would be to make the experience of going to the liquor store simply annoying. If we have some killer traffic studies, all we have to do is gum up the works slightly here and slightly there. Suddenly it's like a wheel with a flat spot, bumping, each time it goes around it gets more annoying. But this involves the road: Smoooooth, Smoooooth, Bump! Those spots become more familiar and more annoying. The many derivations, although they're slight, are multiplied everywhere, with the cumulative effect being, more often than not, either the liquor store's deserted or totally crowded. Havoc either way.

And how about blast furnaces? You've thought of some of the other tactics before, no doubt, but I bet you left out the blast furnaces. The blast furnaces do something similar to what we see in the world's present ecology (global warming), but with the advantage that we can regulate things more drastically, whereas nature's way is to make slight but severe adjustments over the course of centuries. But what if every eighth day it was mysteriously 30 degrees warmer in every building? Or if it happened more irregularly, with less detection, such as fluctuating temps unpredictably between 4 and 18 days?

It wouldn't be a month before world leaders would meet -- 23 days, to be precise -- with interpreters at the ready to gauge the nuances of their speech in terms of how dire things were. Prohibition would be pushed to the back pages. Those of us who are for it would be passing it unseen. As for the furnaces, everyone would be turning them on, turning them off, looking at black smoke one day, and clear the next. Even the pope would worry about that, turning to prayer.

You might think we should tread softly, lest people drink more. No! This is where we want them to drink! For various reasons. 1) To get Prohibition in more easily; 2) Because excess drinking makes them sick and they swear off. How wonderful if we're able to say, "Your ordeal is now easier. They don't even make the stuff anymore. Have a binky."

Everything's going to take constant monitoring, of course, because even with great planning there's always an element of hit and miss. We're looking to steer the underlying culprit, the liquor industry itself, into the ditch. Then with the advent of greater righteousness, the other industries dependent on liquor will quickly rebound with new shipments of things: We'll ban lunch boxes and require sacks for lunches. And trucks will now deliver sarsaparilla and gum.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Drink Yourself Into an Early Grave

I'm still excited even this morning, after an interesting evening last night staking out a liquor store on the east side. I'm thinking this is how Carrie Nation got started... Certainly it's something that will benefit society, my work leading either to a renewed push toward Prohibition II or providing anthropologists of the future something of what went on in a time when liquor was permitted.

Of course I'm hoping for Prohibition, a more immediate payoff than future anthro. The way I look at it, We've fought the war on drugs for 50 years and made great strides. But we only gave Prohibition a measly 15 year try; why bail out so early? I'd say it's indisputable, if they'd only left it in place everything would've sorted itself out by now. Dillinger and Capone -- weren't they well known troublemakers? -- would've been dead by now and out of the way.

Now, though, we have to start from scratch. So, for the good of the cause, guess what, I took my trusty notebook and pen, and got as close to the liquor store as I dared. All I needed to do was settle in for the long haul, which was three hours. And, I might add, this was three hours of some of the most interesting work I've ever done. Keeping as good of notes as I could. I have a little arthritis in my hand, so that slowed me down. And there were more people going in and out of the liquor store than I could note; it was impossible for me to keep complete track, but every little bit helps.

Someone told me whenever you set out to do anything -- in this case, reinstitute Prohibition -- you need to make a case for it. That's what I'm working on, and this was just my first outing. Wish me luck!

Right away, I was continuously muttering under my breath, "Another one drinking himself into an early grave." Which means, as we all know from statistics, people die all the time, earlier than they would have had they survived till when their number's up, actuarially speaking. I think there's great benefits in trying to get people to live till then. If, to make the ultimate case, everyone lived to their actuarial potential, and there was an established history of that, life insurance rates would go way down. You'd get a million dollar policy for something like 40 cents a month.

OK, I settled in, and these are some of the customers I saw, described as best I can, with the apparent purchases they made. (In case you're curious, only one guy out of 100+ noticed me doing something suspicious. He walked by my car at a "safe distance," at which time I pulled up a prop paper sack and pretended like I was drinking.)

