Wrapping Up [update]

To wrap up a story in this blog:

  • Frances ended up marrying an heir to the Kern’s Bread Company family fortune, getting pregnant not long after the last time she and I made love — I didn’t want to know if the child was mine (but, of course, secretly wished it was); years later, a coworker of mine, John Cooper, was CEO of a tech firm called Avocent where he doubled its revenues from $1B to $2B during his 5-year reign — in a conversation, I mentioned reading that he used to be head of Kern’s Bread and he told me it was his idea to sell Kern’s to Earth Grains Company (he’s currently Secretary of Director of the Department of Transportation for the State of Alabama).
  • Sarah ended up with a guy who owned a garage door installation business; she always wanted to be an architect and finally got to design her dream vacation home, which was built in a “walled” community called Cobbly Knob, if I remember correctly.
  • Monica (“Helen of Kosciusko”) married a neighbour of her grandparents in Kosciusko and lives in Singapore with her successful business spouse.
  • Phil, from whom I bought the Alfa Romeo Spider, divorced his first wife, married again, became a multimillionaire after the sale of a local tech firm and was elected an Alabama State Representative.
  • Finally, it has been an interesting experiment to see people read my blog entries which are nothing more than my coping mechanism for pushing suicide ideation out of my thoughts (I am constantly running away from the thought of killing myself, like being pursued by an invisible monster, which induces paranoia and other fears when I can’t control my thoughts); suicide ideation, in turn, is an escape mechanism for my inability to be assertive and change my life when I am extremely unhappy/uncomfortable.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m out of here!

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Have I posted enough nonsense to scare away readers?

Have I posted enough nonsense to scare away readers?

I really just want this space to be openly available to me wherever I feel like putting fingers to keyboard and express my thoughts.

I really do.

So, when I get tired of seeing Likes and Following This Blog notifications, I throw up a smoke screen of blathering blahblahblah I’ve written before, in hopes that I’ll baffle them with so much bullshit, they’ll get bored and forget I’m here.

With that said, this morning, I remembered an event from years ago that I hadn’t thought about since the moment it occurred.

=================

Back when I worked for GE Aerospace in the 1980s, a coworker of mine got my attention.

Being a few years older, a redhead and sporting visible tattoos, Patricia stood out — she was an independent spirit yet she worked for one of the largest corporations in the world as a member of the Technical Publications (“Tech Pubs”) Department.

We got one of those white elephant products, a Xerox Star system (“XPIW Xerox Publishing Illustrator’s Workstation”) that consisted of a computer OS interface (with mouse!), a printer/scanner and storage system (floppy drives AND hard drive!).

The whole system was pretty imposing and took up most of a person’s cubicle office space — the size of a desk itself .

Patricia volunteered to learn and use it.

Of course, technology being what it is, a few months later we received brand-new Apple Macintosh computers with a computer OS interface that blew away the Wang system.

However, the Wang was still fun to play with, especially the scanner/printer that allowed us to make funny faces stretched by moving our heads along with the scanner bar.

But I digress as usual.

More importantly, I had a valid work excuse to hang out with Patricia.

She smoked cigarettes, was as skinny as a stick, and had divorced her insensitive husband.  Being single and not looking for love, she enjoyed telling it like it is.

I was nonjudgmental about lifestyles so Patricia felt like she could open herself up to me because I was neither a moralistic nor romantic threat (she and I knew I was married and (primarily) monogamous so flirting was of the above-the-neck variety).

Over time, she revealed she was a pagan worshipper, the first person I had heard use the word Wiccan.

I asked her about animal sacrifices and she described to me the primal joy of ripping apart a live chicken, something her coven did every so often.  Some people would drink the blood but she wasn’t a blood drinker.

She emphasised they did not sacrifice humans — adult or children.

However, she said in confidence after we found out our office/factory was being shut down and I would no longer be her innocent listener, that other covens liked to have fun, dressing up as woods people — Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, etc. — and scaring solo or small groups of hikers/campers.  Rumour in her coven came from a new member who had left a coven that dealt in black magic (which her coven did not believe in), that other covens used the woods people cover as a means to kill and sacrifice humans.  She just wanted to let me that she did not approve of such to make it clear that Wiccans were good people who, yes, put hexes on people but otherwise committed no physical harm on others, in case I heard rumours to the contrary about Patricia when we were no longer working together.

Was she telling the truth or pulling my leg?

I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.  It was a great urban legend to remember just now and that, my friends, is what my life is all about.

I hope that I can die with complete satisfaction that everything around me was an illusion which entertained me to the end.

Unlike my grandmother, who thought I was an angel until I went to live with her after my nine-day drive out West and back in late 1984, informing her I was an illegal-drug using atheist, sending her into a deep, dark depression four of the last five years of her life.

There is a mean streak in me that I suppressed for so many years it’s time I give it a written voice for a while, regardless of any tiny, minor influence upon human history these virtual drops of pebbles into the ponds of our active imaginations may have.

I am a tired, old man who, at my age, wants nothing more than to fade back into his imagination and not notice the moment when he died with a comical smile on his face.

How many girls/women (even a guy or two) have told me, “The moment you get out of your head, I’d like to be your girlfriend”?

As my Logic professor said, quoting a character named Spock from a Star Trek novel (and I paraphrase), “When a person is more interested in his dreams than reality, logic has no meaning.”

Farewell, my friends, it is time I move to another blog and tell myself stories that the birds, squirrels, raccoons, cats, bees and hickory trees whisper to me.

I wanted to go to Mars, I really did.  I just don’t have the strength or resolve to go.

The Wandering Wonderer

16 October 1989, 8:57 p.m.

 

And so begins my sojourn into the world of writing stories on the Apple Macintosh computer. The first stories will be classically composed, with the stereotypical climax, conflict, and other elements mentioned by Aristotle several thousand years ago.

 

Story ideas 1

 

A heartbeat. A simple heartbeat. Thuthump, thuthump. The rhythm and mystery mesmerizes us all in the quiet moments when we’re alone like a metronome or the hypnotist’s watch swinging back and forth. I remember my life not by the sweet memories and hard lessons but by how fast my heart pumped and the adrenaline flowed. Occasionally, the heart beats faster and faster until the rhythm changes. Thuthuthump, thump. Then silence, like death, creeps in. As if connected to some internal clock, however, the heart starts back up again. Thuthump, thuthump. The rates slows and all is quiet once more.

They say crack, a form of cocaine, is a killer, but like using a loaded gun, the killer is the person who takes the crack. So what does this say? The bumper sticker says, “Hugs are betters than drugs.” The need for more communication, for a clear direction – in that lies the answer to our drug problem. Why do they call it a drug problem? They should call it the drug symptom. Plants dying along a river filled with dead fish is not a problem, it is a symptom of something poisoning the water. Whoever poisoned the river is the problem. In our society, whoever poisoned the mind of the crack user is the problem. We do not want to see this, though. We want to pretend that our society, although not perfect, is not fully to blame for the drug abuse prevalent in our lives. Woe be it to us when all our rivers, lakes, streams and oceans are polluted beyond usability. Whom shall we blame? The water?

Just thinking about the sickness already spread across the land makes my heart race. Are we humans so absorbed with the comforts we’ve grown accustomed to (through exposure to mass media and the diversity of human condition in the world that we become numb to starving children and stare blank‑faced and awestruck at shows like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”) that we choose to ignore the obvious signs of how shortlived our comforts have become? Today’s clean, strong plastic trash bag becomes tomorrow’s useless waste dump.

Look at me, all talk and no action. Instead of writing this on a piece of paper with a graphite pencil I choose to express my thoughts on a piece of equipment that absorbs/wastes more energy than is necessary to record these words. Oh well, I have already resigned myself to an early death, whether by my own hands or the hands of this destructive society. To add to this morbid view, my wife and I are facing the death of our three cats by feline leukemia, not a pretty sight to say the least.

[An aside: I must overcome the fear that someone will read the words I have yet to put on paper. No matter what happens, the truth must be recorded. Past actions make better stories than fantastic tales.]

 

the other one

 

7 November 1989, 8:31 p.m.

 

I remember one scene everytime I file my fingernails. Back when I was first seeing MJ, she introduced me to one of her friends, someone she said I would feel was one of us. This woman, named Frances Miller, was “a product of the 60s.” She believed there is more to life than what we see but she did not delve into philosophy like I did. She was more interested in what‑ifs ‑ possibilities beyond the present but assuming that what we see exists. Well, when Mj did not meet me for lunch I would meet Frances at the college cafeteria. We had pleasant conversations about age, dating older women, children, and other subjects that I’m trying to remember through a fog over three years old.

Anyway, one day MJ, Frances, and I decided to go out for lunch and ate at a Chinese restaurant in Morristown. At this time, Frances was unaware of my relationship with MJ. MJ nor I were ready to go public with our extramarital affair. Too many of her friends lived, worked, and shopped in the area in which we cavorted. Besides, the secrecy added to the romance. I remember Frances wore either a neat shirt/blouse or earrings at the restaurant that day because MJ was upset that I complimented Frances on her taste in clothing accessories. After we had ordered and while I was pouring hot tea for the women, Frances looked down at my hands and said, “It looks like you chew your nails and then file them.” I laughed and said yeah in the way I had learned to brush people off when I was a youth (and very self‑conscious about people seeing inside me. Even now I come to grips with sharing my inner self. I’ve learned, however, that sharing helps one survive.). I knew after laughing off my short nails that MJ and Frances did not believe that I chewed and filed my nails. I didn’t lie but I didn’t tell the truth, a fact that would weigh heavily against me later on. The funny thing was it wasn’t until months later that MJ realized that I did chew my nails and filed them afterward. Her discovery was like looking at a beautiful house only to find the owners sweep their crumbs under their Persian rug.

 

18 December 1989, 8:30 p.m.

 

She laughed without guilt. Her smile, her homely glasses, her shoulder‑length hair – vestiges of an earthly life though now she rests in heaven – all she did and said spoke of her childhood innocence. How could we know what effect one life would have on the rest of us? We were just children, still malleable, ready to face whatever came along.

 

Perhaps I should start at the beginning, before the pain and the tears, the weeks of crying oneself to sleep, of blaming one’s parents for the torture of losing love (for we did love her).

 

When young, we see the world around us without the bias of experience. Everything is new and exciting, not coated with sarcasm or doubt, and we go on to the next adventure with enthusiasm, rarely stopping to question what we see. Some of us, though, wonder. Why is 2+2 important when we see the bee at the flower? What good is a vocabulary when we don’t know what we’re saying? Who cares about history when you’re in love?

 

Psychologists often like to find the answer to our problems by categorizing our reactions (our “behavior,” since no one can read our thoughts) with words like schizophrenia, Oedipal complex, Type A, and utopian. Before psychologists came along we trusted our inner selves to others, perhaps a priest, a doctor, even God. To be sure, we still trust ourselves to others but mainstream America leads us to believe that psychologists can help us out of troublesome times.

 

My first few years of life were influenced by the fact that my father changed jobs many times thus necessitating our moving to another town. I got used to the act of my parents coming to school to pick me up and tell the teacher we were ready to move. By the time I reached third grade I had lived in four different places. I was used to making new friends and losing them quickly (some people had it rougher but this is my story after all). Kids are adaptable – they heal quickly.

 

When we moved to Kingsport, I was ready for third grade. Though my marks had suffered because of my tendency to stare out the window, I knew I would do better at the new school. The school was like most public schools with red brick walls, large classroom windows, slick concrete hallways, and a big playground to send kids so the teachers could take turns resting. Like most kids, I enjoyed playing on the swings, monkey bars and merry‑go‑rounds. In fact, everything about me was as normal as an 8‑year old could be. As the months progressed, I made new school friends, going to their birthday parties and playing at their houses as my parents saw fit to let me.

 

Growing up, I knew my parents were my friends and not just the ones who spanked me and sent me to my room without supper. I trusted to tell them about all my daily activities, telling them about what I’d done, who I’d seen and played with. I still enjoy telling them these things though I don’t talk to them as often as I used to. My parents were my psychologists, listening when appropriate and interjecting when an authoritative opinion was required.

 

As my third year of school passed, I met dozens of schoolmates. To this day, I try to keep up with those elementary schoolfriends who came and went through the years. Some are doctors, school teachers, spouses, and parents. One I know is an excellent artist. If we knew then what we are now, would we be the same? The luxury of foresight we don’t have and little did we know what we’d be doing the next day, let alone 20 or more years from then. Of all those schoolmates, one of them stands out, my girlfriend of three years, Rene_ Dobbs.

I owe much of what I am today to that little girl. My gift for writing began with the love notes she and I passed in class. The women I like remind me of her. My underlying melancholy comes from the last part of our relationship, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Rene_ was my first true love. “How can you know love at that age,” I have heard many times. I cannot explain what we had with words. Even our 4th grade teacher recognized that our relationship was years ahead of our age. We shared everything with each other but unlike our other schoolmates we never saw each other outside of school. Somehow, we knew not to tell our parents too much about the other. They knew we had a special friend at school but not why or how much. Ours was a once‑in‑a‑lifetime friendship, a bond between a boy and a girl that married couples have never known.

I remember our standing in line after lunch, waiting to go back to class (“Quiet, children. Walk in single file.” Our teacher was a misplaced drill sergeant.). I had been talking to another boy about his lunchbox and turned to comment to Rene_ about how long we had been waiting when she mouthed some words to me. I didn’t know what she’d said because I didn’t recognize the words. They weren’t words a third grade boy expects to hear from a third grade girl. I asked her to repeat herself and again she mouthed these strange words. We had known each other for several months and had begun to pass notes in class. Nothing we had said to each other had prepared me for what she was about to say. I asked her to repeat herself one more time and she whispered the words in my ear, “I love you.” No more honestly, sincerely, and graceful have those words been spoken. Like an angel from heaven, my angel on earth had blessed me in the best way she knew – “I love you.” Yes, armies have fallen and palaces built in the name of those three words. Of course, I answered her, “I love you, too,” like a peasant answers his lord, or a pilgrim to God. The moment shone with purity.

Well, fourth grade passed and fifth grade came along and Rene_, Rita (another close friend of Rene_), and I played together at school as much as we could. Recess period and lunch were never too soon or long enough.

Fall passed into winter and Rene_ began to miss school because she was sick. We still played together but she couldn’t run around like she used to do. She was thinner than before but still as bright and cheerful as ever. As spring approached, we planned to go to the annual sock hop on April 15th, the “Spring Fling,” where all kids from grades 5 to 9 could dance together in the gymnasium. March came and Rene_ only came for a few days of school. She said she had some sort of disease that the doctors said they could cure. Toward the end of March Rene_ entered the hospital. Our class took up money to send her flowers. I prayed at night for her to get better.

Then came April. The grass started growing and we could play outside at home after school. There was talk at school of Rene_ getting out of the hospital. Rita and I were excited about seeing Rene_ again. The days seemed like years. On April 8th, my homeroom teacher announced that Rene_ had gotten worse. A cruel classmate of mine who knew how close I was to her told me his mother, a nurse at the hospital, told him Rene_ only had a 40 percent chance to live. I was devastated and cried myself to sleep that night, not wanting to tell my parents whom I loved and trusted, that I was letting them down by feeling so wretched, that my head ached and my stomach was tied into an excruciating knot. The next day the cruel boy told me Rene_ only had a 25 percent chance to live. That night was worse. I never went to sleep. I had to hold a pillow over my face to drown out my sobbing.

Rene_ held at 25 percent for three more days. On the next day she dropped to a 10 percent chance. Rita and I still talked of the hope of Rene_ making it back to school and I still told everyone Rene_ and I were going to the sock hop together.

By the time I got to school on the 14th, the news had already spread. Rene_ had died early that morning. I don’t remember the rest of the day. My parents had to come pick me up, literally, because I had fallen on the floor crying and would not let anyone touch me. I cried nonstop for the next two days as Mom and Dad tended to me and helped me go to the wake. At the funeral home, Rene_’s mother mentioned how Rene_ had talked about me but she never knew how close Rene_ and I were. Mom and Dad agreed.

For the next two weeks, I barely slept. I did my best to keep a straight face during the day but could not hang on at night. I cried and cried and cried. It was at that time that I starting blaming my parents. Couldn’t they see how I suffered? Didn’t they know I needed their love despite my telling them that yes, I was doing all right?

From sheer exhaustion I began to sleep at night. I still cried throughout the night for the pain and anguish were still there but I was beginning to learn how to channel that pain. I started to pray at night that I could join Rene_. I asked God to do whatever it took to take me to her. I continued to pray this way for several months until one of my parents heard me say this out loud. Then Mom and Dad sat down with me and explained that we all suffer the loss of loved ones, that life can still be wonderful with the loved ones we have left.

I vowed that from that day forward I would devote my life to the name of Rene_ Dobbs. I told myself that one day someone would suffer like I had and would need the comfort and understanding of a like sufferer. Through the years I have helped other people through painful crises in their life. Now, I believe I have found someone who suffered like I have. I want you to know that for two years I cried over the loss of Rene_ but through prayer and talking to my parents I was able to overcome the pain and turn it toward good. Occasionally I get melancholy and wonder what it would be like to be with Rene_ again but know that the people here on Earth need me more.

 

16 January, 1990, 11:05 p.m.

 

Who am I to argue with the authorities when our democratic society has no authorities, only those who hold authoritative positions, experts in their fields of specialty? They know what they’re talking about. They may not make sense or come to logical conclusions but they get the job done.     – RLH, words of my time

 

Tonight, I establish this goal:

 

            RUN! BEAT DEATH TO THE DOOR OF MORTALITY AND SHUT IT FAST.

 

While many of you out there have invested in the species‑preservation goal of children, my wife and I have opted not to have children. The genetic pool has turned to froth for me. The immortality option to children I have chosen transformed itself into recycling; that is, I weighed the possibilities for myself and those around me. [I’m tired and somewhat incoherent] The first possibility raised its ugly head when I was a child. I dreamed of being a hermit, living a resource‑wise life, taking from the land only what I needed and returning what I could. Even as a child of six, I did not sing out loud. Instead, I mouthed the words to preserve what I thought was the limited number of breaths with which a person had to live. The second possibility hit me like a brick while I was in my early 20s. I realized that life is an exercise in futility. As the saying goes, “Don’t take life seriously ’cause you can’t get out alive.” I contemplated suicide, made a few halfhearted attempts to test my theory that a body is a group of cells with a collective will to live, and finally succombed to the fact that death is the challenge to life. Death is the devil incarnate. No god or image of hell is more startling than the bare image of the transformation of a living human being into bacterial fodder. Then it came to me like a thousand warmed‑over clich_s – immortality is not just a glamorous word for species‑preservation but also represents the latest in democratic trends: recycling. What we did not or cannot use today can be recycled for tomorrow’s use (or loosely translated as what we did not or cannot do can be attempted tomorrow in our children).

Glory, glory! Life is mine once more! No one can stop me but me on the path toward more vigorous recycling efforts. Janeil and I have already had our first “child” – the Huntsville Christmas Tree Recycling Project. The child lives and breathes and looks like it will live for years to come. The next child will be a doozy – the coalition called Huntsville Volunteers for Recycling Program composed of volunteer, non‑profit, service, etc. organizations that coordinate their recycling programs with the Solid Waste Disposal Authority of the City of Huntsville; thus, waste is eliminated in the effort to clean up waste.

 

21 February, 1990, 7:45 p.m.

 

I have read of those who had a vision, a dream, that lived as much as those who had the vision. Religious people like Jesus of Nazareth and Buddha left their families to pursue their visions. I understand the reasons for their leaving. As anyone knows who has had a vision or quest, only you can see what your vision entails. Others may believe the validity of your vision but don’t have the insight to the strength, vitality, or scope of this wonderful thing you carry inside your head. Depending on your personality, you may wish to control the implementation of your vision or let everyone know what you see and let them carry out their version of your vision. In my case, I am a controller. Oh, there are the psychological symptoms for this controlling desire – insecurity, paranoia et al – but this person known as Rick Hill is composed of these psychological elements and has learned to operate upon the strengths of these elements rather than their weaknesses.

Therefore, I want to encourage people to follow my lead, not slow me down with tedious suggestions or interpretations. Of course, when necessity/courtesy dictate that I stop to listen, I do so with patience to let each person know I have time to listen except in times of boring repetition. Then, I muster up as much consideration as I can and let that person know I see the point but must go on. Life is too short to smell dead roses.

Recently, I have let my wife represent me and my vision of the recycling efforts of the Huntsville–Madison County Botanical Garden. She doesn’t yet have the authority and respect I garnered because of my instant thrust of the importance of a Christmas tree recycling program in mid‑December of last year. She so wants to be a part of this that I have given her the task of putting together the folding “billboard” to be used for several exhibitions this spring. I do not doubt her ability to organize (why else would I trust her to arrange our finances) but I don’t believe she has a full grasp on what I envision for the Botanical Garden. Yes, I know, life can be described in three words – compromise, compromise, compromise. I only hope she has that burning desire critical to fulfill one’s dream.

 

As I stood outside the house in which my wife and I reside, I pondered the humor in what we humans have done to the so‑called natural order of things. For instance, we took what initially was intended to be a place of shelter and created a vast network of hardware stores, drapery shops, interior decorator centers, and a housing industry to support the necessity for a roof over our heads. Hmmph…aren’t we a sight for sore eyes?

Ah well, life goes on with or without our meager existence. Somewhere in between the mysteries of birth and death we try to realize something concrete. I just want to preserve some wilderness (definition: not man‑made) in my life. How about you?

 

28 February, 1990, 8:48 p.m.

 

The cycle that I once wrote about in my youth, GETBORNGOTOSCHOOL‑ MARRYHAVECHILDRENTHENDIE, plagues me still. Will I never learn to take it easy and enjoy life rather than fight with myself each day just for the right to live? After all, were we not born with the right to live? Life, they say, is a precious thing, and we should cherish each day as our last. I just want to know which day is my last day so I can sit back, relax, and wait for it to come. Life in the ‘burbs is no life at all, simply a definition of homogenous humans hugging half‑baked ideas of homelife.

 

I still feel I cannot put down on “paper” my true thoughts and feelings. For one thing, I know I get real depressed after reading my former writings. For another, I fear someone will label me in a derogatory manner for the words I have arranged. Also, I don’t want to offend anyone ( the ol’ Thumper syndrome). Quite frankly, I don’t expect anyone to deliberately read what I have written, not in my lifetime. I am too protective of my writings. I did not have the initiative early on to share my writings with those who would reward my creative . . . yes, I question the use of that word, too . . . my ability to arrange words in groupings intelligible to an average person. I scoff at the ready acceptance of those who have read my writing the drivel which pours forth from this depraved mind. If they only knew the ridiculous thoughts of lust, prejudice, hatred, and laziness that course through my daily stream of consciousness . . . of course, there is the flip side – what if I knew of theirs?

 

Does any of this really matter?

 

No, I suppose it doesn’t but what am I really but an observer? I dislike being the observed. Besides, how else am I going to convince my wife that I am studying for an exam.

 

27 March, 1990, 9:14 p.m.

 

The following story will consist of chapters to be composed over the next three months . . .

 

I.

I didn’t want to write a story in the first person ‑ writing in this manner always gives me the impression that the writer has a self‑love problem. I have found, however, that we all tend to think more about ourselves than we’re taught to accept personally. Then again, writing in the third person makes me feel aloof, as if the person in the story is me and yet not me. To be sure, some part of me becomes a story but I . . . well, I’m not here to tell you my feelings about writing . . . I just find beginnings so hard to write.

Oh gosh, I don’t know how to tell you this. Let’s see, I remember when I first realized she was different. We were young then, much too young for real love but too mature for puppy love. We had been acquaintainces for a few years and had always enjoyed each other’s company but in each other’s eyes we were just another friend. Funny how some things don’t change. Reflecting on my thoughts of her, she is still just another friend. Even so, I can think of no other person with whom I can instantly bond mentally.

We did just about everything together in those days. We rode the bus together, ate lunch together, shared band class (in which we passed notes), and sang in a group called Sing Out Kingsport. In fact, I could think of no other existence but spending my pleasure hours with Helen. I would have had classes with her but we were one school grade apart with I being the senior student. Such was our fate and probably a good one, too, for we were like two peas from the same pod ‑ everyone expected to see Lee and Helen together ‑ had we had the same classes we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to expand our horizons.

Throughout my friendship with Helen, I noticed one thing: she was female and I was male. Ah, you say, what is the big deal about that? Well, I agree with you that two people, regardless of gender, can be good friends but somehow, be it peer pressure or hormones I found myself attracted to Helen. Publicly and privately, I spoke of my desire for her, that one day I would kiss her to prove once and for all the minute characteristic of our sexual relationship. In any case, that story will wait.

Helen, sweet Helen. How can I describe a woman that to me is the most understanding person in the world but to everyone else except her husband she is the wicked witch of East Tennessee? I don’t know how to explain this curiosity. She and I don’t talk to each other very much. Oh, I send her letters occasionally and we exchange the usual birthday and Christmas cards but we don’t communicate (in the normal social channels) like we used to do before we found our spouses. Helen defies all description by me. I see her as I see myself – I can insult myself and hurt myself but I could never really kill myself – thus, I could never give up my friendship with Helen. Despite the hurt and lies we have shared, we are the only ones who really understand each other’s mental paths.

Helen and I, we have seen more together than we could ever tell our spouses with any clarity or sanity. I have tried to tell my wife about my relationship with Helen but my wife had been hurt by Helen and has little patience to hear how close I am or have been with her.

We still keep in touch. A few days ago, I called Helen to congratulate her on her husband’s new job and their move from Kosciusko, MS to Jacksonville, FL. We talked about the usual stories – her pregnancy in the eighth month, family, and local gossip – but at the end of the conversation, as we decided to bid farewell, Helen said, “Well, have a good day,” and we laughed because we both knew without saying a word that we always wonder what to say at the end of a phone conversation because we are not family or lovers. At this moment, I can’t describe this ability to carry on a conversation without speaking. Actually, I could recite events where this has occurred but I cannot hand you a physical object and say, “Here is what our relationship looks like.” In this way only have I found life to be a mystery.

 

08 April, 1990, 1:22 a.m.

 

And so I must be honest with myself. I am a married man, a happily married man with a wife who provides all that I could ask of her. Karen cleans the house and washes the clothes most of the time; that is, I chip in one‑tenth of one percent of the housework. We have a wonderful sex life and participate in several mind games a week, have our usual emotionally‑packed arguments and help each other as best we can through depressive slumps yet . . . Helen lingers in my mind like the guest that will not leave.

Helen, well, we know that Helen is not the name she goes by but we must protect the characters we writers create. After all, one does not go around destroying the few friendships available without destroying the material for the next story.

Helen . . . when my mind slows down and stops to rest I hear the echoes of Helen in the same way that others describe God. When I am under stress or feel the need to be loved I call out Karen’s name which in the work environment I presently occupy is quite often.

How do I describe this sharing of my soul with two different women? Do I use the metaphor of wife and mistress? Since I am married to Karen then Helen would be the mistress but what is a mistress but “a woman with whom a man frequently fornicates?” By no means have Helen and I fornicated. We hesitate to hug as it is. Do I attest to the plausibility of two “wives?” I am only married to one woman according to social rules. Excluding the issue of Helen being another woman then I simply have a relationship with Helen that is based on close mental contact. My relationship with Karen entails emotional and physical trust and respect.

A college literature teacher once told me that the three basic conflicts in stories are only a reflection of the conflicts in life – man vs. God, man vs. nature, and man vs. man – all other conflicts are variations on a theme including man vs. self which represents a form of man vs. man. I disagreed then and I disagree now. Man vs. self combines the three basic forms because God/nature/man is only what we see through our senses. Therefore, because our senses are part of our selves then all conflicts boil down to man vs. self. We must determine what senses we use to resolve our conflicts.

At this moment in my life, I see my relationships with Helen and Karen through my rationale and my heart, in that order. Helen exists in that part of me that reasons out all that matters in my universe. Karen owns that part of me that belongs to family and Earth.

 

In the midst of my constant battle between Karen and Helen lies the problem of religion. I was raised in a Christian household. Although my parents did not attend church on a regular basis they still insisted that we learn the basics of the Bible and practice the teachings of the New Testament.

Now, as an adult, I have the ability to choose for myself the resting place of my soul. At first I denied the existence of an omniscient God. Now I have found myself leaning toward the existence of ancestral influence not just through our genetic makeup but through the ephemeral influence of past souls, especially from those of our nearest dead relatives. I understand that this really stems from my simplistic remembrance of ideal relatives but we all must establish a system of beliefs and I now rest my beliefs on this system of ancestral worship. I have to understand the social implications of allowing others to follow the worship practices of their cultures before I can fully accept the cultural practices of my WASP (white Anglo‑Saxon Protestant) upbringing.

 

On an aside, I find that I write best when I can prevent my brain from occupying itself with common daily interruptions by flooding my body with substances like alcohol that impair my physical abilities. At one point in time I relied on the means of illegal drugs to record my writings but find those practices too expensive monetarily and physically to justify the ends.

 

17 April, 1990, 7:52 a.m.

 

On the verge of a nervous breakdown I sit to write the following words in hopes of preventing the mental disruption of my life as a member of the corporate world as well as a friend and lover to my wife.

Last night I lay in bed as I did most of the day yesterday battling with myself over the worth of spending the daytime hours in an environment which drains my energy and life of the creativity and talents/gifts with which I was born and have been nurtured throughout my life. Battle: “Do I use my physical looks and middle‑class upbringing to live in the corporate world?” versus “Do I devote myself to the development of the inner self which flows with stories and insights to provide others in exchange for labor credits (i.e., money)?”

On the way home Sunday from our parents’ homes in East Tennessee, I told my wife that I have finally come to the realization that I have to let my inner self have some breathing space or else I see my choices in life as death vs. the corporate world (and we know that the “vs.” can easily be substituted with “=”).

So last night I decided to consult with my ancestors/God/Allah/personal gods to discover how they might help me with this predicament. I told them that I wished to die because my life, other than that with my wife, offered me no other alternative than death of self. They told me I have the choice to make, that if I choose death I must be willing to face the circumstances. They then revealed to me that in the end, we all choose to die, although there are extreme circumstances in which we are asked to let go (such as gruesome car accidents where our bodies are mangled beyond present day medical care). I was given the opportunity to see the barrier placed between life here on Earth as living flesh and the life with physical bodies. This barrier I saw as a semipermeable membrane that allows those who have completed their lives and do not carry excess baggage to pass through freely. The barrier looked thick, felt soft, and gave way or flexed quite easily because its composition, though pleasant to the touch, consisted of closely packed, fibrous material. I was told that if I chose to leave now that I will not have completed my journey on Earth and will still have baggage to get rid of – suicide carries with it the emotional heartaches of those whom I love. I was not told how I would get rid of this emotional baggage if I chose suicide but I believe I would have to return to Earth with no guarantees of the difficulty or ease with which I would have to rid myself of the baggage nor whether I would be burdened with more baggage.

I can but imagine what life without an earthly physical body would be like. I would no longer have the worries and concerns associated with this body that I occupy; that is not to say that I would not have new problems to resolve but who of us human beings is ready to learn of new worlds when we have sufficient problems on Earth to last a lifetime? The religion with which I was raised promises a heaven, a place of utmost happiness, to those who accept the divine rule of Jesus Christ/God/the Holy Spirit in their lives, even if the acceptance occurs at the last moment of life on Earth. To many, the promise of heaven provides a cushion of comfort in rough times and a light at the end of the tunnel in dark times. I believe this heaven to be the same type of existence that I saw last night. The new existence does not require one to be intelligent or gifted in any way only that you understand, have faith in, if you will, the permanence of the universe and your place in it.

 

21 April, 1990, 3:25 p.m.

 

Now I know that faith is not something that happens gradually. One moment you are a nonbeliever and the next moment you believe – thus those who believe see what the wellphrased “leap of faith” means. Those in the Christian religion in which I was raised come to believe in Christ as the Saviour and God as the Creator whereas I believe in the immortality of a living universe where life begets life and acts of kindness – that is, acts of helping another living thing – are acts of life.

 

Tuesday, 24 April, 1990, 8:36 p.m.

 

Some people say that if we could travel through time then we could not travel into the future because it does not exist. Well, a couple of days ago, while watching a movie called “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” I realized we can travel into the future because our future is someone else’s past.

 

I often wonder about my sanity. After reading the past couple of entries and remembering much of the writing I threw away several years ago, I know that I am not normal (“Normality is only a statistical mean to which none of us wholly belongs.” – John Weightman). On the other hand, my lifestyle reveals that I am esssentially an individual who likes to think what he will but succombs to the peer pressure that puts him in a statistically safe place in society – in other words, a normal, middle‑class American.

 

Tuesday, 22 May, 1990, 12:44 a.m.

 

A month has passed since my last entry, a month that holds few events worth making the history books but worthy of a journalist’s/diarist’s recordkeeping.

 

First, I have been toying with the idea that the antidepressants I am taking may be killing the creative person within me by smoothing out the peaks and valleys of the personality called Rick Hill. I had no way to prove this theory except through intuitive knowledge of my present (extrapolated into the future) lack of desire to write. I reached into the well of my self and pulled out the definition of me that I understand – “the person who sees and records that which others live” – some call such a person a writer but I am not “one who writes” but one “who sees and records.” There is a difference, you know.

Second, I have been fighting the yin/yang argument of city versus suburban living, wondering why I feel drawn to the city life with its inherent contradictions and superfluous/ubiquitous crime yet I know that my roots and the ultimate purpose of the human species belongs to the relative calm and serenity of a suburban lifestyle for families to have children who grow up in an environment of strong, consistent social values that allow the children to discover themselves without inhibitions or ultraviolent pressures. Perhaps we don’t realize the utopia we have in suburban living?

