Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 for all original literary content by author(s)

21 December 2010

Must Be Getting Close (Fun with Google Earth)

I use Google Earth.  A lot.  With it, I often use USGS overlays which provide, among many other things, names of features such as creeks, hills, and valleys.  I was following up on two clues in looking for old family homesteads from the early 1800's, "back east" as we say in Texas.

While looking for feature names which might indicate an association with my ancestors (e.g., Gray's Creek or Butt Valley) these are two upon which I stumbled which made me smile:

Peckerwood Hollow
Holy Butt! (Batman!)

Yes, like everyone else, there are quite a few Butts in my ancestry.  I come from a long line of Butts.  I am half-Butt myself, and so come by it naturally.  My great-grandfather, Horace, was (of course) called Harry Butt.  No matter how fine one's sense of humor may be, it should never appear in the naming of one's children... yet, my ancestry on that side of my family does include "Ophelia Butt."

While using for some of my research, I ran across a very distant relative but not a direct ancestor named James T. Kirk.  He lived before cameras were invented and so there were no pictures.  I, however, added one-- it just seemed the thing to do:

So, I end with a list my favorite real-life names:

  • Bunky Hill;
  • the twins, Kelly Green and Forrest Green;
  • I met him as Major Marvel, but many had known him back when he was a Captain; and
  • Major Powers (and he was a Chaplain, at that!)

20 December 2010

My Favorite Ghost Story (against the common Post-Modern world)

A year or two ago in the midst of my avocational research on Texas history, I ran across the story of Josiah Wilbarger who was a neighbor of my family during the days of the Republic of Texas.

The main part of the story is well known, but not the ghost-story combined  with a dream which conspired to save the life of the man who had been scalped alive by Indians.  I pick of the version of the story where it continues after two survivors make their way to Reuben Hornsby's place:

Shot in the neck and being stunned, he heard but did not feel himself being scalped, Josiah Wilbarger lay motionless until the Indians departed, leaving him alone with his two dead companions.  He described the sound of the scalping as like that of hearing distant and rolling thunder-- probably the sound of a blade being drawn across his skull.

The first night, he managed to crawl to a puddle and drink before passing out again.  He saw his sister before him giving him words of comfort and promising that help would soon arrive.  His sister had lived in Saint Louis, and it was not yet known to anyone in Texas that she had died the night before.  Back at Hornsby's Station on the Colorado River, word had reached the settlers that Josiah and the two others had been shot, killed and scalped.  Preparations were made to leave at first light to collect the bodies and all went to sleep.
At some time in the night, Sarah, Reuben Hornsby's wife, woke from a profound dream.  She woke her husband to tell him she had seen Josiah Wilbarger in her dream and that Josiah was still alive.  Her husband dismissed the warning as a dream and therefore meaningless and went back to sleep.  Sarah had another dream and woke her husband again to share the details, saying that Josiah was alive, but badly injured, covered in blood and with some cloth draped over his head.  Again, Mr, Hornsby dismissed Sarah's dream as meaningless.
Sarah had no way of knowing that Josiah, after having been stripped of his clothes by the murderous and thieving attackers, had been left with only one sock which he had placed over his head to protect the bare skull from flies.  She awoke yet again, telling her husband that she knew exactly where Josiah was, that he needed help and that the men must leave at once.  The men did leave, and found Wilbarger exactly as Sarah had told.  He survived several years wearing a silk cap over the wound all the while as his scalp never fully healed.

I think I first read the account of the both the encouraging ghost of his sister and of Mrs. Hornsby's dream in James T. de Shield's, Border Wars of Texas, The Herald Company, Tioga, Texas, 1912.

I like that story so much because it sounds true-- that is, like how things really work.

Let me explain that; which is, after all, why I am presenting the story in the first place.

In my academic life, I have often run across students (and even a few professors) who have an impression that our technology means we have become smarter as a species.  There is, of course no evidence that human intelligence has increased because of society or technology-- it is merely presumption that we are better than those before us.  It does seem that about ten thousand years ago something did kick-in within the human race when humans began making dramatic advances in society and technology, but it is nothing new.

Arrogance is also not new:  Not mine, not yours, not theirs.  Dismissing ten thousand years of human wisdom out of arrogance that we are smarter is making our lives meaningless.  I read a non-mystical account of the Wilbarger scalping out loud to a friend this morning.

She answered, "It was all so horrible."
I said, "My ancestors lived that life, and I envy them."
"Why do you envy them?"
"Because the world did not hide behind a mask as much in those days as it does now-- the brutality and horrors were easy to see, and life was more honest-- they were so busy with basic human needs, but worked in defense of the innocent and justice when it was necessary."
"The world was evil."
"The world is still evil.  In society, we all wear masks, and we all look so much alike that the evil is hidden and many know it is there but choose not to see it-- pretending the masks they see and the masks they wear are the reality."

Just before the battle of San Jacinto in which the Texans were the only one of the three Mexican states to have rebelled against tyranny which succeeded, five or more Texas scouts were out probing the advancing Mexican forces and taking prisoners to be brought to General Houston for interrogation as he prepared for the decisive battle.  It was dangerous work and one of the scouts would lose his life doing that work, yet it had to be done, the men were good at it, and the risk was worth it to them.  Evil had to be stopped.

The men brought a Mexican prisoner back to camp and then left to go out and continue their reconnoiter mission.  The men in the camp stayed up late getting drunk and eventually turned on the prisoner, beating him to death.  Can you imagine what the scouts thought and felt when they returned in the morning?  They risked their lives every night doing this important work and men who risked far less not only did not value that work, but valued the life of a human being so little.

One of the men in camp who did no scouting work for the unit wrote his memoirs decades later.  He never mentions the incident with the murder of the prisoner which took place in his presence.  He lists the men in his unit that he claims he can still remember.  He mentions not one of the scouts.  His mask which he holds to the world is in his memoirs.  He was a valiant soldier, a proud Texas Ranger.  He was chagrined that when he finally meets General Houston (who was outraged by the murder in the Ranger camp) the day after the great battle, that he then gets assigned to lowly "baggage duty."

The scouts however, wrote no memoirs.  The son of one and the brother of another was killed in action while out on such a reconnoiter mission seven days after the great battle when the war was over for all intents and purposes.    That made two senseless deaths: the Mexican prisoner, and the fellow Ranger.  Imagine being out alone every night probing an enemy force and knowing that their own spies are also out hunting you.  Imagine weeks of that with no rest.  Imagine the hand to hand combat that took place in the mud and the woods during the dark of night which resulted in another prisoner being captured alive.  Imagine the anxiety of making an escape with an unwilling companion and sometimes being pursued by the enemy in the process-- having to elude or outrun because death was the only other option.

The man who wrote the memoirs cannot imagine because to do so would require the removal of his own mask so that he could see clearly the world as it is, see himself as he is, and see others as they are.  Some evil, some truly good and both always at war even when wearing the same uniforms.

