JUST MUSING: “You got me going in circles…”

The conversation deviated unexpectedly, bounding off topic – television shows, movies, topical news, diet – an unexpected exit, moving from one lane to another, crossing lines, without regard, moving the discussion to the forbidden.  The frustrations of life sometimes unexpectedly become unbearable.  She detoured to one of those occasions.  Movement across terrain reminding me of the age-old myth, the non-recommended method of teaching a non-swimmer to swim – toss them in the deep end, emit a hearty laugh and walk away.

Life is transitional, moving, rising, ebbing mimicking the Mother Nature’s moods – the ocean, the wind, the earth under our feet – deceptive, imperceptible movements, explosive at times, forming mountains, gorges, redirecting rivers – gifting us the unexpected, the richness of living.  No matter how much we plan, how we plan, the known and unknown contingencies, life can still be full of surprises, causing our best laid plans to go asunder.  The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry – indeed they do.  Unpredictable forces, blowing, gusting, disheveling, cooling, calming, welcoming, causing movement back and around, leading to frustrations and loss of hope, albeit, even if just temporary.  Sometimes jagged, other times unhindered,  movements – through measurements of time – opposites indeed – representing life’s contrasting, predictable and unpredictable challenges; rising east, descending westward, sustaining dreams, concreting failures, fears – outward – upward – inward.

Moving in another direction she did.  Ignoring societal rules – determined to say what she was saying.  Casting me forward, from one level to another, slouching no more, upward, rocking side to side, before straightening, stiffening the spine, freeing myself of the excessive body movement; changing the slight line, no longer looking upward – staring at nothing in particularly – to the right of me, to the left of me, locking into her stare instead.  Staring at nothing in particular, not that I can tell; seeing slight, barely perceptible movements – much like the earth – eyes, lips, forehead, layered with moisture.  Seeing, feeling a cloud move overhead, staying put.  Her appearance could well be contrasted with Mother Nature’s dabbling; sprinkling, moving gently over the contours of her face, reddening, applying moisture to eyes, lips, forehead, painting a distinctive plum-like line on her bottom-eyelid.    Trance like, having to say what she wanted to say.  Ignoring the normal rules of the path well-trodden; spilling secrets, careening rapidly downward, spilling words as she spoke; exiting the pavement, in control, out of the control, toward the exit, seeming oblivious, spilling more – admitting, admitting, admitting – settling in life’s intersecting roads, silencing any contribution to the conversation, causing me to re-position both hands, shifting my body weight, becoming more a part of the couch; gripping, holding, staring.

“I contemplated suicide that day.  Everything came down on me while parked on the seawall, staring out at the Gulf, listening to the wind, birds circling, watching the few people who remained pass; like life… like life.  Seeing my children, wondering whether I was going make it through the divorce, worrying about money, thinking how unfair life is.”

My words – silence [                      ].

“Crying, crying harder, barely able to contain myself, feeling the Gulf winds, seeing the sun set, seeing myself move out-of-body – you know – not actually exiting but exiting – out-of-body, walking down the steps onto the beach, actually down the street from you …”

I didn’t see any of this coming.  Uncomfortably readjusting my posture, feeling and seeing the power of the Gulf; the changing contours of the coast, pushing, shoving, welcoming, sustaining; providing life’s substance.  Wondering how far did she go?  Filling every second with thousands of thoughts; each millisecond with almost as many questions; counting to myself, hoping she couldn’t hear me count.

“Down the street …?”   Repeating what she had already said, followed by involuntary grinding – teeth, feet, hands.  Slowly time, attempting to focus, watching, concentrating, seeing the plum lines in her face grow more intense, seeing the mist covering her face grown thicker.

“I never left the car.  I lost track of time.  I ran out of tissues, blowing, wiping, blowing; using my dress when I had no more.  Raising it up, blowing more … then he came up on one of those things.”

“What thing?”

“That thing, where the traffic cops stand up while riding, on two wheels…”

Segway…”

“I guess so.  …. Out of nowhere, telling me, ‘you have been here for a while Ma’am, you will need to put some money in the meter.’  He moved back, forward, back, forward, balancing, repositioning, “You need to pay or move on.”

I expected her to end the story, wipe the tears away, permit the blood in her face to settle, relax her shoulders, she did neither.  The shoulders remained tight, the stare positioned elsewhere; reliving the moment, telling the moment.

