The Tramp On The Street
Some angels in paradise have fallen. Amidst all the tourists, surfers and high-priced real estate co-exists the shabby people, those who are living a dream on a shoestring and a prayer. The other people, some disturbed, others just living in the moment, with all their possessions in a cart, or a backpack. The woman at a chessboard under a pavilion by the beach, always there, always writing, or muttering. The bunny lady, with a wagon with rabbits in cages, out for their morning stroll, and others - sleeping it off, or just waiting. Some are industrious, collecting bottles; some are prone to trouble, but not as many as it would seem. The poor will always be with us, sometimes a only few bad breaks are all that separate us from one caste or another. The old band played a song about that, we were too close to the scene ourselves at the time to deny its presence...
The Vanishing Middle
Waikiki - Kalakoua Avenue
One of the hazards of a vist to Honolulu in late March is the possibity of great swarms of teen-agers running amok on their spring breaks. Between dodging surfboards, and avoiding conch-shell-blowing rowdies, it was all that yours truly could do to thread his way to the water, for his morning constitutional. Add to this mix hundreds of petite Japanese schoolgirls, some in traditional uniform, others not so traditional. When I was mere lad (grumbled the cranky geezer) there was a pop song entitled "We Like Short-Shorts". Back in fashion, here at least.
Add to it the bare midriff and and things begin to get interesting. Now if the hem line is going up, and the waistline is going down, sooner or later they will meet, and the bottom half of a two-piece outfit will disappear- is it not so? Not quite yet. The trend on the strip here (at least among 13-year-old Japanese schoolgirls) is a pair of short-shorts (Levis, of course) with the hems rolled up even more, and the waist pushed as low as possible on the hips. THEN pull the zipper down as far as you dare. (ie: all the way)
This causes the normally unpurient professor to take pause.
Is this a good/bad thing? A new fashion trend? Or merely a blip, a little wave on the ocean of modern life? And where are these girls' mothers?
Oh... Here - on the beach - in skimpy bikinis.
"Which animal would you like to see the most?"
"That would be you, Kim."
The weaver and I had an invite to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo here, a dear friend of mine is a zookeeper there. Upon hearing my corny remark, she did a little double-take, and then flashed that laughing smile for an instant, that smile I remembered so well from the days we worked together. We went with her and met a pair of friendly elephants, the worlds' fourth oldest hippopotamus, a trio of frisky giraffes and a pair of curious zebras. All the animals (except the cranky hippo) seemed to love her. Then she called out "Krueger, Krueger, come here boy..." A 5000 pound white rhinoceros came trotting up, like an obedient dog. She stroked his snout, talked softly to him, and fed apples into his soft, gaping maw. I fed him too, his wary brown eye giving me a once over before accepting my offerings. (Please note: we had a MASSIVE steel fence separating us.)
A rhino is a dangerous wild animal, with a reputation of having a bad temper. But this one had a gentler side, an obvious intelligence and a friend named Kim.
...in honor of the second day of Easter in Iceland - The bells (bjalla) of Hallgrimskirkja:
Waimanalo Bay, Oahu
Five miles of Hawaii's finest beaches, including one wooded section that the locals call "Sherwood Forest" for its former reputation as a hangout for various unsavory types. A glorious day in late March, temps in the low 80's and only a light volcanic haze from the big island marring the picture-postcard scene. I walked up from the shore to a woven grass mat laid under the graceful wispy pines and stretched out, to nap a bit before the drive back to Honolulu. The arrhythmia of the waves' breaking had a narcotic effect, and I started to drift in and out of a quasi-dreamlike state. After a short time I stirred, sat up and looked down the beach, where a woman wearing a beach robe coming toward me. In a split/I saw that it was Debby, Debby who died from lymphoma a decade ago. The sunlight that dappled her as she strode toward me had dimmed, as if a solar eclipse was nearing totality; the whispering pines were now silent. She did not speak, but I knew that she had come for me, to guide me into that twilight paradise that she now inhabited. Not yet...not yet...but her call was not without its allure/second the feeling I had was over. The sun shone brightly, the wind and the waves murmured and sighed. The woman on the beach was, like me, a tourist with only relaxation on her mind. As I sank back to my 'bed' on the beach, I knew that sleep would escape me.