From: here
Good warriors often suffer from a soldiers disease.  In our present time, we call that disease, "post traumatic stress disorder" and one of the most common diagnostic criteria (but common only if you know someone who has this disease) is that they have a fore-shortened sense of future life.  I firmly believe that that "symptom" is not of disease, but of being unmasked and peering into the real world, able to see through the mask which it wears.  They know, because they see (have seen and will not look away) reality unmasked.  They have no sense of future life because they constantly perceive the very real evil and threat.  They do not cower, rather they are ever-watchful and always the first to react to a threat-- even as others perceive nothing at all and pretend safety behind their masks, still worn.

Unmasked, facing reality as one's true self, good is not a judgment, not some fondly spoken of (or written of) altruism, but rather good is a powerful and rare force.  Good is both possessed and possesses.  The good are set apart, which is the meaning of holy.  The holy dead seek out their beloved ones and desire to help and because they are good, their desire has powerful effect.  The unmasked good who still live have that power, they see in dreams, perceive with other eyes and they act, both in dreams and awake.  All of the truly good have that ability and power and they become more human with each such exercise of that life.

The post-modern experiment screams its denial of the good and then of the denial of the power and even the denial of the ability of the human soul.  It screams behind the mask but the unmasked do not heed its screams.  Angered by being ignored, society screams louder at those who have unmasked themselves, "Come back!  Come back!"  and finally, fearing its own indignity, offers only, "Or else!"  To the unmasked, the threat sounds like a whimper, and the unmasked grieve the souls trapped within the masks, hiding, fearful, denying, and weighing happiness as greater than purpose and meaning.  The unmasked grieve, but can only say, "Follow me, cross the line in the sand to the higher-- the better."

I know this because I hear the pleas of the unmasked-- I hear them.  Their grief causes their voices to break, but there is still strength in their voices, it hints at meaning and purpose.  Sometimes, I take off my mask and then I can see the good, but I can not see my way.

And I don't remember much of reading
 this as a kid, but it seems very appropriate.

17 December 2010

Gluten Free Foods Everyone Eats

Searching for Gluten-Free foods on the web is ridiculously frustrating.
  • I am not trying to lose weight, 
  • I'm not trying to prepare for the Olympics, 
  • I am not trying to include a make-believe bread in every meal, and 
  • I am not interested in recipes!  
Dang-it!  Quit shoving your "gluten-free" industry down my throat and get your cotton picking hands out of my wallet! Wheat is good, I just may not be able to eat it.

I wear boots, not Birkenstocks, the women I date shave their legs and under their arms and not one much cares if the whales get saved or not.  I am a bachelor, so I can cook but Hell will freeze over if I'm going to spend an hour in a kitchen every day for the rest of my life.  It isn't going to happen.  I'm six foot one and one hundred seventy pounds-- I'm not interested in your health foods and believe vegans are evil-- it is against my religion not to eat meat.

Get it?!

Look, it is not all that complicated, and although I am new to this, for my bachelor-like eating habits the stuff NOT to do, goes like this:  No sandwiches, no pizza, no gravy, nothing breaded and nothing battered and worst of all, no beer.

You know there are several web pages out there which want me to know that vegetables and fruits are gluten free?  Really?  No kidding?  My God!  What an amazing revelation!

It appears that providing a menu for minimizing the life-style changes for gluten-free eating has fallen to me and to a grateful world, I answer, "You're welcome!"

So, I have been to the grocery store and reading ingredients of my favorite easy meals-- the bachelor stuff.  Wow!  I never noticed how often I ate meals that included gravy!  I'm going to miss gravy.

But here is what I have found that I can get:

Night Hawk has at least two meals that are gluten free (GF):

Night Hawk's Steak 'n Taters
(Chopped steak and tater tots)

Night Hawk's Steak 'n Corn
(Chopped steak and a side of sweet corn)
Night Hawk even lists these on the FAQ page as being gluten-free-- so I won't feel like I need to check the ingredients every time I go to the store to see if anything has changed.

Health Choice's
Roasted Chicken Verde
Healthy Choice doesn't claim gluten-free, but at least at the moment, the product contains no gluten-- they do claim on their web-site that ingredients change and you have to read the label in the store.

So far, those are the only frozen dinners (TV dinners) I have located which are gluten-free-- read the ingredients of your favorites because I only read what looked good to my hungry eyes.

There are a few prepared rice dishes which I am buying, but they are sides-- not meals. Tonight, I'll microwave some Mexican rice I bought in the freezer section, include a side of guacamole, and spread some refried beans (frijoles, pronounced free-hole'-lays) on a couple of tostadas (lightly fried corn tortillas) --dressing those with some chopped green onions if I am not too lazy to spend 90 seconds doing that, and then add salsa on top.

Tostada, garnished as desired--
I use frijoles instead of ground meat
because it is fast and easy.
I am also wrapping hot dogs in soft corn tortillas, and using those same un-fried (soft) tortillas in place of sandwich bread for other meals including peanut butter and cold-cuts.  It's not as good, but it is satisfying.

The idea is that if it is bread of any kind it must be corn meal.  Some southern-fried batters are cornmeal only, but don't bet your health on it without checking.

That is a substantial part of my diet that I cannot enjoy for now (I may not have celiac disease, but I'm suspicious and staring my second month of gluten-free, and bored with the obvious cornbread-rich diet I used for the first month).

Snacks and quick and easy at home in the kitchen stuff:
Bacon and Eggs
Fritos and Salsa
Fritos and Guacamole
Peanut Butter, by itself
Jelly on Corn Bread
Refried beans on Corn Tostado (MOST corn tortillas, fried or otherwise, use only cornmeal): Check the labels, a lot of cornbread items include a bit of wheat flour.

Perhaps I can do a bit better.  (But compared to what all the other web pages on gluten-free diets offer, perhaps a three year old can do a bit better using a dart board?)

My shopping list this last time looked something like this:
  • Baking Potatoes
  • Peanuts,
  • Bananas,
  • Milk,
  • Trail mix,
  • Cheese,
  • Chocolate,
  • Rice,
  • Wine,
  • Beans,
  • Every kind of meat of every nation, creed and color,
  • Several tins of Vienna Sausage,
  • Baked Beans in a can
  • Corn (cobbed or after a cob-ectomy)
  • Fred Rice (if the soy sauce uses traditional grains  like rice flour instead of a tiny bit of wheat flour)
  • Mexican Rice
  • Chili (Stagg Chili does not use wheat flour as a thickening agent like most canned chilies do).

The "Steak house" variety use Mesa Flour
(corn flour) and has no beans--
Texans don't put beans in chili--
and it is delicious.

