Category Archives: empathy

Dancing Towards the Brighter Light

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In Texas a little girl who has cerebral palsy committed the crime of crossing a border patrol station near Laredo on the way to having life-saving gall bladder surgery.  So the border patrol followed her to the hospital, waited until the surgery was finished, and then took her to a detention facility for deportation.  Wow!

We are a heartless people.  We elect heartless representatives to congress to make heartless laws to punish people for being poor, or not being white, or not being patriotic enough at football games during the playing of the national anthem.  We elected an orange-faced creature with bad hair to the presidency rather than electing a human being with a beating heart.   And why did we do that?  Because too many people were in favor of health care laws and regulations that help people we don’t like.  We elected him to send a message to all the people we don’t like.  That message was, “Screw you, why don’t you just die already?”  We like that message because we are a heartless people.

 

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But while we are only thinking of ourselves and vowing to let everybody else go to hell, somewhere the music of the dance begins to play.  Hear it yet?

Somewhere children are laughing.

Somewhere Santa Claus is real.

Holidays are approaching and, with indictments sealed and in the hands of prosecutors, possible impeachment looms.  The happy dance is about to begin again.

Or maybe it never really went away.  People did care, do care, about the crisis in Puerto Rico.  After the hurricane, Dippy Donald Dimwit tossed paper towels to survivors, apparently suggesting that all he needed to do was that to symbolically get all the people cleaning up while holding on to their own bootstraps and pulling with all their might.  Apparently heartless people believe you can levitate if you pull upwards on bootstraps.  But Tesla gifted the city of San Juan with solar panels and batteries and started set-up of an island-based solar power grid to get Puerto Rico back online in the modern world.  And Elon Musk is taking the steps towards building the future that the pumpkinhead in chief can’t even conceive in his empty pumpkin head.  The music sways and builds.  The dancers circle each other and first steps in ballet shoes begin.

We are a heartless people.  We suffer in our cubicles alone, angry at a heartless world.  “Why don’t you love me?” each one of us cries, “aren’t I worthy of love?”  But crying never solved a problem.  No, counting our regrets and hoarding the list of wrongs done to us never started a heart to beating.  But the music builds.  Try smiling at that hard-working clerk who takes your information at the DMV, and then thanking them at the end for their hard work even though they have to deny you the permit because there are more bits of paperwork that have to be found and signed.  Try making a joke in line at the post office that makes the other hundred and ten people actually laugh while waiting interminably.  Do your best to bring light to the darkness, not for yourself, but for other people.  The music builds.  Do you know the steps to the dance?  No?  Well, the steps won’t matter if you begin to move to the music, begin to glide… And the heart starts pumping, and we begin to feel alive again.  Hallelujah!  We are dancing towards the light again.

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Filed under compassion, empathy, forgiveness, healing, insight, inspiration, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Tricks With Lazy Goals in Mind

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As a writer, my goal is to create wisdom and new ideas and stuff that makes a reader feel happy, or sad, or angry, or even slightly insane.  But thinking is hard when your head hurts and your body aches and your sixty-sixth birthday is just around the corner.  (Yes, this Mickey is nearly 66, but can you believe that that other Mickey is going to be 94 on the day after I turn 66?)  Sometimes you just want to say, “Never mind that I wanted to post every single day for the past two years.  Just curl up in a ball and go to sleep.”  But there are ways to get something done even if your mind is full of the Sandman’s leavings and old, rotted dreams.

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You can always get by with posting somebody else’s wisdom… somebody else’s thinking.  You don’t have to work too hard to paste things together.  After all, why else did you have to look at so many cut-and-paste essays over the years in middle school and high school?

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And you can rely on the work you have already done collecting computer files full of colorful crap and stuff you like enough to steal to complete your cut-and-paste scrapbook post.  You don’t have to feel like you erred and are about to have your head cut off by an angry Groo.

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And you know you can get a lot of cheap likes on Facebook with some of the stuff you have available to put in this post.  You have been working at the “Be funny!” thing for a long time and have gotten almost good enough at it to be funny on the fly.  And when you’ve gotten more than halfway to the goal, you can rest a bit.  Take a nap.  Regenerate the crazy things in your head so you can do this all again another day.

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And if you can have a laugh before you are finished, even if no one else in the world gets the joke… well, at least you will feel a little bit better yourself.

