Archive for March, 2011

COULD VERY WELL BE

Shortly after writing untititled in 2007, I wrote the following story on the same typewriter.  This one was done in response to a prompt, something like:  You’re on your cellphone in your car, and you accidentally overhear a cellphone conversation in the car beside yours.  What do you hear?  I didn’t have a cellphone then, and still refuse to have one (Seriously, I consider the cellphone to be one of the worst inventions in human history).  But of course I could present a phone conversation as if it were wiretapped–so I did, with a Twilight-Zone twist of course:

Across Wires

Scott ____

Hello?

Hey, Scott–it’s Eric!

Hey, man!  Hold on…

I put a bookmark on this DVD.  You ever seen Blame It on Rio?

I think so–isn’t that the one with Michelle Johnson?

Yeah, and Michael Caine.

Wasn’t there another actress–the one who falls in love with him?

Yeah, Dem…Aww hell, let me check the box…

Demi Moore.

What happened to her?

I don’t know–I saw here in an episode of The Outer Limits, a few years ago.  But that’s all.

She was hot too, wasn’t she?

Yeah, I don’t know why she didn’t get a big career of her own.  Maybe it was because Demi Moore played the comical role, and Michelle Johnson the serious one–the daughter of Uncle Matthew, who’s pissed off because he’s had sex with her best friend.  Or maybe it’s simpler than that–Michelle Johnson has bigger tits than Demi Moore!

Yeah!

It’s strange though–except for St. Elmo’s Fire, Ghost, and Indecent Proposal, I can’t remember any of Michelle Johnson’s other films.  It’s as if she’s famous only because she broke up with Bruce Willis.

Did she break up with him?

I don’t know–he might have broken up with her, or maybe it was mutual.

Hey, didn’t Michelle Johnson and Bruce Willis star in Beavis and Butthead Do America?

Yeah, I forgot–they did the voices for two of the characters…Whoa!

What?

It just hit me–what if there were a parallel universe, in which Michelle Johnson’s career faded, and Demi Moore became a big star?

Ah, man, you’ve got one hell of an imagination–I can’t see it!

Yeah, it is far out.  But you do believe, don’t you?

It’s possible.  Heaven, if it exists, is a kind of parallel universe–so why shouldn’t there be others?

Sometimes I wonder if dreams are visions of parallel universes.  In September, 2001, I had an extremely vivid dream that the World Trade Center was destroyed.  I even checked the TV, to make sure it was still there.

That’s a trip!

By the way, how are things with you and Amy?

They’re alright–she’s coming over in a couple hours, in fact.  What about you?

Aww, still no luck–were it not for call girls, I’d probably die!

Just be grateful for the herpes and H.I.V. vaccines, or you really would die!

Yeah, how long has it been anyway?

Uh, 1997, I think.

Damn, I didn’t realize…How about that Nevada–the only state where prostitution is still illegal, except in Vegas!

Yeah, they need to get with the times.

Oh, I forgot–I may soon have a girlfriend, after all.  Sylvie’s coming down for a visit, next month.  Just think–Quebec finally gains its independence, and she still considers moving to Florida!

Don’t take her for granted, man–not even Amy would be that devoted!  Speaking of whom…

Yeah, I’ll talk to you tomorrow–have a good evening.

You too, man–take it easy. 

ON MY 45th BIRTHDAY

As of 5:47 pm today, I am 45 years old.  I will receive some nice gifts from family members (particularly my parents)–and will greatly appreciate them.  But the gifts that can truly satisfy me the rest of my life can only be given by the Creator.  Yet even among these, there is a distinction between what I want and what I need.  And though what I need is essential, while what I want is not–hopefully I will receive both.

I want love…

 

I need courage…  

FROM THE FRIARS CLUB #3

And this is my favorite from the third segment of The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (categories under the letter, C):

In a certain suburban neighborhood, there were two brothers, eight and ten years old, who were exceedingly mischievous.  Whatever went wrong in the neighborhood, it nearly always turned out they had a hand in it.  Their parents were at their wits’ end trying to control them and after hearing about a priest nearby who worked with delinquent boys, the mother suggested to the father that they ask the priest to talk to them.

The mother went to the priest and made her request.  He agreed, but said he wanted to see the younger boy first and alone.  So the mother sent him to the priest.

The priest sat the boy down across from the huge, impressive desk he sat behind.  For about five minutes they just sat and stared at each other.  Finally, the priest pointed his forefinger at the boy and asked, “Where is God?”  The boy looked under the desk, in the corners of the room, all around, but said nothing.

