The Color of Lightning

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One of the best days of my life when I was a kid was the day I discovered Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Reading that novel was like gorging yourself at a buffet, except you could keep eating and eating and never get full and probably never get enough.

How did someone decide that women were like clocks, for instance?

Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it…How men envy and often hate these warm clocks, these wives, who know they will live forever.

I’m not sure what I was thinking at 11 or 12 years old reading about “the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity.” But I knew something was happening. I was sliding down a hill made entirely of nothing. But the nothing was made of sounds which were words and ideas, and this kind of nothing was stuffed fuller than any previous nothings I had ever known.

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Bradbury, a voracious reader, especially loved (not surprisingly) Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, and L. Frank Baum. Amazingly, after graduating from high school during the Depression and not having enough money for college, he then spent the next ten years educating himself at the public library, leading to, years later, the ability to turn something as normal and everyday as insomnia into a thing of tortured beauty:

Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry.

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At 14, Mr. Bradbury scored a writing gig for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show just by walking up to Burns outside the theater and asking if he could sit in on the show. How different things were back then. I can imagine myself walking up to Jay Leno (his show used to be right down the street at NBC from where we live) and saying—Whoop, except I would never get that far, because I would have already been tackled and/or Tased by security guards, right? And no amount of yelling out, “Hey, Jay–I have a bunch of funny jokes!” was going to help me. Especially later, when it came time to post my bail.

That reminds me of how my father, when he was a boy in Boston, worked on a train when he wasn’t in school, and one day Eleanor Roosevelt got on and started a conversation with him about how important education was (although he was already well aware of that fact; but she was evidently very kind and compassionate). Completely alone, no bodyguards, no nothing. Unbelievable!

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Ray Bradybury was a quirky character who, similar to Jack Kerouac of (ironically) “On the Road,” fame, never got a license or learned to drive. While Kerouac didn’t give an explanation for his lack of learning (other than saying, “All I can do is typewrite,”) Bradbury’s stemmed directly from witnessing a terrible car accident when he was 16 in which six people were killed. And while “On the Road” was written almost entirely in stream of consciousness (apparently; I admit I’ve never read it), Bradbury was no stranger to labyrinthine wanderings and abrupt, unexpected segues:

Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?

And deep feelings that had only gently brushed past but had yet to penetrate expressed so succinctly:

Somewhere in him, a shadow turned mournfully over. You had to run with a night like this so the sadness could not hurt.

As I got older I recognized Ray Bradbury as one of the authors who had affected me the most and realized that I wanted to wander that road, too, musing about the death of thunder and an insomnia-fueled desire to slaughter my half-dreams.

When I read “Fahrenheit 451” later in school, we were informed that he’d written it in just one week. And while I never imagined that I could spit out a classic like that in such a short amount of time, I had already decided, after discovering Carson McCullers had written “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” at age 23, that I would eclipse her by writing something great, at the very least really good, before I was 21.

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And although that never happened and my plans evolved with time, I knew I’d never stop writing–save a zombie apocalypse, in which case, once the power went out and the only thing available was pen and paper, my hand would cramp up too much to be able to write manually—and I’d never stop appreciating the story-tellers whose words and ideas had zinged like bullets to the brain, a feral and fearless onslaught that sent me on the (in varying degrees, at least for me) tortuous, solitary, satisfying, unrewarding, self-enlightening, unprofitable, fulfilling, frustrating, worthwhile, ambiguous, abstract, irrational, raving and urgent pursuit of writing.

 

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Time to make the donuts

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So in case many of you see I’m subscribing to your blogs again, it’s because WP woke up one morning, poured itself a cup of coffee, sat down on the sofa with its iPad and said, “Hey, this would be a good day to unsuscribe Stacey from all the bloggers she follows! Yeah! Boo-yah!”

So I’ve been in the process of re-upping my associations.

I thought it was something I did until I found out it’s happened to at least one other person too.  🙂

HOLES

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Holes. Something you can twist your ankle in, bury nuts or gold in, ruin your car’s alignment driving over, get sucked into in space.

