Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Secret Past

"O Batty! What were you thinking of? Did you think that the world would forget about that sleazy movie you made, and you did it with animals, too! If PETA gets a hold of this, to say nothing of the District Attorney, you'll be put away for so long that even your remains won't be eligible for parole! I suppose that you think it's clever, even amusing? It's disgusting that's what it is! I don't care if the statute of limitations has expired! This is it, Batty! I'm through with you and your shameful tricks!"


Comments: 2


Monday, January 30, 2006

The Room

The Prom Ballroom was a landmark in St. Paul Minnesota for almost 50 years. It was where the BIG BANDS used to play, Ellington, Basie, Dorsey, and all the rest. The Glenn Miller Band opened it in 1941. In the fifties Buddy Holly and other rockers filled its vast floor. In its later years, the bands got smaller but louder, although the occasional "ghost" band would still come around. When the group I was working with got a chance to play there it was for a private Christmas party, the crowd being mostly in their late teens and early twenties- and we were pumping out R&B and Soul, not Jazz and Swing.

Those ghosts still haunted the room, however, and we could sense them. We had a hot singer who could work the crowd and by the time we hit our peak the place was jumping. There is some primitive aspect to the experience of a big dance floor full of writhing, ecstatic people, all of them into the music, all of them abandoning their masks and poses and coming together in a symbolic climax, then hovering in the afterglow, and finally escaping out into the night to private parties for two.

That room is gone, except in the fading memories of past revelers. There are still dances, still ballrooms with live music being played, but the era of big bands has been replaced by newer, more relevant sounds for the modern era. Yet,there still exists those moments of collective passion and release, for this ritual is primal, and not to be denied.


Comments: 0


Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Short History Of Water

An excellent post by one of my Icelandic "correspondents" triggered a flood of thoughts about that substance that is literally the wellspring of life. Vin vitæ, the universal solvent, H20, or just plain water.
I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a town built by and nourished from, the Mississippi River- the central aqueous artery for most of the central United States. I spent time on it, in it, and was filled with it- almost all the water I drank for the first 35 years of my life was taken from it. Not the best water, to be sure, but not the worst. When I moved from there, I began consuming well water, from a huge aquifer underneath the glacially deposited sand left over from the draining of Lake Agassiz. This is pretty good water, albeit somewhat hard. Two years ago, when I returned to Iceland for a short stay, I was drinking the best water in the world, and in what has to be paradise for a hydrophillic, was allowed to swim in it.

In the drugstore near where I work, I noticed that "Iceland Springs" bottled water is now available. So now, when I need a quality "water fix", I can have it. Crazy world, isn't it? Then again, perhaps not, after all what is the most important thing (after air) that an organism requires? Why not the best?


Comments: 0


Saturday, January 28, 2006

There's Something About Mary...

...Magdaline, that is. The Gospel Of Mary, or rather, what exists of it, is a remarkable commentary on Jesus, soul, mind and spirit, women, men, and matter. The theology of this "lost" gospel is quite beyond the scope of this forum, but the very fact that it exists, along with a variety of other "apocrypha" is most intriguing. Evidently, before the third century CE a variety of Christian writings circulated (one scholar estimates that 85% has been lost) and were gradually suppressed in intervening years. The obvious importance of The Gospel of Mary is that it is the only one attributed to a woman. Of course Mary of Magdala is a featured character in the popular book The Da Vinci Code and is a central figure in the story of Jesus. That such an important personage has a "Gospel" and that it has been hidden for so many years begs the question "Why?"

The Gospel of Mary of Magdala by Harvard professor Karen L. King explores these issues in detail, certainly worthwhile reading for anyone who has considered the role of women in Christian traditions.


Comments: 0


Friday, January 27, 2006

Hidden Charms

"You might be sitting on a hidden treasure right now!" - From an promotional spot for the PBS series Antiques Road Show.

   That blurb got a laugh out of the Weaver. Of course, it's true. (especially the hidden part!) Despite the best efforts of p*rn*graphers and other media jackals, we don't have to face the prospect of airing our differences on a continuous basis. The treasure aspect of it is a little different for everyone, some great expectations are never quite fulfilled, others exceed our wildest dreams. Perhaps it is the "treasure hunt" that is the thing, while the cache is important, it is not the only reward.