Again, louder, the priest pointed at the boy and asked, “Where is God?”  Again the boy looked all around but said nothing.  A third time, in a louder, firmer voice, the priest leaned far across the desk and put his forefinger almost to the boy’s nose, and asked, “Where is God?”

The boy panicked and ran all the way home.  Finding his older brother, he dragged him upstairs to their room and into the closet, where they usually plotted their mischief and quickly said, “We are in big trouble!”  The older boy asked, “What do you mean, big trouble?”  His brother replied, “God is missing and they think we did it!” 

FROM THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS #2

Another interesting question from Gregory Stock’s book is this:

Would you rather be a member of a world championship sports team or be the champion of an individual sport?  Which sport would you choose?

I’d rather be the champion of an individual sport.  As mentioned way back here, team sports have always been more difficult for me anyway, due to my partial deafness.  But there’s another reason: Teamwork is frustrating, to say the least!   Writing this, I can’t help but review that unforgettable scene from the film, The Untouchables (if you’ve seen it, you know which one)!  And though my attitude toward teamwork is (I should hope) not as indifferent as that of the guy who gets bashed to death with a baseball bat, I prefer individual work.  After all, I’ve always been an individualist (Type Four, on the Enneagram).  This is just one reason my favorite Star Trek series is the original.  In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard hardly makes a decision without first discussing every option among his officers; while Star Trek’s Captain Kirk makes every decision as necessary, realizing there’ll be plenty of time to discuss it later.

But the value of individual work–particularly of individual decision-making–applies in real life, as well.  One example that immediately occurs to me (and I only use this because I am a resident of the Gulf Coast) is that of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig.  One of the workers could have prevented the spill by simply shutting off a valve–but he didn’t.  He knew what he could do, and the urgency of it–but he waited for the order from his superior, which of course came too late.   

Teamwork is essential for us–our species wouldn’t even have evolved, had it not been for teamwork, specifically organized hunting.  But teamwork is overvalued in our society, while individual thinking  (and acting) is discouraged.  This is perhaps the main reason the United States is so dangerously polarized–as I point out in my essay presented in this post, we don’t vote for individuals anymore, but for parties.  And these parties, Democratic and Republican, are teams.  We’re playing football with our government!

Yet referring back to Dr. Stock’s question–I would choose swimming as the individual sport at which I’d be a champion.

MISS AMERICA: A VISUAL COMPARISON

I’ve always enjoyed comparing things (and people)–I don’t know why.  I remember one year I went from one place to another in Mobile, comparing fried onion rings!  The winner?  Colonel Dixie!  (The best fried onion rings here in Pensacola are at Mesquite Charlie’s!)

As you may know, this is the 90th year of the Miss America Pageant.  I visited this site for information on all the Miss America Pageant winners, since 1921.  I wanted to compare them–see how they’d changed over time.  And the change is quite amazing!  Now I realize comparing women isn’t like comparing onion rings–women are much tastier more tasteful!  So I hope I don’t appear tasteless in presenting the following comparison:

Margaret Gorman, Miss America 1921 (Washington, DC)

Deborah Bryant, Miss America 1966 (Overland Park, Kansas)

Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011 (Gering, Nebraska)

And the all-time winner is…

Yolande Betbeze, Miss America 1951 (Mobile, Alabama)

…of course!

THE FASTEST, MOST POWERFUL VEHICLE OF ALL

I know I mention my writers’ group alot on my blog–and I cannot apologize for this.  My writers’ group means a great deal to me, and I’m proud to be a part of it.  I’m proud to be in the company of such gifted, learned, diverse, and open-minded writers as its members are.  So when I post anything of mine that’s been included in its monthly newsletter, I do so with pride–because it’s an honor to have any of my material included.

The following is the latest.  It is included along with my friend’s blogging article (see previous post), and of course several other profound writings of fellow members.  Like this, it is also a music-impression poem.  For this one I used the CD, Ravi Shankar: Raga Tala (UPC # 8 712177 038770), which I recommend, of course.  I seem to do best with the Eastern classical, especially that of India.  And except for the first section, this poem is probably the most down-to-earth music impression I’ve ever done, much of it autobiographical:

Ravi Shankar: Raga/Tala

Scott ____

Tal Farodast

About 3 a.m., a pack of cats climbs a front-yard fence, in pursuit of a Doberman, a delicacy.  And it scratches the door, till its owner opens it.  She dials animal control, but gets only a recording.  Then she punches 911, as cats surround the house.  But police arrive, and put the pack down, just before a Siamese smashes the living-room window.  For they’ve received calls from dog owners all night about this feline force–whose origin remains unknown, even after autopsies.

