Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Frozen Watch

Theresa's watch is frozen at 6 o'clock. It has been stubbornly keeping the same hour for 40 years. When asked why she holds onto the timepiece, Theresa says, "Why, it's a good watch! It still keeps the time."
Then she smiles and starts humming. No one is sure of the tune. Her eyes glaze over and just like that Theresa is gone, lost in the ancient maze of her disconnected memory.

The Meadows staff and the occasional visitor where Theresa resides do not pay her much heed. She is a harmless, crazy old woman now, her brain scrambled with powerful psychotropic drugs and electroshock therapy.

"Be careful about spending too much time with those head doctors," she likes to whisper during rare lucid moments. "They're looking for crazy and they ALWAYS find crazy."  She sputters and laughs until the light of cognition goes out and drool escapes from the corner of her mouth.

Time froze for Theresa with the ring of a bell. It was her neighbor at the front door. He was cradling some sort of limp, bloody animal in his arms – road kill, maybe a dog. Theresa could not tell; there was so much blood.

She does not know what happened after that. It is as if someone came along and hit the eject button right before the climactic scene of a suspenseful movie. The psychiatrists call it "psychogenic amnesia", but Theresa doesn't understand their psychobabble. She pretends to listen intently, if her sedatives don't make it too difficult to concentrate, but in truth she is wondering about her son, Billy.

She furtively glances at her watch: Oh dear, it's dinnertime. Billy is officially late. He should have been home at least 15 minutes ago, so he'd have time to wash up before supper. Billy's father will not be pleased.

Theresa looks up at Dr. Olson, "I'm terribly sorry sir, but I must go. My son is waiting for me, and I still have to get the pot roast out of the oven.”

She attempts to get up to leave, but in her chemical restraints she finds her legs don't work like they once did . She doesn’t struggle or fight to stand. Instead, she relaxes back into her chair and calmly folds her hands into her lap, but not before checking her watch again. 

She sighs, "What could be keeping Billy?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Beautiful People

Brittany needed another $100 for the Louis Vuitton handbag she had to have. Every credit card was over its limit and she had exhausted her other usual avenues for borrowed money, except Jezebel, her sister.

Jezebel had a fat savings account, but despised what she referred to as "the beautiful people".  She wouldn't allow anyone to use a dime of her money, not even a dime that earned interest, towards beauty propaganda. And as far as Jezebel was concerned, Louis Vuitton was propaganda.

Brittany did not understand Jezebel. Jezebel was beautiful, despite her black, thick-rimmed glasses, matted hair, refusal to wear deodorant or cosmetics and clothes that added bulk to her otherwise slim frame.

Perhaps Brittany wasn’t as smart as her sister, but it seemed to her Jezebel's righteous contempt for beautiful people was like a wealthy person's contempt for wealth. Don't lecture the poor money can't buy you happiness if you've never been starving, and don't tell the ugly beauty can't bring you popularity if you've never been marginalized by ugliness.

What cruel twist of fate, thought Brittany, was this? She should have Jezebel's beauty. She should be the one with all that disposable income. She should possess Jezebel's ingenuity and shrewd business sense. It was all wasted on Jezebel. Oh the things Brittany would do if she was Jezebel! 

"Of course you don't understand anything!" Jezebel snapped, startling Brittany out of her bitter ruminations.

"You're nothing but a slave who doesn't know the strength of her weakness. You support a master and don't realize you're doing it...with your expensive fashion you can’t afford."

Brittany felt insulted even though she had no idea what Jezebel was even talking about or if she should be insulted. Normally at times like this Brittany would tune her sister out, but she really, really wanted that bag. She would grovel, if necessary.

Jezebel picked up on Brittany's desperation and in a rare, spontaneous act of compromise offered, "I'll tell you what, if you pick all the blackberries in my yard and do the canning I'll give you the money for your meaningless...trinket."

“That sounds like a lot of work," Brittany complained, "and I don't know how to make jam!"

"That’s fine," Jezebel replied as she thrust a recycled bucket towards Brittany. "I'll oversee everything you do. If you want the purse bad enough, you’ll do what I say — you’ll do the work."

Brittany hesitated — some part of her feeling like she was prostituting a piece of her soul, but that was silly. 

She took the bucket.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Digging through Ashes

Alfred was dead, but his ashes still carried the blame for present day miseries. There was much speculation regarding the madness of Alfred. Some said he was schizophrenic and manic-depressive, while others argued he was simply a crazy alcoholic. Most everyone agreed, however, that at the root of Alfred's problem was an inheritable genetic code that could be passed along to those who came after him like a hot potato nobody wanted to be left holding when the music stopped.

Jean knew firsthand the far-reaching impact of Alfred's insanity. She, like all his descendants, was scrutinized for even the slightest hint of mental instability. Jean, who considered herself a time traveler of sorts -- an amateur family historian -- could not accept the gossip. She was obsessed with uncovering the truth about her great-great-grandfather.

It was impossible to reconcile the handsome man in the black and white photo with the madman Alfred was said to have been. He had a James Dean smile and a flirtatious tilt to his jaw that gave him an air of charisma. Indeed, it was rumored he could exude such magnetism that people became light-headed just from being near him. This was the man Jean's great-great-grandmother, Marla, had fallen blindly in love with. But Alfred had a dark side.

