Monday, June 30, 2014

Bad Health -- Are These Visages Credible?

I've spent a lot of time lately looking at old newspapers online, most recently stuff from 1901. That's a long time ago. Sometimes I'm thinking, Every one of these people is dead, the guy who wrote the story, sold the ads, ran the Linotype, drew the artwork, and manned the press. Then all the people in the many stories throughout the pages, a'moldering in their graves.

In all this viewing, something that leaps out is that the papers were chock full of patent medicines, sexual debility doctors, electric belts, and promises of good health. No TV, radio, or internet, it was all happening in the paper. There's so many ads about "Weak Men" (in that way) that it's a wonder my grandpas were able to get the job done that led to me! The times were the golden age, I'm proclaiming, of this kind of stuff.

In this post I'm featuring some illustrations, the worst ones, that are alternately funny and sad. Sad because maybe they're more or less accurate. Funny because surely they're exaggerated in places. Leading me to this wonderful dynamic question: "ARE THESE VISAGES CREDIBLE?" I'll try to answer that question.

Look at Mr. Bile in the Blood. No doubt the wrong mixture of bile in the blood would be a disaster. Not being a doctor, I don't know if there's a healthy level, or if you need to keep all bile away. Certainly if you end up looking like this guy -- a melted mess with a mustache -- I'd prefer to buy whatever they were selling to combat it. Yikes! To me the visage doesn't look credible. The mustache is credible, everything else is haywire, especially the look of his eyes in full meltdown.

I feel I can speak authoritatively on the credibility of the visage. I've been blessed in many ways and don't feel I've had any real trouble with constipation. But I've known plenty of people who have. They're often busy with our modern day remedies, over the counter laxatives. It can go on quite a while. But generally, even though we don't talk about it much, they seem to be back to normal. I frankly have never seen anyone look as uncomfortable as this guy. Whether his visage is credible is going to come down to this, suggesting that he didn't look that spry to begin with. He already had the wrinkles, the extra heft in the chin and cheek area, and the deep set eyes. What constipation did was furrow it all (from worry) in the bridge of the nose and push his mouth slightly open (discomfort.) Conclusion, the visage is credible, but not attributed exclusively to constipation.

Here's one for the ladies. We have five examples of women suffering menstrual pain. In my opinion, four look pained but normal. Their visages are, yes, very credible. That leaves us the sweet young thing in the middle, who, frankly, doesn't show feminine features. I keep looking but all I can see is a very stern, evil man. And yet, what? If he's anything like me, menstrual pain is the least of his worries. What is he, in a polygamous relationship with the other four and just pissed that that time of month is simultaneous for the wives? Surely not! The only conclusion we can reach is that this is meant to be a woman, whose sufferings are many times worse than average. Her visage is so contorted from the pain that there is absolutely no hope, except for whatever the ad was selling. My conclusion, four of the visages are credible, one isn't.

This guy I'm putting generally in the same boat with Constipation Man above. Although with constipation you're usually fixed up within a week. When you have liver problems, that's a whole different thing, going on and on. Even though I don't know anyone who's had liver problems ever looking like this, I know they don't look great. He's in the same boat with Constipation in this regard, that he probably didn't look fantastic to begin with, with his appearance then merely aggravated, how ever dramatically, by his liver. When I first saw this one I thought of Frankenstein or Lon Chaney, the man of a thousand faces. He probably did this one in one of his movies. So I'm saying the visage is credible, but a little deceptive, since he surely had preexisting conditions.

The top two, all of us have had experience with pimples and probably blackheads. It's the scourge of our teenage years, right when we want to look our best. You suddenly break out, and at terrible times, right before the prom, with pimples. Blackheads are more controllable because it's basically dirt in the pores, but pimples have a mind of their own. They come from God knows where and look bad. The credibility of the visages, judging it, has to take into account that these are black and white pictures from the paper, and that they have to be pronounced to really show what you're illustrating. I'm giving them credibility, then, based on the printing technology of the day.

The same allowance will be made for the woman with impure blood. Although just diagnosing it myself, with my only information coming from these illustrations, it looks a lot like an outbreak of pimples. But no, according to the caption, she's got impure blood, coming from bad digestion, headaches, dullness of brain, and weakening nerves. I'm going to negate the credibility of this visage on this basis, that she ought to look a whole lot worse. She at least has it over Constipation and Liver in that her visage looked pretty good to begin with, but surely all those ailments, the full list, would make her look worse than spots on her face. Look how pure her hand is! Come on!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The NSA and Baby Monitors

Welcome to the true nanny state, as our National Security Agency (NSA), with their great success at surveillance on all other fronts, turns its attention to the last frontier, baby monitors. These limited communication devices, usually with such innocent messages -- "Good baby," "Baby wet," and "Hey, Mom, get your butt in here!" -- can also be channels of deceit and intrigue, detrimental to national and international security.

They say kids are growing up faster all the time. We've all seen that's true. Kids shooting one another, kids blowing up schools, and of course, kid entrepreneurs buying up multinational companies and burning them to the ground for the insurance. With schools -- this is no laughing matter -- kids are developing a war mentality: "If I'm old enough to go to school, I'm old enough to vote and drink." It's a lot different from when I was a kid. If the teacher saw you with a knife, let's say, she gave you a thumbs up and we continued our mumblypeg game. But the downside was we couldn't vote or drink.

Now it appears, we're facing an even more insidious enemy, the innocent baby. Think of Vladimir Putin. Is there a bigger babyface than him on the international scene? There actually is, Kim Jong Un, but we've got him contained. That leaves Putin, who, with his KGB background has brought the old Soviet mindset to our shores in the most despicable manner possible, in our freshly-minted youngsters, fresh out of the womb, fresh into the party! Communists!

Look at the way they do it in hospitals. The babies are in a little commune behind glass, one big happy family, sharing and sharing alike, identifying themselves by party colors, pink and blue. I think I've got that right. Pink field, blue sickle in the corner. It's only right that the NSA would do their best to protect the homeland, gathering and massaging all the intelligence they can get. I know they even have a number of my calls by now, checking around as I have with various baby stores about monitors in researching this article. Some creeps google pressure cookers -- and not just Grandma -- I google baby devices. Both dangerous to do.

Anyway, we've always looked at these monitors as completely innocent, because Mom, and to a more limited degree Dad, thought they needed them to keep Junior or Princess protected. God forbid they soil themselves and they miss their immediate cry! They might have to lay in their own filth a few seconds. Seriously, my opinion, we've been babying babies far too long. We should let them experience life as it really is, tough. Lie in it, kid! Learn what Desitin's for! Of course we wouldn't let them suffer to the point of demanding the vote and liquor, just give them moderate toughness, of the right kind, American toughness.

But no, instead, by babying them various party apparatchiks have taken advantage and infiltrated the nursery, knowing the little buggers would reveal information via the monitor. "What's your father up to?" "Burning flags in the basement." "What's your mom doing?" "Something with a breast pump, sending milk to Russia and Red China, hoping to develop super warriors, that America be destroyed from within and without." God, that's insidious! Who was it who rued "The Enemy Within"? One of the Kennedys, Churchill, or some bigwig like that? They didn't expect the enemy within to be so young ... and apparently so helpless!

Then there's kids who aren't merely passive and accepting of outside schemes. There's the ones with brains -- probably reincarnated Cold Warriors -- who know where the grids are and what grids do and can be made to do. They're the ones who immediately know how to communicate via these obscure radio frequencies -- baby monitors -- the plans of a mastermind: "We'll meet at the docks. The soldiers are hiding in tuna barrels. You'll know them by their breath, smelling of fish. Get there by 8:00 p.m. Bring mayo."