Silence Mode On
It doesn't consume anything, except my precious time and attention. It sings loudly in a quiet crowd, and the looks I get are anything from annoyed to understanding. It guards me late at night like a mini-Lassie. It hops off of the table whenever it wants to, and I worry about its safety. I'm guessing this could be a mild equivalent to child-raising, which makes me want to avoid being a mother for at least a couple of decades. But boy, do I love playing with it. I hold it in the palm of my hand, petting it now and then. I realize I've joined the 21st century, and finally met a standard in Western culture.
Me and my Virgin Mobile "Pay as you go" cell phone. We're inseparable. Though sometimes I miss the good ole days when smoke signals were a popular form of communicating, which for me was up until a week ago.
The Icon, Glowing
As is increasingly common in most parts of the modern world, cell phones are ubiquitous, and even more so on the hyper-developed Waikiki strip. Its parks, beaches, sun and surf have become a backdrop to the rituals of the cell phone users. The little hunch of the shoulders, the examination of the tiny screen, taking the user away from the current reality. At night the little blue beacon would pop up here and there, with a call or message, or even a photo shared among friends. At the Tiki Bar and Grill, one finely dressed and deeply tanned young woman would, from time to time, open her shiny clamshell, activate the device, and gaze adoringly at her little similacrium glowing between gracefully cupped palms. With her face softly lit by the screen, she seemed to be a luminous being herself - her smile beatific as she read her little messages. Were they from some lover across the world? Or perhaps it was just a girlfriend on the other side of the bar, with plans for the evening. Transfixed: her by her phone, and me by this tableaux of a pseudo- saint with her relic - a living icon, glowing.
A day in my life
I was taken upstairs as it was finally time for my operation. An hour before I had been given two Parkodin Forte to prevent me from feeling pain and a tranquilizer to prepare me for the anesthesia. The nurse drove me to the surgery ward and left me there next to the supply cabinets as it was a hectic day and the room was not ready yet. I was pushed back and forward as the nurses had to get to their supplies and my bed caused a traffic jam when a young doctor was trying to get some poor woman back to recovery. I can't say it was a pleasant experience. Finally a smiling young man came to me and introduced himself. I'm Dr Skurgiburg and I will be in charge of your anesthesia today. Moments later another smiling young man who looked like the identical twin of Dr. Skurgiburg in his green overalls introduced himself as a nurse. Lucky me I thought, being half naked and exposed infront of these charming twins.
Being petrified of needles I tried not to faint when the male nurse put in my needle. The room was filled with green overalls attending to their pre-op things and I stared at the ceiling trying to imagine that I was somewhere else. Soon I found myself at an exotic location and I could feel the warm breeze from the ocean on my face. This was my first clue that the heavy medication was working. All of a sudden the face of one of the twins popped into my vision and he told me that they were now giving me pain medication through my needle so I wouldn't feel a thing. Then came the anesthesia itself and Dr.Skurgiburg put on my oxygen mask and told me to breath as normal. I felt panic and thought I was suffocating and falling through the table. One deep breath for me now, honey was the last thing I heard and I was out.
I first came around on my way to recovery. The smiling twins were there with me and I asked them if it was over. Yes sweetheart, it's over. Wow, I said, that was quick. I was dreaming in Spanish you know I told them and then mumbled something probably highly inappropriate in Spanish. Then everything went black again.
I woke up in tears and tried to sit up but I couldn't. I was in a room filled with sleeping beauties and on my finger I had some thing attached to a monitor. Twice did my monitor make a noise and after carefully studying the other monitors around me I decided it was because my heartrate was way too slow. The noise didn't seem to bother the nurses though and they hardly looked my way. Lying dizzy in recovery after watching one too many ER shows I really would have loved for someone to tell me not to worry but the nurses seemed to have mentally clocked out already and were talking about deserts and confirmation parties. At least I was paying attention to details, that must be a good sign that I was not dying. They finally noticed that I had woken up and one of them brought over a tiny glass of water. Drink this she said and I did as I was ordered. By this time the room was spinning and the nurse who had brought me up there was back and getting ready to take me down again. I wondered about whether I should mention to her that maybe moving me in this state was not a good idea but judging by her face I thought my suggestions would not be welcome. Once back in my room, like a cow to it's stall, a much friendlier nurse gave me medication through the damn needle that was still there to help with the nausea. It worked and I was knocked out again.