“‘Pay or move on!  Are you kidding me!  I am sitting here contemplating killing myself, getting ready to walk in the Gulf and you want me to pay money.  What else you folks want from me. After I kill myself are you going to send me a bill?  What else?  What else?  Damn you and your damn meter!’  I screamed at him as loud as I could.  He began spinning on that thing, in circles – clockwise – counter-clockwise, clockwise – round and round he went, within a few feet of my window.   ‘Damn you, damn you, damn you’, I screamed.   Back, forward, back, forward he went.  His thing …”

“Segway…”

“Yeah, that thing … appeared to have a mind of its own, moving about, not permitting him to talk, settling suddenly, allowing him to talk, ‘Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am, never mind you can sit here as long as you like!’  After speaking, the young man moved backward, his eyes bulging, not because he was nearing the edge – ‘I’m sure’.   Instantly correcting his position he did – on that thing – moving away, down the seawall, disappearing, into the horizon.”

Her last words were followed by rapt-laughter.  She wiped her face, replaced the previous intense creases with different creases, emitting the welcoming laugh.  Almost as if she was honoring Adam West’s Batman – P-O-W … Z-I-N-G  … Z-A-P … To the Bat Mobile Robin!  Her laughter was unlike the traffic cop’s reaction, moving backward shocked by her screams.  Hearing a scream he had never heard before, the scream of life’s frustrations.  Unlike the scream he heard when he entered his parents’ bedroom without knocking, seeing what he didn’t want to see.  Different than scream he emitted that day, himself, when he was showing off for the attractive life-guard, coming too close to the edge, tilting over before being grabbed by a co-worker.  Not knowing his age, but see the circumstances she described vividly, screams unlike the screams of remembrance the crowd screams – knowing screams – when the Friends of Distinction stood on the edge of the stage, years hence, singing, reminding of loss loves, hurting loves, “You got me going in circles”.

Turning, turning, turning, he did, before fleeing.

Her scream was the scream he emitted internally when he unknowingly crossed the thin-line – we all walk – interfering, bringing her back from the edge she had been pushed by the challenges, and pressures of life, all becoming too much.  A simple act – doing his job, reminding her that she couldn’t park free; a simple act of interfering, pushing her back from the edge, stopping the tears, capturing her mind, breaking the hold of the Gulf – circling, circling, circling- followed by laughter he never heard, now too intent never to interfere again, blending with the crowd, moving eastward, while the sun continued her track westward.

JUST MUSING: “One hundred and one Jason Bournes …”

I have often taken a position that the soul of a criminal defense lawyer is revealed early.  Much like a birthmark identifying kin, spanning generations, telling a tale, sometimes foreboding, other times a blessing.  Not like Catalan popular cultural beliefs with regards to witches, “a witch is a woman who, by means of a pact with the Devil, has acquired supernatural power, which she uses for her own benefit and for evil purposes.”   No, no, mine’s eye is different, believing the markings are not visual, instead sometimes bundles as a riddle, hidden, not hidden, confusing, not confusing.  Sometimes obvious signs are seen: rooting for the Indians to rout the Lone Ranger, even though the Lone Ranger appeared to be a nice guy; shouting “lock her up” and pointing at the screen at Dale Evans – yes Dale Evans – believing instinctively there has to be an “other side of the story”; hoping that someone would eventually make Clint Eastwood’s day.  No, the signs are oft-times obscure; nary a mark of the devil on their posteriors, only one pupil per eye – not two – no horns.  Matters not whether the indicators are open and obvious or obscured, everyone knows the child is different, and none are shocked by the child’s declaration years later of his/her intended vocation, to defend the criminally accused.

Walt Disney’s movie 101 Dalmatians was adapted from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians.   Without viewing the movie, or ever cracking open the book, one can readily assume the title references the power of collective action, exceeding the power of one; a similar tale told in various parables, fables, lessons learned in life.  This muse however is not about 101 Dalmatians, the Lone Rangers, Dale Evans, or Clint Eastwood.

We have a President at war with the intelligence agencies in this country.  Complaining when they reported the Russians interfered with the presidential election.  Screaming fake news, lying and ranting over leaks when the leaks clearly are designed to show the American public our president is lying to us.  Insisting there is a bug in the White House, parsing his words, walking gently over the coals, careful not to over-speak, fearing there is actually a bug in the White House.  Tweeting … tweeting … tweeting, directing his rage at Jason Bourne, wanting us to root against Jason Bourne.

The initial confession contained in this muse is heartfelt, meaning it is difficult to admit a bias when the majority is rooting otherwise.   Something about color, being an active participant in that thing called southern heritage and known and unknown history of this country.  Imposing a minority paranoid, leeching, controlling thoughts, persisting much like a neglected bath tub ring.  Screaming at the movie screen – at no one in particular – throwing books down, away, against the wall, complaining about the distortion of history, seeing the distortion.  Seeing and remembering history differently than others.  Disagreeing with the assessment that Andrew Jackson was a hero, (seeing the travails of Trail of Tears), refusing the blame the victim, screaming, screaming, screaming when the Patriot Act was passed, reading, seeing abuses the language concealed, instead of protection promised to the American public.  Wishing against Tarzan’s, telling a different tale, seeing him deported back to Los Angeles.  Understanding the punch-line when the Lone Ranger turned to Tonto, speaking in a united tongue when surrounded by Indians, “What do we do now Tonto?”  Understanding the point when Tonto finally awoke from his previous submissive slumber, replying, “What we white man.”  So I confess.  Oh Lord do I confess.