In any case, I have my destiny. I must have chaos to write or why write? I want to know why my grandfather, Horace Capps, abandoned my grandmother and her son (my father).

Monica had her baby on May 19. The baby’s name is Christina Helen Prewitt, weighed 7 lbs, 12 ounces at birth and was 20‑1/2 long. She has blond and brown hair and favors her mother’s (the Guinn) family.

Joey is in France, has been for over three months and his boyfriend/husband will be glad to have him home in a few weeks.

I offered to have a baby with Janeil and she has initially resisted.

 

Wednesday, 4 September, 1990, 6:50 p.m.

 

I have been to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital for two periods of two weeks each. The first began 3 July and lasted until 16 July; the second lasted from 20 August until 4 September. I entered the unit because of depression and suicidal ideation. Now I am cured. I no longer have to think about death to justify my life. However much I want to deny it, the only reason I have to live is my wife. I have no other raison d’etre (sp?). Comprendez vous? Je ne sais pas mais oui, life is tres ennui. What am I to do? I fancy myself a bit crazy although everyone wonders why a “together” guy like me has any problems. I suppose that is my problem, n’est pas? I have lost my lust for life. Instead, I wallow in the mud of mundane living. I want excitement but all I get is potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce to go with my turkey.

I do not return to work until Friday so tomorrow leaves me a chance to be myself although I have an appointment with a psychiatrist to determine if I should attend group therapy. What shall I do? I don’t want to do anything that would upset my wife but I want to do something for myself. [Just between me and you, I think I would not be as concerned about my wife if I knew I didn’t have to see her everyday. However, I can’t see a way out of this predicament so I continue to hold on to my love for her since she’s the only human left that I love.]

 

Sunday, 9 September, 1990, 12:45 p.m.

 

I know what bothers me most, as has been seen throughout my references to wanting to be a nonentity, hermit, etc. I see too much the injustices of the world, how humans treat other humans as machines to be wound up and sent to march in step with the beat of the Official Drum. I do not want to call myself human. I want to wash off the dirt and filth of ten thousand years of human progress. We humans strive to be better, that is, to put ourselves in a better position for survival, but all we end up doing is building a bigger machine that one day will consume not only the earth but even us humans, the Creators. If I am to be responsible for my life, then I want all humans to be responsible for this tiny planet on which we live and not concern ourselves with trying to support the useless device we call society. Instead, I too support the United States frame of reference (i.e., society) because I am too weak to get others to see the reality of our situation; I have been supported by this society for 28 years and fear what would happen if I let go. I have no God to support me in this, only the realization that if I am to live on this planet then I want to live life my way and not the way that is offered by any given society. I am not an anarchist but I cannot find a way of life currently in existence that meets my criteria for ultimate human survival. Yes, I am looking for Utopia but I will settle for much less before I die.

Also, I need not dislike other humans for belonging to the U.S. society. As one famous person in history once was quoted as saying, “They know not what they are doing.”

 

Monday, 15 July, 1991, 9:00 p.m.

 

I have allowed myself the luxury of joining the throngs of male humans who desire and purchase a motorized transportation vehicle which has been designed for the pleasure and not the utility of driving. In other words, I bought a car for the sport of driving. In other words, I bought a sports car. In fact, I bought a red 1984 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce with leather seats and polished wood steering wheel.

Why an Alfa Romeo? Why, indeed? Let me take you back a moment to the turn of the century. The horse and the train were no longer the sole means of transportation so men had the opportunity to design transportation vehicles that took advantage of the comfort of trains and the transportability of horses. In 1909, a group of Italian industrialists bought an auto factory on the old Portello road near Milan “to build automobiles of sporting performance.” They named their new company Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili – ALFA. Several years later, Nicola Romeo brought the company into the forefront of auto racing history. Thus, Alfa Romeo was born.

Although I was not born until 1962, decades after the automobile was born, I grew up hearing about the early days of Model As, Model Ts but most importantly about the joy of driving any car along a country road with the wind whistling, the engine puttering, and the smell of musty leather and gearbox oil in the air. When I was four years old, my father bought a 1959 Triumph TR3. He loved that car more than his family, just about. I remember the car and its shape like an ocean wave that started at the front bumper, smoothly crested midway across the hood and reached bottom near the back of the front seats, then rose again toward the rear tires and crashed into the rear bumper. To me, the curves of that car pointed toward heaven like a cross in a Christian church. I knew when I was a grownup I was going to have a car just like Dad’s.

As I have grown up, I have watched the years pass by without my owning a piece of heaven. Many times, I have struggled with the thought that perhaps I didn’t deserve a fine sports car. I would look at the car I was driving and say I was unworthy. In the early 1980s, I set my sights on a Karmann Ghia convertible, knowing I wanted more but settling for less. A few years passed during which my life was spent struggling with ideas and philosophies not founded in the reality of sports cars or normal, everyday living.

About five years ago, I found my path to heaven. I don’t remember the exact day but hope sprang eternal when I saw an Alfa Romeo Spider gliding effortlessly along the road like an angel. At that moment, I knew my materialistic mission in life: to buy, own, and thoroughly enjoy an Alfa Romeo Spider. I checked the classified ads in the local newspaper for several months but no one seemed to be selling Alfa Romeos, Spiders or otherwise. I told several people about my goal and most people told me how impractical I was since there was no Alfa dealership in Huntsville, Alabama, Alfas were known for their mechanical problems, the nearest dealerships were in Birmingham and Nashville and how could I possibly expect to take care of a car when I hardly knew where the air filter was. I think I heard every negative comment possible about owning an Alfa except no one could deny that owning an Alfa is a dream attained only by the truly inspired.

A year passed and finally my dream seemed about to come true. My wife and I found a Spider for sale in a sell‑your‑own lot. The owner was a man in his early 60s who had bought the car because his doctor told him he was going blind and he wanted to own a sports car before he could no longer drive – not quite the “little ol’ lady who only drives the car to church on Sunday” story but close enough. The man wanted to sell the car to an Alfa enthusiast like me but my money was tied up for a down payment on a house. Rationally, I knew I should wait but emotionally I was torn up. Realizing I was not getting the car felt like someone had just nailed one of my feet into a coffin.

My wife and I bought a house and settled in, spending money on wallpapering the bathrooms, landscaping the yard, a computer, a china cabinet, two Toyotas . . . everyday passed and I seemed destined to follow a road that led away from an Alfa. A few months ago we discussed replacing the little yellow Nissan Sentra I had been driving for three or four years. We decided we needed a truck to haul the landscaping mulch we seemed to use so much of in the yard. My father started looking for a truck in East Tennessee. I emphasized that I wanted a cheap truck, less than $2000, if possible, all along feeling that the truck was going to nail my other foot in the coffin.

A few weeks ago, I went with my wife to see her brother and his family for dinner. We ate a satisfying meal and I sat down in the living room to read the classified ads. I thumbed over to the truck section, marking the prospects with a pencil. I found a promising Isuzu truck for $1850 but only got an answering machine when I called. I called about another truck and got no answer at all.

I decided to scan the column marked “Other/Foreign” in hopes of finding some more trucks (though I was secretly wishing for something else). Suddenly, my heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. There, in front of me, – or was it really there, I wasn’t sure – was an ad for a late model Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. I called the number and asked for Phil like the ad said.

“This is Phil,” he responded cheerfully.

“I was wondering . . .” I hesitated, “do you still have that Alfa Romeo Spider?”

“Yes, it’s red and has leather interior. It’s in pretty good shape.”

“How much do you want for it?” I asked as I froze, waiting to hear his answer.

“Well, I’m asking sixty‑five hundred but I’ll take six‑thousand and I’ll bargain if you have cash.”

I smiled.

I quizzed him about other details of the car but I could tell by the conversation that he was the kind of person who took good care of his car. By the time I hung up the phone, I had pulled both my feet out of my imaginary coffin and was ready to find my way back to heaven.

My wife and I discussed the price of the car and decided we would make an offer after I had seen the car. I drove out to Phil’s place the next day, looked the car over and took it for a spin with Phil giving commentary from the passenger’s seat. The following day, I took Janeil to see the car. We spent several hours at Phil’s house looking at the car and talking with Phil and his wife. We worked our way to the living room and I fumbled through a conversation trying to postpone the inevitable. I felt like a guy about to kiss a girl for the first time. A rejection could be a serious blow to my wellbeing. Finally, I could hardly look Phil in the eye because of what I was about to say.

“I can, can offer you $5000,” I stuttered, managing to look him in the eye with a strained smile.

How do I describe the look in Phil’s eyes as the sound waves that left my mouth hit Phil’s ears? He looked like he had taken to heart the worst insult he had ever heard. As a fellow male human, I felt like I had betrayed him but my wife and I had agreed we needed to offer him a low price to leave us some bargaining room.

He cleared his throat. “I don’t believe I can take that low a price. I’ve invested $2100 in the car and would be taking a loss.”

I felt like walking out of the room but I wanted to save both our egos as much as possible before I left. “Well, the credit union says the loan value is $5375. In fact,” I looked at my watch and saw it was 8:15 p.m., “I can call the credit union to check and make sure.”

“Yeah,” he said in a more uplifting voice, “I’d like to do that cause I was told the loan value was more like $5800. I believe the girl’s name was Leslie.”

Our wives interrupted us to say the credit union closed at 8:00 pm. but Phil and I were determined to see this quest to the end. Of course, Phil called and no one answered.

“Why don’t you guys go home and think this over. You can drive the car all you want while you’re trying to make up your mind. I don’t believe that other family is going to buy the car real soon but I’ll let you know if they make an offer.” [Phil had informed me the day before that one other family had made serious inquiries about the car but they had to sell one of their cars before they could buy this one. From the conversation, I had gathered that the person in that family that would be driving the car was not a connoisseur of fine automobiles like Phil had gotten the impression I was.] As we left the house, Phil and his wife said they wanted to put some trees in brand‑new bare yard. My wife and I offered them some trees from our yard whenever they wanted them.

On the way home, my wife commented that she felt I had never clearly made my offer of $5375.

I talked to Phil on the phone a few days later and he said that after “going over the figures,” he could offer me the car for $5750. I thanked him. Meanwhile, he had expressed an interest in working for ADS where I worked because he was fluent in French and ADS was beginning to expand into France. He brought his resum_ by work a day or so later and I gave it to one of the company founders who was handling the French project.

A week or so passed and Phil called me one morning at work. He asked if I was still interested because the other family was. I told him my wife and I had decided we couldn’t afford the car. I repeated the conversation to my wife later in the day and she reminded me that I had never officially offered him $5375. I called Phil’s office and left a message that if the other family lost interest, I could offer $5375.

By chance, the Nissan died on the way home. Driving back and forth to work during the past two weeks, I had had problems with the Nissan sputtering, dying, and starting back up while at highway speeds. I got my wife to pick me up. As we drove home, I told her I made an offer of $5375. She shocked me by stating that she thought we had discussed going up to $5500. As soon as we got home I called Phil’s house and left a message on his answering machine offering him the $5500.

They say you know the moment when the light from heaven shines down on you and blesses your life for eternity. Well, the light came on after I anxiously grabbed up the phone after only one ring.

“Hello?”

“Rick, this is Phil. I accept your offer.”

Millions of slot machines in my head hit jackpot at the same time. Giant boulders fell off my shoulder. I looked over at my wife and excitedly whispered, “It’s Phil. He accepts the offer.”

Needless to say, I have my piece of heaven now. If tomorrow someone took the car away from me, it wouldn’t matter. I have physically been able to get my hands on my dream and make it 100% reality.

 

Wednesday, 24 July, 1991, 10:00 p.m.

 

It always starts out innocently – at least, that’s what they say. You begin with a simple “Hello, my name is Bob,” then shake hands or nod, as local customs allow. Perhaps later you bump into each other coming around a corner or you recognize one another at the grocery store. The first meeting is awkward because you sense the unusual tension between you and that woman who was only a stranger a little while ago. You meet again, only this time getting up the courage to strike up a light conversation before you part.

The hours and days stack up like firewood, ready for you to stoke the embers from previous loves forlorn and lost. In the meantime, you forget her name although you occasionally see her face in a dream.

One day, you get to work early and see her kissing a guy goodbye. You stare in amazement as you realize the guy she’s kissing is a coworker with an office not far from yours. You watch her step off the curb, walk three or four steps to her car, and step in. As she drives past you, she takes a double look and then waves. All you can remember is the look of recognition beaming from her face.

 

Wednesday, 4 September, 1991, 1:06 a.m.

 

Many interesting events have occurred worth recording ‑ if only I wasn’t tired I would go into more detail. My family put together a surprise 35th anniversary reception for my parents on Sunday, 1 September, 1991. Somewhere between 70 to 100 people attended, including members of the wedding party: the maid of honor, Audrey Ferguson Blevins, the best man, Philip Bradfute, a groomsman, Ralph Teffeteller, the minister, Gordon Teffeteller, a flower girl, Cindy Teffeteller Davidson, and at least two women who served at the reception, Polly Pollard Teffeteller and Jo Malone(?).

On Tuesday, 3 September, 1991, my father, Richard Lee Hill, formerly Richard Horace Capps, was diagnosed with cancer in the prostate gland. He must decide whether to have the cancerous growth removed surgically or reduced with radiation. He will have a bone scan performed later this week to determine if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland. My grandmother, Thelma Eldridge Capps Hill Hirth (she has been married three times), who has been visiting with me since Thursday, cried intensely for approximately 30 minutes after she got off the phone with my father. I called my sister afterward and learned she had done the same. I received the news with a sickening feeling of dread in my stomach and after a moment of imagining that my father will die one day which may be sooner than I think, I decided not to dwell on the negative aspect of death and dying and concentrate instead on positive, realistic thoughts that I accept the cycle of life/death despite my reservations of the possibilities of an afterlife.

 

On a similar note, I have been pondering the afterlife to better understand my mortality and my place in this world. I may have mentioned that I have had two experiences which I attribute to a contact with the afterworld, if I accept the afterworld being an existence that extends beyond the physical plane (that is, my being a living example of Homo sapiens) in which I place myself at this time. If I have not, the first experience occurred in the fall of 1981 while I was an employee of Montgomery Ward. I was stacking notebooks on a shelf when a voice that sounded like my grandmother (my mother’s mother) said, “Don’t do anything that you would regret or would upset me.” The second experience occurred in the summer of 1990 when I was thinking about trying to kill myself by not breathing. Suddenly, I was shown that the wall between life on Earth and the next life (or death, as we call it on Earth) is like a two‑foot thick pillow. Those who have lived a good life, a life that has perpetuated life, will pass through the pillow as if through air. Those who carry a burden or who have lived a bad life, a life that has caused unnecessary pain, suffering and death, will pass through the pillow with difficulty or not at all. The ones who were showing me this image told me that I could choose to give up living at any time but I must be willing to face the consequences of carrying the burden of the emotions of those who I have hurt by killing myself. I was given hints or cloudy images of the other side of the wall but did not completely understand them at that time.

Ever since those two experiences occurred, I have given much thought to the way I act in life. I have wondered what the next stage of my existence, if any, will be. After watching my grandmother (my father’s mother), I have understood. Now I will try to explain.

In the Christian religion under which I was raised, followers learn to accept by faith the existence of two places people’s souls go after death according to their sins (sins being the desire for earthly things), heaven (where sinners are forgiven) and hell (where sinners are punished). In Hinduism, followers learn to accept life as a series of incarnations to prepare the soul for the passage to nirvana, where souls go that have no earthly desires. In my understanding of the afterlife, we all pass into the afterlife where our souls are bared for all to see. Some of us cannot stand for others to see what our souls are made of and are tormented by our lack of ability to completely share our previous lives’ experiences that make up our souls ‑ this is the Christian hell and perhaps these people are given the ability to bare their souls by occupying or overseeing a body on Earth. For those who can open their souls for all to see, the transition from life on Earth to the next life is accepted with open arms and souls. My understanding comes not from original thought but through the influence of my experiences which include readings of the Christian Bible, the Islamic Koran, the Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach and my afterlife experiences. I accept my understanding of an afterlife with the leap of faith that my knowledge of scientific study cannot explain.

 

 

 

Friday, 6 September, 1991, 8:07 p.m.

 

I shall remember to record the life of my grandmother’s third husband, Clarence Hirth. Ah, what the hell, I might as well do it now.

 

My grandmother and her husband Clarence came to visit my wife and me. During their visit, I got to sit down and learn more about Clarence. I had previously only thought he liked to watch major league baseball and was a Notre Dame fan.

Clarence Hirth was born in 1912 and grew up in Connecticut, not too far from Hartford. He was the fourth of eleven children in the Hirth household; therefore, his father made him quit school when he was 14 years old like the three children before him and go to work at the post office for 44 hours per week, having to work half a day on Saturday. He made about $11 per week, not bad considering his father made $25 per week. Clarence worked in the main office selling stamps at the window. He was considered quite good and was sent to a branch office located in the building of a company that distributed advertising pamphlets and mailers nationwide. Clarence’s job was to price the “piece mail” by weighing 50 representative copies of the mailings and determining a bulk rate. The company had its own idea of what the bulk rate should be and would often ask Clarence to reweigh the mailings. He could not bring the price down if the weight was the same because, “of course, the post office cannot change its bulk rate prices.” Instead, the company would try to find another printer in the city that could print on thinner paper. “Sometimes,” Clarence stated with pride in the retelling of this history, “these companies would even hafta go outside of the city to find a printer who would print on thin enough paper,” dropping the “r” in many of the words he spoke.

Clarence was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941. He spent 13 weeks in basic training and another 6 weeks in clerk school. He was sent to the Pacific Theater during World War II and spent 28 months overseas. He fought on Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, and several other islands I can’t recall at this time. The soldiers were not allowed to fire their guns at night because the jungle was too thick – often, U.S. soldiers could see the Japanese soldiers walking within 20 feet of their position but could do nothing.

Being in the infantry, Clarence saw front line action. For this, he earned the Bronze Star. On the not so gutsy side, Clarence’s infantry troop was forced to march 30 miles through the jungle. “We could drop out at any time. But if the medic came up and found you were still able to march, they just left you there.” He emphasized, “And we were carrying our full gear, packs and everything.” Clarence made the full trek. During the march his boots would expand and contract by getting soaking wet in the mud and then drying out in the sun. By the time he finished the march, his right foot looked four times its normal size. “It was all black and blue. The doctor said I had jungle rot and because the humidity and all was so bad I could lose my foot.” Clarence was sent to New Caledonia to recover.

Clarence left the Army in 1945 and went to work at a typewriter factory. He spent the next couple of years taking a nighttime correspondence course to prepare for three exams to qualify him to work for the post office. The first two exams had to be passed before the third one could be taken. The first time Clarence took the two tests, he figures he failed one because they would not let him take the third. On the second try, he passed the two tests and got a 75 on the third. His brother, who was head of the local post office, told him the score was too low. Clarence took the tests one last time and got an 89. He was hired and worked for the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement in 1977.

Clarence married his first wife in 1947. They had four children.

In 1971, Clarence bought two piece of property in a subdivision in Florida, a corner lot and an adjacent lot, for $2500 and $2800, respectively. He paid off the property in 1979. During this time, his wife began working for Pratt and Whitney as a factory worker. She told Clarence she had to start working on Saturdays. “‘Look,’ I told her, ‘why are you working on Saturdays. It ain’t like you’re that important. You just work on the assembly line.’ I knew she wasn’t workin’ but I didn’t know she was seein’ a guy, either.”

A few months after he and wife moved to Florida, Clarence got a summons in the mail. He looked at it. “Go and ahead and open it,” his wife plodded. Clarence opened the paper and stared in amazement.

“What is this?”

“I’m filing for divorce.”

Both lawyers told Clarence to go ahead with everything his wife demanded. Clarence decided instead to let the judge decide and by doing so he got $4000 more than he expected. And just in the nick of time – his doctor told him he needed cataract surgery with a $2500 payment up front.

Although he knew it was coming, one day he came home and found the house empty. “They had taken everything.” His ex‑wife took the last of her belongings and then some. “I didn’t care,” Clarence said waving his arm as if throwing something to the ground, “I didn’t want to see any more of that stuff.” Clarence took the remaining $1500 and went bargain hunting for furniture. He found a bed at one place and strapped it to the top of his car.

“Do you think it’s secure?” he asked one of the salesmen.

“If it falls off, you’ll be the first one it happened to.”

“Do you think the police’ll cause me any trouble?”

“Just stay to the right side of the road, take it slow and they’ll leave you alone.”

Clarence told an amusing story about another find. He often scanned the newspaper for good buys. Checking out one of these ads, he came to a house where a lady had a “chester drawers” painted an ugly green. “The lady told me she wanted $40. I said that was too much and offered her $20. ‘Where’s your car,’ she said.” We both laughed as he finished the story.

Clarence told me more details about the financial dealings surrounding the divorce and some problems with one of his sons which I may record one day. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes and can’t remember the details accurately.

He married my grandmother in 1983 and seems to maintain a joyful marriage.

An active bowler since his teens, Clarence was senior state champion of Connecticut for the year 1979‑80. He continues to bowl to this day and also keeps in shape by getting up at 6:00 a.m. each day and walking three miles.

The Writer’s Contest: A Procrastinator’s Tale

All the signs were there.

I sat in dark despair

for I thought I saw a bear…

 

I awoke with a start. “What time is it?” I mumbled, trying not to wake up my wife but stirring Mischief, our Siamese cat, who slept at the foot of the bed. I sat up and squinted at the alarm clock. I had set the clock to wake me up an hour earlier than normal. As a backup, I set the alarm on my watch to wake me up a few minutes later.

 

Some sort of rhyme was swimming through my mind. A song, perhaps. Let’s see, I was just dreaming about…oh my gosh, the contest! It’s 3:30 a.m.! If I don’t hurry, I’ll never come up with a good story. I’ll have to compose some bad poem that only a mother would love. I lay back on the pillow and closed my eyes. What was the phrase? “All the wines are rare.” No, it was something catchier than that. “Cut the vines. Don’t pare.” No, that was the last one.

 

I turned to my wife.

 

“Darling,” I whispered.

 

“Mm, mmm,” she replied.

 

“I can’t come up with an idea for the new writing contest.”

 

“What time is it?” she asked, her voice half-slurred.

 

“About 3:30.”

 

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll think of something. Just let me sleep. I’ve got a mid-year budget presentation at 8:00 in the morning.”

 

I moved back over to my side of the bed and stared at the red light of the smoke detector on the ceiling. “Call the lions to the lair.” That wasn’t it, either. I rolled over to a comfortable position on the bed and knocked Lady, our aristocratic gray mouser, onto the floor. She padded off to her spot on the sofa in the living room.

 

I waited a few minutes, slipped out of bed, and crept through the house toward the study. I tripped over my wife’s cell phone charger in the kitchen. At the entrance to the living room, I kicked over my laptop computer. Panicked, I stuck my arms out and nearly toppled the right rear surround sound speaker, stand and all. I inched my way to the nearest wall to get my bearings. Okay, I’m only two feet from the programmable thermostat. Now just five steps to the hallway. Good. Turn left. Take a few more steps. Ahh! The doorway for the study.

 

I closed the door and turned on the light. Ooh, those bright halogen rays hurt. I looked at the clock above the computer. 4:00? Did it take me that long to get here? “I’m not going to make it,” I told myself. “One more hour before I must face getting up for another day of problems at the office.”

 

I hurried over to the computer center, turned on the printer and then pressed a key to turn off the screen saver. I looked at the status window of the house security software. Hmm…someone has been sneaking through the house in the last fifteen minutes. I quickly glanced around the room. I hadn’t sensed anyone around me, but I was half asleep. Should I wake up my wife? I looked at the screen again. The first indicator light came on outside the bedroom. Then the next one came on in the kitchen a few minutes later. Had someone been following me? Oh yeah — duh — it’s me. I shook my head. If I was this dead, how did I expect to get anything written?

 

I closed the security software and started up the word processing software. While I waited for it to start, a blinking icon on the screen indicated I had an e-mail. I opened the mail message. A reminder from me! Great, I’ll be able to see the theme for the contest.

 

Date: 21 August 1997

Subject: Reminder

> Don’t forget to submit an entry for the writing contest.

 

Gadzooks! How am I going to write something if I don’t know what it’s about? I sat down in the leather desk chair, pressed the “Massage” button and closed my eyes. Just a couple of minutes to calm myself down and clear my head…

Post Partum Depression – Third Book Blues

8 Feb 2004

 

My third book is out the door, literally, having sent the first copy to my mother for her 70th birthday. Although I dedicated the book to Mom and Janeil, I doubt very much that either one of them will sit down and enjoy reading the whole book. Of course, I did not write the book for them but I am who I am in large part because of them. I would guess that my sister (sole sibling) and father would get more out of the book.

 

Sitting here now, in the relative quiet of the living room (gurgling of the 55-gal. aquarium, occasional popping of the kerosene heater, the hum of the heat pump, music pouring forth from the TV tuned to a digital music station called Soundscapes, the snoring of my wife, the hum of the computer, the ringing in my ears), I ponder.

 

Before I dive into the ponder, a moment to record my actions. Earlier today, I installed a USB/Ethernet ADSL modem, wireless router and DVD writer in our home PC. Hopefully, tomorrow I can find out if the wireless part works (the router works fine – I can surf the web and check email from the PC through the router through the modem, thank God). I ditched the USB ADSL modem which used the Conexant chipset – although the USB ADSL modem worked fine, I needed one with an Ethernet connection.

 

In a fortune cookie this evening, I read the following fortune, “You are soon going to change your present line of work.” I would like to change my present line of work but what am I to do? The vocation I’ve followed for the past nine years has been software testing. Certainly, I’m capable of testing GUI-based software – who isn’t? Seems like the software my company is switching to is command-line based, which requires more linear thinking than I’m comfortable with at my age and inclination.

 

In the past few years, I’ve seen myself build a wooden deck and garden pond. I’ve released my third book of writings. I’ve increased the work skills of the employees under my charge. I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree. I’ve attended numerous football games. I’ve encouraged my nieces and nephews to enjoy life. I’ve killed animals, plants and insects, both indirectly and directly, with my car.

 

I am who I am. I will not become someone else. I will not go back, I will not undo what I’ve become. I will one day return my body to the Earth, my last thoughts dying with me. For now, my thoughts live with me, sometimes falling out onto the page. Right now, I don’t want to take too much from the chance for my body to be something fruitful in the cycle of life. I don’t want to pollute the world too much. I don’t want to destroy too many living things.

 

How do I help myself and others have eco-friendly fun on this planet? I guess we all want guidance, advice from some One/thing/friend/elder/guru about the course of our actions and thoughts. I want that Other being to help me find the course of action that will enable me to sustain a living for myself while showing others how to have fun. I guess the point is not to have too much fun or so it would seem. However, I believe that I can find a way to constantly have fun (i.e., enjoy myself all the time) while not destroying/ruining others’ lives. Call it my nirvana, if you will.

 

What makes me question my chance of reaching nirvana is my tendency to be cruel, especially with the words I speak and tone of voice I use. What drives me to be sarcastic? Sometimes it’s the feeling of superiority. Psychologists have heard and analyzed superior attitudes many times over. At nearly one in the morning, I’m a little too tired to reach into my thoughts to realize the root cause of my sarcasm/cruelty. If I close my eyes, all I want to do is sleep. Guess I better listen to my body and ponder my path to nirvana another time. Maybe then I’ll figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

 

Random thoughts as I sign off:

 

  • Record my banging on the piano/pump organ – create CD of the “music” to play in the car on the way to/from work
  • Make cartoon/story around creation of backyard writer’s studio
  • Create “living” artwork through picture frame of 14-inch LCD monitor; also, try turning Gateway laptop/subnotebook into B&W “living” picture frame (start with screensaver first)
  • Just remembered – the cruelty/sarcasm is related to my inability to immediately express my feelings (especially anger/hurt) due to my lack of self confidence (worry that I’ll expose a weakness of mine or offend someone else); need more assertiveness training

 

 

If there is no mind, you won’t mind, will you?

Introduction

The best way to tell the truth is to lie.

You see, that’s why the story starts like this. My name is Max. My full name is Maximilian Esophagus Mize. My childhood friends call me Gus. My enemies know me as Max. E. Mize (yeah, that’s right, the son of an efficiency expert).

And to keep you from wondering where this story is going, let me tell you, I ain’t much of a storyteller. I also call myself Bruce, Lee and any other name I feel like. I know a few tall tales, like this one, for instance…

A buddy of mine, Ebenezer, lays concrete for a livin’. He got word of a job up in Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels Distillery. He was told that he was going to have to pour a sidewalk straight as an arrow leading out of the visitors’ center. He heard from some of the fellers he met at the job site that if he didn’t do the job right, he wouldn’t get another job at Jack’s place. So Eb measured off the straightest line he’d ever done, poured the concrete and smoothed it out as shiny as a sheet of ice. After he finished, he was called into the boss’ office.

After Eb sat down, the boss thanked him for the fine job he’d done. The boss opened up a drawer of his big desk and pulled out a bottle of Jack.

“You done such a good job I’m giving you a little something extra. Here’s your bonus,” the boss told Eb and handed him that bottle. “You can pick up your regular check at the front office. Hope we can do business together again.”

Now Eb ain’t much of a drinkin’ man so he took that bottle home with him on Friday and put it on the kitchen cabinet to show his girlfriend after she got off from workin’ at the EZ STOPPE convenience store. Turns out he got a call on his cell phone for a weekend job so he left the house before his girlfriend got home and was gone until Sunday evening. When he got back, the bottle was three-fourths drunk down. He asked his girlfriend about it and she told him she’d had a few friends over who helped her taste the bottle. Eb shook his head, figuring he’d just lost his forty or fifty dollar bonus.

A month later, he went back to Lynchburg for another sidewalk job. After finishing the job, he was called to the boss’ office and went through the ceremony of getting another bottle of Jack.

“You got a second bottle you could give me?” Eb asked the boss.

The boss shook his head. “No, I don’t.”

“Well, the reason I was asking was ‘cause my girlfriend drank that first bottle.”

“Uh-huh. Well, that bottle was worth about a thousand dollars. You might think about getting yourself another girlfriend.”

 

Just so you understand, those are the kind of stories I know. It comes as a surprise to me, then, to be sharing this one with you. However, this ain’t my tale. It belongs to another. And this here is the way the main plots and subplots of “The Mind’s Aye” go (overall, the fellow that told me this story said this is a true ironic satire about horror and murder mysteries):

  • First off, the story opens with an older dead woman, Semina, holding a poem in her hand.
  • Two murderers, Bruce and Lee, seek victims based on the hated stereotypes they project through body language (their first victims we see are two preppy, retired yuppies idiotically playing golf in the midst of a bad thunderstorm). Later in the story, some of their dead victims unexpectedly get revenge on Bruce and Lee.
  • Two email friends, Archie and Belle, carry on an extended email conversation. One of the email friends, Archie, will be killed by the murderers.
  • A blogger posts entries every so often. No connection to any other plots or subplots until near the end of the novel. The blog entries just show evidence of the blogging world.
  • Ghosts appear in the novel first to habitually tell their stories to the reader and then to gather at a summer festival on the border between Russian and Mongolia (near the trans-Mongolian rail line) on the night of a new moon in order to figure out how to end their days wandering among the memories of the living. The story of the summer festival gathering of the dead is told by Anne – daughter of Belle’s husband, Don – who has an uncanny way of seeing the world in ways others cannot, e.g.:

Don’s oldest daughter, Anne, just returned from the Trans Siberian Rail “experience”. She and her Mother, (Don’s ex) were on a 6-day trip through Russia and to China when they were taken off the train in Mongolia because her Mother (who is a world traveler and has lived as an expatriate in Berlin for 18 years) failed to get a visa for 14 days (instead she got one for 4 days).

 

They were taken off the train! Nobody spoke the language and I would have had a nervous breakdown; Anne is very smart and somehow managed to get them out of there, sooner than later, in a few days, and on the way to China.

