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.

JUST MUSING: “I do solemnly swear …”

On March 7th the Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, appeared on CNN and explained, “If the president of the United States said that, he’s got his reason to say it.”  I have a different take on our President saying our former President ordered a wiretap of his building.  Admittedly, my take may be off-based, evolves out of tainted experiences, somewhat culturally biased, too much salt in well-earned wounds.

҉            ҉            ҉

The call was taken at two in the morning.  The person on the other end readily identified himself and why he was calling.  Introductions were not needed.  We knew each other.  I listened to both tone and tenor.  He seemed tired, frantic, relieved that a person answered the phone so early in the morning.  Said he was told I may be still in the office.  I thought, sad, how predictable I have become.

“He’s in jail.”

“Charged with what?”

“I think, drunk driving.  He struck a bicyclist on the seawall.”

“Were you with him …?”

“Yes.”

Initially fashioned as a request, “can you come down to the jail,” before seeing a pause in the sentence, as reporters are wont to do, smelling weaknesses, changing course in mid-sentence, somewhere between the dash, a comma, the semi-colon, converting the initial inquiry.

“Get him out of jail.”

“Where is he?”

Initially doing what he was trained to do – reporting – “Drinks, dinner ….”  Pausing, stopping, consumed by the personal nature of the facts, forcing him to circle around the facts, going directly to the end of the story:  “Then it happened.  Out of nowhere…”  No context, a total failure to develop any characters, disregarding the plot, stripping the story of content, adjectives, pacing.  The wind didn’t blow.  The sun refuse to rise, suspended animation was the order.  Mother Nature provided no assistance, remaining cloistered, never part of the story.  The wordsmith was no more, ignoring his well-horned profession, captured by the moment, suffering professional, premature ejaculation, spitting the conclusion out, stripping away suspense, feelings, texture.  What they ate, don’t know.  How much they drank, he didn’t tell.  Whether the lawyer was drunk, intoxicated, your guess is good as mine.

Mr. Premature was someone who I had previous involvement, as the subject of the story; providing background for other stories; the game of avoidance, when not wanting to comment, an indirect invocation of the right to remain silent.  We had one firm commonality though, agreeing on the meaning of a free press

Mr. Confined was a lawyer, a local practitioner, plying his trade in a relatively large firm.  Smallish in stature, possessive of an exaggerated walk, banty-rooster like, causing the hair on his head to take on a windswept appearance.  The world was his oyster; controlling the stage, this time from a holding cell, a little loudish man.  Hollering at the top of his lungs, extending both hands out from behind the bars, pointing, sweeping doubts aside (as to who was in control), threatening everyone within ear-shot.

“Do you know who I am?”  … “I will have all of you fired.”  … “Do you know who my uncle is?”

Able to detach, in a parallel sense, pretending to be in the control of the facts, even though he was the facts, the reason everyone was duly gathered.  Ignoring my plea, “you are being recorded.”  Ignoring, screaming, pointing, threatening everyone with their livelihood.

“Get me out of this hell hole!”

The jailers’ emotions provided color, slipping back into the text adverbs, similes, metaphors, adjectives; mumbling conspiratorial whispers, enveloped in bated breaths, “Damn-jiggety … his paperwork just got lost!”  Watching for reactions, getting reactions; my eyes uncontrollably jumped from place to place; my fingers doing an involuntary dance on the counter, tapping, striking, moving from place to place, unwinding, spinning, spinning, spinning – out of control.

“We told him he was being recorded.”

Words said definitively, matter of fact words, not inviting a reaction, not waiting for a reaction.  Slipping paper in a slot, adding for good measure, “Mr. Griffin, the recording is working.”  The additional statement evoked smiles, broad gleeful smiles, This is a Wonderful Life type of smiles, followed by gallows humor … little jokey jokes … invading the air, flowing from different directions, much like the flooding from the Gulf, when she’s angry, ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, pushing, spoiling all within reach.  The invasion provided clarity, showing the futility of politeness, the previous stab at politeness.

“Shut the hell up!”

