Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's Cool to be Conscious

I keep misreading my blog title as "It's Cool to be Couscous." I suppose one could also say it's Rockin' to be Rice or Bitchin' to be Basmati, but being conscious and awake is my goal every present moment. It's too cold being comatose. I'd rather dance through the flames of life, than lay down and surrender to age and aches. I could have entitled this post "The Post Holiday Blues," but I'm not falling for that again. Besides we still have New Year's to get through. "Get through" makes it sound like a jail sentence, but it's just work.

Couscous is not Concious

This Friday -- New Year's Day -- we will have our annual 20%-Off-Everything-in-the-Store!! sale. It's just a ploy to get customers in the store, but it sometimes works. Bookstores cannot really afford to have sales, because we barely make a profit to begin with. Even Amazon has yet to make a profit, but their aim is not to sell books -- their aim is to crush any and all competition, and profit from your personal data simultaneously.

All is not lost. The days have started to get longer, although the sun still refuses to shine. Bastard. There was some snow spitting out of the clouds yesterday, accompanying the cold rain. I had no confidence that it would stick. A snowy blanket over the neighborhood would sooth and calm me. The world would seem cleaner and quieter for a brief time, and then -- like anything worthwhile -- it melts away, leaving behind mud and grime. Spring is at least three or four moons away, and even then it is sometimes too shy to reveal itself until May or June.

I've heard tell that adventure is not all it's cracked up to be. This is probably the same source that says rich people have the same problems as everybody else. Adventure is in the whip of the beholder, I suppose. For some people, just being a husband and father is adventure enough. Others want to hit it big in Vegas and paint the town red, or maybe burnt sienna. Stepping out is never advised. One must eliminate desire and any hankering for the danger. A life of quiet desperation is the overarching theme of modern man.

As I get older, I start to feel the ache of all those lost adventures. I've put my whip and fedora away, in exchange for a book and an armchair. But my mind is still is still trekking over hill and dale, and even moving through dimensions. I have a wonderful son, who not only fills my life with parental adventure, but he reminds me of my priorities in life. No skipping off to the casino with the rent money. No shaking my booty with the straw-haired widow next door until the cows come home.

So far I've avoided the dreaded cold that is currently moving through our family. Maybe it's my dietary regimen of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or the fact that I walk to and from work every day.  I've seen the ghost of the sun through the clouds the last few days, but maybe we need some kind of sunshine seance to bring that nuclear furnace back into our good graces. Sunshine cures everything, well...except maybe skin cancer.

Sunshine, peeking through the tree tops.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Getting Into the Spirit of Things

My son Justin is such a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary Seattle winter. He's polite and empathetic to others. He's very funny and witty. He's my gift three-hundred and sixty-five days a year, like Christmas in July and Halloween candy at suppertime. He lost two baby teeth last night! I don't think he has any left to lose. He turns ten-years-old in a month, and he is already standing tall at five feet and two inches. He's had a great year at school. Now that he's matured a little, no one is clamoring to put him on ADD meds. Really people! Let boys be boys and kids be kids!

We had a great weekend celebrating the holidays in our small father and son fashion. Friday night we watched "Miracle on 34th Street"; the original with a very young Natalie Wood and the ever-vivacious Maureen O'Hara as the moppet's mother. Edmund Gwen is Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus and steals every scene he is in. Justin was recounting his favorite scenes and characters to me the next day. He is always sure to point out the bad guy in every film, or ask, "is that the bad guy?" if he's not sure. I prefer it when it's not so clear -- more like real life -- but it can be confusing to a young person.

Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwen in "Miracle on 34th Street"
On Saturday night, we watched "A Christmas Carol." It was a TV movie version from 1999, starring Patrick Stewart as Ebeneezer Scrooge and Richard E. Grant as Bob Cratchit. The part of fragile Tiny Tim is played by Lavar Burton sans visor. (Star Trek humor) He also commented the the actor playing the ghost of Christmas past looked transgender. It was Joel Grey. Justin was surprised that it was more of a ghost story than a Christmas story, and at the end, he asked if the appearance of the spirits had all been a dream. They do leave that aspect open in the film, and I said, "Dream or not, it was powerful enough to make him change."