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Filed under battling depression, blog posting, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, healing, humor, illness, self pity, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Good Versus Evil in Today’s World

Innocence, Purity, and Courage are Good

It is the goal of those who write humor to reveal truth and make you laugh about it. Unexpected truth is funny. It is also the main reason that far-right political kooks have no sense of humor Simply put, for the evil and stupid people who are taking over this country, truth is not funny. It is the enemy.

The fact that so many who are quick to argue cannot be quieted by a joke anymore means that the conversation can’t end until they’ve owned the libtard, or punched him in the face… or worse, shot him dead with their beloved Second-Amendment Rights.

And a source of that evil is the whole conservative-bubble propaganda wheels that never stop turning on Fox News, Breitbart, One America News, and Stormfront publications.

They take up arms against the things they fear. And they fear those people that their propaganda wheels identify for them as the “other.” That means people of color, Democrats, liberals, ANTIFA (which stands for anti-fascists, and as far as I can tell are mostly fictional… which prevents me from joining them,) and intellectuals (meaning anybody that is smarter than they are… specifically me.)

Yes, White Priviledge is real, though they will complain you’re being racist if you say it out loud.

The most frustrating thing about the armies of evil is that they are made up of good, basically God-fearing, fine-hearted people who would do anything for you if you are identified as a member of their group by the color of your skin or your support of their glorious leader Don Cheetoh Trumpaloney. Unfortunately the consumption of propaganda from their fear-centered and conspiracy-theory-prone propaganda wheels stimulates the fear centers of their amygdalas (also known as their lizard brains) and suppresses their natural empathy to the point of being able to do violence in the name of leaders who are basically robbing them, conning them, and laughing about it behind their backs.

Enthusiasm for an idea like this… good or evil?

And the leaders who are doing all of this, they are the primary beneficiaries of corporate greed and control of politics to the point that they can make more profits than ever from fossil fuels at a time when the planet is dying from green-house gasses that cause fires in the western States and the ferocity of Hurricane Ian in Florida.

So, what are people who would rather see good happen than have the world die in fire and a hail of bullets going to do about it?

We can vote. Here are the names of some people who support evil ideas and have made lots of money in their respective offices; Ron DeSantis (Mickey Mouse’s new nemesis), Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott (Evil Emperor of Texas,) Marco Rubio (enemy of immigrants everywhere,) and basically anyone who rules with a Maga hat on, or calls himself a Trump Republican.

We have to keep fighting for public education, fair and equal and well-funded, free of book banning in school libraries that target classic works of black authors, gay authors, truth-tellers, and authors of science books that include climate change and evolution as scientifically established, and willing to treat kids as valuable learners no matter what color, religion, ethnicity, culture, or sexual orientation they are blessed with. Kids are kids and deserve love and respect (even the naked ones, though I am not advocating for nude schools… that’s just a joke.)

We have to treat the aggrieved and fearful members of the evil armies not as evil, but as our misguided brothers and sisters, neighbors, useful members of society, and people who can be reminded that they do have good hearts, and only cold-hearted lunatics and despots are truly evil.

And I will continue trying to open eyes and hearts with humor. Hopefully the kind that brings smiles and laughter. But also the kind that brings tears and self-examination as necessary. (Of course, I can’t promise to be good at it. Funny is in the brain of the laugher after all.)

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Filed under angry rant, education, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, kids, politics, red States

Humble Pie

The difference between who you want to be and who you are is humbling.

The recipe for humble pie requires good, clear eyesight.

And you need a reliable mirror that only shows the flaws in the reflected image, not in the mirror itself.

And you need to look at every detail in the whole of you. Even the secret things that you tend to conceal from everybody, especially yourself.

And writing a novel, if you do it right, is a form of baking humble pie.

The good and the not-so-good is reflected in reviews, which are often written with mirrors that have flaws.

But what you see, if you are honest with yourself, can show you that, even though you are far from perfect, you are exactly what you are supposed to be.

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Recognizing What is Good

We have to have a reason to keep going from day to day. Sometimes people you would never expect to give up, real balls of intellectual energy and cultural importance give up and end their own lives. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Robin Williams come to mind with no mental effort..

