FREE AT LAST

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His diary entry:

She meant nothing to me until I successfully ran away from her, and then she was all I could think about. Until I was free of her I blamed her for holding me back. As soon as I was free I was restless, unable to form a plan of action, and now I constantly find myself wondering what she is doing.

Her grip on me is positively demonic. It’s nothing she’s doing, of course, I’m the demon in this case, pretending that someone besides me is to blame. For all I know, she’s not even thinking about me most of the time. In fact, I’m almost sure she’s not, but that doesn’t make it any easier to forgive and forget.

What I’m waiting for is an apology. And for her to tearfully beg me to forgive her and then we can start afresh. No longer the needy wimp, I’ll be the man she always wanted me to be. Strong, self-assured, willing to take charge.

I’ve heard that I’m too late, that she’s already moved on, finding herself an alpha-male who also happens to be rich as well as athletic. I wish them well. No I don’t, I hope they die in a car crash and the sooner, the better. I can’t be big about this. I have to move on and stop thinking about it. It’s very hard to will yourself to not think about something.

Far easier to distract yourself by thinking about something your find interesting or delightful. In my case, that’s impossible, because I find nothing interests me except the desire to get her back so she can apologize and we can finally be happy.

Petty, vengeful, self-centered, demanding? You bet. I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I am. Again, if all it took was an act of will to change my fundamental nature, maybe I could try to focus all my energies and do it for less than a minute, but it wouldn’t last. I know myself. I would be back dwelling on her after than minute lapsed. Nothing would have changed.

Her diary entry:

Even though he hasn’t contacted me, I know he’s out there, waiting for me to give in to his infantile demands. I don’t want to be anyone’s Mommy, or Girlfriend. I don’t like most men, or want them around. A real man, yes, but there aren’t many of them. There are way too many babies whose feelings are easily hurt.

If there’s nothing in it for me, why should I play their game? Last thing I need is some guy expecting me to make him feel good about himself. If you don’t like yourself, leave me alone. Having two of us not like you isn’t going to make you feel any better.

A lot of this current crop of whiners are writing blogs about their “inner life.” They like to talk a lot about spirituality. They remind me of those people who have been to therapy and are now searching for “intimacy.” Give me a break. Get a job that wears you out so you sleep well at night and drop the search for intimacy.

 

 

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Good Luck, Young Uns

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I found a news site I hadn’t looked at for a few years. It’s a Google site, and like most things Google, it already knew a lot about me and my preferences. These were news items they thought I might be interested in.

It contained many more listings that the sites I am used to seeing. As I scrolled through the long list, I wearied of ever reaching the end. Only one item caught my interest, about a recently-discovered grave of a child vampire who had been buried in Italy 1550 years ago. That got me imagining the movie that might directed by Roman Polanksy. All the other listings left me cold.

I don’t care about the marital activities of modern-day celebrities. I would be happy to never read about Donald Trump again, nor any member of his family. Brexit problems, the stock market, gold prices…all will do what they do without my input, nor am I likely to be directly affected.

I finally did it. I became an intolerant geezer who feels like the rest of the human race left him behind years ago. Good luck, young ‘uns, looks like you’ll need it.

I’m not suggesting that the celebrities of my day were any more deserving of acclaim that today’s, nor that the world’s problems are any less dire. I just don’t see my place in any of it. It feels like a party I haven’t been invited to. I’m the pauper standing out in the snow, his nose pressed against the window of a restaurant, watching the rich people eat and laugh inside. Except I’m not hungry, I have plenty of food back home, and I wouldn’t want to come inside your restaurant and make conversation. I want to go about my business in my own time, and that’s a luxury that seems dearer with each passing news cycle.

When I was twelve years old, the most important goal I could imagine attaining was to be popular. When I was fifteen, it was that girls would find me attractive. When I was twenty, it was be recognized for being clever. When I was twenty-five, I had already turned inward and didn’t care too much about what other people thought.

Now I’m sixty-eight, and having a hearty bowel movement seems paramount.

Keep Your Head Down

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What will the future hold for most of us? Decline, usually slow but sometimes rapid. Anger, blame, disillusionment. At least that’s the way it feels for most Americans and Brits. But does everybody feel this way? Do people in the third world feel as gloomy about their prospects as do we Facebook-addicted first-worlders?

If you don’t have much to begin with, you don’t have much to lose. If you’ve never enjoyed even the semblance of benign governance, then anything that doesn’t involve outright extortion and oppression feels like business as usual.

