Coffee and Contemplation and High Adventure

The sounds of the monthly “deep” cleaning at my house drove me away this morning. The woman we engage to help in this monthly task brings loud vacuum equipment and noisy brooms. Well, the vacuum is loud and disruptive and I feel like I’m in the way, no matter where she is in the house. So I choose to leave. This morning, I am sitting at Melinda’s Coffee Corner (I think that’s the official name), drinking an iced coffee and attempting to avoid being blinded by the sun. I’m sitting at the chest-high counter in the front of the place where windows allow ample sunlight from the early morning sun in the east. I long for blinds or shades or large piece of plywood to block the light. I could move, but I’ve set up my computer and my coffee and my cell phone on the counter, so moving would be an enormously taxing undertaking. It’s far easier to sit here and complain that the building was built at the wrong angle to avoid blinding sunlight from streaming through the windows.

As I sit here, I overhear snippets of conversation between two women who are talking about the state of the country. I can’t hear enough to know what they think of it. I’m assuming that, if they’re bright, they think the country is going to hell in a hand basket. I think I hear one of them talking about the French resistance during World War II; this is a good sign.

My wife just texted me, asking me to pick up a green tomato and a couple of peaches if I opt to drive up the road to Sarah’s, a little fruit and veggie stand we’ve visited only once. I think I shall. I’m up for some adventure!

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A Miss for the Moonbegotten

I spent part of yesterday afternoon painting colorful little circles on a small canvas. The endeavor was part of an art lesson in which the leader was explaining the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. While it was informative, and no doubt necessary if one is to better understand how to pain, it was not what I expected. I expected to attend these sessions and be given instruction on painting techniques, things like: how to hold the brush, how to paint shapes that look three-dimensional, how to look at a scene one wants to paint and determine values of light and dark. I guess that last one could be named “how to see.” But, so far, I’ve only latched on to only a few of those bits and pieces. To be fair, I missed a session. And one three-hour session per week isn’t much. And I probably should be practicing on my own, between sessions. But I’m busy and lazy and feeling especially inadequate as an artist. The few things I’ve drawn and painted in class look misshapen and poorly constructed, as if the artist (me) either has badly warped visual perception or extremely poor hand-eye coordination or both…coupled with other maladies that will likely impinge on my ability to make art that pleases both my eye and my psyche. The trick, I’m told, is not to compare my art to the art of others. That’s tough, when the “others” are all drawing or painting the same object(s) and when the output of the “others” is so obviously superior to mine.

I’m beginning to think I’d rather try to replicate someone else’s writing than their visual art. Perhaps, for example, I could use Eugene O’Neil’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” as a model for my own play. Different characters, different story, but based on the same emotional structure. I’ve not been much of a playwright heretofore, but I am just as capable of failing at that as I am at painting a masterpiece, so what’s the danger? I could entitle my play “A Miss for the Moonbegotten.” It could be set in a retirement village in a deeply conservative southern state. The characters would be a small band of wanna-be writers, most of them never published and unschooled in their craft, yet convinced of their innate ability to craft poetic language that conveys deeply meaningful messages. The key is to “show” and not “tell” what these characters are like and to weave a story from their interactions with one another, showing the undercurrent of panic as they age, risking the possibility of leaving no intellectual nor emotional legacy. With that cheery thought, I’ll go warm up my first cup of coffee, now as cold as the ice in my veins.

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Hair Cut

I got a hair cut yesterday. I asked for it short. It’s relatively short. But not quite what I have in mind. I realized today, though, that the quality of my haircut isn’t particularly important. The quality of my tears matters more. The depth of my emotions tends to have more import. And that brings me, as irrationally as possible, to this:

I wonder whether any research has been undertaken to examine the relationship between feigned bone spurs and malignant narcissism? Surely some scholarly work has been conducted in an effort to identify and isolate a correlation between feigned bone spurs and sociopathic behavior, don’t you think? A connection must exist between feigned bone spurs and the absence of a moral compass. The link between the two must be so strong that, absent high-resolution imaging evidence to support it, a claim that one has bone spurs should be ample evidence of the need for a mental health hold on the claimant. That is, lock the person up for a full-on mental evaluation. I’m talking long-term here. As in lifelong incarceration. Because, as we all know (having seen sufficient evidence to support the assertion), feigning bone spurs can lead to behavior capable of ruining civilization. At the very least, lifelong incarceration would give the patient the opportunity to get a no-comb-over haircut.

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I Hope All is Better than Well

Mortality sucks. Reminders about mortality suck almost as much as the thing itself. My brother is in the hospital in Houston, waiting to learn when the surgeons will perform an operation to repair an aortic aneurysm. That’s serious stuff. Not frequently deadly, but serious and nerve-wracking And it’s the sort of potentially unpleasant surgery that reminds us of our mortality. Which, as I will remind you, sucks.

If all goes according to plan, the surgery will be done, post-operative healing will be speedy, and everything will be back to normal. That’s what we all hope for. But of course we worry that things will not work out according to plan. We worry that the plan can derail and cause all sorts of problems leading to outcomes unlike those we hope and expect to see.  Worry is idiotic, I know. If I can’t control the outcome, worry is a waste of emotional capital. But I can’t help but spend it. I can’t just say “it is what it is.” Would that it were so. Would that I could just accept that the world will spin without my input and control and I must simply accept it. Well, I do, in a way. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want, desperately, to have some influence over the situation.

Many years ago, this same brother who is in the hospital tonight, drove to Dallas after my open-heart surgery to spend time as my nurse-maid for a while during my recuperation.  I stand ready to do the same. My plan for next week was to go to Corpus Christi for a launch party for a book by Corpus Christi authors (including people like me who grew up there). I want to go to that party and read from my story. But if I need to be with my brother, that will most assuredly take precedence. Isn’t that the way it is with all decent humans? And I do count myself amount them, even if there are days…months…during which I don’t think of myself that way at all.

 

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Apologies

Sorry. If you tried to read my last post and coudn’t, it’s because I didn’t intend to post it and have taken it down.

I’m now entirely incompetent of late.