From Aloha land, a sunnier Professor interrupts this week's reveries with an update from Waikiki beach, in beautiful Honolulu Hawai'i. Had a Mai Tai dinner (4 mai Tais and grilled appetizers) with the weaver at a beachfront bar under a spreading Banyan tree. There was a very good trio on stage, playing traditional and contemporary tunes in the Hawaiian style. The "lead Uke' player was extraordinary, certainly the best I've heard on this often maligned instrument. The woman singer was sublime, very understated and melodic. This music is somewhat repetitive, but when done well, very enchanting. Every five or six songs she would step to the fore and and perform a hula to the music played behind her. VERY sublime, graceful, poised, hypnotic. About halfway through the second set, an older woman came up from the audience and performed a very dramatic hula interpretation. Of course, she got a big hand. Two hula girls, from different generations, united in a common mode of expression, beautiful, each in her own way.
Of course, hula dancers are nearly everywhere in Waikiki, in the parks, in the nightspots - all having fine dancers, who have perfected these movements since childhood. Perhaps it was the mai Tais, but for a few moments it seemed as if all the tourist-driven hype had vanished and we were transported, as we should have been, to a higher plane of consciousness; closer to one aspect of the mysterious essence of humanity.
When Christianity was introduced to Hawai'i, one of the first things that was done was to ban the hula.
Riding In Cars With Boys - III
...a '61 Chevy Bel Air! Our senior year in high school was winding down, we spent a fair amount of time out of the classroom and out on the streets. We were returning from a trip downtown, with Dan at the wheel, and as we approached a busy intersection I noticed that the light had changed, and that Dan hadn't noticed. "RED LIGHT DAN" I calmly shrieked. This time, Dan slammed on the brakes, the nimble Chevy prevented us from entering the intersection (barely) and as we watched in relief/horror the car in the lane next to us continued into the intersection and smashed broadside into a car that was crossing with the light.
The curse was broken.
Funny thing was, nobody would ride with Dan anymore! (Dan never had another accident.) Looking back, I guess this whole business explained why my parents were cool to the idea of me having a car in high school.
Riding In Cars With Boys - II
...a road trip! Our rock 'n roll combo "The Others" had finagled a 'gig' in a western Wisconsin town that had a youth center which featured weekend dances. Dan had by this time purchased a 1958 Plymouth SEDAN, still plenty big; and, with his newly re-instated license, was eager to put his youthful road mishaps behind him. Off to Ladysmith with our gear in the trunk and our spirits high! We arrived at our lodgings - a very nice ranch owned by the proprietor of the the youth center. We rode horses, acted cool, and ate with the family; probably the best accomodations I had (ever!) on a band gig. That night we played with as much professionalism and bravado as our 17 year old egos could muster. We did alright (understand that in those days a successful performance was one in which fights did not break out.) Afterwards, with Dan at the wheel, we headed back to the ranch. Dan was hungry, so he reached over to a get an apple from a bag on the front seat. At the breakneck speed of 5 miles per hour his stretch caused the steering wheel to move just enough to cause the Plymouth to crash into the rear end of a parked car.
Well. Although we didn't realize it at the time, that was the end of that band. The car wasn't wrecked too badly; the next day, after hitching the front end to a tree and putting the car in reverse, we managed to pull the radiator away from the fan enough to let us be able to drive it home. In the car, Dan began to sing old barbershop quartet songs (ie: Down By The Old Millstream, etc.) and we all joined in(!?)
Dan lost his license for a year this time, but he used the time to save up enough money to buy a good car... (to be continued)
Riding In Cars With Boys - I
Reckless youth. Add 4000 pounds of steel and chrome. Season liberally with testosterone. Result: disaster.