 

Anne lives by Murphy’s Law (if anything can go wrong it will go wrong). She took Don to see an opera in NYC, the opening act a guy dropped dead, had a heart attack and fell off a ladder (opera canceled to say the least). At La Scala in Italy, the lead singer lost his voice so a man in the audience volunteered to sing (under the stage) and the lead singer mouthed the performance. There is always something with her…

 

  • Vague references are made to characters from the author’s novels, “Helen of Kosciusko,” “Milk Chocolate,” “Sticks to Lying,” and “Are You With The Program?” The characters, after their vague re-introductions, interact with characters in this story, including the living and the dead. Turns out that Bruce and Lee come from the other novels.
  • The author is both a living and dead character in the novel (revealed why during the course of the story). The author told me the full story of the crazy woman attack mentioned in the epilogue of “Are You With The Program?” The crazy woman’s husband is one of the two murderers (Lee), a former Army sniper/scout [based on a real person] who married the crazy woman [a cross between two real people] when they were both in high school; he received several years of special training but flipped out after he was deployed overseas to kill alleged enemy combatants (we, along with Lee, find out the “enemy combatants” were low-level civic leaders opposed to expansion of U.S. business interests in their parts of the world); his mother in-law is named Semina. Lee kills Semina because she keeps blaming him for ruining her daughter’s life years after her divorce from Lee. After escaping from Bruce and stalking the author for weeks, Lee kills the author in a fit of jealousy, seeing that he still has strong feelings for both Semina and her daughter (i.e., his ex-wife).
  • After the author dies, he becomes an acquaintance with the dead email friend, Archie. The two of them already know the plot of this story and meet up with the dead people at the summer festival, including some of the people that Bruce and Lee killed, as well as a few recently dead famous people, who aren’t ready to be forgotten but attend the festival out of curiosity, including Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, David Foster Wallace and Michael Jordan’s father. Most of the dead find release from the world of the living during the summer festival (using tricks from the book, “Consciousness Explained” by Daniel Dennett). Turns out some of the American dead, because they never learned how to connect with their past (their ancestors from Europe and Asia), with no real sense of history or geography, have to return to the United States in the fall and attend an American-style football game that resembles a Mayan ballgame at a secondary school in a suburban community called Colonial Heights. As a reward, the winners get to have their memories taken away from the living so those dead ones can live in forgotten peace. The losers will continue on as fond, almost heroic, memories to the living – fathers, mothers, football players, cheerleaders, etc. – roles the dead played but did not believe in when they were alive. A young woman, Ellen, who passes by the football field on the cool night of the full moon will stop and sit in the metal bleachers to record the ghosts’ football game as a fictional short story she’s writing, not realizing that she’s telling an actual story.
  • The two murderers, Bruce and Lee, reconnect with each other at the end of the ghosts’ football game. They had separately been tracking Ellen and each planned to individually kill her because she is a niece of the author. They greet and agree to kill Ellen together. Some of the dead see the pending attack of the murderers on Ellen. Through the force of their will, through the energy they possess as memories recorded in Ellen’s Livescribe Pulse pen, they trip the two murderers and cause them to kill each other instead of Ellen, thus becoming entries in a policeman’s logbook and a reporter’s notebook, then a lead story in the local newspaper, a wire story for “News of the Weird” and spreading out to international blogs commenting about the strange, mysterious story of two people accidentally killing each other in the middle of the night instead of their intended victim. Bruce and Lee end up wandering the memories of the living for decades as they go from blog entries to ghost story anthologies to storylines for multiplayer games to 3D characters in an immersive mental illness reenactment training suit/mind implant for police psychiatrists. Although they had acted the part of killers during their lives, they had unfulfilled dreams that now haunt them every time their killer stories are relived. Bruce wanted to be a famous author who traveled on speaking circuits and met a lot of interesting people. Lee wanted to spend his days mountain biking around the world and working for the preservation of wild spaces where bikers and hikers could see untamed plants and animals in their native environments.
  • As the author wraps up the story, he meet Semina at a party for the winners of the ghosts’ football game. Even though they’re dead and have no emotional capabilities (just the desire for new experiences), they decide they don’t mind being held to this planet by memories of the living because they led the lives they wanted to live – she because she talked the talk and walked the walk of the life of a loving Christian woman (having no enemies because she loved and embraced all races, genders, and religious practitioners), and he because he fulfilled all his dreams, not the dreams and wishes of others – and thus will wander the world of the living with gladness as long as the living want to keep memories of us alive. After all, isn’t that the true meaning of reaching heaven or nirvana? Being remembered for what we did for ourselves, and by extension for others, not for what we didn’t, could have or should have done.

 

Now I told you all that because I want you to know that’s what I intended to tell you when I started puttin’ all this down on paper è the truth as I know it. The fact is that I’m going to lie to you, instead. Caint trust no one these days. Ain’t that the truth?

Foreboding

We found her with a smile on her face, a booklet clutched in her hands, one finger stiff from death but looking as if it still lovingly stroked the words of a poem:

 

Out of Sight, Out of My Mind

 

The date is 22 January 2008

and I wonder why I bother to write the date down.

Wondering doesn’t matter,

the date won’t change when these words were written

because the importance of the date wanes with the passage of time,

time I didn’t think I’d have,

time I’ve wasted doing nothing but counting the days,

the years,

the tortuous minutes…

 

“Into The Ocean” by Blue October

plays on the digital music channel on television,

supplying a beat by a band I’ve never heard of.

 

I met you once some years ago

and now I can’t remember when,

the only memory that stabs me in the eye

sees me greeting wedding goers on the steps

of Rogersville Presbyterian Church.

 

My wedding (or rather, my wife’s)

and you a bridesmaid (or rather, a bridesmatron),

No hint of anything else that mattered that day.

And yet…

Beauty and the eye of the beholder call me forth to review that day

like a bullfighter to the ring,

The locks of your hair like the red cape held by a toreador,

causing my blood to boil and me wanting to charge, but…

My horns turn and turn away,

not to look at you that day.

 

Seasons pass, twenty-one or twenty-two —

only now, I am past the age you were that day;

what do we know

(what can we know)

if what was not will be

(or cannot).

 

– for F.G.

 

If a Story has to have Chapters, then call this the First One

Before I really got to know Semina – a sassy redhead by heart, a brunette by choice – I allowed myself the luxury of joining the throngs of male humans who desire and purchase a motorized transportation vehicle which has been designed for the pleasure and not the utility of driving. In other words, I bought a car for the sport of driving. In other words, I bought a sports car. In fact, I bought a red 1984 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce with leather seats and polished wood steering wheel. My own little Testa Rossa (Italian for “red head”).

Why an Alfa Romeo? Why, indeed? Let me take you back a moment to the turn of the century. The horse and the train were no longer the sole means of transportation so men had the opportunity to design transportation vehicles that took advantage of the comfort of trains and the transportability of horses. In 1909, a group of Italian industrialists bought an auto factory on the old Portello road near Milan “to build automobiles of sporting performance.” They named their new company Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili – ALFA. Several years later, Nicola Romeo brought the company into the forefront of auto racing history. Thus, Alfa Romeo was born.

Although I was not born until 1962, decades after the automobile was born, I grew up hearing about the early days of Model As and Model Ts but most importantly about the joy of driving any car along a country road with the wind whistling, the engine puttering, and the smell of musty leather and gearbox oil in the air. When I was four years old, my father bought a 1959 Triumph TR3. He loved that car more than his family, just about. I remember the car and its shape like an ocean wave that started at the front bumper, smoothly crested midway across the hood and reached bottom near the back of the front seats, then rose again toward the rear tires and crashed into the rear bumper. To me, the curves of that car pointed toward heaven like a cross in a Christian church. I knew when I was a grownup I was going to have a car just like Dad’s.

As I have grown up, I have watched the years pass by without my owning a piece of heaven. Many times, I have struggled with the thought that perhaps I didn’t deserve a fine sports car. I would look at the car I was driving and say I was unworthy. In the early 1980s, I set my sights on a Karmann Ghia convertible, knowing I wanted more but settling for less. A few years passed during which my life was spent struggling with ideas and philosophies not founded in the reality of sports cars or normal, everyday living.

What seems like five years ago, I found my path to heaven. I don’t remember the exact day but hope sprang eternal when I saw an Alfa Romeo Spider gliding effortlessly along the road like an angel. At that moment, I knew my materialistic mission in life: to buy, own, and thoroughly enjoy an Alfa Romeo Spider. I checked the classified ads in the local newspaper for several months but no one seemed to be selling Alfa Romeos, Spiders or otherwise. I told several people about my goal and most people told me how impractical I was since there was no Alfa dealership in Huntsville, Alabama, Alfas were known for their mechanical problems, the nearest dealerships were in Birmingham and Nashville and how could I possibly expect to take care of a car when I hardly knew where the air filter was. I think I heard every negative comment possible about owning an Alfa except no one could deny that owning an Alfa is a dream attained only by the truly inspired.

A year passed and finally my dream seemed about to come true. My wife and I found a Spider for sale in a sell‑your‑own lot. The owner was a man in his early 60s who had bought the car because his doctor told him he was going blind and he wanted to own a sports car before he could no longer drive – not quite the “little ol’ lady who only drives the car to church on Sunday” story but close enough. The man wanted to sell the car to an Alfa enthusiast like me but my money was tied up for a down payment on a house. Rationally, I knew I should wait but emotionally I was torn up. Realizing I was not getting the car felt like someone had just nailed one of my feet into a coffin.

My wife and I bought a house and settled in, spending money on wallpapering the bathrooms, landscaping the yard, a computer, a china cabinet, two Toyotas . . . everyday passed and I seemed destined to follow a road that led away from an Alfa. A few months ago we discussed replacing the little yellow Nissan Sentra I had been driving for three or four years. We decided we needed a truck to haul the landscaping mulch we seemed to use so much of in the yard. My father started looking for a truck in East Tennessee. I emphasized that I wanted a cheap truck, less than $2000, if possible, all along feeling that the truck was going to nail my other foot in the coffin.

A few weeks later, I went with my wife to see her brother and his family for dinner. We ate a satisfying meal and afterward I sat down in the living room to let my food settle and to read the classified ads. I thumbed over to the truck section, marking the prospects with a pencil. I found a promising Isuzu truck for $1850 but only got an answering machine when I called. I called about another truck and got no answer at all.

I decided to scan the column marked “Other/Foreign” in hopes of finding some more trucks (though I was secretly wishing for something else). Suddenly, my heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. There, in front of me, – or was it really there, I wasn’t sure – was an ad for a late model Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. I called the number and asked for Phil like the ad said.

“This is Phil,” he responded cheerfully.

“I was wondering . . .” I hesitated, “do you still have that Alfa Romeo Spider?”

“Yes, it’s red and has leather interior. It’s in pretty good shape.”

“How much do you want for it?” I asked as I froze, waiting to hear his answer.

“Well, I’m asking sixty‑five hundred but I’ll take six thousand and I’ll bargain if you have cash.”

I smiled. I quizzed him about other details of the car but I could tell by the conversation that he was the kind of person who took good care of his car and I could trust him that the car was in good shape. By the time I hung up the phone, I had pulled both my feet out of my imaginary coffin and was ready to find my way back to heaven.

My wife and I discussed the price of the car and decided we would make an offer after I had seen the car. I drove out to Phil’s place the next day, looked the car over and took it for a spin with Phil giving commentary from the passenger’s seat. The following day, I took Karen to see the car. We spent several hours at Phil’s house looking at the car and talking with Phil and his wife. We worked our way to the living room and I fumbled through a conversation trying to postpone the inevitable. I felt like a guy about to kiss a girl for the first time. A rejection could be a serious blow to my wellbeing. Finally, I could hardly look Phil in the eye because of what I was about to say.

“I can, can offer you $5000,” I stuttered, managing to look him in the eye with a strained smile.

How do I describe the look in Phil’s eyes as the sound waves that left my mouth hit Phil’s ears? He looked like he had taken to heart the worst insult he had ever heard. As a fellow male, I felt like I had betrayed him but my wife and I had agreed we needed to offer him a low price to leave us some bargaining room.

He cleared his throat. “I don’t believe I can take that low a price. I’ve invested $2100 in the car and would be taking a loss.” His voice dripped out of his mouth like water from a broken faucet sputtering its last.

I felt like walking out of the room but I wanted to save both our egos as much as possible before I left. “Well, the credit union says the loan value is $5375. In fact,” I looked at my watch and saw it was 8:15 p.m., “I can call the credit union to check and make sure.”

“Yeah,” he said in a more uplifting voice, “I’d like to do that cause I was told the loan value was more like $5800. I believe the girl’s name was Leslie.”

Our wives interrupted us to say the credit union closed at 8:00 p.m. but Phil and I were determined to see this quest to the end. Of course, Phil called and no one answered.

He turned to me. “Why don’t you guys go home and think this over. You can come back and drive the car all you want while you’re trying to make up your mind. I don’t believe that other family is going to buy the car real soon but I’ll let you know if they make an offer.” [Phil had informed me the day before that one other family had made serious inquiries about the car but they had to sell one of their cars before they could buy this one. From the conversation, I had gathered that the person in that family that would be driving the car was not a connoisseur of fine automobiles like Phil had gotten the impression I was.] As we left the house, Phil and his wife said they wanted to put some trees in their brand‑new bare yard. My wife and I offered them some trees from our yard whenever they wanted them.

On the way home, my wife commented that she felt I had never clearly made my offer of $5375.

I talked to Phil on the phone a few days later and he said that after “going over the figures,” he could offer me the car for $5750. I thanked him. Meanwhile, he had expressed an interest in working for ADS where I worked because he was fluent in French and ADS was beginning to expand into France. He brought his résumé by work a day or so later and I gave it to one of the company founders who was handling the French project.

A week or so passed and Phil called me one morning at work. He asked if I was still interested because the other family was. I told him my wife and I had decided we couldn’t afford the car. I repeated the conversation to my wife later in the day and she reminded me that I had never officially offered him $5375. I called Phil’s office and left a message that if the other family lost interest, I could offer $5375.

By chance, the Nissan died on the way home. Driving back and forth to work during the past two weeks, I had had problems with the Nissan sputtering, dying, and starting back up while at highway speeds. I got my wife to pick me up. As we drove home, I told her I made an offer of $5375. She shocked me by stating that she thought we had discussed going up to $5500. As soon as we got home I called Phil’s house and left a message on his answering machine offering him the $5500. I sat on the couch and waited for his call.

They say you know the moment when the light from heaven shines down on you and blesses your life for eternity. Usually, the moment comes when you least expect it but some people are fortunate enough to anticipate the moment and savor every minute when it comes. Well, the light from heaven came on for me the moment I grabbed up the phone before even one ring had ended.

“Hello?”

“Bruce, this is Phil. I accept your offer.”

Millions of slot machines in my head hit jackpot at the same time. Giant boulders fell off my shoulder. I looked over at my wife and excitedly whispered, “It’s Phil. He accepts the offer.”

Needless to say, I have my piece of heaven now. If tomorrow someone took the car away from me, it wouldn’t matter. I have physically been able to get my hands on my dream and make it 100% reality. Now I’ve just got to figure out which trees Phil and his wife can have out of our yard.

Another Break or Pause Sometimes called a Chapter

Two weeks later, Phil called me.

“So, how’s the car?”

“Great! I’ve had fun with it.”

“That’s good. Hey, one thing I forgot to mention to you. Now that you have an Alfa Romeo Spider, you’ve got to get something else.”

“Oh yeah. What’s that?”

“Mrs. Robinson.”

“Funny.”

“No, seriously, you are responsible for keeping up the tradition.”

“I’ll think about it, Phil. Hang on a second. I think I have a call coming in.”

“Sure.”

I clicked the phone. “Hello?”

“Bruce.”

“Hey, Semina. How’s it going?”

“Good. Look, I’m on the road with my daughter. We’re on our way to tour some antebellum homes in Mississippi. What are you doing?”

“I’m on the phone with the guy who sold me the Alfa Romeo Spider.”

“Oh, sorry. I can hang up. Call me when you get off the phone with him.”

“Will do.”

I clicked the phone. “Sorry about that, Phil.”

“No problem. Now, don’t forget what I told you.”

“Absolutely.”



Chapter Numbering Systems are for the Readers, not Writers

“What are you doing here?”

I had parked the Spider, walked up to the building and rang the doorbell without thinking about what I was doing. I wanted to step in off the bricked side entrance but she held the door, hesitant in her actions, her eyes telling she wanted me to enter. “You called, didn’t you?”

“I did?” Semina smiled. She stepped back and motioned me inside. “Tell me what I said.”

Instead of words, I let my bear hug speak my mind. Semina let go of the door and hugged me back. She sighed in my ear. “Mmmm,” was all I could muster in return.

I pushed the door behind me with one hand while holding her lower back with my other hand. “What did you say? Well…I seem to remember a sad voice…lonely…not quite desperate…”

“Mm-hmm,” Semina purred in my ear. She leaned her head back and warmed my insides with her radiant smirk. “I might have sounded something like that. In no way was I inviting you over here.”

I laughed. “At least not on purpose. Not in any way that someone eavesdropping on the phone would hear.”

Semina tapped me on the nose. “You’re a mind reader. Of course I knew that.”

“So, where’s your daughter?”

“Oh, she was bored and went out for a drink. Why? Wait, I know why.” Semina let go of me and put her hands on her hips. “You wanted to see her instead of me, didn’t you?”

“I…uh…”

“And here I thought I had you to myself for once.” Semina turned and looked at me over her shoulder with a scolding look on her face.

I slapped myself mentally for responding too slowly. “No, seriously, I just didn’t know what to say. Your daughter is such a reflection of you that I can’t say I wouldn’t be glad to see her but I didn’t drive half the day in hopes of seeing her. However, I figured that with the both of you on the road taking a tour of antebellum homes that I had a high percentage chance of spending part of the evening with both of you.”

Semina flipped a hand at me. “You’re just saying that.”

“Well, of course I am…”

Semina gave me a mock shocked look.

I reached out and pulled her to me. “But we’re wasting time standing here talking.”

Semina pressed her nose against mine. “And what do you propose we do instead of talking? Hmm?”

I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I had read all the signs. I knew I was right about our feelings for each other. But feelings had gotten me into trouble before. And now?

“To be honest, I could imagine us sitting down and having a nice, long, thoroughly enjoyable, absolutely exhilarating, totally exhausting, wonderfully new…” I paused.

“What, for goodness sake?!”

“Conversation.”

“So could I.” Semina grabbed my hand and led me into the kitchen. “What do you think of this place?”

“Not bad. I must say, I like your idea of getting this luxury apartment instead of a hotel room. It seems so much more intimate.”

Semina squeezed my hand. “You said ‘intimate.’”

“So I did.”

“As in conversation, of course.”

“What else?”

Semina let go of my hand and opened a cabinet. “You want a cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

While Semina poured hot water from the tea kettle, I sat on a barstool and admired her body. Although Semina had just recently turned 62, she kept her body in the shape of a 40-year old.  She had pulled her cherry-brown hair up with a clip. She wore a green wraparound blouse highlighted with chartreuse lace around the neckline which made the freckles on the top of her back seem to sparkle. A pair of light-brown pants complimented her hourglass figure. She stood 5”1” in her bare feet, her toenails painted bright pink.

Semina handed me the steaming cup. “I hope you like rosehip tea. I hate drinking caffeinated tea this late at night and had already started brewing the rosehip tea before you got here. In fact, I was just sitting down to read one of your stories before I heard the doorbell ring.”

“Really?”

“Yes. You send me so much stuff to read that you’ve written that I don’t have time to read it all. I don’t know how you live a life, working all day and spending time with your wife at night, and then still have time to write.”

“I write in spurts.”

“I see. So are you planning to turn this evening into a story?”

“Depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“If it gets interesting.”

“I see.” Semina picked up her cup of tea and walked into the living room. Watching her walk past me, I realized that she walked as if she had a book on top of her head. She didn’t sway her hips or bend her spine. She walked a straight line, a line that I stood up and followed to the sofa.

Semina patted the cushion next to her. “Have a seat. I want to see if I can make this interesting. Or do I? If it gets too interesting, maybe I don’t want to see it in print.”

I sat down next to Semina and put my arm on the back of the sofa behind her.

Her brown eyes focused on mine. “What if I asked you not to write any of this down?”

“Well…you could.”

“But you would anyway, wouldn’t you?”

I shrugged.

“Just as I thought. So what’s going on here?”

I lifted my arm and rubbed the back of Semina’s neck. “I don’t know. I came here because I was worried about you. You did such a good job of scaring me on the phone. After our last talk at your step-mother’s house, I thought that you might do something you’d regret.”

“Regret? Not me. Regret’s not in either one of our dictionaries. I just had some things to say to you that I had to put in words that didn’t come out right. Too many prying ears.”

I nodded and continued to rub Semina’s neck. She closed her eyes and rolled her head around. I slid my hand from her neck over to her left shoulder and started rubbing the top of her shoulder blade. Semina’s muscles melted under my fingertips, the tension slipping away. She dropped her shoulder to let her blouse slide down her arm a little. I took the hint and massaged the top of her arm. Finally, Semina completely relaxed and fell against me. I looked down at the top of her head as I wrapped my arm across her stomach.

“This, Bruce, is what I think of as interesting. How about you?”

“Maybe.”

Semina slapped my arm. “’Maybe.’ Well, I’d hate to think what you call interesting then.”

I sipped the tea and placed my chin on her head. I wondered which story of mine she had planned to read. I looked around the room. On a table across the way I could just make out the title. It looked like one of my unfinished, semi-true stories, “Who Loves A Good Mystery?”

Who Loves A Good Mystery?

I killed an 18-year old man in 1980. Was it deliberate? I don’t know. But I can tell you the taste of killing sticks to the roof of your mouth and sweetens your tongue. I salivate just thinking about it. Once you know you can kill, you add murder to your list of possible future actions. You want to taste those sugary juices again. You spend time wondering about the aftermath and whether you wanna get caught the next time you kill. I came close to killing another man, the first time in 1985 and the second in 1991. I couldn’t come up with a good way to hide the body and didn’t want to get caught so I put off killing that man. I sometimes wish I had killed him.

Wishing doesn’t make it so.

Last night, I told Lee about my hunger to kill again. He watched my Adam’s apple move up and down. I kept swallowing, trying to keep from drooling. He smiled insanely.

I like Lee because he has no hold on reality. He knows he lives in this universe but he doesn’t understand the concept of consequences. He just thinks that whatever he does happens in a vacuum. That’s why I keep Lee locked up at the house.

I had watched Lee sitting in the front bedroom window this morning. He stared at a cackle of crows flying from treetop to treetop in the woods outside our house. He laughed and called out to the crows as if he was caught up in their conversation, a bunch of chitchat about who was boss. He curled up on the ledge of the window. Or rather, he perched. He turned to me and grinned. I knew he thought he was sitting in a crow’s nest. I also knew he was probably pooping in his pants, oblivious to the fact that someone, more than likely me, would have to clean up the mess.

Lee sat in the living room this afternoon, his butt numb from sitting too long in front of the television. He’d just finished watching the movie, “The Nomi Song,” about a German falsetto singer named Klaus ‘Nomi’ Sperber who dressed and acted like Joel Grey from “Cabaret.”

Lee told me that Elizabeth Berkley, the former cute girl on TV’s “Saved by the Bell,” played the tart named Nomi Malone in the movie, “Showgirls,” but that’s the only trait the two Nomis have in common. Unless, of course, you consider Klaus Nomi a tart, too. From the little bit I’d seen of the movie, Klaus certainly had a unique talent but not one that anyone in dull Suburbia would come to appreciate.

Nomi lived in a subculture only slightly experienced by Lee, filled with drugs, punk rock and androgyny. When Lee lived in the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville in the early 1980s, his neighbors acted somewhat like Nomi’s unconventional friends. For instance, “Chi Chi,” a cross-dressing singer, lived with his sister/girlfriend next door to Lee on Laurel Avenue. Most of Lee’s Fort Sanders’ neighbors have gone on to conventional middle class lives. Some of them, like Rus Harper, still live the New Wave Bohemian lifestyle in the Knoxville area, singing punk rock at local dives. At least in Rus’ case, there was never the excuse of a bourgeois life to fall back to.

Lee and I roomed together one summer in Fort Sanders. We had run into each other at a party on Laurel Avenue. Our mutual friend, Vincent, sold drugs to pay for his master’s degree classes in geography. Lee acted as Vincent’s bouncer/bodyguard and greeted me at the door to Vincent’s second floor apartment, a popular hangout and easy place to keep a lookout for the cops. Right from the start, Lee didn’t trust me. He suspected me of being a nark, even though I was there to score some weed. I guess it’s the conservative clothes I wear – button-down shirt and khaki pants – the same type of clothes I’ve worn since high school. With the right attitude, you can get by with that outfit anywhere, from a corporate board room to the barrios of LA.

Lee still doesn’t trust me but he knows I feed him, clothe him and give him shelter. I take him on walks around the subdivisions late at night when we’re least likely to run into anyone.

He just looked at me. “Whatcha doing?”

“I’m typing.”

“You writing a letter to the cops?”

“No. I’m writing a story.”

Lee pushed a finger up his nose and dug around. He pulled the finger out of his nose and wiped it on the carpet. He ambled across the room to the television. “Why is the TV not on?”

“I turned it off so I could concentrate on my writing.”

“You fucking with me? I mean, what the hell difference does it make if the TV’s on or off? It’s just a piece of furniture. You don’t turn the lamp on the end table on or off just to concentrate on the TV, do you?”

I shook my head.

“Then turn on the damn TV. I wanna watch something besides a blank screen.”

I shook my head. “How ‘bout you go out to the sunroom, instead? It’s going to rain. I’m sure you’ll find some interesting sound patterns to play with coming off the roof.”

“What about we kill someone, instead?” Lee hooted out loud. “Yeah, why don’t we knock off the first person we see?”

“I like your thinking. But then how are we going to hide the evidence?”

“Man, that’s all you ever say. Fuck the evidence. People kill in cold blood every minute of every day. You think anybody cares about ‘evidence’?”

“I do.” I turned to the computer, trying to get back to the story about the Old Man of Scottsboro, an ancient fellow I met at the Blue Willow Café in downtown Scottsboro who’d delivered newspapers back when the first airplane landed in the outskirts of town between the two World Wars, whose Alzheimer’s disease had wiped out all short-term memory, leaving someone like me plenty of time to have a story repeated enough times that I got a few different angles on the history of the town and its people.

But Lee was right. It was time to kill again. I could taste yeast doughnuts and peppermint candy on my lips. I was salivating like a bulldog and beaming from ear to ear.

Should we commit a random act of violence or plan it out this time?

I walked out the front door and watched the first drops of rain plastering the fall leaves to the wooden porch. A woodpecker chattered nearby. The smell of decaying leaves filled my mind’s eye with the desire to bury something.

I hollered at Lee. “Hey, bud, it’s getting dark! Put on your shoes. It’s time!”

I put on a windbreaker and grabbed a pitching wedge golf club I kept next to the front door. When Lee joined me, I handed him his old raincoat and put the golf club in his hand. As we stepped outside, I picked up a small sledgehammer I’d been using to pound down some protruding nails on the porch.

Thunder rumbled across the sky. The rain picked up, roaring in the leaves around us.

Lee stomped his feet on the porch. “Yee-haw!”

I laughed. “You betcha. Now let’s go hunting.”

We followed a path out around the back of the house that led to the ridge of a wooded hill. From the large bald on top of the ridge, we could observe the neighborhood. Several subdivisions had sprung up in Big Cove over the past 10 years. Twenty-three, to be exact. Lee liked that number. I never told him that 23 was a number many numerology fanatics obsessed about. I just focused on the fact that so many subdivisions gave us plenty of random victims to choose from.

I pointed out a couple of golf carts that were making a beeline from the 13th hole to a shelter not far below us. Lee nodded and followed me as I ran down the hill. We could get to the shelter ahead of the golfers and hide.

Lightning struck a tree 40 yards from us. Lee let out a war cry and raced down the hill ahead of me.

I slipped on a rock and fell backwards on my butt. As I stood up, I realized I would not catch up with Lee before he started his attack. However, I wanted my kill, too.

As Lee ran toward the shelter, I changed directions and headed through the woods toward the second golf cart.

We reached our targets at the same time.

Lee walked around the shelter and waved his golf club at the driver of the first golf cart. The driver stepped out to greet Lee.

I jumped out of the woods and approached just as the driver of the second cart was coming to a stop. We nodded at each other while the driver stepped out of the cart.

Lightning struck the hill behind us again and lit up the shelter. The look of shock on the driver’s face stuck in my mind like a bad Polaroid picture as I swung the sledgehammer around and slammed it into the woman’s face.

Lee had already bludgeoned the male driver once, knocking the man unconscious. He looked at me and howled. I gestured at the vehicles. Lee nodded. We grabbed the bodies and set them up in the golf carts.

We hauled ass in the carts back toward the crest of a sand trap behind the 13th hole.

I stopped in front of the sand trap and set the woman down in the sand. I pushed the golf cart so that the right wheel rolled over and crushed her head and then shoved the cart over. Lee repeated the action with his man.

We walked down to the creek and washed off our tools, our blunt instruments, if you will. I took several drinks of water to wash down the taste of dessert in my mouth.

Lee pounded me on the back. “Evidence! What evidence? Man, oh man…who loves a good mystery, huh?”

I smiled and flashed my eyes. “Yep. Doesn’t get any sweeter than that.”

We stepped into the shallow creek and waded upstream until we got to the golf cart bridge. We carefully walked out on the bank and ran down the pebbled cart path through the pouring rain to the woods behind our house.

I let Lee into the house and took him to the bathroom to remove his wet clothes and get him to wash the poop that had run down his legs. While he took a shower, I returned to the computer to finish the story about the Scottsboro boy who had learned to fly a plane from a couple of barnstormers a few summers before WWII broke out.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Notes during Mrs. Lindy’s Recovery of a Mental Breakdown

9 November 2007

Semina,

I had a discussion with Junior in a dream last night. We worked on a platform in space, in orbit around Earth, and talked about the limited means with which he and I could communicate. We could talk in outer space. We could talk in dreams. We could no longer talk together when I was awake on the planet. As we talked, we moved some old modules around that were leftovers from the Space Lab days but were being used to construct a new science platform for private industry, all of our movements at a snail’s pace because of the lack of Earth-like gravity. Never did I fully realize the consequences of the “equal and opposite” reaction that occurs when you make a movement in the gravity-free vacuum of space. Junior said he wished he could finish the work on the new gamma ray experiment but knew all would go as well as could be expected without him. He seemed to be hanging around Earth to see if others were picking up his work. Although he didn’t say it, I got the impression Junior was pleased with the number of people who had volunteered to continue on the threads he had built in his life – NASA, church, home life – clear signs that he’d lived a successful life.

A few weeks ago, when Mrs. Lindy seemed down and despondent at Rogersville Hospital, I sat and talked with her while you and Karen were out. At one point, my eyes tricked me and saw a wisp of nearly transparent, smoke-like, white cloth pass out of Mrs. Lindy and leave the hospital room. At the same time, the thought came to me that up to that point I had no clue how to act as the elder male but it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have to act alone. I could take the comfort that I pretty much knew how Junior or Mr. Lindy would have acted if they were there to take care of Mrs. Lindy. And so, from that point forward, I accepted responsibility for the role of elder male (of course, still depending on the elder female, Karen, for important decisions).

At the same time, I want to leave this life I lead. I have devoted over 22 years of my life, almost half my life, to a small sector of our society that I don’t believe in. I have never fully rejected the WASP life but neither have I fully participated in it, even though I tried. I tried the weekly church activities – Sunday school, choir, etc. – but got turned off by the goody two-shoes types. I don’t have a burning desire to help those perceived as less fortunate. I believe we get what we deserve. Those who want a better life will find a way to get it. Those who don’t care what they have will end up with whatever no one else wants or cares about.

Life is a collision of stronger forces and weaker forces. The strong do not “win” and the weak do not “lose” – the strong just have a bigger impact on the weak than the weak have on the strong but both forces are changed and influenced by the other.

I have more to say to you but will wait until the weekend has passed and hope I remember what I had to say before I bury my comments to you within a story.

 

26 October 2007

Semina, Typing these notes on the little handheld computer so brevity is key. Thanks for putting up with Karen and me for a few days while you supported Mrs. Lindy during this time of recovery.

Mrs. L does not like the food here at Asbury Place – Kingsport, “a continuing care network.” I believe you would approve of Mrs. L’s assessment of the less-than-fresh frozen and reheated food, which should serve as encouragement for her to return to her house where she can eat fresh food. Mrs. L has improved dramatically. She can walk to the bathroom by herself but still needs help with cleaning herself off. She wears street clothes during the day and does not stay in bed as much as she used to. She has talked about going out of the room and participating in the group activities here — the selection of activities (gospel music singing and impersonator performances (Elvis and June and Johnny Cash, for instance)) limits her enthusiasm for joining the others. The physical therapist, Terri (an energetic physically fit woman in her late 20s or early 30s), just took Mrs. L for a walk. Meanwhile, Karen has gone off to meet the social services coordinator, Amanda, to figure out what we can do for Mrs. L’s social support at home, including medical services, cooked meals, housesitting, etc., after she gets well enough to return home, of course.

A few days ago I would not have expected Mrs. L to return home but now, after eating good meals and getting daily exercise, Mrs. L has come closer to her old self again. A miracle? Perhaps.

I give the staff here credit for focusing on Mrs. L’s goals. About 15 minutes after the physical therapist brought Mrs. L back to the room, walking her 500 feet up and down the hall, the occupational therapist, Paul, came in to work with Mrs. L to improve her balance skills, which meant going back to the exercise room to practice static and dynamic sitting up, standing and walking skills.

In those 15 minutes between workout sessions, Mrs. L told me that she couldn’t believe two days ago she felt she would never return home again. Now she clearly sees she’ll be able to return home but first must get fully up-to-speed in the eyes of the medical staff here. So much of what she’s going through reminds me of the nervous breakdown episodes experienced and retold by famous writers and/or their biographers.

Some of the subjects I’d like to cover in this letter:

  • Movies – The Number 23, Pi
  • Adam and Eve stageplay (I haven’t written it down because although the story is funny the Adam-and-Eve concept supports a set of religious myths that I don’t believe in)
  • Installation of shower in Mrs. Lindy’s master bedroom
  • NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)
  • Your trips to Indonesia, Portugal, South America
  • Discussion of religion/evolution while tired
  • Thanking you for positive effect of glucosamine/chondroitin and flax seed

19 October 2007

Here in Rogersville, spending the night on the corner of Richardson/Portrum, waiting for Mom Lindy’s post-hospital-stay future. She should return to this home from the hospital tomorrow. Karen has stayed with her mother at least some part of every day this week, from our late afternoon stop on Mrs. Lindy’s first day in the hospital on Sunday. I have visited every day, although I have not spent the whole day.

Thursday, I picked up Mom in Colonial Heights and met her personal friend and lawyer, Miller, at the Pine Fossil site in Pine, TN around noon. We toured the museum and the archaeological site. I marveled at the small size of the main dig site, about 20-feet wide by 30-feet long and 10 feet deep. The whole site encompasses about five acres. The tour guide, who also serves as a paid volunteer for the dig, told us they estimate 100 years’ time to complete the excavation, assuming funding will continue to cover the work needed to pay for equipment and professional diggers.

Semina Satyr flew in to Memphis from Philadelphia on Wednesday evening. She then drove from Memphis to Rogersville yesterday. She and Karen are both tired.