There were women. One of the first ones was a lady, maybe in her 40s, old enough to know better, who went in and came out quickly with a six pack of beer. She was one of the first ones of whom I said, "Go ahead, ma'am, drink yourself into an early grave." Also among the first ones was an older man, maybe close to 60, who walked like he had a cob up his butt (as my Grandpa used to say), with a big old beer gut, carrying out a little bag. Such a small bag for such a huge gut! And what a huge early grave he'll need...

After a while I thought of investing in a casket company. I definitely saw a lot of candidates for an early box. I've helped undertakers before. They put an official paper, rolled up in a glass tube, in a hidden hole in the end of a casket. This states the person's name, etc., and what they died of, which is supposed to last intact 5,000 years. For this guy, "He drank himself to death," will likely be the verdict.

Here's another dude, younger, 40-ish, probably with a wife and kids at home. I saw he got whatever he got well concealed in two paper bags, probably to sneak it past the family. Where exactly he hopes to drink it, I don't know. He looks like the kind of schmuck who'd have a "man cave," so that's probably where they'll find him. Go ahead, dude, drink yourself into an early grave.

Friends, think of your family if you won't think of anyone else. Most people don't pre-arrange, you know, and it will be absolutely awful for them to have to go through that agony on the fly, having just heard that you're going to an early grave. Myself, I'd definitely do everything I could to spare my family that agony. But then I wouldn't be mixed up in such a shady enterprise in the first place.

For some of these guys, it might be a positive if they did go to an early grave. It'd be a major red flag for the survivors, who would then live a much better life. But that's not my judgment, ultimately. This is interesting work, even though little ethical conundrums like that pop up. It's a messy world. I didn't come up with the world's problems; I'm just trying my best to make them not so problematic.

What's this? A young man in a white panel van, no windows, making a bee line for the liquor store. With no windows there's nothing to stop him from climbing back there and guzzling it down. It's in a brown paper sack, not a very good way to conceal it. We all know what it is. He's young, probably young enough to card. How tragic to have an overgrown kid headed for an early grave.

I've had a few plump men, out of shape, going in. And now here's another, a plump man, out of shape, likely to be drinking his sorrows away later. With more sorrows to come, no doubt, and earlier than he anticipates. Here's a plan, Einstein, how about getting in shape? Have a can of Ensure, check with your doctor about a water regimen, and exercise. You'll look better, you'll feel better, and you'll live to a ripe old age.

I saw a very interesting one. A guy with headphones went in and came out soon, buying nothing. Good boy! I said. But I made a notation: "Those headphones aren't good for your hearing. You'll be deaf before you're 50."

It's interesting that so many women go in unaccompanied. Things have definitely changed since my family was staking out liquor stores in the mid-'60s. Here's a little lady with a 24 pack of beer, a lot of beer -- a lot of beer! -- for such a small gal. I hope she drinks only one at a time, like one a month, or changes her mind completely. She must be extremely sad about something to need that much beer. Surely she knows, at least subliminally, that she's on her way to an early grave.

Here's a case that has more to it than meets the eye: Young couple, man and woman. They arrive and depart in two separate vehicles. I started humming the song, "Just walk on by, wait on the corner, I'll love you but we're strangers when we meet." With this I foresee two family tragedies in the making, the obvious hanky panky and the early graves they're headed for. Their purchase: A big clear bottle of something. Would that be vodka?

I saw a bald 40-year-old dude with one bottle. I put in my book, a little grim humor, "Gonna lose more than your hair. Early baldness, down that bottle, early grave." Just a couple others. There was a 35-year-old with a 12 pack. It makes me sorry to see people so desperate for a supposed good time, because I know they're playing with death, and sure to lose, with no rematch, no do-overs, just a one way ticket to an early grave. One other: A big guy had two packages, a 6 pack of bottled beer in one hand and another bag, concealed, of some wider girth. Maybe a case of something. That's a lot to carry out, anticipating that future moment when they carry his girth out, which will be very, very early.