The great blues composer and performer Willie Dixon may have said it best:
Her lips are sweet
Her legs are big
Her looks can make you
Dance the jig
Her touch is so soft
Her heart is so warm
What knocks me out
Is your hidden charm

Her voice is so soft
Her love is so true
I think about her
That's all I do
She's weak and wanton
In my arms
What moves me darling
Is your hidden charm


Her kiss is so pure
Like the morning dew
A real gone lover
Exciting too
Her eyes that talk
And they say "c'mon"
What kills me baby
Is your hidden charm

When I hold you
In my arms
Brings out all of your
Hidden Charm


Comments: 1


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Moody Metaphors

Circular reasoning, OK. Circular emotions, not so good. Or is it the other way 'round? Visiting the basement of human emotions is not the nicest way to spend one's time, but sometimes you do have to go down there and sweep out the cobwebs. Probably not the a good place to spend most of your existence- although the washer and dryer are often there, and we can all benefit from taking care of our dirty laundry.
The kitchen of our emotional house is very important. The nourishment we get and give with others sustains and renews us. The living/recreational rooms allow us to spend our 'free' time in ways that aren't so charged with the daily give and take of interacting with our fellow beings. A study, or hobby room, allows us to retreat even further from the world into our own psyches'. The bedroom, the most intimate area, gives us a place to express our utter passion, and also fall into utter oblivion. And then you walk out the door, experience the world, with all its ups and downs, and the cycle starts all over again. Stimulation, boredom, activity, joy, despair renewal and a hundred other different 'moods'. When the mood ring is broken, when you become an emotional shut-in stuck in the same room day after day, then life loses its meaning.


Comments: 1


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Angel's Cat

We were living on the fringes of an industrial zone, near downtown Minneapolis, it was the mid seventies. Rent was cheap- but the neighbors weren't exactly the best- a gang of rowdies, with a penchant for settling their internal disputes with handguns. They had a cat- José. I've mentioned him before, one of the more memorable cats of my acquaintance. He was just an ordinary Tom, orangey fur, a little long and shaggy, not the best groomed feline, just a regular city cat. You'd see him around, crawling under the fences of the junkyards, keeping the vermin from over-running the area.

It so happened that one night José's "owner" was shot, seriously, but not killed. The gang broke up and left the house. José stayed. A part-time trucker moved in- he didn't really have any furniture, so he just used the stuff that was left behind. One of the chairs had blood-stains on it. Jose always slept on that chair.

The angel?

One of Hell's.


Comments: 0


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wooden Toys

In a modern, affluent family there is usually an abundance of toys. In the last twenty years or so, more and more of them have included electronics, made of high-tech plastics (when I was a child, plastic toys were thought to be poor imitations, because the material in them was so poor) and cleverly designed. On the leading edge are all the high-tech gizmos (cell-phones, iPods, computer-games, etc.) that have useful functions but also possess a high amount of "play" potential.

On the other end of the spectrum are simple wooden toys. Good for creative stacking, arranging and infinite imaginative play. Frank Lloyd Wright often spoke of a set of colored, geometric wooden blocks as his favorite childhood toy, and the most important. The ultimate organic- shaped from a living thing. We could get even more primitive if we went to sticks and stones and bones, but simple wooden toys have been shaped by a conscious mind and are elegant, adaptable, and usually have a clean design.

All that, and a nice "thock" sound is made when you bounce one off an older sibling's head.


Comments: 2


Monday, January 23, 2006

Tell Me...

-...so, how did you two "get together"?
- Huh. Well, I had met him in grad school out west. He was a little bit older and we had hit it off pretty well, but not that well, if you catch my drift...
-Yeah I see...
-Anyway, I had been on my own, making pretty good money, and I wasn't quite ready to settle down.
-What happened?
-He had been sending me cards and letters everyday, and calling, too. Hah! A real media blitz!
-But that still didn't do it, did it?
-No. We had arranged a ski week-end in Colorado. Saturday night a blizzard hit and we were snowed in.
-You need not go into details.
-Well after that I was a goner. I was still a little resentful at having lost my freedom. But it worked out ok.
-I'd say that was divine intervention, no?