For some unknown reason my old school mate Dan was allowed to own and drive a car. Not a nimble little coupe that you might find today; oh no, he had to have one of the biggest, clumiest, tail-fin sprouting denizens of the road ever made - a 1959 Plymouth station wagon. Captain America is what he called it. A station wagon, good for hauling band equipment. Good for hauling friends around. Good for picking up girls. OK - 2 out of three isn't bad (actually, there was some success acheived with this vehicle in that respect - but that is another story...) Dan liked to drive around, as is the wont of many a newly enfranchised driver. One night he enlisted his 'buddies' to go for a 'cruise' of the northside's 'hot spots'. Not much was happening that night, however, so at about 10 p.m. we pulled into the neighborhood Dairy Queen, for some sustenance. As our mouths devoured our 'Mr. Misty' treats, our eyes devoured a trio of girls in a sporty coupe next to our behemoth. Dan struck up a conversation, trying to scare up a little 'action' with his sure-fire Bill Cosby imitations. Riiight! The girls took off (I guess they just didn't care for 'The Cos'.) Dan then completely lost his mind. "Let's follow 'em!" he cried, and the chase was on.
The girls sped faster and faster, they had a new car (and a MUCH better vehicle.) Dan floored that old sled and the Plymouth's push-button tranny started to whine. Up ahead, a sharp left turn ended the street we were on. The girls made it. We did not. "We're going to crash!" Dan exclaimed, giving any of us in the car who may not have been paying attention a timely play-by-play.
We were all alright (a miracle!) but the Captain America and the telephone pole were history. Dan lost his license for six months. He got it back, and another Plymouth to go with it - just in time for...to be continued...
Best when Lukewarm
After returning from a less than productive Spring Break, I said to myself, “Acky baby, you are a confident, capable woman. You can take anything any male throws at you.” I am invincible, a superhero. Wonder Woman ain’t got nuttin’ on me! The first official day of Spring further initiated this belief because the day was mine, the birds were delightfully chipper (as were my professors), and everything was just hunky dory.
Then later on, I began to falter. First, I fell out of my roommate’s bed. Nothing too unusual about that. Clumsy has always been my first, middle, and last name, so that’s nothing to sneeze at. But when I suggested a night out at the Village Café to exert my newfound glorious feminine superpowers to Lil Lindy (a.k.a. Nikki), everything fell short of perfect.
There is a delightfully attractive male waiter that works there, and he always dishes out free coffee to my roomie, Lil Lindy, and myself. There’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps it was when his coworker caught me snapping a picture of him with my new cell phone that everything went haywire. Soon, my hot coffee decided to plunge into my lap, and I explained to the James Bond of waiters that I “had an accident.” Not so suave, Brackety. He caught me staring at his curly locks many, many times as well. I attempted the old college try, but when you’re a giddy five year old trapped in a college student’s body, the romantic sparks just don’t occur the way you want them to.
I think it's time to hide under my bed until it's time to retire.
The question of personal property. When taking a trip, what is needed and what is literally 'excess baggage'? Won't need an ice scraper, or mittens, or any winter gear, but will need shorts, light shirts, sunblock, etc. Got a couple of books for the flight, a camera and binoculars, (bird watching) a shaving kit, and that is it. Not having any hair to speak of makes that kit considerably lighter. The joy of simple living - made easier with a credit card.
Thought that it would be fun to go somewhere exotic with only the clothes on my back, and shop for everything needed when arriving. But it really would probably just be a hassle - nothing would fit, there would be buyer's remorse; with my taste in clothes I'd still look like a clown.
What is really needed when traveling is a valet.
"...Don't forget that few people are likely to tell more than a small part of the truth: no one tells much of the truth, let alone the whole truth...When people talk they reveal themselves, whether they're lying or telling the truth...Remember, any lie you are told, even deliberately, is often a more significant fact than a truth told in all sincerity..." - Halldor Laxness, in Under The Glacier*
What are we to make of all the things we hear in a day? Things spoken by friends are more easily accepted (even if we understand that they may be less than honest) than that which we hear from strangers. Things spoken (or written) in mass media are generally given little credence at all, regardless of the source. Have we come to a condition of humanity that everything uttered has so little worth that it is essentially meaningless? Orwell's 'Newspeak' seems to be the order of the day. This blog itself, of course, is somewhat based on the idea that "it ain't necessarily so", and that examining things from their antipodes has just as much validity as the thing itself. The suspension of belief, for a short time any way, is the only check we have on 'Truths' and 'Lies'.