Semina and I talked today about many subjects, from her daughter’s new company, Satyr Media Management LLC, to home health care or an assisted living facility for Mom Lindy/Mrs. Lindy/Nanny, throwing in evolution and the need for organized ethical training (in the former guise of religion) for families with children.

 

22 October 2007

Sitting with Mrs. Lindy in room 114 of Hawkins County Memorial Hospital. Dr. Patel stopped by earlier today. His assessment is that Mrs. L will go to Baysmont nursing home in Kingsport for 21 days of physical therapy to see if we can get her strong enough to return to her house. My assessment is that Mrs. L does not want to live alone at her house anymore, possibly because of the memory of the pain she suffered in the days leading up to her “fall” Saturday night when she bent over and could not get back up, scooting herself along the floor to the bedroom and then back to the bathroom where she spent the night, using towels as a pillow.

Mrs. L described to me the history of some of the furniture in her house, wanting me to make sure I understood which pieces should go to family members, leaving other stuff to be sold at auction as needed. I took notes in my pocket moleskine. The only thing I didn’t record was the extension ladder in the crawl space — Mrs. B said I could take the ladder if I wanted to. There are also soda bottles in the storage cabin that Karen should take out. I already removed the dinner bell that Mrs. L wants to give to her friend, Henna. The bell has a ’14’ on it – Karen wants to research the Internet about the bell before we give it to Henna. What else did she mention? Hmm…

 

23 October 2007

Hawkins County Memorial Hospital. Visitor Lounge, called the Planetree Kitchen. Watched a heavyset family come in and grab all the snacks for themselves — hands full of bags of chips, cookies and anything else not nailed down. Semina and I were laughing so hard at the image of pigs at a trough. Admittedly, I am somewhat conceited and feel that I live a life above such thoughts, both the thoughts of “stealing” gobs of free food and of thinking less of the folks who took the food. Signs in this room clearly state the visitors should take what they need, implying that only one or two items be removed at a time. The Heavyweights took enough food to provide themselves with a salty, preservative-filled complete lunch, very much the sign of folks on welfare who have lost the…what, sense of pride of self-sufficiency? As my friend Semina said, the Heavyweights swept in “like a swarm of locust.” The cupboards are bare. Three, four, five signs designate the sharing of food — perhaps the Heavyweights can’t read?

26 October 2007

Asbury Place – Kingsport. Mrs. L in room 34 of the rehabilitation center portion of this facility. Her condition has improved considerably. She says she’s ready to leave. The bad food here helps to convince her to go home.

In case you never watch it, here are some memorable quotes from the movie, Pi (1998)

Maximillian Cohen: Something’s going on. It has to do with that number. There’s an answer in that number.

Maximillian Cohen: 11:15, restate my assumptions: 1. Mathematics is the language of nature. 2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. 3. If you graph these numbers, patterns emerge. Therefore: There are patterns everywhere in nature.

Maximillian Cohen: Restate my assumptions: One, Mathematics is the language of nature. Two, Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers. Three: If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge. Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature. Evidence: The cycling of disease epidemics; the wax and wane of caribou populations; sun spot cycles; the rise and fall of the Nile. So, what about the stock market? The universe of numbers that represents the global economy. Millions of hands at work, billions of minds. A vast network, screaming with life. An organism. A natural organism. My hypothesis: Within the stock market, there is a pattern as well… Right in front of me… hiding behind the numbers. Always has been.

Maximillian Cohen: 9:13, Personal note: When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So once when I was six, I did. The doctors didn’t know if my eyes would ever heal. I was terrified, alone in that darkness. Slowly daylight crept in through the bandages, and I could see, but something else had changed inside of me. That day I had my first headache.

[repeated line]
Maximillian Cohen: When I was a little kid, my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so when I was six I did…

Sol Robeson: This is insanity, Max.
Maximillian Cohen: Or maybe it’s genius.

Marcy Dawson: It’s survival of the fittest, Max, and we’ve got the fucking gun.

Marcy Dawson: [to Max] You don’t understand it, do you? I don’t give a shit about you! I only care about what’s in your fucking head! If you won’t help us, help yourself. We are forced to comply to the laws of nature. Survival of the fittest Max, and we’ve got the fucking gun!

Rabbi Cohen: Who do you think you are? You are only a vessel from our god. You are carrying a delivery that was meant for us.
Maximillian Cohen: It was given to me.

Sol Robeson: There will be no order, only chaos.

Maximillian Cohen: I’m trying to understand our world. I don’t deal with petty materialists like you.

Maximillian Cohen: Happy birthday, Euclid.

Sol Robeson: Have you met Archimedes? The one with the black spots, you see? You remember Archimedes of Syracuse, eh? The king asks Archimedes to determine if a present he’s received is actually solid gold. Unsolved problem at the time. It tortures the great Greek mathematician for weeks – insomnia haunts him and he twists and turns in his bed for nights on end. Finally, his equally exhausted wife – she’s forced to share a bed with this genius – convinces him to take a bath to relax. While he’s entering the tub, Archimedes notices the bath water rise. Displacement, a way to determine volume, and that’s a way to determine density – weight over volume. And thus, Archimedes solves the problem. He screams “Eureka” and he is so overwhelmed he runs dripping naked through the streets to the king’s palace to report his discovery.

Maximillian Cohen: Studying the pattern made Euclid conscious of itself. I had to… Before it died it spit out the number. That consciousness is the number?
Sol Robeson: No, Max. It’s only a nasty bug.
Maximillian Cohen: It’s more than that, Sol.
Sol Robeson: No, it’s not. It’s a dead end. There’s nothing there.
Maximillian Cohen: It’s a door, Sol. It’s a door.
Sol Robeson: A door at the front of a cliff. You’re driving yourself over the edge.

Sol Robeson: Hold on. You have to slow down. You’re losing it. You have to take a breath. Listen to yourself. You’re connecting a computer bug I had with a computer bug you might have had and some religious hogwash. You want to find the number 216 in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. 216 steps from a mere street corner to your front door. 216 seconds you spend riding on the elevator. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere.

Lenny Meyer: Each letter’s a number. Like the Hebrew A, Alef is 1. B, Bet is 2. You understand? But look at this. The numbers are inter-related. Like take the Hebrew word for father, ‘Ab’ – Alef Bet… 1, 2 equals 3. Alright? Hebrew word for mother, ’em’ – Alef Mem… 1, 40 equals 41. Sum of 3 and 41… 44. Alright? Now, Hebrew word for child, alright, mother… father… child, ‘Yeled’ – that’s 10, 30, and 4… 44.

Maximillian Cohen: 12:50, press Return.

Maximillian Cohen: Failed treatments to date: Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, adrenalin injections, high dose ibuprofen, steroids, Trager Mentastics, violent exercise, cafergot suppositories, caffeine, acupuncture, marijuana, Percodan, Midrine, Tenormin, Sansert, homeopathics. No results. No results…

Lenny Meyer: You gave it to those Wall Street bastards?

Maximillian Cohen: 10:15, personal note: It’s fair to say I’m stepping out on a limb, but I am on the edge and that’s where it happens.

Maximillian Cohen: My new hypothesis: If we’re built from Spirals while living in a giant Spiral, then is it possible that everything we put our hands to is infused with the Spiral?

Sol Robeson: The Ancient Japanese considered the Go board to be a microcosm of the universe. Although when it is empty it appears to be simple and ordered, in fact, the possibilities of gameplay are endless. They say that no two Go games have ever been alike. Just like snowflakes. So, the Go board actually represents an extremely complex and chaotic universe.

Lenny Meyer: The Torah is just a long string of numbers. Some say that it’s a code sent to us from God.

Sol Robeson: That is the truth of our world, Max. It can’t be easily summed up with math.

Maximillian Cohen: 9:22, Personal note: When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so once when I was six, I did. At first the brightness was overwhelming, but I had seen that before. I kept looking, forcing myself not to blink, and then the brightness began to dissolve. My pupils shrunk to pinholes and everything came into focus and for a moment I understood.

Maximillian Cohen: If the number’s there I’ll find it!

Sol Robeson: As soon as you discard scientific rigor, you’re no longer a mathematician, you’re a numerologist.

 

2007-10-18

Putting away the dreams of my youth to explore grown-up dreams

What I can remember from a vivid dream last night… A party. Like a cross between a New Year’s Eve celebration and a wedding. Something had happened beforehand that led to the party but that part of the dream has faded to nothingness.

At the party, five or six friends and I stood around discussing the upcoming election which would take place during the party. We would write votes on McDonald’s ketchup packets, Taco Bell hot sauce packets or Pizza Hut packets of hot pepper seeds. The election? I’m not sure. A local politician election/popularity contest, perhaps.

We stood on the dance floor and watched other people dancing. At first, the people with me were anonymous friends but eventually I realized that one of the friends was Helen. We talked and danced together, getting lost to time. Even though I didn’t care about it, Helen did not want to miss the election so we stopped dancing long enough for her to gather votes from the people around us. I held on to my vote and the votes of two people near me who didn’t care to vote, either. When Helen walked away, I threw my packet of hot pepper seeds at her. The people with me asked me not to throw their ketchup packs at her in case they would break open so I threw them on the floor.

After Helen returned, the people with us turned into Helen’s husband, her sister Stacy and her husband, a guy from high school who hung out with Helen and me and once dated Stacy but died a long time ago (struck by lightning while out on the golf course), and another person who actively served in the Army.

We watched the announcement of the winners. We were not surprised that none of us had voted for the person who won the major office – he was a popular local candidate and none of us had lived in the area in a long time.

Helen and I danced some more while her husband stood and talked with the other men. Helen and I talked about our lives. She had no regrets about her choices even though she knew that other possibilities existed and might have made her life more exciting but less filling. We stopped dancing as the party wound down. I felt like the party signified an ending of higher magnitude. The party appeared to be a major celebration in my life, like a going-away party or last major event in my life that would garner having a party (such as the wedding of the youngest member of my family or a party honoring my graduation from a college (master’s degree or Ph.D.) and it was obvious I would not attain a higher degree). Helen and I would probably never dance together again. I wanted to tell her what I was feeling but didn’t want to spoil the moment even though I knew she knew what I was thinking.

Helen saw that the military man had convinced her husband and brother in-law to join the Army.

Helen and I walked out of the dance area together. The others walked out with us but slightly behind us.

Although the original dance floor had been a ballroom or large hotel lobby, at this point the dance area appeared to be a parking lot or courtyard surrounded by a high gate which was cracked open to let the revelers walk out to the street. I could see the band had performed on a temporary rock concert stage built next to a tall building. I felt like we were walking back out onto the street of a large city – NYC, New Orleans or Chicago.

As we walked out to the street, Helen said that in just a short while her husband would be leaving to join the Army and her life would change. I told her I figured we would never dance together again. Helen nodded her head to acknowledge what I was saying. She agreed that our lives had solidified to the point where we should not cross paths again. At least up until the future Army enrollment by her husband. I thought about the possibilities – Helen alone with teenage kids, living in Jacksonville, Florida, her parents coming to visit often so they could enjoy their grandkids, Stacy coming with her kids to visit and possibly stay… I thought about what I wanted to happen in the next stage of my life – exploring and writing adventures about foreign cities with a witty, literate, cultured woman by my side. Helen would continue living the life she had chosen. Apparently, as much as a part of me still imagined a life with Helen (at least in my dreams every once in a while), I had other plans.

29 October 2007

My heart is skipping beats today. Don’t know why. I used rubber cement to seal the vinyl flooring next to the bathtub in the guest bathroom of Mrs. L’s house this morning. However, it’s almost 2:30 p.m. Would the glue fumes cause heart arrhythmia a few hours later? Or is it my thoughts of Semina?

November 2007

Note to fellow NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) writer in online forum, in response to his request for a local ghost story:

Zeus,

I grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, a small town in east Tennessee that developed along the Holston River. A funny ghost story happened to a friend of mine that I’ve always wanted to put in print but never found the opportunity.

In high school, a semi-popular spot to go “parking” was under a river bridge overpass. Only one problem kept the spot from being more popular — the howling ghost of a woman who had allegedly died under the bridge many years ago and still wandered the dirt road under the bridge.

One Saturday evening, my buddy took his girlfriend to the underpass in hopes of getting past third base and going all the way to home, as we said back then. He had even stolen a condom from his father’s bureau. Just as things got hot and clothes were coming off, the couple heard the howling. Now my buddy didn’t believe in ghosts. That’s why he decided to go parking at the underpass, knowing full well that the howling was probably just wind whistling through the concrete-and-steel trusses of the bridge.

He looked up over the edge of the rear gate of his family station wagon and just about peed on his girlfriend. About 20 yards away he clearly saw a white ghostlike creature coming at them from the other end of the overpass. My buddy pulled his pants up (he, like many of us, always kept one pant leg on just for such an emergency) and climbed over the seats to drive away. He looked in the rearview mirror and swore the ghost was following them up until they got back up on the main road.

A bunch of us guys went with him to check out the “ghost,” figuring it was a trick of light or something that scared him and subconsciously kept him from having sex. We wandered around the parking area and didn’t find much, except beer bottles and used condoms, of course. I even took a casual date to the parking spot. We made out in the car — kissing and blind groping but no sex. No apparition appeared.

Mike took his girlfriend, who had not seen the ghost, back to the underpass. Once again they got to the part where it was time to slip on the condom. This time, both of them heard and saw the ghost. They hurriedly dressed and drove away again, never to return to the underpass.

To this day, Mike swears by this story. I never had the chance to ask the girlfriend about it and just wonder if Mike really saw the ghost or made up the story as an excuse to protect the girl’s virginity.

Other people have also sworn they’ve heard and seen the ghost. On windy days, there is a slight low-pitch whistling sound that comes out of the underpass but I wouldn’t call it howling. Also, when the moon is setting, the hanging vines can look like the shadow of arms on one wall of the underpass, waving at the cars parked on the other side.

 

Anyway, I hope you can use this story. There was a book, Skinflicks or Skinflints, that came out years ago, written by a former resident of Kingsport. I wonder if the underpass figured into that book.

Best of luck!

Bruce

2007-11-24

At first he thought he was dreaming. Like the logic of a dream, he found himself standing in front of a line of people in a hallway, queuing up for entry to a show or event. He had stepped into line after a previous adventure, a glorious adventure that he knew he wouldn’t remember, an adventure that he’d never repeat and one of which he had no pictorial evidence or written notes about. No matter. After he stood in line in that hallway where the walls were striped like candy canes or circus tents and the floor sloped up and down like a roller coaster, the previous adventure faded away in the way that adventures will do when they realize they can’t compete with newer, more stupendous adventures that have blown away the minds and matter of all involved.

Neon lights flashed above a hidden doorway. The door swung open and a woman wrapped in purple veils and strings of glittering sequins welcomed the crowd. She announced,

“I see you’ve queued up nicely and we appreciate what you’ve done.

You’ve all shown up for excitement, an experience of fun.

Although you’ve come for individual joy, you’ll see we’re here for him,

This man who’s made it to the front but started back at the rim.

So let’s give him the clap, that’s applause I mean and see what he can do,

For soon he’ll find that what he sought is not what he’ll get through.”

 

The whole crowd around Bruce cheered and clapped. The ones nearest him patted him on the back and congratulated him on his good fortune. Bruce nodded with an embarrassed smile, feeling that he didn’t deserve all the attention for the simple fact he had shoved his way to the front because he was not a person to stand at the back of a queue. In any case, he raised his arm and waved, causing the crowd to cheer and many of them to throw their hats and purses in the air.

Or so he thought. The crowd did not throw their belongings in the air. The air was tinged and charged with so much excitement that like a giant magnet it pulled all loose items up toward the ceiling just to empty itself of the pent up electricity before a lightning bolt appeared. Lightning bolts loved to show up when a bunch of people were gathered – they loved to discharge their energy and scare people with flashes of light and resonating bursts of sound. If pressed, they’d even admit they liked to kill or maim a few people for fun.

The purple genie stepped up onto a portion of wall that had pulled away from the corridor. She waved her arms to get everyone’s attention and to call for silence. As the crowd noise subsided, she spoke,

“And now that you’ve cheered on this man, let’s see what he’s in store,

I wouldn’t want to think you’ve come to learn he’s such a bore.

We’ve already looked inside this frame and whoa! what we have seen,

For this guy is destined for a place that you’ve never been!

Come watch, come join, come play with us, you won’t regret a thing

This game’s for all of you to see, to romp, to jump and sing.

But mind your mind and watch your watch, for all is not to be

Some will get lost, some disappear – it depends on what you’ll see.”

 

The genie spread her arms out wide and the neon signs changed from incoherent swirls into lines of text above pictures of vessels of erotic shapes but wine glasses, goblets and mugs, nonetheless. The genie told the crowd,

“You’d come today to queue up for a shopping extravaganza

But instead you’ve ended up within a bodacious luxe bonanza.

You can pair up, make three or four, but no matter how you end up

You must choose partners not your own and together drink from one cup.”

 

Bruce had been expecting his wife to join him at any moment and thus hesitated to join the other revelers in line who were clambering over the lip of the wall to snatch the glass drinking containers that were being filled with wildly colored liquids by unseen hands and held up for grabs.

A young, brown-skinned woman, wearing an outfit that Bruce had seen on either Rihanna or Beyoncé at a music awards show, put her arms around him and nodded toward an S-shaped liquor decanter that the genie was holding. Bruce reached out his left hand and the genie poured the decanter into a small blown-glass cup that seemed to form around Bruce’s hand instantaneously, taking a curved shape that fit into Bruce’s palm and held a green-and-pink drink. The woman stretched her arms further around Bruce, reminding him again that his wife would appear at any moment, but so far he had an explanation for what his wife would see. The woman placed her hands around Bruce’s hand and pulled the cup to their lips. Bruce realized that the woman’s head, which should have been coming around from one side or the other of his head, instead was coming up through his neck or directly through his head so that her lips were just below his. The woman had conjoined with him in a way that would not take an easy explanation with his wife.

Some days you wake up and realize that you can’t use the sober, rational state of mind in daylight to explain the bizarre behavior of a drunken state of mind the night before when you danced on a bar table and sang Beatles’ tunes in a falsetto voice at the urging of fellow drunkards. So, too, Bruce realized that he’d gone beyond the realm of rationality and gave in to the scene around him.

Bruce tasted the liquid but he could discern no flavor sensation. His tongue turned red. The genie smiled. The young woman’s lips wrapped around his to catch the smallest drop from his wet lips. The genie’s smile widened. Bruce looked up above the wall and noticed a small shelf that had held the genie’s bottle. The neon sign above the shelf read, “Not for Nothing did I choose Magic for this Man”.

The wall swung open, revealing five doors below the five shelves and five neon signs. The crowd broke out of the queue and shuffled toward the doors. The genie pointed people to specific doors. Only Bruce was allowed through the door below the genie. However, after he stepped through the door, he saw that all the doors led to the same corridor but the illusion of stepping through their own special doors gave the members of the crowd a feeling of importance.

Bruce laughed to himself and his companion laughed with him. She slipped out from inside Bruce and ran ahead of him, mingling with and disappearing into the maddened masses. He hadn’t even gotten to know her name, a woman with whom he had truly shared his body and his soul without the luxury of making love in the process.

Bruce stood in the domed area just past the entryway and let the crowd pass by. He saw some people step into doorways nearby. He watched them through the transparent walls as they gathered in bunches to talk. He couldn’t hear their voices but their actions made Bruce think they were excited about the prospects of an upcoming event. Some of them appeared to want to go shopping, looking for grocery carts just inside the doorways.

Bruce got interrupted while recalling this adventure and decided it wasn’t worth telling the rest of it, even though he had learned the secret to life. What was the secret he learned? He found out that science and religion were only words, not ways of life. He found out that a group of business leaders planned to return humanity to the realm of magic by getting rid of political and religious institutions and return us to the ways of magic. Bruce had been let in on the secret based on the premise he would not reveal the business leaders’ plans. But Bruce knew the leaders invited him because they expected him to reveal their plans. Bruce wrote a letter to only one friend, revealing this secret in old-fashioned typewritten text – no emails, no Web sites, no blogs – so that he’d fulfill the leaders’ expectations but not at the scale they expected.

2007-12-06

Yes, I, Bruce had killed an 18-year old kid in 1980. Did I ever tell you whose life, with its preconceived notions and well-defined path to middle-class success, was ended? It was my own. I joined the living dead 27 years ago (or is that the dead living?). I am a ghost.

2007-12-16

A little after 4 a.m. Outside temperature has dropped about 30 deg F from yesterday’s high (69 down to 39). Current temperature is the expected high for today. A cold front has pushed into this part of the Tennessee Valley. I feel restless, the same feeling I experienced when I had a love affair with Sarah in 1985, waking up in the middle of the night thinking about her, wondering if she thought about me at the same time and then finding out the next day that she had also woken up in the middle of the night thinking about me. In 1985, I wondered if two people could send thoughts and feelings to each other through will power alone. Here in 2007, I know that simultaneous thinking defines the desire for people to believe in the same dreams, surrendering individuality for the group – I have no proof that two or more people can exchange signals amongst themselves when not in the presence of one another. Certainly, cell phones, Internet cafes and IM devices have improved communications and replaced smoke signals, telegraph and telephone but none of them originate as human-powered, thought-provoked tools alone. So why am I awake? I wish I knew. Partly, I believe my next novel calls to me in her sleep to wake her up, to gently coax her from her slumber so she can watch me define her lovely shape. Why else would I give up my own REM time, my dream world, my escape from reality? Only a female could get me out of bed on a cold, windy, pre-dawn Sunday to sit in front of a computer screen instead of resting my head on a pillow between my wife and my cats. A demanding female, at that! She grabbed my attention yesterday, encouraged by the warm weather, and insisted I open up my last novel, “Are You With The Program?” She wanted me to finish editing that novel so I can get over it and spend quality time with my new love, whose name hasn’t settled on my tongue just yet but might be something like, “Who Loves A Good Mystery?” I do not know what other writers go through when their novels take hold but my novels want my undivided attention like no jealous lover before them. And they want their own identity – they don’t want to hear they look like a previous lover. They can’t stand ugliness in the form of poor grammar or weak storylines. They want to stand above the crowd on a pedestal like a Venus de Milo or Michelangelo’s David. I promise them nothing but my concentration upon this page.

What does this new novel want from me right now? She wants to know her purpose. Her purpose, as quoted in the local weekly entertainment magazine: “a murder mystery set in the high tech industry of north Alabama,” written by me, president of Pruned Pear Productions. [What I actually said to the writer of the article, “The genre I’ve selected this year is satire.  The novel, “Who Loves A Good Mystery?”, follows the murderous exploits of a clinically insane man who lives and work in the high-tech industry in north Alabama.”] We’ll see if I got my novel’s description right before I’d written many words.

2008-01-13

Killing oneself and dealing with the aftermath. I suppose that’s what we all want to know about. The words said, the tears shed, the ashes spread. The mess to clean up. The lies uncovered. The truth discovered. No one lives to tell about the act.

But suicide befits few in society. And even of those who’ve committed the crime of self-elimination, fewer less earned the right to die by their own hands. The rest misled themselves into believing that death provided a quick ending to a temporarily maddening life.

Yes, I believe that we have the right to kill ourselves. Only those who believe in morality and life-after-mortality will lead you to believe otherwise – they want others to conform to their beliefs so it doesn’t give the misguided youth a well-worn path to a short life. I understand their concerns. Luckily, I didn’t think about suicide until I was in my 20s, when I had a little bit of understanding of the futility and finality of killing the only person I’ve seen in the mirror my whole life.

After 45 years on this planet, after trying several different lifestyles – all of them fitting me like the emperor’s new clothes, leaving me cold and naked – I tire of the thrill of newness for newness’ sake. I have an idea who I might be if I had no constraints, no love of others that overshadows the practice of pure love of self. At the end of my midlife years, I wonder if I could find anything else worth working toward. I’ve run out of ideas. Sure, I just interviewed for a job with Microsoft in Shanghai, China. Sure, I finally created the websites that reflect the dreamed-up creation of my youth, Pruned Pear Productions, with me as president. These objects, these things, make me cold, however much they fulfill dreams I once had.

I can even write novel-length stories now, a feat I never thought possible when I first sat down in front of a typewriter at age 11 and typed my first short story, a detective/love story titled, “The Heartbreak Hotel.” [Where did that story ever end up? One of my parents read the story and was surprised that I had the main character, the detective, use the word, “goddamn.” She/he explained to me the significance of blaspheming the name of God. I responded that it was customary for such characters to use supposed foul language and thus the character, not I, had used the word. I sent a copy of the story to John McGinnis when he lived in Florida at that same age but I’m pretty sure he threw all our correspondence away, as I have done with much of the correspondence of my youth (during a fit of depression in 1985). I still have a letter or two that he and I exchanged at the time.]

I cannot comprehend a person giving more power and control of the body to the characters that pop up in the mind’s eye – people who hear and follow the instructions of the voices in their head. I have always separated the characters’ voices and thoughts from those of my own.

I have devoted less and less of my time to personal musings, setting aside my selfish thoughts to give life to the characters and storylines that flow in and out of my consciousness and dream states. Today, I have no energy for manifestations of fantasy. Instead, I want…

What do I want? If I say I want to die, then I will imagine some reasons for ending my life. Less strain on the resources of the planet, for instance. And if I go, then I leave the planet to a lot of less-deserving humans, or so I think – people who waste and abuse the environment in order to increase the pleasures of the body (living in a big house, driving a big car, taking a big vacation, wallowing in a big office, devouring a big meal, hosting a big party, and filling a big landfill). If I live longer, I will continue to wrap myself up in the guise of one of those less-deserving folks. I have not found a way to break myself of those habits. So I don’t necessarily want to die, I want to break some big, bad habits. Unfortunately, my wife had just tasted the sweetness of taking a big vacation a year or so ago, courtesy of my job, and wants me to go back into the workforce and get a job so she can ride on a big airplane or float on a big boat during a big vacation and satisfy her sweet-big-vacation tooth again.

Do I continue to live on this planet and contribute to the destructive socioeconomic system? I mean, hell, I’m using a device that most likely sucks power from a nearby coal-burning plant in order to backlight the LCD display and allow me to see the letters I’ve typed on this laptop computer, just so I can complain about MY waste of the host planet I was born on.

I had waited until the LCD TV had been sold on eBay so there would be no pressing need of my services to Karen before I took the step to kill myself. With the TV in the hands of a local UPS dropoff, Karen doesn’t need me to do anything for her. After I stopped working, Karen has stopped making love to me. We barely kiss and hardly ever touch each other so I know she doesn’t depend on me for physical solace as much as she used to anymore. I have no close friends (no one I would take with me on vacation, that is), only good acquaintances, people I can trust to share one or two similar interests such as a favorite college football team or favorite automobile maker. My nieces and nephews have reached an age where they do not depend on Uncle Bruce for throwing them in the air or throwing Frisbees with. I have shared what little wisdom I have through letters to them in preparation for my pending demise and the loss of my future advice.

The combination of general malaise, slight depression and the deafening roar of tinnitus in my head has driven me to consider suicide once again. I still have the gun I bought a long time ago but I don’t have any bullets that I can find in the house. Therefore, I guess I have to run by one of the local gun shops and figure out which kind of bullets I want to go through the back of my mouth, pass through my spinal cord and/or brain and exit out the back of my head. I’ll have to figure out where I want this to occur; in other words, who do I want to first see the aftermath of suicide and take responsibility for cleaning up the mess? I don’t know the answer to that question yet. I don’t need a spectacular ending. A poetic ending would only interest the living me (something like floating down the river and becoming turtle food or decomposing in the forest behind my house while feeding carrion eaters like vultures or possums, maybe even the raccoons and skunks I feed outside sometimes).

But it’s not me I want to kill. I just need to kill. The saliva pouring off my lips wants to touch death. I have to satisfy my appetite for annihilation, feed the beast within that rattles my ribcage, wanting to slash and smash, splatter blood and guts. Someone’s. Anyone’s. Anyone’s but mine, that is. Can’t kill the man with the key who lets the beast he named Lee get out every once in a while and hunt for the thrill of it…

Last, though, I’ve got one more story to tell Semina. Then, I can go.

 

Tell Us More About Mom

“Uncle Bruce, Uncle Bruce!”

My niece and nephew cornered me after the whole Colline family had finished eating our annual Christmas meal.

“Yes, guys. What is it?”

“Tell us some more stories!”

“What kind of stories?”

“Tell us more about Mom.”

I sat down in the middle of the living room sofa. Ryan sat on one side of me and Ellen sat on the other side. Bernice, the newest member of the family, walked in as we sat down. She sat down in a chair across the room.

“Yeah, Uncle Bruce, tell us a good one.”

I looked from one to the other and laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Well, I was just thinking. Did I ever tell you about the time your mother lost her shoe?”

“No.” They all leaned forward.

“This one starts on the way to Kendrick’s Creek…”

“Your mother wanted to play with me. I had planned to go creek wading with a neighborhood friend by when I called his house, his mother told me that Mike had been grounded for calling the sheriff and saying that aliens had escaped from the hole in the backyard that he and I had dug as a shortcut to China.”

Ellen looked at me with disbelief. “Aliens?”

“Uh-huh. Of course, Mike had let them escape on purpose. When we dug the hole about 10 feet down, we discovered them. At first, we thought they were dinosaur fossils. Although, to be frank, they looked like old pieces of coral. Only when Mike got a scalpel from his science kit did we get the rude response that only aliens can give!”

Ryan put his hand on my shoulder. “What did they do?”

“What did they do? Why, they squirted us with the most vile substance, a concoction so grotesque that even the world powers won’t mention it when they hold their treaty discussions about banning weapons of poisonous substances like mustard gas.”

Bernice grimaced. “What was it?”

“What else could it be but baby poop mixed with the juice squeezed from old moldy gym shoes and ground up with the rotten scent glands of roadkill skunks.”

“PEE-YOO!”

“Thank goodness I had a cold that day and couldn’t smell it. Mike passed out from the stench so I had to climb out of the hole and go get the old rope out of the barn that his father used to pull half-birthed calves out of cows’ uteruses. On a normal day, the smell of the rope would make your eyelids curl up and crawl back inside your head but I knew I needed something strong to attach to Mike. I went back to the hole and secured one end of the rope to Mike. Then, I drove the lawn tractor out of the barn over to the hole and tied the other end of the rope to the tractor. In the meantime, the aliens had gotten out medical equipment of their own and probed Mike’s toenails for signs of life. To them, the fungus under our nails have more intelligence than us. Just as I climbed back onto the tractor seat to drag out Mike, he shot out of the hole like a movie star driving away from the paparazzi after getting caught taking a five-finger discount at an exclusive designer clothing store. Anyway, after Mike came to his senses, we put a big piece of plywood over the hole to hold the aliens captive.”

Ryan’ curiosity was piqued. “Why…I mean, how did you know they were aliens?”

“Huh? You mean you don’t know the history of our planet?”

Ryan shrugged.

“I guess they’ve watered down World History class since I took it. In any case, the history of the world cannot be told without knowing when aliens arrived. Otherwise, you’d get the perception that humans have made great leaps of understanding with no corresponding evidence of genetic mutation for increase in brain size or function. From my poor memory, I recall the aliens landed, or rather, crash-landed on this planet about 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs. Their guilt over destroying most of the living organisms on Earth drove them to crawl into the ground and hibernate. At first, they breathed the air in the gaps between dirt and sucked the water from the soil. They lay underground for so long, however, they learned to like the comfortable feeling of breathing dirt. They stayed that way until some monkeys started digging holes in Africa and tried to eat the aliens. Seeing that the monkeys were smarter than other animals, the aliens taught the monkeys how to cultivate grains and tame livestock. As the monkeys grew smarter, the aliens then showed the monkeys the concept of geometric shapes. Thus, the science of burying the dead was born because the monkeys reasoned if stinky creatures from holes in the ground can teach monkeys agriculture and architecture then the monkeys must have an afterlife of their own where the bad ones are sent to live underground and whose punishment is to wait 65 million years before they can come out into the sun, and only then will they be rewarded with having to teach hairy apes how to comb their hair and take baths. On the other hand, the dead who were good get to set up a hierarchical bureaucracy where some nameless boss gets to sit around and listen to the monkeys play music on harps 24 hours a day for eternity.”

Bernice laughed.

I laughed with her. “Pretty funny, huh? So, Mike and I got tired of the smell coming out of the hole. We tried pouring some of his mom’s perfume down the hole but the smell got worse.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because the aliens squirted more of that skunk juice to cover up the perfume. I mean, to them, their smell seemed as sweet as a fence full of honeysuckle. So, Mike called me and told me he was going to open up the hole again and let the aliens loose. I wanted to go creek wading then experiment on the aliens some more but never got the chance. Anyway, after Mike was grounded and seeing that I was going to spend the day with Elizabeth, I decided to take her to see if any aliens were left. We walked over to Mike’s house and stood next to the covered-up hole. Whew! Elizabeth’s face said it all, scrunched up like a dried-up prune. I went ahead and lifted the board off the hole and just about made your mother puke.”

Ryan snickered. “Cool!”

I smiled. “The stench even made me regurgitate a little. Nothing like the backwash, leftover taste of Jeno’s pizza rolls. Anyhoo, the flies and gnats were too much so I dropped the plywood back over the hole and…”

Ellen sat up. “What about the aliens?”

I turned to Ellen and looked in her eyes with one eyebrow raised. “That, my dear niece, is a story your mother will have to tell you, if she can recover repressed memories and dares to remember what she saw. All I can say is that Mike’s future as an Army field surgeon was apparent that day. Whether any aliens had actually escaped….let’s just get on with the rest of the story, Okay?”

