Nose to the Grindstone

I still have a few years left to live, and I fully intend to become a ballet dancer, a jet fighter pilot, an astronaut, and an opera singer while I still breathe. It’s going to take some real efforts at time management for me to fulfill my remaining potential. No more wasting time on social media. Nose to the grindstone.

Will I be good at any of these occupations? I suppose the only one that really matters is fighter pilot. Others could be killed if I over-estimate my abilities. If I prove to be a mediocre astronaut, I will disappoint Mission Control, but drifting off into the endless void will not cause others to suffer. As a clumsy ballet and opera performer, I can bore an audience, but such an outcome would hardly be newsworthy.

Here and Now

When you look at everything as a gift, as grace, then envy and remorse disappear. If you consider it your duty to simply enjoy this day as much as possible, then you become child-like. You are less inclined to confront other people, to give instructions, to find fault, to blame.  You find it easy to cultivate patience, because the whole notion of waiting becomes absurd.  Who are you to decide which moment is more important than another? Why not find a way to enjoy where you are and what’s happening around you, right now? Any other response is at best arrogance, and at worst, insanity

My Secret

79380986_10207616427525996_7277270242631357474_n

 

By the time you read this, I will have already ascended into heaven. It was planned this way from the beginning. Even before the solar system was formed, my course was set. How do I know this? I have always known this. The angels have known this, as well.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m delusional. Just another kook who entertains delusions of grandeur. My goal is to get you to think you’re just like me. I know that we’re all part of an all-consuming plan to bring about the fruits of creation, and I want you to know that, too.

This is my religion. It’s nothing I want to force on others. I’m not a voice crying in the wilderness, hoping to be heard. I don’t care if no one listens to or believes me. I certainly don’t want you to believe in me. Believe in yourself.

Let me tell you a story. When I was yet a boy, I was visited by an angel. I had a fever, maybe the mumps. I was about three. My parents took these childhood diseases seriously, for I had had an older brother whom I never met who died about the time I was born. He had contracted measles which then turned into encephalitis. He died in agony. I simply ran a high fever and saw an angel standing at the foot of my bed. We talked for a long time, he and I. I got the impression he was as tall as the empire state building, but somehow fit into my bedroom.

The angel assured me that great things were in store for me, and that death was nothing to fear. That being the presence of God was the most enjoyable thing imaginable, and it would never prove to be less than that. I did, however, have a job to do before I got to enjoy being the presence of God, and that I shouldn’t worry, because inspiration and coincidence would be mine for the asking.

I have found that to be true. There is nothing to worry about. Simply enjoy the situation you find yourself in, no matter what it is, because it is wholly sufficient for your happiness.

I’ll never forget the first time God Himself appeared to me as a ball of fire. I was driving down the highway in my Ford pickup truck and a ball of fire entered through the windshield and hovered just above my knees. He told me not to be afraid, that he didn’t intend to burn me, but he wanted me to light a fire that would cause others to come to Him. He wanted revival, and wanted me to take whatever actions would make that come about. He suggested that maybe once I got it going I could upgrade to a Lincoln Town car and allow the pickup to be used on the farm. I didn’t yet have a farm, but maybe that was in the works, as well.

God suggested I found a school, the Institute of Bible Theology, and train students to be ministers. Three weeks would be enough for the coursework, and they could take the exams online to prove that their proficiency.

When I stopped for gas, the ball of fire vanished, but a beautiful young woman named Emma appeared. At first I thought she worked at the service station, but then I remembered that all the gas stations in this state had been self-service for years already, and Emma told me that she was an angel, sent by God Himself, to give me courage. She handed me a big bag of gold dust and winked, saying “there’s more where that came from. Plenty more!”

“But guess what, the news gets better yet! You don’t need to wait for Jesus to return, because you’re already Jesus. We’re all Jesus!”

I thought that sounded a little fishy and vowed to run it by some experts in the field as soon as I had the time to do so. But it was nice to see a pretty girl be so upbeat and excited.

I don’t like to blow my own horn, but this was all fitting in perfectly with my preconceived ideas about religion. Yes, I was special. Yes, up until this moment I had been selling myself short, but no more. Now I was ready to spread my gossamer wings and fly.