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A Truck

I am trying to sell my Ford Ranger. It’s the Ranger my late sister bought new in 1997. I “inherited it” when she died in 2010. Or shortly thereafter. And I kept it for a while. But I sold it to a friend after a few years, when it became apparent I wasn’t going to use it much. And then we moved to Arkansas. And I thought I wanted a truck. And so I bought it back from my friend. And I drove it back to Hot Springs Village, stopping along the way to address serious front end issues. And it’s been a year since. What the hell was I thinking? I have no use for it. I rarely drive it. I spent $36 every month for insurance. So I’m trying to sell it. That’s my story. I’m sad to sell my sister’s truck, but she would understand. She was the champion of the underdog. God, I miss her.

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When Madness Strikes

Too much time has passed since I last hosted a tapas party. Actually, it wasn’t a party, it was just a few (make that four)  friends I had invited to show off my culinary talents. Well, not talents; more like my culinary aspirations. You know, I wanted to show off what I wished I could do better. That sounds strange and it is. I will admit to being moderately strange, occasionally drifting from “moderately” to “rabidly.” But that’s neither here nor there. I intended this post to be about tapas, not about me. But I suppose there’s no escaping egotism, especially when it’s being modeled at the highest levels of government. But I don’t want to get political here, so I’ll slide back into my comfort zone, which involves gluttony.

During my first cup of coffee this morning, I wandered the Whorl Wide Web (I know, but just let it be) to explore the whorl of tapas. I do love tapas. Always have. Always will, methinks. Anyway, this morning I got rather serious about compiling recipes for my next tapas party, which will be more than just a gathering of a few folks. And here’s what I came up with for the menu:

  • Moorish Pork Skewers
  • Shark Chunks with Pine Nuts and Tomatoes
  • Flank Steak with Goat Cheese on Toast
  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Manchego Cheese and Romesco
  • Bomba de Patatas
  • Champiñones al Ajillo
  • Pincho Ribs with Sherry Glaze
  • Chorizo Poached in Red Wine
  • Albondigas de Cordero a la Hierbabuena
  • Papas Bravas
  • Cauliflower Fritters topped with Yoghurt
  • Mixed Olives
  • Seasoned Almonds
  • Garlic Shrimp
  • Peppers with Raisins

Yes, I know. Too much meat and too few vegetables. And I need to be consistent with my language; either all English or a Spanish instead of the mixed bag. Before I lock in the menu, I need to consider just how many people I expect to come to this party and how gluttonous they are apt to be. Of course, I need to consider whether I’ll be able to pull it all together so everything is ready at the same time. That’s always a tricky situation. A very real constraint on the menu may well be the number of burners on my stove; it’s hard to prepare six dishes that require stove-top real estate with only four burners, don’t you know.

I can buy the obligatory sangria and sherry to drink with tapas, though decent dry sherry is rather hard to come by in central Arkansas for some reason. Most sherry here is sweet and cheap; I like the cheap part, but sweet is not my thing. For the drinkers of non-alcoholic beverages, I’m thinking lemon-infused sparkling water, iced tea, and iced coffee.

For the last tapas-bash we hosted, I created a Spotify play list of Spanish guitar music. Next time, I think I’ll create a list that includes a mix of musical genres. My limited exploration of current Spanish music revealed that the group, Manel, which mixes pop and folk and performs in Catalan, is popular. Another Spanish group whose music I’ve enjoyed for several years is Jarabe de Pelo. I’d have to say the music of Jarabe de Pelo is among my favorites. Yeah, I’ll mix it up. Some Andrés SegoviaRaimundo Amador, Rocío Dúrcal, Concha Buika, et al.

In an ideal world, my circle of friends and acquaintances would be as insanely “in” to such things as tapas parties as am I. They would insist on exploring exciting recipes and seeking out popular Spanish music. They would want to contribute to the food and drink and music and general atmosphere. Alas (there’s that word), my friends are not as crazy as I am about such stuff. They like to eat, drink, mix, and mingle, but they’d rather “leave the preparation to someone else, thank you.”

Now that I think of it, my friends and family and people with whom I associate are not as hyper-focused as I on anything. Maybe I’m the strange one, indeed. Last year, I insisted that we’d have a food-focused gathering at our house on September 7 in celebration of Brazilian  independence day. I wanted to have Brazilian food, Brazilian music, Brazilian themed decorations, etc. And I planned to do significant research into Brazilian history to be able to speak with some degree of knowledge about Brazil’s history and its independence, which was declared on September 7, 1822. There’s a term for this madness that drives me in such matters, but I can’t think of it at the moment. I wonder if I really do suffer from some form of mental malady that causes me to hone in on things of interest to me to the extent that I go a bit overboard. Hmm. Well, enough of that. It’s time for me to get practical about our next tapas party. And I suppose I’ll have to ask my wife if she’ll allow me to pursue this madness again.

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Raccoon Encounters

For the second time in just over a week, a raccoon managed to make its way to our back deck, which is at least seventeen feet above the ground. Metal tubes, wrapped around the middle sections of six by six posts supporting the deck, ostensibly prevent the beasts from reaching the deck. The tubes are useless. Raccoons have made their way up to the deck before. But, until just over a week ago, they waited until it was dark. No more. Now, they seem willing to venture out before the sun goes down. Yesterday, for the second time, I confronted the masked criminal directly. The encounter did not go as planned.

My intent was to frighten the beast so badly that it would dive off the deck to the rocks seventeen feet below. I was that angry when I saw it greedily slurping the sugar-water from the hummingbird feeder hanging from a metal arch affixed to the deck railing. I crept out to the screen porch, then carefully opened the screen door and stepped out onto the deck. With my right hand, I reached for the walking stick I’d made from a thick crepe myrtle branch late last winter. I crept up behind the raccoon, raised the stick high above my head, and–as I slammed the stick down on the top of the horizontal railing next to where the raccoon was crouching–screamed “Hey!”

Much to my surprise, the raccoon did not, in abject terror, spring off the deck. Instead, it spun around and leapt at me, hissing and growling and clawing at me. I tried to escape by stepping backward, but I was too slow. I felt the beast’s claws slice across my face, though I felt no pain. I reacted by grabbing the monster by its neck and squeezing, hard, as it wiggled frantically, trying to free itself. I held my ground, squeezing hard. All the while, both its front and back claws spun like it was running. Every stride struck my lower arms, drawing blood from deep scratches. My face started to sting and I saw blood dripping on my shirt. I felt the creature’s jaw and neck muscles flinch as it tried to open its mouth, no doubt intending to bite its way out of my grip. I knew it could do serious damage if I let it loose, so I held on for dear life, hoping to feel the animal’s body go limp from lack of oxygen.