I have to say, friends, I'm glad -- you don't know how glad! -- the NSA is on this. And patrolling neighborhoods all through our threatened land. Recording baby monitors and protecting democracy from future generations, hopefully never to be born.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Super Brain

I've mentioned a few times over the years that one of my pet names for myself is Super Brain. It's done wonders for my self-image but has been a detriment to my love life ("Super Brain knows you're in it for the free meals.") Be all that as it may, the name's stuck. And for good reason, thanks to my super brain, silly. The following is an account born in my meditations just this morning:

Super Brain is alone with his thoughts. At this moment he's monitoring the various energies as they go deep, seeing how they generally bypass actual information of a practical nature, inventions that might help mankind in some way, and veer off into fantasy realms, often tripping over themselves.

It's something like "Journey to the Center of the Earth," that story. I'll note it's a lot easier to make the descent than it may be, looking ahead, to get back out. I can't depend on a rock basin atop a volcano ready to blow. Super Brain calculates the odds. The rock basin and volcano being there, pretty good. Blowing at that precise second, less so. Survival with the heat and the difficulties of landing once blown free and clear, also not good. If that happens Super Brain calculates nothing but pain, discomfort, and a terrible death.

But we're far from that point. Super Brain continues to descend to the depths of himself. I see channels of light, synapses larger than most people's. I'm seeing these are synapses that don't mess around. For a lot of people, they're always shorting out, barely making a connection, but these are ones that receive from the previous synapse and add motive power before sending it to the next. Meaning -- ye gods! -- when a thought starts to occur it's already huge and powerful, but by the time it's fully considered, it's Everest! The fact that I can simultaneously shrink it down and make it presentable to others, as in this report, is itself a seismic miracle. Of tectonic proportions. Super Brain double backs on himself with amazement.

That's something to consider, although it threatens to put Super Brain into many simultaneous massive loops. Still, "Know thyself / Physician, heal thyself," -- if Super Brain wants to consider its own mighty workings, vis-a-vis the relation he has to himself -- although this is where a monumental conscious split might happen -- there's great danger in telling Super Brain to settle down. I must be careful not to become multiple Super Brains, as that would crowd out others from their rightful place in sharing the thoughts of the world. It would be immoral to swallow up all consciousness. But Super Brain is like the proverbial 5000 pound gorilla, demanding free reign, meaning we have to stand back and clean up the damage later.

Thinking on Super Brain's thoughts on himself -- how majestic the peaks -- how awesome and unsearchable the terrible depths, with all the power it takes to make it work -- a mighty surge overpowering all other insurgents! Super Brain doesn't fight the same war twice. Super Brain is a dynamic thinking entity of no observable limits. Although Super Brain obviously could observe them if he wanted. Super Brain's cranial habitation does not truly hold it. Another obvious miracle. Super Brain thinks and thinks and thinks and thinks on itself and remains healthy, ever strengthening and doubling in thinking might.

Now I'm going to perform an utterly magnificent feat, to cast Super Brain's thoughts on terrain and realms very far from it. My first stop: Out by the Tastee Freeze. What do I behold in that far off locale, at least 60 blocks from here? They're still closed. They've been closed for decades. You'd think someone would buy the run-down property, tear down the old place, and put something else there. A Taco John or something.

Super Brain sees -- wow! -- an investment opportunity. Super Brain actually truly sees the possibilities of entrepreneurship. All it'd take is a quick call to corporate, a plan that Super Brain might work out with lawyers -- himself able to guide the best legal minds in plush offices around the square. But is that really the direction Super Brain wants to go? It'd be good money. At first, though, his energies would be tied up in hiring teenagers to make tacos, and he can see -- thanks to the vast energies making these thoughts simply occur -- that would be so unrewarding.

Super Brain is not tiring, no. But Super Brain's vast energies are making the body tired. Must direct energies to recharge. Meaning, looking to the gigantic nucleus of pulsing light and dark right at the core of Super Brain, and sending forth power. Energy to the toes! Energy to the hands! Energy to the vital organs! Energy to the organs shriveling from lack of use. Super Brain must make the body more attractive to potential mates. (Troll nursing homes to find rich widows. Have to get them when they're new, before they've signed over the house.) Like spinach, Super Brain makes biceps anvils, hands hammers, dinghy tattoo on chest a battleship. Pipe is spinning, strident music playing, theme song. I'm a whirlwind of hitting objects with my fist and having them land in a more ordered arrangement. I'm strong to the finish.

Super Brain semi-drifts into a quiescent state, the body relaxes. Semi-drifts, because Super Brain continues forever his activity, now monitoring all things in a mighty way, crickets in the pantry, birds outside, and the air conditioner popping on again.

Must rouse myself and get on with my day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Army Corps of Roastin' Ears

Hey, guess what! I am an official honorary Army Corps of Engineers temporary one-day cadet! I got to hang out with the troop, and the whole bit. This was actually Sunday night at their annual picnic, at which a fine time was had by all.

You might ask, Who did you have to know to get to do that? Well, as it turned out, I didn't know any of them. But I entered a contest that I saw on an obscure bulletin board in the dark corner of a little known coffee shop. It was this: "Guess the total cubic feet of output at the dam this year from the first day of spring to the first day of summer ... to the first day, not inclusive."

They print a daily figure in the paper that's purely an average. So naturally, I had to go beyond that. I did what most Super Brains would do; I went to the Army Corps website and found the average output for every year since the dam was built, specifically omitting summer, fall, and winter months. I focused on spring. But I didn't stop there, because I went back and weighted the averages based on rainfall amounts, fluctuating temperature, and other factors. Other factors included average river depth (output) for those years and adding in whatever fish, turtles, birds, and deer might drink, and I had it.

Well, wouldn't you know? (I'm blushing.) I was so close to the actual answer they accused me of cheating, having ties to a mole in the Corps! I was off something like an eighth of an inch, having forgotten that in those hotter years swimmers would've carried off water their swimsuits had soaked up, thereby reducing the output however infinitesimal it might be. Then if you figure an occasional camper pees while swimming, it gets tricky.

So it was a mixed bag. Like I said, they thought I cheated, so they were giving me dirty looks. I kept throwing up my bare hands, "Mea non culpa!" My suspicion on all this is the actual moles were trying to get their friends in, but warned them to be off by at least a foot or two. They didn't know Super Brain was on the case! (Sorry about the "Super Brain" references. It's a pet name I have for myself, which I don't always say in public, but in this case it's warranted.) Regardless of what they'd planned, though, there I was and there I stayed!

The Corps actually warmed up to me after a while. As everyone knows, my specialty is Group Dynamics, so I really know how to schmooze a crowd. A bunch of compliments, oohing and aahing over their magnificent accomplishments, and telling them I've always had a soft spot for the Corps -- ever since my dad showed me my first dam -- and they were mollified. You have to admit the Army Corps of Engineers is amazing. They don't just make dams to last a few years; they make them to last a century or more. On the other hand you could make the case they're just beavers with better equipment.

Whatever the case may be, once they relaxed, we were good buds. You know, I said they could build great dams? They put on even greater picnics! Wow! Try to get a beaver to do that! The food was coming on hot and heavy, including everything you might hope for: Hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks on the grill, pork chops, and my favorite, roastin' ears!* I absolutely love it, even though I don't do much of it at home. It's really great, though, when you're at a picnic and they have enormous grills and they're roastin' corn still in the husks. You see those blackened husks and they're great, and they smell good. But it's all happening on the inside, where the corn is perfection! It's like dying and going to heaven, where I hear cookouts like this are frequent.

Even though we were getting along great, I still hung back. As I teach in my Group Dynamics seminars, those around you generally admire humility more than jumping in. Pretty soon they had me center stage, as would be expected, and I was actually helping the head man, the General, man the corn grills. He'd say "Flip 'em!," I'd salute and do it. He'd say, "Move those over!," I'd salute and do it. Finally, he said, "You get the first ear!" I dug right in, forgetting to salute. Then I came up with a big bar of melting butter in my hand, thought of it and immediately saluted, getting butter all over my forehead and accidentally flicking some on the general's uniform. He gritted his teeth and said, "At ease, soldier," before wiping with a napkin. I was ashamed, but still proud that every time in the future he sees that stain, he'll think of me ... and, hopefully, smile.