*translated by Magnus Magnusson
A dozen years ago we hosted a child from Northern Ireland for the summer. We had received a small inheritance from the weaver's brother and, knowing how much he enjoyed children, we thought it best to make some child happier. Darren was from a housing project just outside of Belfast, a curly-haired child with a crooked grin. He spent the flight over throwing up, and was ill in the car coming back from the airport. He slept for twelve hours and when he awoke he began the process of integrating into our middle-class, suburban existence. It was a bit of a leap. He had, in some respects led a sheltered existence - little in the way of culture, no real interests or hobbies. In other ways he was much more experienced than our boys - in minor hooliganism, hanging out with rough types, and things we were glad he didn't explain too thoroughly. When we spent time at a lake with relatives, he seemed to finally relax a bit. It always seemed that he was a bit of a sad boy, on the verge of adolescence and already with a sense of his limited future. We were all sad went he went back, but after a few letters we lost touch.
Looking back on the experience, I am struck by the fact that many children around the world have much worse childhoods than Darren's. That the political situation in Northern Ireland has gotten only a little better, if at all. That two religions, with the same basic beliefs, have continued to wreak havoc on generations of innocents.
Did what we did that summer help at all? These programs continue, and for the children involved, I'm sure it is a high point in their lives. But it leaves me with some doubts. Our family was not a replacement for his broken one. Our civilization and culture is only different, not really any better. I don't have any answers. Anyone who has children can only do their best in rearing them; hoping that the next generation can gain from that experience.
This weekend will find the Weaver and me jetting to sunny Hawaii. Last year at this time I was headed the other direction, to Iceland. This trip arouses mixed emotions in me. The chance of my catching an Icelandic play next week will be exceedingly remote. On the other hand, I saw no hula dancers last year. Nor did I spy any tropical fruit growing in abundance. (Does a hothouse banana count?) But there will be beaches in both places, and volcanoes. But the one thing that both places will have in common is a long history of two peoples' struggles for independence. Iceland declared its independence in 1944, while still occupied by the British, later replaced by the Americans. The Kingdom of Hawaii was forcibly overthrown by U.S. commercial interests in the 1800's and has been occupied by the US ever since, becoming a State in 1959.
The subjugation of each country has left strong impressions upon their peoples, the Icelanders have a great pride in their independence while the native Hawaiians still suffer from a sense of injustice. Both countries have a great strategic importance, far beyond their limited resources. Both nations' peoples have had to suffer for this outside interference. I am looking forward to comparing the two islands, Hawai'í and its lush gardens, Iceland and its severe landscapes. And perhaps a better understanding of the people, the culture, some sense of living in historical and geographical isolation, and what that can mean in the age of globalization.
With millions of characters, in nearly as many separate story lines. Familiar themes are replayed over all around the world. Reading between the lines, one senses a bit of sadness, sometimes one needs not to have to read between them. It usually gets back to love. Love of life, loss of love, loss of life. And over it all, like a vulture hovering, the black shadow of war diminishing the light everywhere. Will any of it last, make an impression? Or are we all like tiny candles in the night, an array of computer screens making an imperceptible constellation, each star visible only to one person? This is our novel, without any beginning or end, and no limits to the subjects, themes, pages or chapters.
This is what are blogs.
Loss Of Innocence
When you have to explain the facts of life to a fellow school-mate at the age of fifteen, it has been too long coming. Johnny and I had come up together through grade school and junior high. We sang "We are climbing Jacob's ladder" together in summer bible school. But one day, in the summer between junior and senior high, we were having a heart to heart on the playground of the local Catholic school.
..."And so then the man puts his thing in the woman's thing, you know, they're doing IT, you know and that's how babies are made..."
"My mom and dad never did that!" - he wasn't buying it.