Suddenly, as if an enormous surge of power filled its body, the raccoon put its two front paws between my hands and its neck and forcefully loosened my grip. At that moment, its eyed locked on mine and its mouth opened wide, revealing teeth that looked like long, white sabers. I swung at the beast with all my strength, but it dodged my arm and, taking advantage of the fact that my right arm crossed my chest, thrust its right paw at me, striking me directly above my mouth and below my nose. I felt like I’d been punched by a boxer as I stumbled backward. I tried to stay upright, but the back of my knees hit the arm of a wrought-iron chair, causing me to fall backward onto the chair. The raccoon was on me in an instant, hissing and growling and biting.

Though I continued trying to push it away, I couldn’t. It was moving too frantically for me to grab its neck or legs. It must have been only seconds, but it seemed like hours, that it was on me. During that time, I imagined the newspaper headline: “Man Attacked and Killed by Angry Raccoon.” About the time I had given up hope, a blackening sky and a loud hum stunned me. Hundreds of hummingbirds descended from above me and attacked my attacker. I saw their long beaks zip through its fur into the raccoon’s flesh. The raccoon squealed and spun away from me. The hummingbirds were relentless, jabbing it in the face and  legs and back.

As quickly as the event started, it was over. The raccoon leapt over the railing to the ground below. I heard it crash through branches to the thick bed of leaves covering the ground. I heard it scramble through the bramble and leaves, evidence that it was alive, at least, if not uninjured. The birds flew away in all directions. I was alone in my embarrassment, sitting in a pool of my own blood. If the raccoon was rabid, I suppose I’ll develop symptoms in three to eight weeks, though they could come sooner or, according to Wikipedia, as late as seven years after exposure. In the meantime, I’ll hope it was just an animal with attitude and that my scars will heal quickly, without any infection.

You will, by now, have deduced that this story was fiction, bunk, hallucinations flowing from my fingertips. But it is true that, a few weeks ago, I frightened a raccoon away, before dark, as it was drinking hummingbird nectar from a feeder on our deck. And it’s true that, yesterday, a creature that I assume was a raccoon, knocked that same feeder to the ground seventeen feet below. I haven’t climbed down there yet. I hope the feeder is not broken.

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Filtered News and Compartmentalized Compassion

The horrific, deadly flooding in Japan, not widely reported in Western media yet (it seems to me), is a nightmare of epic proportions. Two million people have been ordered to evacuate in western Japan. Hiroshima has been hit hard by flooding and landslides caused by extraordinary volumes of rainwater. “We’ve never experienced this kind of rain before,” a weather official was reported by BBC to have said. Sixty people are dead and dozens are missing. The numbers must be too small for most media to consider it newsworthy.

What captured the world’s attention, though, is the plight of twelve boys and their soccer coach, trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded cave in Thailand. And I understand that focus of attention. I’m just as concerned about that as anyone outside the immediate sphere of family and friends and countrymen can be. But are we incapable of being empathetic across a broader range of tragedies? There are so many from which to choose our “favorite:” wild fires, landslides, floods, violent demonstrations, fascism catching the imagination of world leaders everywhere…

I can control only my own little piece of mental real estate. I can express my solidarity with people undergoing heartache and horrors, regardless of whether others do the same. But the sense of helplessness I feel makes my expression of concern seem useless and unnecessary. “So what, you’re upset by people dying in floodwaters in Japan, what are going to do about it?” Nothing. There’s nothing I can do. I can only watch in horror and appreciate that, at least in Japan, the government seems to be trying to rescue people and protect people and property.

Bits and pieces of news I’ve seen suggests strangers are helping strangers in Japan. But that’s nothing new; it happens all the time. We don’t necessarily see it and the scale of assistance is not necessarily so dramatic, but it happens. I have taken, of late, to look for it. I consciously look out for people doing little things for strangers. You know, like picking up a piece of fruit someone drops at the grocery store. Or rushing after someone who left a purse or a wallet in a restaurant. Or helping an elderly person get across a busy intersection. Such things make the paper only when they are a bit “bigger” in that they take a tad more effort: a group of folks paint an injured person’s house; pulling someone out of a burning car. That last one is not just “nice.” It’s a risky life-saving endeavor. I’m happy when I read about such things. I wonder if I’d have the courage to do it? Would I risk my life to do it? Or, rather, would I risk utterly destroying my wife’s happiness by doing something that could kill me? Questions that have no answers, at least none that can be believed, until tested against reality. I’d rather not, thanks.

I guess my mind is awash in confused hurt with all the terrible things going on, every day, in the world. We’re not necessarily embroiled in more tragedy today than in other times, but we know about the tragedies more immediately. Except in the case of the Japanese flooding and mudslides, about which I found nothing this morning on CNN, NPR, Associated Press, or Fox News (yes, I actually do look online at Fox News on occasion, just to see what swill they are throwing at their biased nemesis at the other end of the spectrum, CNN). I found information about the flooding on BBC. Nothing on Aljazeera, either. Oh, wait. It’s Japan. That’s an entirely different culture. Uh huh.

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Planetary Perturbations and Insomnia and Pamplona etc.

I went to bed early and went to sleep right away. But two hours later, I was awake. I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours. I got up around 1 a.m. for a few minutes, then tried again to sleep. Maybe I got a little sleep, but not much. At 4 a.m., I decided to give up for the night. For the last hour, I’ve been playing Words with Friends and reading depressing news. I tried to resurrect a post I wrote last night, but to no avail. It wasn’t worth resurrecting, anyway.

Here I am again, attempting to turn a play-by-play of my unsuccessful attempts at sleep and the succeeding endeavors into something worth writing about. Where might this lead? I could write about the coffee I just made, but despite the fact that it’s what I drink most days, it’s deeply unsatisfying this morning, its flavor an odd combination of sour, steely bitterness and grass mowed days ago. I wonder if mood affects one’s taste buds? I’m tired, very tired, but my efforts at sleep failed and I have no reason to think they would succeed if I were to try again now. I really should attempt to get some sleep sometime today. We’re having dinner with a couple we haven’t seen in many years. They moved to Hot Springs from Las Vegas a month or two ago and invited us to have a Russian dinner at their house (she is Russian; I’m not sure I’ve met her, but I recall him talking about her years ago).

