Work in Progress

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This morning I took a strong pharmaceutical stimulant and will use the added energy and my newly focused attention span to write a novel which I will complete by tonight, when the drug has worn off. Now I am experiencing elation, my mood is soaring, and I can hardly type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Yes, I must remember to tell the story of that time in Los Angeles fifty years ago when I came upon a coffee shop full of transvestites. And the altar boy story, don’t forget the one about the time I fell through the ice, or the cave in Mexico that was full of human excrement, and the monkey that broke into my room in Nicaragua. All this must be preserved and fitted neatly into a narrative!

Plot and structure do not come easily to me, but colorful details are a dime a dozen. Obviously the protagonist should be a thinly disguised version of me, and all the zany characters and outlandish happenings can easily be summoned from my memories, which now swirl about me like colorful mists.

The climax will involve a near-death experience, when I am comforted to learn that the soul persists after painlessly passing through the veil. In this novel I will experience true love, meet my soul mate, the one who was conceived with me in mind. I will be tempted by fame and fortune, but reject both in favor of more substantial and long-lasting pleasures.

As I write, I can imagine the movie that will be made. Johnny Depp can play me. But who will play me as a boy? As an old man? I can’t deal with that now, I have to keep typing.

To whom will my protagonist disclose his deepest and darkest thoughts? A sidekick. Dennis Hopper would have played him in the movie, but he’s been gone for a while now. The new American Friend. Weird little guy who is humble to the point of maybe being retarded. A good listener. He doesn’t judge. At the climax he is suddenly and unexpectedly killed in a horrific accident. “Good-bye little buddy. And thanks.”

Will any of the women who come and go throughout this story be virtuous and honest, or will they all be deviously addicted to silly dreams of soul mate romance? Will they all be in therapy, or will one reject the popular paradigm? In order to appeal to modern readers and viewers, at least one female character must prove to be strong and decisive, but there is no need to make her a romantic interest.

Oops, I’ve done it now. My thoughts are racing so far ahead that I’ve lost track of my center, my core. My monkey mind is all that I can access, and it’s chattering away like bad talk radio, like a taxi dispatcher’s radio squawking constantly even if no one is listening.

Maybe Jack Kerouac had ingested a different form of speed when he wrote “On the Road.” The continuous roll of paper that fed through his typewriter kept getting inked., but my digital diary is winding down. It sputters, and then it stops.

 

 

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Orange Moon Rising Over Tak

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A hot day,  a warm night with a steady breeze from the West. Across those mountains the sun is setting behind lies the country of Burma, or Myanmar as it likes to call itself nowadays. Happy teenagers crowd around the food stalls on the banks of the river, near the foot bridge that crosses it. There’s  still a lot of dust and smoke in the year, for it hasn’t rained in  months. To this Midwesterner it feels like October, but it’s almost March. Soon, hot season will arrive. The rains won’t come until June.

 

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Me, Hold a Grudge?

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After four hours of riding the motorcycle in the heat and dust, I treated myself to a ninety-minute Thai massage at the shop near our hotel in Tak. We’re two-thirds of the way home. Time to celebrate.

The shop was cool and quiet, the lady masseuse seemed to know what she was doing. But then the client in the next bed over was one of those Thai men who are totally addicted to his cell phone. Even while getting massaged, he needed to watch an action movie on his phone, complete with explosive sounds and occasional screams.

Surely, the sweet girl working on him would suggest he turn the phone off. No such luck. She worked away, smiling placidly, while I imagined getting up, calmly talking his phone and throwing it out the window. But then I realized, he would protest, so I might as well simply climb on top of him and pummel him in the face with my fists, as rapidly and forcefully as possible. Come to think of it, I might as well strangle him for good measure, lest he summon the strength to retaliate.

This train of thought did nothing for my mental of physical state of relaxation. I think my therapist might have noticed my tension, for she said something and the man turned his phone off. I managed to will myself limp for a few minutes, and that seemed to reset my racing mind.

Only a few minutes passed before I found myself recalling the treasurer of a self-help group of which I was once a member, who calmly announced at one of our meetings that since the mother of one of our members had recently died, she authorized spending forty dollars to send flowers to the funeral. She was sure no one would object, so she hadn’t brought it up before. I remember thinking, “That’s the last donation I’ll ever make when they pass the basket.”

Then I recalled that this incident happened at least twenty years ago. Why was it still floating around in my brain?

I used to think I possessed an especially easy-going nature, not harboring grudges due my my inherent sweetness. But then I realized I still remembered the time I loaned a boy in my third-grade class a nickel. The year was 1958. We were standing with some boys our age at the local five and dime, near some gumball machines. He asked me if I could borrow a nickel. I had a nickel, and I wanted to fit in with these boys and he was a “cool kid,” good looking and popular. His father had a good business. My father was unemployed. We had recently moved to town, hoping he would find work. So, I said “OK, I’ll lend you this nickel, but you have to promise to pay it back.”

He laughed and said “of course I will.”

The next week, at the same spot, I asked him to return my nickel. He sneered and barked scornfully, “it was only a nickel!” The other kids laughed. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. I remember where the others were standing, the way the light came into the store through the automatic doors out onto the street. Something calcified inside me at that moment, something that I have used as justification for harboring that resentment for sixty years.

No wonder I find it hard to relax sometimes.

Politics Isn’t Easy, But It Beats Dictatorship

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I remember when the tide changed. It was Reagan who first started making fun of liberal politicians and their well-intentioned meddling. They didn’t have the wisdom to let the marketplace self-correct. When political ads were approved by the FCC, the airwaves were flooded by pre-commercials and the voice-overs always accused the candidate for the other side of being a “politician.”

 

Yes, politics is difficult because self-governance is work. Far easier to simply let an enlightened despot make decisions for you. The problem lies in the despots who want the job. Few are enlightened. Bullies and thugs abound.

 

The ancient Greeks thought politics was the duty of every free man. It still is. Maybe most men no longer care to be free because it’s too much work.

Will I Be Among Those Chosen?

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Not Sure You’ll be Raptured Up?

Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Many of us at times have been lukewarm in our faith, so that He might just as soon spit us out of His Holy Mouth as raise us during the rapture. We can still get to the gates of Paradise and avoid the Tribulation, but waiting around to see if we’re chosen is just too risky. What if we embrace the Beast in a moment of End Times lunacy? Better to avoid risk and die a conventional death to meet your Maker under less fraught conditions.

We will help you.

Just as Jim Bakker sells buckets of freeze-dried food to help Believers survive the coming Holocaust, so do we offer a service that will send you on your way before you know it. “Look over there!” (painless shot in back of the head) That’s all there is to it.

Our marksmen and women are as attractive as they are skillful, and you’ll be so caught up in conversation with these personable and energetic young people that you’ll forget they’ve come to send you over to the other side. One moment you’re talking about your grandchildren to someone who seems interested, the next you’re facing Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.