Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Remembrance

The battle raged on violently and voraciously. Bullets and shrapnel whizzed through the air above the trenches. The din droned on like a dying train wreck.

They weren't sure how it had started. Rumors and parables abounded, but it had been far too long ago that it had started, at least a few weeks. Nobody could remember specifics.

Maybe it had been sparring corporations, vying for market "share" and the ultimate dominion in the "free" market. Maybe it had all started as a disagreement between a few shoppers at Wal-Mart, each trying to get best deal and save all of fifteen dollars, even if it cost people their lives...

Whatever the truth had been, it was lost. Lost now, to the present. The present moment was that of dissonance and discord. Jones felt the heat of an exploded grenade on his face as he stared into the thick abyss. Was it morning? Evening? So much smoke and glut in the air-- and he was so disoriented... He just couldn't tell. It had ceased to matter anyway.

But there was Haddy, with his silly contraptions and his hope. Haddy had fashioned a Christmas tree out of a few stray assault rifles and torn fatigues. Jones tried to tell him that it looked more like the devil's doorstop, but Haddy would have none of it. He believed in the spirit, and acted accordingly.

Any faith that Jones had had had been lost long ago. He only knew the crass and unforgiving ways of war, where no rules applied. There was no good or bad, only the dead and not yet dead. For him, there was no place in here for something like God. War was fundamentally wrong, messy, rude, filthy. The bumper sticker from his childhood had been right: War doesn't determine who's right; only who's left.

Jones was riding Haddy for days about his faith. Haddy seemed unaffected by the onslaught, and stayed focused on fiddling with his Christmas manifestations.

"You know it's March, no?" Jones would yell, salivating for a reaction. But Haddy only once looked up from what he was doing to lip the word "CHEER," with hyperbolic smile.

So when Haddy, after what must have been several weeks, finally said something, Jones couldn't help but be offset.

"Cover me," he had said.

Haddy climbed out of the trench into the horizontal rain of bullets, quickly shredding his uniform. Jones watched wide-eyed as Haddy stood, arms outstreched, unflinching as flesh was torn from bone. Jones was frozen. So seemed Haddy, even in the reign of violent terror that was being acted upon his body. As Jones stared, he ceased to fathom what it was that he was seeing.

Haddy stood as if crucified. Parts of his body began to fall away. As flesh collapsed, Jones blinked. Then blinked again. Haddy was still standing there... even though his body was collapsing. Haddy was standing strong, chest puffed up, arms embracing.

Jones would have rubbed his eyes if it wasn't such a cliche. Was he seeing things? Was it the Ghost of Haddy? Or an acid flashback?

The flurry of violent transformation if Haddy's body continued, but Jones could only see the... the... spirit? of Haddy? as it started to rise above the battlefield.

Jones wondered shortly if he was hallucinating. Soon he realized that others were witnessing the same thing, because gun fire sputtered and stopped. And for the first time in forever there was a light in the sky. And it was Haddy.

Jones lost the feeling in his legs and fell to his knees. He couldn't stop looking at Haddy.

"Merry Christmas, Haddy," he struggled, wiping tears from his cheeks. He reached out in a vain attempt to touch Haddy's aura--

His hand touched the cold granite of the gravestone. "Hadrick Walter Concepcion, RIP" was all it said.

"Merry Christmas, Haddy," said Jones.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

When Once I Was a Best Man

I almost chickened out and let the rest of the folks who wanted to say a few words just fill up the time, take the stage, and make it as good as it needed to be. But then my good friend Irene came up to me, shook me encouragingly at my shoulders, and said to me confidently, "You're going to be great!"

Tom had said it was up to me whether I would give a speech or not. Lots of internal rehearsing, gathering of advice, and general hand wringing later, I was left with this moment. It really was my choice, and I had some things to say. And Tom and Melanie deserved it. So I got up in front of everyone, something I'm not real keen on doing, and heeded the advice of our friend Kathleen to "speak from the heart."

So I did, although I covered some ground that I had been considering covering... An old story that is familiar to a lot of people, recalling some road trip travails that Tom and I weathered.

What I really wanted to say was that they'd both been an inspiration to me. That they are both playful, creative, loving people with an amazing sense of wonder, grace, and gratitude.

So I say it here. Now.

I also wanted to talk more about Melanie, how she has accentuated Tom genuinely and completely, fulfilling his dreams and inspiring new ones. She brings a lot of game to this life, and this relationship. But I think it worked out, because the other speech deliverers kind of tended towards speaking about Melanie. So I somewhat inadvertently balanced the scorecard by speaking primarily of Tom. Seems that if you can learn to let go, you watch with wonder as the Universe helps out.

I'd originally conspired to do a "Mad Lib" around the theme of their wedding. Sure to be fun and full of laughs, right? Well, maybe. We'll never know for sure. I opted instead to get up and go-- let it rip-- and hope for the best. My intentions were good. So the speech was good too.

I got a fair amount of compliments from attendees; some of whom I don't really know. I hope it was more than sufficient. I think it did the trick. But I always view perfection in hindsight.

It's funny, I sense that Tom felt the same sort of let down after giving his speech at my wedding. The part of my speech that got the biggest laugh was about all of this speech giving business. I remarked that I thought about just repeating the speech that Tom had given at my wedding... but it wasn't that memorable.

But then I talked about how I remembered him saying to me, just after finishing his speech, as we hugged and shared a moment of our great friendship, that he had wanted to make it better.

"Well, he has made it better. He's made my life a lot better. And Melanie has as well."

I think that was the most effective part of the speech; a few people told me about being moved to tears at those lines. And it was unrehearsed.

The beauty of the heart, when it is allowed to flow without restraint, will always amaze.

To Tom and Melanie, all the best.

"May all your storms be weathered, and all that's good get better. Here's to Life, here's to love, here's to you." -- Shirley Horn

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Life For Sale

Gander if you will at the beautiful new lawn in the front yard. Notice the fresh paint on the exterior of the home. As you step from your vehicle and onto the curb, feel appealed. You're gonna like this home.