Yes, sleep would be nice. Restful sleep. Sleep uninterrupted by harsh dreams. Though I’ve not been able to remember much about my dreams of late, I know I’ve had them and they have been the kind of dreams from which one awakens disoriented and afraid, as if a solar eclipse that was supposed to last an hour has continued for days and no one can explain what is happening or why.

Speaking of things celestial, I heard yesterday on a radio program, Science Friday, that the planet Uranus rotates at an angle almost perpendicular to its orbit around the Sun, with one of its poles pointing at the Sun almost year-round. A theory, published recently, suggests that a planet as large as or larger than Earth may have struck the cold planet during its formation, knocking it out of its normal and expected rotation.

Among the things I read this morning before deciding to blog was a report that four men were injured during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain earlier today. I remember a time when I longed to be able to go to Pamplona. I remember, only vaguely, that I had read The Sun Also Rises (about which I recall almost nothing). Something about the book appealed to my sense of adventure and my budding sense of what masculinity meant. I’ve since come to think the running of the bulls (especially involving people with no connection to the towns in which the events take place) is a remarkably stupid cultural expression of misguided bravado masquerading as masculinity. But I once dreamed that I would demonstrate my masculinity by fearlessly exposing myself to danger. There’s something incredibly immature about such an attitude.

One of the bits of news that has me on edge has to do with the twelve boys and their coach trapped deep underground in tunnels in Thailand. When I first heard the news that the boys had been found alive, I was jubilant. But as news came out that their rescue was by no means certain, my mood sunk. Now, as fears of torrential rains in the area grow, I’m growing more fearful that they may not be rescued. Those boys are not the only children on my mind this morning, either. I’m concerned about the immigrant children who have been taken from their parents and are being confined by the U.S. government. The U.S. government’s actions enrage me; if I could, I would dismantle the entirety of the current administration and would replace it with people who demonstrate compassion, decency, and humanity.

I’m tired. So damned tired. And no longer in the mood to write.

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Empty Explanation

It has been days since I’ve posted here. The number of possible reasons for the dry spell could exceed the largest known numeral, cubed. But probably not. I attribute the emptiness to emptiness. All the good ideas have fled my head, leaving a balloon appearing larger and more imposing and more interesting than it is. A balloon, after all, is simply a membrane that imprisons air. And that’s what my head has been of late. If ideas reside there, they are too soft and dull to pierce the thin film that separate the imprisoned molecules from the air flowing freely around the empty sphere.

What causes emptiness, by the way? Can ideas have emotions of their own so that, for instance, they might be afraid to expose themselves for fear of ridicule or rejection? Or, perhaps, ideas might grow angry with their host and demonstrate that animosity by refusing to reveal themselves. The most frightening explanation for emptiness is one that suggests permanence; that the ideas have simply left and won’t be back. But, you might have noticed, the preceding sentence suggests ideas may have been replaced by fear. The obvious next question is: fear of what? Fear of emptiness? Fear of an endless dullness, a drab existence from which creativity has escaped? The answers to these questions do not reside in balloons engorged with air. The answers live amongst brain cells that collectively assess and analyze a massive volume of data. But those brain cells seem unwilling to engage in the collection, assessment, and analysis of data for the moment. Perhaps they share with their brethren, ideas, emotions that prevent them from performing their usual duties. Fear, anger, disgust.

You can see evidence of the emptiness when you look in a mirror and see no reflection. No smile, no sneer, no eyes peering back at you, only the wall behind the place you’re standing.  And that makes you wonder if others see only emptiness when they look in your direction, a vacant space that doesn’t merit even a pause as their eyes scan the space around you. Invisibility has its advantages, I suppose, but I don’t know what they are. Contemplative thought would be required if one were to understand the advantages of invisibility and, unfortunately, that practice seems to have eluded me for the past several days. That’s what fills the pages or screens or whatever one considers the holder of the words on this blog to be. Contemplative thought, spilled into the universe from the confines of my brain. Thoughts, molded into words that convey ideas and emotions. But, of late, they just haven’t come. Maybe all of them escaped. The 2,603 posts that preceded this one may represent all the ideas available for me to express here. Perhaps there’s nothing else left. Perhaps it’s not that my ideas have gotten angry or afraid to reveal themselves. They’ve all just left the building. Poof. Empty.

I didn’t see nor hear fireworks last night, the Fourth of July. Even the world around me is empty.

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Argument for a Barter Economy

Money is a cudgel, a weapon disguised as a tool
to claw through difficulties so we can reach the
peace and happiness buried beneath the
obstacles built from shattered dreams.

Oh, they’re not our dreams; they’re hopes
dreamt by emperors and kings and placed
in front of us, like carrots on a stick,
urging us on to seek what they want.

And when their dreams become heavy and
splinter under the weight of their own
broken promises, we’re taught that money
can buy our way through the shards of loss.

Finally, when we realize money is a weapon,
we find that the cudgel is stretched into a
steel rope and wrapped like a harness around
our necks, leading us to someone else’s dreams.

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Incivility Portends Hyper-Incivility

Everyone needs to tone it down. Everyone. Sean Hannity. Brian Stelter. Chris Cuomo.  Jake Tapper. Tomi Lahren. 45. You. Me. Everyone. Rage, if allowed to go on unchecked, will lead to an outcome no one (except lunatics on the outer edges of both fringes, who need to be locked up) wants. Have you heard of civil war? That’s where things appear to be heading. That’s not an outcome I ever would have thought conceivable until recently. But I think it’s possible now. I really do. Perhaps not the “classic” model (but possibly exactly the “classic” model), but sufficiently ugly and monstrously damaging to this country and the world order that we must avoid it if we can. How can we avoid it?

Let Sarah Sanders eat in peace. Bake the cake. Conduct the marital ceremony. Sell the flowers. Let them pray when and where they want. Let her take the course (more on that in a moment). In short, none of us are required to let our opinions or beliefs dictate the way in which we interact with people. We ought to be guided by that simple law of reciprocity to which many of the world’s religions subscribe: Treat others the way you would like others to treat you” or, framed in the negative, “Do not treat others in ways you would not want others to treat you.” The law of reciprocity does not say, “If other treat you badly, treat them just as badly or worse.” But that seems to be the way we are conducting ourselves. At least the media (mainstream or not) seems to behave that way. Just chill. Avoid civil war.