He was prone to severe melancholy, paranoid delusions and hallucinations. He used moonshine to silence the chatter inside his head, but it only made things worse, especially for his wife and children, who were terrorized by his psychotic rages.
The situation grew so desperate that one night Marla slit her wrists, attempting to divert Alfred's attention from their baby girl, who he was drowning in a barrel of rainwater. He was convinced the infant was demonically possessed. Both Marla and the baby died, and Alfred was locked away in an insane asylum until he took his own life. The remaining children were orphaned off to relatives and their lives forever tainted by their father's sins.

Jean had to discover for herself if Alfred's madness was truly inborn. She was thus compelled to travel back in time to the Saskatchewan farm where Alfred was raised. There, she found Ruby, 101, who was in possession of a child-sized coffin meant for Alfred when he was nine. Jean looked at the coffin, as if it was a time machine, and listened to Ruby describe how Alfred was expected to die of rheumatic fever, but miraculously survived.

"But he turned strange after that," Ruby confided in a low voice, "always talking to himself and banging his head."

Jean, who had been leaning in as she listened to Ruby talk, sat back in her chair now, thinking of Alfred and his fried brain. She thought of how his "recovery" from near death brought him out of one hell that included child labour on a struggling farm and physical abuse from a particularly sadistic father into a new kind of hell. This new hell consisted of long stints in various mental institutions starting from the age of 12 and continuing off and on for the remainder of his life. 

He was  subjected to every kind of "treatment" and shamed with every kind of stigma. He was plagued with dark rage, crippled by overwhelming guilt, tormented with derogatory internal voices, debilitated by delusions that were impossible to differentiate from reality and in the end this cauldron of confusion was what ultimately killed not only him but his wife and infant daughter. He was not born mad, Jean thought with bittersweet realization. The world made him that way through virus, abuse and circumstance. His ashes were no more to blame than the dying embers of a previously out of control fire ignited by human folly and stoked by ignorance. 

Alfred and his dubious legacy of present day miseries could finally be put to rest. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015


There was her old love George to think about of course. But it was her new love who now occupied her mind and quickened her pulse. George was probably more reliable, but he'd lost his allure. Eve knew every part of him, having dissected and studied his body from his largest limb to his smallest molecule.

She was surprised to discover there indeed wasn't anything under the surface of George, other than normal anatomy. Perhaps he was a little too fatty beneath the skin and around his organs, but otherwise George was an unremarkable specimen, just as he'd said when begging for his life. What Eve could not understand, what ate at her brain until she could not sleep for even an hour was why would George beg for such a meaningless life? What did he care if he lived or died? What was he holding onto? More to the point, what was he hiding?

Eve did not believe George  when he claimed that a 40-hour work week, weekends off, annual vacations, the occasional night out with the guys, a hot meal, a cold beer and a warm female was all he needed for contentment. She didn't think it was possible. Didn't he ponder the mysteries of existence, the purpose of life, the unknowns of death? The dilemma of evil and darkness versus goodness and light? Can one exist without the other? Disorder as opposed to order, the battle between science and faith, the need to find a common ground, facts versus theory? Resilience versus suicide? Didn't he yearn for an ethereal connection with a soul mate, a life partner, someone with whom to maneuver through the mystery and confusion of it all? Didn't he feel compelled to consider the nature of God, the nature of the cosmos?

How could George walk around knowing at any moment he would die and not wonder why? More perplexing to Eve was how, under these hopeless circumstances, he could be content? No, Eve could not understand any of it, so she grew suspicious of George.

What if he was a demon in disguise, planted by Lucifer to trick her? Or even worse, what if God was inside George and she was being put through some kind of test? What if George was trying to lull her into complacency before cannibalizing her? She could not live another moment not knowing. It was either him or her. Survival of the fittest. She had to be sure he really was merely an uninspired man, unaware and uninterested in the divine. She had to find out if God was mocking her.

How unsatisfying George's vivisection turned out to be, then. His autopsy was equally unfruitful. God was nowhere to be found. Eve was so disheartened all she could do was throw George's remains in the meat freezer.

She'd have to be extra meticulous with her new love, Dylan. He was a beautiful specimen, a thousand times more appealing than George had been. She sensed there was a wealth of hidden knowledge within Dylan, waiting to be uncovered. And with a quiver of excitement, Eve picked up her scalpel, licked her lips and went on an expedition.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Waking up to Terrorism since 9/11

I woke up this morning to yet another story of ISIS barbarism. This time around they have strung up four hog-tied men, set them on fire and stood back to watch with sadistic satisfaction as the men burned to death. 

These Islamic terrorists are not human, that much is EXCEEDINGLY clear and I am so sick of waking up to these stories. Where are the counter-terror missionaries? The Boondock Saints? The Inglorious Basterds, the glorious ones, too? The heroes? The heroines? You cannot reason with rabid beasts and there is no peaceful way to deal with them. They need to be put down for the sake of the civilized world.

This bizarre situation where I keep waking up to the handiwork of radical Islamic reprobates started the morning of 9/11 and has not stopped since. I know I am not the only one who remembers what she was doing on that terrible day. But as for me, I was viciously ripped out of a deep slumber in the early hours of September 11, 2001, by the sound of my cousin's frantic voice blasting from my answering machine (in the days before voicemail). 

In the blurry-eyed haze and confusion of being suddenly awoken like that I thought I heard her say that a town near me had been "hit" and I should turn on the TV.