They’re also a regular ingredient and good friend of movies. Movies and holes have been acquainted a long time, engaged in a relationship approaching matrimony but settling in the long run for common law.

But since movies embody the strange and terrifying, the penetrating and passionate, our Pavlovian response to most of them is to check our brains at the door. Suspension of disbelief works well.

Included in a small handful of examples of some of my favorite movie “holes” are:

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Edge of Tomorrow starring Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise, a kind of action/adventure military version of Groundhog Day. We saw this a few times before hubby pointed out that Tom Cruise’s character is SO famous and well known that it made no sense that nobody recognized him and that the Master Sergeant didn’t believe anything he was saying.

It pulls you in so fast, though, that you’re immediately caught up in the situation and don’t realize something like that until later.

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Wandering around in a gigantic corn field at night, the leaves rasping and whispering in the dark, with God knows what (aliens, of course) stalking you and tormenting your family was one of the best moments in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs years ago.

Remember Signs?

I kinda liked that movie, mostly. I’ve since come to dislike M. Knight as a director (for reasons I won’t get into here), but Signs had its creepy moments, for sure.

However, I guess everyone’s familiar with the complaint by now that the water-fearing aliens had chosen to conquer a planet (Earth) that’s covered by…what? Three-quarters water! Isn’t that sort of like a race of perpetually menopausal beings deciding to relocate to a lava planet or aliens who have a religious objection to and superstitious terror of dancing landing on Planet Fosse?

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What about this: you’re floating in the Atlantic Ocean on top of a door that can EASILY fit two people. Yeah, Leo DiCaprio, in “Titanic” was cold and tired and having a hard time pulling himself up to where Kate Winslet lay safe above the freezing waters. But, really, couldn’t she have helped him? Did she even try? I don’t remember anymore. I suppose that isn’t a HOLE as much as lazy writing: Kate humming and doing her nails atop the door while poor Leo slowly freezes to death in the icy sea. So they can get their tragic romantic ending.

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For those of you who haven’t seen Gone Girl, spoiler alert ahead. You can skip this whole paragraph so as not to taint your future experience.

So you’re really pissed at your husband because you saw him kissing another woman—and not only that, in the exact spot where you had your first kiss with him years ago. You mastermind an amazing revenge package and deliver it to his door overnight, no delivery charge. You’re not worried. The price of your package will be repaid in spades and THEN some over the weeks to come. And pay, it does. Once you decide to end the adventure and return home, guess what. Same exact issue as Edge of Tomorrow. With your face plastered all over TV, there’s no way the two village idiots you got to know in the cabins (and who later robbed you of every cent you own) wouldn’t recognize you and probably tell somebody, and then you’d be in a shitload of trouble. Come on, David Fincher!

What about more questionable alien decision-making? Or is it just convenient writing? If the aliens in A Quiet Place possessed fantastic hearing that was a gazillion times more sensitive than a bat or an owl, what in the name of all that’s holy were they doing on planet Earth? Our planet has to be one of the most unrepentantly clamorous, deafening and jarring places in the universe.

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So the aliens land and open their doors or hatches or whatever and the first time a jet blasts by overhead or someone’s car alarm goes off or the fire department races by toward an emergency or a month-old baby in a nearby house screams at the top of its lungs…wouldn’t they just quietly get back in their ships and leave? What could possibly convince them to remain here while their aural orifices were bleeding and a crippling migraine was turning their brains into jelly?

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Nothing. Hole. BIG hole, I think. Big enough to break more than an ankle in. Big enough for several elephants and all their ankles combined to be very badly injured. The upside of super-hearing “we love quiet so shut your pie hole” aliens that decide to take on our earthly uproar?  A blissful end to those horrible leaf-blowers that always seem to come on early in the morning or right when you’re trying to take a nap. Now, that’s the kind of quiet place I can get with!

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What are your favorite HOLES?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review and Interview: CANNABIS: The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

This is fascinating stuff. And let me echo similar sentiments from the interview: cannabis is illegal but there’s a liquor store on every corner of every city and town in America. Yet how many accidents happen, specifically vehicular, from pot smoking compared to inebriation? Thanks, Henry, for a great interview, and thanks to the artist, Box Brown, for bringing the issue to light so creatively.