About that course. I read about a journalist for a deeply conservative organization being denied access to an online course organized by an organization with ties to left-leaning organizations. The course sponsor had a provision in its terms of use that said it reserved the right to deny access to people who did not subscribe to its political philosophies. The journalist who was denied access was okay with that. I am not. Just like a restaurant ought to feed people, regardless of political position, an online (or not) education organization ought to teach people, regardless of their viewpoints.

I understand, I really do, the desire to take a stand against outrageous political crimes committed against the humanity of which we are all a part. But allowing that stand to pervade every aspect of every bit of the fabric of our lives is dangerous. To those who stand firm with the restauranteur who asked Sarah Sanders to leave, would it be okay for a conservative restauranteur to ask Elizabeth Warren to leave? And how about the conservative owner of a gun range: is it okay for her to refuse to allow Anderson Cooper to pay to do target shooting? We can get upset with bakers and florists refusing to serve gays or LBGTQ folks and we can express our upset, but I don’t think we ought to retaliate by becoming just as bigoted as they are. We teach tolerance by being tolerant. End of rant.

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Birthday Coalescence (is that a word?)

Today is my wife’s birthday. It coincides with the umpteenth World Tour of Wines, so instead of celebrating by going out to a nice dinner at a nice restaurant, we’re going to join eight friends at Coronado Center to experience the food and wine of the California Sierra Foothills. We’ll celebrate on our own, someplace nice, in the days ahead. Birthdays have grown less occasions for celebration in the past forty years or so. I guess that’s what happens when time and age coalesce.

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2600–Anthology of Me

I posted number 2600 without fanfare because I forget I was at that point. My forgetfulness notwithstanding, I think number 2600 deserves acknowledgement; just a tad bit of respect. I’ve spilled a lot of thought on the screen to have reached 2600. I suspect I’ve embarrassed myself many times over. The advantage of having virtually no readership is that my fumbles and stumbles and embarrassments are viewed by so few. Thanks, by the way, to those of you who have witnessed my many, many mistakes for opting not to call them to my attention. I know they are there; but thanks for pretending they are not. Perhaps I should be happy to have achieved number 2600, but I’m not. If I had written something worthy of having been read, it would have amounted to something. But I think this blog has become a repository of drivel. I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself, which merits nothing but contempt on the part of the reader.These feelings will fade. I will extract from these pages the gems, and I know there are plenty, that will be well-suited to a consolidation, an anthology, of me. I wrote, not long ago, that I should compile an “anthology of myself.” And I should, if for no other reason than to record the emotions that shape my view of the world from time to time.  An anthology of me. How odd, but how attractive…to me.

 

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Baseball Caps in the Rain

I awoke this morning to evidence of heavy rain and wind while I was sleeping. My big tomato plant was bent in half, blown away from its metal cage and its leave water logged. The forecast, which calls for more rain and thunderstorms, does not portend well for me having a good time while picking up trash along the roadside, which I will be doing shortly. I volunteered, along with a dozen other church folks, to clean up a stretch of roadway this morning. Despite the rain, we’ll do it. And I will return home and shower, hoping my long pants and insect repellent keep the chiggers and other unpleasant beasts at bay. I may write more about this exciting experience later. Or I may not. I’m taking a baseball cap along with me, just in case it starts raining again. I loathe wearing baseball caps, but they do help keep rain drops off my glasses, the presence of which I loathe even more than wearing baseball caps.

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Poached Fantasy and No Toast

My mood today is moderately better than yesterday’s nadir. The aroma of hope wafts through the water-logged air, suggesting something sanguine awaits beyond my view, hidden by the morning fog. I wish I possessed the skill or talent or whatever it is that I don’t own to mold my emotions with my keyboard. Wouldn’t it be nice to simply type one’s way to happiness? Wouldn’t life be grand if, with just a few flicks of my fingers, I could write my way to a buoyant mood? Yes, and sustaining oneself on a diet of rainbows would be hunky dory, as well.

Perhaps I could write a story about a man who, in his mid sixties, discovers that rainbows have an amazing effect on his mood. Whenever he sees them, happiness envelopes him like a cocoon. So he follows weather forecasts, trying his best to know where he is apt to find rainbows. He lives in his car, driving from place to place in search of atmospheric circumstances ideally suited to the formation of rainbows. When he finds them, he’s overcome with joy unlike anything he’s ever experienced. But between rainbows, his mood flags, leaving him bereft. His emotions, shredded and dry like sun-bleached starfish left on a beach at ebb tide, become fragile and brittle.

It doesn’t take him long to realize he’s become a rainbow addict. The euphoria that accompanied his rainbow experiences in the early days of his discovery becomes bottomless despair. Without rainbows, he shrinks into himself, cursing the sky and drowning his sorrows with orange juice from concentrate. Living in his car no longer carries the sense of adventure it once did. He recognizes he’s given up everything for the fleeting rush that follows a rainbow experience. And he remembers some of the lyrics of the Muppets Movie song, the film that, he realizes, must have triggered his downward spiral:

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

The only solution, he decides, is to live where there can be no rainbows. And where might that be? A smog-choked city, he reasons, is the best place, because the smoke and dust in the air would make it impossible for rainbows to form. And so, after giving the matter considerable thought, he sells his car and its contents and buys a ticket to Beijing where, after a month of living on the street, he decides he’s made a horrible choice. But he has no money, his passport has been stolen, he’s utterly destitute. What does he do now? We’ll never know, because I’ve tired of writing this absurd little psychosis.

Has it improved my mood, though? Time will tell. I know for a fact that my breakfast this morning will not consist of rainbows. I’m thinking, maybe, poached eggs and Canadian bacon, with a side of radishes and sweet pepper, will work to get this day off to a reasonable start.

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Presidential Stench

This morning, I feel a bit like I felt that awful night in November, 2016, when it became apparent that the United States had elected a rancid pig as its president. In the ensuing year and a half, the pig has rotted even more and its stench fills every nostril in every nook and cranny in this country. How some people can find the odor appealing is beyond me. I suppose they share DNA with carrion-eating creatures. I suspect those anosmics (new word: people unable to perceive odors), if they took the time to look, could trace their family histories back to flocks of vultures.