Totally baffled, I did as she suggested and turned on the TV. It took several minutes before I realized what I was watching was not some action film. Hijacked planes were literally being flown into the World Trade Center. 

It was such a surreal experience and I was someone on the other side of the continent watching this scene of death and destruction from a poor resolution television set. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be there.

Actually, I can at least imagine it. The media has MADE SURE of that. We have been inundated with images, videos and news stories of this same terror from 9/11 onward.

One of the worst images, or maybe even THE worst image my brain has been subjected to without my consent during all this, and is now burned in my mind forever, occurred at maybe 2 or 3 in the morning when my son was a newborn. I had gotten up to nurse him in a rocking chair in my living room and innocently turned on the TV. I was hoping to find something light to watch, some levity. 

Instead, I was immediately confronted with a closeup of Nicholas Berg in an orange jumpsuit being decapitated. I quickly changed the channel when I realized what I was watching, but it was too late. The sound of him screaming as the knife cut into the first dermal layers of his neck will, like the image of him in that orange jumpsuit, be forever etched in my conscience. 

I have thought about this terrorized man I never knew and the guttural despair in his scream many times over the years. I feel like his memory and everything his memory represents (the fight for freedom) has not been adequately honored, adequately avenged.

In addition to being brought to innumerable tears at the thought of Nick Berg and the casualties of 9/11, in the past 14 years I have also shed many more tears while sitting in front of a monitor. Sometimes the tears stream down my face as I sit back speechless in my chair, a little stunned, a little angry, a little sad. 

A feeling of hopelessness washes over you and the naive part of your mind, the inner child who craves a savior, cannot help but wonder where the true God is in all this?  All this unconscionable terror can turn a person of faith into an apathetic non-believer, which if you believe in spiritual warfare may well be the final aim of the evil that permeates these stories of terror.

As for me and my own quasi-Gnosticism (basically a mosaic of customized belief managed by my own intuition, experience and knowledge), I do not accept that the dark side of human nature we currently see represented by Islamic terrorism is sanctioned by the Highest Order (whatever that is).

It isn't that we have been deserted in our pitiable temporal state, it's that we are being entrusted to work our way out of the darkness on our own like the autonomous sentient beings at least some of us want to be. Not all of us are puppets on a string. 

But that does not mean there are no puppets. Every last vile piece of jihadi filth masquerading as a human being is nothing more than a mindless puppet, albeit an extremely dangerous one.

I would not want anyone to purposely seek out ISIS propaganda because I do not think having their brutality constantly playing in humanity's collective consciousness is healthy or conducive to an ultimate goal of world peace and minimizing suffering for everyone as much as possible; however, if like me their unevolved, primordial bullshit has already been forced on your conscience against your will, the same way they force their disgusting bodies on innocent girls, then I would direct you to consider just how stupid these ugly little programmed trolls look and sound in their videos. 

Their stupidity is too scripted to not come to the conclusion that they are puppets of some greater puppet master, one of stupidity, debauchery and suicide. Only creatures controlled by something else eats themselves into annihilation like an unconscious malignancy, which is what the Islamic State, a death cult, is doing. They celebrate destruction, torture and murder masses of people, enslave women and children, blow historic sites and monuments into nothing and prostrate themselves at the imaginary feet of a bloodthirsty myth. They don't belong on this planet. They should be remanded to their child molesting prophet and dictator god in whatever afterlife hell they can be found in. Allah, please come and fetch your alien spawn.

In other words, the Islamic State and its puppets are humanity's cancer and it would be nice if someone came up with a cure. You cannot leave a cancer like this alone to do its thing. It is not going to have a "change of heart" and suddenly develop a sense of altruism. The men who were recently awarded the League of Honor knew this fact instinctively when they tackled and immobilized an armed Islamic terrorist on a train travelling to Paris with over 500 passengers on board. They risked their own lives for the greater good and this time the greater good won.

And finally, with the arrival of these brave men on the world media stage, for us non-puppets, who actually think about things like justice, world peace and human rights and the survival of the human spirit it feels like just maybe we can start to hope again. 

The heroes are arriving at long last.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Syndrome of Excess: The Devolution has Begun

It seems everything else in nature other than the thing infecting her (human ignorance) is aware we are fucked if more people don't wake up. Even our biology suspects something cataclysmic is in the works and is freaking out, as evidenced by the confused state of affairs our bodies have become. 

It's this weird situation where children are suddenly coming down with illnesses and ailments of old age, such as diabetes, morbid obesity, heart disease, brittle bones and the brain atrophy normally associated with dementia, to name but a few. Meanwhile, the old are increasingly living into their 90s and beyond in better health than the youth who should be their surviving descendants, but at this rate will never make it. It's like Nature's laws and assigned roles are reversing, going backwards; even the seasons are confused. We are seeing snow in the summer and scorching heat in the winter.

This is not a good situation at all, as destructive, barbaric decisions are often born from confusion -- this at a time when we already seem to be destructing or devolving, depending on your perspective (all the hunching over computer monitors, big and small, is beginning to curve our spines back into our pre-upright stage). That's a dangerous kind of synergy.

The parasite is turning on itself like an army of cancer that's figured out its host's cellular creed and is hacking ceaselessly at the security switch. It won't stop until it figures out how to turn the switch off permanently, steal the genetic code and devour everything, laying the entire human race to waste. Extinction.