If you like the work I'm doing -- and this is just part of the evidence -- I could use a word of encouragement, even if it's something very common like, "Keep up the good work" or "Keep up the fight, we appreciate you more than you know." Of course financial support is always appreciated. For a few healthy snacks while I sit out there.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Enjoy Your Hair, Boys, While You Can

Look at these sad 40-year-olds. Take a look, guys, that's you at 40 (or less). It's gonna happen, there's no doubt about it, and there's nothing much you can do about it, in fact, nothing. I know your response: "Then I shall live like there's no tomorrow, for there isn't!" That'd be fine, except such living leads to a greater appreciation for life, making your depression at 40 that much more devastating. Better to live resigned today and spare yourself the absolute depths tomorrow.

Believe me, I know all about this subject, like every other guy over 40. I was fine at 39, then as 40 neared, I woke up every morning with entire handfuls of hair on my pillow. Soon the supply diminished, the handfuls got smaller, until the remaining supply didn't know what to do. The fact that I still have hair at the edges, much like the third guy from the left (above) is my only consolation. But there's nothing good about it. You're always tempted to try a comb over, only to be called on it by guys under 40.

This painful subject's always on my mind, of course, but it came to my mind more powerfully today because I happened to see maybe 12 youngsters at church with bushy bushy hair. One kid's was very wavy, full, and even in his eyes. He had something of that Freddie Bartholomew charismatic look, you know, or perhaps a little more unruly, like Douglas Croft. Then my mind automatically pictured him at 30 or 40, balding, balding, bald, and I thought, "You poor innocent!" All he'll have is a slick head and a picture of himself as a kid. His kids, assuming he's able to find a woman, will look at it and laugh, "Dad, you had so much hair!" Of course he'll take it in stride, like every old man must, our daily cross.

Another kid's hair was just like Anthony Wager's, you know? with more than a hint of Johnny Sheffield, at least in the curl. I thought, "God, there but for the age of me, go I!" (Hope these references from the 1920s aren't too obscure.) And another's was very nice, straight like Jackie Coogan's, the young Jackie. What a head of hair! Beautiful, straight, but full, and we all know what happened to Jackie. Bald as a light bulb, with, in fact, a light bulb in his mouth! "Spare me a similar fate, O God, keep me under 40!" might be your prayer.

The ideal thing -- and I know I'd never get their undivided attention -- would be to talk to them. And share some wise advice. Marry young would be at the top of the list. Get her locked in, deny her an education if you must, anything to keep her when you hit 40. Although, thinking it over, maybe an education wouldn't be so terrible, just so you keep her entirely dependent in some other way. Say she's learned the piano and is brainwashed, thinking you're behind her talent. Because, believe me, 40 arrives before you know it. The speed of time literally doubles at 30.

These boys also might need advice on their career. You need an early start, even if it means baling on high school. If you have even a hint of giftedness -- or you can fake it -- present yourself as a prodigy and get a leg up on the competition. I know there's a million businesses out there that'd snap up a prodigy (or impersonator) in a heartbeat. Memorize a bunch of stuff, be pushy, be confident... and by the time 40 gets here and your hair's gone, you'll be locked in. With the right luck, you'll be president of the company and able to call your own shots.

One critical thing to avoid is this -- anxiety. Now, maybe everything I've said so far has made you anxious. Big mistake on your part. It is critical -- critical, I say! -- for you to remain calm. Quick, take a deep breath! Quicker! There's no time to lose! OK, exhale it slowly, slower! for crying out loud! Good God! Somewhat off to a bad start ... now, back up -- you've just speeded up the balding process. Advice: Take a nap and come back.