However, this time I have to work against type.  Casting aside my paranoia, much like Superman’s cape.  Running toward the door, the window, hearing Johnny Nash’s voice, singing, singing, signing, “I can see clearly now.”  One foot up, one foot down, one foot down; turning as the song resides, understanding it is fundamentally necessary to root for the Jason Bourne, the one hundred Jason Bournes; those whom our President has declared war against.

Throwing the book of protocols out the window, telling others the lies, recognizing we are experiencing a difference the country has seldom seen.  Recognizing the ability to outrun, out-shoot means nothing at this time, calculating their survival, the country’s survival, exposing the duplicitous nature of he and his cohorts’ conduct.  Ignoring party lines – telling, telling, telling – hoping others too will awaken from their slumber and do the same.  Not caring that in movie and books, Bourne is always white, always blond, eyes sparking much like the blue seen in the Mediterranean Sea, the sky after a cleansing rain, projecting the historical-embedded argument of superiority, of supremacy, much like Tarzan, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.  Seeing a connection between “He Who Wants to Fight One hundred and One Jason Bournes” and the violent attacks occurring daily around the country, resurrecting and affirming hate, dividing us, pushing us into distinct and separate camps.  Hearing Bourne’s theme music, rooting for the enemies’ demise – because it is the patriotic thing to do – eating more popcorn, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

JUST MUSING: “Two visitors, the bartender, two fat wood-rats…”

The City of New Orleans’ recently began the process of removing statues honoring heroes of the Confederacy from its city plazas.  The lists reads like who’s who of the southern insurrection; gracing plaza, overlooking vistas, situated near the halls of governance, welcoming visitors world-wide, telling the story of a divided nation.  One side insisting on the abolition of slavery as an institution, the other willing to take up arms, destroy a forming union in order to protect their perceived God given right to own human chattel.  History tells us the treasonists’ bid failed; history constantly reminds us their mark on history did not fail.

Enacting laws to maintain a caste system, engaging in terrorists acts against those they deemed inferior, using the rule of law and law enforcement to protect the subjugation of another, erecting statue’s in every courthouse plaza, hall of power the use of public and private funds could finance, making the lyrics of the song, This Land is Your Land is much like Mickey Mouse, a fallacy.

҈            ҉            ҉

The bartender seemed friendly.  Moving back and forward, appearing to be tethered – on a line- moving up and down the bar, attentive, filling orders, far more efficient than Siri.  At times ending the order by saying “okay”, but never “Google Okay”; speech pattered spoken at a time prior to the birth of either.

“Picture of beer … anything else?

“Dark…light…, okay?”

“You’re sure, you don’t want another?  Okay?”

Sliding free popcorn down the bar, proclaiming, keeping others engaged, never forgetting who ordered what.  “Good catch!” “Whoa, heads up!”  “Freshly popped…!”  Much like a miracle worker, multi-tasking, wiping, pouring, filling, commenting, turning, retrieving clean glasses – stacking them, sliding filled vessels across, down on end, down the other end; polishing, polishing, polishing – the counter, glasses; engaged – listening – not listening – remembering names, completing incomplete sentences, stories, seemingly a multi-linguistic mutant possessed with the ability to engage in multiple conversations with different creeds, emanating from the other side of the divide.  Moving forward, backward, forever remaining tethered; assuring everyone was content.  Watching his movement, interaction, concentrating, then it happened, appearing in the form of a blur, seen not seen, accompanied by a pat-pat sound, not at all graceful, not clumsy though; moving rapidly left to right, then out of sight;  disappearing behind the large mirror taking up most of the back wall.

I turned to Jeff, he to me.   “Did you see that?”  Jeff didn’t answer initially, peering downward, looking into his beer, crewing, rolling a straw which was situated in his mouth, before answering, “I hope not.”

I wasn’t drinking alcohol.  I knew my vision would not have been affected by the Coke and water which sat on the counter, which was being consumed between every two handfuls of popcorn.  Still I reacted, picking up one, then the other, looking about; shaking my head in disbelief, followed by “no” before going back to our previous conversation, sharing our day, listening to others’ conversations, watching, watching, watching, with country and western music rafting through the air.  We were young lawyers at the time.  I was months out of law school.  Working for Staff Counsel for Inmates, throwing the facts of cases around, sharing our visits to other parts of the State, and the reaction of the judges when they realized the law compelled the release of a convicted inmate.