Indeed, the Canadian Cancer Society is forecasting a dramatic 40% surge in cancers over the next 15 years. And that's not the only place the surge is predicted. We are seeing it in all sorts of diseases, including ones we thought had been either eradicated or nearly so. We are entering an era of renewed epidemics, including an epidemic rise in a deadly cluster of conditions known collectively as Syndrome X. 

The metabolic signs of Syndrome X include hypertension, excessive blood sugar, high triglyceride levels or otherwise abnormal cholesterol values, as well as an expanded midsection. A combination of at least 3 of these risk factors leads to serious illness and premature death.

It's a syndrome of excess, which interestingly is also the same syndrome that is ushering in our premature demise on a global scale. We take too much from each other, whether it's the individuals we interact with, the social groups we belong to, or the nations we spring from. Not only that, we take too much from the animal kingdom we rely on and the natural resources that sustain us. 

And we don't return the favor. 

We take and take and take, gobbling everything up like a mindless Pac-Man leaving nothing but darkness in its wake. And like our other insatiable appetites and expanding midsections, our greed is starting to extend beyond the limits of what is attractive. I imagine from the cosmos humankind is beginning to look pretty ugly right about now, like a former beauty queen who has fallen out of favor with good health in exchange for a lifestyle of vodka, cigarettes and Big Macs.

We've gotten so greedy that we are no longer satisfied with just gorging on the Earth until there is nothing left. We now have our hungry eyes set on space exploration and exploitation. And we're not ready. We should fix our own home before we go rocketing off to invade someone else's.  Our technology is outpacing our humanity. 

No one should be opposed to space exploration for the sake of science, discovery and opening the collective consciousness to new possibilities; however, when the desire to go into space is driven by the same greed that is weakening our planet to the point where we may cause our own extinction, the thought of space "recreation" becomes a tad alarming

The natural (or if you believe in such things the supernatural) world is also alarmed, as evidenced by some unusual phenomena we've been seeing, such as planes falling out of the sky for no clear-cut reason, or in the mysterious case of Malaysian Flight 370, disappearing from the sky altogether, as well as strange, unpleasant, ear-piercing sounds or "skyquakes" being recorded around the globe with no satisfactory explanation (and there are too many recorded examples and firsthand accounts for this to be cast off as a hoax). And if you want a more extensive list of other recognized bizarre phenomena check this out: 25 Strange Phenomena within this Decade that have yet to be Explained.

With regards to our technology outpacing our humanity, take Sir Richard Branson as an example. People seem to love him, his lifestyle and his philanthropy, but that still doesn't negate the fact he is a greedy man, just like the rest of the mega-rich, and isn't satisfied with just conquering the earth; now the animal has its sight set on space. 

Learn to control your greed (which is really nothing more than a base evolutionary urge that more evolved members of humankind are not ruled by) before you attempt to climb up the evolution ladder. We don't want your egomaniac greed on the ladder. It doesn't propel us, it drags us down and if you insist on moving up the ladder before you've advanced past your basic urges, urges such as uncontrolled lust and greed, then there will be consequences. 

This was precisely the case when Virgin Galactic attempted its first test flight into space. Tragedy and death. But has that made Branson and company pause and reconsider what exactly is motivating them and why, as well as the ethical implications? No, it has not, other than perhaps a split-second of self-reflection Branson quickly shrugged off. He clearly does not care. Action speaks louder than words. If his venture fails and more people needlessly die, he can go back to his private island with his ridiculous title and self-gratify with his equally ridiculous, equally entitled and equally irresponsible wealthy friends. 

Fuck you, "sir" Richard Branson. Go fly another kite with another dumb, naked model, you wrinkly, self-indulgent asshole. It all boils down to that doesn't it? At the root of EVERYTHING, that is really the only thing these animals care about: Naked, submissive females, even when it comes to scientific discovery and space exploration! 

They sexualize absolutely everything. For example, one particular abomination of decency that goes by the name "Pornhub" is currently crowdfunding a space mission to film a couple of lesser evolved cretins sexually degrading each other for all the world to witness while in orbit. If that's progress, we are screwed in more ways than one.

It's strange that the rest of the natural world seems to sense we may well be permanently screwed and are entering into a kind of "end of days" scenario and yet we, who are supposedly the "brains" of the operation, are not seeing it.

The signs are everywhere. What's with the denial? 

The clues couldn't be any more blatant than if an enormous Frankenstein hand reached down from the clouds and hit humanity upside the head with a big whack heard around the globe and an exasperated voice of thunder calling us all damn fools!! We've entered the Age of the Idiots

We are the idiots.

The animal world sees it and is becoming desperate over what to do about us, the idiots, ruining it for EVERYONE. They have become so alarmed by our pomposity and complacency that they've resorted to simply attacking us in some instances (the sudden spike in shark attacks is just one example). In other instances, they attempt a more gentle approach by modelling the Golden Rule, such as the recent story of a rhino risking its own life to lift a baby zebra out of a pit of mud.

Even creatures that generally do not attack humans are joining the fight. Seagulls are dive-bombing pedestrians in the street in retaliation for their fallen comrades, the crows, who are now infected with West Nile virus and are dropping dead from their perches.