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CANNABIS: The Illegalization of Weed in America is the new graphic novel by Box Brown, published by First Second. It is a most remarkable book in how it packs together a disparate clump of facts and myths and makes sense of it all. Here you find a detailed yet accessible answer to the question: How do you take something essentially good and make so many people believe the exact opposite–and why? The short answer: Because it is something running counter to the self-interest of those in power. The long and twisted history of how and why cannabis became illegal in the United States is the latest in the always insightful and informative Box Brown books. The following is my interview with the author of artist himself conducted via email:

Will we ever get back to a sensible approach to cannabis? Will cannabis ever lose the stigma attached to it?

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Let’s Get Dirty

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A disenfranchised population. An exhausted, disgruntled workforce. Great, yawning chasms that separate the populace’s beliefs and expectations and, in turn, exacerbate division, frustration, anger–accelerating the death of hope.

America today? Yeah. But also the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” almost a decade ago.

Running from 2004 to 2009, “Battlestar” presented myriad similar concepts which rang true, but the episode of Dirty Hands proved to be even more alarmingly prescient than usual, jumping out at me during our recent re-watching of the series.

By the Dirty Hands episode of “Battlestar,” the Fleet has been on the run from the Cylons (robots which human beings created and which subsequently turned on them) for a couple of years, give or take.

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A conversation between the Chief of Galactica’s crew of ships, the President, and Admiral Adama reveals the state of affairs of the overworked and long-ignored:

Chief: You realize that most of the workers on that ship have not had a day off since the original attack on our colonies? It’s like slave labor.
Adama: Don’t be absurd.
Chief: The men and women aboard that ship are stuck there. They can’t leave, they can’t transfer. They have no control over their lives. And the work is hard.
President: We know that. Do they think they’re having a picnic on the algae processing plant or munitions or waste-processing? The fleet is filled with ships with people working under horrific conditions, and nobody’s having a good time.

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It’s always the same thing, isn’t it? “The fleet is filled with ships with people working under horrific conditions, and nobody’s having a good time.” Except the President, as she’s stating this, is sitting in a compact yet luxurious office, wearing a nice outfit, and is not only rested and well-fed, but recently had her entire immune system rebooted by the DNA of a hybrid human-Cylon infant which put her cancer in remission.

The same with Adama, who received the best emergency healthcare possible to bring him back from the brink of death after being shot by a sleeper Cylon agent and regularly has cocktails with the President or enjoys lounging comfortably in his private quarters.

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Yeah, it’s nothing new that those who are “on top” making the “tough” decisions and “running” things get paid better, get better healthcare, get better consideration all around because they’re the ones who are “holding it all together.” They can’t walk around half-starved or filthy or live in squalor because diminished quality of life doesn’t enhance brain power or the decision-making process very well. But an automatic response of “Don’t be absurd,” when broaching the subject of real problems and real situations is no response at all.

Scarier still from Dirty Hands is the phenomenon of Gaius Baltar’s almost inconceivable rise in popularity, paralleling now, of course, a certain personality’s insane roller coaster ride to the presidency.

Gaius, known philanderer and womanizer, Cylon sympathizer, and traitor to the last of humanity, finally gets arrested and jailed, only to pen a book entitled, “My Triumphs, My Mistakes,” which begins to circulate throughout the Fleet and to pierce the consciousness of the oppressed and disenfranchised with bold chapters like “The Emerging Aristocracy and the Emerging Underclass.”

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Yeah, this is not a new issue in the world, and definitely not in the U.S. But it’s resurfaced dramatically in more recent American history.

Leave it to a charming bon vivant like Gaius to trespass over the most egregious of ethical borders on an everyday basis and yet somehow manage to lasso the minds and imaginations of a desperate populace that feels overlooked, forgotten, and taken for granted.