In the end we were all such friends, they sang "You're in the Army Now" especially for me, and really meant it. It was great. All hostilities had ceased. We ate so much we were stuffed. And drink ... we drank so much beer, and peed in the lake so many times, the output might threaten the entire structure.

* I have an important announcement concerning corn coming up soon, very soon.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How'd I Get So Damned Smart?

I get this question all the time, from people I know in the community, in church, as well as online. Everyone wants to know, "How'd you get so damned smart?" I can safely say it's the number one thing people wonder about. Although with their curiosity they challenge my modesty.

It's tricky to answer a question like that. Because I really do have to set aside my modesty and admit it right up front, Yes, I am pretty damned smart. And I'm smart enough not to do that readily. Hence, I've been sitting on the question for a number of months, reluctant to answer it, knowing it'd ding my modesty and sense of propriety.

But today I'm feeling bold! Who needs tomorrow! I'm ready to tackle it head-on, finally to satisfy everyone's curiosity about the intelligence of someone I frankly call "Little Ole Me." Really, that's how I think of myself. I'm not all that impressed, to tell you the truth. Because I know even I have plenty of limits. But my limits are for another day. Today we'll stick with how much I know.

First, let me say I didn't set out to get so damned smart. It wasn't any conscious push. You know, there's always those kids who set out to get so damned smart. They want to be better than everyone else, all that. As unpleasant as that can be for the rest of us, I won't judge them. They swung their way, I swung mine.

My way of swinging in school was pretty much to grasp the basics and extrapolate from there. One thing I'm not very smart at is mathematics. Anything you might need on a GRE or the SAT, I immediately fail. But I am smart at arithmetic! I can add and subtract myself around the room, passing everyone. The way I learned it was, like I said, extrapolation. They said 1 + 1 = 2 and I extrapolated from there. Everything else was easy to deduce from that one principle. So I refused to learn any of it by heart, just extrapolating, however long it took, on the fly. That left lots of time for learning other stuff.

Because it's facts other than math that you can't easily extrapolate. If you know the capital of New York is Albany, it's tough to extrapolate from that that the capital of California is Sacramento. Those are two facts I had to learn, which I only accomplished after a lot of effort. Even now I could probably tell you at least half the capitals of the various states, even ones I have no intention of visiting.

When it came to reading, I literally grew up with one story book. Only one. Which I read a million times, and loved, "Little Black Sambo." You put enough effort into one book, you learn a lot besides just the great story. I learned to love and respect others who aren't like me, Indians, black people, LGBTQ, Lutherans, etc. The only ones I still have a hard time with are Republicans. Of any variety.

In addition, I grew in my love of animals, butter, pancakes, and embraced asynchronous thinking, because who can believe that tigers, running fast enough to turn into butter, wouldn't think to cut across and head off Sambo? Unless Sambo were simultaneously smart enough to cut across at lightning speed and therefore maintain his safe position. Stunning stuff! You could seriously say, when it came to book larnin', everything I know I got from "LBS."

Now I'm old. And it's surprising all the stuff I know. I don't think I'm too far off the beam to say I don't even know all the stuff I know! Know what I mean? It seems everyday there's always something different leaping out of my brain, a sudden occurrence of something else I've known all along. Examples aren't coming to me right this second, but I know it happens. When do you clean an aquarium? When it stinks or the fish die, whichever comes first.

So to answer the question, "How'd I get so damned smart?" ... It all depends. Math, I extrapolated from 1 + 1 = 2. I can balance my checkbook and occasionally have money left over. Things that needed memorizing, I memorized, then over the years forgot exactly half of it. How to spell. I learned a trick from my Mom, to know how words are supposed to look, then when they're misspelled they look wrong. The various principles of life -- the value of being scrupulously honest, for example, and the consequences when you aren't -- I learned by experience, along with trial and error. Other things, the deeper things of life, spirituality and such, I learned by practice, leaping in gadfly fashion from one thing to another. Meaning, I'm a solitary specimen in that regard.

The other key to being so damned smart is to always keep my mind sharp. As sharp as a knife, as sharp as cheddar cheese. Honed, stropped like a razor, keen. So I'm busy thinking from the minute I wake up till the minute I go to bed. Then I continue thinking till I fall asleep. And, if my dreams are any indicator, I don't stop thinking till I get up, at which point I repeat the whole process, thinking again. I'm also a voracious reader, reading while I eat.

Thank you! It's gratifying that everyone thinks I'm so damned smart. Just don't get jealous, OK? You either can do it too, or you could have, had you not lived your life in a completely foolish way.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Don't Call My Flag an "It"

Today is Flag Day. It's time to get the flag out and run her up the flagpole. Notice I said "her," not "it." That's something I insist on, and I correct absolutely everyone I hear say it wrong.

This is my biggest complaint, calling my American flag "it," because it's disrespectful. My flag is "she," or she goes by her proper name, "Old Glory." In saying that, she is called old out of respect, as she who precedes all other things through the ages, while at the same time being ever young. Her age isn't an age as other beings know age. Even Mount Rushmore is old, but not the flag.

I realize we all know this at some level, but not everyone keeps it in mind. And so you constantly hear the ignorant, out of ignorance, saying foolish things when Flag Day's over, like, "I need to put it away." Doesn't that set your teeth on edge? (Of course Flag Day isn't the only day to fly Old Glory, although that's her day of unique pride. Any day on which the elements are such as to provide for her proper respect is a great day to fly the colors.)

Flag etiquette is actually something I've been very good at from childhood. They told me the various rules -- not allowing her to touch the ground, etc. -- and I've remembered. So I'm continually annoyed at the ignorance of my fellow citizens -- oblivious, apparently, to all propriety beyond their own nose and selfish interests. Let's get it together, people...

If I could live somewhere absolutely by myself -- just me and a few flags -- at long last the carelessness of society would be a thing of the past, moot, and my flag could finally get her due. Until that happy day -- which realistically isn't actually going to happen -- I only have recourse to education for those who are capable of learning, and harsh criticism for those who can never get it. Naturally, I prefer education, bringing others into the fold, and seeing the benefits for my flag. But I'm not averse to lay into some idiot if he can't get it right. It'd be better if I had the authority to confiscate his flag, but our actual laws haven't yet caught up with what is best.

How happy I'd be if these matters could be resolved once and for all! Because as it is now the job is almost too much for one man, however dedicated I am. And it takes away in large measure my ability to enjoy Old Glory day to day if I have to continually be interrupted with educating idiots.

I hope this article will jog some memories in your head -- your addled wits are almost too much -- so you too will do what is right. My flag isn't an "it"! Got it? You're going to have to change. Because up next I'm clunking heads.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Moss and Mae Just Miss Buck Buckskin

I'm hoping to ride this idea to fame, riches, and glory -- the lives of Mae Healy and Moss Stipple.

I've already heard from a friend of mine, saying leave it alone. There's "big interests" out there, his words, who've cornered the market on great ideas, and apparently they'll do their damndest to keep small fry like me from horning in. I, however, refuse to give in to such threats. I feel I have as much a right to express myself as anyone.

OK, I'm leaving all my fears of the syndicate (paranoia) behind and I'm simply going for it. Not another word about it.

Mae Healy appeals to women readers, Moss Stipple to men. I've heard from enough of you to know where your allegiances lie. So I will address both characters, their development thus far, and some of the story lines I've already thought of.

Ladies first. Mae Healy. Mae is a dear old soul who wouldn't hurt a fly. She was once married to a man now deceased, Mr. Healy. She was his faithful partner through thick and thin. They had the same problems other average folks have. But Mr. Healy, being a competent man, was able to provide, thanks to his job. Mae did the honorable thing as his helpmeet. They had children and were very happy. At some point he died.