In addition to shark attacks, bizarre stories are springing up around the world's waters of other sea-life, such as dolphins and sea lions, attacking human beings in retaliation of their fallen comrades, the whales whose corpses are inexplicably washing up on both east and west coasts, transforming beaches on every coast into mass graves.

The deer are charging pedestrians out walking their dogs, or in one case killing a farmer tending his herd, in defense of the squirrels who are dying from THE PLAGUE of all things. The plague!

There are numerous stories around the globe of thousands of dead fish washing ashore; in some situations there are so many of these dead fish that at first glance it looks like an expansive pebbled beach, but on closer inspection the realization dawns those aren't rocks, those are dead bodies! It's a fish holocaust. 

A similar baffling situation is happening with enormous flocks of various bird species dropping dead from the sky. We have moved beyond simple canaries dead in the coal mine.

Mother Nature seems to have sent out a kind of "call to duty" to the spider kingdom as well, much to the dismay of arachnophobics everywhere. The spiders have answered the call and are busily draping nature and her trees in huge protective webs. 

Then we have the wind: In addition to the other signs that something is amiss in the world, stories of massive windstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes wreaking havoc all over the place are impossible to ignore. Just this morning in the province where I live, half a million homes woke up to darkness after a freak overnight windstorm knocked electricity out throughout the lower mainland.

And I won't get started on the massive fires and droughts happening throughout the world, including again in my own province where it seems everything beneath me (I live in the north) is either on fire or in drought.

So in summary, not only do we have all four elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth now engaged in this cosmic Game of Risk in which the number one enemy is human stupidity, but even "theoretical" phenomena seems to be turning a curious eye towards us. Let us all hope this curious eye is one of peace and redemption, interested in nurturing us out of our present Heart of Darkness (i.e. the absurdity of evil) into a better, kinder, more homeostatic way of living and NOT one of angry annihilation. 

I personally choose to think of this curious eye or "Pi in the Sky" the way Yann Martel suggests in Life of Pi or maybe in the way Bette Midler does in her beautiful rendition of From a Distance"God is watching us from a distance, instruments marching in a common band, playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace". 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Flower Apocalypse

A florist truck pulls up to the building as Belinda and I stand at the window watching with interest. It’s curious because a delivery of a dozen red roses was made only yesterday to Megan, who is no stranger to clichéd gestures of romance from good looking, eager young men trying to get her in the sack. But even so, 2 days in a row? For the rest of us even a single incident of an unexpected flower delivery is an impossible fantasy spurred on by Megan’s life.

Belinda, for example, is not as successful as Megan in the suitor department and lets out a derisive "whatever" when the flower delivery boy disappears from sight. Belinda has no problem with Megan, a warm, outgoing girl who everyone likes, but it isn't right that she (Megan) should get all the flowers in the world while Belinda gets what? The last gift she got from a guy was a bulk sized package of 4-ply toilet paper. He thought she'd be impressed with all the plies. She was not.

But this is the way it goes for Belinda. 

The men who take a fancy to her are usually flawed in some socially identifiable or physically unappealing way. Like Megan, albeit a slightly older version, Belinda is a warm, inviting person with a pretty face. Unlike most people, however, Belinda possesses that exceedingly rare quality of actually listening without interruption when others speak. She is both inquisitive and humanitarian by nature and all of these qualities combine to create a woman who is irresistible to the marginalized amongst us, whether they be mentally "unique" individuals, people with a lot of ailments and complaints no one else wants to hear about, or inappropriate men. 

Their inappropriateness is drawn to her like insects to a light bulb. This is unfortunate because while Belinda wouldn't hurt a fly, she has no desire to kiss one.

She also does not want to kiss a dog, which is where the problem began with a man named Rufus. 

She worked with Rufus at a second part-time job she picked up to bring in some extra cash, and an easy flirtation developed between them, as tends to happen when the sexes work closely together. For her part, Belinda was in no way physically attracted to Rufus, but she enjoyed his quirky personality – always a precarious situation with the potential for misunderstandings and mixed signals. 

As such, it seemed inevitable that there would come a day when Rufus would attempt to transition from workplace friend to boyfriend material. Belinda, however, was so uninterested in him in any romantic sense that she couldn’t even get his name straight. 

She had always associated the name “Rufus” with a dog and when she thought of a dog she immediately thought of Clifford the Big Red Dog, a favorite fictional character from her childhood. As a consequence, the two names somehow got interchanged in her subconscious and every time she addressed Rufus it came out as “Clifford”.  She never realized she was doing it and oddly Rufus never corrected her. 

Eventually she altogether forgot his name was Rufus and referred to him exclusively as Clifford. By the time we had heard the last of Rufus, anyone who knew of Rufus strictly through Belinda talking about him had no idea his name wasn't Clifford.

Things came to a head one day when I recognized Rufus in the grocery store from a picture Belinda had shown me at some point on her iPhone. I had spoken to him on the phone before, but this was the first time I had seen him in the flesh. I called out his name. 

He completely ignored me. 

He must not have heard me, I reasoned, and called his name a little louder. 

He still ignored me, so I went up to him, touched his shoulder and said, "Hi Clifford, I'm a friend of Belinda's. We've spoken on the phone before".

He looked at me baffled and not a little scared, as if I was an insane woman who had escaped the asylum and the voices in my head had wrongly identified him as some poor slob named Clifford.

"You have the wrong person. I'm not Clifford," he told me as he inched away. 