He did.  He didn’t.

Changing ever so slightly, containing his conduct, the best he could; inserting a dash, not a period.  A drip, drip mumble, wrapped in a permeable bubble, contained, not contained, out and over, much like a shaken beer, into the air, onto the floor, moving upward, flooding our ears, reminding everyone we were dealing with a fool.    Ghost-like qualities were not his.

They saw.  They heard.  They recorded.

“He ran in front of me.  I should file charges against his ass.”

҉            ҉            ҉

Criminal lawyers normally suppress common curiosity, not wanting to know the entire picture, until after discovering, learning what the government has on the accused.  Their approach is consistent with the constitutional requirement placing the burden of proof on the government in criminal prosecutions.  Adapting, much like Darwin’s theory, surviving in hostile environs, working backwards, moving forward; structuring the defense from known and unknown facts before uttering a word.  I hope I am making sense.

Our President in his former life must have been an out-of-control, ethically challenged, defense lawyer (civil or criminal, you pick), operating on a level unparalleled in the history of the defense bar.  Spreading rumors – tweeting, tweeting, tweeting – changing the subject, stirring the pot, getting others to talk before responding; determining whether there was a tape, remaining quiet, changing the subject; trying to remember what was said to others, running for cover, in order to control the facts.  Did I say, changing the subject?  If I haven’t, I am now.  If I have, repeating the same is paramount to understand why I muse.

Retreating to the Winter White House, obsessing throughout the night, into the morning, before saying another word about the new revelations he read, knowing, just knowing, he has to control the facts.  Shaming inquirers to discover the extent of the exposure; questioning, blaming others, spreading rumors, flat-out saying others should be investigated … before retreating for cover.

“The Whitehouse will not make another statement about the President’s tweet(s).” … “The President’s tweeks speaks for themselves …”

Purposefully disassembly in order to control the story; spreading rumors, surmise, guesses, changing the story; operating by a different set of facts, manipulating the language, creating a new word salad, a life-long behavior.  Engaging in behavior worse than the most unethical lawyer; creating facts out of whole cloth, willing to ignore established rules, rising early to tell others.  Tweeting from the White House; seeing nothing wrong with this practice; no longer characterize as a practice, now a well-horned, embedded character trait.  Keeping the story going, controlling the story, declaring enemies, proclaiming, “I and I alone am the purveyor of the truth.” … Tweet, tweet….

Wondering over dinner – “What is the document everyone keeps talking about?”  Hearing mumbles, provoking shock from others, almost in unison … “The document is the Constitution!”  Sitting mere yards, inches away when they spoke; not invisible, not ghostlike, protected still because, he – the President – didn’t understand the significance of the words spoken.  No one tried to explain, perhaps engulfed by fear, perhaps a need to protect themselves, their positions.  Stymied movement, silenced wisdom; knowing they should know better, been trained better; suppressing explanation, ignoring the profound significance of the aberrant behavior, played out in real-time, with real-world consequences.

No different than the confined lawyer, self-absorbed, self-anointed, never capable of understanding the aberrant nature of his behavior.  Different, free to wreak havoc, tattering and shredding the Constitution, by the minute, hourly, daily; never seeing the aberrant nature of his behavior, and not caring.

I muse to say the defense lawyer-in-chief is disassembly, pointing fingers to find out whether there are tapes on him.  Spreading lies, casting surrogates far and wide, standing in front of the press and the American public, using the word, “if”, wrapped around different connotations.  Spreading doubt, for sure, hoping someone will reveal their hand and say “yes”, “no”, providing the administration a hint how to proceed.

One who has taken the oath, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” has quickly discarded the oath.  Maybe he, our President, has never really understood the meaning of the words spoken, readily discharging them, inverting the words, imposing the burden of proof on the rest of us.