There has to be an undeniable goodness hidden somewhere in reality that makes life worth living. The real question, then, is how we find it. And in order to find it, we need to be able to recognize goodness when we see it.

A problem arises, though, when we realize that even the worst villains in history see themselves as the good guys, the heroes of their own stories in the annals of history. ,

There are many things in life that are seen generally as bad or evil that can, over time and with factual input come to be seen as a general good. I was more or less taught as a boy that if you masturbate, you are doomed to go to hell when you die. I was taught this after I had already been sexually assaulted and tortured. I tried really hard to completely resist the urge, going so far as to burn myself whenever I felt a desire to do the deed. But when the Methodist minister told our confirmation group the actual facts of life, he also taught us that masturbation is a natural function for both boys and girls. And that it was necessary to learn how your body actually works. And how to approach it with maturity and the realization that in later life you will probably need that practice to maintain a healthy love life based on mutual love, respect, and desire. And as an adult, I would actually reach an understanding that that particular practice was a useful thing for maintaining prostate health, avoiding depression, and helping both your immune system and your sense of satisfaction with life. It is a good thing that is hard to recognize.

I would also learn in my role as a teacher, especially when I taught middle school kids in their “Wonder Years,” that there really are no bad kids or evil kids. When they act out in class, being defiant, disobedient, unruly, inappropriate, and every other kind of stinky behavior that kids do, you can’t just throw them on a trash pile and get rid of them. That only leads to more of the same and a trash pile of monumental size. Rather, every instance of misbehavior has a root cause. And if you take the opportunity to talk to the juvenile offender, you can get down to those root causes where you can solve problems, extinguish bad behaviors, and instill good behaviors. You get to know the kid for who they really are. And I have to admit, by the sixth grade, some kids are so damaged by life there is literally nothing within your power to heal what’s wrong. You can still work with those kids, though, and benefit them in the long run. I had some amazing accomplishments with some kids that other teachers had on their trash piles. There is startling good in some of them, if only you are willing to search for it.

So, what is my reason, as the insufferable know-it-all who is giving you this unasked-for advice about life, for getting up and going on every single day?

Well, I am a pessimist by philosophical habit, and yet, I find more really good and worthwhile things to pursue in this life than bad things to avoid or arm myself against. In fact, I can focus on the good things and ignore the bad (at least until I have a bad week like last week where multiple terrible things happen all at once and screw up everything. I fear that may have been what happened to Robin Williams.)

I can see good coming from all the things the former orange-skinned leader of our government is doing or has done that are basically evil. (There is real evil in the world.) He is busily leading all the evil lemmings in the Republican Party off a cliff that will go a long way towards cleaning up corruption in Washington.

I am still fundamentally a pessimist, but I do recognize;

It is far better to live in the sunlight where you can see what is good and what is evil than to try to hide yourself in the darkness and hope the wolves that are hunting you simply never sniff you out.

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Lessons From Tchaikovsky

I used to be a classroom storyteller.  As an English teacher for middle school kids, I often would give brief biographical insights into famous people we were talking about at the time.  I told them about Crazy Horse of the Sioux tribe, Roger Bacon the alchemist and inventor of chemistry as a science, Mark Twain in Gold Rush California, and many other people I have found fascinating through my life as a reader and writer of English.

One bright boy in my gifted class remarked, “Mr. B, you always tell us these stories about people who did something amazing, and then you end it with they eventually died a horrible death.”

Yep.  That’s about right.  In its simplest form life consists of, “You are born, stuff happens, and then you die.”  And it does often seem to me that true genius and great heroism are punished terribly in the end.  Achilles destroys Hector, but his heel is his undoing.  Socrates taught Plato, and was forced to drink poison for being too good at teaching.  Custer was a vain imbecile and got what he deserved at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but Crazy Horse, who made it happen, was pursued for the rest of his short life for it until he was finally captured and murdered.  Roger Bacon contributed immensely to science by experimenting with chemicals, but because he blew up his lab too often, and because one of his students blew himself up in a duel with another student, he ended his days in prison for practicing sorcery.

But if you have listened to any of the music I have added to this post, the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, then you recognized it, unless you have lived your whole life under a rock in Nomusikvetchistan.  And why is that?  Because even though it is all classical music written in the 1800’s, it’s basic genius and appeal is immortal.  It will outlive all of us.  Some of it, having been placed on a record on the Voyager space craft may get played and appreciated a million years from now in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.  It will still be a work of pure genius.