There's a "fruit salad" tree in the back yard. Five different varieties all grafted together to form one tree. One apricot, two kinds of peaches, a plum, and a nectarine. Planted two years ago, about ready to have a bountiful harvest next summer, all elements cooperating. Fresh fruit from your own back yard.

And there's lawn in the back yard, too. Along with a young shade tree-- a Chinese Pistache, to be exact. There's also a lovely Japanese Maple flourishing outside the kitchen window. And you have gardening space to grow your own vegetables-- why, there's already an artichoke plant established and yearning to produce 'chokes for you next spring.

Once inside, you'll notice the care and hard work that's gone into this spectacular home. The living room features a fireplace and lots of space to roam, dance, or disassemble and reassemble a vehicle. Dream big, for your dreams can come true right here if you buy this house!

There's even a "grandparent's quarters" with it's own kitchenette, bathroom, and separate exterior entrance. So grandma or grandpa can come and go as they choose without disrupting you, but can still come down the hallway to visit very easily.

Or maybe you'd like to have your college student close to home, but still have them retain some of their freedom. This back bedroom/living quarters is a great fit.

The current inhabitants have been known to entertain guests here with regal fiestas-- back yard movie nights with a nine-foot by sixteen-foot screen, complete with cartoons at dusk (like the old drive-in movies used to do)... Art parties where the house was transformed into a gallery space featuring sculpture, photography, found art, mosaics, fabrics, and even silk worms... Holiday parties that brought friends and family together and produced exquisite soups and salads, brownies, cookies, chips & dip, guacamole, finger foods, and main dishes to die for... There were late nights spent around the fire pit, singing songs, roasting marshmallows and making s'mores, and laughing loudly at Chuck Norris jokes... Many an alcoholic beverage was enjoyed on this lot, be it beer, wine, mixed drink or hard liquor-- most by the current inhabitants, for sure. If you'd only been by on a recycling day and seen the bin overflowing with microbrew beer bottles... But I digress.

Many a sporting event was followed by television or radio here, while working in the yard or garage, or assembling jigsaw puzzles in the living room, a makeshift puzzle parlor created out of a card table and chairs and desklamp. There would be cursing when pieces wouldn't fit or couldn't be located... there was many an online song or music program listened to while struggling with the puzzles-- one of the favorites was Radio Free Wohlman, a series of hour-long episodes touring the archives of Dave Wohlman, a long-time radio guy and a master at weaving tracks together in fresh and interesting ways.

Ooops-- I am digressing again. Have you seen the main bathroom? The walls are "concordia" and the toilet is less than a year old. It's a "sure-flush" that could flush a dozen golf balls in each flush. I don't recommend trying it though. Who poops in golf balls, anyway?

Okay, so I've really driven the canoe over the falls now. But there's so much more to say, and we only lived here for six years! So much stuff! To tell about, to pack, to remove, to clean, to patch, to caulk, to repair, to redo. To move. Away.

If parting really is such sweet sorrow, I'm guessing Shakespeare had people who packed for him. Cuz I'm not sensing the sweet right now. Just the sorrow. And the aching muscles.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick-- September's almost over!!

Here are some words for my friends.

Y'all are great. Y'all rock. Rock, paper, AND scissors.

We've been getting a lot of help lately from friends and family, and I just want to say thanks.

Well, I want to say more. Hence the continued typing.

I want to thank Steve, brother-in-law, gardener extraordinaire. Helped me to dig up a dead lawn, pickax swing after pickax swing. And then, since that wasn't enough, he trimmed a major rosebush into submission. Thanks, bro. You're our favorite.

Other family has pitched in to clean and organize and help stage our house for potential sale. We're getting out of Dodge. Moving into Chevy.

We've decided to make a change and try to get our finances in order. Selling our house will do great work towards that goal, but won't solve all our problems. It won't mean I can quit my job any time soon.

Dang it.

But it will put us on a track towards paying down our debts and starting a savings strategy. And this downsizing may allow us to eventually get away from our jobs sooner.

But I mustn't get too far out ahead of the horse in this here cart... I just need to get a few words down so that I officially blogged this month. And then I need to consider going to bed. Because there's work, again, next morning. And I must go.

So I must go.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gosh, the loose ends around here...

Got so many things to talk about, so many things I could have already said. So many things that I've set up to talk about more later, but it seems later never comes. Well now is later. Forgive me my paradox.

I'm writing to return myself. I kept the receipt. Whoo-- what a deal THAT was. I think I was a bargain. But then, I don't think I adjusted for inflation... Anyway, there's plenty for me to write about right now. So here we go.

I've been becoming more familiar with the work of Dr. Wayne Dyer, specifically The Power of Intention, one of the audiobooks I own and have a chance to listen to while at work. It's good to keep my mind engaged in something, since my job doesn't require a lot of brain power. My wandering mind seems to run into trouble more than it runs into inspiration or motivational bliss. Especially over the last several years as I've struggled with my bipolar disorder and tried to get the right mix of medications... For some reason I'm left wondering about some metaphor involving a V-8 engine with a 4-barrel carburator, a rich fuel mix, and an in-process game of Jenga(c)...

I won't go into great detail in recounting Dr. Dyer's work-- he's better at representing himself and I couldn't do him justice. I will attempt, however, to summarize one of the ideas that struck me and rattled me in a way that only truth served in a large helping can do.

The idea is silent knowledge. Another way of saying intuition, perhaps, but I think it's more than just your inner voice. When a person experiences silent knowledge, it involves more than words. It's an experience beyond words, accessing wisdom that exists outside of language. One experiences it silently, and the words that attempt to describe it come later.

Dyer relates a story about an experience he had on a beach, where a woman's body washed up in the surf. Although he and the others there immediately began life-saving techniques, it was evident that the woman had expired. Dyer then explains how a silent knowing came over him, as if the woman's spirit were present and communicating to him. He stopped the life-saving and said a silent prayer to this woman he had never met, and yet felt a closeness with at that moment. This is what he describes as silent knowledge.

Forgive me, Dr. Dyer, if I misparaphrase you.