Banana republics and tinpot dictatorships keep most of their citizens dirt poor and allow a very few to get away with fiscal murder. Since there was never any semblance of a level playing field, the poor and uneducated don’t assume there’s a chance they can improve their lot. Hard work will simply exhaust you. If you do manage to accumulate wealth, your neighbors will envy you and someone, maybe someone in uniform, will take it away from you. So don’t make waves. Keep your head down, and your eyes to the ground.

Most of us have every reason to be grateful for the level of comfort we already enjoy. Life is not a shit sandwich for most of the people I come into contact with. Here in Thailand, which is in many ways like America was sixty years ago, they have a show on TV that is very much like Queen for a Day. Poor people with insurmountable problems come on and tell their sad story. The twist here is that the show requires them to sing in a talent contest and then guess a lucky number. If the judges are lenient and they guess correctly, they win a few hundred dollars. If not, they go away with a box of laundry soap.

This is a Buddhist country, and there is a strong belief in karma underlying the societal ranking. If you are poor, maybe you deserve your status based on your actions in your previous life, so you might as well practice humility and acceptance. The peasant class doesn’t seem to be chronically outraged by their lot. The men who stoop to plant rice, the women who sit patiently for hours a day at a market stall, tend to smile easily. Maybe the men get drunk and beat their wives when they get home, but since I don’t live in a poor village, I don’t see it.

It’s just assumed that the rich will act like the world owes them a living. Nobody is scandalized when the son of a rich man doesn’t have to pay for his crimes. His father pays a large amount to the victim’s family. The son may go into the monastery for a few months and have his head shaved for a photo op. If his family is really, really rich, like the heir to the Red Bull fortune who drove his Lamborghini over a policeman who was attempting to get him to stop, then dragged the body under the car all the way home, he won’t even have to appear in court.

This is the way it is in much of the world. Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East. They don’t pretend it’s otherwise. They have no tradition of a free press or democratic governance, for that would allow dissent and discourse, so those are quickly quashed. There’s too much at stake to risk it. Take the lid off that kettle and who knows what might leap out.

Actions You Must Perform to Leave This Group

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You must obtain written permission to do so from a group administrator. If you don’t know one, you must ask around.

If you can’t contact a group administrator, you must petition the National Security Agency for a Ad Hoc Release From Page Membership (form 1099A-EX) or hire counsel to do the same in your stead.

If you are under the age of sixteen, or over the age of sixty-five, you must also ask that prayers be said for you at the Vatican, preferably on Holy Tuesday, a slow day during Holy Week, which as everyone knows, culminates with Easter Sunday.

If you are Vitamin B deficient, or suffer from restless leg syndrome or a transient certainty that nothing matters anymore, then there is no point in trying to leave this group, for we shall never let you go!

If your name is, or used to be, “Barnabas” then you have already automatically been kicked out of this group.

If you have ever attended a Bing Crosby Road Movie Film Festival and found Dorothy Lamour to be more interesting than either Bing or Bob, then write that in block lettering on a four by six inch card and mail it first class to PO Box 35446, Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York 10045. Allow six to eight weeks for processing, and your name will be expunged from this group.

 

 

 

ABILITIES YOU MUST HAVE IN ORDER TO JOIN THIS GROUP

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You must be able to swim ten meters underwater on one breath.

You must be able to derive square roots without the aid of a calculator.

You must know which of these three words is not a word: irregardless, irrespective, immaterial.

Explain in fewer than 100 words why most harmonicas are sold in the key of C but most blues songs are written in B flat or E.

You must be able to whistle.

You must be able to recall the seven cardinal virtues and the six deadly sins.

You must be able to find on the map Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

You must not be Vitamin B deficient.

You must be able to discern the difference between the Elmore James songs “Look on Yonder Wall” and “The Sky is Crying”

You must be immunized against Mad Cow disease and Epstein-Barre syndrome.

You must speak at least three languages besides your native tongue.

You must have spent at least a week in Albania.

You must believe that Artie Shaw’s band was at least the equal of Benny Goodman’s.

You must certify that the concept of spending your retirement years “kicking back in some beach community” sounds stultifying.

You must attest that you lost “that Christmas spirit” years ago and find most holiday promotions tiresome at best.

You must wake up in the middle of the night at least twice a month convinced that your body is riddled with cancer and it’s too late to do anything about it.