You can readily see, I hope, the psychology of balding is very tricky. Consider these statistics: If anyone even suggests to you that you will go bald, as I'm suggesting today, your likelihood of being bald early based on that alone is an extra 50%. Then, and this is no joke, the more you think about it, the more you worry about it, the percentage rises. It's been my experience -- and I'm bald -- that simply noticing other bald men helps you focus on the threat, to the point that you can think of nothing else, and you'll be bald at 25. Seriously, I know a guy just over 25 who couldn't think of anything else. Now he's bald and can't think of anything else.

Probably the best advice is to enjoy your hair while you can. Because it's going to happen. Just don't worry so much about it. Impossible, I know, but worth a try.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Terrible Trouble! The Barber and Pizza Place

I saw the basics of this incident with my own two eyes. But I didn't really know it was in process till I'd noticed the guy walk by three times. I was sitting on a bench uptown. By the third time the guy walked by me I looked up from my phone and started paying attention. Then I was able to piece together the previous three trips in the context of the incident.*

The guy is a guy about town, someone that if you live here you see all the time. He doesn't seem to have a ton of friends -- never a companion -- but everyone, especially businessmen, know him. He's uptown a lot, and must check in a lot with merchants. This time he was going back and forth between the pizza place and the barber shop.

He started out at the barber shop and went to get a pizza for the barber, which he delivered. But there was some problem, so he went back to the pizza place with a dollar, then back to the barber. Soon he returned to the pizza place to get a handful of napkins, then to the barber. Then he returned to the pizza place for a little container of cheese, then back. Then he returned to the pizza place for some red peppers, then back.

By now, with yet another trip, the pizza place thought maybe there was a problem. He explained that the barber was certain the pizza was supposed to have been $7, but it turned out to be $8. The extra trips back were the barber's way of recouping his dollar.

So the pizza man sent him back to the barber with a message, that the pizza was indeed $8, not $7, because extra cheese is a dollar more. The barber sent him back with a message that he hadn't asked for extra cheese, the usual amount of cheese being all he wanted. The pizza man sent back a message that naturally he wouldn't have known that. He put one little knife in the barber's back: People rarely go to the barber, and then it's always the same ones. If the barber remembers what his customers want, that's no surprise. But so many people go the pizza place, many different ones, one order's the same as any other.

Obviously this kind of nasty comment didn't sit well with the barber. Especially since their commerce is only one way, the barber ordering pizzas but the pizza guy never getting a haircut. (I'm sure I would've have a hard time holding my tongue, too.) He sent the guy back to the pizza place with a message: "Your pizza sucks anyway, whether it's $7 or $8." The pizza guy sent him back with a message in return: "Why do you think I never come in for a haircut? The looks of your haircuts aren't the greatest." Their go-between man was Exhibit A, whose head and whole manner look totally bad; he's just a guy with bad hair.

It escalated from there. The barber complained that the pizzas were often dry like cardboard, and in addition, the occasional sandwiches he'd ordered were tasteless and skimpy on meat and hefty on lettuce. The pizza guy sent a message back that haircuts in general are very boring, and that this particular barber's haircuts were the most boring. Plus, and here he was unfair, the barber's toilet paper budget must be through the roof, just to patch up nicks from shoddy shaving practices.

By now the guy had gone back and forth -- I lost track -- maybe 18-20 times. As an emissary delivering messages, he did a fine job. But in my opinion it would've be more helpful to smooth out some of the rough edges of the messages they entrusted to him.

Finally, the pizza guy thought, "The barber actually is a pretty good customer. And we've been here all these years, on friendly terms." The barber, to his credit, also thought it over, "If I don't fix this, I won't be able to order pizzas again, which means I'll either starve or have to order from someone farther away."

The barber sent the guy back to the pizza guy with a friendly word, then to smile and ask about the extra cheese thing. But before asking about the cheese, the guy admitted ordering extra cheese, not to cause trouble, but that's the way he personally orders pizza, so it had slipped his mind, causing the extra dollar charge for the barber.