I can’t scream loud enough. I can’t make my voice heard by people who have the power, but lack the will and the backbone, to change the direction of this country. I think I understand the fulminant rage that shows itself in the form of irrational attacks on innocent crowds. It’s a madness driven by the inability to change an environment one perceives as monumentally and irreversibly wrong. The difference between their rage and mine is that I would not, could not, under any circumstances, allow my rage to endanger innocents. I could allow myself, alone, to be its only victim. But that’s of no use, either. Letting my anger gnaw away at me to the point of madness or illness would be idiotic. And so I continue to scream until my voice is hoarse and weak.

Yesterday, I mailed letters to my two Senators and my Congressional Representative and copied the Attorney General. I also sent the text of the letters to the three addressees via email. I called on them to take immediate action to put an end to the Attorney General’s practice of tearing families of illegal immigrants apart. I quoted biblical verse, words the preceded and followed the verse referenced by the Attorney General, to point out how utterly hypocritical the man is. And I stated that biblical verse is not the law of the land; the Constitution is the document by which we live. I am sure none of the intended recipients will ever see my words. Even if they did, all of them are so beholden to the monster in the White House that they will do nothing, even if they do not agree with the administration’s action. So, why did I mail letters if I don’t think they will have any impact? That’s a question I ask myself. Shouldn’t I take more visible action, like visiting their local offices and make my points in person? That’s where my rage might explode, though. I might well become irrationally angry at the people who would stoop to work for these creatures the people of the State of Arkansas have elected.

As I think of my anger at my own country, I think I want out. I want to leave this sinking ship that I cannot save by bailing a cup full of water every time it takes on a gallon. But I won’t. I don’t have the wherewithal. And, even if I did, my wife doesn’t feel the rage as intensely as I do. And she has no interest in moving away to a place with a different culture and, perhaps, a different language. So I’ll continue to scream until my voice is hoarse and weak. And I’ll continue to write letters to people who don’t give a damn what I think and have no interest in hearing what matters to me as long as they can cater to their base of heartless vultures.

I don’t think Americans have the heart for revolution the way they once did. I think they—we—will acquiesce to the wishes of a rotting piece of human scum, hoping they can hold their noses long enough for him to go away. When they finally realize his fetor is a permanent smell, it will be too late.

I hope this mood of despair is temporary. I don’t know that I can tolerate feeling this low for long. I need to find something to snap me out of this.

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Vicarious Escape

A eighty-year-old friend whose husband died recently called me from her road trip this afternoon. She was waiting in her grandson’s driveway in Prescott, Arizona for his arrival. She had just gotten to his house when she received my text, in response to an earlier phone message from her, expressing interest in her follow-up ideas for a book about how the U.S. would be different if Europeans hadn’t invaded it. I wrote about that a few days ago. She wanted to talk about “the book,” as if I were going to write it. We had a brief conversation about it, but then talk turned to her trip.

She had stayed with relatives in Kansas until a week or two ago, when she embarked on a road trip that took her to Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada (the latter two, she admitted, only because she went to the “four corners.” She stayed in  an AirBnB room in a house in Taos and a in a “dump” motel in one or more of the other towns she visited along the way (Mesa Verde (CO), Santa Fe, Las Vegas (NM), Flagstaff, etc.). Last night, she stayed in a seedy motel in Flagstaff, but had a wonderful experience over dinner at the Weatherford Hotel, an elegant old place (she said), where she dine alfresco and talked to visitors from France and Belgium and where her waiter agreed to serve her a martini and toast her late husband (“but he was probably drinking water,” she said).

I admire my friend for her adventurous spirit and her determination to do what she said she would do. Long before her husband died (but when it was apparent he was dying), she said she wanted to take a road trip after he died to visit friends and family and to experience life “on the road” as a solo traveler. In fact, she wrote a number of “travelogues” that were written as if he had died and she was on the road. She read some of them to her husband. Now, she’s actually doing it. Her dog, Cooper, is not with her as her stories said he would be, but she’s living the stories nonetheless.

I’ve had similar “fantasies” about embarking on a solo road trip all over the U.S. and Canada, stopping along the way to work (if I could get it) just to get a better sense of who these people I pass on the streets really are. I’d like to get to know people, more than just superficially, who are utterly unlike me. People whose lives followed different paths than mine or whose circumstances simply prevented them from following their dreams that may well have mirrored the life I’ve lived.

On an entirely different topic, a Facebook friend and fellow blogger (Chuck Sigars) who I’ve never met posted some intriguing bits and pieces today about a film in which he played a starring role. I decided to download the film from Vimeo for $8 ($4 to watch online if you don’t want to buy it). I haven’t watched it yet, but I will. And when I do, I will offer my honest assessment of the film. That’s scary. What if I don’t like it? Hell, it’s just like critiquing someone else’s writing. You don’t say “you should be eviscerated for writing such swill!” (At least I don’t.) If you don’t like the intensity of the narrator’s obvious lust for the protagonist, you might say “I think your narrator’s emotional attachment to the protagonist came through clearly. I think you might want to consider distancing your narrator a bit, giving the reader the opportunity to come to her own conclusions about the protagonist.” Anyway, when I’m in the mood to watch Winning Dad, I’ll watch it and write about it.

Continuing my stream-of-consciousness diversions from linear thought, another Facebook friend (I met her once while I was in California) posted a photo of herself on Facebook, along with the caption, “61 yo and my upper lip is disappearing. A lifetime of giving lip, I guess.” My response, based on a hilarious exchange with my brother and his wife while we were visiting in Mexico, was “This reminds me of a misunderstanding of a Simon and Garfunkel lyric from Outrageous. ‘Who’s gonna love you when your lips are gone?’

Everything is a memory. Nothing is now. Nothing is this moment. That makes the admonition, “Be here now,” a distraction, a misdirection, an attempt to distort the present, which comprises nothing but memories, with a present void of both memories and wishes.

The paragraph above is irrelevant to the remainder of this post. But, then, you may have noticed.

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If I Were a Tailor, I’d Stitch a Book

I suppose I always intended to write a book. Or, rather, to have written a book. I’ve never wanted to begin the process, only to complete it. And I wanted no part of the effort involved between starting and finishing it. That’s not true, not really. I enjoy writing. Sometimes, I love it. Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me moderately sane and prevents me from shattering into a million pieces.