"Of course they did, how else do you think they did that?"
"I thought they just came naturally."
"Believe me, it's natural."
Johnny gave me a disgusted look, and walked away. We never spoke again. I hope he has figured it out by now...
A BRAND NEW CAR!
The Batty household, when it comes to motor vehicles, is definitely of the bottom-feeder category. Buy 'em used, run 'em into the ground, repeat. When the 95 Tracer blew a head gasket last night, the situation changed. The weaver had been making stirrings for months about getting a new vehicle, it certainly was her turn. Of course, I try to be helpful and suggestive, but really all I am doing is telling her what kind of car I would buy. A BRAND NEW CAR! I can sense all my rational thought processes leaving my brain - all that remains is the thought of A BRAND NEW CAR! A car made in the same decade! A car that won't break down every six months. A - BRAND - NEW - CAR - !
Then I look at our finances. Somehow the phrase A SOMEWHAT USED CAR! doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
The cobwebbed Flippist studio was in use again this weekend. A certain young Mr. Lee (progeny of my late friend Frankie Paradise) came over to record some demos. In the same basement that his father used 20 years ago, he laid down some nice, home-grown tunes in a Dylan-country-folk vein. Of course, to hear the new generation take up the musical quest is bittersweet for me. The successes and failures we (the band members) experienced before Mr. Lee was born are distant now, but still capable of evoking strong feelings. Mr. Lee has to deal with those kind of issues now, and is off to a good (good meaning rocky, bumpy and confused - it can be much worse) start, with a dozen meaningful, fine songs (even the grammar is proper!)
We led parallel lives, Mr. Lee's father and me. Went to the same school, were in the same band for years, had similar interests, had kids of the same age who played together. But the years always change things. He couldn't make his family work. I was lucky (or maybe I'm just dumb enough not to wreck everything) and kept mine. Mr. Lee's father has been gone for nearly a decade now, dead in a motorcycle crash. As the young Mr. Lee left today, he spoke of getting a motorcycle.
Ever since 1995, we've had a furball. She doesn't eat much, and her tail is thicker than she is. I attempted to name her Garfield, but mother insisted that was a boy's name. Thus, I settled for Nermal, insisting on using a name from the Garfield comic strip (though mother still hasn't figured out that Nermal is the name of a male kitten). Watching her clean herself, snub shredded turkey cat food and desiring vanilla ice cream, vomit on the carpet over and over, and want to share kitty-nuzzling affection when I'm wearing my prom dress was sometimes a tad obnoxious. Pets can be that way.
Yet, when I walked in the door last night after a long day of driving and seeing old friends, Nermal ran towards me making a noise that reminded me of a lonely canine whimper. She wouldn't get off of my lap once I sat down as a matter of fact. She's hated me for a solid 8 years, until I left for college. I don't think that cats love you only when you feed them, because I'm never home to feed her.
The best part about owning a cat is just watching it relax when a sunbeam is on a carpeted floor. Watching Nermal stretch and appear as though she's trying to reach for the sun can be more soothing than meditation in the dorms.
If she can tolerate me and all of my faults, how can I not feel the same? Thanks, Nermal.
Feral Cats In The News
It seems that an outraged citizen of La Crosse, Wisconsin, has a thing about cats. Because he sees their footprints in the snow around his birdfeeder, he is trying to introduce a to allow the unlimited shooting of feral cats. One of the arguments for it is that cats kill birds. So do cars, foxes, dogs, coyotes, other birds and hunters. Cats also kill mice, rabbits, insects and other small animals. I always get a funny feeling when I hear about the hunting of predators. The need to keep a balance in the environment between species is important. Granted, small cats are an introduced species here. The larger cats, who would fill this role in the aboriginal ecology are gone. What has changed is habitat. Birds adapt well to a variety of conditions. So do cats. So do various types of vermin. Vermin spread dangerous diseases - the plague reached epidemic proportions at about the same time that persecution of witches (and their cats) reached a zenith. Some people don't care for birds and the messes they leave when they occupy certain environs. Birds are also known to spread disease. Perhaps we should shoot THEM all? One solution has been proposed that all cats be kept indoors. I think the people who propose this should always be kept indoors, so as not to be offended by anything unpleasant in the natural world.