When I reported back to Belinda what happened, she laughed at what she thought was MY mistake, "His name isn't Clifford, you buffoon! It's Rufus!"

I glared at her. Was it possible she didn't know SHE was the one who kept calling him Clifford? 

Yes, it was possible. 

It took some convincing and I had to invite a couple witnesses into the conversation to confirm that she had indeed been talking a lot about a guy named Clifford, not Rufus, before she'd believe me. The"Clifford the Big Red Dog/Rufus" mix-up in her subconscious theory only seemed obvious after that.

She sat down, stunned. "Well, that's it," she said, "I can't have anything to do with a guy who just accepts me calling him by the wrong name without correcting me. I don't think I'll be returning Clifford's calls any time soon!"

"You see? You did it again," I pointed out.

Belinda shook her head, "What are you talking about?"

"You called him Clifford again. His name is Rufus."

"I can't stand it!" Belinda clutched her head, "I hate men!!"

"On the bright side," I offered, "at least now you can stop feeling so guilty about rejecting his advances".

Rufus has since gone to the dogs of obscurity, but to this day when we refer to his memory we snidely, with full awareness, call him Clifford. 

Belinda's latest unwanted acquisition in the male insect department is a bug named Paul who likes her significantly more than she likes him. She finds him incredibly irritating, in the same way a fly buzzing around your ear that you can't get at is irritating. I don't know why she can't get rid of him. Flyswatters are cheap.

But Belinda rejects my fly analogy. She doesn't see him as a fly so much as a potato

"He never wants to do anything and he NEVER does anything nice for me. I do all the giving. He's never given me so much as a blade of grass, never mind roses! All he does is lie around all day watching TV like a big, fat, hairy couch potato, expecting me to serve him".

I used to encourage Belinda she could do better than these weirdos and parasitic assholes that tend towards her, and that she should walk away from tag-a-longs like Paul -- life is too short to waste it on so much bullshit. But I have since come to realize she is addicted to the role of martyr and saviour. So now I just listen in amusement to her litany of complaints. I'll leave her to do her own self-reflections and arrive at her own life-changing epiphanies in her own time.

It's a journey we all have to take alone, which is a relief. I have my own treacherous terrain to traverse and I'm not sure I could do it if I also had to worry about everyone else's trajectory, especially when many of us are unwilling or unable to heed the warnings of the seasoned lone travelers who have gone before us. We ignore them or shrug them off when they inform us of the huge sinkhole up ahead. I know this because I've already fallen into one of these sinkholes and had to claw my way out again. Don't ever say you weren't warned.

At first blush it seems stupid that we can't seem to learn from the lessons of history or from the mistakes of those who came before us along the same path. But apparently we have to learn the hard way. We are all Pandora, some of us more curious than others. I too was told about the sinkholes, for example, but I didn't listen, either. However, once you've fallen into a big enough pit and survived to tell the tale, you tend to be more open to the wisdom of those who through experience know better. 

You also learn to keep your mouth shut and your "advice" to yourself when confronted with a person closed off, as you once were, to wisdom. You realize your purpose isn't to try and single-handedly make a blind person see the light. You're not a miracle worker. Your purpose is as guide, sounding board, listener, mirror, commiserator, witness -- the one there to hold the hand of a sightless person when the bandages are finally removed and she needs someone to help her decipher this bizarre new, confusing world of light and color.

I therefore now save my breath and look for the humor in Belinda's blindness. It makes life less frustrating and more enjoyable that way.

Thus, rather than once again tell her she should kick Paul to the curb, I suggested we christen him "Potato Paul" in honor of his potato couch proclivities. I have my own proclivity towards alliteration. I don't know why but I find it infinitely funny. My children think I'm ridiculous.

But Belinda didn't think my suggestion was ridiculous: "Yes, he is a potato! He should be called Potato Paul!"

We've been referring to him as Potato Paul ever since, unbeknowst, of course, to Paul, although Belinda lives in mortal fear she will call him Potato Paul to his face, particularly after the whole Rufus/Clifford fiasco. She has already caught herself a couple of times, which didn't escape Potato Paul's notice. But he isn't the brightest guy so she was able to redirect his attention easily enough. She doesn't know how long she's going to be able to do that, though. He's gross, dumb and boring (the character triad of a bad man as opposed to the enigma of a good one) but he still has some fraction of a brain in his potato head.

Getting back to the florist's truck outside our window, I turn to Belinda now and ask, "What would you do if the flower delivery was for you from Potato Paul? Would you like him more or drop dead in shock?"

"It would depend on the flower," she replied, "but I highly doubt Potato Paul knows my favorite flower is the Stargazer lily even though I've told him."

I agree that he probably doesn't know even though he has been told. Imagine how much richer life would be if more of us were paying attention.

"If he did send you flowers," I muse, "guaranteed they'd be red roses. Not that there's anything wrong with roses, except it shows a complete lack of imagination. Personally, I'd be more impressed by a thoughtful dandelion picked from my front yard. At least that's helpful. My lawnmower is broken. A dozen roses though? We've seen the documentary, we've read the articles. We are both aware of the damage the cut flower trade has on the planet." 

I have to stop myself before I launch into a full-blown soapbox condemnation of why it's wrong for the developed world to exploit the developing world's resources. 