The unintended parallels concerning a certain someone not-yet-on-the-political-scene is straight up legit amazing. Except for three things: Gaius is cute. And he’s charming. And he is an out-and-out uncontested genius.

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In the end, the President and even Admiral Adama realize how deep their denial and ignorance have been, eventually taking measures to address issues of dead-end, even dangerous jobs, and classism. It was simple: basically everyone needed to get their hands dirty once in a while, not just one constant, never-changing segment of society.

That’s where the episode and the show deviate from real life, though, because obviously we aren’t there yet, although it might behoove certain folks to study “Battlestar Galactica” and pick up a few ideas here and there.

And if you think that’s silly, just remember Max Brooks’ “The Zombie Survival Guide.”

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Some people didn’t laugh. Some people took it very seriously, per this Modern War Institute article:

Brooks’ unique, unconventional thinking depicted in his books has even inspired the U.S. military to examine how they may respond to potential crises in the future. ‘Survival Guide’ was read and discussed by the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Brooks has been invited to speak at a variety of military engagements—from the Naval War College, to the FEMA hurricane drill at San Antonio, to the nuclear “Vibrant Response” wargame.

Go, Max! Go, Zombies! If post-apocalyptic undead fiction’s good enough to get the military’s attention, who knows who the reboot of a ‘70s sci-fi TV series might reach and inspire…and where that inspiration might end up?

On the lighter side, despite all this,  “Battlestar” remains one of the best reboots ever, I think. If you can stream it, I say go for it, and get ready for great effects, great depth of feeling, great action, a great ride. SO SAY WE ALL.

 

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The Business of Life and Death

It started several years ago, quietly, just annoying little changes.

He’d say, “God, I hate getting older.”

I’d say, “Why?”

He’d say, “Because I can’t see anymore.”

He could still see. But something mysterious was happening, an obstinate and diligent takeover. An internal invasion occurring in slow motion. As his peripheral vision started to fade, an opaque fog crowding the larger part of the world away, he finally relented to having to see a doctor.

At the ophthalmologist’s the diagnosis leap-frogged over the hoped-for “needs stronger glasses” and even “the beginning of glaucoma” to “if it looks like a tumor and acts like a tumor sitting on your pituitary gland and slowly crushing the life out of your optic nerve, then that’s what it probably is.”

Not only was that what it was, but it had probably been growing there for a long time, for God knows how long, twining itself like a weed within the grass, mute, and tip-toeing with glacial speed. 99.9% probability of being benign.

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Regardless, eventually, though, it was heard. It was heard through blighted energy and disassembled sleep. It was heard through piercing migraines. It was heard through encroaching blindness.

A train barreled past us in the dark. We found ourselves racing after it, leaping on. We stumbled, crowded into a corner by minatory appointments and tests, louring specialists and suppositions looming ominously. Elizabeth Bathory would have paid good money to coordinate the blood draws; there were so many, her tubs would have been filled until the end of time. The only drawback being that he wasn’t a virgin.

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Despite all this it seemed, still, like there was time. Time to wait, time to decide. But the doctor’s sudden “ASAP” propelled us into action. Dates were quickly plucked from the air, netted and locked down.

Meet with surgeon.

Back again to primary doctor the week before.

Electrocardiogram.

More blood taken.

MRI the night before.

Surgery the next day.

It seemed surreal how quickly events had happened, and I experienced a familiar, deep empathy for those who had endured the same whirlwind out of nowhere but for much higher stakes. After all, a 99.9% probability of being benign were pretty good odds; odds many never received.

While the surgery was happening, waiting was the worst part, being unable to really focus on anything, just waiting, staring around at others: A family bunched together in the corner, very talkative and cheerful. A young woman whose mother had been taken in earlier. An elderly woman with a walker.

Amazingly, the gigantic plate glass window, similar to those at airports, revealed a perfect day outside. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, bright, piercing light. It had just been raining a few days ago, blustering and cold. I opted to see this as a good sign and sipped at my tepid coffee.

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And it was. In recovery, hours and hours later, he lay in the bed slowly surfacing upwards from unconsciousness. Everything had gone well. The revival sequence played in a repeating loop until they wheeled him down the hall into a room an hour later.