In another passage, I believe he's describing the power of intention, when he indicates that the force that is at work, beyond our intellect, beyond our consciousness-- the silent wisdom that runs the show-- is the same force that turns acorns into oaktrees, and a fetus into a human being. There is a greater knowing at work than the one that man has created. The ego and the intellect make grand attempts to tag and catalogue the universe, and have so far come up short with the cause and effect, logicical reasoning approach. Meanwhile, the universe just keeps on going, like a bullet train on an infinite track, barrelling in and of enlightenment.

Or so I've heard.

I had a similar experience on a beach on the Greek island of Samos. I couldn't sleep, I was so excited about how beautiful the island was, the thoughts I was having, just everything was going so well. We were having a really great time, me catching up with my college buddy, and Suzy and I both meeting a lot of very nice people. But I was the only one awake at three o'clock in the morning. So I went for a walk, down to the edge of the water at the beach.

The hotel was carved into a fairly steep hillside. I got down to the beach and paused for a few moments. It was so beautiful and peaceful. There was a slight breeze that rustled the leaves in the few, small trees that lined the outer edge of the beach. There was such a sense of calm in me, as if I no longer felt any pain or fear. The beach was not of sand but white pebbles. I picked up a few of them and tossed them, individually into the pristinely quiet and still water. I found it hard to believe that the ocean could be so quiet.

I let my mind wander... or perhaps it decided to go off on its own. I tried to imagine what had transpired here, in this exact spot, hundreds-- or thousands-- of years before me. The mythical constructs of love, death, and lust streamed through liquid colors in my mind, and I began to envision a woman, dressed in flowing white regalia, walking down the hill much like I had. Reasons for her actions were not known; only speculated. Instead of pausing as I did, she continued her pace, on into the water. It was as if she carried no breath with her, as she slowly disappeared, swallowed by the ocean.

I considered walking in myself, taking the next step. Would it be suicide? I didn't know. It would probably be seen as such by those left behind. I wondered about the netherworld region, about the regal woman in white. Should I explore the dark depths on my own? Would it be prudent to risk my demise?

I didn't ruminate long on a descent into the ocean. I returned to my hand and my mind and my body and remembered the pebbles in my hand. Wordlessly, silently, I asked the universe for a sign. "Do you exist, God?" was the sentiment, but those are words I put to the experience now, as I recount it.

I tossed a pebble out into the water. My eyes settled on the horizon, where the ocean meets the sky. Soon, there was a small flash of light, like someone on a distant shore turning a light on and off.

Without thinking, I reacted by throwing two more pebbles, one right after the other, in rhythm. Again, I looked at the horizon. The flashing light mimmicked my rhythmic pebble tossing. One. Two.

That was my moment of silent knowing. I felt it and smiled. I knew without question. There was no need to be skeptical. I knew. I knew.

What I knew I have no other way of relating to you. Further experiments may have shown many coincidental discrepancies, but I did not need further tests. A friend said that he would have thrown multiple pebbles in an ornate pattern to see what the flash did. But you can't do that-- you can't just jump into the experience as a hypothetical and make truth happen. Truth has to happen. And it happens despite all the Monday morning quarterbacking that goes on ad nauseum.

Anyway. So that was an example of my silent knowing. Do you have one?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Raging Flaming Goat of Samos

Many years ago, when the moon was still made of cheese and life was full of magic, there lived a goat and a cat.

Now, sure, there lived a lot of other things as well. But let’s just focus in on these two, okay?

This particular cat and goat had been friends for a while. They’d been hanging out together in the countryside, being a part of nature, naturally.

On this particular day, though, the cat had reached a turning point. He was feeling unsure about his purpose in life.

He asked the goat, “Do you think I’m crazy?”

“No, you’re not crazy,” said the goat. “Why do you say that?”

“I feel weird,” said the cat. “Itchy. Like I need to do something, but I don’t know what.”

“Well you seem pretty calm to me,” said the goat.

“I feel... I don’t know... more than weird,” said the cat. “There’s a word for it. It’s on the tip of my slobbering tongue...”

“Well,” said the goat, “I think you’re acting fairly mild—“

“Yes! That’s it!!” exclaimed the cat, seeming to grow bigger. “Wild! I’m a wild cat!!”

And with that, the cat reared up, pounced on the goat, and swallowed him in one gulp.


“I said mild!” said the goat, muffled as if wrapped in blankets. He was very angry at the cat, and was getting more mad as he struggled with the cramped quarters of the cat’s stomach. “Let me out of here!”

The goat started running in circles in the cat’s stomach. This made the cat dizzy and he soon had to throw up. With a big *BURP!* up came the goat. Up and out and angrier than he’d been when in the stomach.

The goat was an angry ball of nerves and emotions. He grinded his teeth and snarled at the cat.

“Why’d you do that ?!?” yelled the goat, and one of his horns caught fire, like a torch.

“It’s my destiny,” the cat explained. “I’m sorry. I’ve got things to do in town. Been nice knowing you.” And with that, the Wild Cat of Samos turned and trotted off toward his fate.

The goat’s veins started popping out in his neck and temples. “What?! What was that?!?” Another of his horns started to smoke as he stewed.

“Some friend you are!” he yelled to the disappearing cat.

His anger was boiling now. He had no answers. It made no sense. What would make somebody do that?

The stress of being gobbled up and spit out like so much bad licorice was making him hungry. “I’ll go to the taco stand,” he thought. “A good taco will help me relax.”

The goat walked over to the taco cart. The taco man gave him a second look when he saw that the goat’s horns were on fire. The smoke got in the taco man’s eye and made him squint. “Would you like something cold to drink?” he asked the goat.

“No,” said the goat. “Gimme a couple veggie tacos with onions and cilantro.” He was gruff and demanding. And still very angry.

“What kind of salsa—hot or mild?” asked the taco man.

“MILD!” yelled the goat, not wanting to be misunderstood again.