Enter Moss Stipple. When Moss turned 70, he sold his grandparents' old half acre and their deteriorating house he'd lived in most of his life. He looked for another place to live, and ended up as Mae's boarder. Though they lived together -- man and woman without marriage -- it was all quite innocent, no hanky panky.

That's the story so far. But they need to have some adventures, to make things more interesting. With most of them being, no doubt, on the tame side. I don't think it'd be plausible to have them suddenly become world travelers, crime fighters, etc. But it would be plausible that they might take a trip to the big city together or to a State Park for a picnic. That's a great idea, so that'll be the first one, a picnic!

One day Mae said she'd seen enough of these four walls. "The walls are closing in on me!" she declared, not usually given to complaining, but this day -- whether it was biorythms or simply bitchiness -- she'd had enough.

Moss sat in his easy chair, startled at Mae's blunt eruption, it being out-of-character for someone generally so docile and well-pleased. He lay his newspaper aside gently and gave Mae his undivided attention. "Is there anything I can do about it?"

"I don't know what it might be," she snapped, "I'm trapped 24/7, confined, like a circus animal dying in its cage."

Moss wanted to dismiss the tirade, but instead considered it silently, thinking it indicative of something going on in the older woman's spirit. He thought back on the cases he'd known over the years, of his own Grandma's occasional outbursts and how Grandpa would handle her. Of course he had scant minutes to come up with something before Mae blew her top.

"We ought to go to the State Park," he ventured. Just the thought of something like that brought a smile to Mae's face. And her old radiance was back. In a flash, then, she was up, preparing a picnic basket.

The State Park was lovely that day, with picture-perfect weather, like the weather we used to have -- not too hot, not too cold, no global warming, no melting icebergs. They drove to the campground area, knowing they could use a picnic table without paying the camping fee. Policies were very lax in those days, before all the current moneygrubbing when it comes to state parks.

Mae was the picture of delighted health, and Moss wasn't too shabby either. Mae wore a nice sheer scarf, Moss his cap. A gentle breeze off the lake refreshed them, and moved the hair at the edges of her scarf. She hadn't looked this great for decades. As for Moss, he was able to tilt his head back with abandon and roar out a laugh of delight.

They shared in conversation, Mae remembering how she and Mr. Healy used to camp here early in their marriage. "We had a tent in those days and it rained cats and dogs. You couldn't touch the canvas or it'd run right through. But you couldn't move without touching it. We were drenched, but got to the car and made it home. Mr. Healy looked like a drowned rat! And I didn't look much better!"

"What about the tent and your things?" Moss asked, laughing at the ancient predicament.

"We came back the next day and got everything! No problem!"

Moss had a story of his own. Involving one of his pet peeves from 30 years before. "I was on the other side of this very lake, fishing. And some guys showed up and ruined it for me, with a boom box, playing it loudly. In those days I had one huge hangup, listening to 'the music of someone else's choosing,' a phrase I used in those days. But these louts kept it going, no matter what. So I packed up my fish and went home."

"Good for you," Mae commiserated, "No one should have to take that.."

The picnic, like all good things, ended, and they went home, retiring at the appropriate hour. Not realizing what they missed had they stayed till night.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Me and Mrs. Healy

I'm getting older all the time. I was thinking ahead a bit ago, what might be going on when I'm 70. That's only nine short years away!

The house here, Grandma's old house, is getting older all the time, too, and will probably be needing more than I can give it, long-term. Realistically, it's probably going to become necessary for me to move. Not right away; there's no hurry, but eventually.

I'm thinking, if I'm 70, and I need a place to live, I could do one of several options. I could get a new house, a big investment. I could rent an apartment, where rent's always going up. Then, here's the option I've thought about more, getting a room in someone else's house.

The way I'm picturing it is I get a room in an older lady's house, someone quiet like me. No upstairs neighbors, no downstairs. Quite, demure. Like if I'm 70, she's 87. I did this once when I was 19 or 20. I needed a room -- I thought -- so I got one at an older lady's house. But things suddenly changed and I ended up spending only one night with her and left, never to return. I can't remember exactly what was going on, but it wasn't that I was itchy.

At 70, naturally I'll be completely itch-free. Settled down. Like a rock. I've already shown myself rock solid, having stayed here for 40-some years. So I'll be in no rush to vacate.

Anyway, be all that as it may, say I'm 70, nine years from now, we're going to assume I see a sign at this older lady's house. She and I meet. We hit it off, and we agree that I will pay $385 a month to have the front room. That's OK, I can swing $385 easily enough on my Social Security and the few dollars I've put back.

As time goes on, I'm happy with Mrs. Healy's place, and we share a lot of good times in the living room. She's got some sewing projects, and bit by bit I'm taking on a lot of responsibilities. Getting soot out of the heater, poking cobwebs up in the corners, putting plastic on windows before winter, clearing the walk, going out for juice, etc.

I like the idea of being helpful, even if I am her paying boarder. We're cozy, and I'm protective of her well-being. After a while, we're like two old shoes together. We go halvsies on a new couch, and a new chair for the corner where she sits. It's quite a daring purchase, since she's had the chair since-- Well, she and the late Mr. Healy bought it 45 years ago.

Mrs. Healy has two daughters, and they occasionally check on her. They really love me, because I've been good for Mom, a breath of fresh air, and helpful. One of the thing's Mom used to do for them was cook a big Thanksgiving meal. Now we've restarted the tradition, with Mom pitching in where she can, a labor of love.

All the stuff I'm doing, it's all great for Mom. I have a place to live. The two daughters are great. They have kids, who like to go fishing once in a while at the park pond. Mom's even out, busying herself around the shelter house while the grand kids and I clean fish.

Pretty soon, we've essentially pooled our resources and we're doing fine. The $385 has long gone by the wayside, since I'm spending a lot more than that anyway, on the house, groceries, whatever. But I love it. All the companionship of Mom, the daughters, the grand kids, checking their homework. Giving them $10 for each A. Like any grandpa should.

Finally, Mrs. Healy gets ill -- so sad -- and we're all together at the hospital. The family needs a rock, which I provide. No one has stories of her like I have, of all the goodness she had, of her family, of the way she always kept Thanksgiving, and so forth. I have a great quote from her: "I've always wanted to hit 100, but if I don't, I've been so happy. Everything's been fantastic. I wish blessings on my grandchildren, my daughters, and Moss Stipple, my boarder."

The daughters insist I stay in the house. But I insist, No, it is rightly their inheritance. I get it prepared for sale, they make all sorts of money on it. I'm practically a father to them, and certainly a good old grandpa for the kids. But I move across town, their husbands helping me with my things, and obviously I have a great reference from them.

By now I'm about 80 myself. The next old lady I live with turns out to be an old reprobate, a gambler, a drinker, etc. Through sheer goodness, and the positive example I show everyday, I reform her and we both live happily ever after. She's still cranky, but always improving herself.

OK, so all that's one possibility. The thing about the future, though, is it never works out the way you picture it. My luck, I might get the reprobate first. Which when I move out -- in the event we don't live happily ever after -- dings my reference slightly. But I'm still a rock and later Mrs. Healy takes me in.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Paranoia -- My Fortunes Change


I'm thinking it took a renewed humility in my spirit and the putting of my sufferings in perspective to finally defeat Paranoia, but I don't believe that covers the whole thing. Certainly that covers much of what I got from the example of Desi the Donkey and St. Rita of Cascia, respectively. No one's more humble than a donkey who bears the Redeemer. And few have had the sufferings of the saint and yet zero in directly on the grace in it.

It wouldn't be hubris, surely, to say that I also have something innate -- or something accrued after years of life experience -- to help me find my bearings once again. If not, what is experience for? I can easily picture myself at a younger age in the same grip of Paranoia, making much more tentative, and, possibly, fatal moves. The Valley of Fire Snakes alone would have knocked me for a loop. Then, to have the wisdom well up as quickly as it did to avoid low places, valleys, gullies, bogs, moors, and fens, I think it would've taken longer.