And, of course, the horrible life and terrible death thing is a part of it too.  Tchaikovsky’s work took an incredibly difficult path to success.  He was criticized by Russians for being too Western and not Russian enough.  He was criticized in the West for being too exotic and basically “too Russian”.  He railed against critics and suffered horribly at their hands.  Then, too, his private life was far less private than it had any right to be.  He was a bachelor most of his life, except for a two year marriage of pure misery that ended in divorce.  And everybody, with the possibility of Pyotr himself, knew it was because he was a homosexual.  He probably did have that orientation, but in a time and a career where it was deemed an illegal abomination.  So whether he ever practiced the lifestyle at great risk to himself, or he repressed it his entire life, we will never know for sure.

But the music is immortal.  And by being immortal, the music makes Tchaikovsky immortal too.  Despite the fact that he died tragically at the age of 53, possibly by suicide.

So, this is the great lesson of Tchaikovsky.  The higher you fly, the farther you fall, and you will fall… guaranteed, but that will never make the actual flight not worth taking.  Some things in life are more important than life itself.  As I near the end myself, I cling to that truth daily.

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Filed under classical music, education, empathy, humor, insight, inspiration, music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Wisdom From a Writer’s Life

Don’t get too excited.  I searched every box, trunk, bag of tricks, safe, closet, and jelly bean jar that I have in my rusty old memory.  I didn’t find much.  In fact, the old saying is rather applicable, “The beginning of wisdom is recognizing just how much of a fool you really are.”  The little pile of bottle caps and marshmallows that represent the sum total of my wisdom is infinitely tiny compared to the vast universe of things I will never know and never understand.  I am a fool.  I probably have no more wisdom than you do.  But I have a different point of view.  It comes from years worth of turning my ideas inside out, of wearing my mental underwear on the outside of my mental pants just to get a laugh, of stringing images and stupid-headed notions together in long pointless strings like this one.

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Mason City, Iowa… where I was born.  River City in the musical “The Music Man“.

One thing I can say with certainty, nothing makes you understand “home”, the place you grew up in and think of as where you come from, better than leaving it and going somewhere else.  Federal Avenue in Mason City looks nothing now like it did when I was a boy in the 1960’s going shopping downtown and spending hours in department stores waiting for the ten minutes at the end in the toy section you were promised for being good.  You have to look at the places and people of your youth through the lenses of history and distance and context and knowing now what you didn’t know then.

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Grandpa Aldrich’s farm in Iowa is now Mom and Dad’s house.  It has been in the family for over 100 years, a Century Farm.

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.  If I look back at the arc of my life, growing up in Iowa with crazy story-telling skills inherited from Grandpa Aldrich, to going to Iowa State “Cow College” and studying English, to going to University of Iowa for a remedial teaching degree because English majors can’t get jobs reading books, to teaching in distant South Texas more than a thousand miles away, to learning all the classroom cuss words in Spanish the hard way, by being called that, to moving to Dallas/Fort Worth to get fired from one teaching job and taking another that involved teaching English to non-English speakers, to retiring and spending time writing foolish reflections like this one because I am old and mostly home-bound with ill health.  I have come a long way from childhood to second childhood.

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                                                                                      If “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is really true, I should be Superman now.  I look like I’ve seen a lot of Kryptonite, don’t I?

Six incurable diseases and being a cancer survivor since 1983 have left their marks upon me.  Literally.  Little pink bleedy spots all over me are the mark of psoriasis.  The fuzzy-bad photo of me spares you some of the gory details.  The point is, I guess, that life is both fleeting and fragile.  If you never stop and think about what it all means then you are a fool.  If you don’t try to understand it in terms of sentences and paragraphs with main ideas, you are an even bigger fool.  You must write down the fruit of your examinations and ruminations.  But if you reach a point that you are actually satisfied that you know what it all means, that makes you the biggest fool of all.