“Mild it is,” said the taco man, grabbing the salsa bottle marked “mild” and squirting on more than extra for his fine customer. What the taco man didn’t know was that earlier that morning his nephew had switched the salsas as a practical joke. So the taco man had unknowingly just given the extra hot sauce to the raging goat.

“Here you go,” said the taco man, smiling. When smoke got in his eye again, he said to the goat, “I’m sorry, this is a non-smoking restaurant.”

“I’ll take it to go then!” snapped the goat. Soon he was walking away in a huff, another of his horns smoldering.

The goat promptly found a place to stop and eat and quickly gorged himself—he chomped both tacos with nary a chew. Soon the hot salsa began to ignite in his mouth and throat. As it got hotter and hotter he got angrier and angrier. He began to gallop around, kicking and bucking, screaming as loud as he could.


All four of his horns were now aflame. The fur on his head and back began to smoke. Now he was afire with anger and raging like a mad cow with a penchant for poetry.


He was running and kicking and making a ruckus. He kicked at rocks. He kicked the dirt. He kicked up quite a cloud of dust.

Some sparks from his horns landed in some dry brush, and it was soon aflame. He didn’t see the burning bush, as he was raging and flaming and totally consumed by his anger. As he spun around, one of his hooves stepped squarely into the burning bush.

The goat yelled at the pain, but he didn’t notice it for very long because he just got more angry and took off running.

He ran and ran and ran, still angry with it all. He ran for days, then weeks. He ran to the hills and climbed amongst the rocks. He ran for so long he lost track of where he was, who he was, what he was. But he knew he was angry, even if he couldn’t remember why.

Finally, he could run no longer, He was totally enraged, and totally in flames. He could feel nothing but his anger. All his strength was gone. He collapsed onto the hillside and passed out.

As he slept, he dreamed the most peaceful dream he’d ever had. He dreamed that a cool, pleasant rain visited the area, and slowly, softly washed all of the pain and the hurt away.

After a few days, the goat awoke to find that he was still on the mountain, still on fire, and still angry. He had stopped burning as much, and his fur and horns had all cooled into a thick, charred crust. He could not move.

Struggle as he mightily did, the crust would not break. So what was he to do?

He struggled and thrashed but it was no use. He could feel the heat of anger rising in him again.

But then he remembered his dream. The rain had not judged or punished anyone, but had cleansed and soothed everyone and everything. He thought about this for a long time.

The goat began to realize that he had been acting thick-headed. He slowly decided, over sometime, that he would forgive the ones that he’d thought were responsible for his displeasure and struggles.

“If I hadn’t been thrashing around like that, I might have noticed the burning bush,” he thought. “And the taco man—maybe he made a mistake with the salsa. I don’t know that he did it on purpose.”

He thought of his friend, the cat. He then said, aloud, “I forgive the Wild Cat of Samos for acting as his nature urged and instructed him to.”

After all of this thinking and forgiving, the goat realized he was no longer angry. But he was still stuck in the smoldering crust that was a remnant of his rampage.

He once again remembered the rain from his dream. Could its peaceful caress cleanse the crust from his body and release him from this charred prison? “Maybe,” he thought. “But it never rains here on Samos, so I guess I’m stuck.” He felt a final sense of release in his powerlessness.

He didn’t feel sorry for himself, or angry, or resentful. He felt peaceful lying there, as part of the hillside, amongst the other wildlife. “And there are nice views from here,” he thought. All in all, he felt he could enjoy himself there for awhile, and just see what happens.

After some amount of time—he wasn’t sure how long—the goat noticed a quiet hissing sound start up somewhere nearby. As he thought about what it might be, he began to feel a cooling sensation in his rear leg. The sensation soon changed from cool to cold—and wet.

“Sprinklers!” he thought. “There must be sprinklers, bringing the rain the countryside needs,” he realized to a feeling of great joy.

Soon the water had softened up enough of the crust that he could move his leg. Water trickled down through cracks and loosened other parts of his body from the crust. After what seemed like forever, he felt a large chunk shift away from the whole.

He flexed and shimmied, trying to move between the cracks. He tried to lift the large detached piece enough so that he could slide from underneath it. It was no use—it was just too heavy. He thought about kicking and thrashing about, but that was sure to cause worse problems. What if the whole thing collapsed on him? He’d be crushed!

He opted instead to wait. And sure enough, about the time the sprinklers shut off, enough of the crust was softened, moistened, and melted away, that he was able to slide and scoot his way away from the crusty embers of his anger.

He stepped back in awe of the glowing embers, still smoldering. They were so much bigger than he was. And still burning in some parts.

“So long, Raging, Flaming Goat of Samos,” he said, and gleefully galloped back to town to visit with the taco man.

Legend has it that the crusty exoskeleton of the Raging, Flaming Goat of Samos can still be seen from certain parts of the island. It smolders, glowing in amber light to this day.

You can still see the embers of his temper glowing bright as the rising moon

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tabling Arguments

What is it that we all want to read about today? How the West was won? How billions of dollars are wasted on movies that are never watched? Or should never be watched for fear of severe eye and brain damage?

Let's talk about it all. It's all on the table today. Along with the salt shaker, the pepper grinder, the napkin holders, the natty table cloth, and the crumbs from breakfast. Is there an elephant in the room? Put it on the table. 800-pound gorilla? Table. We's gonna talk about it, whatever i'is.

Gotta say that the passing of Walter Cronkite closed the book on a lot of things in this country. The world is so different now. The media is this ravaging juggernaut of disrepute and glitter, so far removed from the respectful and scholarly news media of Cronkite's time. But such is life; all things must pass.

I just want to give Mr. Cronkite his due recognition and a respectful send-off to wherever it is that he's moved on to. Would love to hear his report of what he's found there and how he's doing. He'd be the ultimate correspondent from the afterlife, wouldn't he?

What else is on the table? Peanut M&M's. Ate more than half a 12-oz. bag yesterday and I'm probably gonna finish it as I write this. So it should slow down the typing a bit. And have some effect on spelling and grammar, to be noted and calibrated at a later time...

I fear going into detail.

What does that mean?

Ask your mother...