Rag Gara

She adorns the bed with pink lace, awaiting his arrival.  When he sees it, he picks it up, and wraps it around her.  And she wraps her warm body around his, in turn.  Outside, in the clear, cool sky, live-oak limbs glisten green with the moss that wraps around them.  And all is alive.  We step into this sky, in shorts, a T-shirt, and athletic shoes, for our daily walk.  We greet loud dogs as we pass them–for we know they’re greeting us.  And we nod at cats, but say nothing, as their eyes follow us.  Once out on the highway, we pass people who have to walk, some of whom are homeless.  And we greet them kindly.  We do look back, just in case–but that case never comes.  And sometimes we pray for them–that all their needs be provided for, and that they be delivered from all evil.

Rag Hameer

On his sitar, he plays a wordless soliloquy, and sidewalk listeners toss rupees into his bowl.  Yet one young woman places something else into it–and upon returning home, he takes it out.  It’s a transparent plastic pyramid, with a gold Eiffel Tower inside.  And gazing into it, he realizes she does the same as he–though in a different world.  She plays no instrument but her voice, for which he’d trade his sitar, tossing francs into her bowl.  Such is the story I see in this souvenir–sent me by a pen pal named Sylvie.  For I’ve never been to France or India–only Mexico, having walked from El Paso to Juarez.  Still, that was magical enough.  The majority of us worldwide, too poor for international travel, use our minds instead.  Yet one’s mind is the fastest, most powerful vehicle of all.  Someone comes to America this way–while I visit a place like this one, on a parallel Earth five galaxies away, if such exists.  And a sage in India, or France, or the United States, sees a future in which I’ll find out.

METACOMMUNICATION

Long term, huh?  I learned it in college, while studying for my communication-arts minor–and I’ve always loved it, for some reason!  Simply put, metacommunication is communication about communication!  And I consider the term especially appropriate for this post.

I recently had the honor (along with fellow bloggers) of being interviewed for an article about blogging.  The article was published  in my writers’ group’s monthly newsletter.  Its purpose was to introduce the phenomenon of blogging to a group of writers who, though very well educated, were vaguely familiar with it–as most people are.  And its author succeeded well!  However, she could only include so much of our input, as space was limited.  So with her approval, I’m posting my complete answers to the interview questions–as an inside look at my blogging experiences.  I’m basically blogging about blogging–communicating about communicating, hence metacommunicating!

I begin by declaring that I use the terms, blog, blogging, and blogger begrudgingly, because the term, blog, sounds horrible to non-bloggers, and others unfamiliar with it.  According to Wikipedia, it is simply a blend of the words, web and log–but it sounds like blob, glob, and clog, thus has the same connotations!  Nevertheless, since the term has been applied to personal websites for over a decade, I realize there’s no changing it, at this point.  So on to the questions.

I blog to express myself, and to keep a record of my life experiences.  These are the same reasons I keep a personal journal (which I’ve kept since 1992).  The only differences between my blog (which I’ve kept since 2008) and my journal are that my blog is written for public viewing, and my journal for private–and that others can respond to my blog, with comments, in real time (while others can respond to my journal after they “pry it from my cold, dead fingers”).

I’ve always wished I could post on a daily basis–though I simply cannot.  I just don’t think that way–I have to wait for inspiration (or provocation, in some cases).  So I post “whenever the spirit moves me”–which is usually a few times per month.  (I spend the rest of the time reading and commenting on others’ blogs.)

Keeping a blog definitely helps my writing.  Although I rarely post poetry or fiction on my blog (I’d rather save those for publication on paper), I do get alot of practice writing.  In fact, this is one reason I don’t post more often–I find it nearly impossible to write a short, simple post.  When I write one, I tend to give it my all–so a typical post wears me out!

I love comments!  In fact, they’re sometimes the only thing that keeps me blogging!  And I remain as open-minded toward them as possible.  In other words, I approve (post) comments which express disagreement with, or disapproval of, my posts (or particular items within my posts)–provided they’re expressed in a respectful, reasonably intelligent manner.  I do not write for the purpose of getting comments, but do enjoy receiving them. 

I have readers from across the country–I have none internationally, to my knowledge (although I do get some comments from Russia in my spam queue which, upon inspection, turn out to be advertisements for cars).  However, I have two pen pals from long before I had Internet access (yes, people really do still write letters) in Norway and Australia, with whom I’ve shared my blog website–though they’ve never mentioned having visited it.