Not getting far into the conversation before the again occurred again – this time from right to left – accompanied by the same sounds – patter, patter – a scratching slide, across the track formed by the proximity of the mirror and wall – patter, patter – rapid movement under subdued lighting, causing much the same reaction, now however accompanied with new movement, shoulder blades moving upward, hands pushing off the counter, releasing the free popcorn from our grips, no longer looking at our drinks, placing them instead on the counter, movement backward, followed by an immediate comment, “I know I’m not drunk; did you see that?”

“Yes, I saw!  I saw!”

Looking around, watching for others’ reaction, seeing none, wondering whether we were seeing ghosts, Mickey’s great revenge for not believing, he – Mickey – appearing in the form of a wood-rat.  Patter-patter, slid.

“No one else is reacting.”

“Maybe we are seeing things.”

Jeff chewed on the straw much like a cigar smoker, not with any certitude, pulling the straw inward, with a small portion protruding, aptly reflecting of our uncertainty.  Looking left, looking right, refusing to take our eyes off the track, seeing All Seeing Eyes and Ears stand between our eyes and the wall, confirming what we saw.

“His name is …”

I don’t remember “his” name, but his was the image we saw; a well-fed black wood-rat.  All Seeing Eyes and Ears didn’t stop there however.

“A pet …”

“A wood-rat…?”

“Yes, a pet.”

Perhaps All Seeing Eyes and Ears’ words served as the appropriate introduction, causing “them” to come forward.  “Them” – the big black one and a companion; the other was brown, with white patterned spots.  Blurred images moving rapidly across the horizon, like The Roadrunner, like Wile E. Coyote; one leading, legs moving, in circular motions; one chasing, legs moving in the same circular motion … pitter patter… pitter patter … pitter patter.

He – All Seeing Eyes and Ears – smiled.  “The bar’s pets.”

Looking around, seeing no one else move.  No one else reacted, remaining in place, content, feasting on rat infested popcorn, consuming urine colored beer.  We – Jeffrey and I – were having none of it, acting instead the part of rude houseguest – moving backward, pulling, tugging, pushing, tossing money on the bar (“Keep the tip”); letting the locals have their place, their ways; watching out for the two obese wood-rats as we made our way out.  No, no, no, not us.

I know some of you may well be insulted by my implied disparagement of wood-rats.  Others may believe I am disparaging you, owners of pets.  I am sorry, wood-rats! – All Creatures Great and Small – my ass!  I don’t care.  I simply don’t care.    I was trained by a grandmother to kill – “all rats and most snakes” – with few exceptions.  “Carry a stick, with you.”  I obeyed, walking with one eye ensconced, safely guiding the path; the other eye was the wandering one, much like those circular security eyes, mounted in the corner, or ceiling, high above, out of the way, snapping, snapping, snapping, away.  Even if you are insulted, I must confess, I have digressed woefully, running amok much like the way Jeffrey and I ran that evening years ago, fleeing those crazy folks enjoying a beer with their disease infected brethren.   I muse to say my existence in Huntsville, Texas, served as an appropriate contrast to the Confederate statures which remain in place laying claim to history, the land, and the difference between right and wrong.  Our fleeing the local watering hole was a mere inconvenience on our part, causing us to pray and hope the popcorn was actually freshly popped; visiting another establishment telling them what we saw and being the none surprised, when they too named the rats.

“Cool huh?”

“No, not cool, those are damn rats.  Do they ever cage them?”

The new server never answered the question, instead, treating us like the strangers we were (Brother’s from Another Planet, indeed.  Yes indeed.), instead answering our question with a question, “You’re not from here, huh.”

The difference between the long persistent Confederacy statues is more pronounced.  Remaining in place, not an oddity; scattered throughout the South, making clear to the descendants of slaves they are and will remain second-class citizens, even when the enshrined heroes were enemies of the United States and sought the overthrow of the United States.  Sidney Sherman, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Jonathan Stonewall Jackson, and if he had been alive during the Civil War, Andrew Jackson, an others – prominent names of the Confederacy, engrained in stone, a testament to historical arrogance in which the City of New Orleans finally called.  Absolutely we fled from that bar.  Our insult was not an insult felt by the other occupants.  We left them secured in place, enjoying each other conversations, their drinks, the bar tender’s skills, those two fat wood-rats and that nasty-ass popcorn.

Sons and daughters of the south possessed no such right, forced instead to exist in a constant state of occupation, permanent figures standing guard, idolized in novels, movies and Americana lore.   Confederate flags flying overhead, affixed to cars and trucks, incorporated into welcoming signs when entering small southern towns, plastered on the front of stores during the time it was unsafe for the descendants of slaves to travel the highways and byways.  Ever persistent, unlike a bothersome gnat, more like a psychological hammer forever hammering the supremacy of the White race, justifying the insurrection, slavery and the ugly strain embedded in the annals of history.  So bravo New Orleans, bravo!