I think, as human beings, we love stories, in which the main character undergoes some sort of transformation, usually from bad-mannered to benevolent, poor to rich, or downtrodden to being on top of the world. We admire these types of stories, because we ourselves find it difficult to change, especially in such a drastic fashion as Mr. Scrooge. Change usually happens in baby steps, although a horrendous tragedy can transform someone overnight, aging them a couple of decades. Being set in one's ways is not just a saying. Our habits and personalities are practically set in stone by the time we're adults. That's why chemicals are often used nudge neurotransmitters in the right direction.

I've often thought that if I were able to view myself in a totally objective fashion I would be shocked and stunned, because the real me would not match my perceived image of myself. Then there is that whole ever-shifting fragility of being thing. There are certainly times when I find it difficult to keep myself together, and that's when I take a walk in the moonlight and connect with my real self, without the trappings of media, politics, judgements, mistakes and wrongful boasts. Sometimes I forget my original face, and forget that I am created of love too.

I am also made of bits of ancient stars, and together all those bits wish you Happy Holidays!
Stay safe and sane.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Picked the Wrong Week

I never thought of myself as someone, who was seasonally depressed. It’s easy to see why people fall into a deeper emotional hole during the holiday season, particularly in Seattle, where night falls at 4pm and lately it hasn’t been much lighter during the day. I used to avoid the consumer madness and holiday induced depression by going camping on Christmas. Ever since I’ve been working in retail (custom picture framing, bookselling…) it is verboten to take time off during the holidays. I took a sick day Monday, and the response was a muttered shit.

Since I’ve been in retail I’ve missed most of the fun leading up to Christmas, because I was too busy working. Now my job is where I get the most of my holiday cheer, i.e. Christmas music, happy shoppers, a sense of togetherness. Recently I found myself getting choked up, while shelving in the S’s, because I could hear the Christmas music emanating from the cafĂ© at the back of the bookstore. They are under strict orders to play holiday music through New Year’s Day.

Many of you may remember “Airplane,” that classic comedy from 1980, with those great one-liners by Lloyd Bridges: “I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.” Well, I can similarly state that I picked the wrong week to run out of anti-depressants. I always think when I’m getting low on my little pink and white pills that a day or two without them is no big deal, but apparently that is not so, especially less than two weeks before Christmas. After calling in sick yesterday, I stayed in bed all day, perfecting my mopey mode. I’m two steps away from shuffling around in a bathrobe, unshaven and shopworn, and mumbling communist aphorisms.

Being a divorced parent comes with a bucket of stress, so it’s never easy during the Christmas season. A lot of divorced families compete, trying to out-gift each other, smothering their kids with useless toys and not enough love. Here at my religious household, we do not celebrate Christmas. Not even a pathetic Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I have strung a row of multi-colored lights across one of my bookcases, and when I light it, I actually feel a little flutter of warmth inside.


Last week my son informed me that he would rather not come to my house at Christmas, since we don't celebrate, which to him means no gifts. I always buy him a few gifts, even though that's not what the season is about to me. He's asked for a Lego set, which sounds like fun to me too! I've also promised to install his basketball hoop before spring.. Promises. Promises. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I might receive a surprise bonus this Christmas, which would enable me to fix my desktop computer, in addition to some other repairs and necessities in my life...like socks and underwear. 

Well, since my midnight snack last night was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I think I'll head down to Bagel Oasis for lunch. There seems to be a brief respite between rainstorms, so I should have a dry walk down the hill to the bookstore. Now that I've restocked my anti-depressants, I should be able to skip to work with a song in my heart, and an angst-free head. Yeah, right.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Shock to the System

I cannot fathom the mindset of a couple, who drop off their six month old daughter with her grandmother and then attend the company holiday party. Hubby and wife then depart only to return to the party to slaughter 14 people, and injuring at least seventy more. Now when mom drops off her baby with grandma for the day, grandma will have to ask, "Will you be early, or are you killing your co-workers today?" What could possibly motivate both husband and wife (husband was born in America) to stock up on armaments, strap on bulletproof vests, climb into their black SUV and then proceed to commit one of the most heinous crimes in recent U.S. history?