Since I started this, my first impulse was to grieve (in order), hamburger buns, cake, biscuits and gravy.  That didn't last long.  I feel a lot better, and look better.  Probably the removal of drive-through food has also contributed, because besides no longer having a protruding abdomen (from swollen small intestine), my skin just looks better-- probably because of more nutrients reaching all of my body.

Because my energy level is up-- way up-- I am not only more active, but [as one whose favorite quiet activities require substantial mental processes (writing, creating something with my hands, researching, and tackling complex and dynamic problems)] I have noticed that I am, well, smarter.  I have heard that intense thinking burns about 200 calories in an hour (about as much as walking for that long), and that it has been suggested that is why so few persons practice intense thinking-- it tires you out!

Practically and in all seriousness, several complex concepts I have been struggling with have come to satisfying conclusions and or theories since I have begun this gluten-free diet.  Remember, gluten is good, but if your body reacts incorrectly to it and so damages your small intestines, you begin to become malnourished.

Here is the deal that got me started on this gluten-free experiment:

02 November 2010

Break time from writing...

These amuse me.

Yakety-Sax audio is below-- you WANT it!

This too amuses (in a dark and disturbing way).

I'll credit the man riding the giant goat thing when I can get the link to work.

The exploding head seems to originate from

I am quite sure that Yakety-Sax is necessary for the goat to reach it full late night snorting laughter potential so I will attempt to add that link here:

25 October 2010

Mars needs trees

15-Feb-2008 from thisisnthappiness

Sunrise from Mars, or maybe it is sunset.  The distance, the colors and the knowledge that the subject is familiar yet the perspective is alien.  Mars needs trees.

23 October 2010

I believe that love is ...

From 10 Aug 2010: thisisnthappiness
The caption reads, "The belief that love will transform and mature an individual is much like the primitive Indian notion that a vocation should be selected by going into a trance."

Really?  I believe that love is something like magic and that we should never break the magic.

By magic, of course, I mean the real spiritual power which the soul knows and sometimes sees and hears, but the mere world cannot touch.

Then again, I also believe I have never been loved by anyone who believed that.

21 October 2010

A Little Thing

Artwork from:
The first grade teacher had asked us to gather a few leaves from home and bring them to school the next day. I had been out sick so she let me pick some up from the playground.

We pasted the leaves onto colored construction paper and, with crayons at our disposal, we could decorate the project however we wished.

Of course, we all drew trees and pasted the leaves back where they belonged!

Gentle memories before hearts led and hearts broke.  Every child has done that project and almost every child pasted leaves back on a crayon tree.  And we were right to do it.

13 September 2010

Really? It is “too esoteric” for you? Really?

You can at least share!  When I pick out a gift for someone, it is because it is something I want, so, turning that around...

1) Alone in my room just back from today’s first segment of my work day, I sit down with a can of Coca-Cola, a bowl of fresh guacamole, and bag a fresh tortilla chips. When I am in public, I am careful to not be observed making the sign of the Cross before I consume a meal.  I do it, I just do not want to be seen doing it-- too intimate.  However, in the privacy of my own room, I overtly sign myself and even speak out loud. For example, today I said (I prayed), “Lord, this guacamole is really good.  Join me?”  I know how that sounds-- that is why I only do it in private.

I appreciate, but am now past, the sense of an amusing punch line to a joke, "The rich preacher answers, 'In our church, we throw the money from the collection plate up in the air and whatever God wants, He keeps!'"  But guacamole is tough to clean up-- I don't recommend throwing it in the air.  The truth is, I like to offer the goodness of what I am about to eat.  The best gifts I have received are those which I can share with the giver. 

Since shortly before my father died (a little over a year ago) along with almost any prayer, I sensed, ever-so-vaguely, the presence of others souls being near me, observing in an engaged sort of way. More than benign, that presence of at least a few is somehow pro-active, but I have no real idea of exactly how that is so.  Often, now, I sense my father among them.  I feel what I feel and have learned to allow that to negate the worldly accusation of "wishful thinking."

2) Much like my secretive method of making the sign of the Cross when I am not alone before a meal, for over sixteen years I have worn a wooden talisman around my neck on a short leather strap. I wear it inside my shirt, but if it was ever visible, those who might get a glimpse of it would wonder why I wear a wooden initial “T” on a cord. Actually, it is a Cross. It is a “tau cross” to be precise.

A bit of synchronicity from my past will explain:

Charles Caldwell, Priest

The blessed Father Charles Caldwell, in one of his many profound utterances, declared, “We do not choose our Patron Saints, our Patron Saints choose us.” One January 17th, long ago, the story of Saint Antony of the Desert struck me through-and-through. His story would not let me alone, and soon enough I realized that he had chosen me. I had a Patron Saint. One of the symbols of Saint Antony is the tau-cross— shaped like the Greek letter, it is a very ancient form of the Christian Cross—somewhat regional—almost a dialect of imagery.

The Church likes to universalize its images and symbols, but the indigenous ones are equally authentic. A few years later, I had just returned home from being ordained a Priest. Family was there and had brought in food from my favorite restaurant, El Fenix—Tex-Mex of the highest craft (with really good guacamole!). An old friend from my college days and now a brother Priest dropped by just as we launched into the meal, and he brought an ordination gift—two, in fact. The one I have in mind is a wooden tau-cross he had brought back from a recent visit to Assisi. It was on a leather cord with three knots tied into the cord for the three Franciscan vows: Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Some Franciscan Brother had burned a tiny and hand written “Assisi” on the back.

I loved it so that I traced it thinking I might make some as gifts. Many years later, in the beginning of this, my present darkness, the cord broke and I lost the gift I treasured so much. I made a replica soon after, blessed it myself in the absence of a Bishop to do so, with Holy Water, knotted a new cord of leather, and prayed over each knot and what it represented.  The “poverty” prayer was in a silent half growl and half scream as I was then living in my car, and it was winter.

By-the-way, I was making a modest but livable $30,000.00 a year at one job and moonlighting at another. Highest to lowest, my check was garnished of Child Support for 55%, IRS for 15% withholding, and 11% for insurance was deducted, leaving me a take-home of 19% of Gross—thus, I lived in my car. Begin to understand my advocacy on behalf of the homeless and my outright rage at those who yell at them, “Get a job?”


Last week, the cord on my replica broke, but this time I noticed it when it happened and so still have the cross. I have not taken the time to tie a new cord. Yet, except for the day I sensed a strong need for such a talisman and so kept it in my pocket, a pattern has recurred that I have not seen in many years. Nothing conclusive—not like a lamp across the room suddenly falling over—but little things, dozens a time each day. I trip over things that I did not see, straps of my courier bag, shoelaces, seatbelts and clothing get snagged on things in ways that do not seem natural, things drop from my grasp and things seem misplaced amongst the usual clutter.

Now that I have had lunch, and after I finish writing and a bit of reading before part three of my daily work begins, I am going to locate my spool of leather cord and do what needs to be done.

