NORMAL FOLK

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Dear Gentlemen:

I can’t address this letter any more specifically, because I don’t know your names yet. I have been told that you are a group of older gentlemen who live in the same rooming house, Esquire Point, on D Street, behind McDonald’s.

My name is Madison Kimberly, and I am a graduate student in social work at our local University. You men have been identified as being “at risk” for depression, alcoholism and other conditions related to men living along in senescence. Senescence is just a fancy word for growing old.

On behalf of the Mahaska County Community College Outreach Division of Continuing Education, I would like to invite any and all of you to attend a free lecture at our local public library (meeting Room A, 8 pm. This Tuesday) where we will explain our new certification programs in Life Coaching and Grief Management. We think these might be of special interest to your group, as many of you have a lot of life experience you could share with others, including crucial skills in overcoming disappointment, etc.

The certification program contains forty hours of classroom instruction and eighty hours of supervised field work. Those who complete the program will receive a certificate that will enable to them to practice in this field, should positions ever become available. Even though no such positions exist at present, we are optimistic that as soon as this latest budget crisis passes, the Governor and our Board of Regents will get busy instituting outreach programs that will employ at least some of our graduates.

We hope you will come to the meeting next Tuesday and see for yourselves what this program might have to offer you. We hope you are in no way insulted that we have identified you as a group who might want to take advantage of this opportunity.

Yours,

Madison Kimberly

B.S. Social Work

Dear Miss Kimberly:

I read your letter some of the men on my floor here at Esquire Point, and then posted it on the bulletin board in the lobby. I must say, yours is the first contact we’ve had with the world outside of our rooming house in quite a while. Many of the men found your letter amusing. I found it touching. Thank you for caring about us.

There are many people, especially young women, who would cross the street to avoid passing close to one of us. But to you and them I say, “Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to get to know us. We’re really quite harmless.”

Although many of our members have spent time in prison, now that we are no longer incarcerated we can mingle freely with those who have never done hard time. You’ll find we are normal folk deep down. On the surface we may be grizzled and scarred, but for most of us that simply is evidence of character. If you look deeply into our eyes, you will see kindness there. Kindness wrought from suffering.

We have no axes to grind, no scores to settle. Our feelings towards you are avuncular. We want nothing more than to delight in your success, to commiserate with your trials. Although we lack the resources to solve your problems, to give you a leg-up, we are there for you, emotionally.

The fact that we live in cramped furnished rooms rather than spacious apartments, eat beans warmed on a hot plate and watch watch daytime TV on a tiny, thirty-year old black-and-white set we found for free in a pile of refuse, doesn’t mean we don’t share a common experience with you. No, we are not adept at social media, we own no smartphones, but we aren’t stupid. We know what’s coming down. We are fully aware of the peril that exists in these more perilous of times.

It doesn’t matter if we were veterans of our nation’s wars with Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, we are no more conservative politically than most. Like you, we thought the Lawrence Welk show was embarrassing. Just as you do, we think Jim Bakker is a huckster and con-man who targets frightened widows with empty assurances. We are not fooled by the saber-rattling of those who stand to profit from further wars. We weren’t born yesterday. We have been around the block a time or two.

We do, however, harbor strong feelings about certain issues. We don’t believe the Warren Commission’s or the 9/11 reports. We know that our Presidents routinely lie to us. We think there’s a very good chance that Eisenhower met with the aliens at Roswell and oversaw the transfer of technology that allows for anti-gravity flight and virtually free energy generation.

We know that these developments have been kept secret in order to sustain the status-quo. Those who stand to benefit from business as usual have deprived us of many blessings, and are doing their best to keep doing so.

Who are we to change this? We are old men who mutter to themselves at night before drifting off the sleep, lit cigarette in hand. We matter to no one, least of all ourselves. You can’t discourage us further, because we have already reached the bottom of that particular well.

Burl Gustaphson, on behalf of the residents of Esquire Point

Dear Mister Gustaphson:

Thank you for your prompt reply! I must say that your letter went a long way to confirming my assumptions about your group. I’m sure you all have a lot to offer and I’m determined to do what I can to help make that possible.

You may remember that a few years back, they were diagnosing almost everyone with depression and then prescribing antidepressant drugs. Well now, things have changed in that department, and the general feeling is that was just a marketing push by Eli Lilly, maker of Prozac. A few years later the popular diagnosis became bi-polar disorder, but that was just a push by the manufacturers of lithium and Seroquel. Current belief is that instead of serotonin of dopamine imbalance, many people, especially older people, are suffering from chronic loneliness. There is no pill that will cure that.

We hope that our program will address that condition in our locally targeted populations. It is our dream that you will all soon become trained and certified in the healing arts that will enrich the lives of all in our community!

Oh, and before I forget, my supervisor told me that scholarships will be available to pay most of the tuition costs for this pilot program. So be sure to spread the good news to your friends.

Sincerely,

Madison Kimberly

B.S. Social Work

Dear Miss Kimberly:

I don’t think you’re going to get far with this crowd. Even if your program were absolutely free, we don’t see any value in it. We’re not looking for education or certification. Most of us are looking to crack a couple of cold ones and watch TV. Some of us spend a lot of time concerned about and anticipating our next bowel movement.

But you sound like a nice girl, so here’s all of us wishing you good luck on finding takers for your pilot program, which I must admit none of us here understands.

Yours,

Burl Gustaphson

Esquire Point

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