I know what my detractors will say. “Where are the miracles?” I must admit, I can’t explain why I have not yet manifested any crowd-pleasing spectacles. That’s where faith comes to the fore. If I truly believe that I have been chosen, then all my faith reverts to and focuses on He who chose me. If anyone asks what I have done lately to prove my holy status, I will smile and bravely say “my time has not yet come.”

Some of us take a while to grow into our full powers, while others are on a mission right out of the starting gate. A dreamy child, I was unaware of my gifts until early adolescence. Then at the age of thirteen, it all started to come clear to me. Yes, I could read minds. Yes, I had x-ray vision. Yes, I could astral project myself at light speed across the universe with nothing more than a wink and a nod.

Of course I entertained myself with these powers for a while after discovering them, but then the novelty wore off. The thoughts of others were no more profound or entertaining than my own. Seeing women’s bodies beneath their clothes became commonplace. One part of the universe looks pretty much the same as any other after a while. Most of it is thinly spread hydrogen gas, punctuated by an occasional star. Ho-hum.

Clowns in Peru are suffering from the Pandemic, but nobody knows or cares. If you want to understand Britney Spears, you must first understand her hair. We are all on fire with delusional thinking, but there is no simple cure for any of it. First, we must simply stop thinking altogether. Then, we can start over again, from the beginning.

I entertain myself with these kinds of thoughts. Which observations are helpful, or even real? There’s no easy way to discern nonsense from profundity. It’s up to the audience to determine the value of any communication. So far, the audience seems to be asleep.

This isn’t show business, it’s religion. It measures its gains not in tickets sold but in saved souls. Broad is the highway that leads down to perdition, but narrow and steep is the path to everlasting life. We can never forget our mission. The rejoicing in heaven is audible when we do our job well. The groans of the damned blend in with the cacophony of human misery that surrounds us.

We know we’ve done a good job when the groaning, weeping and wailing diminish and blend in with ambient noise. Then we can relax. Interactions with friends and family come to the fore. We start to have fun again.

Fun is a sign of holiness. Only the righteous can really enjoy themselves. Sinners are a miserable lot. I know, I meet them every day and sometimes it’s all I can do to resist their sneaky plans and insidious desire to drag me down to their level. They hope that by bringing me from my sanctified state they can lessen the envy that torments them.

Uncle Randolph

83174770_10157075165591373_2402769058924473149_o

 

Uncle Randolph made his living as an Interior Decorator, but it was after work that he really let the world know what he was made of.

 

116017643_10157532691141589_4844963194418706483_n

 

As a boy, he was largely ignored by his parents, and if it hadn’t been for Grandma Marge taking an interest in him, he would have suffered terribly.

 

117126221_10219446735931899_8669958650575015136_o

 

For a while, he tried running a kiddie amusement park, but then had some sort of of trouble with the authorities that was never quite resolved.  Suffice it to say that’s been banned from being in unsupervised contact with children.

 

116582216_10157876540507917_6347648786952304541_n

 

We had some foreign exchange students living with us when I was still at home, and Uncle Randolph got along with them very well. His delight in their company was totally reciprocated. The girl went on to be an important diplomat, and once invited Uncle Randoph to visit him at the United Nations building in New York City!

 

116294824_10218234905568413_6587135315107163934_n

 

One day, Uncle Randolph simply disappeared. He didn’t show up for work, and all attempts to track him down came to naught.

 

116263379_3214281335320142_2446583284293350186_n

 

We got a strange Christmas card from him last year, but it came with no forwarding address. Wherever he is, we hope he’s happy.

My Family

101907713_599897267310398_2605503779398746112_n

 

My older sister Natalie had absolutely no sense of humor, nor any interest in the arts. She was the hardest working scientist anyone had ever seen, and her advances in chemistry helped that discipline progress rapidly.

 

b544dd1033a8a4dfbfedf4367c2144ac--ouija-psychics

Our mother Eunice was no dope, but she never applied herself to more than the task of running our home and instructing the servants in their tasks. She envied her daughter the scientist, but never let on to that fact, and never really approved of her daughter competing with men in what was then a man’s world.

95918897_10158108818543766_9208039458874589184_o

She enjoyed finding excuses to stay as far away from her husband as possible, and her interest in amateur archaeology gave a perfect excuse to travel widely. It was rumored that she also took lovers on these trips, and kept that fact a secret from my father. Everyone else  knew, but apparently he was the only one left in the dark.