If I have any wisdom at all to share in this post about wisdom, it can be summed up like this;

  • Writing helps you with knowing, and knowing leads to wisdom.  So take some time to write about what you know.
  • Writing every day makes you more coherent and easier to understand.  Stringing pearls of wisdom into a necklace comes with practice.
  • Writing is worth doing.  Everyone should do it.  Even if you don’t think you can do it well.
  • You should read and understand other people’s wisdom too, as often as possible.  You are not the only person in the world who knows stuff.  And some of their stuff is better than your stuff.
  • The stuff you write can outlive you.  So make the ghost of you that you leave behind as pretty as you can.  Someone may love you for it.  And you can never be sure who that someone will be.

So by now you are probably wondering, where is all that wisdom he promised us in the title?  Look around carefully in this essay.  If you don’t see it there, then you are probably right in thinking, just as I warned you about at the outset, “Gosh darn that Mickey!  He is a really big fool.”

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He Rose on a Golden Wing… Canto 2

Chopin – Etude Op. 10 No. 1 (Waterfall)

It was an evil plan, a wickedness the boys would never see coming.  But Valerie knew it was a necessary plan.  She made them go by foot.  You could reach the skinny-dipping pond by foot if you followed the tracks out south of town, past Uncle Dash’s farm and past the Sumpter Park Woods where the city of Norwall maintained a shelter house with picnic tables and a manicured lawn that led to trails into the woods and eventually to the old Sumpter log cabin, what was left of it.

There was an old ox-bow pond that once had been connected to the Iowa River, but now was a separate body of water coming out of an artesian spring that brought fresh water from the shared river water table.

“Really?  We’re going to the old Pirates’ skinny-dipping place?” Ricky Porter asked skeptically.

“It’s too late in the year for swimming, Val,” Billy Martin reminded her.  “October is too cold in Iowa.”

“You really think I would make you come this far just for a chance to see you guys naked?  Again?”

“When did you ever see me naked?” asked Billy.  At eighteen he was a rather bony and skinny youth.  And he was so painfully shy that Val had not even seen him in swimming trunks.

“Okay, well… I wasn’t referring to you.”

“I only go in if you do,” Ricky said to her.  He had dared her like that once before, though she had seen his golden-brown, muscled form and then successfully backed out of going in herself.

“We didn’t come here for that,” she answered with a frown.  “I needed to talk to you both.  I had another one of those dreams again last night.  I spent the whole night crying.”

“The angel dreams again?” Billy asked, wide-eyed.

“Michel Volant, yes.”

“You know we’re here for you, Val.  We’re your friends and fellow Pirates,” Ricky said.

“But you also know how much it hurts to talk about Francois,” Billy said, tears already forming in his eyes.

Valerie looked him squarely in the eyes.  She knew he would see exactly what she meant.

“Oh, gawd, Val, you haven’t been hurting yourself already have you?” Billy asked, his voice quavering slightly.

“Not this time.  But you know those dreams usually mean another black depression is coming on.  And you know what we have to do about it.”

“Yeah.  We promised to always tell each other if we ever had those kinds of thoughts again.”  Ricky’s eyes were tearing up again too.  Val was aware he had cut himself on the ankles more than any of them had ever done themselves self-harm.  He was the one who had spent a week in the hospital two years ago.

“Have you been thinking about hurting yourself, Val?” Billy asked.

“Maybe.  That’s why we had to talk today and not wait any longer.”

“Is it… is it Francois again?”

“Billy, we can talk about Tommy this time.  I just need to hear it again.  I just know if we don’t do something about the ones we lost…”

“…To keep them alive in our hearts, yeah,” said Ricky.

“You know I can’t tell you anything about Tommy.  I never met him.  I spent the whole blizzard down in the cellar next to the furnace while it burned propane.”  Billy looked sadly across the wind-rippled water.

“What do you want to know about Tommy?  I don’t know everything, but I knew him a few years longer than you did.”  Ricky’s eyes were glistening.

“You haven’t heard from him since the blizzard, have you?” She asked.

“You know I would tell you if I had.  Besides, he didn’t take anybody’s phone number with him.”

“He could’ve looked us up.  He knows you were taken in by Cliff Baily and his new wife.  He knows I live in town with my mother.”

“Yeah, but that’s not Tommy’s style.  He survived on the road because he always lived in the moment.  He was focused on where he was and the people he was with… in the NOW.”

“Yeah.  I remember him that way too.”

“What more do you really want to know about him, Val?”

“Why did you boys follow him all the way to Norwall?”