3) It was almost a year ago that I sat chatting with a very intelligent and amiable man I know. He, rightly, has good influence with and upon a friend of mine who I work with and for. I do physical work for this person, but more importantly and more exhaustingly, it is the spiritual (and therefore unseen) work with my friend that is my focus. In fact, so unseen is this work that I am not certain my friend realizes it completely.

The man wanted to speak privately with me. He said “A__ had been very fortunate as regards to your predecessors; but she and I both realize that you are substantially out of the ordinary—in a very good way. We recognize it even though we cannot define exactly what it is.” Those were not words I expected or was even prepared to hear. I did not like the idea of being discovered—when what I do is known, the relationship changes— such has shown to have a tendency or trajectory which is full of false assumptions and false expectations. A crippling secularization takes place.

Society has its own expectations for you.

A month or so later, I spoke again with the man. A friend of mine had unexpectedly bought me a book as a gift for no reason what-so-ever. I only started that book today which is perhaps a coincidence, but more likely synchronicity or, if you prefer, godly coincidences. He saw the books I had purchased when at the book store with my friend as well as the gift book I had received.  He had read it, and asked about my own selections being unfamiliar with those.  I spoke of the spiritual themes, artistically imbedded in historical drama. We chatted about such literary methods for several minutes and he ended by saying, “All that is too esoteric for me.”

I was disappointed. I had gone from fear of discovery even though it meant some understanding, to wanting to believe that understanding existed— someone who saw (perhaps only dimly) and knew (perhaps only vaguely), even if the understanding was incomplete. The man, left alone in his consideration for a month (as I had been left alone in my own)  had come to a very different conclusion.   Nine months or so later, I look back on that and do not blame him—it is society. When exposed to spiritual events, most (I want to think, all) sense it, and try to process what they sense. However, without any reassurance, society will seek to deny the spiritual.

4) It has not always been so. Tribal societies have shamans no matter where on the planet and no matter when in history— all societies have some who see and hear with a measure of understanding. There have been few exceptions. Societies nearly always include Priests, Shamans, Pastors, Witch-Doctors, Seers, Diviners, Holy Men, and so on—but almost always providing the same service to the society. That service, in general terms, meaning in universality, is the affirmation that what is sensed by others in the society, but not seen, is most often real. Not merely real, but a super-substantiality: epiousia, in the Greek.

In short,
  • The transcendent God shared my guacamole with me, taking it as my thanks, and enjoying it with me while diminishing nothing of the substance remaining here— He took mere matter and brought it with Him to His greater reality.
  • The presence I sensed is, in fact, my father and Antony of the Desert, and others I have known in this life and in the other reality.
  • The snags, tangles and trips since being bare of by talisman are just enough to present a frustration without a target—a passive aggressive harassment always safely short of an outright attack. To an overt attack, I would of course be prone to react.
  • The smart and likable man— he went home and soon dismissed what he sensed and believed for a short time— surrounded by the mundane, he decided the mundane was enough and that he was simply mistaken. It is, after all, supposed to be easier to accept only the one reality. In his world, in his life which is deeply steeped in our post-modern society, the altruistic is laudable but impotent— a mere luxury which can be entertained at leisure as long as it does not preclude sensible acts and decisions.That is what society want of us, so that is what we do.
Me too-- but a bit less so lately as I marginalize society for having marginalized me.

That good man is wrong, but it is not his fault. While I still have that tau-cross pattern, I wonder if he would accept one as a gift; and if so, not knowing, would it have any effect?

Super-substantial reality:  Spiritually pro-active-- having an effect, more than merely benign, yet undefined, not fully understood.  Come on, there is nothing "too esoteric" for anyone in that--  you know it is so.

At least go share your guacamole?

07 September 2010

Minumum Requirements of Being Human

I woke this morning, turned on my television to catch up on the news.  Before even starting the coffee, this is what I saw:


In that report, you can hear The Song of the Sub-Human, it goes like this,
[Homelessness] is an issue which effects the Convention Center,
it effects Tourism
and we want to address it in a positive way.
--Tim League, CEO, Alamo Drafthouse

And words which are violated by such a song come to mind,
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
--(Luke 6:20-21 ESV)

Not in this life!  Not when tourist dollars outweigh the needs of the poor and hungry!  Of course, Jesus was speaking of the Kingdom of God (as in, "Thy Kingdom Come"), not that any of those blessing would come to anyone in this life.  No, here and now, we endure the greed and self-righteousness of the rich, powerful elitists.

I adore Carl Gustov Jung's teachings (have you noticed?).  He writes,
There is only one remedy for the levelling effect of all collective measures, and that is to emphasize and increase the value of the individual.

A fundamental change of attitude (metanoia) is required, a real recognition of the whole man. This can only be the business of the individual and it must begin with the individual in order to be real.

...Large political and social organizations must not be ends in themselves, but merely temporary expedients. Just as it was felt necessary in America to break up the great Trusts, so the destruction of huge organizations will eventually prove to be a necessity because, like a cancerous growth, they eat away man's nature as soon as they become ends in themselves and attain autonomy. From that moment they grow beyond man and escape his control. He becomes their victim and is sacrificed to the madness of an idea that knows no master.

All great organizations in which the individual no longer counts are exposed to this danger. There seems to be only one way of countering this threat to our lives, and that is the "revaluation" of the individual.
-- Jung, Carl Gustav, Flying Saucers : A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies [Princeton]: Princeton UP, 1978. p. 73f.

Carl Jung wrote that in 1858!  Is anyone listening?  Is it any wonder that our downtown streets are filled with invisible broken people (who are, apparently, not invisible enough), and that we can sit calmly and remotely at our conference tables and discuss how we can better serve tourism given the nuicence of the homeless?

Please!  Please tell me I am not alone in outrage!
"Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
(Matthew 25:41-45 ESV)

26 August 2010

Why I HATE "if you can afford alcohol and cigarettes than you don't need food stamps"

Let's say it is mid-December in Austin, Texas. At two in the morning, it is 37 degress and just starting to rain, and this little camp site out in the woods off South 1st Street near Slaughter Lane is "home" and it has been for the last six months.  You have no television, no books, no light to read by anyway. 

You have no internet connection to read that several people you know have posted and "liked" a popular new facebook page entitled.
If you can afford alcohol and cigarettes than you don't need food stamps
It would have only made you cry-- half for them and half for yourself.  You really never did believe people were so brutal, but it seems that they are.

Tonight, it is just your own thoughts and most of those are agonzing-- especially at this time of year when you see Christamas Trees on top of the cars going by, and most of the college students have left to be home with family. 

You don't have family-- not really.  You don't have friends-- not really.  When you lost your job and your spouse left with the kids, and your neighbors, and your priest, and your family, and your friends-- all just watched you fall, out of control.  No one reached out and you knew the fall would probably break you.  No one offered a hand, no one even tried to break your fall.  So there you are, in the woods, and you will be there the next night, and the night after that.