He’d wake up and moan and say, “Oh, my head,” and nod off.

He wake up and say, “I can see that!” and nod off.

He’d wake up and say, “Can I have some water?” and nod off.

He’d wake up and moan say, “Oh, my head…” and begin again. The only anomaly being that he once mentioned South Pacific and a song that he couldn’t stop thinking of.

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The doctor had told me, earlier, that the pituitary had been squeezed thin by the fat ass of the tumor. He thought that, over time, it would probably regain some, if not most, of its shape back. And he didn’t say “fat ass,” of course. But I did.

The tumor may have been slow-growing with a 99.9% probability of being benign, but eventually it had swollen, like a tick, greedily overflowing into all the available real estate. Crushing the pituitary. Impinging on the optic nerve. It existed only for itself, giving nothing back. The havoc it wreaked on the surrounding environment sufficed only to generate anxiety, depression. A sense of helplessness. If I were to label it under those terms, the best name would be the Trump Tumor.

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Thank God it was now somewhere in the depths of Cedars Sinai, due to be dissected and examined ad infinitum.

I looked around the recovery room. Phones were ringing. Machinery was hissing. The lady with the walker was sitting beside a sleeping man, crying.

And then there was singing. I turned back, watching as he sang There Is Nothing Like a Dame from “South Pacific” disjointedly. I took it as a good sign. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were.

Amidst all this–the tears, the singing, the phones, the machinery–the nurses and volunteers and specialists and orderlies and aides and surgeons moved around the hospital, from room to room, floor to floor, scenario to scenario, person to person, immersed, fully and completely, in the business of life and death.

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Dreaming of Drowning

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I guess I’m like a  lot of people. I love stories so much, I’ll take them in any format. I’ll read the books, I’ll see the movies, I’ll listen to the elderly man in the park tell his tale, I’ll read the message on the wall.

I remember some graffiti I saw on a wall in Coney Island one winter when I used to live on the East Coast. The beach was deserted and cold and the message on the wall read, “Did you ever dream you were drowning?”

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It made me recall a weird recurring dream I used to have where I  crouched on the bottom of the sea with tons of ocean above and all around me. It made me want to write something. Or read something. Or go see a movie.  I enjoy being shoved off balance sometimes. I love a jolt of stark imagery. I love being slapped in the face with it.

Go ahead, slap me. I can take it.

If you’re like me, this bunch of books may give you that special literary spanking you may desire. I know you know the movies already, so just in case you didn’t know their counterparts existed, here they are:

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I haven’t seen “Atonement,” but the book of the same title by Ian McEwan was beautifully written, the story dark, troubling, the entire premise stemming from and teetering on and around one simple lie.

The story was like picking your way over stepping stones, distancing yourself further and further from the opposite shore where happiness was but unable to stop because you’d already come this far…

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Everyone must have seen “The Color Purple” by now, but I can’t imagine many reading Alice Walker’s book. It’s a rough read: the first paragraph immediately deals with rape; possibly incestuous at that.  But if you can pull your way through it, it’ll leave you exhaling with that kind of satisfied exhaustion that seems so rare today.

 

 

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” is exactly as exhausting as “The Color Purple,” but for different reasons. Namely because it’s the end of the world.

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If you can don yourself in mental and emotional battle armor beforehand, the simple language of this post-Apocalyptic book will lead you in a straight line to one of the most beautiful closing paragraphs ever written, in my humble opinion.

 

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The movie “Under the Skin” was extremely disturbing, so for those who would like more, read the novel by Michel Faber. Faber’s language shines, as can be seen, for example, here: “Even in the nacreous hush of the winter dawn, when the mists were still dossed down in the fields on either side, the A9 could not be trusted to stay empty for long.”

The novel brims with details the film had no room for, fleshing out the personalities and nefarious activities of characters so that they’re not such a complete and utter mystery.