Roses are the prized trophies of the slave trade in the flower world. All the other flowers, who are otherwise envious of the Rose's superior beauty, are glad they weren't born roses. Even the beautiful have an ugly burden to carry in a world where greed is the dominant driving force.

Somebody needs to save the roses!

Good God.

I also have to stop myself because the annoyed look of "here we go again with the dramatics" flashing across Belinda's face does not escape my notice. Nobody likes to listen to me. Sometimes it feels like I will burst.

"I don't know about dandelions," Belinda says, happy I've put a cap on the whole 'we need to save the roses of the world from the flower trafficking rings ' speech, "but my favorite roses are yellow ones. It's my next favorite flower after lilies."

Before I can say what my favorite flower is, we are interrupted by a knock on the door. We look up and in walks the flower delivery boy. He has a delivery for Belinda.

We are taken aback at first and then start giggling as she opens the box and unwraps tissue to reveal, you guessed it, a dozen red roses courtesy of Potato Paul. Despite our earlier cynicism, we are both delighted by the surprise and I run to grab a vase from down the hall. 

When I return, Belinda is bent over in her chair in convulsions. It's impossible to tell if she's laughing, sobbing or having a seizure until I get up close to her and see sitting on her desk a bouquet of 12 thorny stems devoid of all but 5 of their heads. 

Belinda is laughing so hard she can't speak. All she can do is point at the flower box still on the floor at her feet. In it are seven decapitated red rose heads. 

When she calms down enough to speak in coherent sentences, she explains that as she lifted the bouquet out of the box, one by one 7 of the heads popped clean off like the tops of dandelions. 

"Mama had a baby and it's head popped off," I say without thinking, which causes Belinda to erupt into renewed laughter.

It is so strange, almost like the flower traffickers were sending us (or perhaps just me since I'm the one who will rant about it if given half the chance) a cryptic message. And not for the first time in my life or even on this day, I think what an absurd place the world is. 

Where am I that Messengers of the Flower Apocalypse come in the form of a potato called Paul, who can't even get right a scripted romantic gesture that requires no mental exertion whatsoever, men are named after dogs, and no one other than me is acknowledging the gorilla in the room? His name is Ishmael if anyone else cares.

Sometimes my surroundings seem so alien and nonsensical to me that I feel like Alice in Wonderland and wonder if I was born in the wrong dimension, like some sort of big cosmic mistake in which I got on the wrong train by accident. 

I feel like there must be a parallel universe out there waiting for me at a station I don't know exists, just as puzzled as I am over what in the heavens is going on here. In fact, it is not uncommon for me when I'm alone in my house to raise my hands towards the ceiling and say out loud, "WHAT the hell is going on around here?"

Either that or I'll sing the customized lyric (but only if no one is around because I really shouldn't be singing), "There's something happening here, what it is, IS NOT FUCKING CLEAR."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Looking for Cracks. Period.

Lizzy is always searching for cracks in my perfection. I'm like a mysterious crime for her to solve. She looks for clues that will expose my flaws and uncover my deceptions. And she's good at it. She finds them more readily than her brother, DJ, the only boy who ever really loved me. He sees me through smoke and mirrors of adoration in a way Lizzy's intuition would never allow. 

In defense of DJ's powers of observation, however, it's easy for anyone to overlook the cracks and miss the clues when the person you're looking at is the one you love unconditionally. This of course is wonderful for me. In my experience, if you want a good man in your life, you have to make and raise him yourself.

Lizzy, in contrast to her brother, is a self-made girl who is not as free with dramatic displays of affection. But it's fine; it just makes her spontaneous hugs, kisses and proclamations of love when they do come all the more special. 

For the most part, though, she challenges me and forces me to be a better person. She might be the only one who can make me see how ridiculous I'm being in the midst of an emotional outburst and with a stern "mom!" prevent me from coming completely undone, my frustration and anger instead dissolving into contagious laughter.

This is a relief to DJ.

He does not like seeing me mad or otherwise upset and Lizzy knows this. She looks out for him and he models for her a compassion he came into this world already possessing, along with a stunning set of baby blues that sparkle with surreal beauty when that same compassion brings him to tears.

Lizzy has compassion too, but it's her craftiness, her curiosity - her suspicion even - that I live for.

For example, not long ago, I was in my kitchen on the phone having a nonversation with a tedious human being - the kind of conversation where I do ALL the listening to the kind of person who does ALL the chattering. The chatter goes on and on, the content filled with subject matter I either don't agree with or can't possibly begin to understand because I'm not an alien, despite Lizzy's suspicions. 

The entire time this one-sided, mostly absurd conversation was going on, I was fuming inside my head that THIS is what I ran out of the bathroom in a mad panic for? But what really bothered me about it was that in my haste to get the phone, I broke a mirror, thereby adding another 7 years of bad luck to an already out of control, ever-accumulating debt of bad luck.

Lost in this internal dialogue of discontent as I was, it took a few minutes before I realized someone was watching me on the phone. Studying me, really. Taking notes.

That someone was my little sleuth, Lizzy. She was holding one of her many notebooks, crayon poised. Usually when I catch her doing this, it's because she's creating a police sketch of me for her portfolio, but not this time. 

This time she had come across some disturbing evidence in the bathroom and she had some questions. She was studying me, as I've said, planning her strategy. She wanted a full confession.

Finally she spoke, going in for the kill.

"I know you have your comma," she informed me as smooth and direct as you please.