Of course, if we shot all humans, these problems would disappear. Some kind of balance would be restored, probably with a much greater biodiversity than that which flourishes in our current asphalt and concrete Eden.
This is not about cats and birds. This is not about hunting. This is about a hatred of natural life: of nature - in all its glory, ruthlessness, and efficiency.
Reality alteration in my childhood was a strange concept. Of course the first stage had to be spinning around in circles (still popular at amusement parks.)
The earliest I was aware of methods of reality alteration (not counting tobacco or alcohol) was in the 4th grade when some of the 'bad' kids started to bring small vials of cinnamon oil to school, with a toothpicks as an applicator/pacifier. This went on behind our teacher's back for about a week - she must have not had a sense of smell! The cinnamon oil, if splashed on your face, would cause a bright red blotch to appear. It wasn't really a high, just sort of a 'supercandy' rush of flavor. Peppermint oil had a few fans too.
A few years later, the pass-out trick became popular. The subject would hyperventilate while on hands and knees, then stand up quickly while an assistant would grasp him by the middle and lift. The object was to black out from lack of oxygen. It sort of worked - you never knew if someone was faking or not.
Junior high brought real dangers. Aspirin and Coca-cola was supposed to be a good way to get a 'buzz' but was probably a better way to get an ulcer. Cough syrup was big for a small crowd of abusers - it usually had about 20% alcohol and some brands even had codeine in them! Those kids thought they were mellow, but they were really just drowsy. Ditto for the glue sniffers. That one turned into a real problem, as all sorts of 'huffing' was experimented with.
In senior high, we were still quite naive. Yes, we did try to smoke banana peels. In tenth grade the Narcotics Officer came to school with a case of 'samples' of illegal drugs. (Was he recruiting future 'clients'?) It still didn't make much of an impression.
Our Senior year started right after the 'summer of love' in San Francisco. Real drugs began to trickle in, but in the next three years it became a flood.
Now, there are new threats (or opportunities, depending on your point of view.) But the kid's stuff we did seems like a whole different world.
It's Your Funeral
The weaver puts a seed of an idea in my head, just before we are to retire for the evening. "We're not a church-going religious family. What would we do for your funeral service?"
So: in the middle of the night, already tossing and turning so as to make my aching back a little more comfortable, I start thinking the unthinkable. Who would officiate? I already have a sister who's a minister - no! It's not going to be that kind of ceremony! Someone more along the lines of Robin Williams would be a better choice. It might be nice to have an interpretive dance interlude. Hunter S. Thompson could deliver a great - if nearly incomprehensible - eulogy (no worse than some others I've endured), just two problems: #1. We've never met. #2. He's already dead. Other choices? My friends? They wouldn't touch it. Maybe a struggling insult comic - if things didn't go so well he could always say: "Is it just me or did somebody die in here?"
OK, maybe it could just be a pot-luck, with an open mike (or better yet, - kaoroke!)
Usually there are pictures - although I was most often behind the camera. Maybe I should make up a photo board of pictures of things I liked to look at. (G-rated, of course - no Munkay valentines!) I could burn a CD of some of my favorite tunes and have them play in the background, (Bach, Bruckner and Björk?) although my tastes in some of that might be on the esoteric side.
Hmm. Maybe I should go over the top with this 'Flippism' stuff. Build an elaborate set, with strange runes and cabalistic symbols, robed druids chanting about 'The Key' and climaxing with my coffin spilling open to reveal a glowing orb that shot out laser beams.
Well, if my genes hold true to their heritage, it could be another 30 to 40 years (or more- my grandfather's cousin recently died at the age of 104!) I'll have think more about it some other day. (Of course I could get squished like a bug tomorrow from some SUV...)
It would be fun to leave 'em laughing, however.