Bernice gave me a sad, puppy dog look. “Aah…”

“Sorry. Besides, you still don’t know what happened to Elizabeth’s shoe. You see, I had gotten a new pair of Chukka boots for my birthday. My old shoes were like a cross between house slippers and slip-on sneakers and weren’t very popular as boy’s shoes. I was going throw them away but my mother made me give them to her to give to your mother because your mother’s feet had grown longer and she didn’t have any shoes that fit. Mom gave Elizabeth the shoes with specific instructions not to lose them or get them dirty until Mom could get some money to buy Elizabeth a proper pair of new girl’s shoes. You see, Dad had just been called overseas as part of the Army’s Special Reactionary Forces to help battle the resurgence of anticapitalist sentiment in working class sections of West Berlin so money was a little tight at home for us. Elizabeth promised Mom that she’d not wear the shoes to play in outside.

“Because I had left the house in such a hurry that morning, Elizabeth had not had time to change shoes so she followed me to Mike’s backyard and the edge of the muddy hole wearing my old shoes. When she saw she had gotten her ‘new’ shoes dirty, she started crying. I grabbed her hand and ran with her to the bridge at the bottom of the hill. We slid down the embankment and hopped onto a couple of big rocks in the middle of the creek. Elizabeth cried as she took off her shoes and washed them off.

“Now, you may not know it but the sound of crying, at least the unique way a human cries, triggers sympathy hormones in other creatures. Alligators, upon hearing the distant wail of a hungry human baby, will call out in a similar painful cry. Crawfish have sensitive ears, too, and when they hear a human in distress, they will automatically reach out and grab whatever their claws can wrap around.

“As it turns out, the water flowing through Kendrick’s Creek contains a high level concentration of copper beryllium nitronaquaceous angelysergic acid which provides the ideal breeding grounds for the Giant Blue Crawfish (Bigassius byturfingerof). When Elizabeth’s tears hit the surface of the creek, the vibrations of her crying reverberated through the break in the surface tension and smacked the unprepared ears of a crawfish hanging out in the shade of the rock Elizabeth was sitting on.

Ellen grabbed my arm.

I looked at her and nodded. “Ooh, your grip is strong but that’s exactly what happened. Just as Elizabeth pulled the last shoe out of the water, the crawfish, who anyone who’s waded in that part of the creek knows as Big Daddy, reached up and snatched the shoe out of Elizabeth’s hand.

“Elizabeth’s vocal cords set an unconfirmed Guinness record that day. She screamed so loud that the seismographs monitoring the New Madrid fault north of Memphis recorded a 7.3 earthquake of unknown origin. Big Daddy let go of Elizabeth’s shoe and swam out of the shade of the rock that was surely about to come crashing down on top of his head. At that point, I had recovered from the momentary fit of delirious concussion that only a nuclear blast can cause and looked over at Elizabeth, who had stopped crying. Instead, she stood in shock, one hand pointing at what to her, with the exaggerated magnification of water, made her think she was looking at a small clawed blue whale that was swimming downstream, followed by her shoe bobbing in the current.

“Lucky for her the shoe bounced against a subsurface stone and spun in an eddy long enough for me to lean over and pluck it out. What I didn’t know until the moment won’t kill me but it almost did. Big Daddy has descended from a long line of water creatures whose distant ancestor had evolved from the aliens who had landed here 65 million years ago. All aliens and their relatives communicate with each other via gamma and cosmic radiation, meaning that they can send messages to each other through solid rock or deep water. Big Daddy had already heard about Mike’s impromptu dissection session and my alleged part as an accessory to the crime. When he saw my distorted face staring down at him with a shoe in my hand, he put two and two together and gathered that the shoe was very important to me and possibly criminal evidence. Big Daddy paddled back upstream and jerked the shoe out of my hand, snipping the base of my thumb in the process. See right here.” I showed Ryan, Bernice and Ellen the old scars cut into my left thumb and palm.

“Elizabeth started crying again and wouldn’t stop. I grabbed her hand and guided her out of the creek, back onto the road and up the hill to our house.

“By the time we got home, Mom was standing at the door waiting on us. Her face looked like she had filled her head with milk, it was so white. She had just gotten off the phone with Mike’s mother. Turns out that Mike had told his mother he had left some of his science tools outside. When his mother went outside to make sure Mike had not run off to play with me, she saw the plywood had been pulled away from the hole. She walked up to the hole and flinched, aghast at the horrid fumes and the sight of blood covering all of the walls of the hole and part of the plywood board. At the bottom of the hole she saw a carved-up, blood-stained skull with Elizabeth’s shoe stuffed in the mouth. After what Mike’s mother described, Mom feared the worst. She hung up and contacted Dad via an expensive, overseas phone call. He told her not to worry but he would get a seat on the next trans-Atlantic flight back home. He suggested Mom call the police. As soon as she described what Mike’s mother had seen, the police offer on the phone told Mom they would open a case for the investigation of an alleged murder and send a squad car right over.”

Mom stuck her head in the living room. “Well, kids, are you all ready for some dessert?”

Ryan nodded. “Sure, Grandma, but can Uncle Bruce finish the story he’s telling us.”

“Certainly, honey, but you just keep in mind that he’s just telling a story. I don’t want you to get any nightmares thinking these are true.”

Ellen shook her head.

Bernice stood up and walked over to the sofa. “You mean this isn’t a true story?”

“Oh, it’s true all right but you know how grownups are. They want to think they’re protecting you by keeping the real truth of life from you. It’s called leading a sheltered life.”

“Uh-huh. So, what happened?”

Ellen nodded. “Yeah, tell us. Was it Mike’s body all chopped up in the hole?”

“Well, the police thought so. Back in those days, forensic science wasn’t as advanced as it is today like you see on all the television detective shows. It often took weeks before lab analysis was completed. While the crime lab was busy testing the blood, guts and skull recovered from the hole, Mike turned up a few weeks later in China, dirty and confused.”

“So who’s was it?”

“I don’t know. They never positively identified the skull. Oh, and Mom ended up not punishing Elizabeth for losing the shoe.”

Ryan rubbed his chin and looked up at the ceiling. “So, let me get this right. Mike goes outside, his mom finds a murder had occurred in her backyard and Mike ends up in China a few weeks later. Doesn’t that seem strange to you?”

Ellen and Bernice responded in unison. “Yeah!”

I looked at my watch. “Guys, I hate to do this to you but we better eat our dessert. Your Aunt Karen and I have to drive back to her mother’s place before it gets too late.”

“No, no. You can’t do that! You’re withholding something from us!”

I stood up and turned around. “I’ll tell you about what happened to Mike when we have more time. Because you see, when his parents went to get Mike in China, they didn’t just get a boy a few weeks older. They got a young man who was 15 years older.”

Ellen stood up and grabbed my arm. “What?”

“Yep. That’s why your grandmother wants you to think this is just a made-up story. When I met Mike a few months later, after he’d undergone a battery of tests by university and government research scientists to try to figure out why he’d aged prematurely, he told me what I’d already suspected – that time travel and wormholes and portals through parallel universes weren’t just science fiction stories. They were real.”

I turned to walk out of the room but Ellen pulled on my arm. “You’ve got to stay and tell us more about Mike.”

Bernice grabbed my other arm and pulled. “Uncle Bruce, you aren’t going to leave this room until you’ve told us more about what happened to Mike.”

Ryan stood up and pointed his finger at me. “Don’t think you’re getting away so easily or we’ll tell Mom that you’ve been making up terrible lies about her.”

“Really, guys, I’ve got to go. We can make plenty of time to sit down and talk about what happened to Mike the next time I visit.”

“Oh, all right.”

The kids let go of me and walked with me back to the dining room. As I walked through the house, I felt of surge of energy pass through my body and knew that the aliens were sending a lot of messages back and forth, discussing what to do with me after listening to what I had told the kids and guessing if I was planning to give away the aliens’ darkest secrets or just stick to a superficial telling of Mike’s adventures. I kept my thoughts blank and my bodily stance neutral, not wanting to hint at what next I was going to tell the youth of my family who might learn the truth and save the planet from the next wave of alien invasions.

I’ll tell one of the secrets at the end of this story.

 

My next life. It was like a dream…or a nightmare. Where was Semina?  I found myself working at Wal-Mart as a Volunteer Associate.  In other words, I could actually go to work at Wal-Mart during my off hours or nonworking days and hang out with my friends (i.e., fellow employees) and help them clean up, straighten up, etc., while I socialized with them.  Of course, I had to wear my employee badge.

One day, while I was bored at home, I decided to stop by the office (i.e., Wal-Mart) to say hello to a couple of new associates who I knew needed extra special training to become good Wal-Mart employees — they were young and poorly educated.  To them, high school had constituted one big party, a social event that they cruised through with flying colors, thanks to No Child Left Behind.  Of course, not all jobs at Wal-Mart involve greeting folks at the door with a big smile on your face.  For the most part, the associate must perform laborious tasks.

When I arrived at Wal-Mart, I wore my employee badge. Naturally, I picked up some clothes that had fallen off a rack and hung them back up. A friend of mine, Shanique, saw what I was doing and helped me finish the neat arrangement of rows of baby clothes on the rack.  I felt a slight buzz and knew my badge had just been activated.  One of our shift supervisors, Theresa, came out of the security room and strolled by to remind me I had volunteered to come to Wal-Mart and thus was not on the clock. As I had been trained to say, I acknowledged Theresa with the statement, “I have volunteered to show up today and visit. I am not clocked in.”

“No pay, no benefits, no claims,” Theresa replied with a wink.  She spun her long, dyed-black hair around and flew on her broom back to Security.

Shanique huffed.  “They just got to throw that in our face, don’t they?”

“Naw, I understand.  It’s the law.  It’s Wal-Mart from us and us from Wal-Mart, you know?”

“I guess.”

“Yeah, if she comes back and demands I mop up a spill, I can refuse ’cause I’m not working for them. I’m here to see my friends.  At the same time, if I get injured, I can’t sue for workman’s comp ’cause I’m not officially working for them.”

“I’d refuse to mop, either way.”

“You shouldn’t do that.  Not if you want to get ahead.”

“I’m not going to work here my whole life, you know.”

I nodded.  She might be right, IF she took some of her weekly paycheck and invested in stocks or mutual funds instead of buying cigarettes or lottery tickets like everyone else here working for a little more than minimum wage.  We all had a way out of our predicaments in life WHEN we took responsibility for our actions.

I patted Shanique on the arm.  “See ya later.  I’m going to check in on the newbies.”

As I walked toward the front of the store, I reached into my pants pocket and pressed a button.  A HUD (Heads Up Display) popped up on the inside of my right eyeglass lens and showed me what the pinhole camera in my employee badge was broadcasting back to Wal-Mart Security.  A friend of mine had worked for the company that sold the new wireless transmission badges to Wal-Mart and designed a pocket interceptor to test the reliability of the badges. When he heard I was going to work at Wal-Mart as a volunteer, he thought it would be cool if I could see what Wal-Mart saw I was doing.  I had fun watching the world bounce by at the level of my belly button, as if I had found true enlightenment and instead of just contemplating my navel during a hypnotic trance, I had developed an active third eye.  I also figured out that people perform slight-of-eye tricks with their hands that my badge could catch but an overhead camera might miss.  Wal-Mart now had more staff on Security than they ever thought possible, including volunteers like me.  In addition, Wal-Mart learned that employees on the clock who tended to steal would most likely enlist the aid of their Volunteer Associate friends to help pull off a heist.  I had lost count of the number of associates who asked me to take a product to the front door where a person would step out of a passing car and take the item from me.  I learned very quickly how to find myself too busy to help them.  I always knew when I had been “caught” not assisting a theft because the general manager would swing by to congratulate me on doing my job sometime later during the day.

“Uh, Lee, what are you doing?”

“What?”  I stood at one of the new checkout lanes, cross-eyed from too long watching the world from both the head and bellybutton level.  “Just looking at all the dried-up spills on this checkout screen.  You got a cleaning rag?”

Rqavi handed me a wet cloth out of his vest pocket.  “Say what you will but I like these old Wal-Mart blue vests.  Would you want to keep a nasty rag stuffed in your pants pocket?”

I laughed.  “No.”  I rubbed the rag against the touch screen, trying to remove some old ketchup-like substance.  All my right eye saw was the edge of a shiny metal rim banging against my badge.  I reached into my pocket and turned off the HUD so I could concentrate on cleaning.

 

Amazing how quickly the new equipment got dirty, especially considering that with the new electronic barcodes (called RFID), the customer didn’t have to remove anything from the buggy unless she wanted to bag up the goods before taking them outside and loading them into the car.

 

Rqavi stood and watched me.  I waited to see if she would offer to take over but she continued to watch me do all the work.  Being a new employee, maybe she didn’t know what needed to be done.  I rubbed my eyes.  “You know, my eyes are tired, Rqavi. Why don’t you take a look at this and see if you can get these stubborn stains off the screen?”

“Sure thing, Lee.  You shouldn’t have to work so hard on your day off, you know.  Wal-Mart does not own you.”

“I know.  I just like hanging out with you guys.  I’ll catch you later.”  I patted Rqavi on the shoulder and walked across the front of the store.  The two other new associates, Botto and Sheleopard, noticed what I had been doing and grabbed their cleaning cloths, polishing shiny metal as I approached.

“Hey guys!  What’s going on?”

“Lee!  What are you doin’ here, man?  Ain’t you got something better to do?”

“Naw.  You guys are too much fun to be around.  So how do you like the new job, Botto?”
A couple of years ago, I had run into Botto and his mother at a Special Olympics fundraiser at a local bowling alley. Botto’s ability to throw strikes amazed me so I asked his mother about him. She explained she didn’t know where he learned to bowl like that for she’d never taken him bowling before. She just didn’t have time.  Her husband had died in a car crash after a night of drinking, leaving her to raise Botto alone.  She worked two jobs, one at a local assembly plant and the other at Wal-Mart.  Early in Botto’s life, an educator had labeled Botto as an EMR (educable mentally retarded) because of his high forehead, oversized arms and slow responses.  She had accepted the school system’s assessment of Botto because it meant he got free after-school care, freeing up cash she would otherwise have paid for a babysitter.  She had found out about the Special Olympics from the after-school aide.  The folks at Special Olympics had invited Botto and his mother to the event, hoping they could interest Botto in an athletic event. As luck would have it, one of the bowling participants had not shown up so they asked Botto to fill in.  He took to the bowling like a squirrel to a nut, burying the ball in the center of the lane and hitting a strike almost every time.  Of course, squirrels never find all the nuts they’ve buried but that’s another story.

After the Special Olympics finished, I sat down with Botto and his mother to learn more about Botto.  His mother wouldn’t let him handle sharp objects like scissors or knives and he was Okay with that. He gladly let his mother cut up his roast beef and chicken.  The school teachers set low expectations for him, letting him play with building blocks after he recited the alphabet or picked eight different colors out of the crayon box.  Botto enjoyed the extended childhood that life had granted him. He knew that one day he would have to care for his mother so he had saved all the dollar bills that kind people gave to him.  For his mother’s birthday and Christmas presents, Botto drew intricate designs on building blocks or other pieces of wood. His mother bragged about the TV stand he had assembled for her with some of the carved blocks.

After talking with them for a couple of hours, I sensed that Botto had learned to keep his true intelligence a secret.  I wanted to test my theory and exclaimed that such artwork would delight my eyes.  Botto’s mother, Eta, invited me to see some of her son’s handiwork at their apartment.  I followed them to the new subsidized garden apartments in the center of town.  Inside the apartment, I instantly knew I was right.  Botto had built or rebuilt all the furniture in the place.  Without the apparent use of knives, Botto had figured out how to create interlocking strips and blocks of wood.  He had also created his own hieroglyphic language, covering every inch of the furniture with what his mother said were the stories she had told him about her childhood living along the Tennessee River as a grandchild of sharecroppers.

I continued to visit Eta and Botto, quizzing the both of them about Botto’s life.  Eta admitted that although she shouldn’t have, she had left Botto alone a lot as he grew up.  Botto didn’t say much.  When he spoke, he spoke slowly as if he had to summon all his strength to reach into the bottom of a well full of molasses in wintertime and pull a word out just to see if it fit into the sentence he had started.

“I… suppose… she… is… right.  I… had… no… one… to… play… with… at… home… and… no… books… to… read.  We… could… not… afford… a… TV… or… radio.  I… had… to… learn… life… on… my… own.”

One day, Eta had to work a double-shift at the assembly plant and left me to talk with Botto alone.  I told him I suspected he was a very smart man and just played the deaf-dumb-and-blind child act because it gave him freedom that the rest of his family had never enjoyed.

Botto smiled so much that the cold room actually warmed up and got hot. Had he not broken the smile to talk, I swear the dusty curtains would have burst into flames.

“Lee, you don’t know the half of it.  The only reason my family is in North America is because of slavery.  And I wouldn’t doubt one minute that your family had slaves.  Do you know how many of us have had to play the ‘yessa master’ role just to get by?  My mother got pregnant at 14 because she didn’t know she could defend herself from older black men who preyed on young black girls to justify their own beaten-down lives.  But, while all of y’all have been pouring your liberal white money into feel-sorry programs like the Special Olympics for ‘simple’ guys like me, I have been sinking money into the Chinese and Indian market.  I have more shares in companies in Bangalore and Beijing than you have in the U.S. market with your pathetic 401(k).  I can’t let my mother know that just yet. No, I want to wait until I’m 21 years old and surprise her.  So, yeah, I’m not as dumb as I look but I’m no different than the rest of the blacks in this neighborhood who have had to figure out how to get out of this mess that some liberal jerk likes to think is a form of beneficial social welfare instead of the regressive slavery that turns landlords into masters and ignorant tenants into submissive slaves.  With my body size I could easily have tried out for organized sports but why throw my body away for the chance of the lottery called professional football or baseball?  You know how many guys with bum legs and broken backs are wandering around this apartment complex too ashamed and destroyed to get a regular job just because they didn’t last long enough to make it into the pros?”

Botto slapped me on the back and laughed.  “Sorry about that outburst. I don’t get to talk much.”

“Hey, no problem.  I couldn’t imagine what you’re going through.  So who do you go through?”

“Huh?”

“Your broker.”

Botto smirked.  “It’s all online trading for me. Here, let me show you.”

Botto grabbed a pen off the kitchen counter and walked over to the TV stand. He drew an outline of one of the hieroglyphic characters and a four-inch square drawer slid out.  Botto reached inside the drawer and pulled out a tiny Internet tablet PC.

“Some idiot in our building had an open wireless link so I hacked into his wireless device and set a password. I also configured the wireless device so only the MAC address of my PC could gain access.  From here, I opened an e*trade account and away I went.”

“Pretty cool.  But how did you figure all this out from just sitting in your apartment all day?”

“Are you kidding?  I’m rarely home.  I wander all over town and nobody notices me. The ones that do see me hand me quarters or dollar bills..as if people with poor mental conditions need pocket change or something!  In any case, I’ve been hanging out at the electronics supply store on the other side of the Projects.  Those guys there let me flip through their magazines, probably thinking I’m just fascinated by the pictures, not knowing that I’m reading the hacker articles.”

 

“Interesting.  So why are you opening up to me?  Isn’t that kind of dangerous?”

Botto put his hand on my back.  “Are you kidding me?  Who’s going to believe you?  I’ve failed every IQ test ever given to me. If anyone’s even given me the hint they think they know what’s going on, I play dumb.”

“Seriously, though, why me?  I mean, why bother?”

“Lee, you’ve got a point.  Look, I need to get a real job.  I can’t keep hiding my money in offshore accounts forever.  I want to get some sort of menial job that you white guys think would be a reward to me for your kindness.  I also want a job where there are modern electronics.  I don’t wanna work as a floor sweeper in an auto mechanic’s shop.”

“Okay, I get it.  Christmas is coming up.  How about Wal-Mart?”

“Not a bad idea, Lee.  I like your thinking.”

“Okay, give me a few days. There’s a Wal-Mart not too far from where I live. I’ll talk to the general manager and see what I can do.”

“I knew you were the one I could count on.”

 

 

Botto looked up from rubbing the checkout screen.  “Thanks again for the job.”

“And thank YOU for the stock tips.”

Sheleopard looked at the two of us.  “Whatch you two talkin’ about?”

“Lee… likes… to… make… fun… of…. me.”  Botto breathed in deeply as if he had just stressed his brain too much.

“Gotcha.”  Sheleopard wiped up a pool of water where Botto had pressed the cleaning cloth too hard into the checkout equipment, squeezing it dry.

 

I’ve got to get out of here, got to find Semina, do a reality check, get back to the thrill of conversation before I completely vanish and join the other ghosts of Colonial Heights, ghosts like the Spike Collector, Silver Moon, and the Miners…

 

Why do we only meet in my dreams?

Why do we only meet in my dreams? You, the woman who hung around with me (or was it the other way around?) when we were teenagers and young adults.

Last night, in a dream with bizarre side occurrences which I barely recall but included staying at a hotel where the “rooms” or accommodations were rickety ledges on the outside of a building or side of a cliff, my family celebrated a wintertime get-together. We had just left the performance of a local theater production and realized that the heavy snowfall would make getting home rather difficult. However, we still had one family member up in West Virginia who had not made the trip to the mountains for the reunion. We decided that I should go get the family member. Somehow, you were there and decided to go with me.

I had already scouted out part of the trip in the truck I was driving. I had driven from the ski lodge area (in the mountains of North Carolina, perhaps?) out to where a convergence of interstate highways and railroad tracks crisscrossed and backtracked over each other worse than any interchange I had ever seen. I figured out the safest passage through the interchange which used the least number of bridges and overpasses and drove back to the lodge.

I parked the truck around the side of the lodge (sort of a wood and stone rendition of Biltmore Estate) and pounded through the snow to get back to the front entrance where you were waiting. We walked from the lodge back out to the parking lot and could not immediately find the truck. I wasn’t even sure what the truck looked like anymore because it dawned on me that in real life I didn’t own a big truck. I called out to Dad to find out what kind of truck I owned. I found him standing next to his used foreign car, a cross between a BMW Isotta and a Citroen 2CV, as he waited for the overparked lot to clear. He reminded me my truck was a brand-new white Dodge Ram with an extended bed. Well, of course I couldn’t find a big honking white truck in the blinding snow.

As we walked through the cramped parking lot, we chatted about the perils of the trip, whether we needed extra food or warm clothing. I told you not to worry but you worried anyway, not in a negative way but in a “better safe than sorry,” practical way that you always think.

Hearing your voice and realizing how much like your father you’ve become, I grew sad knowing that in real life I would probably never see you again, especially since your parents had moved from Tennessee to Mississippi. I wondered if I wanted to talk to you again, thinking that the conversation I wanted included discussions of philosophy such as the wonders of a leaderless universe while you would want to tell me about the accomplishments of your husband, children, siblings, parents, nieces and nephews. We have grown apart. You have both feet in the reality of family. I have one and a half feet in the realm of theory and fantasy.

Despite our differences, I gladly recall our moments together a generation ago, even if recollection only occurs in my dreams now.

 

The Plot Thickens…

Story idea subplot…

Belle and Maria are a couple of confidence artists who hook up with the main character, Gus, to get his extensive 401(k) retirement holdings, a scheme they cooked up after the 72(t) law was put in place.

Gus met Belle through a mutual email friend. After email exchanges between the two of them, Belle figures out that Gus has a load of financial holdings and is looking for a way to convert the holdings out of 401(k) without substantial penalties.

Belle discusses her new email friend with her best friend, Maria. They decide to introduce Maria to Gus. They email him a cock-and-bull story about themselves as neighbors in Stuy Town, when in fact Belle and Maria had met as prisoners on Rikers Island when they were juvenile delinquents. Through the years their crimes increased in complexity and they spent some time in jail for money laundering, where Belle met her husband, “Don Juan” Pompilian.

Belle emails Gus a story about her husband dying and the fact that she is a financial investor who can help Gus arrange his finances, despite her need to focus on her husband’s medication.

Meanwhile, Don sets up a shadow company that appears it can handle the conversion of 401(k) accounts to 72(t), when in fact all he plans to do is convert Gus’ 401(k) directly into cash for Don, Belle and Maria to split.

After the transaction is completed, Belle informs Gus that her husband has died and she’s going to fulfill his wish to have his ashes buried on the Black Sea, not far from where Don’s family is from in Romania.

Gus spends weeks trying to contact Belle and Maria to find out the status of his 401(k) conversion to no avail. He discovers he’s been duped and goes to Romania in search of the sheisters, following a cold trail that placed them in Constanta.

From there, he travels to the Trans-Siberian Railway, where the main plot continues…

 

29 January 2008

Getting from there to here

In a separate treatise, I discussed the terms “death” and “integrity,” wanting to examine the meaning of those words in the context of the corporate environment. I sent the only copy of the original to Fawn Fresnel, a thoughtful person who lives in Germany and has a boyfriend in Finland. I wrote “Death and Integrity” in hopes of working through the stages of loss a person experiences after the death of a close friend or relative. In this case, I mourned the death of my corporate self.

My corporate self started his existence on the day I killed that 18-year old in 1980, a young man who wanted the world to be his only to learn that the world had its clutches on him, instead. The promising young man, who dreamed of becoming a writer or actor, quickly died when smothered by the calculus, chemistry and navy college courses wrapped around his throat by the 4-year Navy ROTC scholarship at Georgia Tech. I killed that creative, rebelling spirit and replaced him with a passive-aggressive individual who would lose the college scholarship and hop from one college to another as he progressed through more and more levels of corporate bureaucracy, all the while writing poems and short stories lamenting the loss of his virginal naïveté.

But did I really kill him? And if I did, can he, like the phoenix, rise from the ashes of the chaff and slough discarded to the side by the expanding human ecosystem and fly to new heights?

If he never died but only transformed, can he slough off the heavy backpack full of weapons used to win business battles and shed the thick armor plating worn to protect him from taking business losses personally? Can he return to the mindset of those early days when he first learned the craft of writing and recreate those wildly imagined worlds that impatiently waited for ink to hit paper so they could live?

Yes, he can.

Outside, the bare winter trees saunter from side to side in the invisible onslaught of strong winds pushing into north Alabama at the front of a large, late-January storm. Pine clouds slide by the window like images of snails on fast-forward. Rain streaks the dirty A-frame window panes. Leaves caught in spider webs in the corners of the window frame shake furiously to free themselves so they can become soil to feed future versions of themselves.

“Can” versus “will”. Will I resist the easy money of the business world? I have spent the last seven months not going to work in a nine-to-five desk job but only because my wife continues to do so. She provides the health insurance and extra income that supports both our current lifestyle and savings toward a planned retirement fund.

Faintly, I hear the siren of a possible tornado warning. Could a large whirlwind destroy all that I have written? Yes, it can but I hope it will not. The sky grows much darker at 3:45 p.m. than it should. I’ll quickly save a copy of this and email it to myself.

What, then, is next? That is, if I’ve broken out of the corporate shell, what shall I do? Where shall this phoenix fly? Nothing too ordinary, of course.

While wandering the Internet desert, I stopped off at amazon.com not only to look at my novel’s ratings but also to see what the website had listed as recommendations for my purchase. One interesting book stood out: How to See Yourself As You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Author), Jeffrey, Ph.D. Hopkins (Translator). I do not follow any particular teachings of religious doctrine yet this book fascinates me because of a couple of portions of the description of the book, “By directing our attention to the false veneer that so bedazzles our senses and our thoughts, His Holiness sets the stage for discovering the reality behind appearances. Our tacit acceptance of things as they seem is called ignorance, which is not just a lack of knowledge about how people and things actually exist but an active mistaking of their fundamental nature. True self-knowledge involves exposing and facing misconceptions about ourselves. The aim here is to find out how we get ourselves into trouble, then learn how to intervene on the ground floor of our counterproductive ideas,” and “Once we know how to put insight in the service of love and love in the service of insight, we come to the book’s appendix, an overview of the steps for achieving altruistic enlightenment.”

Altruistic enlightenment. From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, altruism is “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others” and enlightenment is “3Buddhism : a final blessed state marked by the absence of desire or suffering.” In other words, we devote ourselves to helping others reach the absence of desire or suffering.

Six or seven billion people will never reach altruistic enlightenment at the same time. Too many people have self interests that contradict with others’ self interests. A vegetarian, fly fisherman and water skier cannot agree to the same simultaneous use of a body of water.

I do not hear the siren outside anymore and rain falls at a rate I would call raining (as opposed to sprinkling or downpour). The edge of the storm front must have passed by.

I cannot live the lives of six or seven billion people. I will do well to live my life. As such, do I remove “corporate vice president” from my list of ready-made goals that can serve as quick responses to others’ inquiry of the plans for my future self and replace it with “altruistic enlightenment”?

A squirrel born in a tree lives life believing that a home shakes and rattles with the wind. Building a home upon the ground, although less likely to sway in a passing storm, subjects the squirrel to the grasps of many predators not inclined to climb trees yet still subject to those that swoop down from the sky.

Right now, my home and office are one. My job is writing but I make no money at this time with the work I perform in this office. Thus, I live at the monetary mercy of my wife. Therefore, I lose the advantage of regular labor credits for my work, along with free life insurance and reduced-rate health insurance, and gain the peace and quiet of home. Should predators such as cancer attack, I would have to depend on my wife’s health insurance policy to protect me from financial ruin and/or premature death.

 

2008-02-24

I want to record every time we meet but our last meeting gave me the impression I would never see you again and I just didn’t want to record that event although it will happen sometime, either through the exchange of words or the death of one of us.

Last night, however, we met again. Hallelujah!

I wondered why you showed up but you told me not to be confused, as usual.

I sat in a church pew on the left-hand side of the church. You sat next to me but then, because of other folks crowding into the pew, you slipped onto my lap. We sat there while the minister spoke, our love for each other speaking volumes for the type of love espoused by the Christian tradition. I held my arms around you to keep you from falling. You held your hands over mine. As is sometimes the case, I noticed my manhood wanting to call attention to itself but I moved my mind to something else. I…well, we never loved each other that way, although we could have, I suppose.

In any case, after the church service, we joined some of your family members as we walked outside of the church. We held hands, metaphorically speaking. We never physically held hands but instead kept in touch with each other no matter where we walked in a crowd, always paying attention to what the other did and said, exchanging glances across the room, winking or nodding when we noticed that the separate conversations we held paralleled each other. “Everything goes in a circle,” n’est pas?

After the post-church discussions, I drove you out to my house in the country. I had built the house as an oversized bachelor pad in case you ever wanted to come join me. Although I knew you were aware of it, you never acknowledged the existence of the house.

Until last night. I invited you inside but you said you wanted to explore the grounds for a while. I walked on in and started dinner. I noticed it was getting cold outside. I walked out to get you and couldn’t find you. Upon my return to the house, I found you leaning against the railing of the back deck, watching the setting sun. I stood beside you and sighed. I knew we belonged together in that moment. Feeling the chill as the sky darkened, we stepped in and ate dinner. After the meal, we discussed what we should do. I suggested we go to bed early and curl up because of the coldness.

You said you wanted to go back outside and check something out. I fell asleep waiting for you. Early in the morning, I heard sounds outside. I looked out the window and saw you were directing a concrete truck where to pour a load. You had already overseen the construction of a walkway that snaked from a neighbor’s driveway, through their yard and up to a large concrete pad being poured on the edge of my property. I put on a light jacket and joined you. You waved me off because at that point the concrete had already dried and you were supervising the drilling of large holes along the perimeter of the concrete pad. I walked up to the neighbor. He marveled at the assertiveness of you and although you had not sought his permission for the concrete walkway through his yard, he accepted the construction of it because his wife thought the yard needed something like a wandering path to complete its functionality.

I looked at the pad and realized you were having holes drilled in order to place foundation poles down through the concrete pad for what appeared to be a gazebo. I looked at you and you nodded. I understood you were constructing the future location for our wedding.

I smiled. Marriage, huh? A new twist on our relationship. You’ve always stood your ground. I’ve acted the part of the willow that bends to the wind which blows in various directions according to your whims.

I know that no matter what had happened in our separate lives in the past 20 or so years, something inside us linked us together.

If something links us, can we see it? I do not like referring to connections that rely on spirits, essences, or psychic phemonena. As I said to a friend below, love is a type of connection, the “unconditional acceptance of the interconnectedness between two objects”. Unconditional acceptance – when we hung out together, we accepted each other unconditionally. Even now, I enjoy the memories of our times together because we never questioned the relationship between us. You stopped hanging out with me when I crossed to the other side of the line away from recreational chemical use; however, you never ended our friendship because of my poor judgment.

Would we ever get married in the future? I think marriage would not figure into our future. Our minds married each other a long time ago. Let’s see if happiness comes from our keeping it that way.

 

No Absolutes?

22 February 2008

Fawn,

How do you see the world?  I cannot say.  As always, I hope all goes well in the world for you right now.  Perhaps you have reached the next level of confidence and security, taken another step closer to self actualization, or at least strolled along on the path of self fulfillment.  The satisfaction of living in the moment brings you the pleasant, conflict-free emotion called happiness.

When you sit quietly alone at night, no emails poking at your eyes for attention, no ears perked for the ring of a cell phone, no book waiting to resolve a plot through your reading of it, what do you sense?  Do you taste toothpaste?  Do you smell the chemicals floating around the room?

I write to you today because I sense the need to share some thoughts with you, the person I once shared an evening jog among the pines of North Carolina some months ago.  Think about that jog when you take time to read these words.

You recently stated your acceptance of the buildup of civilization — offices, roads, etc. — that supports your habit of hiking undeveloped mountains and valleys.  I, too, understand that I cannot exist at this moment without recognizing that civilization has put me in front of a laptop computer in a developed subdivision that connects me with the rest of the world via telephone, television and transportation networks.

When you wake up tomorrow, what will you first sense?  The beeping of an alarm clock?  The brightening sky?  Frying bacon from the kitchen of a nearby apartment?