Comments: 0


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tunes From The Dark Side

Pop music at its worst is trite, banal and stupid. Pop music at its best is inspired, joyous and life-affirming. Far away from either of these extremes lie the "Dark" tunes- pop hits, to be sure, but thematicaly concerned with the malevolent side of human nature:
"I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire, I got a cobra snake for a necktie
A brand new house on the road side, and it's made out of rattlesnake hide
Got a band new chimney put on top, and it's made out of human skull
Come on take a little walk with me child, tell me who do you love?"

-Bo Diddley (Elias McDaniel)

Romantic, isn't it? Sure fire pick up lines! Let's get just a little bit gruesome...
"Now on the sidewalk, huh, huh,
whoo sunny morning, un huh
Lies a body just oozin' life- eek!
And someone's sneakin' 'round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?"
-Berthold Brecht (Bobby Darrin version)

That one was a monster #1 hit for several weeks in the early sixties- about a serial killer! Next up, the hatred of life itself expressed in meter...
"I see a red door and I want it painted black...
No colors anymore I want them to turn black...
I see the girls go by dressed in their summer clothes...
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes..."

-Paint It Black, by Richards and Jagger

These grim ditties aren't just limited to the sixties however- in 1933 Hungarian Rezsó Seress composed a song with lyrics that actually inspired suicides-it's still banned on the BBC...
"Gloomy Sunday, with shadows I spend it all
My heart and I have decided to end it all
Soon there'll be prayers and candles are lit, I know
Let them not weep, let them know,that I'm glad to go

Death is a dream, for in death I'm caressing you
With the last breath of my soul, I'll be blessing you..."


Charming. What's on your iPod?


Comments: 2


Friday, January 20, 2006

700 Year Old Disclaimer

I've struggled a bit at times with the meaning and importance of this humble venue. I think most of us who write regularly wonder at times if any of it is worthwhile. Well, comments help justify it, and those threads we can spin between disparate people (many of whom otherwise have little in common) is always encouraging. Still, there is always that nagging little demon that pipes up (usually at 4 a.m.!) and says: "Who do you think you are? Writing such fluff?" I found that this quote from the fourteenth century puts it all in perspective:

Since this tale nor anything else can be made to please everyone, nobody need believe any more of it than he wants to believe. All the same the best and most profitable thing is to listen while a story is being told, to enjoy it and not be gloomy; for the fact is that as long as people are enjoying the entertainment they won't be thinking evil thoughts. Nor is it a good thing when people find fault with a story just because it happens to be uninformative or clumsily told. Nothing so unimportant is ever done perfectly.
-the narrator of Göngu-Hrolf's Saga

I would have never thought that I'd find such solace from so far away and long ago...that nameless scribe concludes with:
I'd like to thank those that have listened and enjoyed the story, and since those that don't like it won't ever be satisfied, let them enjoy their own misery. AMEN


Comments: 2


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Past Tense

Some of my earliest memories involve being stressed. I recall waiting to be in a Christmas pageant (I was one of the three wise men) and telling my teacher that "I'm feeling really nervous." I was nine. For some reason, I could find the cloud around every silver lining, perhaps it was genetics, perhaps it was the feeling that every time my dad got mad he would kill me- either by intent or mistake.

As I got older, a good dose of sex-guilt (for what? I remained a virgin until I was 21!) was heaped upon my existing neuroses, and continued until... when? What was the tipping point, the place where I became generally happier and less stressed-out? (No, it wasn't when I lost my virginity!) And it wasn't when I moved out either.

Maybe it was the big break-up I had with my first real lover. It is almost a cliché to state that a broken romance was "The best thing ever to happen to me." But after that, things didn't seen so polarized, I could laugh at myself a little bit more, I wasn't so serious, I was free.

Of course, I can still get in a good tizzy about nothing, and sometimes I mangage to color my world in various shades of black, but that "split" was a definite line of demarcation.