More table items... medication. Anybody else out there taking Lithium and Zoloft and Abilify and shaking enough to register on the Richter scale? I was mowing the lawns (read: weeds) yesterday and was beset by tremors at several points in the chore-- not exactly helpful when attempting precision work with a weed-eater. So I'm guessing you don't want me trimming your bangs while on this particular cocktail...

M&M break!

Okay. Go ahead and tell me if the load of candy consumption might be my "shakes" problem. But I don't think so.

I'm an ever so little bit closer to having a book written. I've written a children's story about a goat and a cat on the Greek island of Samos. It grew out of the legend of The Wild Cat of Samos that we learned of when we visited Samos in the summer of 2001. Rather than go into a lot of detail right now, I think I'll post the Wild Cat story. Then I'll give more details in a later post about my story. That will give me time to work on the illustrations more. How you like them apples?

They're what's on the table.

The animal which you are about to read about and which you can see for yourself in the Natural History Museum of Mytilinii is a savage feline, related to the tiger, known as a " kaplani " ( wildcat ), with its habitat in Asia Minor.

The Kaplani of Samos.

At the beginning of the present century, this animal was forced, either by the flooding of the River Meander or by fire, to swim over to Samos, where its established itself on the hills around Mavratzaii and became the scourge of the domestic animals and flocks of the district.

Farmers and shepherds drove it out and forced it to take refuge in a cave, which from then on was known as the " kaplani - hole ". Its pursuers, not daring to go inside the cave, built a wall of large stones across the entrance. In this way, they left it shut in for about three months, expecting it to die of hunger and thirst. But by eating the remains of its old prey and drinking the water which drop by drop gathered in a hollow in the cave, it remained in fine form. After this length of time, the villagers, wishing to assure themselves that the beast was dead, opened up a hole in the top of the cave - not risking opening the entrance which they had built over - and tied one end of a rope to a pine tree, dangling the other down into the cave. By means of this, Gerasimos Gliarmis, unarmed and wearing a cape, descended into the cave. Imprisoned in the cave, man and beast were instantly engaged in mortal combat. The man grasped the wildcat in a headlock in an attempt to strangle it, while it tried to tear his cape so that it could rip his chest with its claws and crush his arm with its teeth. Gliarmis called for help, but no one had the courage to approach.

In a little while, the brother of Gerasimos, Nikolaos Gliarmis, who because he was one - eyed and powerfully built, with superhuman strength, was known as the " Cyclops ", arrived on the scene. When he discovered what was happening, he grabbed the rope and went down into the cave. The animal left its exhausted opponent and throw itself upon the newcomer. But he seized the wildcat by the throat with his left hand, while with his right he attempted to draw his knife from his belt. But by the time he managed this, the animal had already choked to death.

Gerasimos Gliarmis had been injured in his chest by the wildcat's claws and died from the resulting infection a short time later.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Distraction Attraction

I'm up early today. And as I sit here at the computer once again, I am distracted by a number of things. I am distracted by a little moth gnat something or other floating around, landing on my computer screen, hovering above my water cup... The instinct to smash and be done with it is strong, but I'm resisting. I can live around it, surely?

Other distractions form my perspective. Should I be up this early? I need sleep. I got some, but don't I need more? Could this be the start of a manic episode?

That last one is far fetched, but it enters my mind nonetheless. Anytime I get to feeling kinda good about myself, about things in general, and start to get some energy about myself and start cookin' up schemes and getting the mind going on all cylinders... along comes the second guessing. Am I okay? Hold on a bit, now-- better take stock of the situation here...

So I'm trying to just write this morning. The distractions will continue, but I want to just write. I don't want to edit as I go, but I will. Because it's a habit. Saves time. I want to try and keep moving and get to the good stuff, the unpackaged thoughts. The ones without all the giftwrapping and bows. The ones that are so raw that they really move you.

So wish me luck. Or you're going to be seriously unentertained here. Well, that might be the case anyway. Again, distractions.

The mothra thingy buzzes my nose horizontally, disappearing behind the Kleenex box. By the time I write about it, however, the matadon has circled my head again. Twice. Lovely, natural, chalky distraction.

I adjust myself in my seat because my back is aching. The moth lands on my leg. What is a matadon, anyway? I resist the urge to grab the dictionary. The distractionary.

Shouldn't he/she/it be hanging out above my head, at the overhead light bulb? Don't know if matadons or moth things are keen on certain behavioral patterns.

Anne Lamott gives me permission to have a really sh**ty first draft. I'm giving you permission to read it. You also have permission to go elsewhere.

More distraction.

What about my brain makes it tend toward conflict? Negativity? What mechanisms are the product of my experience, of my nurtured mind? And what has been prewired and is static, unmoveable?

And where is Thistle Penn?

I think I see him in every transient soul at the busstops and freeway offramps holding cardboard signs. Is that him rolled up in dirty, torn blankets and newspaper, all of his possessions in a cart or gathered around him as he sleeps?

The number one thing that I need to do here is stop getting distracted and write. Where did my thought train go? Where did my moth friend go? Is my moth friend Thistle? Is Thistle my moth friend? Or is he a matadon? A matador?

I pause for a sip of water. The condensation on the cup slides around both sides, coming together to form droplets that launch themselves, castaways, satellites, escape pods from the mother cup... and crash land on the surface of my t-shirt.

Mothra buzzes my left thigh.

I'm trying to figure too much out. I'm trying to do everything right here, right now. I want to work hard and get it done, right now. I want to write about my struggles with bipolar disorder. I want to write a good story. I want to entertain. I want to figure out my job situation. I want to eat more healthily.

I used to do this sort of entry into my carry-on journal. It was with me wherever I went. I wrote almost daily. Hard to read, some of that stuff. But there's some great vignettes captured there. I think.

I want to be loved. But I fear being judged.

My chops are chop suey. I'm out of practice and out of shape. My stuff feels flat, stale. Unleavened? What does that even mean? Distractionary....

Anyway. Mothra is now exploring the Tibetan Wheel of Life poster on the wall above my calendar. No, check that-- it's on the screen... landed on the word "daily"...