I’ve never benefitted financially from my blog.  I have read and left comments on the sites of some blogging superstars (A-list bloggers) who might (one, Natali Del Conte, actually replied to a personal greeting I sent her–but that’s another story).  From what I’ve observed, few (if any) earn money directly from blogging.  In most cases, it’s the other way around–people like Jerry A. Coyne (writer), Natali Del Conte (television news journalist, technology consultant, and anchorwoman), and even Kim Kardashian (    ?    ) earn money by other means, then keep blogs on the side.

Realizing there are hundreds of thousands of blogs online, I probably cannot describe mine in one sentence that another blogger hasn’t already used verbatim to describe his/hers.  I can, however, share my creed, which happens to be the text of my second post (my first is just the introduction):  God is not limited to one system of beliefs; God’s Word is not limited to one form of communication.  God is beyond anything we humans can imagine, classify, or manipulate.  In attempting to limit God, we only limit ourselves.

[Note: There have been some new developments since I submitted these answers over a month ago.  Most notably, my Norwegian pen pal has confirmed that she’s visited my blog.]

FROM THE FRIARS CLUB #2

This is my favorite from the second segment of The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (categories under the letter, B):

After the annual office Christmas party, Dawkins woke up with a pounding headache, cotton-mouthed, and utterly unable to recall the events of the preceding evening.  After a trip to the bathroom he was able to make his way downstairs, where his wife put some coffee in front of him.

“Louise,” he moaned, “tell me what went on last night.  Was it as bad as I think?”

“Even worse,” she assured him, her voice dripping with scorn.  “You made a complete ass of yourself, succeeded in antagonizing the entire board of directors, and insulted the president of the company to his face.”

“He’s an asshole–piss on him.”

“You did,” Louise informed him.  “And he fired you.”

“Well fuck him,” retorted Dawkins feebly.

“I did.  You’re back at work on Monday.”

FROM THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS

Another enjoyable book I highly recommend to any adult is The Book of Questions, by Gregory Stock, PH.D. (1985, 1987) (ISBN 978-0-89480-320-8).  As  The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes is filled with humorously provocative answers, this book is filled with seriously provocative questions.  There are more specialized books by Gregory Stock, such as The Book of Questions: Love & Sex and The Book of Questions: Business, Politics and Ethics (both of which I also highly recommend to any adult).  But The Book of Questions is the basic text from which the above were derived.  And it includes questions for just about every topic.

These questions inspire readers’ answers that can be as provocative as the questions themselves–answers that can provoke further discussion.  And there is one, in particular, for which I’d like to share my answers:

Do you believe in ghosts or evil spirits?  Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted? 

I believe in ghosts, in a sense–though not in the conventional one.

The idea of ghosts has always fascinated me.  If they exist, what are they?  One hypothesis is that ghosts are simply images left behind, by the deceased–like footprints.  When you see these images, you’re not seeing the deceased person, or even the spirit of the deceased person–you’re seeing an imprint, an impression.  There’s a section in this poem of mine which alludes to this idea: Planetary perfection gleams from her naked hips, as she spins through her new house.  And when the wrecker’s ball busts it a century later, I see her for the first time.  Yet in explanations of this imprint-hypothesis, the image is almost always one of a deceased person doing something routine–such as sweeping the porch or gazing through a window.  The only problem: You never hear of a ghost shitting, pissing, masturbating, or engaging in any other unmentionable, yet very routine activity!  Still, despite this possible flaw, I find the imprint-hypothesis reasonably valid.

Another explanation is more direct: Ghosts are spirits of the deceased, who have returned to have a desire fulfilled, or to serve a purpose in someone’s life.  I once asked a fellow college student why he believed in ghosts.  And he told me of a personal experience I could not (and still cannot) dismiss:  When he was a child, and his mother was pregnant with his sister, his ailing grandmother expressed her desire to see the newborn baby before she died.  But she died too soon.  One night, not long after his little sister’s birth, his grandmother entered his room, after visiting his sleeping parents.  He happened to be awake, or was awakened by her light.  For she appeared as a figure so bright that he couldn’t make out her face.  Yet he knew it was his grandmother.  She said nothing, and he felt no fear at all.  Instead, her love surrounded him, as the light surrounded her.  As she left, and walked toward his sister’s room, he quietly followed.  And surely enough, he found her, standing over his sister’s crib, gazing at the sleeping baby she’d desired to see before she’d died.  Then she was gone, never to be seen again, in this world.  Her desire had been fulfilled, after all. 