You have learned the hard truth that you do not matter-- not even to family, not even to friends.

You hate carrying your sleeping bag and backpack with you every where you go, but there is no place to secure your things except to take them with you.  All of your worldly posesions are attached to or inside your backpack.  The library lets you stay inside and will watch your backpack for you , but you are not allowed to take it inside, and security watches you ever time you go into the bathroom to make sure you are not bathing in the sink.  But it is warm there and dry, and you can charge your cell phone if you have one-- maybe sleep a little before security catches you.  You think you'll go there tomorrow.

Cell phone, what a joke-- like anyone is going to call you for an interview?   Like you have anyone to call?

You do not plan more than that-- there is no point in it.

You carried a plastic bag with you when you left downtown.  Inside is a pack of cheap cigarettes that taste like cardboard and are labled "cigars" and because of the brown paper and the label those cost half of what a pack labled "cigarettes" and in white paper would cost.  You also have a six pack of pint-sized cans of cheap beer.  Ice cold beer is not exacty what you want, but it maye help you sleep, and might even make the haunting memories slip away for a few minutes.

You pop the top on one can and guzzle several ounces of the beer.  It rained last week and was nearly as cold, you remember as you light one of the little "cigars."  At least there is no lightning tonight.  Last week, during the thunderstorm, you wedged yourself up on the little mound of roots under this very tree with your back against the trunk to stay dry-- or as dry as possible.  You worried about the tree being struck by lightning for a moment, but then decided that it didn't matter.  Being struck by lightning would be some end to the pain.

On your third beer, you remember that you have a pack of cookies you had saved from the bag of food you received from the Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck that had been at the downtown bus stop that evening.  You fish that out of your pack and gobble them down before they get wet.  A few minutes later the shivering stops, and you drift off for a few minutes. 

You wake, unaware that is now past three, and the rain is continuing, but survival forces you to make a decision.  You unroll your sleeping bag which is not waterproof, and get inside.  The weight of the water on your legs and chest is dreadful-- the bag is absorbing the water and you know it will soon feel wet in the bag and on your clothes.  You sit up and open a fourth beer and chug it-- hoping that the dose of alcohol will knock you out and allow you to sleep.

The last thing you remember before sleep sets in was hoping it will be sunny and that you can dry the bag out before bedtime tomorrow.  Yo can't do that at the library, so you will have to go get food from the truck downtown while carrying the wet bag.  It is humiliating.  There is no hiding that you sleep in the woods-- you smell like and look like it and all of the office workers-- of which you once were one-- look at you as if diseased, or as if crazy.  Looking like that, smelling like that, carrying the soggy load on your back, how many times a day does someone drive by yelling, "Get a job?"

Do they not see?   Except for those instances, you declare to yourself, Tomorrow, I will be invisible.  The comfort of that thought allows you to sleep.

Let's say it is August in Austin, Texas.  It is two in the morning and still 90 degrees outside.  You are sitting under the overpass above the red gravel under 183 near Burnett Road.... 

But you don't want me to tell you this story. 

Do you?

I know some of these people.  I didn't want to hear their stories, either.  They'll make you treasure the very rare human, and then hate the far more common part-humans among us.

Trust me, I softened the blow of the true horror of the stories of their lives.  Only the rare few dare to know such things-- if you are not human, it will probably make you much more human to hear the whole truth-- and becoming more human is too painful for most to bear.  I won't do that to you, and don't think I could-- I resist it, too. 

Hell.  If I was fully human, I would live in the woods with them.

"Maybe only one in two hundred are like that," a wise man once told me about the truly good persons in life.  I think he was foolishly optimistic.

24 August 2010

Critical Errors of the Modern Church (It Is Not a Creed, It Is a Prayer!)

I am not so much complaining as offering a solution.

Having a devout faith, I do not care for the visible Church.

There is an invisible one.  I love that one.

Someones conception of the mystical "New Jerusalem"
coming down from Heaven--
the Kingdom of God which we do not, yet, know.

It seems to be that the fundamental error of the modern Christian can be shown in the most famous, most rehearsed, and most prayed part of the Bible, known as the "Lord's Prayer."

It is not a Creed! It is a prayer!

We are not taught by Christ to state and avow that God's Kingdom is on earth and that God's will is done on earth just as it is in Heaven.  These things are not true-- we are taught to pray that they will become true!

From the false belief that the visible Church exists in the Kingdom of God falls all other major errors of the modern church.  The outward pointing finger of accusation as "evangelism;" the self-assured holiness of the faithful; the presumption of damnation of anyone and sometimes even everyone else; and worst of all, the abandonment of the invisible, spiritual, and mystical life of the faithful.

Modern Churches hold virtually no expectation of the spiritual life of its members.  Not surprisingly, it then busies itself with worldly matters such as politics and social agendas.  These are nothing more than civic organizations using God to justify their worldly desires.

I am thinking of a not-so-well-known part of the Bible just before the part where Jesus teaches his disciples, at their request of Him to do so, how to pray and gives them the words of what is known as the "Lord's Prayer."

Just before that, Christ has been teaching many and He selects seventy-two of His students to accept an assignment.  He commands them to go out in 36 teams of two, and simply do two things in each town into which they walk.
1) Find one, and only one, household which which welcome them.
2) Heal the sick.

That is it!  They are not told to yell warnings of Hell and calls for repentance, they do not quote the Bible to them (at them) and they do not do anything more than have a meal and heal any sick.

Those teams return some time later amazed at their experiences.  People were healed!  The seventy-two students were joyous.  To their surprise, the found that not only did they heal the sick, but were even able to cast out demons.

The seventy-two

Now, if you do not believe in real but invisible entities which have malevolent intent-- demons-- then I fear that nothing I write can be of use.  I live in the visible world but have glimpsed with spiritual eyes the invisible.  It is what humans do-- we are body and spirit and the soul can see what is invisible to the body.  For some reason, I seem to have have more frequent experience with "seeing" the spiritual world than some people, but I believe we all do it-- simply a part of being human.

It is not merely that there are invisible beings, but a whole invisible world.  That invisible world is not entirely unlike the physical one we all perceive.  Our minds are amazing in that what we see spiritually can be given a physical description.

Consider the popularity of TV shows investigating the paranormal: Ghosts and Aliens being the most obvious examples.  The mind is processing and then projecting the "language" of what is perceived by the soul-- with spiritual eyes-- into a reasonable and physical facsimile. As psychology becomes increasingly a scientific study (although still largely tied to statistics) there is an increasing correlation developing between the rise of new psychological symptoms and the fall of the spiritual component of the societies in which these symptoms develop.

Ghosts and Aliens!
A poignant psychological model concerns the similarity between clinical psychosis and religious experiences.  In short, the only difference is that the former is malevolent and the later is benevolent.