“Well… um, I… Yeah…”

“You can tell me.  No matter how hard it may seem, Ricky.  We’re Pirates, you and I.  You can tell me anything.”

“Are we still Norwall Pirates?” Billy asked.  “We haven’t had a club meeting in two years.  And you made your little cousin, Tim Kellogg, the new Pirate leader.”

“You did?  You didn’t tell me?”

“Oh, Ricky.  You left the Pirates before Billy and I did.  They are all younger kids now.  We’re old.  Almost adults.”

“Yeah, but… Once a Pirate, always a Pirate.”

“We’ll always be a part of it.  The club was started by my cousin Brent Clarke, and he says he’s still a Pirate.  It’s just that the Pirates belong in the control of the Norwall kids, so they learn to rely on each other, and form the team that helps us all survive the perils of the unknown.”

Ricky and Billy both smiled and laughed a little at that.  They knew it was true just as surely as Valerie did.

“We’re off topic now, Rick,” Billy said.  “You promised her to tell her why you followed Tommy here to Norwall.”

“Yeah… um… You know that most kids in the foster care system get abused one way or another…”

“Yeah, Tommy told me that too… during the blizzard.”

“We didn’t form the Fantastic Foursome just by getting on that Trailways bus together.  Terry and I met in the group home.  He had nobody to talk to him in his previous foster homes… because nobody spoke sign language.”

“Did you know sign when you met him?” Billy asked.

“Terry taught me.  He needed someone to talk to desperately.   And I learned fast.”

“Faster than you taught it to me?”

“Well, yeah…  You’re kinda a slow learner, Billy.”

“Okay, but that don’t mean I ain’t smart.”

“Of course, not,” Valerie said.

“Well, you can see what Terry’s real father did to him if you look at his burned ears.  His father was the reason he was deaf.”

“And what about Tommy and Dennis?” Val asked.

“Well, you remember Denny had those crutches.  He got that way from malnourishment.  His first fosters only had him to get the money the State paid.  They practically starved him to death.  The mom of that family went to jail for it.  Denny probably would’ve died if Brikkleputti… I mean, Mom, hadn’t followed us all the way to Norwall with the medicine Denny and I both needed.”

“Is Denny still alive, you think?”

“Sure, Val.  If Tommy’s alive, and I know he is, he wouldn’t have let anything happen to Denny.  He loved him like a little brother.”

“He loved all three of you like that.”

“Yeah, he did.  That’s why he left us here when he left for Dallas.  He took Denny with him, but he left me with Cliff and Mom to be a family like I never had before.  And the Dawes family wanted to adopt Terry too.  He left us behind for our own good.”

“But why was Tommy running away to begin with?”

“Well… the last foster family he lived with, they… beat him.  And when he finally got strong enough to fight back, the cops came and took Tommy and locked him up… not that crazy old man who beat him.”

“Yeah, Tommy told me about that too.”

“And what about you, Ricky?”  Billy asked.

“Well, I… uh… maybe I ain’t ready to talk about that just yet.”

“The Teddy Bear Killer?” Val asked.

“Yeah, don’t even say his name, please.”

“I know what you mean.  I… um… I can’t talk about Daddy Kyle, either.”

“But, Val, what did we even come here for, then?” Billy asked.

“We gotta talk about the hard things.  All three of us,” said Ricky.  “We all are hurting inside almost all of the time.”

“Yeah, and that’s why we’re here instead of trying to meet in Zoomboogadoo.  This pond is touched by magic, just like the gazebo in Zoomboogadoo.”

“No, that’s not a real place.  We didn’t actually meet Francois and his sister in dreams.  That was all just us imagining it.  And Ricky wasn’t even able to meet us in the Dreamlands… not even once.”  Billy was visibly upset.

“You are never going to convince me that Zoomboogadoo wasn’t real.  I remember it too vividly.”

“But dreams can be vivid sometimes, and still not real,” reminded Ricky.

“All right.   But this place is magic too.  I have come here more than once to talk to Clovis.  You just have to be in the right state of mind.”

“Val, there is no Clovis.  He’s just a story they tell in the Pirates’ meetings to explain the disappearance of Conrad Doble.  You said yourself, it was old Mrs. Haire that scared him away for good.  He didn’t turn into no naked kid with horns and a tail.”  It was Ricky’s turn to look visibly upset.