And just now, on the "home" icon. Flew in as if to select it on the screen, landed there, stayed for a few seconds, then was off to explore other worlds again.

Is Mothra communicating with me? Make my home page daily writing assignments.

Well, now Mothra landed on the search box.

Time to look up matadon? Unleavened?

Time to go back to bed and forget what I was thinking about?

No answers right now. Only distractions.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Milk Thistle

Been receiving signs lately. He's coming.

Don't know his whereabouts, but he's out there. And I know it. He's communicating with me. Leaving clues.

Recently, I found the blue bottle of Milk Thistle herbal supplement. 200 capsules of standardized extract to help maintain healthy liver function. Whatever. The message was in the name. A command: Milk Thistle. For all he's worth.

The serendipitous alignment notwithstanding, I have continued to march through my assignments with calloused rote regimen. No, really.

Well, alright. So I don't have any rituals or routines. But I'm trying.

No. Really.

I dove into some old papers the other night and unearthed another nugget. Am I channeling a higher energy when Thistle comes to life in my mind, in my writing? Or is it yet another distraction from what I really need to be doing? No, the communiques are interesting, enlivening, energizing even. The thought distortion is around the "should," as in I should be doing my taxes, or I should be mowing the lawn.

Anyway. The nugget. It's not clear when I wrote this. But deducing from all of the scribbled notes and "to do" jargon, I'm gonna guess it was more than ten years ago. Here's the text as written:
  • "Thistle hiding from pain. Running from hard truths of not being accepted, not being loved. Carves out reality based on half truths; Reluctant to face inconsistencies. Instead forays into detailed analysis of "Super" powers and simplicities of living-- breathing, walking, drinking (water)-- deconstructing the elements & essentials of life, formulating a path back to the reality he is denying exists."
So I'm thinking that I will continue to run into him in my subconscious until eventually he knocks on my door and invites me to lunch.

I think Thistle is an alter ego, yes. Created by my young writer's mind as a potential manifestation of myself, he was me "in twenty years." Well. Now I'm almost me in 20 years from that time.

I'm about to be staring Thistle in the face.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gotta Make These Things Closer Together

There hasn't been any glue. Too many pieces, put together and then falling apart. No glue holding my thoughts together, my words together. Tried putty. Caulk. Chewing gum. No stick.

I've been practicing mindfulness, having teflon mind. Letting go. Allowing thoughts to slide away instead of snagged in a white-knuckled grip. Deep breathing, allowing for the greater wisdom to prevail, to guide, to assist. To ground.

But my words have been faint. Exhausted. Pale. Rendered impotent. They have been at odds amongst themselves. They haven't been playing well with others. They've been fractured, schizophrenic, kinetic and dynamic. Moving like rush hour traffic without adherence to the rules of the road. All over the place. Here and gone. Stop and go. Effluent.

I've wanted to try and make sense. But I can't be bothered by such silly love songs. I just need to trust my gut. And oh, what a gut it's become.

So. I left ya hangin' with the last post. S'pose I should try and tie up some of them loose ends (or is it split ends?) fer y'all.

Nah. Not right now. Gotta procrastinate a bit more. And with you, licking your chops. You gotta really want it, friends!

And so do I. Besides. I gotta read the last post again to remember what I said. My Etch-A-Sketch mind has been shaken since I wrote that...

I shall return, to borrow a phrase. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I'm not sure I have anything to write about right now. But I'm gonna try and do it anyway and see what happens.

Get in the car. Turn the key. Engine starts-- put it in gear. Here we go.

Don't forget your seatbelt.

I've got piles. Stacks of paper on my desk, in boxes. All for inspiration at a later date.

Today's that later date. Time to get, as my therapist put it, a spiritual enema.

I want to write about my past. I want to tell of the stories that I thought were important then. Are they still important? Time will have to tell.

I was a boy back then. Young. You may not have guessed just by looking at me. But it's true. I was just 18 years old and I'd found the person I thought I wanted to spend my life with. Problem was, I was timid, I was shy, and I wasn't sure she wanted what I wanted. And I was scared that if I asked, the truth would be something I just couldn't bear. So I was quietly friendly and cautious. Slow. Hopefully romantic. Hopeful. But exasperatingly cautious. And timid. And frozen from acting on my greatest of intentions.

I set this all up because I hope to transcribe what I wrote longhand so many years ago. But not here; this is not the place to rehash all the names and places of my past.

Or is it?

Guess I'll do what the audience desires.

If there is an audience.

*Is this thing on?*

Friday, April 3, 2009

Kindergarten Art Conspiracy

I'm a pack rat. Well, not exactly... I'm an archivist. I've held on to many invaluable things. Invaluable meaning not able to be valued or assigned any value because there exists no inherent value. You know what I mean-- old grade school papers and drawings, magazine clippings. Stuff that is really fun to run across when you're looking for something else.

Among the archives there exists a document from my kindergarten class. It's a compilation of drawings that attempted to define me and my dreams and aspirations at the time. There's the requisite hand tracing and foot print. There's the drawing of this and the drawing of that...

But I remember one of the pages distinctly. It stands out from all the rest. Not because it captured some nuance or reflected some early signal of artistic talent. But because of the mystery and conspiracy. Because the page is not mine.

The rest of the pages I identify as mine easily enough. They are my marks, and my words have been added by a teacher's aide transcriber, as dictation was taken. The aide, or perhaps the teacher, added the text of my words where appropriate and even wrote my name in the corner of the page. To keep mine separate from the others. Because there was more than one Michael in the class. Always was.

Growing up, I was very rarely referred to in class as simply "Mike" or "Michael"-- it was more often "Mike A." or there was some sort of calculus that determined one of the "Mikes" would go by "Mike" and another would go by "Michael" in the interest of minimizing confusion. I seem to remember, however, that one of my classes had four "Mikes" in it, and there just wasn't an easy way to keep us separated in people's minds. It created a "Mike-demonium" if you will.