JUST MUSING: “Use by date…”

Life is somewhat akin to the use by dates on the side of food products.  An estimation, predicting, “best when used by.”  Smelling, poking, lifting, checking color is no different than parenting.   Kicking ourselves for forgetting, tucked behind something else, wondering whether, “still good” – our treatment of friends, love ones, family.  In college, I took a course entitled Chemistry for Non-science Majors, an experiment by the Science Department, in hope of stripping the mysteries and fears of science away.  “Making science friendly again – to make America great again” – no I’m making that part up, digressing early, my apology.

May I continue? – One of the areas covered dealt with food sciences.  The preservation of food, learning about the chemical compounds printed on the side of foods in the marketplace, discovering how plants are genetically modified, understanding how substances change when one molecule is removed, another added.  No different than life.

Years ago, a friend of mine by her fortieth birthday began to read the obituaries in the Houston Chronicle daily.  I didn’t understand what she was doing.  A big city paper, surely Donna didn’t expect to see someone she knew in the paper everyday.  I didn’t understand Donna was lamenting aging, seeing time pass, her use by date approaching fast, wondering whether the “best by this date” was approaching, or even passed.  Lamenting, lamenting, lamenting, reading, expressing anger, frustration, pointing at someone she didn’t even know.

I understand now.  Smelling, poking, pushing … looking for signs of imminent death – like I am going to see some magical clue from the image looking back at me in the mirror.  Expressing condolences, barely able to contain myself, wanting to ask, having to ask, “What did he die of?”, “Oh, I’m so sorry”, “How old did you say he was?” – “My, my, my” wrapped, packaged around my concerns, Donna’s concerns, for the “best used by date.”  Reading the obituary closely, seeing what they didn’t say.  Much like high fructose corn syrup, sodium erythorbate, erythorbic acid, seeing the words imprinted on the packaging, having no concept what I’m looking at, looking for.

“Died how young?”

“Did they say why?”

“Cancer, diabetes, didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise?”

“Oh, died in a car accident.  Good!  Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”

Seeing the meat in the refrigerator, immediately realizing it was purchased a week ago, knowing you forgot, wondering whether it is past it’s “use by date.”   Reaching to throw it out, remembering your mother’s instruction to drain the meat, wash off the blood, then smell.  Salting, seasoning, smelling, using in a meal, eating.

Smelling the milk, retching, embarrassed at the waste, seeing starving children in River Oaks, before adapting, stirring, folding, mixing with other sour milk for bread.  Remembering the lessons, their history:  never throwing anything away, born during the depression, on farms, surviving, reusing, adapting, saving, feeding their families on little, proud of their resourcefulness.  Developing idioms to explain life problems, life events, reminding their heirs, not to throw away objects – things – people:  “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  “Making chicken salad out of chicken gaga’” (even though the wrong word used, I think you get the point).

The medical profession raves against the over-consumption of anything – salt, sugar – while failing to point us to the operative word(s), over-consumption.  Not ever willing to deny that salt is a necessary nutrient, in turn posting warnings, placing salt on the Most Wanted Criminal List, a criminal, dangerous.  That same profession sits back in shock at our willingness to by-pass substitutes for the real thing, an organic substance.

So label me confused, wondering what the fuss is about surrounding food labeling – much like life.  Finding myself doing much more important tasks, reading the obituaries daily, attending more funerals than weddings, expressing my condolences to get close enough to ask additional questions, looking in the mirror, poking, prodding, smelling, seeing the use by date approaching fast.

“Nope, doesn’t smell like death.”

“Ain’t nothing wrong with you boy!  You need to take a shower!”

JUST MUSING: “Mad hatter like …”

I seldom watch horror movies, refusing to revisit living-color, vivid, life altering nightmares.  Believing the monster on the railroad track still exists, aging ugly, scarier than ever, drinking ditch water, waiting for me, to get me.  No, no, no, I will leave the medium to others.    When I grew old enough to protest, I refused to pay people to scare me, refusing to enter the ridiculously long lines to ride the wildest, scariest, tallest roller coaster in the free world.  Stepping out of line, letting others walk around, never having to reassure myself the decision not to ride was the right one.

“No, no, ma’am you can have my spot.  Please.”