I am not alone in suspecting that the interest in the paranormal images of our literature and folklore is more than merely wondering "Is there something more?"  Rather, the question is driven by the soul's experiences which have not yet been articulated in the mind and which then nags the mind to process.  That is to say, that all humans have spiritual experiences and only some come to accept them as a necessary component of human life.

That, then, is a requirement of the Church-- to facilitate the complete humanity of its members, marrying the divided person, joining the invisible with the visible as equally real and accepting the intangible experiences as deeply meaningful, hopeful, expectant, and above all, normal for a healthy life.

Falling like lightning

Now, write yourself into that Bible story.  Imagine that you and a friend walk into a strange town, and a stranger comes up and invites you in to share a mid-day meal.  While you are there, you pray that any sick will become well, and in your short visit, that is exactly what happens. 

All you want to do is to heal sick strangers-- it is all you were asked to do.

When you come back, amazed and joyous that it actually worked-- that strangers were healed by your showing up with the desire to do just that, your Teacher responds to your report with these words:

"I was seeing Satan fall from Heaven like lightning.1"


Rephrasing that question: What does the climax of a battle between Angels which took place in a previous age and which began the present age have to do with students returning to report to their teacher that they have healed the sick and even cast out demons?

Well, obviously, the last part is the easiest connection to make-- that mere men had cast demons out of sick persons.

In my previous post, I stated that war is a part of the spiritual world.  This is an example.  Before humans existed, or at least very early in the existence of man, a battle was fought between angels.  In the statement of the Teacher to the students reporting their surprised success in the assignment they had undertaken, we find an implicit connection to the invisible with the visible.

That the Teacher sent them out only with instructions to heal, they report that, beyond healing, they had unexpectedly found that they even had the ability to cause invisible spirits to do as they commanded.  No willing creature easily accepts being controlled by another.

It may be worth pointing out that it is a rare person who, finding that they can control another, will use that only against malevolent creatures.

Consider the concept of, "If you could, at will, become invisible, what would you do?"

Give yourself some time to go through the obvious fantasies, for good, ill, or simply fun.

Now, put those ideas aside and consider what if your invisible soul has real power?  What would your invisible soul do, knowing that it both has power and is unseen?

I submit that our souls exist, even though we do not see them.  I further submit that our souls have real power.  I submit that prayer is the work of the soul and the soul, not bound by the physical world, is able to do that which it prays.  As a Christian, I believe that a powerful and willful soul will act according to its nature-- its character.

The great mystic Saint Paul writes that the spirit intercedes for us in sighs (or groans) too deep for words.2  I believe he writes of our own spirits-- our souls-- the invisible component of our human person which perceives and exists in the invisible spiritual world.  A practical application of the acknowledgment of our own souls is to seek to reconcile both realities our human nature does perceive.


One example (and their are countless ways to accept and integrate one's own soul) is to pray for spiritual and not worldly matters.  Are we praying for riches, power and success, or are we praying for healing, peace, and understanding?

I want to write much more, but I will end with just this:

What if?  What if you soul has real spiritual power to battle and win against malevolence and even sickness?  What if your invisible soul, doing invisible work, can have visible effect in this world?  What would you do?  In this case, it is not merely a rhetorical question.  Is it?

1 The odd verb tense and mode, "I was seeing" is in the actual original Greek text. It is usually softened to the more common "I saw." The form used, even in Greek, is unusual, and perhaps rightly thought-provoking.

2 The Letter of Paul to the Romans in Chapter 8.  I have translations which capitalizes the word "Spirit" and other translation which do not.  When capitalized, the translator believes that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit, which in Christian doctrine is part of the Godhead-- one of the "three persons in one God" (known as the "Doctrine of the Trinity").  When the word, "spirit" is not capitalized, the translator either believes or leaves open for the possibility that Paul writes of the spirit (soul) of the person praying.  Note, Paul uses the full term, "Holy Spirit" five times in his letter to the Romans, but he does not use the term here, but merely "spirit."

23 August 2010

If I Can't Make It, Maybe I Can Find It.

I can't fix what is broken, and recently I rarely even try.  It was not always so.

One of my favorite stories to tell is about my beloved son, when he was just a year old.  I loved being a father-- no one told me how wonderful it would be-- instead, well-meaning (I would like to think) friends would warn me that romance with my wife was over, that private time and personal time were a thing of the past and so on.   Anyway...

I spent a lot of time on the floor after my son was born-- especially when he began to crawl and started walking.  We would play with blocks, Legos and stuff like that for hours every day.  Whenever a wheel came off a toy car or a Lego design we had built together broke, he would hand it to me or, if I was in the next room, bring it to me to fix.

I loved that time.  Both my children would play on the floor with me or merely beside me.  How fine it is when, say, your not-yet-walking child crawls away from playing with Duplo Blocks and crawls back a minute later and hands you a book to read to them!  A smile through a binky should be able to melt the heart of anyone-- and it did mine.
 As he closed in on his first birthday, I heard him making noises of frustration just out of sight as I sat working on the computer.  He was near tears, so something had really upset him.  I jumped up from my desk and hurried to see.  It was the axle to this cheap plastic fire engine he loved to play with at the time.  It was wearing out and more frequently coming off and he could not get it to snap back in place.

"I can't do it!  I tried!"  He said.  I eventually snapped it back in place for him, intentionally struggling with it to try and help ease his frustration by seeing me struggle, and while I did so, I said, "I am glad you tried to fix it yourself-- you are getting really close to being able to and it is not so easy.
"There is one thing that you did not try to do that I want you to remember."

He moved around to look at what I was doing and put a hand on my shoulder, waiting for me to show him the secret.  I snapped it in place just then and handed him the truck saying, "You are a lot like me, and so this is going to be hard for you to learn because it is hard for me.  When you have tried to do something and tried everything you know to do and it still doesn't work..."

My son sat down, not looking at the repaired fire engine, but looking at me, and I continued, "...then all that is left to do is to ask me to help."  He smiled, and then came over and hugged me.

A few weeks later, a few days after his first birthday, he was in the next room playing with a balloon left over from the party.  I was keeping a close eye on him through the door way (my desk in my home office was right next to a permanently open door into the living room) , and our dogs were enjoying the balloon as well.  I wasn't getting any work done, but didn't care-- the balloon, dog and boy thing was more wonderful to watch than anything else I could possible be doing.   As I knew it would, the balloon eventually popped.  My son came tottering into the room and set the balloon on my leg-- just as he always did with a broken toy he needed me to fix.

All at once I realized that, to him, I could fix anything

"Oh, son.  Some things cannot be fixed."
He took it well, merely as information being acquired.  I did, too-- take disappointing him, that is; not knowing that it was foreshadowing-- the brokenness to come that I could not fix.

That brokenness to come and my not fixing it-- my son doesn't talk to me anymore.