JUST MUSING: “You’re sure nobody died in your story…?”

The persistent debate is whether life mirrors art or whether art mirrors life.  I will confess early, I stand with the camp with believes the reason fiction is referred to fiction is because it is made up, somewhat anchored in life, real and imagined facts oft-times blended to tell the tale.  Taking real life events, changing names, dates, sequence, then pretending the events do not represent real people; while friends snicker, knowing full-well where the line between truth and fiction divide.  Art most times remains grounded in real life, providing a starting point, deviating at the split in the road.

I have this friend who traditionally interrupts any story with the statement, “umm, and nobody died in your story.”  Her point is rather simple, someone has to die, pay the price for each insult, offense, every challenge to the protagonist’s dignity.  Much like a Hollywood driven plot, keeping the audience anchored in their seats, forgetting to remember (needing to pee), knowing the plot line, waiting to see, who is going to die.  Fifteen seconds in the movie, illicit activity in an darkened room, somebody making love, then the woman dies – flash, flash – followed by disjointed, disconcerted events, someone walking across the street (death of the only black guy in the movie) – two minutes in no less, musical score playing – blacks, greys, blues, a panoramic scan – Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Lake Shore Drive, Fifth Avenue, the cobbled streets of Istanbul, Avenida de Maceo – scan right, scan left – a view of the sky, setting the tone and tenor, an explosion, additional deaths.  Five deaths in the first ten minutes of the movie, tracking the first two chapters in the book, remembering now – you need to pee – refusing to move, remaining anchored in place, the light from the screen casting harrowing images over the audiences, settled, calm, satisfied with death, telling a predictable tale, halos magically lowered over everyone, now believers; art is life, not the contrary.

“And nobody died in your story?”

“No, no one died.”

“Then your story has a fatal flaw, somebody has to die for their transgression.”

A comma, followed by a gruesome death; semi-colon, two death; a dash preceding a calamity; more deaths than births, deaths preceding celebrations, deaths accompanied by dynamic descriptive words, flipping pages; the only ambiguity in the story is how many deaths, counting again, wondering why the characters never take a pause in life, seemingly avoiding depression, particularly when annihilation abounds, Armageddon is the path.  Step by step, another death; inch by inch, death – turning, turning, turning – seeing death with each turn, each blink of the eye.

Politicians running into trouble with approval ratings, criticizing enemies, perceived or otherwise, leading to the predictable, wagging their proverbial tails (or is the right word, tales), watching their ratings improve, flexing the nation’s muscle, proclaiming leadership – much like the movies – followed by sanitized deaths.  Absolutely, I admit my friend’s version of life is correct – in this context – somebody does die; invisible, sanitized death, somebody dies.   Flipping channels, seeing the same story, flipping again, and again, seeing predictability unfold, accompanied by music, commercials, telling and retelling the story.

“Somebody gotta die!”

“Somebody …?”

“Somebody gotta to die …!”

Death is inevitable.  This doesn’t mean good story telling must always include multiple deaths, retribution for the offender, living by the Old Testament (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth), in living color, with a dynamic score playing against the backdrop of blacks, whites, blues, still-waters, a victim lying in the street.

“Every time …?”

“Yes, every time – at least in my version of life, my version of the story.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the death rate in the United States in 2014 was 823.7 deaths per 100,000 people, with the life expectancy being 78.8 years. The number of deaths in 2014 was 2,626,418.   The CDC reports the birth rate  was 12.5 per 1,000, with 3,988,076 births (in 2014).  The data seems to indicate my friend’s analysis is flawed.  There remains still more births than death – in most societies – not the contrary.  No the statistical data does not mean every transgression is followed by a birth, breakup to makeup, with The Stylistics singing the score, followed by another car chase, music – reds, whites, blues flashing across the screen – followed by birth, another, another.  The statistical data suggest that every good story need not entail 5.3 deaths for every 50 pages of text, a minimum 30 deaths per feature film, untold number of deaths to others when our elected leaders desire to show leadership, bravery, to support the good tale.

The evening light settled on the window sill, refusing to intrude farther than two inches from the edge of the ledge, hindered by time, the rotational pull of the earth, the Gods.  The tables in the restaurant no longer seemed sequestered, each now occupied.  Kissing, hugging, staring stories, reflecting emotions, sharing their day, interacting with the hostess, the wait staff which moved through and among, those same worker bees moved much like the sugar ants moving across the door’s transom, down the side of the building to the sidewalk.  The sun retracted further, out of the building, tracking time, reminding all she was no longer a participant, promising to reappear, settling on the sidewalk, winking, yawning; the proper tenor and tone, a well written play, directed and produced by Hollywood.