Letting Stephen King scare Stephen King, and his demented followers; knowing my limitations, putting his books down, stopping on page one, paragraph one; cursing him, and the three-eyed monsters appearing early, on page two.  Attempting to sleep, revisiting what I saw, what I read, hearing clanging sounds, suffering an withering attack from imaginary bed bugs, falling, falling, falling, to a painful, disfigured death, emoting my last, predictable words, “My death was caused by Stephen King.  Stephen King killed me.”

Life’s wonderful contradictions continue to play us for the proverbial fools.  Cutting and pasting, lifting faces from different sources and placing them onto another; posting stories as a reliable entity, when caught saying the error was a mistake – casting doubts, creating new truths.  Borrowing copyrighted mastheads, redirecting attention, posting to justify one’s worldview, even if a lie.

A little white lie is defined as a minor, benign lie.  I don’t believe a lie should be parceled into minutia.  What is the contrast?  What is the opposite of the little white lie? –  A big black malignant lie.  Parceling facts, dissecting truth, justifying the lie, birthing confusion, providing a platform for fake new, alt-news, alternative facts is our bold new world.

No, please don’t place me in the category of the folks who disingenuously disrespects the advancements in technology.  Absolutely, the information age has allowed the world to become smaller, more connected, allowing information to travel across the globe, blending cultures, traditions, and peoples.  No longer needing to ride a horse to Boston to declare, “Give me liberty, or give me death”, possessing a printing press within inches, a multitude of presses, publishing at a nominal cost, at will.  A new world which benefits, advantages, disadvantages, challenges, sows confusion, daily.

Lying about the existence of big foot seems problematic to me – cutting, pasting, borrowing pictures around the world, then placing text, and quotes from fictional people and posting the story as true is nothing more than the big lie and should be called out as such.   Posting pictures to make a point, “she looks Angelina Jolie”, hiding identity of the source, scurry under cover of a non-existent entities, false names, is different than Benjamin Franklin’s use of pseudonyms, both male and female.

Benjamin Franklin and Stephen King’s publishers were honest, labeling the story under assigned categories, horror, science fiction, fiction, non-fiction, playing by a set of principles, being held accountable.  The First Amendment protects us from our government, the right of free speech, a press, to religion, creating a freer society, allowing for the exchange of ideas.  The First Amendment protects truth and lie.  No problem here.  I only muse to say we should be more diligent in calling out the lies.

New technology shouldn’t mean we should not filter the lies out.  Free press, free speech means the lies should be exposed, parceled out, and then relegated to the dark web of our mines, the trash bins of history.  Force the liars to become more creative and a tad-bit more honest, labeling their writings as the new futuristic comic books seems appropriate.

“Lies, lies, more lies, up, up and away!”

Force them to admit their writings were borne at a time the free press was at its weakest, under attack externally (loss of advertising dollars, politicians running against the press attacking a fundamental tenet of a free society), and internally (power in the hands of a few; caused by consolidations, closings, unreliable and unpredictable new business models).

Demand power be bequeathed to the entities who now dominate the medium (Google, Facebook, etcetera) (the gatekeepers), granting them publishing rights, forcing the separation of wheat from the chaff; requiring categorization of our new printers, opinion writers, bloggers – fiction, non-fiction, horror, a literary lie.

Oh absolutely I believe there may be problems – times when entities, governments, individuals will overreact, censoring the message disfavored.  There will always be this type of pull and tug.  My concern is different.  The lies are overwhelming, creating an alternative universe, establishing different rules, allowing the purveyor of the lies to avoid accountability.  Mad hatter like, wicked witch evil – untouched – the disfigured man on the railroad track eating little black boys screaming in their sleep, “Mamma, the King has no clothes.”

“Not a black suit!”

“But the suit is black!”

“No … it’s not!”

“I’m sorry, that color is black.  Wait, why are we talking about the color of the King’s suit?  I asked a different question.”

“Dishonest media … dishonest media, when you finally recognize ‘us talking to you’ is a privilege and not a right, maybe then, you will agree, ‘what you see is what you see.’”