A Boy and His Kite
A simple paper kite, in the shape of an elongated diamond, some string and a little breeze: the best physics lesson a 10 year old could receive. The boy assembled his kite carefully, setting the yoke dimensions just so and adding a couple of feet of tail, made from cloth rags taken from the laundry room. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon in March, the snow had been gone for a week and as he made his way to the school yard he gave the kite a little push up in the air, letting it out about six feet. It followed like an obedient dog, always tugging at the leash a bit, but never going off on its own. At the school the kite seemed sluggish, the boy removed a bit of tail which was a slight improvement. He removed a little more and the kite surged upward. He flew the kite over the school, over the parking lot and the softball field, until the string was out all the way. He tugged on the string from side to side and the kite, now just a speck in the sky, curved and swooped, like a large bird of prey.
After a while, the sun began to fade, and with it the wind. The boy worked the kite in, losing a little height, but still maintaining a taut line. As the kite came back over the school, the wind died altogether. Still, as if by some miracle, the kite flew. Only 30 or 40 feet in the air, it hovered noiselessly, the cheap paper not even rustling. The sky reddened, the boy headed for home, the kite in tow - now only about 20 feet up. As he headed into the alley, he wound the string in until he could pluck the kite out of the air, like a falling leaf. He put it under his arm, went into the house, and shut the door.
In a few days, the mountains will come a-callin’ once again. My mother will brew Starbucks coffee and prepare hot strawberry muffins, Nermal the cat will shed on my black suitcase, and I will stay up late at night playing Pinball on my computer, blasting everything Howard Shore & Queen ever composed (not together!). Though the city grants me the serenity to see the world in a different light, and to truly carpe diem, every now and then, an escape to the countryside is desirable.
Thanks to a friend, Geoff, who lives in a neighboring village, I will arrive home earlier than expected for the long-awaited Spring Break. I faintly recall how I spent Christmas break reading Tolkien and watching the sunrise. This time, I have a special reason to celebrate my vacation.
He is coming. He who I met four years ago and fell in love with. He who I talk to online every night until my eyelids weigh thirty pounds each. He who I left behind when I shouldn’t have. He who has someone else. He who is not happy with this someone else because his feelings for me remain.
My excitement is utterly uncontainable. I have so many stories to share with him, and I’m praying to the gods that I’ll be able to form a complete sentence around him. Four years is such a long time to hold onto a dream (or at least it is to me).
Just like the end of a chapter in a Dan Brown novel, I’m left wondering, “What will happen next?”
The airport was in chaos. I managed to get on a bus - not a shuttle but a long tour bus - filled with passengers bedecked with festive clothing, straw hats, and flowers. We left the terminal and almost immediately the countryside turned barren, desolate. Finally, in the distance, a small settlement appeared. As I exited the bus, the long-faced driver said: "There's no way of returning now." I headed for the cluster of tents in the center of town. Booths were set up, each vendor hawking mysterious goods. I then knew why I had come.
SHE was here, the focus of my attention for so many months, I could feel her presence as I searched from booth to booth. Up a course of coarse wooden stairs was an elevated level, with only a handful of stalls. There, at the other end of the long wooden deck, was the woman of whom I had dreamt, she who had plagued my waking hours and kept my sleep fitful and intermittent. I approached, she was with a customer, she was smiling. I could not speak, I turned away. It was not to be; no; not even in a dream.
I'm still around. Not dead. Just been sick. Sick and busy. On my next paycheck I will get paid for every single day of the month, weekends and all. That's what I've been doing for the past month or so. Other members of the blog are way more active than me so I thought that I needed to explain.
I know I don't have to explain anything, still I had to do it for me.
...give that laptop a rest and come to bed. What are your looking for anyway?"
What indeed? That is the question. Imaginary friends. A laugh or a smile. Comparing. Other people who are different from me. Other people who are similar to me. Everybody here is searching for something (sweet dreams are made of this?) The sites that grow and evolve over the months. Ideas. The magic in a young girl's soul. A mother's concern over her children. Sense of it all. Lonely people. Happy people. Miserable people just barely making it. People happy to be just barely making it. Kindred spirits. Someone who reads a post of mine and 'gets it'. Someone else who reads one of my posts and takes it a little further. Someone who stops my world for a minute. People who expand my life a little bit, one little bit at a time. One little bit at a time.
"I'll be right there..."