I approach the prospect of sleep tonight wondering what I will first sense tomorrow morning, a Saturday like most Saturdays, sleeping a little late, my wife and two cats nearby.

What we call consciousness, the stream of thoughts and senses that seem to place chronological memories in our heads, exists only in myth.  We have no absolute true memory of what we’ve sensed and recorded from our observations of the environment around us.  We filter, edit, and re-edit our actions and reactions to the world.

If I expect to wake up to the smell of breakfast cooking and the damp, wet air of a fading foggy winter morning in north Alabama, then in all likelihood, I have set my body to exclude what I will truly experience tomorrow in order to find evidence and validate my expectations of the previous night.

At this moment, you probably sleep while your brain continues to process deadened sense organs which leaves your mind to find ways to stay busy, creating dreams.

At this moment, while remembering our jog and first discussions where we got to learn about each other, I know that what I remember of our jog did not occur.  Our jog has turned into a dream.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition of our culture, the only absolute is the eternal existence of God.  All else is temporary and relative.

When I left Cumulo-Seven, I absolutely believed I would not return to a desk job.  I wanted to explore the world outside of office buildings, morning commutes and business teleconferences.  For a while, I traded an office cubicle for a seat in my garage, where I could sit and watch the squirrels and birds while I wrote a novel in the morning.  I rode my bicycle in the afternoon, hopping along dirt trails and startling woodland animals.  I hiked the undeveloped woods behind my house to see rock formations, bat caves and gnarled old trees.  I spoke to the forest and it spoke to me.  During that time, summer turned to fall and fall turned to winter.  I migrated inside the house, sitting on the bed as I do now to write short stories, emails and letters to friends.

Daffodils bloom in the yard, joining the crocuses in the late winter/early spring introduction to the color-explosive symphonic ode to Mother Nature.  The full force of spring will hit in the next few weeks, bringing warm days for me to start writing in the garage, my three-season writer’s cottage.

My heart and lungs swell in anticipation of the coming days.  Cabin fever will soon end and my head will clear, blessing my mind with new visions…insights into a storyline worth pursuing…new characters will appear and take on portions of personas I’ve sketched in the past few months.

And yet, this past Monday I signed a contract as an independent consultant with a startup firm called Branedraighn Wireless.  This week, I have spent time on my laptop computer, working at home, gathering data for the company.  I have enjoyed the work because I know it makes my wife happy that I bring home a regular income, all while not sitting at a desk in a cubicle of a boxlike building.  The company has enjoyed the work so much that their CTO, a personal friend of mine, wants to talk with me tomorrow morning about making a permanent job offer.  At the same time, I wait for word from Microsoft about the results of a programming test I took during my second interview with them about a job as the test lab manager for their Shanghai, China, office.

Fawn, I love life.  I love my friends.  I love my wife.  I love my cats.  I love people who do not know me.  I love people who have learned to call someone like me their enemy.  Anything or anyone I do not love waits for me to overcome unfounded fear of loving them.  I do not understand all the technical and scientific details that other humans have discovered but those details do not stop my love of the universe that supports my life.

What is love?  Unconditional acceptance of the interconnectedness between two objects.  Listening to the desires and wishes of a coworker on a jog.  Taking a job with a startup firm to help a friend make his business successful.

Love is not absolute.  Love, as they say, is fleeting.  When I die, my love goes with me.  Those living after I’m gone will have their memories of my love to keep life going and love anew.

Love is all I’ve got.  All else is temporary — the clothes I’m wearing, the bed I sit on, the house I live in, the computer I write on, the world I ride along in the universe.

I can clearly say I do not love working in an office environment and my lack of love comes from an unfounded fear of someone telling me I deserve better (that “someone” would have the voice of many teachers from my childhood who kept telling me I was destined for greatness, whatever that is).

I approach the time for sleep.  I love sleep.  I head for bed while anticipating a phone call in the morning with a friend, the CTO of a small startup firm on the other side of town.  I will wake up in the morning expecting my friend to offer me a job at his company where I will most likely sit in an office or cubicle while helping the folks at the company design and build a product or set of products that will reduce the energy use of other companies if they choose to buy the products.  I will probably not sense the light of the rising sun bursting through the bare limbs of the trees outside my window.  I will not smell the warm fur of the cats or the morning breath of my wife.  I may feel the tired joints of a 45 (almost 46) year old man.

Although I love the burst of new sensations as I wake up, I have decided tonight that a telephone-relayed conversation will get the attention of my love in the morning, instead.  Absolutely right!

More as it develops,

Bruce

P.S. Meanwhile, my personal “company,” Pruned Pear Productions, has created a website for a small Mom-and-Pop folk art shop.  Hopefully, my work at Branedraighn Wireless, should I take a permanent job there, will allow me to continue building up Pruned Pear Productions’ portfolio of novels, short stories, websites and other creative outlets for writers and artists.

=========================

 

 

Hmm…

27 July 2008

[backspace] Use blog entries and moleskine notes for novel: use “[backspace]” as a placeholder to go back and check what I want to put into novel.

5 June 2008

Young, pretty, tan, blonde, thin, athletic – admit I smile at those. Also female, Caucasian, African, Danish, Swedish, Irish, Italian, tattooed, brunette, middle-aged, wrinkled, brown-eyed, green-eyed, red-headed, happy, laughing, dancing, bare-legged, talkative, silent, thoughtful, inebriated, full, stylish, stark, bald, shaded, burnt, wet, sandy, hoarse, shrill, shy, funny, silly, chatty, quiet, busy, short, tall, …

25 June 2008

I feel trapped, like a kept animal, with no life of my own and no life to live anymore should I choose to “escape.” Only one solution left – yes, the one that lurks in the background, teaching me new signals to pass on, such as that of the suave middle-aged, “James Bond” type. So I look distinguished? I feel old, used, out of date, useless, washed up, washed out, fond of words but less fond of telling a story, willing to die with my last thoughts unspoken, mindless as they are.

Writing in this journal because I want to do something other than watch other people’s visual creations on television, even though writing in this part of the journal cramps my fingers and wrist while writing on top of or over the hump of the first 4/5ths of this journal. Thoughts flow, for such functions define a human (and many other animals, I’m sure; language skills separating us, of course) but have no value to me at this moment. I add no value to human development although others see my face and read my words, exclaiming some value inherent in my existence to them. Ha! So none of us has value, then.

I have waited long enough to see my worth decrease, as designed. I can wait no more for death to come take me via “natural” occurrence such as heart attack or stroke. Nor do I want to involve others in purposeful exit. I want to go alone, by my own hands. Since I gave my wife a year to get used to living without my having a regular salary and stayed with the Berrys until the matriarch’s health improved in order for her to join her offspring (sans son) to see the GLAST launch, I have fulfilled my obligations, maritally speaking. As far as my folks (and sister’s family), they will survive without me, I am sure. I did what I could to perform some of the expected duties of an eldest child and son. Otherwise, I have no thanks to give them for bringing me into this world just to suffer the mind-bending, gut-wrenching, heart-rending loss of my true love from age 10 onward. I want to carry this burden of living life for Reneé Dobbs a brief moment longer before I join her in the “ashes and dust” club. I will fail to meet her expectation no more, no matter what guise woman she appears to me – Reneé, Anne, Tammy, Eimear, Helen, Karen, Sarah, Frances, etc. Weariness overtakes my desire to please women. The sex drive wanes and the penis rises rarely. Never needed to satisfy other men, just worried in fear of them because of my peaceful ways. I rest easy today knowing the end draws near.

 

3 July 2008

Talked with Mike today about an SAIC project that was canned by the CEO. Mike gave me name of contact in Virginia. Also a Navy veteran who served with a former astronaut candidate), under contract to SAIC for IP sales. Called Paul to start the ball rolling on this.

8 July 2008

“The Mind’s Aye” is novel of ideas a la Huxley. Killers kill ideas dressed as people.

13 July 2008

Young woman crashed into telephone pole in our yard at 16:03 on Friday. Power back on at 00:39 on Saturday after Huntsville Utilities replaced the two broken power/telephone poles and set wires in place. Top wire on pole is 7200 volts. AT&T repairman came out at approximately 09:30 to fix telephone/DSL lines to our and the neighbors’ house. We drove up to Nashville at 10:45 yesterday so Karen could spend time with her college mates, Carol, Betsi, Connie and Amyie. Last night, I drove to Nashville Superspeedway to watch end of Indy Lights 100 and all of Indy 200. First woman to win Indy Lights yesterday – Ana (from Brazil). Helio Castroneves held pole for Indy 200. Looked like Tony Kanaan would win but rain changed pit strategies. He and other leaders pitted but Scott Dixon stayed out by accident and won the rain-shortened race in 171 laps. Indy Lights race also cut short because of rain-delayed start – only 77 laps completed.

We swam for about 30 minutes in the hotel pool this morning and will eat lunch with Connie.

TO GARY:

Thanks for a friendship with no attachments. I have spent most of my life having to suffer through “friendships” that had a purpose behind them, even though I resented it. I have given all I am to the friendship of ours, all that I am, and yet my wife wants me to get something in return. I cringe at the though and to save my soul or what’s left of my sanity, at least, I say that we part company and let our friendship live on in the ether.

[backspace] Include email exchanges with Paul.

 

 

Monday, 7th April 2008

 

Depression has owned my activities over the past few weeks. Today, I feel able to crawl out from underneath the cloud of doubt to reaffirm my existence. Self hatred, self pity and general selfishness defined the layers of protection I placed around the perception of self to protect me from myself.

I sit here in the garage once again, reciting the phrase, “Live simply so that others may simply live,” not sure if Gandhi holds the credit for making that phrase popular. I do not fully comprehend the phrase and thus do not fully apply its lesson to my life. Instead, I use electricity to power a laptop computer on which I express my thoughts.

Fortunately I do not hear any residential construction noises in the neighborhood. Perhaps, the road construction has reached to conclusions.

Mosquitoes have not yet bred to the point of distraction. A black-and-yellow butterfly flutters among the treetops. Other flying insects pass by on parade. A few ants scout the area for morsels. Since I stopped filling up the bird feeders a few weeks ago (cost-cutting measures), very few birds use my yard for their daily activities.

My heart continues to pound irregularly. In addition, I have experienced dizziness and suffer the long-term effects of tinnitus. I would accept death by heart attack at this time, if such fate awaited me.

Fate. Hmm…why use a word that has little meaning to me? Perhaps I will use the word “act,” instead. I would accept death by heart attack at this time, if such an act awaited me.

No muse waits for these words or some other collection of symbols from me.

A millipede walks by. How has such a creature developed and survived on this planet? I do know that the millipedes in my yard smell unpleasantly when crushed.

 

11th April 2008

 

Rain pounds the acre lot of my homestead, washing the yellow, powdery pollen of trees, leaves, house and automobiles.

The cloud of depression swapped places with the supercell thunderstorms today, giving me temporary reprieve from my pain.

Yesterday afternoon, Paul emailed me in regards to the cause of my depression:

Thanks for being so very professional through all of this.

He referred to the following email exchange and presumably the fact that I didn’t discuss this with anyone else at Branedraighn.

Consulting Fever

 

 

From: Gus
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 9:00 AM
To: Paul
Subject: Read at your leisure — a personal note

 

 

Paul,

 

I stopped by your office yesterday to talk to you but the door was closed.

 

I mentioned a week or so ago that I was all too glad to help you guys with field testing on an as-needed basis.  I should have been more explicit (and more honest with myself).

 

You’re probably aware that I left the test engineering field a few years ago.  Fast forward to March 2008 and once again I find I can’t concentrate on testing and then writing a test results report — after 30 years in one form or another of engineering design/test, from high school on, my interest in the nuts and bolts of code has waned significantly.  I’ve just grown weary of staring at a computer screen in order to generate/analyze engineering data.  My midlife review last year (after the sudden death of my 51-year old brother in-law whose stressful job as a NASA project engineer probably killed him) proved to me that life is too short to look at data for other people’s financial gain, even for a great friend and colleague like you.  To top it off, this morning I saw that I have gained 17 pounds since I started working for you guys — my body is telling me that this type of work is not healthy for me any longer, putting in fulltime hours and losing sleep for, after paying Uncle Sam, what amounts to part-time pay.  😉

 

[How do you and your wife survive on no salary at all?!]

 

Over the past eight or nine years, I’ve grown into more of a people person, reading the faces and voices of employees to help them maximize their capabilities.  Anyway, guess it’s time I stop trying to pound this ol’ manager blockhead into a well-rounded young engineer’s role.  In other words, Branedraighn’s money would be better spent on someone with a burning desire to perform engineering testing duties.

 

Yesterday afternoon, I posted the last copy of the mesh network test report I was working on and left it up on the wiki for whoever you plan to hire full-time to perform much-needed professional engineering testing (i.e., QA) for Branedraighn.

 

BTW, Kevin showed me the testing website called TestLite within the Branedraighn wiki — looks like you all are well on your way toward having a fully developed test suite development environment.  Other than a warm body, what do you need me for?

 

I’ll gladly help field test the stuff for you if you still need me for that but suggest that a young software engineer from UAH would probably suit you guys better as a future test engineer at Branedraighn to wring all the bugs out of the mesh network scripts and next.2 code.

 

Best of luck to your team!  You have a bunch of dedicated/smart engineers at Branedraighn who have more creativity and enthusiasm in their little fingers than I have in my age-addled brain.

 

Stay in touch.

 

Thanks again,

Gus Emboshill

============================================

 

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Read at your leisure — a personal note
From: “Paul” <Paul.O’Reilly@branedraighn.com>
Date: Wed, March 26, 2008 9:00 am
To: Gus

 

Good morning Gus,

 

Sorry I missed you the other morning.  I wish you had knocked and we had touched base.

 

I understand what you are saying and where you are coming from.  BUT, I do want you to know that you have contributed greatly in such a short time.  And it has been recognized by several in the Branedraighn organization.  I personally hate to think that I won’t see you as often.

 

As for part-time pay, we can always negotiate that.  Not that Uncle Sam gets any easier on you, but 3 steps forward, 1 step back…

 

As for weight gain, well those pastries didn’t help anyone’s waistline. J  … indeed.

 

In breaking this news to David and John, what parts of this email can I share?  I will only share the last couple of paragraphs if that is what you prefer.

 

Have a great day!

 

Paul

 

 

 

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Read at your leisure — a personal note
From: Gus
Date: Fri, March 28, 2008 5:42 am
To: Paul <Paul.O’Reilly@branedraighn.com>

 

Paul,

 

I’ve taken a couple of days to respond to you in order to eliminate emotion from my response.  Thanks for your patience and understanding.

 

I had hesitated in elaborating more on the reasons for leaving Branedraighn but after thinking more about it and having a mirror held up to me by Andrew Hale yesterday, I guess I should admit that the root cause of my not wanting to work at Branedraighn any longer is Jian Shian.  Over the past couple of weeks, I had tried to neutralize Jian’s negative influence — his bullying tactics and personal insults — by plying him with technical documentation about wireless technology.  Unfortunately, Jian’s personality is just too strong to be overcome with a better understanding of the technology he’s supposed to be involved with.

 

Until yesterday, I had thought you had hired Jian full-time and I would never have had a chance to work with the wonderful team at Branedraighn as long as he was there.  Andrew informed me that you had only hired Jian as a contractor and thus there was a slim chance that work conditions could improve at Branedraighn.

 

Therefore, if you ever consider getting rid of Jian, let me know, and I will gladly discuss returning to Branedraighn to help you guys out.  If you feel that Jian’s negative influence only extended to me, that Jason G and Bruce M are no longer feeling negatively toward Jian, and that Jian has successfully managed the project schedule and relationship with the customer, then I doubt there’s any reason to let John go.

 

There are times when I can laugh at myself for emotional states of mind, realizing that even in the middle years of my life I am still influenced by the effects of childhood memories.  Right now, I think it’s funny that the memories of the bullies who harassed and injured me in grade school because I was smarter and more well-liked by teachers have come back to the surface after working with Jian.  I was always able to put up with Jian at parties and laugh about it because I knew his way of forcing his opinion down my throat would only last an hour or so.  But the laughter ended there.  Working with him on a daily basis has taken a toll on my health and I just don’t need that kind of work environment anymore.

 

Anyway, I hope all goes well at Branedraighn, whether you keep Jian or not.  You have a lot of good potential with the next.2 concept and I look forward to hearing about the great successes in the future at Branedraighn.

 

All the best,

Gus

==========================

 

Paul and I will meet for lunch next Wednesday for a good friend-to-friend chat at the new German restaurant where Beauregard’s used to be on Pratt Avenue (just east of Memorial Parkway). My spirits have lifted just knowing that I can have a face-to-face discussion with Paul and get some of my concerns off my chest, so to speak. Karen has suggested that I don’t get my hopes up about job prospects at Branedraighn. We’ll see.

I’ll meet Vincent for lunch on Monday at the new Indian restaurant in Madison at the hotel where he and I stayed when we first came to this area so Vincent could interview for a job at Intergraph where he has worked ever since. I, on the other hand, have worked for GE, Rocketdyne (both through Bisbing Enterprises/Butler Services temp agency and then GE permanently (while at GE, I moonlighted for a coworker as a CAD technician), ADS Environmental Services/Accusonic Technologies, Conexant Systems, Cumulo-Seven and now for myself as sole proprietor of Pruned Pear Productions, performing consulting work for Branedraighn Wireless and Classic Folk Art. It’ll be good to see Vincent again.

My neighbor pulls his Dodge Ram (2500? 3500?) duelie truck into the driveway. I don’t know what exactly he does for a living but I believe it has something to do with building homes. Seems like he had a sign in his yard for BHB (Bob’s Home Builders) and his name is Bob Luidigi. He talks on the cell phone a lot when standing out in his driveway. Anyway, he’s pulled his diesel monster out of the driveway and left. All is quiet once again, except for the bluegrass music on the wireless speaker next to me.

Yesterday was another turning point in my life. No one except me will know how close I came to making major changes in my life. I haven’t decided if I’ll make the changes I discussed with myself on paper.

Novel reveal

25 July 2008

After disclosing that I killed myself in 1980, I show the reader that I AM THE BOOK itself. My essence has completely taken over the pages and had begun to do so when I set pen to paper the first time I wrote a word in kindergarten, my first sentence in first grade, my first paragraph in second grade, my first short story in fifth grade, my first novella in college and my first novel in adulthood.

27 July 2008

Attended engagement party for my niece and her fiancé at the on Friday. Best memory – colonel giving Sam advice to maintain positive attitude at all times as leader (assistant football coach – receivers). Discussed poor state of health of fescue grass sod in the colonel’s backyard. Made eye contact with several women – they obviously thought of me as good-looking and worth sharing eye-love with.

Today at a friend’s house so Karen can enjoy stamping notecards with friends. Will go out to eat later on.

[backspace] Include email “conversation” with Belle.

Email Exchange

2008-06-14

Belle,

 

Wow! What a wonderful email I received from you. You make me feel like a real, honest-to-God, full-fledged author, and not just “a promising writer one day.” Right now, I sit in the sunroom at the back of our house and hear the splash of a waterfall I built several years ago that only runs after our pond fills up from a strong rain storm. Two series of thunderstorms passed through the area in the past 24 hours so the pond bursts at the seams with runoff from our rooftop and water terracing down the hill into our yard (the hill represents part of the remnant of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains tapering into north Alabama). Bright green dragonflies hover about, looking for yummy mosquito larva or unsuspecting horse flies to munch on for lunch. A break in the clouds brings sunshine to the woods around me and birds call out to each other, seeing who survived the recent downpour. St. John’s Wort bushes have burst forth with bright yellow blooms, announcing the arrival of summer, rarely timing their floral display to coincide with St. John’s Day, or midsummer day, around the 24th of June. A cup of Lipton tea, green tea mixed with bergamot, cools in a cup beside me. A stick of purple incense curls into gray ashes as the smoke finds its way to an open window. In other words, I sit in my place of meditation, content with myself, no pressing need to capture specific thoughts, dreams or real-life situations for use in a later short story or novel. No need to conjure up more situations for Bruce Colline! 😉

 

I apologize for not responding to your email immediately. On the day I received your thoughtful passages, my mind had taken a brief vacation while recovering from a previous day’s emotional roller coaster ride.

 

Nearly two years ago, my brother in-law, a NASA engineer, died unexpectedly at 51 years of age, due in small part to the stress of working on the GLAST satellite (a space-based telescope designed to study the energy and location of gamma rays emitted throughout the universe). Seems like he developed a blood clot in his legs after spending time in a hospital for removal of a kidney stone, blood clots that typically develop in a person sitting for long periods of time. He went home from the hospital after the kidney stone procedure but his health deteriorated. Back at the hospital a few days later, he worsened when the blood clots spread to his lungs, reducing his oxygen-exchange capacity, and then the clots moved to his heart, causing cardiac arrest and death while in the hospital, no less. If hospital personnel fail to resurrect you, then your time is up!

In the ensuing months, I’ve faced my mortality as if my time had come and gone. Living on borrowed time and all that. Put the time to good use. Retired from corporate life. Started a consulting business and a personal/professional website with blog. Up and down income. Wrote two novels, published four, working on a fifth. Interviewed as an author for the first time. First professional critical review of a novel of mine.

All the while, an elephant-sized ghost stood in the room, haunting me, taunting me, pointing out my insufficiencies compared to my deceased brother in-law, laughing at my accomplishments, knowing they’d pale in comparison to the festivities and excitement surrounding the launch of GLAST (Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope), jabbing me with a finger every time we attended a ceremony at NSSTC, where my brother in-law worked, to dedicate the satellite or a plaque to my brother in-law’s memory.

Last week, I hung out with my wife and her family in the Cape Canaveral area, hoping to see the GLAST satellite launch into space on top of a Delta II rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Unfortunately, the launch date kept slipping, finally occurring on Wednesday, 11th June, nearly a week after my sister in-law and kids returned to Huntsville and several days after my wife, 90-year old mother in-law and I returned to our homes. All of us missed a personal viewing of the launch but my wife, mother in-law and I did get to attend a briefing and reception as special VIP guests of NASA on Friday, 7th June, at the Kennedy Space Center.

Patience is a vulture, slowly circling overhead. After two years of waiting, GLAST launched successfully earlier this week and took the ghost in the room with it into orbit. A great weight also lifted off my shoulders. I no longer live on borrowed time.

As of this past Wednesday, I live as a new man, free to see the future without peering through the fog of the past. The skies have cleared. Smooth sailing ahead. Now, if I only had a map and compass…but if I don’t know where I’m going, I won’t have to stop to ask for directions. LOL

 

When I received your email on Thursday, I caught myself teetering on an old, splintered, split-rail fence, scratching my behind and looking back and forth between two lush-green fields like a squirrel deciding which direction to find my next meal. One field represented the first half of my life and contained many well-worn trails with delightful watering holes and familiar shade trees to sit beside. The other field represented the second half of my life, overgrown with weeds, sticker bushes, hidden holes and crevices to fall into and all sorts of unseen vegetation, promising neither wonderment nor repetition, only new sensations. In either field, I could continue my way and enjoy my life. Too tired to jump off the fence, I found a little rotted out knothole in a fence post and pulled myself in to take a nap.

 

I might just hibernate in that hole for a few days until I get my energy back. While my body snoozes, I’ll exercise my mind a bit and get back to this note and your “interview” with me.

 

Belle: Hi Bruce or is it Gus??

 

Gus: Yes, you could say I – that is, Gus – I am somewhat like the character, Bruce Colline, in “Are You With The Program?” Certainly makes my writing a bit easier for this type of novel, telling a story from a mindset similar to mine, a person working in the high-tech industry.

 

Belle: Figure when you are a writer, you have to write about your life experience as well as your vivid imagination. Think I am getting a lot of information about you and your possible interests. Correct me if I am wrong??

 

Gus: Well, Belle, you certainly understand how a writer’s mind works. Or at least, how this writer’s mind sometimes works. I gave Bruce a lot of my same interests. I had started writing this book as a short story to give to a few work colleagues who dared me to tell the true story about how their small startup company had been bought by a large company and then tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage. Instead of using one of my work colleagues as a main character and having to worry about getting permission for using their work situations as well as spending time interviewing them, I decided to insert myself into the stories they had told me and twist around a few fantasy sequences to cover up some of the company secrets they told me or I had heard myself.

 

Belle: Anyway, read a few pages and really had not had time to continue. Have had my husband’s youngest daughter visiting with her husband and her daughter and have been running around a lot. In any event, today, took a few hours for myself and must admit your book has held my attention. Now I am only on page 155, (should probably wait until have completed reading) but I have to stop for now. Since I have never been able to “interview” a writer before, thought this would be fun.

 

Gus: Fun, indeed. I’m all about fun. I couldn’t believe some of my former coworkers wanted me to write a serious exposé about the company we worked for. I guess I’ve grown older and seen that having fun brings a lot more joy into my life than bad-mouthing others. I’ve worked in the corporate world long enough to know that no company has perfect future vision and thus makes mistakes, mistakes that in hindsight look like intentional attempts to destroy portions of the company. Even if some corporate executives “have it out” for some people or projects in the company, what does it get you to point those out? Why not poke fun at the whole process so we can all go out to a bar somewhere and have a few laughs over a drink later on? The more the merrier, I say!

 

Belle: In the beginning I was mystified by your imagination. Figure at some point I am going to go back and reread that part because I am sure it is going to come into play. At this point, I sorta feel like I am “viewing” episodes like the TV show Lost (which I do not watch any more because I got tired of being left hanging). The difference in the TV show and your book is I am sure that I will get some final resolution in the end – if I can understand your jargon (and I think I will).

 

Gus: Belle, you shouldn’t feel alone in that regard. I wrote a few sections of the book as metaphors, to disguise portions of real life that I did not want to tell in a straight manner. I wouldn’t say that I’m protecting the innocent necessarily but I am keeping some people out of the spotlight so that I don’t have to worry about getting a job in this market, should I choose to return, that is. Unfortunately, only those closest to the story will understand the true meaning of the metaphors. I chose this method to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Swift and his “Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemeur Gulliver” (more commonly known as “Gulliver’s Travels”).  And by the way, I’ve never watched Lost.  It looks like an island soap opera, and we all know that soap operas were designed to hold the viewing audience in suspense so they could watch TV commercials.

 

Belle: Now I understand, Corporate Politics is applicable no matter what the business but the language in this case must be appropriate to the computer/techie environment. I am thinking, though I could be wrong, that your book would probably play well in Silicon Valley or other techie communities. Also, because of the nature of fast developing technology as well as the current economy, the workplace in this field is probably very volatile at this time. How the “fantasy world” and the “real world” are going to come into play has become a hook that is helping to sustain my interest. But the corporate politics, which is something I am more familiar with, is also sustaining my interest.

 

Gus: Yes, I agree there. As I said, the fantasy sequences were created to hide some sensitive facts behind the real story which takes place in the corporate world. I have tried to tie the relevant portions of the fantasies into the everyday portions of the novel to maintain a storyline. From a structural point, keep in mind that I wrote this book as a labyrinth, with dead ends and switchbacks thrown in (I even watched the movies Labyrinth and Pan’s Labyrinth while writing this book; in addition, I was partially influenced by Labyrinths, a short story collection by Jorge Luis Borges). My wife prefers novels and movies with no dead ends so I know that some readers will not like having what looks like loose ends in the story. So be it. As one friend of mine observed, I’ll never have a popular book in the marketplace because I think too much and write novels that play with readers’ minds without using common themes like Christianity in books like The Da Vinci Code.

 

Belle: I have never read nor frankly am I interested in the Harry Potter series of books. However, hasn’t there been a recent lawsuit in which someone was to publish a directory of the terms used and the Author wanted to publish it herself? It would sure as hell help me to have a directory of terms used in describing things related to Bruce’s Company. I know how to turn my computer on and off and a little bit more but that’s about it. So, at this point, I decided not to get lost in the jargon…

 

Gus: You mean you didn’t read one of the most popular book series of all time? I’m shocked! Just kidding. I cracked open the cover of one of the books (number five?) when we bought a copy to give to my nephew. The sentences on the one page I glanced at felt warmed over and reused from children’s books I’d read as a kid. I’ve yet to read the books but have seen a couple of the movies with my niece and nephew – I suspended my belief that the storyline copied many old tales (including ones from another popular book series, “Lord of the Rings”) and enjoyed the acting of such greats as Maggie Smith and Richard Harris. But you’re right, even those of us who haven’t read the Harry Potter books still get influenced by the stories surrounding them when legal issues like the author’s “ownership” of genuine glossaries, guides and such hit the news. I had considered adding an index or glossary to my novel but frankly wanted to get it to press quickly (part of what I mentioned previously, a feeling of only having a short time on this planet, with only the essentials of life left to live). Now that I have some time to contemplate the universe and the valuable inputs from my friends, I’ll add a glossary to the novel and release a New! and Improved! version for sale. 😉

 

Belle: After I finish it, I certainly will write further, hoping you will be interested in my comments…

 

Gus: Belle, I relish every word that my friends give me, whether in an effort to share their opinions about current events or to help improve my writing. It seems we spend little time writing anymore that I have to wonder what will become of children’s thinking capabilities if they don’t practice putting their thoughts down on paper. I can’t change the whole world but I can enjoy writing to my friends and family and hope they spread the thrill of writing to others.

 

Belle: Also, my Godson and Nephew (only one I have of each who is one and the same) majored in English and Journalism, currently is working for a sports franchise website but really would like to do exactly what you are doing. After I finish the book (and my review) I shall share it with him and try to get him to read and comment.

 

Gus: Isn’t that funny? I envy your godson/nephew! I would like to do exactly what he is doing, putting a degree based on writing to use in my job. I took journalism classes in college at one point, thinking that I’d get a degree in broadcasting or journalism; that is, until the professors started telling us how much a typical journalist or broadcaster makes, something above minimum wage but not something that a person could retire to the Caribbean Islands with. So, I switched majors to Computer Science and never looked back, devoting my hobby time to writing. In the course of my life, I have written sports articles for the local newspaper as a stringer covering high school sports at nights and weekends, written general articles for the local entertainment weekly magazine and published underground newsletters, lampooning corporate life.

 

Belle: He is a special young man. He was born hearing impaired and was so bright that the dumbass NYC Doctors did not discover he was deaf. When my smart Sister and her hubby moved to Savannah for 1 year it was determined that he had never heard anything any quieter than a Mac truck starting up. With much special help from my math major Sister and tutoring and special schools and a very supportive Dad, he ended up at Rice University with, I think, two Masters – Major in English and Masters in Journalism. He has always been underemployed, I believe, because of his perceived handicap though he has a fun job with the website which I am sure he has outgrown. The reason I say perceived is he has almost always operated in anonymous normalcy. Writing is his first love (right behind baseball) and Art would place a close First as well. I tell you all this because of his keen insight and also his knowledge of computers and networks (far greater than mine anyway). And I hope I can interest him in reading your book (after I am finished, of course) and starting a dialogue with you. Two writers maybe can inspire each other. Also, he is very special and I love him dearly…

 

Gus: No doubt. Unfortunately, intelligence is often measured by the way we speak and with his hearing impairment, I bet that he has a speech impediment and is seen as having less intelligence than the average person. Because of that, rarely does a person with a speech or hearing impediment appear in the popular press and if they do, they carry the burden of representing anyone else with hearing or speech impediments, as if loss or impairment of one of the five senses gives you ESP connections with anyone else having the same impairment. I would gladly communicate with him and discuss writing, breaking into novel publishing, etc. I have friends in the advertising and writing business who could help him if he’s interested in something other than covering baseball. Hey, while watching birds digging desperately in the backyard feeders looking for a crumb (REMINDER TO SELF: gotta fill the feeders this afternoon), I just had a memory flashback. Anyway, seems like quite a while back you talked about your nephew in an email to your friends, asking us to look him up (possibly on mlb.com). I don’t have that email anymore, I don’t think. Do you remember if you bragged about him to all of us a few years ago? In any case, you have my email so feel free to share it with Michael.

 

Belle: Back to you, Gus, or is it Bruce – I love originality and a favorite is “The midlife-crisis ones stood out like a pair of silicone breasts at a nudist colony, driving Harley Davidson motorcycles or expensive convertibles”, for example…

 

Gus: Thanks! A writer who wants to speak to others has only one goal, to inform readers through original insights and phrases. We all experience life – a writer wants to enrich that life with words. A simple task that rips writers to shreds!

 

Belle: More to follow; hope this will be fun for you too!

 

Gus: You bet. And by the way, I’m beginning to understand more of what your nephew goes through, even though I would never say I’ve lived his life. I’m losing my hearing and will share thoughts from a few days ago:

 

[4 June 2008, 0730] While sitting alone in the common room of a third floor hotel suite at Residence Inn – Marriott in Cape Canaveral in the early morning hours, watching birds acclimated to the coastal area of eastern Florida, I listen.

Expecting to hear the chatter of the grackle or the coo of a mourning dove, I listen to the sound of constant ringing, the aural signpost that I long ago entered Tinnitus Territory.

Like the pirate tales of old, warning signs of “STAY OUT,” “YE BE WARNED,” and “GO BACK” existed, but I ignored them as I attended rock concerts, mowed lawns, cut wooden boards with electric circular saws, inserted screws with electric drills and played loud music through headphones, telling myself that the numb ear sensations would pass.

Now, the permanent sensation of whistling, whooshing, ringing and buzzing accompany me on my journey through life.

I raise my cup of hotel-supplied Royal Cup Hearth Room blended coffee that complemented a Dunkin Donuts French cruller a moment ago and celebrate going deaf.
Regards,

Gus/Bruce

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Belle [mailto:Belle]
Sent: Saturday, June 14, 2008 10:32 PM
To: Gus
Subject: I don’t know what you said…

Hi Bruce,

 

See that I have an email from you but I cannot open it.