“Yeah, well… we need to stay ahead of the depression and the suicidal thinking.  We are not any of us ever going to hurt ourselves again.  That doesn’t cure the problems that are causing us pain.”

“You’re right, Val,” said Billy.

“Yeah, we gotta talk it all out,” said Ricky.

“Yeah.  And we’re gonna do it here, by the skinny-dipping pond.  And we’re gonna do it naked.  That’s the evil plan.”

“What?”  Both boys were upset.

“You remember how it was in Zoomboogadoo,” said Valerie, looking straight into the eyes of Billy.  “We all showed up there in our dreams with no clothes on.  Like we were born into it.  Innocent as babes.”

“That was just a dream,” Billy insisted.

“Yeah, and it wasn’t cold fall weather either, I bet,” said Ricky.

“That’s true.  But that’s what will keep us from being seen and watched by the other Pirates.  They only come here during skinny-dipping season.”

“What if we can’t do it?  Get naked here… I mean,” said Billy with a stutter.

“And what if we don’t want to do it?” Ricky added.

“Well, we’ll take it slow.  It is not because of sex or wanting to see each other naked.  It’s about being completely honest and open.  No barriers.  If we don’t help each other when the darkness returns to our brains, someone else will die.  And I can’t lose anybody else in my life.  I need to add people, not lose them.” All three of them saw the dark clouds coming on the horizon in the mind’s eye.  At least, Val was almost positive they did.  And the one advantage the Pirates had over other people who get darkly depressed and suicidal was that they had each other.  These three friends, at least, actually knew each other better than most friends ever do.  And soon they would be inside each other’s heads in ways that Valerie simply knew would help. 

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Filed under Depression, empathy, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Living in the Spider Kingdom

Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.

My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.

For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding of what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.

So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.

We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.

But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.

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Filed under commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy

A Few Feet Apart

My second cousin in Iowa (daughter of my grandmother’s youngest brother and the oldest kid at the family Thanksgiving dinner in 1966 because she was two years older than me) is still in the hospital with the Delta Variant of Covid 19. She is apparently going to survive, but she is one of the many unvaccinated people causing the present surge in cases simply because she’s a loyal Republican Trumpkin who believes Fox News when it tells them that vaccinations violate their Constitutional rights and basic sacred Freedoms (as screamed by Senator Ted Cruz pretending to be William Wallace, but actually sounding more like comedian Wally Cox.)

I don’t believe that people have a Constitutional right to potentially infect people who can’t get vaccinated (like those who are severely immuno-compromised or those who are four-years-old and younger.)

That doesn’t mean I think my cousin deserves to die for her wrong beliefs. I pray that death isn’t the consequence for her poor choice of political beliefs. But increasingly, those on her side of the political fence (…or maybe the political castle wall, border wall, or deadly electrified fence) think that liberals like I have become are evil, communist, Satanist. Antifa, child-sex-trafficking cannibals and deserve to be killed with your sacred AR-15. (If I ate any white Christian babies for breakfast this morning, I was completely unaware of it. They tasted like regular pancakes and sausage.) The anger on their side is increasingly heated up and moved towards violence by their propaganda-wielding leaders. They will tell me to my face that if I support Biden’s political agenda, then I must be a communist, wanting to burn our country down and in favor of pedophilia. (And I don’t dare suggest that they might be prejudiced or even racist.)

“I basically loved every kid who ever walked into my classroom to be my student.”

“Really, Mickey? Even poor black kids who have challenging behaviors?”

“Some of my all-time favorite kids were black and had behavioral challenges. That’s why 2020 taught me to be on the side of Black Lives Matter.”

“That’s a radical thing. You should say All Lives Matter.”

“All lives do matter. But black lives have been under more threat than others. Can’t you say Black Lives Matter too?

I SAID ALL LIVES MATTER!!!”

“But why can’t you say Black Lives Matter too?”

And so the conversation ends.

They hate us. Because we don’t believe everything they believe. Especially the things that aren’t true. And it is only getting gradually worse.

And it’s frustrating. We are actually only a few feet apart. And think what a wonderfully beautiful ballet it would be if only we could synchronize our steps and dance the same dance.

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Filed under education, empathy, humor, insight, Liberal ideas, strange and wonderful ideas about life