 

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Remember “Deliverance”? When I finally read the book, I was completely caught off guard by its lyricism. But that was sadly just ignorance on my part, not knowing that author James Dickey was a poet. His marriage of masculine macho with iambic pentameter sensibilities is awe- inspiring.

One of his quotes is: I want a fever, in poetry: a fever, and tranquility.

That almost perfectly summarizes the feeling for me. A fever is a more gentle way of saying, “I want a slap in the face,” a more subtle way of expressing the desire to be roused from a semi-slumber by something bigger than myself, something icy cold or burning hot, something paralyzing or comic or tragic.

Something that makes you dream that you’re drowning.

 

 

2019 – Year of Socks!!

It’s a long time till next December, so I’ll probably reblog this again next fall to remind those of us who’d like to send some socks (or hand towels). Thanks, Michael, for sharing.

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Its 2:06 pm
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I got woken up by Paladin this morning. Thinking he wanted treats at this early hour,I got up and headed down stairs. Except he didn’t follow me down. When I turned to see what was the hold up,he had dragged a calendar,a sock and a wash cloth to the top of the stairs and just stared at me.  I knew then I was a day late in publishing this post about our biggest Pink Hat mission yet and this was not making the cheetah happy.
As some of you may know,I had organized a couple of sock drives and gathered socks from all over the world and donated them to two churches,Our Lady of Victory in Northville where Lori and I got married and St. Thomas ‘a Becket in Canton where we attended and they held Lori’s funeral service.

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It was also at St. Thomas that…

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Beautiful Fantasy: Spartan Justice for All

I need to write a short story and have it done by the end of December (not that anyone cares and/or is reading this), so I’m reblogging a post from almost a year and a half ago ’cause I kinda like it….and you (someone) might enjoy it also. On some level. Wish me luck, ’cause I’m failing so far with the story. But I’ve still got almost a month left………..

Laughter Over Tears

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Where do I begin? Did I love the movie “300”? Yes. Was it based in reality? Somewhat. Here and there. Just put a little Wite-out on the ugly parts and blow up the good parts by 1,000.

Well, it’s kinda like how, over time, certain people and/or events become…let’s say…changed from what actually happened or who they actually were, and all of this becomes viewed, in time, through a distorted lens that’s only telling part of the story. Yeah, yeah, history is written by the victors. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Examples? No problem. Two that stand out in my mind are the Rhodes Scholarship and Margaret Sanger. When one thinks of a Rhodes Scholar and the associated scholarship, one generally conjures up benign brainiacs, geeks and nerds of Mensa or Jeopardy! qualifications, whose brains are bigger, synapses fire faster, or maybe are simply gifted in the retention of trivia and facts.

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RAVINGS OF A MADWOMAN

I think Tom Waits said it best in Telephone Call from Istanbul:

All night long on the broken glass

Livin’ in a medicine chest

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Sprawled across a rolltop desk

Yeah, I’d tweaked my back a little bit while doing deadlifts several weeks ago. Nothing like ten years ago when I’d first really tweaked it. And this time, it seemed to be getting better, not worse. Barely noticed any soreness.

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Then suddenly a monster appeared. Out of nowhere. It raked a casual claw down my right side from lower back to ankle, producing a blinding voltaic agony that belied its  gentle, almost loving stroke.

For those of you who’ve never experienced it, it’s called sciatica, and I’m not exaggerating the horror. Imagine a dentist probing your cavity without anesthesia. One minute you’d be sitting in the chair, the next you’d be attached to the ceiling. The sciatic nerve is just as sensitive, minus the dentist. But it’s debilitating. There is no comfortable position. You can’t move. You can’t sit down. You can’t lie down. You can’t stand up. You can’t walk. You can’t think. You can’t sleep.

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I used to be pretty tough as a kid. I was a tomboy. I climbed trees, roller skated for miles, pummeled myself in gymnastics.

Once I was accidentally smashed in the chin with a golf club by a neighborhood kid. At the hospital later as the doctor stitched up the wound, he commented on how brave I was (I refused to cry in front of him).

I broke my toe on a family vacation and didn’t tell anyone. When asked why I was limping, I said I’d stubbed it.