Comments: 0


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Breaking it Down

morning coffee on the couch
time to get to work
stuck
mental rejection of the whole concept:
work=money=power=self esteem


not buying that- try something else.
Just go through the motions, let enlightenment come later, if at all.
break it down
Brush your teeth.
too much, too soon
Go into the bathroom.
not so fast
Get up, standup.
managable
Start walking in the direction of the bath.
ok
You are in the bath.
ok
Now try that toothbrush.
no paste
There it is- you can do it.
i can
Rinse.
ok, picking up a little momentum
Don't stop- jacket, keys, out the door, car, drive, work.
i got it


Comments: 1


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ain't Got the Blues

Bob was a blues guitarist. That is a pretty tough life, even for the best of them. Bob played in a moderately successful band, working out of the midwest. Legend has it that Belushi and Akroyd formed the "Blues Brothers" after seeing that group play years ago, in NYC. One day Bob got some news. He had come from out east originally, estranged from his family so the story went, and he had finally come into his inheritance. Bill, the bassist, asked him how much he got. Bob wouldn't say, only that part of the estate was a city block in downtown Boston. Bob went up to Pat, the leader of the group, and said: "I'm sorry Pat, but I've got to leave the band."
Pat asked him if it was because of the money.

"Not exactly Pat, but you could say that I just ain't got the blues anymore."


Comments: 0


Monday, January 16, 2006

Slim

This is the last week for Slim at work. Slim is elegant. Slim is classy. Slim is efficient and organized. Slim makes everyday a little brighter, just by her presence. Slim will be missed. Good luck with the nanny position (twins!). I know that those boys will appreciate you as much as we all do here. Good luck.


Comments: 0


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Party Doll

The late fifties rockabilly artist Buddy Knox had his biggest hit with a number entitled "Party Doll". We're not talking Ira Gershwin or Harold Arlen here- this lyric is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, yet it manages to say a lot about male-female relationships:

Well all I want is a party doll,
To come along with me when I'm feelin' wild,
To be everlovin', true and fair,
To run her fingers through my hair.


It has been said that he who defines an argument generally wins it. The man in this instance decides that the only possible partner for him is a "party doll", a euphenism for a whore. He restricts her company to when he is "feeling wild", and insists upon her fidelity and her attention to his sexual needs.

Well I saw a gal walkin' down the street,
The kind of a gal I'd love to meet,
She had blonde hair and eyes of blue,
Baby I wanna have a party with you.


In this man's world, he selects his mate based upon certain physiological characteristics. Women of intelligence, character or color need not apply.

Every man has got to have a party doll,
To be with him when he's feelin' wild,
To be everlovin', true and fair
To run her fingers through his hair.


He now expands his philosophy to infer that all men are entitled to this arrangement. And then, the payoff:

Come along and be my party doll,
Come along and be my party doll,
Come along and be my party doll,
And I'll make love to you, to you,
And I'll make love to you.


Granted, this is a fairly crude sentiment. But it strikes me that many men have this mindset, that they have this "plan" of action, and that it is the only plan, and that the woman's role is predefined. When a woman accepts that role, she gives herself up to a formula, that may not jibe with her sense of self-worth or esteem. The man could care less. He'll just go on to the next "doll" and continue the process. The very word "doll" connotes a beautiful, insensate object. There are worse things to call someone, but the abasement is the same.

Now, the world of sexual relations is complicated and varied. The roles we might assume make it easier, at least at first, to interact; we play our parts and hope for the best. But it isn't a substitute for a dynamic interplay between two conscious entities. It is that improvised and inspired dance that is glorious, that enriches and fulfills us. As the mating ritual comes to its natural conclusion we can abandon ourselves to our animal impulses- after we respect, explore and complement each other, each in our own way, transcending limited roles, leaving the dolls behind, and becoming fully realized human beings.


Comments: 3


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Beth Ann

A party at Beth Ann's. She had moved up from Iowa to attend school, or to get off the farm, or both. We met when she asked me why my beard was red while my hair was brown. I told her that my pubic hair was red too. Not the best answer, but true. She was lonely I guess, as lonely as I was, and we did become friends, in sort of a "safe" way. After I fell for Robin she was still there too, there were about a half-dozen of us, the semi-attached, who would meet in the cafeteria. Beth had a place, an apartment, with a couple of roommates. They threw a party and I went with a couple of my buddies. Robin was there too.