Terrorism is just a label. Of course, we're all terrorized now. Anybody can buy a gun, order ammunition online, pick up assault rifles at a convention, and it's all legal. The illegal part is what you as the consumer decide to do with your arsenal of deadly weapons. Did someone laugh at you instead of with you at work recently? Maybe you have a firm belief that you can blow yourself into a million meaty bits, taking out dozens with you, and end up in Allahland with 72 virgins. That means another 72 fresh virgins, waiting around for every deadly Tom, Dick and Akbar to show up at their door, reassembled and reanimated after their suicide attack to get their lovin'.

The fourteen victims of the shooting in San Bernardino last week.
The gun argument is a no-brainer to me and unfortunately, it seems that those without brains are winning the argument. The young married couple, who splashed the headlines with the most recent bloodbath on U.S. soil, got all of their weapons and armaments legally. Yet, we have pasty chicken hawks in charge of the deciding gun laws. The insane are now definitely running the asylum.

High profile mass murders like the recent incident in San Bernardino, make people confused and angry. Even I start having thoughts such as, Maybe we should drag the shooters' bodies through the streets, like they do in the Middle East. I don't even have to go deep down to know that more gunfire, and explosions are not the answer unless the answer you're looking for is more death. We've glorified murder and guns for a long time here in Corporate America. From cowboys and Indians to cops and robbers, it's always good guys vs. bad guys until the dust settles and we all wake up with blood on our hands.

I am heartbroken and sick for the shooting victims and their families, but let's also keep in mind that about one hundred people die every day in car accidents. That means nearly twenty-thousand people will lose their lives in vehicular collisions before Santa has a chance to fill their stockings with candy or coal, depending on their behavior throughout the year. Approximately 1500 people die every day from heart disease. The numbers are slightly lower for cancer patients. Suicides account for a just over a hundred deaths nationwide on a daily basis. That's another twenty-thousand human beings that are going to end their lives before being able to open their presents, or take the obligatory phone call from mom and dad. No more holidays. No more weekends. No more breaths, or heartbeats, or thoughts of tomorrow.

I cannot imagine the pain one must be under to be able to slide the cold barrel of a pistol into their mouth and squeeze their thumb one last time, ejecting their brains onto the wall for loved ones to clean up. Pain is contagious and sometimes is used as a weapon against others. Their is no sensible reason for a young couple to enter a building during the middle of a workday and start killing people with cold precision and forethought. Motives mean nothing to the families of the victims. Whatever impetus brought about this bloody massacre is insane and insoluble.

There are not many bright sides on these dark rainy days lately. I am always happy to be the father of my wonderful son, and I yearn for his presence when he's not around. I cherish my intellectual curiosity and overall skepticism.  I greatly value my compassion and empathy for others, even though being more nonchalant would be less emotionally burdensome. Human thought has been so destructive over time, especially when the more harmful thoughts are transformed into action. 

Let's try to dig beneath the veneer of this holiday season and find the love we have for ourselves and others. Let's share our smile today. We are all human beings, frail and fearful. We need to love and support each other, or we're merely bystanders, fiddling about while the world burns down. Religion is not needed to love and cherish our fellow human beings, just empathy and a listening ear.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Mouthful of Moral Ambiguity

A sunny, but chilly afternoon. The internet is abuzz with news of more shootings, and moral judgements. Always with the moral judgements. The internet with its vague air of anonymity, has made it much easier for people to be judgmental and dogmatic, because they can spew their ignorant vitriol without ever having to leave their room and mom's apron strings. They don't have to actually engage in the world. I get claustrophobic after a few hours online. Too many opinions and not enough factual data.