Though I wasn’t completely convinced this had occurred, I was completely convinced that he believed it had–and I still am.  I don’t believe in angels–supernatural beings created specifically to serve humanity.  Yet I do believe in the possibility that the Creator allows some of the deceased to return to this universe, for purposes such as the one illustrated in my friend’s story.  Still, why doesn’t this happen more often?   There must be other beloved grandmothers with the same desire and the same fate, who are not allowed to have this desire fulfilled.  And why do the deceased only intervene in our lives in fiction?  Consider all the people who commit suicide every day–surely the deceased would rescue them from this most final act of desperation.  But they don’t.  Like the aforementioned imprint-hypothesis, this idea that ghosts are the deceased (or at least their spirits) who’ve returned, though reasonably valid, has at least one flaw.

Referring back to Dr. Stock’s question as to whether the reader believes in ghosts, I answer, …in a sense–though not in the conventional one.  And this is what I mean:  My hypothesis is presented in another section of the same poem of mine: They wave from a carousel, as I approach the separate universe we call Heaven.  For ghosts don’t haunt us, we haunt them.  Yet they don’t mind.

I propose that, if there is life after death at all, it’s not in this universe.  In other words, even with light-speed-travel technology, we could never reach the hereafter, as we could a distant galaxy.  Just as this universe is, for all we know, infinite–the number of universes is, for all we know, infinite.  And what we call Heaven is a separate universe.  When people say a person has gone to be with God, this may be closer to the truth than it seems.  Certainly the deceased may live in a universe that is closer to the Creator than this one.  Yet though this separate universe is in a different dimension, it’s in the same space as ours.  In other words, the deceased may live among us, though we almost never see them– or sense them in any other way.  They could be moving around us, even through us, enjoying a world much like our own–though hopefully better.

And this is what is meant by the line: For ghosts don’t haunt us, we haunt them.  When people see ghosts, they are simply seeing into this separate realm.  The deceased are not visiting this universe– the living are visiting, or at least approaching, that of the deceased.  And the deceased (for lack of a better word–since they are more alive than they ever were in our universe) don’t mind, because we cannot possibly harm them.

Now, (all seriousness aside) I’d be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted, under the following conditions:

It would be a one-story house.

It would have electricity and running water–and both would be operational the entire time.

It would be reasonably comfortable–with all the amenities of a modern home, including a television, computer (with Internet service), refrigerator, microwave oven, air-conditioning/heating, etc.

There’d be a delicious, catered dinner awaiting me–as well as a catered breakfast in the frige.  There’d also be plenty of Moosehead and Guinness in the frige.

I’d be paid $5000 the next day.

The house would be supposedly haunted by only one ghost–that of a woman with the looks of Greer Garson…

…and the personality of Drew Barrymore.

Otherwise, forget it!

PENSACOLA: MY SECOND CITY

           

Pensacola, Florida is known as the City of Five Flags and the Cradle of Naval Aviation.  But most importantly, Pensacola is also known as America’s First Place City–because this was the first European settlement in the continental United States.  Don Tristan de Luna, of Spain, established a colony here in 1559.  Yet a major hurricane forced the colony to disband–thus shifting the title of  America’s Oldest City to St. Augustine.  Still, Pensacola prides itself on being America’s First Place City.  In 2009, it celebrated its 450th birthday with a visit by Spain’s King Juan Carlos I, as well as a stopover by the Spanish Navy training ship, the Juan Sebastian de Elcano (one of the oldest tall ships still sailing).

To my knowledge, the ship in the above photo is the Juan Sebastian de Elcano (unless someone has one hell of a big yacht)!  And in the background is downtown Pensacola.  The very obvious street, going straight up, is Palafox.  I consider Palafox to be the main street of Pensacola–it’s lined with art galleries, nightclubs, museums, government buildings, cafes, and other interesting places.  If you ever visit Pensacola, be sure to check out Palafox Street.

And this an 1885 lithograph of Pensacola, almost from the same viewpoint as the photo.  I have a copy of this, which I purchased at the T.T. Wentworth Museum here, as I recall.  The city limits were much smaller then, of course–so this scene of what’s now downtown Pensacola is probably of what was then all of Pensacola.  Notice how the streets in the photo (including Palafox) extended far into the water then.  Notice also the ships!  Pensacola, Florida was a thriving seaport, even into the Second World War.  Now only a few ships dock here (mostly near the end of Palafox)–despite this being (I’m told) the deepest natural port on the U.S. side of the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve asked alot of people, “What happened to Pensacola’s thriving seaport?”  Yet no one seems to know.

At any rate, I still recommend Pensacola to anyone, as a place to visit–it’s fascinating for many reasons, especially for its history.  And new archaeological finds of Native American, as well as European civilization continue to emerge here–it’s very exciting!

As aforementioned, Mobile, Alabama is where I was born and raised.  And it will always be my true home.  Nevertheless, Pensacola, Florida is where I live now–and it behooves me to enjoy all I can of this, my second city.


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