 

Have not had a chance to read more of your book  yet but will write when I do.

 

By the by…you have many email addresses. Which is the best address for you??

 

Please resend your email; it appears to be lost in space!!

 

Smiles,Belle

 

From: Belle [mailto:Belle]
Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2008 1:17 AM
To: Gus
Subject: Re: Review to date…

Great news! Guess it was because of the storm my emails were not coming through! Went back online and kazam — your email did appear! So forget the previous email I sent except to tell me which address I should use. I shall try to respond to your comments in kind. The first part of your email I shall save to reply later…

(By the way, I had planned to read some more of your book but am writing you instead)…

 

Gus: Yes, you could say I – that is, Gus – I am somewhat like the character, Bruce Colline, in “Are You With The Program?” Certainly makes my writing a bit easier for this type of novel, telling a story from a mindset similar to mine, a person working in the high-tech industry.

Belle: Was on the bus headed to meet my husband and his folks when a lovely, well dressed older woman noticed my book “Are You With The Program”. She was fascinated by the title and I told her a little something about “how I met you”, the fact that I never open unfamiliar emails, but you had the same subject as I had sent to folks in my address book so took a chance. Anyway, told her that as far as I can recall, you are the only person I have ever met that way. Told her a little about your book, mostly what I had written you and the fact that I was right in the middle of reading it. Maybe she will get it!!

Gus: Well, Belle, you certainly understand how a writer’s mind works. Or at least, how this writer’s mind sometimes works. I gave Bruce a lot of my same interests. I had started writing this book as a short story to give to a few work colleagues who dared me to tell the true story about how their small startup company had been bought by a large company and then tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage. Instead of using one of my work colleagues as a main character and having to worry about getting permission for using their work situations as well as spending time interviewing them, I decided to insert myself into the stories they had told me and twist around a few fantasy sequences to cover up some of the company secrets they told me or I had heard myself.

Belle: Probably a smart move; one never knows when one may be sued. Once I knew this elderly gentleman, Red Dorrian who owned Dorrian’s Red Hand (he has passed away well into his nineties). He came to New York as a stowaway when I believe he was about 14. He had been with the IRA and his number was up. His bar was famous in NYC; the first time I was ever taken there it was by an FBI Agent. A lot of Feds hung out there. Then when I lived uptown on the East Side, my roommate and I used to go there when only bars had Cable and we would watch the Knicks games. It became sorta like a “family place”; if you were a regular, you did not have to pay a cover on game nights (otherwise, a funny guy called the Silver Fox would collect at the door). Anyway, Mr. Dorrian wanted me to do his biography. I had got him a voice activated tape recorder and had him keeping it by himself and recording into it. Some of the things he told me got my Dad concerned and he told me not to do it! He was afraid I might be sued!! Jimmy Breslin wanted to do the book and Mr. Dorrian told him, No! He told him I was doing it. Oh well, another time I had a chance to have had made that million. The fact that the old man thought I could do it may have indicated that he was failing mentally!!

 

Gus: Fun, indeed. I’m all about fun. I couldn’t believe some of my former coworkers wanted me to write a serious exposé about the company we worked for. I guess I’ve grown older and seen that having fun brings a lot more joy into my life than bad-mouthing others. I’ve worked in the corporate world long enough to know that no company has perfect future vision and thus makes mistakes, mistakes that in hindsight look like intentional attempts to destroy portions of the company. Even if some corporate executives “have it out” for some people or projects in the company, what does it get you to point those out? Why not poke fun at the whole process so we can all go out to a bar somewhere and have a few laughs over a drink later on? The more the merrier, I say!

Belle: From your resume I could believe you were about fun. You have had fun trying a lot of things — never intended to be career goals — but just plain fun. Perhaps, my single biggest failing is I have always thought one should enjoy their job! Have never had a job I did not enjoy “in the beginning” but when it was no longer fun I have moved out or moved on. Not always the best plan but really have no serious regrets; maybe wish I had handled things a little differently and things may have turned out differently but, hey, did not know then what I know now so how could that have been?!

Gus: Belle, you shouldn’t feel alone in that regard. I wrote a few sections of the book as metaphors, to disguise portions of real life that I did not want to tell in a straight manner. I wouldn’t say that I’m protecting the innocent necessarily but I am keeping some people out of the spotlight so that I don’t have to worry about getting a job in this market, should I choose to return, that is. Unfortunately, only those closest to the story will understand the true meaning of the metaphors. I chose this method to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Swift and his “Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemeur Gulliver” (more commonly known as “Gulliver’s Travels”).  And by the way, I’ve never watched Lo st.  It looks like an island soap opera, and we all know that soap operas were designed to hold the viewing audience in suspense so they could watch TV commercials.

Belle: Very interesting. Makes it all the more fascinating and my plan to go back and read the “metaphors” at the appropriate time still holds true– after I probably finish reading the whole book. There is this thing about “never burning your bridges” when you leave a place of employment or a field where you may at some point want to return. You are a wise man! I have burned bridges at the time because it made me feel good and have always regretted it at some point. I have learned most everything I know the hard way…

Gus: Yes, I agree there. As I said, the fantasy sequences were created to hide some sensitive facts behind the real story which takes place in the corporate world. I have tried to tie the relevant portions of the fantasies into the everyday portions of the novel to maintain a storyline. From a structural point, keep in mind that I wrote this book as a labyrinth, with dead ends and switchbacks thrown in (I even watched the movies Labyrinth and Pan’s Labyrinth while writing this book; in addition, I was partially influenced by Labyrinths, a short story collection by Jorge Luis Borges). My wife prefers novels and movies with no dead ends so I know that some readers will not like having what looks like loose ends in the story. So be it. As one friend of mine observed, I’ll never have a popular book in the marketplace because I think too much and write novels that play with readers’ minds without using common themes like Christianity in books like The Da Vinci Code.

Belle: I disagree with your friend!

Gus: You mean you didn’t read one of the most popular book series of all time? I’m shocked! Just kidding. I cracked open the cover of one of the books (number five?) when we bought a copy to give to my nephew. The sentences on the one page I glanced at felt warmed over and reused from children’s books I’d read as a kid. I’ve yet to read the books but have seen a couple of the movies with my niece and nephew – I suspended my belief that the storyline copied many old tales (including ones from another popular book series, “Lord of the Rings”) and enjoyed the acting of such greats as Maggie Smith and Richard Harris. But you’re right, even those of us who haven’t read the Paul Potter books still get influenced by the stories surrounding them when legal issues like the author’s “ownership” of genuine glos saries, guides and such hit the news. I had considered adding an index or glossary to my novel but frankly wanted to get it to press quickly (part of what I mentioned previously, a feeling of only having a short time on this planet, with only the essentials of life left to live). Now that I have some time to contemplate the universe and the valuable inputs from my friends, I’ll add a glossary to the novel and release a New! and Improved! version for sale. 😉

Belle: Knowing my husband would not be interested in Harry Potter as well as my Sister knowing her husband would not be either — the two of us went to see the first movie. Did nothing for me and I had no desire to see the others or read the books.  Admission: I have never read the book series “Lord of the Rings” nor seen any of the movies! (I do read and I do go to a lot of movies). I am sorta like your wife I think. Mostly I am attracted to historical novels, biographies, political books — those that have conclusions. My husband likes mysteries and Michael seems to like a lot of Science Fiction. I will read anything though if it seems interesting. Think the glossary is a great idea. You have me very concerned with your having had the “feeling of only having a short time on this planet, with only the essentials of life left to live”. I am very glad that you now have some time to contemplate the universe! I believe you have a lot to contribute as well!! I did notice that your book was award winning, certainly something to be proud of…

Bruce: Belle, I relish every word that my friends give me, whether in an effort to share their opinions about current events or to help improve my writing. It seems we spend little time writing anymore that I have to wonder what will become of children’s thinking capabilities if they don’t practice putting their thoughts down on paper. I can’t change the whole world but I can enjoy writing to my friends and family and hope they spread the thrill of writing to others.
Belle: Bruce, your comments are sooooo true. Reading and writing are so enriching and children spend too much time watching TV and playing games

Belle: God, I hope you don’t go deaf. Though there are some advantages –not being distracted by unnecessary noise, being able to tune out, being able to concentrate when the world may be going to hell in a hand basket — those advantages are far outweighed by the real advantage of hearing. To have never had 100% hearing is far different than having had it and lost some of part of hearing though. “It is better to have had and lost than never to have had at all”. My Sister is published with two books, one of which was “Family to Family” which relates true stories of people who are deaf — born, sickness that lead to deafness, having lost hearing later in life, being the child of deaf parents, etc. etc. — gives you a better understanding of what it is all about. (Her first booklet was “My Child Comes With Directions” which was intended to help other parents and teachers to cope with and help hearing impaired children. My Sister was a teacher at one point).  You say, “Now, the permanent sensation of whistling, whooshin g, ringing and buzzing accompany me on my journey through life.” Is this something you expect to live with? Cannot there be treatment for this?? Let me know if you were being poetic of if this is true.

 

You have kept me up half the night answering you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Best, Belle

 

Belle,

I………… unfinished thought
—–Original Message—–
From: Belle [mailto:Belle]
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 10:29 AM
To: Gus
Subject: Follow up…

Hi Bruce,

 

Guess by now you have received my reply to your comments to you in kind re:  my earlier comments about your book. Impatient that I was, could not wait for whatever the email problem was (probably the weather) and responded to not receiving your email without allowing time for it to come through. When later I went online again that same night, your first email did in fact come through. Thanx anyway for sending it again.

 

The first part of your reply was the first I had learned of your brother in law. From your description, I am thinking you are talking about your wife’s brother? My goodness, what a tragedy. Don’t know what the protocol was when he was in the hospital for an unrelated matter but I learned when my Sister was in the hospital last year that they gave her a shot in her tummy of blood thinner as a precaution. Since she was in the hospital for surgery I remember asking the nurse what that shot was for and she had replied that it was for a precaution as blood clots could form. Sad that this protocol may not have been the practice two years ago.

 

There are a lot of engineers in your family. Smart folks!

 

 

Was sorta stunned by what you had said and I did not want to dwell on it but started thinking after I wrote to you that you may have been thinking about your mortality because of something so senseless and sudden having happened to your brother in law.  Upon reflection, your comments, “Patience is a vulture, slowly circling overhead. After two years of waiting, GLAST launched successfully earlier this week and took the ghost in the room with it into orbit. A great weight also lifted off my shoulders. I no longer live on borrowed time”. Decided, maybe the finite act of launching that which represented his work may have been the resolution. On the other hand, I was concerned that you may have had some health problems yourself that you did not want to talk about but that had been preying on your mind. Anyway, I am glad that you are in a positive frame of mind for whatever reason…

 

Must confess with all that I have been through with my parents, one at a time, my Sister and my Husband I certainly feel concerned about mortality. For a while since no one really close to me had had serious problems I guess I seemed to feel that  life here on earth was almost eternal. Think the loss of my Mother at 94 in 2003 really hit me the hardest. She was my biggest fan (as I hope all Mothers are), my best friend and so young at heart. Many times when she had had problems in the past, I had gone home, got her to the right Doctor and felt “I saved her life”. That last time, at her age, really almost 95, and the seriousness of her illnesses — there was no hope. But, by damn, we gave it our best shot — me and my Sister and the Doctors — but it was not to be. Sorta felt like I was failing her because I could not “save her life”. Of course, I know that was unrealistic but I never imagined not having her physically with me forever. I do know that she is still with me but I cannot pick up the phone to call her or rush down to be with her.

 

My thoughts for the morning.

 

Stay well and happy! Belle

—–Original Message—–
From: Gus [mailto:Gus]
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 2:15 PM
To: Belle
Subject: Better late than never

Belle,

Even now, when I finally put myself in front of the laptop computer, I look about me, wondering what I can or should say at this moment, when, like so many other people in the world at this moment, I look at trees fluttering in a gentle breeze, feel the comforting shade of the tree canopy on this warm June day, and hear the conversation of birds (in my case, blue jay and other unknown bird calls), the drone of single engine planes flying overhead, and the distance sound of lawnmowers and tractor trailer rigs, while watching butterflies, wasps and other flying insects look for food. The mixed sound of human and nonhuman activities reminds me of a fact I learned the other day. Did you know there is only one place in the continental United States that is farther than 22 miles from the nearest highway? (True: In the middle of a large park somewhere)

Why do people put words down on paper? Today, I wish I knew. I have temporarily lost myself, I believe, and wonder if I know how to think anymore.

Every day I wake up confident that I will see the beauty in the world, no matter how dire the surroundings may appear, and smile, spreading that smile to those around me. Today, I looked for my smile in the mirror and suddenly saw a bent-over, middle-aged, OLD, man. The promise of youth had left me. Where did it go? And by losing it, have I lost myself in the process?

I worked around the house and yard the past couple of days, helping to deliver an old sofa of ours to a friend of my wife (proving to myself I’m still strong by carrying the sofa on my back for about 30 or 40 feet), all the while composing notes and letters to friends, imagining what to say to them about my pending death. The doctor has no grim words for me, telling me when I will die, and neither does the nurse practitioner give me words of comfort about death and dying. The medical reasons for my upcoming death have little importance. I follow the medical regimen outlined for me, and have prepared all but one legal document to make sure my wife will make a smooth transition to a life without me.

I suppose my hearing loss comes with the territory, along with an aging face and skin. I still have strength and work out with a small weight set to maintain muscle mass, per my doctor’s advice. I try to walk around the neighborhood. Jogging and biking stress my joints too much, unfortunately.

Funny, how life catches up with us. I’ve avoided major diseases (and continue to do so) by staying away from people who live unhealthy lives. Of course, like many air travelers, I’ve experienced head colds and chest congestion after exposure to fellow passengers (oftentimes, children appear to pass on colds). I suppose a brief period of smoking in my life and some heavy bouts of drinking have led to my current condition. At least I stuck to my motto: Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die.

A blue-striped skink – a kind of lizard – meanders across our driveway, encountering some sort of bright green insect along its path. My lack of entomology kicks in at this moment so I would venture to guess that the bright green insect belongs to the fly family but is not a green bottle fly. The body is too long. Anyway, the skink came right up to the insect before the insect seemed to notice.   I bet the skink wanted to eat the insect but it scooted away. [I captured a digital photo of the two of them together. If I figure out how to download the image, I’ll include a copy in this email.]

Details like these make me realize the universe exists with humans as a unique species on one planet but only one species among many. We use the excuse of the fragility of life on this planet in order to secure a place on the planet and possibly destroy our surrounding environment in the process. All so we can enjoy the convenience of McDonald’s burgers, Starbucks coffee and Chinese takeout on every corner of civilization. Sigh…do we see the toxic chemicals that contribute to loss of life at the same time? Oh well, I promised myself to stay off the soapbox and look what I’ve done. Perhaps I should stop reading Steinbeck right now – I just finished “Cannery Row” and have read several chapters into “Of Mice and Men” – the stories deal with an aspect of life I rarely experience on a daily basis.

If you had one year or so to live, what would you do? I have asked myself that question from the time I was about 10 years old, when my best friend /girlfriend died of leukemia in 5th grade. I knew that one day I would, depending on the circumstances, face my death and have unanswered questions to consider. After all, we’re only human.

I refuse to attribute godlike qualities to our species simply because we have opposable thumbs, can walk upright and developed more brain functions than the average chimpanzee. Omnipotence, omniscience, afterlife, souls, magic, gods – words invented by humans to justify our uniqueness. I sit here in a micro-environment called a subdivision in the suburban outskirts of an urban area designated Huntsville in a larger area of Earth called Alabama in a political entity called the United States on the continent of North America. Language defines me like nothing else. Bruce. Richard. Dick. Richie. Rich. Red. Symbols for the body pressing fingers on plastic cubes called keys.

I finally got around to filling the bird feeders today after watching the gold finches, house finches and tufted titmouses dig at the old, molded suet and chewed-up birdseed the past couple of days. While I stood on the back deck filling a feeder, a healthy (i.e., fat) tick jumped on my leg from between the wooden slats. I had already set my mental radar to sense the slightest touch on my legs from something small and seemingly insignificant like a tick, the “Insect of the Year” in my yard this season. As I flicked the tick off my leg and watched it crawl back into the dark area between slats of pretreated wood that I had screwed into place to form a small deck off the doorway of our sunroom many years ago, I compared myself to the tick. I thought also about the swarm of butterflies that moved in and out of the mimosa blooms over the top of our driveway last year and have noticed only one butterfly among the mimosa blooms this year, probably due to the recent drought that dried up much of the southeast United States the past year. I decided to write you a tale entitled, “The Tick and The Butterfly.”

For you see, Belle, I write down what enters my head through my senses and gets processed in this thing that I can only as this time call a mind but am sure I’ll figure out a more comprehensive, intellectual way to call the computations our bodies make using the organ we call a brain in conjunction with the sensory functions of the rest of our bodies.

I have read your past two emails and still wait for my imagination to spark a response. I wait. And I wait. I apologize for the delay in my response to you. In the meantime, the Earth spins on its axis, people die in wars, people start families together, stars explode in far off galaxies and energy flows from nearby power plants to make sure I can turn on my laptop computer in my home and send you an email at any time.

I sit and I watch vehicles go back and forth on the road in front of my house. The patch of land I call home, a yard, an acre of wooded, sloped property , changes with the seasons and reflects the macro-environment of this region. My acre of land does not exist in a vacuum. Neither does my writing. I sit here and write words specifically directed at you while I shake my fist in the air, metaphorically speaking, asking, “Why me?” Why do I get to watch a somewhat defenseless, inch-long, brown caterpillar hang on a thread and spin in the wind? Butterfly and moth species will exist long after I’m gone.

Today, I wanted to sit down and write a bright, happy response to my Internet friend, Belle, a person born and raised in the South but who distinguished herself on the island of Manhattan. Instead, look what I’ve done, written a digressive discussion of universally insignificant proportions.

= = = = =

Belle, take not a single word of this email with much seriousness. As a writer, I give myself over to my many moods, letting small aspects of my personality dominate so I can feel the emotions and think like characters in future novels of mine. The character in today’s email wants to live although he recently learned he will die sooner than he wished. To give the character believability, I allowed myself to live that character’s life while looking at your recent emails.

In actuality, I have no terminal illness I’m aware of. My last medical exam did show I have elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which my doctor has prescribed what appears to be useful medications. A side effect, unfortunately, beguiles me: my tinnitus (also something I inherited from my mother). However, I pay that price for now until I get the nerve to have surgery to replace the deteriorating bones of my middle ear.

I will write a more appropriate response to you tomorrow, after I have shaken off the thoughts and feelings of the dying character that, for lack of a better word, inhabits me today.

Thanks for your understanding,

Bruce

—–Original Message—–
From: Belle [mailto:Belle]
Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 5:25 PM
To: Gus
Subject: Re: Better late than never

Well Bruce,

 

My guess is you are a very sensitive person who is pretty in touch with yourself and your environment and that’s what makes you an interesting writer.

 

Have you ever noticed when sitting on a plane, next to a total stranger, you surprise yourself by opening up to that person and seeing things perhaps for the first time which one would think were more easily discovered from those you know and love. Strange, we have never met, are sort of like those “strangers on a plane” and can express ourselves somewhat better than we might to our own family. Recall when I was in a mood my Mother would try so hard to “help me” and I really could not express what was bothering me, plus did not want to bother her either as she seemed such a precious, uncomplicated person and I either thought she would not understand (if I knew what was bothering me) or I did not want to complicate her life. Guess I took more after my Dad, who was more complicated.

 

Your writing is full of alliteration; do not know if that is purposeful or just flows. It is obvious that you love words and exploring all things.

 

Talked to Michael today; we have been playing phone tag. He had gotten my emails telling him about your book and our exchanges about him. He did not want me to talk about the book until he has a chance to read it and he promised me he would “read the whole thing” so we could discuss. Also, he said he was very suspicious of self publishing. I said that the cite that you used, being affiliated with Amazon, seemed to have more credibility. Had passed on the positive things that you had said about helping him. Asked him if he minded that I had told you he was hearing impaired and he said no, he did not. Said that he would really not get into a discussion about his writing until he had something to publish. You know, Michael seems a little down. I am convinced that his girl is pushing him, his parents are pulling him and he is dissatisfied with himself right now as he is 36 years old and feels that what he is doing would be more fun if he were younger and also if there were any real future there.  He works crazy hours which gets old at 36.

 

“Me thinks thou thinks too much”. Sometimes dwelling on things is just that, dwelling on things and nothing happens and worry never solves anything –specially if there is really not a problem and we just try to make things up. That’s what I mean about my Mom, she had a great outlook. She did not seem to worry about things and she lived to almost 95. Of course, she was a saint in my mind…

 

I sincerely hope there is nothing seriously wrong with you and from what I think you said I do not believe that there is. Besides taking medication there are things you can do to help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Exercise, dietetic changes and I think, attitude too. Walking is good…

 

Hey, I am 65 years old and, yes, I am a lot like you. I think too much.

 

Don, on the other hand, is 78, has had a quadruple bypass in 1998, (quit smoking), has had a mini stroke which he ignored, went to work all day and only that night did I realize something was wrong with his speech and took him to the hospital. The next day he was fine, speech and all. He was lucky in both cases because, unlike Tim Russert, he was thoroughly evaluated in each case and got the proper treatment — really almost by accident. The thing about Don that I like most. He does not seem to worry and does what he is told and think that is why he is alive. He has had other problems where he has had absolutely no symptoms and because he went to the Dr. at the right time, just for regular  visits, stuff was discovered.

BY THE WAY. HE DOES NOT LIKE ME TO TALK ABOUT HIM AND HIS HEALTH SO YOU KNOW NOTHING!

 

Me, I don’t like to go to the Dr., question everything, know my primary Dr. does not like me and can’t blame him because I do not do anything he tells me to. Even though he is well respected and highly acclaimed — I know he does not know everything and I question him. I do not think Doctors are Gods, just went to school a little longer than we did and may have made C’s in some cases! I don’t think my Doctor made C’s but I do not think he can take blood pressure! He tries to tell me I need medication; I go right away to have my blood pressure taken after I leave him and it is fine! My sister gave me my own equipment to take it myself and it is fine!! I go to the hospital when they have free testing and it is fine!!! My Cardiologist says it is fine!!!! I told him it was him, that I have “white coat syndrome” with him  and I am not coming back just for him to test me…There are other things we fight over too. He does not believe that I am 6 Feet Tall and we fought over that. Imagine!!!!!!

 

I am supposed to be doing the laundry; must go. You take care, ya hear!! Belle

 

2008-06-19

Belle,

I apologize for my delay in sending responses to you.  I know my many moods and through the years have put my moods to use in creating characters for short stories and novels.  Sometimes, however much I want to believe otherwise, I reach a low point where I can write little in the way of useful material.  This week and quite possibly next week, I will take a hiatus from writing so I can recover mentally from the after-effects of the celebration of the launch of my deceased brother in-law’s last work into orbit around Earth.  Call it situational depression, if you will.  I think my whole family feels the same way.  We anticipated the bittersweet joy of the launch and the subsequent mental collapse afterward; even so, living through this period (a post-partum depression, of sorts) makes us go through all the same emotions of the sudden death of my wife’s brother once again.  Just like the fact we didn’t get a chance to say a final goodbye to my brother in-law, we didn’t get to see the live launch of the GLAST satellite.  Twice denied really hurts!

 

On a positive note, several butterflies and at least one hummingbird visit the mimosas today.

 

Hope to talk to you soon.

 

Have a great day!

 

Regards,

Bruce

—–Original Message—–
From: Belle [mailto:Belle]
Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 1:17 PM
To: Gus
Subject: Re: Away from email for a week or so

Bruce,

 

No need for apologies…

 

Please look for and dwell on all the positive things in your life.

 

I believe you have great talent and insight.

 

What you and your family are going through is a lot to have dealt with. Hopefully you can all support each other and, also, remember the blessings that you have all had bestowed upon you too. From the Fantastics, there is a song with the phrase, “without a hurt the heart will grow hollow”.Surely the down times are to make the good times even more meaningful.

 

When I lost my Mom a friend said, “She is not gone, she is a part of you. She lives on in your heart”. That is so true.

 

There is a poem by Mother Teresa that I have somewhere that I wonder if you have ever read. I am not a Catholic, not really that religious but liked that poem. Should I find it, I shall forward it.

 

You take real good care of yourself and those you love.

 

Belle

 

 

 

 

 

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Belle [mailto:Belle]
Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 1:28 PM
To: Gus
Subject: For Bruce

Mother Teresa On Life!

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.

Life is mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it!

Source Unknown

 

 

 

 

From:   Belle

To: Gus
Subject: Re: Chiffon says, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”
Date: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 4:37:15 PM   [View Source]

 

 

In a message dated 7/30/2008 12:26:11 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Gus writes:If you’re not normal, I’d hate to know what your sister is like!  LOL Did she go on to accomplish great things like you did/will after college?

My Sister is perfect; never makes a mistake. Always proper and would never do half the things I have done. She is very successful (retired and married well). She taught school and then became head of the Math Dept. She was a math editor at publishing houses. One year Editor; next year head of dept. She wins all kinds of awards. She was the perfect student, never talked out of turn, made straight A’s, set an example for me to follow and I always disappointed her former teachers as I chewed gum, talked out of turn, wrote notes in class, did not pay attention. Imagine that! The worst part was after I skipped a grade, we were only one grade apart and all the teachers remembered her very well. Guess I just felt I had to be outstanding in other ways. Well, did not take a gun to school, did not beat up; the teacher (was afraid of them), did not smoke, have booze or drugs in my locker. You know, just the normal mischievous child. She is very smart. Has a lot of common sense as well. I think we admire each other.

i suppose the most complimentary thing she has ever said: “If we could have been one person, we would have been one helleva person”. So she knows we are different. But that is OK…

I wonder if kids are even allowed to skip grades anymore.  I’m sure that many of them are promoted socially through the No Child Left Behind program.  Have I ever told you that some states determine their future prison capacity needs by the 3rd-grade literacy rate?  Turns out that if you haven’t learned to read by 3rd grade, you have a high likelihood of ending up in prison after mandatory schooling is completed.  Makes me wish I was more active in the community and willing to teach 5, 6, and 7-year olds how to read and write.  My wife spent a couple of years doing that with kids from the “projects” but quit in frustration at the parents’ deliberate resistance to their children’s desire to learn — after all, if the parents had gotten along just fine being illiterate, their kids could, too, and could start learning how to work cleaning houses/apartments as pre-teens, not bothering with wasteful school stuff.

No I was not aware of the 3rd grade rule regarding determining possible prison capacity needs. Really makes sense. This world is kind of complicated and getting more so. Guess that’s why people resort to crime. Don’t have the capacity to solve their own problems. I can understand both your wife’s efforts and her frustration..

BTW, my sister is younger than me by 21 months so while growing up she always walked in my shadow, literally and figuratively.  I got all the accolades (National Honor Society, National Thespian Society, full college scholarship offers to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech) while all she got were the comments that she’s just like her brother so she better act that way.  Mom was very disappointed that her daughter didn’t end up a valedictorian like her.  My sister never knew she had a higher GPA in high school until after I had graduated from high school and gone on to college.  In fact, until a few weeks ago, after my Dad found some old school records, my sister didn’t know she had a higher IQ than me (by one point).

Good Schools, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. On the other hand, it must have been nice to have an older brother to kind of be there for her. My Sister, though older, looked like the younger — tiny. Also, did your Sister want to tag along, specially when you got your driver’s license (before she did, of course). You would have thought my Sister was 10 years older than me sometimes. Some of her friends were nice to me. Both of us were Tomboys in the neighborhood because there were more boys than girls. She was a pretty good athlete too. Of course, she cannot throw spiral passes as, of course, I can…

I bet that kid who asked you to dance was intimidated.  I saw how the short boys had a tough time of it, low self-esteem due to being “height challenged.”  I was lucky to have grown tall quickly (in between 5th and 6th grades) so I could dance with all the tall female volleyball and basketball players at sock hops when they wanted a boy the same height as them to slow dance with.  Too bad I was such a know-it-all, tattle-tale type or I might have been more popular with the guys (I never had any problem being popular with girls).

I think for a brief moment that kid could not figure it all out; he thought she had grown! Am sure he was intimidated. Think they called that “in those days” a Napoleon complex. Funny though, some of my favorite boyfriends were shorter than I, fun, and petty self confident. If you had the personality, you could be short and it did not matter. Blind dates never worked out but meeting guys and being attracted to each other did. My favorite ploy, when single and attending parties, was to pick out the most attractive short guy and flatter and chat with him; Broke the ice, he was flattered and he often introduced me to his tall friends. Always scheming…Volleyball and basketball — we did not have any sports when I was in School. Considered too rough for girls in the City School System. which of course is BS.  Guys had golf, tennis, track, baseball, basketball, football etc. etc.That is just the way it was and it was not right!!!!!!!

 


Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: I am unsure

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sun, February 08, 2009 5:05 pm

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

Well, I feel like a piece of shit.

Have a great life.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/8/2009 4:56:33 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: I am unsure

Eimear,

That depends on the expectations. Based on the immediate plans for my future, having sexual contact with anyone who’s not my spouse places a potential roadblock in my future plans, especially if the contact is misconstrued by others for whom sexual issues are part their definition of appropriate or misappropriate behavior in relation to granting jobs or business investments.

I don’t mind planning to meet you but I can’t promise promiscuity.

What do you think?

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: I am unsure

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sat, February 07, 2009 4:35 pm

To: <gus-email>

Tell me please, will we still meet each other?

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/7/2009 12:15:20 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: Peace and happiness in abundance

Eimear,

Thanks for the wonderful words. As you can imagine, I’m floating on Cloud 9 right now (does anyone ever float on Cloud 8? lol). Today, we’re celebrating my mother’s 75th anniversary so that she doesn’t have to think about her best friend, who died 2 days ago and will be interred on Monday. Life, death, happiness, sorrow…never stop celebrating what we have while we’re here!!!

For instance, last night I joined Gary, a friend/work colleague, at Madison Bible Church for a fun Friday night get-together where people play musical instruments, display paintings, show off their knitting/embroidery/cross-stitch, or read poetry/short stories, all while having a safe, fun time together. It’s called BYOM (bring your own mug) because special coffees, teas, and finger food are created and served by fellow church members. Gary knew that I was excited about the teaching opportunity as well as the good news about my business, so he surprised me with a phone call, telling me he wanted to celebrate my good news in the way he knew was good for everyone, including my wife who had to work until 10:30 p.m. and couldn’t be with me last night. It was a nice, peaceful evening with geeky, nerdy engineers, missionaries and other analytical minds who profess they follow the advice written down in the tales about Jesus. Sometimes, as complicated as I like to make my life, fun is found in simple activities. I met a man named Mark and his wife who have been missionaries in Jordan and South Africa most of their adult lives. They saw in me the same zeal of sharing the joys of life, without the need to preach about it, by just exhibiting good traits for others to see that you’re serving as a example of a way of life that will enhance your own life and everyone else’s life around you.

If that is what I have done for both of us, whether through writing or any other way we find to communicate, I can keep on living a happy life. I wish that I can meet your daughter one day for her to see the joy in my eyes, too.

I hope you find similar surprisingly fun ways to enjoy this warm and sunny weekend.

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: The news I didn’t expect to hear today

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Thu, February 05, 2009 8:29 pm

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

Hi. First, I am so glad that your wife does not have cancer. Thank God. I hope that they will find out where the internal bleeding is coming from. Second, I am so glad that you are reborn! I believe that everything happens for a reason. As far as your new opportunities, I can not express just how happy that I am for you. My eyes filled with tears not so much at your new opportunities, but more so at the happiness and eagerness I read in your words. Thank you for sharing your joy with me. No matter what you may do now or in the future, you will always be an author to me. Your words have always moved me, and that has only gotten stronger with time. I have and always love you.

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/5/2009 2:41:15 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: The news I didn’t expect to hear today

Eimear,

I believe in the power of not believing. Do not put unnecessary expectations on the future so that what happens to you, no matter how wonderful, will surprise you.

As I told you earlier this week, Thursday (today) was going to be a day of decision-making. What the decision(s) would concern, I did not know and did not try to comprehend (Je ne comprends pas le futur, I suppose I could say, perhaps incorrectly, in the little French I remember from high school).

Yesterday was a day for good news. We found out that my wife does not have cancer although the doctor still does not know what is causing some internal bleeding. In addition, the dean of the local campus of ITT Technical Institute arranged an interview with me on Friday for an adjunct teaching position. I also got an email from a friend who wanted to talk about a business deal.

This morning, I woke up with an erection but when I later took a shower I could not with ease get myself to ejaculate. I could not concentrate my thoughts on feelings of sexuality (my usual relief for a life of tension) because my thoughts were jumping from one good feeling to another. Even so, I thought back to my earlier plans to make today a special day for determining my future, in this case with the word “future” having more a sense of dread, as if I planned today to kill myself or at least get rid of my self as in the old “me,” making way for the new “me” to take over what I’ve recently thought were the resources being hogged and wasted by the previous self.

Now, I sit here coming down from an adrenaline high. You’ve told me what brings you ultimate joy is the happiness you see in your daughter’s laughter, which adds to your sense of wealth. I have no children so my sense of joy comes from what makes me go to sleep while trying not to build excitement of what I’ll wake up to feeling in the first minutes and hours of the morning of the next day in unbridled anticipation of what the rest of the day will bring.

This morning, I only expected to kill my old self. I placed no other burdens on me, so that there would be no debts I felt the old self had left to pay off that would force me to keep perpetuating the old “me.”