Certain murders are high profile and get lots of media attention. These are usually mass shootings, serial killers or something else that makes it noteworthy, like a live on camera murder. We all like to think that humans are better than that. If you murder someone, you must be some kind of moral aberration, thinking that society's morals don't apply to you, but the truth is much uglier. As cynical as it sounds, we have no higher purpose. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it does not bend toward justice. (Sorry MLK.)

The onlookers, milling about at a lynching, snacks and smiles can be seen. How many Christians are in the crowd?

We -- as a nation -- thought we were growing beyond racism and bigotry, but then we elected a black president and the haters came out of the woodwork like it's a termite's holiday. One of those haters, a Herr Trump, is leading the republican party. A psychotic self-confessed savior ("No more baby parts") went into a women's health clinic, and killed three people, including a police office, who was also a co-pastor at his church. The republicans see no need to condemn these heinous act, and their silence is sounds like support to their constituents. 

We are not too far away from starting to see modern pictures like the one above, with the violent rhetoric of the right, and insane Canadians like Ted Cruz, saying the most violent crimes are committed by Democrats. Trump is rallying the anti-Muslims, and the anti-immigrants, even though we're theoretically a country composed of immigrants. Tell that to the Native Americans. 

I'll leave you with a few choice quotes from one of the best books I read in 2015, Straw Dogs by British Philosopher John Gray:
“Genocide is as human as art or prayer.”
“Values are only human needs...turned into abstractions.”
“Morality is a sickness peculiar to humans.”
“Humans think they are free, conscious beings when in truth they are deluded animals.”
The above quotes may sound dark and cynical, but the reality of life is randomness and chaos. All the more reason to treat others as you would prefer to be treated. Some call this the "Golden Rule" and believe that it came from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, but that's not quite the truth.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sometimes I Cry

Yes, sometimes the tears do flow, and I'm okay with that. In fact, I try to really let myself go and have a good cry, but it isn't always easy. When I first started taking anti-depressants, I found that I could not cry and that made me want to cry. The sadness was still there -- it's always there -- but there was no release through salty tears. Maybe I've grown more accustomed to the various chemicals being time-released in my brain, but these days I find it easier to get choked up and shed some tears.

Recently I had a good cry while sitting on the deck with the mist falling on my face. The trigger was seeing our cat Tommy downstairs. I was doing some pre-vacation laundry when I saw Tommy wobble over to the cat food dish. He's old and feeble and he can barely make it to the litter box, but he's hanging on.  The tears started to well up, so went out onto the deck and listened to the to the saddest song I know. [See video at bottom of post.]

I've always cried during movie tearjerkers, but I haven't often found the time to cry for my own sorrows.  Sorrows covering many years, starting with six months in an orphanage. Of course, I don't remember the first six months of my ever-changing life. I barely remember the first six years! I have a deep compassion for life, which enables me to carry more sorrow around than most people do. I avoid the bugs on the ground as I walk down the street. I talk to the crows that populate my neighborhood. I make friends with the spiders that live on our deck.

I cry for the babies washed up on shore, and the babies forgotten on our own streets. I cry for the downtrodden, who just want something respectable to do, so that they can crawl out of their ruts and stand tall again. I cry because there are some actions I cannot undo. Wrongs can be rewritten, but not corrected.

Hugs are hearty, wholesome and recommended by  9 out of 10 doctors. (That 10th doctor is a dick!) Love can never be overstated. It's a label for an emotion that is bigger than most of us can comprehend. Humans are inherently very judgmental and biased, so unconditional love does not come to us naturally. Some even struggle with parental love, which should be the easiest and most indestructible love in the world. It was okay to be absent thirty-nine days during my last year of high school -- I still graduated -- but I cannot afford to ever be absent from my son's life.

Our brief vacation is officially over, which means I'll be strolling to work in a little while. It was nice to be out on the Olympic Peninsula; the night sky filled with stars, and coyotes yipping. There was plenty of time to read, relax and reset, and sometimes I could actually forget that we were staying in tiny cottage situated on the front lawn of some well-off folks, living up the hill in their chalet. There was only one day when the owner played golf on the course abutting our cottage. Now I'm back in town and ready to kick some holiday retail ass!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chaos

Most of us are still trying to process what happened in Paris a few days ago. There was a concerted attack by a group of crazy well-funded terrorists (daesh), who purposely targeted an area known to be populated by a young and diverse crowd. Open-minded young people, out for an evening of fun, gunned down in a surrealistic bloodbath. The death toll stands at 129 with over three-hundred injured, nearly a hundred of those critically.