The stranger’s eyes pointed in one direction, watching, listening not listening, to her companion.  Her ears moved to the next table, listening, following the story-line, directing her attention away from the Eggplant Parmesan placed on their table – yellow, red, purple, white,  contrasting against fresh basil – listening, listening, listening – a participant from afar.  No deaths took place.  Everyone made it through dinner without the hallowing sounds of anguish, allowing the stranger to hear clearly, to participate.  Captivated, remaining part of the story, finishing her meal, situated in one world, a participant in another, finally fully intruding.

“Which soap opera are you talking about?”

She believed the story had to be fiction, intricate facts, stranger than fiction, interlaced with intertwined relationships – tears, anger, infidelity, love – reflecting colors, light, life.  Her reaction told me she believed, pulling away much like the sun, returning fully to her companion, her table when my friend bellowed a hearty laugh, replying, “No, no dear, no soap opera, I am talking about my friends!”

 

JUST MUSING: “Rude, rude, rude … der…”

Recently Oklahoman Congressman Markwayne Mullin stood before his constituents and complained about to their complaining, telling them, it’s “bull crap” that constituents pay his congressional salary.   I’m confused why anyone is confused, insulted, or put upon by his statement.  He merely stated the unspoken.  The word rude is an adjective, and means “discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way.”  Rude, ruder, rudest are variations on the theme, expressing degrees of discourteousness.  No matter the tense, I muse to say I believe we have become a ruder society (for a long time), progressively ruder and growing.  Deliberately, unintentionally, matters not, we are ruder, cloaked under the guise of convenience.   A progressive fungus first appearing in the public sector, migrating to the private sector, then on to the populace.

Public employees hidden behind a series of voice mails, promising to get back with us, never fulfilling that promise, forever shocked when we learn the inside number.  “How did you get this number?”  Forgetting we pay their salaries.

“Push 1, please”.  One doesn’t work; works only two out of ten times.  They – those on the other end of the phone – are disappointed that it worked at all, on those two occasions.

“Can you hold?”

“No, no, please don’t put me on hold.”

“Push 2, please”.   Pushing two works a little better; something about the percentages; a percentage of callers will be filtered out, after messing with pushing one – one – two – three times; allowing frustration, resignation to take hold, much like a genetic trait, part and parcel of the calculus.

Farming out consumer service to other countries, a little better, most times nicer, somewhat akin to exporting convenience (or is that inconvenience?), exported, across county, state lines, across one, two oceans.

Developing, making sure our input is not a computer bot, requiring us to type in symbols and number – Y O U W I L L 7 N E V E R 1 1 G E T T H R O U G H F O O L 7.  Answering after successfully typing in the required letters/number, after three times; the first time not able to read the code, the second time, entering the correct letters/numbers, being told we erred, “try again” or “you can call this number”, third time, getting through and reaching not a real person, but a computer bot.

We have been primed.  Somewhat like a Darwinian mutant, texting instead of calling.  Receiving a call, responding by text, email, or never returning the call or calls, seeing nothing wrong with our conduct, heads down, text, text, texting away – yes we do.  Texting birthday wishes, chocolate cakes, flowers – “woo thank you.”

Primed over the years, wondering why we can’t talk to a real person, instead retreating, adopting the same behavior, emailing “I love you”, before going back to your favorite television show. Hiding behind caller I.D., pretending to have never received the call, lying, lying, lying, pretending the phone broke again for the thirtieth time this year.  My, my, my, oh … oh …. Oh … how we have learned, how we have changed.

I dreamt –  now I believe, convinced country and western music has the solution.  To the Congressman, public employees, those in the private sector who play the game of transfer, never answering our questions (“Can you hold?”), to our friends hiding behind their phones (laughing about the irony, never being available, always busy, lying on cue):  “Where did you come from?  Where did you go?  What did come from? Where did you go?  What did I say?  Bullshit!”  You got it right; the appropriate response to rudeness is calling out the rude, rude, rudeness, kicking the right leg, Cotton Eye Joe-ing across the landscape, pronouncing bullshit (proudly, loudly), picking up the bull dung and flinging it back.  Bullshit.

JUST MUSING: “Smelling nature’s musk … invoking memories …”