She waited for my reaction, noting the look of confusion on my face and attributing it to pure stupidity. She'd give me a moment. 

I took the opportunity to get off the phone with the tedious human being so I could give Lizzy and her strange accusation my undivided attention.

"Comma?" I repeated. I had no idea what she was talking about.

She continued to stare me down, allowing what she evidently thought were my inferior cognitive abilities another moment to catch up to her superior intellect.

But after another 7 seconds her patience ran out and with an irritated wave of her hand snapped, "Comma, dot, whatever!...I was in the bathroom...I saw everything".

That's when it dawned on me. What does a dot look like? It doesn't look like a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point. It looks like a period.

"Dot? Do you mean period?" I asked her.

"Yeah, that's it," she replied, still annoyed by my slow-wittedness and not at all embarrassed by her error or the situation.

I, on the other hand, did feel embarrassed as the realization of what she must have seen in the bathroom hit me. I have gone to enormous lengths to avoid this very thing for the past 32 years and up until Lizzy's arrival had been relatively successful. 

I've always had the notion that DJ's arrival was a saving grace for me at a time when I was self-destructing. He was my reboot. He even looked like a gorgeous Gerber baby cherub when he was born, and in the immediate recovery period following the trauma of a difficult birth, he oozed a kind of calm, eternal wisdom and sense of humor that emanates from him to this day.

It was different when Lizzy arrived. When she was born she was like, "Okay, I'm here. There's no time for crying. Enough bullshit. I'm not here to air quotes 'save you'. I'm here to refurbish you. Let's do this". 

Like DJ, she was sent to me at a time when I needed her after years of asking for her, even though I wasn't aware that was exactly what I was doing. Mind you, this remarkable "notion" didn't come to me until later - until now - as the full guts, glory and passion of her personality continuously unfolds and blossoms.

The notion that my children are divine gifts springs from my own childhood and a lifetime of wrenching emotion poured into the futile prayer that I would be granted the opportunity to rewrite myself, start from scratch. Be there for myself through the traumas, the hurts, the betrayals, the injustices and the moments where my spirit could have been encouraged rather than mercilessly crushed. Maybe I would have turned out a better person if I had been born the author and guardian of my own destiny.

In hindsight, perhaps that kind of self-directed emotional futility and resentment caused needless despair, but as I faced off with Lizzy in my kitchen and grappled with how I would answer her questions regarding the status of women, it struck me yet again how in her I see a better version of myself. 

It really is as if I've been granted that rewrite. 

And while I know multidimensional beauty can spring from the damage of chaos, I wanted to mitigate any damage my answer to Lizzy's question might have. If I can help it, I don't want her to grow up feeling about herself the way I ended up feeling about myself. So I had to tread carefully.

With regards to what instigated Lizzy's investigation of my toileting activities, it came to light later that one of her older friends, Kennedy, had told her about periods and unbeknownst to me, Lizzy had been tracking my bathroom movements ever since. 

She couldn't remember the exact details of this horrible, horrible female predicament she too would apparently one day find herself, but she knew it had something to do with punctuation and injury. She assumed there must be some sort of injury anyway since, according to Kennedy, the whole ordeal involved a lot of blood and pain. 

It plagued Lizzy, this grotesque new world she was heading towards and she had to know more. It didn't seem right or fair, especially when Kennedy told her DJ would not "enjoy" the same fate simply by virtue of him being a boy. It was an outrage.

She glared at me, wanting an answer. I stopped myself before automatically launching into the same trope I'd heard all my life. All the stuff that wrongly, albeit largely subliminally, instills a sense of shame in the feminine psyche for being born female, as if the life-giving mechanisms of reproduction she is endowed with are an abomination of nature and not a means of humanity's preservation and continued evolution. 

I didn't want Lizzy to feel burdened by a body she hadn't been socially conditioned to despise quite yet, or to view what is nothing less than an inculpable function of Mother Nature, an important one, a miraculous one, a marvel of genetic ingenuity and biological design related to this extraordinary thing called life. 

I want her to revere and honor her femininity, not hate it with body dysmorphia, or dishonor it by participating in its objectification like the so-called "empowered" celebrities do, with their naked magazine covers, duck lips, exaggerated poses, insipid tattoos and must-have implants. 

Sorry, but if you submissively remove your armor, allow your backside to be tattooed like branded cattle and your breasts to be stuffed like overfed factory chickens raised for slaughter in tiny cages, you are not empowered. When you willingly lay yourself bare under your enemy's knife, so he can dissect you as he grunts like a cloven-hoofed animal, and you do this without him having to even change stance to bring about your capitulation, then you are not empowered. You are the opposite of empowered. 

You're an ignorant, docile servant and I do not like your thoughtless influence on my daughters OR my son. And while I know there isn't much I can do about the misguided beliefs and actions of everyone else, what I can do is inject ideas into my own children's minds that inoculate them against the peer pressures, nonsensical cultural expectations and social engineering that will inevitably come at them like a relentless virus intent on degrading their minds and crippling their spirit. 

My kids will be mentally prepared and Lizzy in particular will be prepared for when her first dot makes an appearance. And I'm guessing its introduction will be much like her introduction to me the day she was born: No fear, no fuss. After our talk, Lizzy isn't concerned about it anymore. It's just a dot. She isn't afraid of dots. She isn't afraid of anything.