Moments after the attack in France, people were online, confirming that age-old adage: Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. These days we all have our own digital soap box, be it Facebook, or Instagram, or good old blogger.com. Some Facebook users have put a filter over their profile photos, shading it the colors of the French flag. Sending out thoughts and prayers is being "liked" quite a bit. Others are asking who to pray to: the god that caused the attack or the one that failed to prevent the carnage.

Even Georgia butterball Newt Gingrich tweeted shortly after the tragedy, "Imagine a theater with 10 or 15 citizens with concealed carry permits. We live in an age when evil men have to be killed by good people." Who knew that the twit could tweet, but his online utterance seems a bit simplistic to me, breaking the world down into good guys and bad guys. Actor and heartthrob Rob Lowe had to defend his tweet: "Oh, NOW France closes its borders. . ." when the French president closed the borders shortly after the attack. Angelina Jolie wants us also to remember and pray for the victims of the suicide bombings in Beirut last Thursday, when 43 were killed and 239 were left in injured and in critical condition. She wants us to know that she's praying for both countries. 

My first reaction to the attack was, "Well, people have been killing people for a long time." Humans have been taking the lives of their fellow humans since they first learned to smash rock against skull. The murder rate wasn't as high, but the global population was sparse at the time. Now we're crowding each other out, and we have weapons that can take out thousands with a single BOOM! We live in a country that has not collectively taken responsibility for dropping not one but two atomic bombs on Japan near the end of World War II. Our reaction is to any global violence is yet more global violence.

I joined the air force when I was young and naive. I worked in the nuclear missile field, and quickly learned about the earth obliterating power of our nuclear arsenal. I also learned about nifty things like nerve gas, and the fact that you could inhale an odorless, tasteless aerosol that would then cause you to bleed out of every orifice on your body.  I was in service during the Iranian Hostage Crisis and I remember someone had carved out of the snow, covering a length of chain link face: "NUKE EM TILL THEY GLOW." I was starting to grow some sort of consciousness and I thought that murderous phrase was no laughing matter. 

We seem determined to obliterate ourselves, maybe even drive our own species to extinction, leaving the damaged planet to the cockroaches and water bears. The late Rodney King implored after his beating by the good cops of L.A., "Can we all get along? can we get along?" Apparently not Rodney. Human beings are all too busy judging each other, and retaliating for perceived wrongs done against them. What's worse is that the human species is hella dangerous in large crowds. That whole mob mentality thing. Give them guns and ammunition and it's like we're skipping carelessly towards the apocalypse. Fiddling about while the world burns.

Now I veer away from the violent and steer towards vacation, or what passes for a vacation in my world. Thursday morning we will be heading out to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and staying in a [love] shack on the back forty of someone’s property. Tomorrow is our fourth wedding anniversary, which is reason enough to slip away, but who needs reasons to take a respite from the madness.  There is a widescreen TV and access to Netflix. There is a futon, a single bed and bunk beds, so plenty of places to nap.  There is a wood stove, which always adds to the romantic atmosphere, and a view of the Olympic Mountains…when the sky is clear.

Four nights and five days to read and relax. Four nights and five days without work. Without intrusive phone calls. Without the traffic noise. No agenda. No internet access, so no checking social media to see whose asshole is spewing opinions again. Will it be Angelina pleading for the Syrian dolphins? Or Rob Lowe dissing the Special Olympics for clumsy competitions? Maybe Bruce Willis will help us feel safe, by offering to take on ISIS (daesh) for us!! Meanwhile, I'll be in the woods reconnecting with reality (aka meatspace.)