After the party warmed up a bit, she took me aside, into the bathroom, and got all smiley, and then real close. I kept backing up, finally falling into the bathtub. For being the advanced age of twenty, I was still pretty dense. We went back to the party.

The next day she cornered me, and told me how disgusted she was that my friends had peed all over the bathroom floor. She was right. My friends at that time were pretty crude. But I sensed she really was disgusted in me, that I didn't pick up on her signals. I wanted Robin, not her.

Years later, we met again. She was an artist,
She wanted me to shoot some of her work for her portfolio. We embraced, and again I felt her need, and again I could not respond.
I did the job, and we departed as friends.

I never peed on anyone's floor.


Comments: 2


Friday, January 13, 2006

Walking To Iceland

The last few weeks... have been somewhat tumultuous in the otherwise cloistered world of P. Batty. Perhaps it is just the winter blues, or the cycles of the moon (it's full tonight), or the changing work duties that have beset me in my other, secret life.

Today... the business section of the paper had a blurb about the MSP airport losing airlines..."Icelandair has discontinued service earlier this week..." Groan! And I had just gotten enough credit card points for a round-trip! Granted, I could fly to New York or Baltimore and connect there, but that would add a lot of money and time to what is otherwise a direct flight.

Batty's dream... Some day I will walk to Iceland. There may soon be train service from my small town to the airport. The station will be a few blocks away, close enough to get to by foot. I will step out my back door, hike to the station, board a train and about an hour later enter the airport. The flight takes about five and a half hours, and the Flybus will drop me off at my guesthouse. When it is time to go home, I do the same in reverse. No driving. No car. No hassle.

No way? ...Fortunately, I researched the situation further, and found that the flight suspension is only temporary- for two months in the slow season. The dream is still a possibility (ok, I could drive to the airport if I really had to), I'll make it back someday.


Comments: 5


Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Aging Diva

Alone on stage- with just a melody and an attitude
Every new video seen by fewer and fewer
Once upon a time your releases were on every chic coffee-table
Your elfin stare mesmerized the masses
Now all the tunes are on iPods and the cover art is forgotten
You let the world into your heart
And then world moved on and forgot your name
Excepting its occasional use for a punchline

Time is on your side
Your voice will live on
Your ideas are too powerful to die
But now the spotlight has shifted
Booze, age, and gravity all demand payment
The "It Girl" is dead
But the mother survives, heroic
And sings a lullaby to the future


Comments: 0


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

All Or Nothing At All

Juvenile love affairs are pretty polarized affairs. All on, all off. When they break, it can be absolute (or at least until the next week-end dance!) As one ages, affairs of the heart become more nuanced, the possibilties more varied, but it still hurts when it doesn't work out. That is one reason why an inter-office affair is such a bad idea. And so, like the old song, it becomes nothing at all...although there are exceptions to the rule. Some ex-lovers get along well, although usually at a safe distance. The reason entertainment celebrities get so much press about their affairs may be due the natural curiousity people have in seeing the "rules" bent or broken, a vicarious thrill with no risk involved.


Comments: 1


Monday, January 09, 2006

Dreamscape #4

"Hi. Glad to meet you. You come to this cafe often?"
"Oh whenever I'm in town. Or where ever it is we are..."
"I just realized that we're talking to each other, we've never done that before."
"Dreams can come true, you know."
"I was going to stop this obsession, and I was doing pretty well, until this..."
"What makes you think that you have any control over it?"
"I guess I don't. What could I do about that?"
"Wake up."


Comments: 0


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Killer

Primary caregiver, home with a six month old, just got him napping, cleaning up the kitchen...
...scratch, bang, CRASH! What in the world? Going into the living room, opening the closet where the noises came from, a vicious-looking squirrel bounds out, and zooms around the room in wild-eyed panic- that panic being matched by its human antagonist who realizes that the slumbering infant is in danger from this mad beast. The rodent breaks for the kitchen, where the outside door is opened quickly, but the bushy-tailed rat isn't buying it. Instinctively picking up a butcher's knife from the sink, the adrenaline-fueled human finds the enemy behind a cupboard and stabs, and stabs again. The battle is over. The corpse is retrived, the door is shut, the baby is safe, and order is restored. A killer has been born.