You must miss the character actors one used to frequently see in movies and on television fifty years ago more than the “stars” who got top billing and most of the attention.

You must admit to yourself and to others that you find the act of yodeling unmusical and watching old men in lederhosen perform it, distasteful.

You must refuse to accept the notion that all religions have some value, and are at least partially good.

You must get down on your knees and beg God for mercy.

You must admit the fact that you are hopelessly addicted to social media, and that its impact on your life has been almost wholly negative, except for providing a way to stay in touch with old friends, but the more you see or hear about them the more you realize there’s a reason you lost touch with them in the first place, and the only reason you log on so frequently is because you have absolutely nothing else going on in your life to fill the seemingly bottomless void that social media attempts to address.

Something Snapped

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She seemed to have little in the way of personality, but actually she was simply hiding most of it beneath a thin veneer of bland niceness. Her lack of opinions hid a plethora of scorn, rage and shame. Her sweet smile had the power and delicacy of a blowtorch.

Fortunately for them, most people who could have become ensnared realized this at some gut level and steered away from entanglements. Only the sickest dove right in, but they were quickly consumed.

In the 1950’s she had been a member of a missionary order of nuns, the Maryknolls, who ran an orphanage and school in the part of China that borders Tibet. The Communist Chinese usually left them alone, but one day they arrived in force and it just happened to be the day a copy of Life magazine arrived, with a picture of Phil Silvers playing the role of Sargent Bilko on the cover. The Chinese assumed it was a picture of the Dali Lama, and arrested everyone. The school was closed, the nuns imprisoned and eventually sent back to the States, and the orphans were never heard of again.

After that, something in her snapped. She became a party girl, once sleeping with Peter Lawford and Robert Kennedy at the same time. She was with Jim Morrison the night he overdosed in Paris. And now, fate had brought her to Storm Lake, Iowa, where she was the children’s librarian. The parents assumed she was a kindly grandmother. The children were afraid of her.

True, her colorful past had left her with many stories, though she couldn’t share most of them. How could she use story-time to tell of her role in getting Che Guevara’s hands delivered to the FBI after his ambush and execution in Bolivia? Would she use her role as reference librarian to inform students writing term papers about the time she did acid with Tim Leary and Baba Ram Dass?

No, her life was a cipher, a closed book at best. After work, she went back to her furnished room at the senior center subsidized housing in the former Post Office and browsed social media until sleep overtook her.

Acrid Smoke

 

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Nobody needs to know the truth about what happened here. They wouldn’t believe it even if we told them. Dead people were walking and talking and now they’re gone. That’s all we have to admit. Why they came back from the dead and what they were trying to accomplish is anybody’s guess. We don’t have to get all caught up in making sense of it, or explaining it to people who want to be argumentative. Lots of people get off on being contrary. That doesn’t mean we have a problem. It means they enjoy being difficult and pretending to be more intelligent than us. They aren’t.

The dead people smelled bad. It wasn’t that rotting flesh dead animal by the side of the road dumpster behind a fast food restaurant smell. It was an acrid, smoky odor that surrounded them even if the wind were blowing.

They also whined a lot. You found yourself just wanting to slap them, except you were afraid their head might fly off if you did, so you just tried to change the subject and hopefully they would forget their griping. They all seemed to want someone to fix them, to give them justice, to make them alive once more. Nobody could. They knew that, and knowing it just made them whine all the more.

A lot of us became unnerved by their sudden appearance. Now that they’re gone, we’re doing our best to get back to business as usual. Some people claim the smell hasn’t really vanished. On a humid day, you can still detect that acrid, smoky scent.

My brother is a scientist, and works at the nearby observatory the FBI closed last week. He says he can’t disclose what he knows, but insists that the dead being resurrected is somehow linked to solar flares. Beyond that he won’t say any more. He sold all his stocks and put the house on the market, even though he has no plans to move away. Even though he didn’t say so directly, I got the impression that no place is safe. Nowhere is better than here.

He’s not upset at all about the resurgence of the dead. He’s more worried about bubbles bursting, the stock market, housing prices, the value of the dollar itself. In fact, most people aren’t really that concerned about what happened. “Shit happens,” they say and move on with their lives. The thing most people found irritating was the condescending attitude the walking corpses had when they spoke to us.

It was like they were school teachers or snotty professors. Their leader was a very short woman, probably under four feet tall, who spoke as if we were all not very bright school children.

Around them we became dull and inattentive. In some ways they seemed to have more life in them than we had in us.