This is what retaliation looks like.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I've never thought of myself as technically minded, even though I learned electronics in the air force, and continued those studies after my discharge. I learned on the old Commodore 64, which was just a few steps up from the abacus. Even though my hands were attempting the electro-mechanical projects before me, my head was floating in the creative cloudscape above. I worked in the technical field for over a decade, before opting for a job doing custom picture framing, and then onto bookstore work, where I still am today.

I've been rambling about this earth for over fifty years now, and I've never felt comfortable in the society where I reside. Since my early days in high school, I've wanted to escape this social reality and make my way in the natural world; the last vestiges of wilderness. It seems though, that I have the type of personality that would rather squander its years in a sort of self-induced suffering.

Say what you will about "The Bridges of Madison County", but there was a line in the film script that still resonates with me. While reading their mother's journal, the children come upon the line:
". . . but as one gets older, one’s fears subside. What becomes more and more important is to be known -- known for all that you were during this brief stay."

As I've gotten older, I have become less fearful of being myself. I've accepted aspects of my personality that I always fought against in the past. I have acquiesced to the fact that I will always battle the dark nemesis known as depression. I do my best to avoid the ruts and ditches along this route, and even when I slip a little, I use mindfulness and yesca to stay calm. I don't pray. I don't hang out with Jack Daniels.

A few nights ago, I asked my wife how she was feeling about Us. She replied: "Well, there's a feeling of disconnect, but that's been there for a while." I have written in the past about my father commenting that he and I had "never clicked." I'm not in contact with my siblings, and I can count the number of trusted friends I have on one hand . . . a hand without fingers. I suppose that at some point I will probably have to take some responsibility for these distances between others and myself. I always point to a lack of understanding on their part; they just don't get me. But then I realize that I don't get me either!

I want to be known and accepted, but I still avoid myself when I see me coming around the corner. I step into a spare doorway, so that I don't have to confront myself and the more ugly aspects of my persona. I'd rather walk along, trying to console myself with the fact that it's all an illusion. The colors. The sounds. The sense of touch. All illusions created by our own brain, which is what forms our sense of self in the first place. We must be comfortable with our illusions, or life becomes a rocky ride.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cheer Up Charlie

Cheer up, Charlie
Give me a smile
What happened to the smile I used to know
Don't you know your grin has always
Been my sunshine;
Let that sunshine show..

Look up, Charlie
You'll see a star
Just follow it and keep your dreams in view
Pretty soon the sky is going to clear up
Cheer up Charlie, do
Cheer up Charlie
Just be glad you're you.


Ah, Charlie Bucket. What a miserable life you led, but you managed to win the golden ticket and the world opened up to you. You were given the chocolate factory and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the years, I have often sung the first few lines of "Cheer Up Charlie" to friends, who were feeling down, but I have yet to find a golden ticket. Just some old receipts and dog poop.

I don't believe that I have seasonal affective disorder; or rather I believe that we all have S.A.D. to a certain degree. Hell, the days are getting shorter and shorter, and most days are gray and overcast anyway. Lately the skies have been dumping rain on us, and the wind has been making a general nuisance of itself. Soon the citizens will turn into ravenous consumers, believing that buying is the reason for the season. Some folks believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, but I think it has more to do with the winter solstice, frigid temps and hunkering down until spring has sprung. 

I always thrive more when I'm outdoors and it really doesn't matter what the weather. When I stay inside too long, I start to feel claustrophobic, and my breathing becomes shallow. The cure is either go outside, or put a tinfoil hat on my head. I find living in the city suffocating enough, but now Seattle is going full speed ahead on these tall ugly apartment buildings. I'm not sure who is going to fill these apartments, but I guarantee that they will be looked upon as ugly tenements in a decade or so. It always happens.


I enter this coming season with a feeling of trepidation. In the past few years, I have felt down around the holidays. There are more than a few reasons for this. First up is the fact that I work in retail. Enough said on that one. Secondly, I share custody of my son, so that usually throws a wrench, or at least a few bolts into the seasonal mix. And then there's the fact that I married into a family that doesn't celebrate any holidays. Not even St Swithin's Day!