After the brutal divorce to which court hearing I was not even invited, I was awarded standard daddy rights-- weekends.  Their mother was restrained from moving out of the county without first obtaining court permission.  She did it anyway, and left me no address- not even a city or county.  I had telephone contact for a few months and she agreed to meet me "half-way," telling me she lived in Galveston but did not want me having her address.

I'm not a violent person, although since then, I have found that violence is both an effective and satisfying response to being attacked by violent others-- something I never tried against one of her countless violent attacks.  Therefore, not wanting me to know where my kids lived was certainly about her fear that she and her lawyer were in jeopardy of "paying the price" for going too far.

The thought of tracking down her divorce lawyer had crossed my mind (and still does).  Knowingly destroying an innocent man for a fee-- destroying a family for a fee...  Well, not even a mother could love such a person and the world would be served by such a person's agonizingly torturous demise.  It is a fantasy of mine and it helps sometimes to entertain it, but while I can be pushed to violence, I simply do not have the ability to plot violence-- it isn't in me.

So, when I finally was able to see my children again and spend a long weekend with them-- in a hotel because I was living in my car due to the child support being 55% of my gross income-- I felt hopeful again.  I had spent over half of my then annual take-home pay in legal fees, filing for enforcement of my visitation rights, and adjustment of my child support to the State maximum of 25% of net income-- about a third to a quarter of what was being withheld from my pay.

I did not tell my children any of this that weekend.  I simply enjoyed the time we spent together, and told them that I was taking steps to reunite us.  I told them that courts and judges were involved, and that when my son turned twelve, the judge might ask him if he wanted to live with his Dad or his mom-- and that I expected him to tell the truth-- not worry about what his mother or I might think.

My daughter started crying and I didn't understand, and asking her, she sobbed, "I don't want to live alone with Mommy!  I don't want [him] to go!"
"Oh No!  Sweety!  The judge would never separate the two of you-- if your brother lives with me, so will you, and if he lives with your mother, so will you."
The two whispered together for a moment, my daughter dried her eyes, they giggled together and then began a chant, "Dad-dy!  Dad-dy!  Dad-dy!"

Can you imagine my relief?  Can you imagine the love?  Can you imagine the hope?

The courts have still never even held a hearing on my motions-- six years ago this November.  You want a reason?  Because the courts and life and the world are brutal, tyrannical, and vicious.  My failure to get the courts, at least, to be otherwise has my son not speaking to me.

You give me something to try-- I already did it.

I have been before a judge at least a dozen times to find the hearings are canceled at the request of the Office of the Attorney General-- because they do not want to get caught being the willing tool of a scheme to make a father live in his car while paying for a beach house for his ex-wife.

I don't know how to beat that system.  I tried everything that I heard and read could be tried.  All my son knows is that I failed, and he lost his Dad, and that his mother says it is because I don't care.  The fact is, some things cannot be fixed, and the system beat me.

I don't think I can be fixed, either.  I lay what remained of me on the leg of God seated at His throne, but some things cannot be fixed.


So since a child-- maybe since birth, I have the occasional spiritual vision-- a very real reality that I have found myself in and, too soon, back out of.  I am aware of the spiritual reality and of this, the ordinary and hollow, reality both and at once. Maybe a hundred or two hundred such religious experiences over my life-time-- some profound, some light and easy.

I want to live there-- in that spiritual reality-- and I want to stay.  It is not up to me.

Over the last seven years of this Hell on Earth, I have found myself in that spiritual reality more often-- maybe a total of an hour in the past year, rather than a few seconds worth of that each year.  It is not enough.  It sustains me, but only that.  I have no control-- I only get invited and then only for such a brief time.

It is not ecstasy in the sense that some mystics describe it.  Not in the way I think they mean, and I have read the mystics since young adulthood.  It is purpose, watchfulness, meaning, excitement, adventure and such, but not really anything like "bliss" if that is taken to mean a peaceful, content and quiet existence.

Last night I dreamt, only dreamed-- not a vision (even though I was not asleep) of being with this person I have learned to love.  I wish I was in love but, I think, I have not allowed/ will not allow myself that pain.  None the less, the spiritual connection attracts with a profundity that is hard to ignore-- especially since I said good-bye to her this past week.  Awake, letting my subconscious reign for a time:

In my dream, she was sitting on the floor in a yoga position, eyes closed and meditating.  I wanted to join her, but two things prevented me.  First, I knew that I could not make the spiritual world let me in by meditating-- I have no such control.  The irresistible invitation which takes me out of this existence into one of meaning and purpose will take place even if I am walking down the street when it wants to (when He wants).  Second, what I wanted was to say Mass-- the only intimacy that I can control even though I rarely feel the intimacy.  In saying Mass, in speaking the words and handling the Bread and Wine, the intimacy with God is assured.  It has the same effect as do the visions, but without the experience.

I started to go into another room to do just that, make the Body and Blood of Christ present with me and, by consuming them, in me.  But there was this pillow on the floor near her.  I sat down, and had just what I needed, as dreams allow us to do sometimes.  I had no wine and no chalice, but I had a single communion wafer on the pillow which I had set before me as I sat cross-legged on the floor behind the one I now think of as my friend-- another friend and loved one who I have lost.

For a moment, I hesitated because I had no Missal and no Prayer Book.  It had been a long time, and for a moment I wondered if I could remember the words.  My mind was so blank that I picked up the piece of pressed bread, and aware only that I had wondered if I could remember the words, found myself making the sign of the cross with my right hand over the bread in my left and speaking so softly that I could barely hear myself.

"On the night before He died, our Lord Jesus Christ took Bread, and giving thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, 'Take, eat, this is my Body.'"

Next, just as I was about to consume the Bread, my friend was standing before me, facing me as I sat on the floor.  I took the Host in my right hand, but instead of placing it in my mouth, held it out to her.  The dream reset itself (I don't know why) and I had several communion wafers in a pile on a Paten on the pillow.  It reset again and I had the one, broke it and held half up to her.  It reset again and it was only the one, but she wasn't there anymore, and then, neither was the Bread.

Alone on the floor in a strange room, not my own, it no longer mattered.  I knew that all there was left to do was go back out into a world with the hostile and burning light-- a light which burns on the skin, but despite its brightness, shows that what it reflects upon is insubstantial, withering from it, oppressed by it, enduring damage from sunrise to sunset, and barely recovering over night.  I almost expect the world shown to evaporate in an instantaneous burst into smokeless dust and leave only the spiritual reality to be seen.

I wished it would.

It may be the light itself was Holy, but the world it shined upon was so ugly, so overwhelmed by its own malignancy, that the light seemed to be to blame.


I have friends and family who I suspect read my entries in this blog and that they worry that I am teetering on the edge of insanity.  Feels that way to me sometimes.

From what I have read of my published saviors (Jung, Grof, Washburn, Jesus, Paul, John,, John of the Cross, and so on) fear of going insane is just what it feels like when one steps most firmly into the spiritual world, and out of the temporal. 