94624820_2572481729673875_7788951980461785088_o

After my parents divorced, she moved to Paris and lived with an acrobat in Montmartre. My father cut her off financially, but she didn’t mind for she embraced the Bohemian lifestyle with the same vigor her daughter took to chemistry experiments.

94624015_10158301356739655_3992026811478310912_o

Eventually, my father remarried, this time to a younger woman. She was as beautiful as she was vain, and caused him a much misery as she could during their few years together.

cover

For the last six months of his life, he lived in the basement, creating and painting doll heads. It seemed to give him a great deal of pleasure to do so. The new wife took the remainder of his money and went to Hollywood, where she pursued an acting career, with considerable success.

92668801_2870832233011826_6403816265768501248_n

I squandered my inheritance in ill-advised liasons with women who were ass attractive as they were mentally unstable. Oh well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

 

A Satisfied Man

109166536_1201931220153541_5553949696986556090_n

 

It was a job, but that’s all it was. Not a vocation. No emotional rewards, no feelings of accomplishment. I escorted people who had never questioned anything, who had never had an original thought in their lives, and showed them a bunch of sleepy alligators. Nobody complained or asked for their money back, so I guess I did OK.

 

115772184_10158596776044655_3167071484234441754_o

 

When I got off work I cracked a couple of cold ones and watched TV until I started to fall asleep. The next day was no different. I got to work at 1, when we opened, and already there was a line waiting at the ticket office. I knew what my goals were. I was going to save up for a flying car. Popular Mechanics promised that by 1990 they would be standard issue. I just had to keep working, keep saving money, and wait.

 

116698945_3697249143621859_5498715166964027808_n

 

Every Saturday night, the wife and I would go to Bob’s All You Can Eat for stewed Troglodytes. They swam in their own gravy and you have as many as you liked. I always left with a full stomach. The wife would nibble off my plate, all the while saying she wasn’t hungry, but I think she put down as many as I did.

 

115931659_10218249737699207_6540745537734277728_n

 

If we had people over, we’d show movies of our big vacation from three years ago, the time we went to Borneo, where the men grow tall as trees and the women prune them once a month. Our friends actually enjoyed seeing the same home movies over and over again, because it gave them a chance to rehearse their wisecracks.

 

116873668_3553125488039846_9162421920810314670_n

 

Watching somebody else’s vacation photos is usually an exercise in tolerance, but we try to get creative when it comes to ours.

 

116210988_10157336670682623_5068065140823317271_n

 

Before we send the gang home we crack out the tuna n’ waffles, which puts everybody in a good mood. It’s the most cost-effective and easy to prepare meal we know of, and that’s saying a lot.

 

 

Tingler

116154537_10223856572472912_357788025108631430_n

 

I found it in the driveway. Thought maybe it was a tropical plant or a branch of a tree, or perhaps a reptile that had been run over by a car. It seemed to have once been alive. I took it into the garage and left it on a pile of tarps. I could examine it later when I had more time.

 

116366741_3482529608426649_3416076276047031675_n

 

But first I had to get to my daily piano practice. Half an hour a day, no more, no less. I really enjoy my time in my study. The soothing pastel colors allow me to relax and focus, something that I value even more now in these days since I was released from the mental institution.

 

116204990_10218228283482865_1729160821682497831_o

 

There was a time, not too long ago, when I was on top the world. Women couldn’t get enough of me. Employers sought me out. I had so many offers that it literally made my head spin. And that’s how I ended up needing professional care.

 

115959000_10218227428061480_3215970427222072738_o

 

Then I got a job entertaining at a motel cocktail lounge. It was a little hotel, with a little pool and a tiny lounge bar, but it was enough for me. I was starting to reconnect with the outside world. I no longer drooled when I got dressed in the morning.

 

116597203_10159703337552439_9180950043353788479_n

 

Truth is, I only knew three or four songs on the keyboard, but that was enough to fill most of the time and we had so few customers those that came were happy to hear my New York New York/Changes/Younger Than Springtime medley.  Looking back on that time, I can truly say those days were some of my happiest.

 

82242271_1425999227591454_5388364050066742726_n (1)

 

But getting back to the thing I found in the driveway. It turns out it’s an extra-dimensional parasite that lodges in your spine and the only way you can extract it is by screaming. Isn’t life strange?