So surely it's understandable that there would be a slip up in the processing of things in the classroom now an again. We humans make mistakes. It was inevitable that a student's drawing might be mis-identified or passed back to somebody other than the drawing's creator. Certainly, the adult mind can maturely assess the possibilities and rationally surmise a simple solution to this conundrum. If there is a mature mind...

I, on the other hand, am more prone to explore the conspiracy.

Each student had been asked to do the same project, and produce the same series of drawings about themselves to be assembled in a booklet. The teachers had assisted with keeping the drawings straight by writing the student's names on the pages.

Or had they?

On one of my pages, I didn't recognize the marks, the concepts. The words captured by the teacher did not ring true-- they sounded like a small bird flying into a window. I knew they were not mine as soon as I saw them.

At the bottom of the page was written the name, in the teacher's handwriting. There was a "Michael" alright, but it was followed by a "W." Michael Williams. This was Michael Williams' artwork. He wanted to be a racecar driver. Not me.

Further fuel to the conspiracy theory lies in what had been done to the "W," apparently after some event that created this cover up. The "W" had a line through the middle of it, an apparent late addition, in an overt attempt to simulate an "A".

So was this artist robbed of his property and given someone else's as a forgery? What had happened to his original? Had the teacher deemed it so superior and elegant that she claimed it as her own? What circumstances could have led to this forgery of another "Michael's" work?

And what was the explanation offered to Michael W.? Did he simply have a "Michael A." forged into a "W." among his other work? It would seem strange that the two would have been so completely altered instead of being matched with their proper person...

So what of this situation? 'Tis a mystery with no break in the case, no leads. What is the most logical explanation?

I agree. My drawing was stolen and stashed, and has been cooling off over the last 35 years, collecting even more worth that I will never enjoy.

But I've got the other drawing still.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why I Used to Drink

So I thought I'd get a little pick-me-up, since the day wasn't jump-starting itself. And I went to one of the many Starbucks coffee marts to solicit my dose. I got in line, opted for a pastry item, and ordered a simple standby-- the "Venti Mocha". A simple drink. One that a seasoned barista scoffs at for its lack of originality or personality.

Done and done. So I shuffled to the open space by the feeding trough-- the "drink landing" where the fresh prescription is placed for the patient... "Do you need a consult with this medication?" Uh, wait-- is that the pharmacy? Yes. Focus now-- We're at a coffee shop. Waiting for our drink order.

Man, it got busy, and quick. Where'd all these people come from? I thought the economy was bad! That every other person had been laid off or at least had their hours cut. Look at all this commerce! Surely the worm has at least begun to turn? There's only three coffee associates behind the counter, and one of them is an increasingly frazzled barista. She's soldiering through, though. Making great effort-- she tries a bit too hard and knocks over a stack of straws. It's okay-- no biggie. She laughs it off. She's making jokes to try and calm herself and relieve tension that is building in the room.

And it's at this point-- somewhere in here-- that I start to lose it. Not in anger. Not in crazy arms flailing action. All internally. All somehow brilliantly hypothetically maybe-ish real. Vividly. I start to sense a grand theory that is built on some shaky logic... but that doesn't matter at the moment it's happening to me. It feels plausible. And all the thoughts fit together to make the house-of-cards logic seem like the Taj Mahal.

I'm thinking about the commerce, the economy, how bad the reports of it are, all the down-0n-their-luck stories going around... and here is a whole lotta exchanging going on. This place is buzzing! (Or, I should note, it seems to be hopping... It may be misperceptions which drive this mobile home precariously close to the cliff...) This just doesn't balance out. What could be the explanation?

From the farthest corner of the universe, a thought born yesterday is launched to my immediate attention. Maybe they've somehow tapped into my bank account.

But it doesn't stop there. On no-- we've only just begun. And yes, the Carpenters are now playing in full stereo in my head. That's typical for me-- I got a DJ with an amazing library at his disposal on permanent retainer in me brain. Playing millisecond clips of things just to get me thinking-- Hmm... why does that sound familiar?

In the meantime, I continue to collect new raw data to support my grand schemes. A few minutes have now passed, and people who ordered their drinks both before me and after me have been served. Curious. Where's my mocha?

All of the supporting "logicistics" are quickly awakened from their slumber. Thoughts I'd thrown in the trash days, weeks, months, years ago are franticly assembled and brought forth to my present mind.

People are arriving and picking up their drinks and joking with the barista. I interpret these jokes to be somehow poking fun at me. Not all of them-- no no, that would be absurd. Just some of them.

The barista notices that I've been waiting a while and asks me what my drink is. She apologizes and says she'll bring it right up. She is calling out drinks in Starbucksanese-- "Cafe Latte half-calf misto" and "Noccachilean Nor'eastern Birthday" and "Mucho Nacho toasted drizzle" and... okay, so those are mine, but they might has well have been what she was saying. She was joking and adding things not usually said because she was frazzled. I took it to mean that she was saying a multitude of euphemisms for "Venti Mocha" that others understood, but not me. No, I just couldn't think right-- wasn't smart enough to realize how clever she was being. Others knew Starbucksanese much more fluently than I, and so were able to step up to the drink landing and get a free mocha. On me. Because they had tapped in to my bank account somehow.

She apologizes again to me, and says that "somebody usually comes out on the short end." I smile and say, "Oh, and today it's me?" We have a polite exchange but I can't recall what was said, because my attention drifts to two other patrons who nervously giggle and gather their drinks.

So like, I'm actually rich, somehow? And all of these people in here are unemployed and broke, but they know me, because I'm rich AND famous, and they know when I come through an establishment, they can be comped whatever they order. Long as I'm around.

Yeah. Sounds plausible, don't it?

In the same way that excessive drinking seems like a good strategy for living.

Friday, February 27, 2009

We Hardly Knew Ye

It was a warm, if not clammy, evening in our little Iowa town, and we were sitting in the porch bar. It had been just a porch, but they made it into a bar, building shelves and setting up barstools. And they'd taken out the porch windows so as to invite any breeze at all to come inside and tickle our sweaty brows. The breezes were elsewhere on this night.