Even so, and despite my experience in those dozens, if not hundreds, of little reconnoiter missions into the spiritual reality, I know I must step again and again into this ugly temporal one, expose my own flesh to the harsh light, force myself to believe that what I do, here and now, matters and try hard to hope that what I do when invited and drawn into that other realty has effect on what I want to believe matters in this one.

And the souls that matter go away, and the souls that don't will beat me down again.


I watched the movie, Gandhi, for the first time yesterday.  I then read several articles related to what I saw in the movie.  Passive-Resistance verses War seemed to be the theme.

I tend to agree that war ought not to be a part of human existence in this world.  What I fear Gandhi did not see is that war is a part of the spiritual world.  Humans know what is spiritual even when we deny the existence of the spiritual.  That is Carl Gustav Jung in a nutshell, by the way.

I cannot think of a religion that does not include war and warriors in its mythology.  My own religion... not very politically correct, but my God is described and even addressed as "Lord God of Hosts."  You know what "hosts" means, right?  It means Armies.  My God is a warrior.  He once gave me a sword-- an invitation.

Music is the most obvious part of the spiritual world which breaks through into this world, but war is no different, however much less pleasant it may be to contemplate.

So, again, I say, "I have this spiritual sword."

In a early entry to this blog-- years ago, I wrote about being confused with, and even (implicitly) accused of being, a spy.  Not a warrior, but a spy.  A real event comes to mind as indicative of this odd association:  The former CIA agent, closes the door to my office, hands me his card and says only something like, "Call me if you think you should" before opening the door and continuing his conversation with others in the hall.

The chief differences between being a spy and being a warrior, in my pallet of meaning, is that the spy works alone and in no uniform.

I don't mind being behind enemy lines, and I don't mind not having the uniform and the support and the provisions of a Marine or a soldier which the uniform implies.  I do not even mind not being able to rest back at base, between tours, and let my guard down if only when I sleep.  I mind being alone.  I mind knowing that I can trust no one-- that the few who can be trusted are also isolated and never around long enough.  I mind that they seem to never look back while I stand on a cold rainy foreign city street in hostile territory and watch the good ones walk away to set off again on their mission assignments and they do not look back.

17 August 2010

A Nicer Thought

I once had this apartment.

I had been through Hell once again, and when my father heard about it, he came and found me, and set me up in a nice apartment so I could complete my last three semesters in college.

It was a very healing place.

It took me a few months to do much more than study, sleep, eat and repeat.  By that time, my parents had assembled a few kitchen essentials for me which included this old "harvest gold" blender.   It was odd, really.  My Dad used to use that blender to make the occasional milk shake, but that was all I had ever seen one used for; and while I supposed it might have other uses, I really did not spend any time contemplating any.

But one day, I was in the grocery store and saw a display of Margarita mix.  I had a bottle of tequila back at the apartment someone had given me as a gift, but since I hated tequila, it remained unopened.  Ah, I thought, Here is a way to make use of the otherwise never-to-be-used blender and tequila!   I came home, finished my studies and assignments and instead of the beer I would usually take with me out on my patio (overlooking an old cemetery:  "New neighbors today?"  "Yes, but I know they'll be quiet"), I went into the kitchen and dumped in ice, mix, and tequila.

It was a nice day, and I had my windows open, the sliding door to the little balcony wide, and the ugly apartment draperies were blowing in the wind.  As it turns out, my little discovery at the grocery store was far more well known among my unit's other dwellers.  Not only had they all made this discovery, but were so accustomed to it, that they knew the sound of margaritas being blended.

I have not done any scientific research on the subject (at the time, I was a business major, minoring in statistics), but my theory is that something in the combination of margarita mix and tequila causes a very subtle change in the density of the liquid so that with practice, one can aurally distinguish the presence of those items in the ice being crushed within a blender.

I poured the concoction into a tumbler and took it with me out on the patio.  I do not remember exactly, but I would venture a guess that at some point I took an ever-so-casual glance to my right to see if pretty Miss A__ was, perhaps, sunbathing on her patio again that afternoon.  She wasn't.  Oh well, that'll allow me to let my thoughts flow and roam so I can relax.

I didn't know it then, but Miss A__ was dating a guy whose grandfather invented the Margarita machine-- except I believe he invented the Icee machine sold to 7/11 stores, and then sold the patent, and someone else decided to make margaritas with them  Carl Jung would recognize that as a form of synchronicity, I think.  Anyway...

Miss A and her two roommates lived to my right, as I looked out on the IOOF cemetery, just across the breezeway.  Behind me, on my side, was a real-life "holy-roller" just like in the movies.  He kept to himself mostly and I only saw him coming and going from class and church.  Across from him were three young co-eds all related somehow-- like two sisters and a cousin or something like that.

Miss D, one of the familial co-eds, drove up, and said "Hi" as she came up the steps to the breezeway.  Then, in her black, east-Texas drawl, added, "Ooo!  A margarita!  That looks good!"  "I just made a pitcher, so help yourself."

She dropped her stuff inside her own apartment, and came right back over.  I handed her a tumbler full and before we could get out to the balcony, one of the girls across from me showed up, and before I had poured that glass, another, and then another arrived, were invited in, and stayed.

The blender ran every few minutes and all eight of the units second story dwellers were present, and getting louder by the glass.  My stereo was on and the little party spilled out onto the breezeway.  Beer, wine and probably a little weed showed up by the time it was dark, and the little harvest gold mixer purred and churned, ice trays and tequila bottles and even more mix showed up as if out of nowhere.  MTV was new back then, and that became easier than sifting through my rather vast album collection.

It had to have been after midnight when the steam ran out-- and the din descended to smiling and slightly slurred good nights.

After all had left, and I was alone in the quietness, sitting looking over the stillness, Morrison Corn-Kits glowing in neon from silos in the distance, I remember thinking what a precious and much needed happenstance that was-- meeting my neighbors for the first time, and drawing me out of my reclusiveness.

To my delight, the little impromptu gathering repeated a few days later, and then continued to repeat, sometimes without the little mixer being taken out of the cupboard.  Sometimes, one of my neighbors would simply show up with a case of beer and then go get the others.  They were never, ever-- not once-- planned.

I often think how much I would like to live out in the country, deeply hidden in the woods so that I can effectively abstain from the world as suits me.  If I ever do, I will first want to find an extra-load blender.

13 August 2010

If I Could Paint: Limestone Walls, Porch Chairs & Tamed Memories

As a child,

Sitting beside a surreal stream.
The Man in White, smiling,
promising to me.

As a man,

The brightness not so intrusive,
A spindly comfortable porch chair
against a tall limestone wall

Still a promise.

The broken memories not so sharp
as they once were,
The joy of them returned.


Three empty chairs,
beside the one,
and I smile, waiting.