The weather forecaster foretold of impending rain.  She, Mother Nature, refused to cooperate; hinting, promising, remaining cloistered, refusing – for three days – she did.  Scanning the horizon, searching for rain gear, guessing – I did – visiting the recesses, seeing how things have changed.  No more standing in the wind, smelling nature’s musk predicting the arrival of the first drop.  Habits adopted as a motorcyclist, during my youth, playing little attention to the suited visitors smiling outward from the screen.  Seeing Daddy Louis stand among the freshly plowed furrows, anchored in history, relying on Farmer’s Almanacs, the moon’s path, a trained and acute sense of smell, me not then understanding fully, appreciating later, as if gifted his wont – by osmosis, perhaps, by his God, maybe?  Mimicking, standing, turning, turning, turning, pointing outward, upward, predicting her behavior, the first drop, accurately on most occasions.  No smart phone, no strange voice providing directions, no weather gauge hanging in the corner, the total absence of a weather forecaster auditing for a different position in the newsroom hierarchy – smiling, joking – engaging, before providing the forecast.  Louis Wright’s stance and movement was a common practice, relying on the land, recognizing the life-sustaining nature of her gifts – the words “climate change” were never part of the vocabulary – praying, dancing, pleading, sensing droughts, predicting rain, studying her contours – the wind, sun, moon, wafting – wafting – musk – tell-tale signs of dependency – of her gifts.

Page forward, page back, flipping, bending, sorting through mental and the physical, admiring pictures, design, images stored from past lives, passing time – in a wasteful manner – in a purposeful manner – wandering, predicting, anticipating, studying recipes, visiting other terrains, worlds, taste, textures, before deciding on one.  Frying, sautéing, grilling, smoking, smothering, dividing food into regions, countries, peoples; isolating ingredients, seeing commonalities – dependence on the land, feedings one’s family, ourselves; standing in the middle of fields, in the center of supermarket aisles, mingling among local vendor questioning, pulling food from the ground, above, from the rivers; anticipating, predicting, allowing the future to unfold.

Picking one, the one was of Mozambique origin.  “Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest, situated on Africa’s southeastern coast,” with the Indian Ocean lapping its eastern border.  A recipe which borrowed from the sea, the inhabitants of the land, her colonizers (Mozambique was a former colony of Portugal, for some five centuries), the rhythms of the continent.  Unsweetened coconut, medium size white onions, crushed tomatoes, garlic, Mozambican or Alaskan king crabs recommended, blended ingredients, providing balance, telling a story – a crab curry (Caranguejo e Coco), coconut crab curry.

Digging, draining, scraping, tasting, watching time pass – to achieve eight cups of unsweetened coconut – violently opening another, draining, digging, scraping, tasting; no longer a diversion, now goal specific labor, wondering why I picked the recipe and not another.  Seeing a vision – canned coconut milk peacefully sitting on the store’s shelf – contemplating going back, instead remaining in place, picking, scrapping, retrieving flying pieces, landing ten feet away, hearing Harry Belafonte sing his Cocoanut Woman song, repeating “cocoanut, cocoanut, cocoanut”, over, over, over again.  Escaping from life’s challenges, discarding worries with the hardened, shattered outer shell, refusing to write, making a choice, staying on task; visiting other lands, in my eyes – in the recesses of my brain – tasting, chopping, marveling at the universality of choices, seeing a muscular figure climb the tree to retrieve “the cocoanut”, tossing, one – two – three – down, to prepare the curry.

Crying not because of sadness, not because of worry; stopping, rushing to the sink to wiping with the smallest finger’s tip, tilting to the right, as if tilting was going to control the sting or stop the tears; tilting anyway.  Seeing in my eyes/memory the words, “mince the onions”, getting back on task, scraping with the blade of the knife – up – down – up – down – measuring by sight – into a collective heap – seeing the pieces were still a little too large – up – down – up – down – crying as if remembering, as if reminded.

Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations publishes a list of the producers of coconuts.  Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam top the list.  Mozambique shows up as the twentieth largest producer.  The continental United States fails to make the list (the territory of Puerto Rico shows up number sixty-eighth on the list).  Dark hair women colored my vision; coconuts slipped safely into bags to refrigerated containers – to rail, to ships, by air – to world markets, complimented by sun, enhanced by dance.   Day-o, day-ay-ay-o.

Okay, okay, okay… Day-O is a banana song, “collected in six, seven, eight foot bunches”.  Day-o, day-ay-ay-o.  I digressed, but I hope you get my point.  The imagination of mind controlling actions, visiting other countries, remaining in place, taste buds and dreams intermingled with others of different hues and tongues … crying … cropping … dreaming.

China, Norway, Vietnam, United States, India, and Canada are the six largest exporters of seafood.     Holding crab purporting of to be Alaskan King Crabs, if so, harvested by men and women under circumstances, in environments, causing the profession to remain “one of the most dangerous jobs” in the United States.  The onions which caused me to lament may have come from the United States.  Perhaps, likely, in the United States remains one of the world’s largest dry onion producers, behind China, and India, ahead of Brazil, Japan and Iran.

Passing time, believing the recipe’s preparation time, overshooting the time, never minding time lost, enjoying the diversion, the stops along the way, the visits, travel, smells, sharing of cultures.  Stopping, remembering I forgot to cook the rice, pulling the package down from the shelf, reading the package, “Product of Thailand”, smiling, singing, dancing, cooking, tasting…Day-o, day-ay-ay-o.