Occasionally, I sit at the keyboard and think through my fingers for an hour or more at a time, pausing only briefly between spurts of creative energy to make coffee or flex my hands in a futile effort to relieve arthritic pain. I’d like to compile what I consider the very best of my writing into a book. I don’t know what the compilation would be called. Not an anthology of short stories, because much of what I’d want to include are not short stories. Not an anthology of essays, because…same thing. I suppose I could simply stitch together a stream-of-consciousness compendium that no one, other than I, would want to read. Actually, the compendium may be the best option, if for no other reason than it would enable a reader (if there were one) to develop a picture of who I am, who I have been, who I wanted to be. But, for that to work, the reader would have to care who I am, was, wanted to be. Regardless of arguments against the compendium, I certainly have plenty of material. I’m approaching twenty-six hundred posts on this blog, alone. At the end of August 2015, I recorded how many posts I’d written for other blogs that I either abandoned or, in a fit of writer’s existential rage, destroyed. Musings from Myopia, my first blog (that died at my own hand) lasted 1262 posts. I stopped posting on It Matters Deeply after the 82nd post. I’m not even bothering with other blogs I started but almost immediately abandoned. Thus, I have more than 3900 posts from which to draw material. Let’s be optimistic and say five percent of my posts might be worthy of being edited for inclusion in an anthology of sorts; that gives me 195 posts to massage into a book. But, perhaps I should be more realistic and say only two percent of my posts have a modicum of redeeming value. Still that’s 78 posts. I think there’s a book  hidden in my writing. There’s plenty of material in pieces that never made it to my blogs, too.

I’m thinking all of this to myself, documenting my thoughts on the interwebs. I wonder, could I actually stitch together a readable anthology of—something? Actually, I don’t wonder. I know I could do it. The question is, will I?——

 

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Run for It

I haven’t posted for several days now. It’s not that I haven’t written anything to post. It’s that what little I’ve allowed myself to write has been dark and nervous, as if written by a ground squirrel stuck in a shallow hole, eyes on the sole exit, where a band of malnourished coyotes patiently awaits the opportunity to rip the beast to pieces and greedily lap up its blood.

I wonder, would that squirrel eventually make a run for it? Or would he simply wither and die of thirst and starvation, too afraid to try to escape the inevitable? If the latter, the coyotes might starve to death, perhaps a fitting exchange for the terrified squirrel’s life.

What, I wonder, has pushed me into this hole? Whatever it is, I guess I’d better try to make a run for it.

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Goodbye, Anthony Bourdain

A short while ago, I received a text message from a friend, saying only “Tis a sad day, amigo…Anthony Bourdain dead at 61.” A link to a CNN article about Bourdain’s death was included. Bourdain, who was in France working on an upcoming episode of “Parts Unknown,” is said to have committed suicide. Learning that he had died shocked me. Learning that his death was by his own hand ripped into me like a knife. I suddenly felt like I must have missed signs of his pain. But how would I have known what signs there might have been? How would anyone know what was hidden behind his lined face? Who could have known that behind his self-assured style was a man who must have been tormented?

Perhaps, I thought, I was so shattered by Bourdain’s death because of something I wrote a few days ago.  I went looking through my drafts and found it: When I hear that someone has committed or attempted suicide, I feel profound sadness for the person. I feel empathy for the person because, I suppose, I know the depths of hopelessness and sadness and despair the person must feel. The sensation is that there’s nothing to be done about one’s situation and the way one feels about it. The blackness, the suffocating cloud of emptiness and unworthiness and utter desperation about life, is almost impossible to bear. No one knows the demons hidden beneath a calm exterior. No one knows what goes on in the minds of the people we love. This morning, I’m reminded of just how imperative it is to be supportive of the people around me, to demonstrate in every way I can that I’m there for them, no matter what they’re going through.

All of us should pause to reflect on Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. A wildly successful man— traveling the world, meeting interesting people, getting a close look at all sorts of cultures and their culinary traditions—who seems to embody what happiness is chose to end his life to free himself of a pain about which we know nothing. I can’t help but tear up at the thought of a man who appeared so “strong” but who might have felt unable to reveal to anyone the crushing pain that brought him to an awful decision.

Goodbye, Anthony Bourdain. I’m sorry for the pain that caused you to end your life. My friend, the one who told me about Bourdain’s death, noted in a follow-up that he’d listened to something about mental illness that ended with, “Please be kind to a stranger today. You never know what they might be going through.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Goodbye, Anthony Bourdain.

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A Piece of the World Without Us

I had a phone call from a friend yesterday. The purpose of her call was to share with me an idea for a novel. The idea? Write a novel that follows the development of what is now the United States of America had the land been left “undiscovered” by Columbus, et al, and had evolved entirely under the guidance of its native inhabitants. Though I don’t see myself writing the book (though it’s a possibility, I guess), I was intrigued by the idea.

What if, I asked myself, the indigenous peoples of this country we call home had been left to their own devices, without outside interference? What if Canada and Mexico had, somehow, developed according to history but the “U.S.” had been left untouched, except for trade—or not—with the neighbors north and south? My thoughts go immediately to the extreme improbability that “Indigenous America” (as I’m now calling it) would have been left untouched. I mean, really, how could the indigenous people have maintained control over such a large expanse of territory, while just across the north and south borders development took place apace? My mind struggles with the concept. Without the U.S., what would the rest of the world looked like? Europe would have evolved in very different ways than it did. Would there have been a World War I without the U.S.? What about World War II? And, assuming there would have been a World War II, how would it have concluded, without the U.S.?

It’s impossible to wrap my head around the ways in which the world would have been different. Had it not been for the English colonizers, I believe it would have been someone else. The indigenous people would have had to fight other Europeans for control of the territories in which they lived. Or, perhaps, after Europeans captured and took control of what is now Canada and Mexico, those countries would have grown into imperialist powers, seeking to expand their dominion. Perhaps, without the U.S. and its slave trade, the African tribes that served as sources of the slave trade would have evolved in very different ways, possibly resulting in an industrial revolution in Africa, leading the continent early into an era of modernity and technological leadership. Or, perhaps, European and Asian imperialists would have taken different paths in Africa, becoming partners with Africans, rather than conquerors.

My skeptical and pessimistic self bubbles to the surface, finally, as I consider these and a hundred other scenarios: humans, being the selfish, ravenous beasts they are, would not have let the indigenous people of North America alone. Whether Europeans or Asians or South Americans or Africans, someone or many someones would have licked their chops and waded in to a land of riches, hell-bent on extracting every bit of value they could from its shores.