Whether I might have done it alone, though, there's no honest way I can know that. Not having done it, I'm not going to say I could have. A benevolent, watchful eye was over me the whole time, allowing those already named to help me along the way. I would add to them, to a much lesser extent, Dr. Pink, himself suffering, but from megalomania. Still, he's a man of science, and he's naturally enamored with his own theories, coming as they do from his incredible volume of research, his impeccable brain, and an ego that never quits.

May I say, my experience with Paranoia this past week was, frankly, nothing new. I say that, but of course there's always something new about it. Whereas I've had a lot of Paranoia in my life -- perhaps more than my fair share -- it's still something I never seem to exhaust. Paranoia's many dimensions are wondrous to behold, always presenting novel twists on its enduring themes: The World 's Against Me, Enemies Are Endless, and, Something Secret's Always Afoot.

Thankfully -- at least I've found this in my experience -- there's always hope. Hence, the Redeemer figures, and the many lifelines they threw me. One of the enduring images in mythic thought, descriptive of the variations in life's possibilities, is the Wheel of Fortune. You see it in the Tarot deck. Around and around it goes, landing today on Life, and tomorrow Death. The Wheel of Fortune image above is a tribute to the Redeemer figures, St. Rita of Cascia, spelled out, and Desi the Donkey, going back and forth across the stage, in Vanna's stead, lighting the letters.

Of course it's a great thing to always have the sense that you're not in it alone. Applying to everything in life, really. You have friends and family. And you have the values you grew up with, and the things you've believed with all your heart. Then, let's say, Paranoia strikes! Like I said, the things manifested in Paranoia were challenging, almost knocking me for a loop. But because of my grounding, what I believe, etc., there was so much within me that welled up to help. Like friendly bacteria taking on evil bacteria, antibodies taking on corpuscle invaders, or a hedgerow of warring angels taking on myriad imps, arms linked, from the pits of hell.

Now, what would really do me the most good in life, probably, would be to quit wasting my time everyday, and really buckle down. I'm getting old, and like Dr. Pink said, my Vigor Vivus levels are currently piss poor. I seriously should be working on that. Then I might be able to stave off Paranoia when next he comes to call, driving him from my door. That'd be great!

And another thing, which would also add to Vigor Vivus, I'd love to wear a long mysterious robe, have a nice thick candle, and a castle room with a heavy wooden table, and walls lined with wise books each 18 inches tall and 5 inches thick. Can't you picture me, hunched over a book, my mysterious shadow looking very cool flickering against the wall, reading and chanting till all hours?

On the other hand, I'm reminded how St. Rita of Cascia had only a small oratory, and yet found great grounding from her spiritual experience in that small place. She said, "My dear sisters: if you wish to have the esteem and confidence of the good and virtuous, have little or no love for temporal riches. Observe strictly your vow of poverty. A nun who wishes to belong entirely to God must be totally detached from all earthly things." Then there's Desi, brought up as he was in a tiny stall, but when the time came carried the Redeemer. Or Dr. Pink, although I don't know how it was for him. Probably played with beakers in his dad's lab.

Last but not least, there's some other "saints" I want to recognize. And that's my dear readers, among whom I have a special cadre of very faithful ones. Through this week they were in constant contact with me, writing me encouraging emails, commenting on the blog, and one, Lizette, even sent flowers! When you're in the grip of Paranoia, you don't know how much that helps! I am blessed. Of course they know who they are, but let me list them: Lizette, again, Azalia, Jerome, Zelda, Stephen, and Fitzjames, who I sometimes call, "He of the funky name," just teasing!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Paranoia -- The Microscopic Level

I've been worried maybe there's something wrong with me. This week's been filled with total, huge paranoia, so bad I've often personified it, something like a hulking being, Paranoia!

That's certainly how it's seemed, and it'd take a lot at this point to talk me out of it. I've been in strange places, there's been a lot of bad and some good. I've faced basically every disaster I can think of short of a nuclear war, which at least would've distracted me from my own troubles solely.

It's funny how these experiences go. Sometimes you're the center of the universe, so important, and unable to satisfy the powers that be. That field's fertile for paranoia. Other times you're marginalized, alone, at your wit's end on how to manage and survive. I don't know which I hate more. The first involves much more sinister enemies. The second is like Man vs. Self, although, it's likely both are Man vs. Self ... since, honestly, there's no sinister enemy that cares about me that much.

I think the most logical conclusion is that this is internal to me. Was I really in the Valley of Fire Snakes? Yes, although I can imagine a pretty terrible Valley of Fire Snakes. It depends on what we mean by "really," because in some sense I was really there! Now, if it's internal, like I learned that time in the asylum, maybe there's something more our scientific friends can do about it.

I know a man of science, Dr. Pink, who's always good for a go on any knotty scientific conundrum. I went in thinking I shouldn't have kept this entire week of paranoia from him. I knew he would've been there for me, and probably would've had a supply of killer narcotics to deaden it. Although, just between me and you, I prefer to experience these things. But what? I don't want to be failing internally, if that's what it is!

Right away he was looking at my samples from a couple years ago and my samples this week, and he had an immediate verdict: My levels of Vigor Vivus were piss poor, with normal, large red Vigor Vivus being replaced over time by shrunken yellow piss poor Vigor Vivus. Almost so shrunken and yellow, he said, as to not even be Vigor Vivus, but its opposite, Rigor Mortis! I wanted to deny the science, but how could I? Dr. Pink's the expert.

Right away, I'm like, "You mean to tell me---?" Already he's nodding, a concerned look on his face heightened by the raising of hands pressed together, with the twin index fingers lightly touching the tip of his nose. He furrowed his brow and I knew I was in trouble. "With Vigor Vivus shrinkage like this," he said, "I'd be paranoid, too!" -- commiserating enough to tell me that I would've had a friend in misery had he shared the same deficiency.

He was silent a moment, leading me to tentatively venture a question, "So, this means---?" But before I could finish, he was already answering, "I'm putting you on bed rest and a strenuous exercise routine." I nodded, at that point willing to do anything to raise my levels. How often I've written* of Vigor Vivus! How could I not have thought of this! All this time it's been the grip of Rigor Mortis on me! Of course!

He wrote out a memo for the pharmacy, to give me this, that, and the other thing. Then I was to be out in the fresh air, the bright sunshine, walking, meditating, writing anti-paranoia manifestos, sending anonymous letters to the editor about making Vigor Vivus Day a national holiday, etc., stuff I used to do all the time.

I had let my better angels slip! I shared, then, with the doctor, that I was a little torn between Faith and Science. He nodded, and held up a finger, as though he would speak. Then he was silent, as though he was searching for just the right word. He caressed his lips with the thumb and index finger of his right hand. He reached his pinky into his ear to scratch. He also scratched the side of his head. Obviously itching to say something.

I primed his pump, "So I was wrong---" He interrupted to tell me, "Not so! Don't say such a thing! It's completely natural, with everything you hear in the news and popular culture, to be torn. Because they're nothing but idiots, serving only to pollute the air, so to speak, to muddy the discourse with their unceasing idiocy. The truth is, there is not the slightest split between Faith and Science."

I tilted my head, looking curious. He continued, "I am one of the preeminent men of science of my time, agreed? Of course. Frankly, there's no bigger bad ass than me when it comes to the laboratory and a quick diagnosis. I often forgo the lab, as I simply know the truth.

"How? you ask. Because I have crossed every divide, and now live in perfect harmony with all things, the so-called natural and the so-called divine. I share the omniscience of the yogis and oneness with the Divine, able to materialize palaces and laboratories -- you name it -- in thin air. Mere diagnoses are nothing!

"Now, the truth of this whole matter is, I knew about your paranoia before it happened. But I allowed it because I knew you needed to get yourself back on the right track with life and the things that concern you, as well as with Vigor Vivus and your spiritual life. You were once a fearless advocate against Rigor Mortis, but you've fallen.