I never knew that childcare would be so dramatic...


Comments: 0


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Travel Plans

Going through a mountain of old photos can turn your head around a bit. Did the house really look that bad? And what was with my long hair and beard, Jesus? The kids were as adorable as remembered- Its easy to see why some people keep having them. And those family trips. Now that the two of us can pick and chose where we want to go (instead of having our options limited to "the lake" or "the farm") the choice becomes harder when there are more of them. Scotland has been on the back burner for a while, a package tour for two wouldn't exactly break the bank, but would sure dent it pretty badly. Vancouver looks like a better bet in the spring, still haven't quite got the old bean wrapped around what that would consist of. Surfing the net gave too much information- should get a travel book and take it to the meditation center- the bathtub (when is someone going to invent the waterproof laptop?)

Inevitably my cursor wanders over to the "Icelandic Information" bookmark. Prices haven't gotten any cheaper...but those Icelandair travel points are worth a round trip by now...must concentrate on Vancouver...let's see, if I only rented a car for a few days I could stay in a guesthouse in 101...The music festival is in October...

It's no use. I can't concentrate on B.C. when my heart is on the other side of the world. My sister lives on St. Croix, Virgin Islands...we could go there...Island=Ísland=Iceland...hafta work on that Canadian getaway tomorrow...


Comments: 3


Friday, January 06, 2006

Visitors Welcome!

Every so often, the vistors to this blog (who are recorded by my site meter) intrigue me. I got my first-ever inquiry from the Faroe Islands yesterday (looking for a car rental in Iceland) and some curious soul from Jamacia was wondering "what is Red Zinger tea good for?" I hope yah be happy with me answer, mon.

The one that really caught my eye, (and make my pulse race a bit) was from the CIA- yep, the intelligence gathering arm of the US government. I thought that this domestic spying thing had really gotten out of control, until I saw the query- "I ain't blue, just a little bit lonely" which is from a "Spider" John Koerner song which was featured in one of FITK's very first posts. Perhaps some mid-level functionary was googling the lyrics to a poignant song that he or she may have heard on the radio. (Bonnie Raitt also recorded it on her first album.) I guess that's ok, even spies can get the blues...


Comments: 0


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Vision on Fourth Avenue

Fourth Avenue. As streets go, not really memorable. Not really a residential lane, but certainly not an artery, it gets its traffic mostly from its use as a short-cut to the Pleasant Street bridge, a reasonable way to avoid the downtown district. I had just taken a spin around the golf course on my trusty bicycle, and was heading for home when I turned south after crossing the river. In a scene that seemed staged and performed in slow motion, a young woman walking on the sidewalk on the other side of the road stopped, smiled, and lifted her t-shirt top and flashed a motorcyclist who was heading north. He responded with a twist of the accelerator and a short nod. And then it was over. Once again, she resumed her walk. The motorcyclist continued on, and I kept going; past the woman, down to Harrison Street and then home. There was a story there, but it was evidently not intended for my eyes.


Comments: 1


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The 26th Year

The new year brought solitude. A dead-end affair had ended, as had an already dead one. "Live alone!" - a brave cry from someone who was truly alone for the very first time in his life. Making a routine, reading, thinking about what went wrong, what mistakes never to make again. Meet some new people, get to know some people you only know a little. The thing with the band might develop into something bigger, but what?
Alone again on a Sunday night. The weeks went by, more of the same, work, study, play a little. Tried drinking a bit, not crazy like in high school, just some wine to go with dinner. It was OK. Would this winter ever end?
A friend needed help (and the van) to move his girlfriend, why not? Just might meet someone...

The wedding was two months later.


Comments: 0


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Marooned!