A lone celebrant is not really a celebrant at all. He's more a candidate for therapy, and a Christmas stocking filled with Xanax. I have a box of Christmas decorations that I have not removed from my closet in over four years. Will this be the year that I string colored lights in my office? Or maybe a wreath on the front door? It doesn't have to be a Christmas wreath. Just something to lift my spirits at the end of the day, after I've walked by all the homes warmed by a seasonal glow, with turkeys in the oven and relatives on the phone.

All of our lives we are in search for that perfect other, who is in sync with us. Someone who understands our ways, and byways. The reality is that at the end of the day we are alone with our thoughts. Thoughts that no one -- especially any deity -- is privy to. We can attempt to communicate our thoughts, as I do with this blog, but our language cannot contain the universe within. Maybe we wouldn't be as lonely if we could read each others' minds. Maybe we would start to recognize our common frailties and we wouldn't be as judgmental of others. (There was a sale on maybes lately, so I had to throw a few in this last paragraph.)

Peter Ostrum as Charlie Bucket. It was the first and only film that Ostrum made. He grew up to become a large animal veterinarian.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Land of the Lost

There was quite a stretch of time when I could not remember my dreams, but over the last few years that has changed. I have a  reoccurring dream a few times a week; sometimes more, sometimes less. In the dream I am lost, sometimes in a city, and at other times in a rural area. The locales are an amalgam of places from my past. In some episodes, it's the last day of my job and I'm wandering through the building, looking for an exit. Often I'm trying to avoid familiar faces: family and foe. The plot-lines are variations on a theme, but the common thread is a feeling of malaise and helplessness.

I don't believe that dreams have any hidden or obvious meaning, besides the fact that a stressful dream is symptomatic of not dealing with the stress that occurs in the waking life. I'd much rather fall into dreams filled with booty and bodacious tatas rather than nightmares populated with bad-asses and wrong turns. I wake from these dreams feeling ill at ease, pieces of the dream hanging on like spider webs in the wind and then I need to start the day and let that silken dream fall away.

There is probably a good reason that facing our fears and eradicating stress are not our national pastimes. Instead, our pastimes are all about avoidance and diversion. We can walk by the numerous homeless human beings on the way to the football game, where we'll drop about five-hundred bucks on mindless entertainment. The hillsides parallel to Interstate 5 are dotted with dome tents and tarps, where a multitude of homeless people are doing their best to survive in a cruel world, where help is only a hot-line, that puts you on endless hold.

When I was younger, I would purposely get lost in the miles of woods behind our home. Getting lost equaled an adventure. Now if someone gets lost, they'll eventually stumble into a Wal*Mart, or some other ugly American edifice. No sense of adventure there. As a youth, I dreamt of running away to Alaska, and homesteading. Escaping society by living in a remote cabin seemed the only sane thing to do. Now my knees ache in damp weather, and my days of chopping wood are over, as if they ever began.

Apparently I've been lost my entire life. I joined the air force on a whim at the naive age of seventeen. After my escape from the icy confines of Grand Forks air force base, I quickly met a needy young woman, who was looking to escape her alcoholic mother, and a father with wandering hands. Now it's late in the year 2015, and I am about to celebrate my fourth year of marriage to my third wife. I'm a little clueless as to how I got here. It wasn't like I thought ahead.

I suspect that there are some people, who map out their lives, sticking to their schematic and fulfilling all their goals; meeting or surpassing expectations. Meanwhile the majority of us are flying by the seat of our pants. We look back and think, if only I had done things differently...taken a different path, but we only have the path we're on. Sometimes on our journey, the sun is shining and it's a festive atmosphere. At other times we are alone in a dark wood, with strange creatures just beyond the treeline.

If only there was a AAA guide for the important journeys in life, pointing out obstructions and alternate routes. Instead, we are wandering about with a white cane and a trembling chihuahua as our guide dog. The good news is that I have been finding more reasons to pause and absorb the moment at hand. The moon, rising through the clouds. The smell of autumn in the air. Cuddling with a loved one on a cold winters' night. All worthy rest stops on the highway of life.