"It was I who sent those peerless guides of the soul to be with you and help, Desi the Donkey and Sister St. Rita of Cascia. You knew of Desi's relation to the Redeemer, bearing Him, and the depths of St. Rita's sufferings, and the heights of her grace. Both she and Desi share the oneness of all things -- in every aspect of their being, which is eternal. They kept you from the very real dangers you faced. Ultimately, though, it was I who led you through this most perilous challenge."

I was of course dumbfounded, but Dr. Pink was every bit the serious scientist I've always known him to be. I ventured a word, "And so---" He interrupted to say, "Exactly! It was all for your good. Just like bed rest and a renewed focus on your personal Vigor Vivus will be good for you, just as I, the doctor, ordered!"

We hugged, both of us sobbing. I looked in his eyes and he in mine. In mine, he surely saw doubt and disbelief. In his, I saw the wheels turning; omniscience, while nice, is a relentless taskmaster. Of course I don't believe a word he said about arranging this. That's just megalomania, but I'll leave it there for now; I don't know enough on the subject yet, firsthand, to have a "Megalomania Week." But he was right about Vigor Vivus...

In conclusion, we made plans to get together, very soon, at the Roadhouse for beers and pool. Because he moved heaven and earth to get me in this mess, then moved them again to get me out of it, I'll be buying.

*Click for a Vigor Vivus post with links to others

Friday, June 6, 2014

Paranoia -- One Slip, I'm a Goner

At the moment I'm alone. Looking over a barren land, I see the sky a weird reddish color, kind of like you get with Hipstamatic's Bettie XL lens. Of course I'm displeased with that, preferring the exuberance of Lucifer VI with the more realistic tones of Ina's 1969.

It's a day for reflection and a little relaxation, I hope, although the dangers are still very real. A few of you have asked about my bout with Paranoia. So I shall answer. First, I shall climb a nearby promontory -- inching toward the top, up I go, slipping occasionally -- and, OK, an hour later, here I am, looking over an alien vista. Now I shall proclaim!

In the last 24 hours I've been beset with enemies, dimensions of Paranoia that were very weird and very frightening. I found myself in something like the Baskervilles' moors. I'll just tell you one thing, and I'm putting this out there free: Avoid moors, glens, dales, valleys, depressions, bogs, and fens ... If you can't find a high place, go up medium height, definitely not low.

At it happens, water is generally low. Which is part of the problem. Because every variety of pest, vermin, and wildlife -- including the dangerous stuff -- goes there. Now ask yourself, what's the one thing something wants if it has water to drink? Yes, something to eat. As it is in the everyday world, so it is in the psychic realm of Paranoia. The low places are dangerous, and you'd make a great meal.

Well, I opened myself up to all this danger! The entire thing was a disaster, fire ants, fire snakes, the fire variation of every cursed creature ever cursed with horrid life. I made a vow, No mercy for the evil and ugly! To the extent, then, that I could fulfill it -- locally here -- I brought down a serious cudgel on the heads of many creatures. While sustaining bites to my left leg, my right leg, and both arms. If I'm a little grumpy, that's why. One slip and I'm a goner!

Now on higher ground, I look out over the vast wasteland and proclaim: My mind is in high gear. I see the synapses of my brain very much alive, running over both theory and practicum, concerning the things of Paranoia. What a rush! Not just to feel Paranoia's strong drive in real time, but to behold (in 3D) a simultaneous understanding! Soon I shall crash and sleep, but not in a valley!

Here's three things about Paranoia to think about:

1) Paranoia is a response accrued from the realities of life that thwart our desires. We've gone from magical enemies (demons) to the more realistic, 'Everything's out to get me.' Our thinking may be distorted but at least there's evidence you can point to.

2) At the root of Paranoia is the fear of death. 'What I'm afraid of will eventually kill me.' The unrealistic side of it is, You're not dead yet, so you must be doing something right. Bring in that aspect of things to calm the paranoid side.

3) You wouldn't have Paranoia if you dwelt in your natural being. This goes with the fear of death. Our huge concern for our fate represents a duality split, our natural focus being off. Two minds going two ways, as "para" and "noia" mean two minds side by side, like parallel. With a greater drive toward mental unity, Paranoia would have to work harder to drive me. Obviously I'm not saying be happy and die. I'm still going to look both ways before crossing the street. With understanding, though, and getting back our unity, we have the wherewithal to live more peacefully.

All that said, Get me the hell out of this terrible place! I realize fire snakes have to eat, too, and aren't particularly picky. The key for me not to get eaten is to avoid them. OK, easy enough, no more valleys. If I see a valley coming, I'll stay up here on the hill till they're asleep.

As I contemplated this wisdom, I witnessed a sudden flash vision, in Hipstamatic tones alternating between the subdued haziness of Adler 9009 and the golden tones of James M. Before me, I beheld Sister St. Rita of Cascia with Desi the Donkey. Desi came up and nudged me in the side, as if to tell me I had his full support. The beloved Saint was more circumspect, adding to my understanding of Paranoia. She reasoned with me how little, to this point, I had thought of my intelligence, allowing myself to become the prey and the slave of Paranoia. With her mild upbraiding, I felt embarrassed and actually ashamed, but looked ahead to being fully calm and recollected. The vision melted away.

I'm looking ahead to a lot more. If I finally get home to stay, I'll never go roaming anywhere ever again. And I'll let Paranoia work for me, not against me. Heh heh, how about I combine my two minds, then with stereo thinking -- a little this side, a little that -- I'll be on top of every difficulty. Worth a try!

OK, I'm going to descend for a while, and try to fill my canteen. I think the fire snakes are asleep. Their evolution must have been such, indicated by the fire for light, that they sleep during the day and crawl nocturnally. Unless they want to sleep nocturnally and the fire's for warmth.

I'm hoping the biggest problem I have is filtering the water. Looking brownish/yellow as it does, it's kind of what you'd get if you photoed water and used Buckhorst H1 with Cano Cafenol and pictured the muck of Float on the edges! Whoa! When it comes to drinking water, give me something closer to Jane/Sugar every time!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Paranoia -- What Maniac Arranged All This?

This whole week is totally cheesing me off. Thanks to my old enemy, Paranoia, I can't seem to do anything with a clear conscience, or to put it another way, without forever looking over my shoulder, wondering who's looking back.

This is obviously true in the terrible psychic forays I've made into deep pits, forsaken landscapes, and hellish darkness. But it's also true for normal everyday stuff, like going to the grocery store. I'm sure I saw the powerful denizens of those horrid places at the store, too, keeping me in their sights and thwarting me. As an example, ever notice how the store never runs out of Lender's bagels? Somehow, yesterday, suspiciously, the bagels were out. Then there's bacon, all of a sudden about $6 a pound. My face dropped and I could hear maniacal laughter.

Then, driving there and back, the town took on a different cast. These devils -- the maniacs in charge of tormenting me -- were messing with my head, doing trivial stuff like changing the stop lights to red as soon as I got there. What could I do? I'd be a dead man if I ran the light out of spite. Some old granny, one of these guys in disguise, would "miraculously" appear in the middle of the road and get run over. Then what am I to do? Go to the police department and explain what happened, and be taken away as crazy? No, I had the presence of mind simply to stop. Yes, I shook my fist: "I'll wait you out, you bastards!"

I definitely got the message, though. Which is this: Someone's arranging everything, not leaving a single thing to chance. A puppet-master. (Ha! That's something I know about! I used to work the puppets at church. We did modern rock 'n' roll hits with religious lyrics substituted. Here's what I know about it: You have to practice like a dog to put on a good puppet show. I watch puppets on TV to this day and picture the work they're doing to make it happen. Making the machinations of this puppet-master all the more amazing.) As far as I know, the way I see it, no one's practiced my movements around town. So it's amazing how they know everything I'm going to do.