Or, even if left alone, I suspect the tribes that had long engaged in skirmishes to protect their territories would have eventually gone to war with one another with the objective of taking control.

One thing is certain. Had the indigenous people of what is now the U.S. been left alone, I would not be here today. At this moment, I cannot decide whether that fact makes me sad or glad. I suspect the very idea of “how would I feel” about this fictional history and where it would have left the world today is utterly absurd. But it’s still intriguing.

[The title of this piece is not meant to interfere with or otherwise cause confusion with the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. That book takes “us” well beyond what I’m thinking. It’s an absolutely engrossing book, by the way, in my opinion.]

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Almost Contemporaneous Telling of a Dream

I had a long, involved dream, more like a nightmare, several nights ago. I awoke in the middle of the night (see number 8, below) and rushed into my study to record what I could remember. Even immediately after waking, many elements of the dream were unclear and disjointed. I know it was all part of the same dream, but several of the pieces just don’t fit together. Anyway, for psychiatrists with an interest in nocturnal insanity, here’s what I wrote.

  1. I was in a huge room, taking a class on some kind about motorcycles, taught by three  guys. Harleys and the more expensive motorcycles, they said, were the cream of the crop. The cheaper motorcycles were fine for most people, but more expensive were much better. The differences were in the frills; they said Harleys, for example, allowed riders to remote control stoplights so they turned to green from red.
  2. I questioned why the big difference in price and why “frills” made the high end motorcycles so much better. One of the guys was miffed by my question. He wants to show me that I shouldn’t be questioning him.  He gets in an argument with one of his co-teachers; very loud, angry, screaming. Much more discussion of motorcycles and why cheap ones are okay for the masses, but “chosen people” must ride Harleys and their ilk because only the best bikes will do for them.
  3. Not sure how, but the angry guy then is leading us outside in a car. He is screaming and one of his co-teachers is trying to calm him. Something happens, not sure what, but there was a big blow up.
  4. Next thing I know, we are all (more of us now) on a wet, muddy roadway in the dark. Myra Rustin, a friend who’s also a writer and who goes to my church, is walking next to me, trying to get me to talk to her. She gets angry when I tell her to move over closer to the sidewalk as cars pass.
  5. Next thing, I’m with a group of people, including the angry motorcycle guy, who are trying to find someone planning a hit on a major event with a rifle. We are in a big city, downtown, among tall buildings. We see a guy with a rifle in the distance; he is sprinting away from us. We start chasing him but we lose him, but we see another guy  dressed like the first one. He is wearing black slacks and a black t-shirt; something red is visible, not sure what. Somehow, we are certain a major hit about to be staged. We see another guy with a rifle in the distance. We stop a couple of cops and tell them an attack is imminent; they dismissed us, saying “Five Easy Pieces” is being filmed. We say, NO, this is the real thing. They blow us off. I tell one of them I got his name and will report him (though I did not see his name badge). Just then, a guy exits a subway, carrying a rifle, but he looks different. We tell the cops; the guy explains he is there to film “Five Easy Pieces.” We keep running. We arrive at a big building with lots of outdoor space. A priest stands there with several children, looking like they’re posting for photos. Shots ring out. One little girl is hit and falls to the ground, bleeding. Then the priest goes down. Then more little girls. People are running in a frenzy.
  6. Next scene, we’re entering the same building, but there’s no more frenzy. Just a lot of people, all getting ready for some major social event. We push our way through the crowd. I realize I’m wearing a suit, but no tie. A guy from high school, Mark Westerman, walks by with his wife, but it appears he does not recognize me. Yet he speaks to me in passing. He and his wife leave. For some reason, I am very afraid that he is involved in the rifle attacks.  A few minutes later, they return. He is dressed to the nines. He approaches me and asks if I am John Swinburn. “Yes, and are you Mark Westerman?” He says, “It looks like you’ve done very well for yourself, like you’ve made a lot of money that allowed you to retire.” “No, just living in poverty. This is an old suit that I’ve taken good care of.” He then proclaims all of his accomplishments and all the businesses he owns, expressing how over the top successful he is. People all around me, people I do not know, listen. He leaves. A woman close by suggests he is full of himself. I remain afraid. I think he will return with guns.
  7. Westerman returns. “John Swinburn, may I have a word with you?” I am afraid if I go with him, he will either kill me or have me killed. I try to avoid going. Something else is going on around me, quite a commotion. I get in a car, a Mustang, and start driving around a large, circular driveway. Cars are coming from a different direction, chasing me. Shots ring out. I am scared, but I know I must go someplace where I can stop this rifle attack. I hit the gas and move toward a place I think “my side” is trying to stop the attacks.
  8. My wife gets up and goes into the bathroom; my dream is interrupted. I am grateful.
  9. It’s now 3:54 a.m. and I’ve just finished recording what I remember of a dream. Back to bed.
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Hail to the Roofer

Two and a half months after our house received a new roof (mid-March, 2018), we experienced one hellacious hail storm. On the afternoon of June 2, the promised “spring showers” turned into fifteen minutes of relentless hail raining down. Fierce winds, sheets of rain, brilliant blue lightning bolts, and cracks of thunder accompanied the hail storm. Most of the hail was fairly large, the size of very large marbles; larger than a quarter, but smaller than a half-dollar. But, occasionally, a hail stone the size of an egg would crash onto the deck and ricochet from deck board to siding to metal table. I spent the entire time outside, on the metal-roofed screened porch (not especially bright, I realize in hindsight). The sound of hailstones hitting the roof was, on occasion, deafening as the large stones smashed into the metal. After just a few minutes, hail stones of various sizes littered the deck. It looked a little like we’d had a light snow that had begun to melt.

After the storm had let up, I sent a text to the roofer who had installed our new roof, asking him to come take a look; I wanted to know if the storm had ruined our brand new roof. He responded immediately and said he would take a look the following day (which was yesterday). While my wife and I were out and about, after church, he sent another text. He had examined the roof. “I didn’t see any significant damage to your roof…you do have some cosmetic dings to your turbines and gutter covers, but it’s nothing that should cause any concern.” I’m pleased the storm didn’t do any significant damage, but I wish the storm had attacked the old roof, before we got it replaced.

If I could, I would take action to ensure that no more hail will fall on our roof. But I can’t. So I won’t worry about it.

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