Chasing my older brother brought all sorts of woe all the time. I ran through the shower door once, receiving a large shard of glass in my knee in the process.

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I slammed my temple harder than an MMA fighter on a wooden gate while once again pursuing said older sibling. The doctor told my mother not to let me go to sleep that night, and I remember happily watching TV and reading while a huge lump throbbed on the side of my head.

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There’s many more examples, but suffice it to say that when the monster appeared a week ago, pressing almost absentmindedly on the  nerve running down my leg, oh, so disinterestedly, preoccupied with the other myriad matters that could only concern a monster like it, that younger me, that braver me, was nowhere in sight.

In fact, if I was taken as a prisoner of war right now, today, I think the safety of the entire United States would come into serious jeopardy, because evidently, even before they got started, just the thought of the forthcoming torture would have me singing like an opera diva. Sorry, you guys. Sorry, America. Just being real.

Props to hubby, BTW, for trying everything under the sun to alleviate the suffering, including tight calf wrappings, experiments with pillows, and Icy Hot massages.

A product of this flare-up itself, though, was all the weird things going through my mind as the monster squatted, an unwelcome interloper, inside me. Maybe not so much weird as disparate, zinging up and down a wildly fluctuating scale as I morphed from pain to relief and back to pain again: the ravings of a madwoman.

As the TV droned in the background, vomiting up old topics, reality transmogrified. I imagined that Trump, someone who’d never been in the military, much less a war, had never voiced the incredible, mind-boggling suggestion that Senator McCain was a loser for “getting caught” by the enemy. Instead, he and McCain became good friends, exercised together in an endless pool, and started an afternoon bowling group.

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I imagined the NFL players kneeling down during the National Anthem and people reacting with empathy and compassion for those in America whose experiences in “the land of the free” differed wildly from theirs, observing not disrespect for the flag but only a simple desire to have a deep concern recognized, since all other traditional routes and attempts had gone more or less unheard. As a result, changes came about, and eventually everybody got along and loved each other.

I remembered the fun of seeing Undiscovered Country in the Mann Theater in Hollywood and wondered what in the name of all that’s holy was The Book of Henry about?

Same with Mother! I’ve heard all the theories and explanations, but I still want to know who had snuck the LSD into my Coke while I was watching that movie.

When the monster was reclining in the La-Z-boy sipping a cup of coffee, reading the paper, distracted, my thoughts would go soft and mushy like Jell-O, nullified by the universal equalizer: pain killers.

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I thought how much I loved these words:

Miasmatic

Stygian

Luminous

Supernal

Transmogrify

I wondered who came up with “a murder of crows” and was there a more beautiful sentence anywhere in the world?

And what of the hordes of wild parrots that had taken over Burbank? Their screechy, ear-piercing shrieks were a thousand times louder and more knife-like than the caw-caw-cawing of the crows.

What were they? A wreckage of parrots? A slaughter of parrots? A calamity of parrots? A misfortune of parrots?

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I wondered who didn’t love Daniel Day Lewis’s character bellowing, “I drink your milkshake,” or yelling, “I’m finished!” at the bizarre conclusion of There Will Be Blood?

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I thought: No wonder people have near death experiences and then their entire perspective shifts. I don’t have any warnings to give like “be careful when you’re working out, or this will happen,” or anything like that, ‘cause I was doing everything pretty much right.

The weight wasn’t super-heavy, and I had my heavy lifting belt on along with other gear. It just happened. Obviously sciatica pain was nothing close to near death (although it felt like it) but it was a big kick in the butt, a colossal reminder of how great it is to feel good and how lucky we are when everything inside us is running smoothly.

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I also realized I was no longer the child who refused to cry while the doctor stitched up her chin. I had succumbed to a fair amount of whimpering and sniveling and unabashed writhing during this sciatica event. But that was okay. Maybe younger me had paved the way for older me to handle an extremely unenjoyable tango with the monster—and hopefully many other things in life–better than I might have had I not been a tough little tomboy.

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And man, I don’t think anybody wants to see what that would have looked like, including me.