But why? I know the world has forces, but I always thought they concentrated more on the upper crust and powerful. Like moving the minds of great leaders, swinging the action on the battlefield, and guiding industrialists in how to run their companies. In addition, though, they like to toy with little guys like me, probably for kicks. What kind of kicks would that be? If you have that much power, couldn't you get a lot better kicks doing more high-powered stuff? Like burning down prisons and watching the rest of us run for our lives?

I'm thinking, I'm a very humble man. I've never hurt anyone. Sometimes I even pick up bugs with a paper towel and take them outside. I've done more than my share of good deeds in the past. I just mentioned puppets. We used to take them to nursing homes and entertain the residents. I can still picture the looks of great joy on their faces. We had this one routine where one puppet kept taking the other puppet's lines. He's an eager beaver. But the puppet whose lines he's stealing is looking more and more disgusted. And angry. You show disgust with a puppet by crunching the mouth as much as you can and tilting the head. The residents loved it!

I'm humble, so why bother me? On the other hand, why not me? I've also had some very high-minded thoughts. I haven't always felt humble. I'll confess, sometimes I think, There's no one like me! I'm the smartest, the shrewdest, the baddest (best) dude in town, maybe the world! I'm very proud to be an American, to be who I am, to have my terrific abilities, my looks, my demeanor, my personality, right on down the line. Pride. I'm very proud. And now, apparently, the powers-that-be think I'm in for a time of humbling. The old "humbling" cliche...

The more I think of it, though, the more I think it's undeserved. Realistically, there's lots of people smarter, shrewder, badder (better), and prouder than me. There's plenty of people with better abilities, looks, demeanors, and personalities, and, hence, with a lot more pride. And I don't see them suffering. I think I may be living in a Chinese finger trap; the more I struggle, the worse it gets.

Hey! Where did that thought come from? That's genius! I'm a genius! Or some genius put that thought in my head. Someone who's somehow found a way of thinking and way of living that flies under the radar of the guy pulling the strings. Which -- Wow! what a moment of clarity! -- would be someone who's tapped into what's truly important in life, someone who's faced suffering and dealt with it victoriously. Someone very very humble. I always seem to forget until it's almost too late, then I remember the truth, by some awesome grace.

The ones I'm thinking of now are two: For humility of spirit and outlook, there's the lowly creature who bears the Redeemer, Desi the Donkey. OK? I love him. Then there's one with all that and more, a dear one with a running sore on her forehead given to her from on high by her own request, one who for a time was despised by the world and belittled even by those who should've been her closest friends, one ridden hard and put away wet, spiritually speaking. She's one of my favorite saints in the whole wide world, St. Rita of Cascia. Good news!

There may be some stinking maniac in charge over all -- over this world -- seeking out people like me to trample into the dirt. But he's going down! Because there's also a good side, represented by many other good beings and saints, those like Desi and Rita. I shall be victorious! I shall prevail! There's no one badder (better) than me!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Paranoia -- I Know Where You Go

The clock says 3 o'clock, but it's so dark out. I'm not sure what that means. It's been dark for days. I keep checking the windows. They seem to be sealed, nothing oozing in. And everything's OK with the walls. The feeling of being closed in is so comforting. Finally, after a couple days of hell, everything's settling down. My poor nerves could use the rest. But it doesn't last...

I hope you see this post, OK? They've been blocking my internet feed -- someone, it's on and off -- so very few people are aware what's going on. As for those few, I believe they're telling others to ignore me. It's a mess. I suspect the traffic I'm getting is just the lookout man for the others, checking in to monitor me. They want to shut me down, but someone still needs to check on me. I can be happy for that, because where's there's breath, there's life!

It makes sense that it'd be the lookout man who's calling me. Who better than the one watching? I've had his calls before over the years, which doesn't make it any more welcome. It puts me in a bind. Once I start thinking of it, it's hard to think of anything else. Who is he? Does he have an actual life? Leaving his wife for work, "Heading out, dear. Pulling a double shift in some guy's tree." She goes, "Don't complain, it's a job." He thinks of his heritage: "My dad was a tree-sitter, and his dad before him."

He started calling me about 12:00. The time he flourishes most. Maybe his shift starts at 12 and he wants to get it out of the way. He says his piece, very nefariously, "I know where you go ... and I know what you do there." I questioned him rapidly, who is this? etc. But he likes to leave dead air hanging, like that. Breathing hard, he repeats his piece, "I know where you go ... and I know what you do there." So accusatory!

I argued, "Where do I go? I don't go anywhere," which is more or less true. Still, I have to wonder what the hell he's talking about. I haven't been there, I don't think. And even if I went I didn't really do anything there. You know? What would I have done?" I hang up and I'm even more defensive, tying myself in knots over his words. How can it be someone's actual job, to torment me?"

I call the operator, who checks the exchange and says there's been no calls, either in or out. That's not such a surprise. Guys this tricky, it's easy for them to bypass the normal routes. I say, "Are you sure? Try to trace it." She says they can't trace calls anymore. That with the switchover to cell phones, all their eggs are in the new basket, leaving the old basket unguarded. OK, with the old basket unguarded, I decide to fight fire with fire. Meaning I'll test the system with a few prank calls of my own. I go for a variation on the old "Prince Albert in a can" call. I dial a grocery store and ask, "Do you have Mrs. Dash in the sack?" "Yes, we do!" "Well, get her up, she's got the runs!" Now watch, the police will be here in five minutes!

Getting back to the guy, "I know where you go..." Maybe they saw me that day I dropped off a casserole at the church for the funeral lunch, and that's what he means. But that was a good deed. No one's going to call me with funky sinister breathing for something so innocent. So I'm left with it being something else, something worse.

How would they know I was there? Unless they were there themselves! The last few places I've been, there were others hanging around. It could've been any one of them. But another way to look at it is, I'm being followed, or observed when I leave the house. I did see other cars on the road, like always. They had to have lieutenants along the way -- confederates radioing the others. One big radio network. "He's passing 4th Street now, that's Four-uh Street-uh, roger?" Even though at that point I could've be going anywhere.

Once I get out by the old bridge on the west side, though, that narrows the possibilities. Once they see me passing the old bridge ("He's now passing the old bridge. That is Old-uh Bridge-uh."), unless I'm headed out of town or the cemetery, unlikely, then they'll have it immediately narrowed down. A sick friend? That's at least a defense, until they ask my friend's name.

Just speaking theoretically, let's say I was there, OK? So what? It's a public place, right? A place of business. Others are there. I'm not wearing a mask. What are they doing, calling every guy who darkens their door? How would that help business? It'd just keep guys away. Or maybe these callers have a different game, blackmail. He didn't make any demands, just got me stewing about it.

What's the crime? What's the evidence? Shall I pay? My mind's a swirl. Have they got me on camera? They'd have to. You can't take a country drive these days without at least satellite surveillance. They can hit a tin can in Afghanistan, of course they've got the homeland micro-mapped.

I look out the window and see some rustling over by the pussy willow trees, some distance from the house. Could be the wind, or some other activity. Maybe the caller's watching to see if I'm looking out..

Hold on, the phone just rang. I'm back. It was the same damned thing. Could be a recording. Or is he calling in real time to say the same damned thing? I kept the phone off the hook for a bit, but then I'm not going to know if they're calling.

I wonder to myself, alone with my thoughts, "Don't give them anything to go on. Simply deny it. Don't answer the charges. It's no one's business anyway. Their evidence isn't worth a fig." If that's true, though, how'd they even know? No, they're on to something! The only thing I can hope for is that I'm one of millions. Safety in numbers. That would explain the lag between calls. They're busy with everyone else's phone. What that doesn't explain is the movement in the tree. That's definitely hard to explain, the micro-mapping that puts them in a guy's very own tree while calling.