Fondue Dreams Meet True Grit

116266830_10221306653228810_2714676184644296524_n

He was a man who loved fondue too much. Not caring much for the company of others, he entertained himself by sitting in his own RV, parked in his own driveway, and listening to his eight track recordings of Wayne Newton’s greatest hits.

116713020_10159703317482439_6465683283499775884_o

At one time he had been a lifeguard, and he was terribly strict in his control of the pool. No one could enter the pool unless first approved by either he or his twin brother. The two brothers admired all forms of extreme discipline, and in an earlier era would have certainly been enthusiastic members of the Nazi party.

116291070_3479597708719839_3835864209978663468_n

He met his first wife Darlene at Sea World where they were both working as entertainers. She was every bit as physically fit as he, and the fact that she could entertain any crowd by dancing and telling jokes made her the object of everyone’s attention.

116879164_10159703340282439_5453609715591969821_o

Soon married, they opened a restaurant which catered to over-eaters who cared more about quantity of what they ate than quantity.

116587560_10221306532905802_7755859444521072916_n

They had a daughter who refused to learn to speak English, though she managed quite well in four other languages. She loved to disinfect things. Maybe working behind the counter at the restaurant had emotionally scarred her.  Eventually she went on to share her father’s fondness for recreational vehicles, especially ones that never hit the road.

116433325_10221306648308687_5631852245892719817_n

The Mrs. grew tired of family life and left both husband and daughter behind, moving to Las Vegas, to pursue a career as an exotic dancer. When demand for her services waned as she reached her sunset years, she enjoyed even more success as an event planner.

116744260_10157525218426589_8429914303469359644_o

 

Not the Least Bit Ethnic

115794062_10218227391580568_7954339409031955653_o

She kept pretending to be exotic, from some Pacific Island nobody had ever heard of, but I heard she actually came from outside of Omaha. Her father worked in meat packing.

113879924_10223827523906716_7899399607760037648_o

I first met her when she was just a kid. Always scraping her knees on my sidewalk and hoping I would invite her inside to perform first-aid. I was too shy to do so. By the time I grew up, she was already on her way to Hollywood.

There, she made quite a splash. She changed her name from Dorothy Klinger to Fifi La Zoom, and ran with a fast crowd that included several young men who once showed promise but amounted to nothing.

116041508_10218229516073679_6787175152199476689_n

Me, I became a magician, and had an act that toured Lutheran churches. I would submerge a volunteer from the audience and turn her into a chimpanzee. It was strictly an amateur enterprise, and often the chimpanzee wasn’t real, just a stuffed doll.

Eventually, I moved to a former Soviet republic where I got a job as a fashion designer. I was finally in my element! People liked my style and my creations flew off the shelves of many a collective farm variety store.

109456494_10223838343177191_1126462682195468319_n

Unfortunately, my success aroused envy in the local officials, who I refused to bribe out of a misguided sense of propriety. I ended losing everything, but I got to keep my life.

116329441_10223812044079730_6826594360402837894_n

I moved across the world to Asia, where I became a hit as a character actor. Strange how life works out. You never know what’s in store for you, do you?

Heartbreakers

116277462_10221293595102365_8406063165746845305_n

I should have known she had a drinking problem. Most people don’t drink wine at breakfast. She wasn’t a sloppy drunk, and that was the problem. Most of the time she could hide the true extent of her inebriation. I knew when she was plastered, which was most of the time, but I had a hard time getting other people to see it.

109548786_3197510633648389_4869775085456687144_n

We met at University. She’d come over and listen to music with me. I had built my hi-fi from a kit and was quite proud of having soldered the components in my five watt mono amp. She’d come over in her nightgown and after a few hours of listening, we’d end up on the couch. I didn’t really have a bed back then. Who needed luxury when we had youth?

116156516_10221293605182617_496833633602415682_n

When we got a little older, we started frequenting these “swingers” resorts. Everyone seemed really “square,” as if “swinging” were their ticket to a less boring life. Eventually she and I grew apart, and she ran off with a divorced dentist from Cedar Rapids.

116265145_10221293592662304_8044715398806707348_o

I sold my house and bought an RV, which proved to be a great idea. Back in those days there were always girls hitch hiking, and I’d take them where they wanted to go, though not in a hurry, if you get my drift.