...I remember coming to on a sandy beach, a taste of salt in my mouth, and a ravenous hunger. I should have realized that taking that budget charter flight wasn't the smartest idea, and now I was going to pay for it. The little 8 seat airplane had run onto a storm, gone off course, and then down. I had strapped my seat cushion on, it saved my life. What happened to the plane and the rest of the passengers, I never found out, all I knew is that I had survived and made it safely here. Which was where? I stood up, carefully, I was bruised and sore, but no real damage had been done. I looked around, the beach was deserted. There was a narrow path leading up to the high ground, Thank god, this place was inhabited. I clambered up the path and at the top of the hill I was stunned by what I saw.

It was as if I had wandered into the neatest dump ever created. There were piles of small items: keys, pencils, socks and shoes, eyeglasses, and coins. "What place is this?" I asked aloud.

"Tis the island of lost personal effects!" from behind me came a piping cry. A most peculiar man, dressed in mis-matched clothes, came strolling up over the dunes. "And you must be lost yourself, to have arrived in such a curious place." his eyes twinkled as he spoke, "I'm Billy Ben Boyd, a castaway like yourself, and I've lived here for many a year- mind your head! Here comes another load!"

The little man pulled me back, just as a variety of small items came crashing down from the sky, a digital camera nearly hitting me. "Y'see, this is where all the things that people have lost ends up. It must be some kind of space-time warp!"
"All these things people have lost?" I said, as a bright red shoe came whizzing by, "H-How-why-where?"

The funny man laughed; "Hee-hee, how- don't know, nor why. But here is definitely the place for these trifles, the other side of the island has bigger things, even cars!"
"That must be dangerous!" I was thoroughly confused.
"Aye, 'Tis so, but the northern valley is the most dangerous place of all. I'd stay away from there if I were you."

As we chatted, I learned many things about the island, where to find food, clothes, even a bottle of liquor would float down on occasion. Billy was an agreeable companion, although he always changed the subject when I spoke of the northern valley. One day, when he was off gathering food, I resolved to see this place for myself.

I crossed over the last hill, and began my descent. I was suddenly stricken with a great sadness, and began to sob. I still pushed on, through a beautiful landscape of flowers and ferns, but finally I had to stop. I was weeping openly now, and my mind filled scenes from my childhood- pleasant scenes, yet somehow unbearably sad.

How long I remained in this state, I do not know, but when I snapped out of that sorry trance I was back on the hill, being pulled along by Billy. ""Oh, Billy! What was that place? Why did it affect me so?"

"'Twas the valley of lost innocence, and no man can stand to bear all that grief..."

Many days later, a fully equipped life raft washed up on shore, and I began to plan my escape. Billy would have none of it. "I've found myself here, I'd just be more lost back in the world."

When the time came, I bade him farewell, and after a few harrowing weeks at sea, I was picked up by a freighter, and returned home. Now, when I lose my wallet, or keys or any other thing, I know where it is, and that it is in good hands.


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Monday, January 02, 2006

Stories

"We need stories so much that we're even willing to read bad books to get them, if the good books won't supply them." - Philip Pullman
The telling of, and the listening to or reading of stories, may be the one trait that gives us our unique humanity. With the possible exceptions of elephants, porpoises and whales, it appears that no other species has the capability to abstractly represent reality in a more or less structured form to relate events and emotions of the past, present and future. Perhaps there is an innate structure in our brains that enables us to perceive and internalize stories, even at a very young age. "Tell me a story" is a common bedtime refrain for young children. Older children will read for themselves. The lyrics of most popular music will usually tell a story, if not in themselves, then about the group listening. Movies and television are mostly stories, some better than others, but all there to fill this need.

The way stories can become a shared consciousness is a blessing and a curse. It can inspire a nation to greatness, elevating all its citizens; if corrupt or perverse it may destroy it. The German myth of the Aryan super-race caused so much destruction not only because it was flawed, but because it offered so much to a people who had lost nearly everything. What repeatedly happens throughout history is that when a certain story, or group of related stories, becomes "truth" to the exclusion of all other stories, the other stories must be destroyed. Any validity or wisdom in the stories becomes secondary to the quest for an absolute monotheism, be it religious or political. It is no coincidence that the texts of the world's major religions have been ossified for centuries.

But the stories continue. Everyone's life is a story, and when it can be shared in an effective way, it can elevate the mundane to art, and change the profound into a glimpse of heaven.


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