We sat and we talked a bit. Sharing observations about others, the feelings in the air, plans for the summer. It was as if we were talking for the first time. Because it kind of was. I mean, we'd exchanged hellos and had small conversations here and there, but tonight-- this night was different.

It was different because there was a gravity to the mood, to the momentous occasion. There's always a perspective shift at graduation time, when what to do next becomes particularly pressing.

Carmen was leaving, having graduated, and was moving on to other things. Things kind of hazily defined, but definitely away from Grinnell, Iowa. Away from college. To be honest, I don't recall specifics. But she wouldn't be around to have more talks with me, that much was apparent.

I was the one to be left behind; I had taken some time off from school and was returning to finish up next semester. So I was saying goodbye to many of my classmates that I'd once planned to walk with in the commencement procession. I was feeling some regret and despair watching the celebrations occur and seeing the joy in their eyes.

Carmen and I talked about this some. We talked for awhile about a lot of things that I don't remember. What I do remember was that Carmen was a beautiful young woman, someone whom I had admired from afar for some time. I'd noticed her talking with her friends, smiling. She had a smile that brought friends along with it-- if she smiled, others were bound to smile too. I thought we had a very nice conversation, about the fun of the night's party, an assortment of other things... And as we made motions to say goodnight, I was feeling torn. Torn between my life until this moment and what was to come.

I felt the despair of losing someone I was just getting to know-- that I was really enjoying talking to and feeling comfortable with. Someone that I was gaining respect for and was hopeful about relating to further. I was realizing that the hopes and dreams which had prefaced this evening had little chance of being realized, but now, with this moment, and the conversation, and the mood, and the comfort... I didn't know how to let it go.

I finally said something that attempted to describe some of my emotions... I don't remember what it was. But it was something like "It's sad to lose a new friend."

I don't know if that's what I said. But it was something like that. Maybe it was something most brilliant. I don't know. What I do remember is that Carmen smiled, and said, "That's so sweet," and got off of her barstool, walked over and reached up and kissed me, gently, on the cheek.

We said goodnight, and she walked away.

It was the last time we spoke.

Carmen Misol, 39, passed away in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2008 from complications due to multiple sclerosis.

Friday, January 23, 2009

High Without Reason

Don't know if I was feeling good or feeling bad or if I really need to invest in such judgments.

I just was. Thinking.

I thought about this and I thought about that and I thought about there, here, everywhere and nowhere. That took all of two seconds, so I sped away again in my mindspeeder... time travel is possible in the imagination.

Back in the present moment, drool was collecting on my bottom lip.

But whatever. I was all-thinking. I thought about God saying something like "I'm not in the business of making sense. I'm in the business of getting things done." Or "I don't have a license to practice logic. Don't need one. I'm God. But that's not my thing anyway-- logic was a game created by humans for humans to play. There's no universal rule that every "it" has to make sense. That's a human myth. But why would you listen to me-- I'm God."

Or some such noise.

I had to go to see my therapist. She's been helping me with my theoretical endeavors. The theology of it all. Does that thought really exist? Okay, so not really. But she has been helping me. She suggested that I get a dog. So we did.

Enter Muppet.

Muppet is a miniature poodle. I never thought I'd have a poodle. But I do. And he's perfect.

So we've transitioned from loving couple to loving trio. Mommie and Daddie and Doggie. We're all getting along quite famously.

I have no real reason for going on with this, this "writing." It doesn't make sense. Where's the issue? The contrast? The development and counterpoint and the suspense? Why would anybody wanna read any of this?

Um, God? Yeah-- little help here?

There are thoughts about sensitive issues. About saran wrap. About toenails and toejam. About the interplanetary rotation of it all. About the plastic in our lives. About the end of lives. About death and dying. About junkmail. About the fate of the puppeteer. About the long and the short of it. About why. About who. About when. About face.

Non-congenital thought disease.

Just needed to write something. Didn't care what. Who. Where. How. When. Anything.

Leave sense for the philosophers in the crowd.

There's so much thinking that goes on-- in so many directions. So much seems to have little purpose.

But that's on purpose.

The question is the little engine that could and will keep right on chuggin' along, running the universe.

Ask not what your country can do for you-- ask what you're doing for the everything.

I gotta go to the chiropractor-- disjunction adjustment required.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Isn't That Precious

"Are you in search of precious metals?" was the question as she came down the stairs, arms full of various shelving pieces. It was delivered with a heavy accent, as if dropped like a quote from a murder mystery. I'd be guessing if I tried to identify the language that the English was draped with. But what the hell-- I think it was Russian? I don't know-- my CIA skill set has never really been steadily developed.

"Unfortunately, no," I chuckled, with atrophied cleverness.

The conversation would end there. At least, between the two of us. But inside my head, it was only beginning.

I stumbled around inside my mind, fumbling with words, wondering more about the accent. Maybe it was French. I reaffirmed that I didn't know. All the while, I was continuing, walking away from her, never to converse with her again.

Then something shiny caught my eye; some sort of clip glistened at my feet, its gold and silver finish sparkling in the sun.

Precious metals. Indeed.

I bent over and picked up the metal object and placed it in my saddlebag pocket in my cargo type pants. A practice that I've replicated a hundred times over the last several years.

"I guess I am looking for precious metals," I thought, wondering why I had told the woman differently.

It was an article about found objects that started me looking at the ground more. And then it was an article on James Hampton, a quiet custodian who collected bits of foil and tin and assorted "refuse" and assembled "The Throne", an elaborate artwork that was discovered only after his death. It got me to start thinking about the hidden qualities in life-- and started me investigating the true meaning of value.

So I started noticing, while I was walking around, through parking lots and alleyways, all of the little things that are left behind, on purpose or by accident. And I started to collect some of them. I have tended to be drawn towards the dilapidated, rusted, and marred. And almost exclusively metal-- bottle caps, wire, shop scrap, etc. I've had the idea that I'm amassing a collection that I will one day assemble into some machine or diorama that brings all of these lost souls together, making it whole again.

So upon further review, I think I am in search of precious metals. At least, I'm trying to define what it is precious really means.