They haven't asked for money, so I'll sit tight for now. And, like I do in other times of stress, daydream about the old legend of Desi the Donkey, and the beloved sister, St. Rita of Cascia. Her forehead wound flows so much from just one of 72 thorns, just one. A funny little twist: In my thoughts Desi brays, as if to say, "Don't worry, it'll be OK."

Right then, I hear a siren outside. The grocery store traced my call and called the police. And they're shooting flaming arrows over my thatch-roofed house. Trying to burn me out, eh? I settle in. The phone rings. The operator's telling me she'd talked it over with the supervisor and she had it wrong. It's only if you make a prank call with a cell phone to a landline that the call can't be traced. Landline to landline, those are still traceable.

Desi, St. Rita, and I join hands and sing, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Paranoia -- This Dark is Huge

Hello, everyone, just a quick message from the heart of darkness, thanks to the 'Journey to the Center of Paranoia' I'm on. I have to tell you, even though I sound normal enough right now, in part thanks to being able to communicate with you, things have been crazy. I've been running, running very fast; it's all downhill here. The trip back will be much tougher, but, looking on the bright side, my bad knees could use the exercise. I just hope I can make it.

Getting out is frankly one of my biggest worries, since there's very few signposts in this land of shadows; it's so dark in fact you wish for shadows; that'd be a step up. Another worry is the sense that I'm not alone. But how they manage it down here, and find it completely habitable, that's another mystery. It's like they say on science shows, no matter the extremity, life finds a way. Like some of my earliest relatives growing up in Missouri. Tough times back then, stopping every 15 miles to patch the tire.

The beings I've seen here, you have to understand, I haven't actually seen. I've caught glimpses of movement, indistinct, nothing to focus on. Which is scary, depending on how close they get, what their breathing's like, etc. It's hard to judge, although I've always been of the opinion that furtive movements in the dark are ominous, bad. Were I to live here forever, I'm sure I'd fit right in, becoming acclimated to their ways. God forbid, though! I can imagine a terrible devolution, losing my eyes all together!

You can only imagine... I'm only imagining so far. I've never descended this far before, but the more I think of it, the queasier I get. I'm bringing to mind things I've read about the unconscious, the contents of the collective unconsciousness. Ever heard of that? It's nothing to mess with, but I'll confess I have messed with it ... many times. You think it won't hurt, but unless you go through certain compensatory motions, actions, and thoughts, you can be quickly bogged down in weird delusions. That's true teaching, by the way. There's a psychic price for everything, and unless you want to go crazy you need to pay it off quickly and directly.

Crap, that's what's happening to me right now! I can't perform even the thinking compensatory stuff while I'm here; that's irrational. Not while I'm in it! What this actually means -- terrible realizations are coming to me in real time now -- is I'm likely to be consumed at any moment. It happens just that fast. That's the true reason why the denizens here don't have to leap out. They have you simply by your presence! When I'm in my terrestrial room, at least I have the light consciousness environment, but here I'm surrounded, I'm in the belly of the beast. And that's not figurative.

The air is stifling and breathes thin. But my eyes are getting used to the darkness, which 10 minutes ago I would've thought was good news. Now I realize -- all these terrible truths are hitting me -- that darkness must remain darkness. Once darkness transmogrifies for you into light, that's the totality of your sight. I don't know what's left for me to do. There's no escape, none I can see, for all I see is the hugeness of the darkness. How about that? Where the path out is, to me now that's darkness. I'm ensnared! This is like being 10,000 miles from home, with nothing, not a friend and not a cent to your name.

I guess I should do something. Like sleep? If I found a place in a dark ditch and just slept -- what would I wake to? Would I wake? If I had one request to whatever forces of good, whatever forces of light might exist in this bastard realm, it'd have to be an abject, plaintive plea, "Get me the hell out of here!" But my cry echoes off the walls and cliffs of destruction, and, instead, I sink further. The horizon's giving way. The foundations all around are crumbling. What I wouldn't give for a good old garden variety paranoia, the simple irritating sense of dismay I've always known, with a twist of manageable forces watching me. The burden here is much too immense ... yet, again, I'm feeling more and more at home in it. Bad news.

Someone's coming from the opposite direction! I must hide, maybe jump out and make a meal of them. Looks like a lowly donkey and a nun, no big deal ... I've never liked donkey meat and I'm not hungry enough for a nun. A donkey and a nun? Could it actually be Desi the Donkey and St. Rita of Cascia?!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paranoia -- I Hit Rock Bottom

Somehow -- I don't know how! --  Paranoia has been entering my room, completely unseen, and leaving Post-It® Notes on the face of my clock. Always a clock-watcher, I look up and there's another note: "We are waiting for you ... Come on our turf, eh? -- Paranoia." Taunting me, challenging me, knowing my few strengths and many weaknesses. A thought occurs: I need better weatherstripping.

I have taken Paranoia head on many times, and, frankly, I hate to admit it, I haven't fared well. To admit this I'm not yielding an inch in this present struggle, just being honest. I've been put through the paces so many times, and have so often been left twitching and babbling, cold and naked in the cellar, in the shower drain. And it's been worse. Since then I have steeled myself -- giving myself many strong affirmations, and kissing my finger and pointing to the heavens -- plus now I'm older and wiser, and tougher.

Sitting in my chair, I check my inner system status: A pulse is detected, a heartbeat, blood flow, temp about normal with the latitude to go feverish and survive, my brain's essentially reliable, misfiring only something like every 1000th thought. I shake my head rapidly, an old yoga trick to reveal things in the room otherwise invisible. I thought I saw a face in the shadows, then when I shook again, it turned out I was wrong.

Anyway, this week I'm taking on Paranoia. I already wish I hadn't. But this time -- cross your fingers -- I expect to prevail, I shall conquer! If I don't kick Paranoia's ass and take names, I'll know the reason why!

Here's the descent as it went down: I muttered endlessly to myself, focusing on slights going back as far as childhood. I thought of all the stupid teachers who held me down, a gifted child, probably out of jealousy. I thought of my parents denying me music lessons, depriving me of a future as a prodigy. I thought of the countless meetings I've walked in on where everyone quits talking the minute they see me. Then there's the constant fears I've had, of police pulling me over, of being brought before panels and commissions, of being followed, of being anonymously called, of dying from my thatch roof catching fire, of threats from little old ladies stealing my recipe box, of danger on land, sea, and air, and of being totally found out.

With the descent now apparently over -- one last shudder for good measure -- I sit in silence, about a half an hour. I think to myself, starting to feel very satisfied, "That was easy! I won this son of a bitch!" Then ... without so much as a boo, everything comes rushing me at once, like a sewage tsunami, and I face the dread reality that once again I'm at the mercy of forces completely beyond my control. I'm jiggling uncontrollably, like the earliest G force tests, revealing teeth even my dentist hasn't seen. Must - be - strong.

I tell myself, "I have resolve, control, and power. Just like a tree that's planted by the water, I shall not be moved," but then I'm wasted, devastated, the devastation starting at my core and radiating to the extremities. With no Extreme Unction in sight. Walls are moving in, trapping me, electrical forces are snapping, lightning is now inside my house, pictures of relatives come to life and point at me. They used to be so harmless! But now they're all here, in wicked versions, Grandpa, dead for over 35 years, pointing his bony finger in my face, and condemning me for the half acre being shaggy. I'm screaming bloody murder over and over, until, again, there is silence. I look down, fortunately no spit-up.

In those welcome moments of calm, in these very tough times, what blessed manifestation occurs? I sense the peaceful encouragement of a donkey. This is true. A donkey, who I discern as Desi the Donkey, brays in my face in an encouraging way. Quickly followed by another blessed visitor of the soul, a true saint, St. Rita of Cascia. She points to the horrible pulsing, bleeding scar on her forehead, helping me focus and eventually fall asleep. Through the night, yes, I twitch and babble, and several holes are burnt in my mattress, but it's minimal, probably coinciding with the 1000th thought trouble from before.

I'm happy that everything's behind me and that I'm completely back to normal.