 

JUST MUSING: Whack, whack …”

I am kind of whacked about House Bill 4260, the Man’s Right to Know Act, which is pending for consideration in the Texas legislature.  The proposed bill proposes to fine men $100.00 for each time they masturbate, more specifically, for each and every “masturbatory emissions.” Emissions means, “emissions outside of a woman’s vagina, or created outside of a health or medical facility” – then the $100 civil penalty kicks in – for each emission.  The offending conduct is considered an act against an unborn child, failing to preserve the sanctity of life.  A masturbatory emission is defined as an emission which takes place outside a woman’s vagina or a hospital.  The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Jessica Farrar, explained later the bill was intended to be satirical, to make a point surrounding legislators’ persistent attempt to regulate a woman’s body, somewhat akin to “take that”.  For some reason, I’m not laughing, can’t laugh … will not laugh.  I don’t believe her.  This is a call to action, resist! Whack! Whack!

My form of resistance is to write an open letter to the State Representative, asking her to withdraw the bill, amend, clarify; joke or no joke.

“Dear State Representative Farrar:

I write this letter because of my concerns with regards to H.R. 4260.  Don’t’ you see the unintended consequences of your bill?  Don’t you?  First, there are too many holes in the bill for comfort.  The bill requires the State to level a fine for “each masturbatory emission.”  It seems to me the bill fails to protect the non-emitter.  Electing to whack, hold, grab, pull, prevent emission, building in a presumption of emission, by the act itself.  This is unfair.

My other problem:  do you want to make liars out of some of us?  Much like those who lied to us years earlier, predicting our demise, the loss of sight, blindness.

“I didn’t emit.  I didn’t emit.”

I recognize the Snapchat generation couldn’t care less; filming, snapping, telling on themselves, showing all, posting each and every emission, believing the snap disappears, into the ethos, never to be seen again.  Excuse me for a moment … whack, whack, whack.  The Act will drive some of us to the recesses of society, to counselors (for our guilt), hiding in corners, confessing our sins, confused with the loss of control over our bodies.

What about multiple emissions performed in the same event?  Ma’am, there are some talented whackers out there.   You thought about that, have you?  Are you trying to make criminals out of men?  Do you hate us?  Are you lesbian?  What’s the issue?  I know during the elections one of the candidates admitted, “Someone has to be punished.” He wasn’t talking about men.   I know.  I know.  I know, it takes two to tango, but come on – it seems to me you are criminalizing victim-less conduct.

What about the trial? The proposed bill says the fine is civil.  I doubt this.  What happens when the victim disagrees with the proposed civil fine?  Are they subjected to confinement when refusing to pay?  Do you admit the bill will ultimately impose a presumption of emission, to avoid creating proof problems for the prosecution?  A presumption imposed on proof of the act, an assumption there was an emission, to avoid the messiness a fully prepared case would entail, requiring measurement, quantifying the amount of the emission.

Ma’am your fatal attempt at satire fails woefully.  I’m insulted.  Nothing in the bill grabs and holds my gay brothers.  Exempting them from liability, seemingly exempting them from the Act, whacking away and allowing them to defend on constitutional grounds, claiming the law is not applicable to them; while channeling the rest of us to hospitals seeking to fall under the exception to the law.  What if we are situated in a part of the state where there is no health facility or hospital?

If you pretend this is about regulating health and safety, you still fail.  Your bill is unconstitutionally vague, and requires reworking.  It has no language requiring ones admission in the hospital.  You are creating a dangerous environment for me and others, requiring us to invade the space of the smokers, standing outside, in the corners, to the side of the doorway, abiding by the smoking law, now encumbered and partnered which others who have decided to go to the hospital to whack away.  I am not imagining.  Nothing in Bill 4260 requires admission to a hospital.   Whack, whack.

One final point, who receives the civil penalty?  Is this like the lotto promise, that the lotto dollars would go to the schools to educate Texas children? Look where that promised got us.  Seems to me you are imposing a sin tax.  Maybe even viewpoint discrimination, striking at the core of the right of self-expression.  Using taxpayers’ monies to legislate your views, when life begins, is that your aim?  Come on, don’t go there.

Whack, whack, whack!

Please withdraw your bill.   We get your point and you’re not funny!”

_____________

Postscript:  Don’t believe a word I said.  The letter is a satirical treatment of the Representative’s bill, attempting to aid in her point; a societal insistence on packaging a women’s body; commoditizing that which is not a commodity – something we (not the Southern “we”, instead the collective “men” we) simply don’t own.  Written in the tradition of Mark Twain, The Onion,   Charlie Hebdo, Chris Rock, hoping, just hoping, … the challenge is appreciated, even if done circuitously, while my tongue remains firmly implanted, in cheek.

So I muse.