Of course there's a happy ending, as seen in the picture. The pizza guy kicked the guy out once and for all, then made up with the barber, returning his dollar, who immediately went to the register and gave the pizza guy 50 cents. They both agreed that they had been good neighbors far too long to let this guy screw them up now.

* An interesting moment for me, when I go from basic ignorance to omniscience

Friday, May 16, 2014

You're 61? What's Your Secret?

Isn't that something? Me, an old man? Yes, it's true, I am 61, extremely old. But it's not so bad. Except for the sore knees, being a little more tired with each day, the slow shuffling along, my crackling, tentative voice, and the increasing difficulty of every other aspect of life, it's the same as 16. I suppose all that sounds like a terrible challenge, but when it gets too much my head clouds up and in confusion I simply pass out and so I never really know the difference. Actually a pleasurable feeling, except at major intersections. "Honk! Honk!"

The key thing to remember about old age -- and 61 is indeed a ripe old age -- is that you haven't got any choice, unless you simply die. Which, despite the massive failures of every aspect of my being, I won't do, not till I'm 85. That conviction was hammered in my head by revelation, and I keep repeating it everyday, every time I feel like I might just physically drop, "You're not 85 yet! Try, damn it, try to keep your face out of your soup." 85? That sounds like a long time to wait, but every second is one second closer to all of it ending. Old age makes you more philosophical like that. And cheerful.

Once in a while, and this is happening more and more often, some young buck or doe asks me the secret to my enormous longevity. Of course I don't have any big secrets to it. The same as other guys: Clean living (with everything failing, what else can I do?), watch lots of TV, exercise little, in times of sentience gorge myself on bacon, gallons of Tabasco on food and food byproducts, and writing this precious blog. I get a lot of encouragement from my readers: "You're not so old; I had an uncle who was 63 when he died," was one especially thoughtful comment. I figure that on my fingers and it's very close to 61.

The ones I like are the kids I know, who ask, in their own little words -- and let me do a little interpretative rewording on my part to make it sound like actual English -- simple little questions like, "Tell us, kind sir, as you approach your well-deserved dotage, what exactly is the true secret to your great longevity?" They ask it, then tip over my walker and rush on to the next thing; they don't really care. Have you noticed that about kids today? They're off to the next thing, always rush, rush, rush. It ages me just to watch them. They're like a blur; I can make out an occasional color of clothing, a shirt sleeve, perhaps, and the rest is lost.

If, however, those kids really took the time, like for a school project, like we used to have to do, before everything was computerized and push button, to interview "the old man," I'm sure they'd get an A. Because I'd give them a politically-correct, socially-correct, and educationally-correct answer. After telling them that in my opinion I'm not really that old, since I've known plenty of much older people in my life, I would gather them together and say, "It's like this..."

And this is where the teaching would come in: 1) Keep physically and mentally fit -- Study the remote before pushing it; 2) Do the things you love, within reason and most laws; 3) Eat your vegetables and fruit, canned of course; 4) Stay on good terms with those around you -- you never know when you might need help getting up; and, 5) Watch your regularity, which means a conflict with a few of the fruits, or just add prunes--- Then I look up and they've been gone for the last 20 minutes. Off cutting down a plum tree and destroying the rest of the environment.

Still, even without the little varmints, those are the correct answers. I'm shouting, but no one can hear me. My hearing's going too ... 61!  --Sigh--. I'll review the list. 1) I need to work on the physical and mental stuff, now more than ever. I'll do that tomorrow. 2) I try to "do the things I love," which I will get to next week. 3) My diet's terrible, probably. Add more bacon. 4) I'm normally on good terms with people, as much as it depends on me. When I'm mad, I just shake my cane and they laugh. 5) As for regularity, OK, excuse me, I'll be back in an hour.

Kids. They'll get theirs, again shaking my cane a bit. Of course they're not interested in this stuff, they're a long ways from 61.