Now, how I kill my old selves has been a personal secret of mine, but certainly nothing new to the thoughts of other humans like me. I am not inventing something new here but simply applying age-old secrets of the phoenix to my life. I may yet share the secret with you. We’ll see. hehe

My old selves have their stories to tell because they have existed in a cycle of birth, living, and death, every self giving an example of one person’s way to deal with the stimuli s/he faced. The common thread I see (what in economic terms I would call an occupation or avocation), the essence of all of me, is the low-level part of the selves that records on “paper” the major and minor events of the self’s existence, including language patterns in the form of verbalized thoughts as well as physical whereabouts of a self such as attending the showing of a movie picture, consuming food in a public place, etc.

In recording these stories, I have created works of fiction I’ve told you about and posted on my website (http://www.treetrunkproductions.org/) as well as works of nonfiction, such as guides to the use of hardware and software (called user manuals), program management plans, business plans, etc.

The works of fiction I have given to the world for free because they belong to everyone as my repayment for their participation in my life, even if marginally as a member of the species, Homo sapiens, who wanders anywhere on or near this planet.

The works of nonfiction have served as the barter I exchange for labor credits (i.e., money) I use to make a viable place for me to live with other humans in the social system we call the economy (the one you and I might see as naturally capitalistic because of our upbringing under the political system called the United States of America).

One of the works of nonfiction that I devoted a good bit of time to back in October 2008 was a business plan I put together for a group of inventors and investors who had come up with a product that has no market. In fact, their product creates the market. Therefore, my business plan had to include not only the usual financial incentives to entice investors (legal rigmarole) but also describe the product and its potential market in some detail. I shared the business plan with the team of inventors and they agreed that the plan described what they wanted to productize (after he suggested it, I added one of the inventor’s nine-page product description that gave the product more clarity to an uninformed reader). The plan included either a way to form an S or C corporation or a limited liability corporation (LLC), depending on what the inventors and/or future investors wanted.

A week or so ago, I went to lunch with a former work colleague of mine whom I consider a great man. He and his wife have raised wonderful children while he has created for himself a good sales/marketing vocation, mainly at the company where I worked with him. He played hockey and tennis while growing up in Canada but has lived in the Huntsville area for over 20 years now and calls this area home. Through his sports and business connections, he has established a good network of friends he calls upon when he either needs to give or receive advice.

At lunch, where I just expected us to talk about what we’d done in the past few years, our conversation led to my interest in the business plan I’d developed in October. I bounced a high-level idea of the product and a general biography of inventors off my friend to gauge his interest. He said he was willing to hear more so I got him to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), allowing me to disclose in full detail the product the inventor team had put together up to now.

During our phone conversation earlier today, my friend said he had looked over the business plan and is more than excited to get involved in the product’s marketability. In fact, I was surprised at his enthusiasm. He was excited enough about the product that he had told a colleague highly placed in the Huntsville business world about the general principles of the product, seeing if his colleague would want to join him in making the product successful. More than that, he told his colleague that I would be the one to run the company!

Well, that got me shaking like a leaf. One of my dreams since childhood that I started nurturing in sixth grade as I sold stickers shaped like UT football helmets from my school locker, imagining myself an entrepreneur (making pure profit on the sale since I had gotten the stickers for free from local businesses in Kingsport and Knoxville), was to run my own company one day. That’s why I now have my own consulting firm that I call Pruned Pear Productions so that I can be my own one-man CEO/President/owner of a company.

However, my recent self was not a person who wanted to run a company of more than one person because he didn’t want to serve at the whim of others. He had retired from the business world so he could be an independent person, free to follow whatever whims of his that would vary from day to day. That old self finally realized that what had first been a set of freely random actions had in fact become a patterned set of actions. Freedom was illusory, in that sense, because he had not given himself up to actually doing completely random things from moment to moment. He ended up finding a label to justify his limited set of actions and called himself a writer, even going so far as to find pride in that label and further call himself an author.

Isn’t there a saying along the lines of “Pride goes before the fall”? [yes, it’s an abridgement of Proverbs 16:18, according to my quick search on the Internet] Well, I knew that my pride of calling myself an author would doom me to end that author’s life. In other words, by calling myself an author I had accomplished the goal that my desire to call myself an author had achieved.   I did not desire to live the poor, lonely life of an author but only to call myself one. Mission accomplished! On to the next life.

So here I am, the new self, now ready to start my new life. I will interview tomorrow for a part-time teaching position that I may or may not get. Either way, I have offered my training services to another person in the training/education field and fulfilled my wish to present myself as a guru. Whether my other wish to live as a guru is fulfilled now or later in life matters not, because next week I will meet with business leaders higher up the food chain to determine my future as a company leader. Upon that I expect my future depends. What becomes of that future, I do not know, but that is what excites me today.

And now you see why I told you that patience has a payoff. For me, patiently waiting for what becomes of me has indeed been gratuitously rewarded in a way I had not expected! The new me was born today and like a newborn has this whole new world to get to know. What’s more exciting than that?!

Je suis prêt à l’avenir. Le futur est maintenant!

Meanwhile, tonight we attend funeral home visitation for a friend of my wife who died this week. Death and life are always intertwined. One should be prepared to accept both at once because one does not exist without the other so I say celebrate them as they do in New Orleans!!

More as it develops,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, February 04, 2009 8:08 pm

To: <gus-email>

Completely filled, in three certain areas. Ok, so I really am trying to be patient, but my body is aching for you.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/4/2009 8:02:28 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

Filled. That’s exactly the word I’m thinking of, too. 😉

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, February 04, 2009 7:37 pm

To: <gus-email>

Here is your sign! CUM! The only going I want is you going to cum visit! I know, be patient. Sigh, patiently pleasing myself, but not completely fulfilled.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/4/2009 7:27:51 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

While you’re busy using braille, I’ll be busy using sign language. Hopefully, we’ll get the message across — or at least find out who’s coming or going.

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, February 04, 2009 7:22 pm

To: <gus-email>

Baby, if you were here I would not be typing with any hands. I would be using braille! Can one use braille with their mouth?

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/4/2009 7:19:20 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

Typing one-handed? Now that I’d like to see (or feel, as the case may be).

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Thinking of you while my hand is busy.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, February 04, 2009 4:34 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

Just wanted to say hi!

Love

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: The unknown is titillating, and so are you

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Tue, February 03, 2009 2:59 pm

To: <gus-email>

Just my humble opinion, but wealth to me is not measured by a bank account, stocks or bonds, or earthly possessions. Wealth is measured by how many times I hear “I love you” by my daughter. Wealth is how she blossoms into womanhood, yet still sits on my bed and talks to me about her life. Wealth is my dogs following me into the bathroom to make sure I am ok. Wealth is seeing an email from my sweet friend and knowing he thinks of me. Wealth is seeing my daughter happy with her girlfriend, their laughter is contagious. Wealth is measured in many ways by many people, but to me it can be measured by the number of kisses you get at the end of the day or first thing in the morning. I sure hope you make me a wealthy woman soon.

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/3/2009 1:43:54 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: the unknown consumes me today so ignore my current mood

mmm, thanks. Here’s my post for the day:

How Do You Measure Wealth?

When I was a child, I walked through a bookstore and saw a tome titled, “Future Shock.” The title intrigued me, most probably because of the word, future. I leaned against the book display and read the future classic, skimming through the chapters and marveling at the adult world that the author, Alvin Toffler, told me was speeding by faster and faster. Yet, there I stood in the world of books, where piles of discount duds sat gathering dust, not moving at all. I could imagine what Toffler was talking about but I could not see it. In school, we still sat and listened to teachers lecture us about the material we were supposed to have read the night before, who would subsequently hand us a list of 10 or 20 incomplete items (T/F and multiple choice questions, for the most part) that required us to prove our retention of the information the teachers and accompanying text had imparted to us. The only shock we felt in the classroom was the occasional pop quiz or open-ended essay question for which we were unprepared. [To be sure, some students were shocked in general, having not mastered the skill of listening and studying, but that subject I will discuss another time (in a previous blog entry, I alluded to the KIPP schools, which serve as an example of what I think future schools should be like).]

Almost 40 years later, I sit here and read “Revolutionary Wealth” by Heidi and Alvin Toffler, published in 2006. How did the future play out compared to the predictions of the first book and how does the future look in the second? Well, it comes down to how you measure wealth, it appears.

How do you measure wealth? I suppose most of us think first of our monetary holdings (assets vs. liabilities) and then perhaps our health. We might even talk of the wealth we expect to inherit in this life or the next one.

The Tofflers look at wealth in another form, that of intangible wealth, such as time and knowledge.

As I read the futurists’ vision of a world ruled not by limited land, building and manufacturing capability but by inexhaustible resources, I remember that the book, written between the dot-com bust and the leveraged mortgage burst, gives us an insight we should appreciate more than we probably do. I’m not saying that the Tofflers and their kind are the ultimate wise gurus to whom we must turn to save this planet from economic destruction. Instead, I believe we can compare their vision against reality and find a projected path upon which to base our investments for the future.

For instance, a Who’s-Who of leaders recently met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Imagine the tribal leaders of old gathering in a circular ceremony to divine the future by reading the position of the stars in relation to the ashes of the fire and you get a clear idea of the value of our current leaders gathering to produce the documents that will tell the world how to recover from the current economic slump.

The Tofflers examined the role of knowledge (part of the trinity of data-information-knowledge, well discussed in many books and Internet articles) and prognosticated about the need for knowledge to be free. Well, most of this babble I read about in the late 1990s, during the dot-com rise, so nothing of this revealed anything new to me.

Instead, I came to realize that the Tofflers rehashing of the concept of prosumers continues to show where the future is headed.

In this current economic crisis, the world decries the inept spending habits of Americans, who mortgaged their futures in order to enjoy the present, driving economic frenzy on a worldwide scale to milk the mortgage market for all it was worth. No one denies the intangibles of the economy are like a house of cards or the invisible clothes that an emperor once wore to great ridicule. So why do we sit here and cry in our mortgaged milk that was spoiled by imaginary hands?

Think about it. You probably spend your day in one activity or another where you exchange your capabilities for nothing. Nothing, in this case, is a substance that we call money, love, or some other intangible thing that we all say clearly exists, even if you can’t see it. In other words, you spend time at home raising your kids, watching their behavior and providing guidance to put their behavior into what you and others around you consider an acceptable range. From where is that range derived? Remember, the world is full of different ways to raise children, all of which provides good survival skills for them. Or you developed a set of skills that helped you acquire the right to sit in a building and display those skills in a something called a job, as if a job is something that has always existed. But our forebears, some of whom worked directly on a plot of land, did not have jobs. They subsisted on the land, doing what they had to do to feed themselves and their offspring. They may have gone days or weeks without any activity necessary to put food on the table because it had already been gathered and stored or hunted and dried. There was no job to speak of, such as something you could easily say had a time value (like an hourly wage or total subcontract worth).

For those who don’t know what a prosumer is, I’ll summarize the best I can – the combination of producer and consumer. I go to the kitchen, fix myself a PB&J sandwich and eat it. I am a prosumer of that sandwich. In that sense, all of our forebears who worked the land were prosumers. Sure, some of them sold excess food or animals, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Looking at the history of the human species, I think we can clearly say that the majority of our history involved consuming. We picked berries, ate wild grain, hunted animals, all of it “produced” by this planet. Over time, our brains developed the habit of prosuming to enhance our rate of survival. We picked up stones and broke off pieces to increase our killing capability. We wrapped animal skins around our bodies that we had cut off and cured. We learned how to sew animal skins together and later how to make cloth using our sewing skills. Along the way, we developed our first intangible skills, including language and writing (via pictographs).

And it is language that stays with us today. And where our prosuming will take us into the future.

For you see, while Americans are used to carrying the world on their backs, claiming the lead in technological developments and per capita consumption, a revolutionary change occurred. Their language, a derivation of English, will no longer dominate the language spoken on the Internet. There are now more Chinese-speaking people on the Internet than Americans. And their domination of the languages spoken on the Internet is catching up fast.

What does this mean for the future? If history teaches us anything, it appears to show us that humans have mastered the skill of prosuming and will continue to use that skill to great advantage, whether in the home or at the local/corporate/national/global level. The 20th Century view of the world as having distinct populations divided into national territories will soon become obsolete if it hasn’t completely done so already. Therefore, the intangible wealth of the future, as measured in the form of economic power, time management and knowledge prosuming, rests in the hands of those whose language facilitates prosuming.

If I sat at the World Economic Forum, I would propose that we modify the current language of world business, English, to incorporate the numbering system of Asian languages, which enables people to learn math at an earlier age and speak to each other no matter where they live, physically or virtually. We create a truely basic but extensible world language (we can add more characters or pictographs at any time). I would recommend that we empower those who desire to join the world economy – no matter how poor or rich – by issuing all of them both credit and assets, including a virtual mortgage they can borrow against but also pay interest on as well as ownership in a few global companies and NGOs that gives them a stake in the goings-on of their fellow humans all around the globe.

Knowledge seeks to be free but so does prosuming. If we free up people to produce and consume within a flexible framework of an ever-changing world economy, our intangible wealth will grow, every one of us building an inexhaustible surplus with which we can share or barter, as needed.

That’s the kind of wealth I want. Don’t you?

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: the unknown consumes me today so ignore my current mood

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Tue, February 03, 2009 1:16 pm

To: <gus-email>

Dearest Gus,

Here is a box of chocolates, a heating pad, and some Midol for the PMS. It works for Abeille, so maybe it will help you in the next few days! Oh, one more thing, a warm hug and a kiss. Not the same kiss I give Abeille, but a kiss nonetheless.

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/3/2009 11:21:34 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: the unknown consumes me today so ignore my current mood

Eimear,

Thanks for expressing your concerns. You have figured me out well. I am a meditative person who, like a Buddhist monk taking tiny, slow steps to avoid killing small insects that might be his ancestors, moves slowly and cautiously, measuring my mental steps so that each one reflects who I was and who I want to be, realizing that the winds of change will cause me to take random misplaced steps occasionally. However, I accept the randomness with open arms. Your entering my life, if only by email at this point, is one of those random events that I gladly welcome. But when a random event such as this occurs, a gentle nudge off the path I had expected to follow, I take the time to evaluate where to place my foot.

 

Today is a day of meditation, contemplation and waiting for me (to translate: I am in a purely selfish mood, with little regard for others, as I withdraw into myself, seeking no interruptions). I have no answers for your questions because I am lost in the evaluation of a book by Heidi and Alvin Toffler called “Revolutionary Wealth,” from which I will determine the direction of the economy for the next four years and thus decide what I want to do with my life, economically speaking. I will say that you were, have been and always will be a part of my life — how that is manifested in any one moment, I don’t know at this moment. As I said yesterday, I will know more on Thursday. Thanks for your patience. It will be rewarded gratuitously.

 

I apologize if I sound rude — I hesitated to write anything at all but I want to let you know why I am curt in my response for the next few days. It is about my need to recuperate and has nothing to do with you (or my wife or my cats or anyone/anything except me, me, me…). Think of it as PMS for guys. LOL

 

Your contemplative friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Old cars, old lovers, and the unknown

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, February 02, 2009 8:39 pm

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

I hope my enthusiasm has not added more pressure on you. It so, please know that it is just my wanting to see you and nothing else. I would never want to add to your worries. I will say a prayer that all goes well for your wife tomorrow. As far as our friend in hospital, he is off the ventilator and trying to speak. His throat is still very sore, but a good sign is that he is getting aggravated by not being able to say much. Pearse is and always has been the provider in our home. We made the choice to do without many things so that I could stay at home with her. Our cars are old, but paid for. I do not remember the last time I bought new clothes for myself, but then I have never cared much about that stuff anyway. This is a choice we would never change or regret. I have loved every minute, even those 6 weeks before she started. (eek) Abeille works on taking photographs most of the time. In fact she just took some a few minutes ago. Good thing I came in after she put up the camera since I am naked. I do not think MySpace is ready for my nakedness! Ok, a few questions. You say you are looking forward to what ever may come your way, though you are not sure what that may be. My question is this, if you could determine what will happen, what would it be? One more, and it matters to me what your answer is to this one. Are you wanting to experiment with me just because your wife won’t, or because you still care for me and want me? I may erase that last question, since I am not sure what you will say. Then again, I need to ask it anyway. Maybe it is the differences between men and women. Most men can go on unquestioningly, while women, or at least this one, is just plain curious. By the way, do you speak French? Anyway, I am going to work on a few things and hopefully fall asleep soon as well. I hope you sleep well and everything goes well tomorrow.

Love,

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/2/2009 7:50:00 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: There’s always time to be cheerful tomorrow

[NOTE: your email popped up while I was in the middle of composing the following so I’ve just appended these comments as a response to your email]

 

Eimear,

 

I have sat here most of the day, half-asleep, not sure where my thoughts are going. Not caring, really. I am numb. I wouldn’t call it depressed. Definitely not cheerful, in the classic sense. Apprehensive. Pensive. Not expensive.

 

Like the character in my novel, I stand at a crossroads but in my case I can’t see where the roads lead. Except for the one I’ve just tread, which I can recall in great detail not fogged by time and alcohol, I have only a fuzzy idea what the other roads promise.

 

Certainly, there’s the opportunity for sexual pleasure, despite the restraints that 46 years of wear-and-tear impose. I can’t deny the excitement I feel thinking about the possibilities in that direction.

 

I sit here listening to an LP recording of Thelonius Monk playing piano in Paris during the month of June, 1954. His influence is uncontested and his talent well documented. I can say with confidence that I wish I had his piano-playing skills but a lack of confidence prevents me from sitting down in front of a stringed musical instrument, my tinnitus preventing me from believing I can hear intonation well enough to know what I’m doing. Your brother’s impromptu piano playing in high school taught me long ago that innate talent is a huge advantage for mastering whatever you do, wherever your talent may lie. Thus, I sit in front of this English QWERTY keyboard, putting text down instead of chords. So be it.

 

You have a beautiful daughter, the result of one or more of your talents at work (cooking, teaching, patience, loving, etc.). When you look at her, what do you think she’ll do with the talents she has? The experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to fully master a skill, no matter how talented you are. Has she begun practicing, starting her first of thousands of hours of repetition and learning through making mistakes?

 

I started writing stories when I was 10 years old. I don’t know whether the desire to write resulted from the traumatic death of my girlfriend, the encouragement of my English teacher, the development of my brain or the passing of an asteroid. The cause matters not. The effect is all.

 

Tomorrow, my wife prepares her body for a medical procedure. She can only drink Gatorade, eat gelatin and drink apple juice for a day before her medical procedure on Wednesday. As I mentioned to you earlier, I am apprehensive. The medical procedure, though not serious or particularly complex, can, like any procedure, go wrong.

 

What neither you nor I have discussed in our fun emails to each other is the seriousness of how we live our day-to-day lives. Presumably, your husband is the breadwinner in the family and thus you and Abeille depend on him to earn the money you use to put food on the table. Although I track the stock market, making investments the best I can, the day-to-day income is generated by my wife, whereas my investments go toward our retirement one day. So the next two days determine whether I continue to have a long-term income in my wife’s work or I will need to work harder to get a “desk job” to pay both medical bills and regular expenses, putting away my life as a writer in order to become the sole provider (and inevitably ending my independent lifestyle, which was free from the 9-to-5 life and allowed me to write these long emails to you).

 

Therefore, although I want to see you, I have the residual effects of my latest depressive mood swing combined with my wife’s medical procedure weighing heavily on me for the next few days. Anticipating that all will go well, I would expect that we can plan to meet each other after this coming weekend (as I had originally mentioned not long ago, saying that it would probably be a couple of weeks of recovery from my mental state of low sexual interest before I would want to think about giving you my all, including a fully healthy mind and body).

 

As far as the fiction contest goes, the whole detailed schedule of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is listed below. As I learned last time, forgetting about the contest from now on is good for my health so I can work on my next novel, which is already far along (223 pages and over 98,000 words, at last count). Of course, my new novel includes some of the email conversations you and I have had and will include whatever else we do when we meet. That’s the way my novels go, incorporating real life into the plots and subplots that my characters are destined to follow.

A.Submission Period (February 2, 2009 – February 8, 2009).The Submission Period begins February 2, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and ends February 8, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when the first 10,000 Entries have been received, whichever is earlier.

  1. Pitch Review Period (February 9, 2009 – February 20, 2009).From February 9, 2009 through February 20, 2009, Amazon editors will read the Pitch for each Valid Entry. Each Pitch will be rated based equally on the following three criteria; originality of idea, overall strength of Pitch, and quality of writing. Amazon editors will select the top 2,000 Entries based on the above criteria to advance to the Second Round (“Second Round Entries”). Sponsors reserve the right to advance fewer than 2,000 Entries if, in their sole discretion, they do not receive a sufficient number of eligible and qualified Entries.

C.Second Round (February 23, 2009 – March 8, 2009).

(1) From February 23, 2009 through March 8, 2009, expert reviewers selected by Sponsors, including Amazon editors and at least one Amazon Top Reviewer (as defined at http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/top-reviewer-faq.html), will review and judge the Excerpt of each valid Second Round Entry. The expert reviewers will provide a substantive text review of each Second Round Excerpt as well as rate each on a scale of 1 to 5 on the following criteria:

  1. a)   Overall Strength of Excerpt
  2. b)   Prose/Style
  3. c)   Plot/Hook
  4. d)   Originality of Idea

 

(2) Each Second Round Excerpt will receive two reviews, and the top 500 Entries based on the average Overall Strength of Excerpt score will advance to the Quarter-Finals (each, a “Quarter Finalist”). Sponsors reserve the right to advance fewer than 500 Entries if, in their sole discretion, they do not receive a sufficient number of eligible and qualified Entries. If tiebreakers are needed to determine the 500th Quarter-Finalist, they will be as follows:

  1. a)   1st tiebreaker: Highest average Prose/Style score
  2. b) 2nd tiebreaker: Highest average Plot/Hook score
  3. c) 3rd tiebreaker: Highest average Originality of Idea score
  4. d) 4th tiebreaker: Amazon editorial decision based upon Overall Strength of Excerpt.

D.Quarter-Final Period (March 16, 2009 – April 14, 2009).

(1) On or about March 16, 2009, the Quarter-Finalists’ Excerpts and their associated written reviews will be posted online at http://www.amazon.com/abna.

(2) Amazon customers may download and read any Excerpt, and then write their own review and rate the Excerpt using Amazon.com’s process for submitting online reviews (as described at http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/guidelines/review-guidelines.html).

(3) Publishers Weekly will read the Quarter-Finalists’ full Manuscripts, prepare a review of each Quarter-Finalist’s Manuscript, and rate each Manuscript on a scale of 1 to 5 on the following criteria:

  1. a) Character development
  2. b) Originality of idea
  3. c) Plot
  4. d) Prose/style
  5. e) Overall strength of submission (a through e in this subsection D.3, “Judging Criteria”).

These reviews will be posted into each Entrant’s CreateSpace Account on or about April 15, 2009.

E.Semi-Final Period (April 15, 2009 – May 14, 2009).

(1) Penguin will select up to 100 Semi-Finalists (each, a “Semi-Finalist”) from among all of the Quarter-Finalists by (a) reading Publishers Weekly’s ratings and reviews of the Manuscripts; (b) reading the expert reviews and ratings of the Excerpts from the Second Round; and (c) evaluating customer feedback and ratings about the Excerpts posted online. All judging decisions will be final and binding in all respects. The exact number of Semi-Finalists will be at Sponsors’ sole discretion.

(2) The names of the Semi-Finalists will be posted online at Amazon.com, along with their respective Publishers Weekly review on or about April 15, 2009.

(3) The Penguin Judging Panel, consisting of qualified representatives chosen by Penguin, will review the full Manuscript and accompanying reviews of each Semi-Finalist to determine three (3) finalists (each, a “Finalist”). The Penguin Judging Panel will evaluate the Semi-Finalists’ Manuscripts using the Judging Criteria.

(4) On or about May 6, 2009, Sponsors will begin notifying potential Finalists by phone or e-mail. The Finalists will be announced on http://www.amazon.com/abna on or about May 15, 2009.

F.Finalist Period (May 15, 2009 – May 21, 2009).

(1) Voting. After the Finalists are announced on or about May 15, 2009, the voting phase to determine the Grand Prize winner will commence and will continue through May 21, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Daylight Savings Time). The Excerpt for each Finalist, which customers will be able to download and read, will be expanded by up to 5,000 additional words. The exact number of words by which the Excerpt will be expanded will be at Sponsors’ sole discretion. Each Finalist’s manuscript with be read and reviewed by a panel of experts consisting of two well-known authors, an agent, and an editor. In addition, all reviews of the Finalists’ Entries posted online up to the start of the Finalist Period will remain online and be available for viewing.

(2) Amazon customers will select the Grand Prize winner by voting for the best Finalist using the voting mechanism located at http://www.amazon.com/abna. The Grand Prize winner will be selected from among the Finalists based on the total number of valid votes received by Amazon customers. The Finalist receiving the most valid votes will be the potential Grand Prize winner, subject to verification of eligibility and compliance with these Official Rules. An account on Amazon.com is necessary to vote. Limit one vote per Amazon customer during the Grand Prize determination phase, and Sponsors reserve the right to exclude votes from any customer who Sponsors determine – in their sole discretion – votes more than one time during the Grand Prize determination phase. Votes generated by script, macro or other automated means or with the intent to subvert the voting process will be void. Finalists are prohibited from obtaining votes by any fraudulent or inappropriate means, including, without limitation, offering prizes or other inducements to members of the public, as determined by Sponsors in their sole discretion. In the event of a tie, Sponsors will select the Grand Prize winner from the tied Finalists based on the Judging Criteria.

(3) Grand Prize Event. Prior to the announcement of the Grand Prize winner, the Finalists will be flown to Seattle, WA (or such other city Sponsors select at their discretion) (the “Venue”) for publicity/promotional interviews and for an awards announcement at which the Grand Prize winner will be announced. To be eligible to become the Grand Prize winner, a Finalist must be available to travel to the Venue for a three to five-night trip, which trip will commence between May 21, 2009 and May 25, 2009 (exact dates of trip to be determined by Sponsors). Sponsors may waive the requirement for a Finalist to travel to the Venue if, in Sponsors’ sole discretion, extraordinary circumstances outside the control of the Finalist would prevent the Finalist from traveling. Sponsors will pay for roundtrip coach class transportation to the Venue from the major airport nearest to each Finalist’s home, transfers to/from airport in the Venue, three to five nights’ standard hotel accommodations and an awards dinner for each Finalist and one (1) guest each. In the event a Finalist is not available for the trip and Sponsors have not waived the travel requirement, the Alternate Finalist (as defined below) will be invited to attend to replace the original Finalist who is unable to travel. Sponsors may choose to replace the Grand Prize event with another form of winner announcement at its sole discretion.

My life has always been about the next new experience to put into my writing. I have traveled parts of the world as businessman and tourist. I have tried all the drugs I wanted to try, both legal and illegal. I have had sex with a married woman and cheated on her by having sex with her best friend. I have made out with a guy, including attempts at anal sex. I married my childhood friend. I have owned a home and paid it off. I have lived a full career and retired. What is my next great new experience going to be? That’s what I look forward to as I stand at this intersection. Something new. The possibilities are not endless (for instance, I won’t be President of the United States) but the variety is always sufficient to whet my appetite for more.

Tonight, this is all I know:

  • Tomorrow is a day of waiting.
  • Wednesday is a day of praying.
  • Thursday, I will know more.

I continue to pray for your daughter’s friend and your family during the recent hardships.

 

Sleep well. I’m going to try to because I need to rest my brain.

 

Your friend,

Gus

 

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: How did it go? Well? Tell me! Please!

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, February 02, 2009 7:03 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

Ok, so I am a little impatient. When will you find out something about your novel? When can I see you? When can we……….? This week? Now? Tomorrow? I know, enough questions.

Hugs and kisses,

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: You are good

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, February 02, 2009 11:40 am

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

Gus,

You are a wonderful novelist. Ask me anytime, I will be glad to remind you of your brilliance! Consider yourself hugged and smooched in celebration of your novel being published and receiving excellent reviews. Well deserved excellent reviews.

Love ya,

Eimear

 

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Today is groundhog day and Punxsutawney Phil says Gus

Colline will have a “novel” year!

From: gus-email

Date: Mon, February 02, 2009 11:10 am

To: “Eimear” <eimear>

 

Thanks for the support. I haven’t slept in two days!!!

 

============================================

 

 

 

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Today is groundhog day and Punxsutawney Phil says Gus Emboshill

will have a “novel” year!

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, February 02, 2009 9:47 am

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

I just wanted you to know I was thinking of you and wishing you much success on your fantastic novel! Also, I am horny and would love to fuck you right now.

Eimear

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Renters and posers

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sun, February 01, 2009 10:22 am

To: <gus-email>

Revivals are often held in tents! Would love to be revived by you with mouth to mouth resuscitation. Or mouth to………so many choices. Yummy.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/1/2009 10:16:28 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Renters and posers

Ahem. How am I supposed to walk into church with these thoughts clearly showing their effects on my clothing?!?! I can hear the preacher now: “Uh, Gus, decided to bring a tent to Sunday service today?”

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Renters and posers

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sun, February 01, 2009 10:05 am

To: <gus-email>

Hey sugarlips,

Only Elegeve is to be photographed and she is 19. You have free reign as to the photos. Abeille is beyond excited about these photos, not to mention the fact that you would take them. She could learn so much from you. Hmmm, I am thinking of you coming up here and taking the photos, then you and I slipping off for a little one on one time. Maybe I can learn from you as well. You know, like how you kiss now, how you taste now, how you feel now, how you look when you cum. Things like that. What do you think?

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/1/2009 9:51:42 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: Renters and posers

I would advise them to get a lawyer. Renters have specific rights.

 

As far as the photography goes, I kinda figured that’s what the kids had in mind. My one concern is the legality of taking photographs of naked people under the age of 18. I think I would need a signed consent form from the parent(s). Other than that, it would be fun to devise the themes they had in mind for the scenes in which they posed. Boudoir? Mardi Gras party? Au naturel in nature? The happy couple at home in domestic bliss? All of the above? None of the above?

 

============================================

 

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: What I would not give to be on top of the hill….Gus Emboshill

that is!

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sun, February 01, 2009 9:37 am

To: <gus-email>

Too bad you did not have a solar powered battery! Our friend is on a ventilator, but they think he may make it. He saved his girlfriend and a dog but got shot in the process. He is under protective custody in Vandy and the girls could not see him, but they talked to his mom. Not only did she get fired from her job for being away from her job, they got kicked out of their apartment because of the shooting. Someone breaks into their apartment, shoots her son, and they get kicked out. Sometimes things do not make sense to me. Thank you for the birthday wishes and most importantly for the love! I needed to hear that….or read that in this case. Um, by the way, what do you think about taking photos of Elegeve for Abeille? I told them that if you did that they could not mention it to your wife or anyone else. Then they dropped the bomb. She wants nudes. Cough. Just thought I would warn you.

Love

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 2/1/2009 9:18:01 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Pictures are memories that last….until your dog eats them.

You’re loved! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

I’ll pray for all involved to accept God’s plan for them, no matter how difficult it may seem at this time.

 

BTW, yes, I took care of business at the top of the hill. My camera battery ran out or you might have had some more interesting pictures to look at!

 

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Pictures are memories that last….until your dog eats them.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sat, January 31, 2009 6:02 pm

To: <gus-email>

Hi,

Loved the photos Gus. Just makes me wonder though if you had a few minutes alone. Sure wish I was a real robin and could have flown down to see that. Pretty sure I would have joined in on the fun! I just got some bad news. Actually, several items of bad news. One, Abeilles friend Abel was shot twice and is in Vandy. They are there right now to see him. He has had several surgeries and kept losing blood. I am waiting on news to see how he is doing. This boy is just 20 years old, and is one of the sweetest kids around. He has been to our house many times. He and I have conversations that not many people can follow. We both are a bit random, so you never know where the conversation will go. The other bad news is that Toodles died. He was Pearses sisters dog of 13 years. He was like a child to her, and she is totally distraught. He went to the vet yesterday for his shots and was in fine condition then came home and just stopped breathing. Sniff. Could you do me a favor? Could you hold me right now and just tell me you love me?

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Sub sandwich, huh?

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sat, January 31, 2009 1:32 pm

To: <gus-email>

Just the thought makes me wish I had a sub sandwich to eat right now! Lovingly lick, taste and nibble. Below is a story I wrote a while back about camping, which is the closest I have to hiking. The idea of you pleasuring yourself outdoors makes me so…………………………………………………….hot! As far as an analogy to a woman’s body and food? Hmmm, how about a cantaloupe, in my case that is! I am not even going to mention tacos! We are just about ready for the Super Bowl tomorrow. Now, the girls just get to prepare everything. Love this, I get to sit back and be lazy while they do all the work. I am sure they will not come in here every few minutes and ask me how to make this and that. Yeah, right! Would you believe we are having subs? With each bite I will think of you in my mouth along with other places. Looks like I will be taking a bath very shortly and enjoying myself. Now just how will I do that? Fingers? Water stream? Vibe? All of the above? I sure wish you were here right now! You would be too tired to hike, and I would not be able to move for days.

Love,

Eimear

There is something about watching this man set up camp that turns me on. Not sure if it is the way his back flexes when he gets the wood ready to burn. Or maybe it is the way he carefully places the bedrolls, knowing in a few hours we would be laying there together. Or maybe it was the way he took charge. Time passes by slowly, each second seeming like hours. No matter how much I enjoyed watching him move about camp, I could not wait to see his naked skin under the stars by campfire. His eyes looking into mine with the same desire that I am feeling now. He turns and catches me staring at him with longing. He drops the log and walks slowly to my side. He smiles a knowing smile and reaches out to slip one button undone. Gently running his fingers into the opening he made, he teased the rounded curve of my breast. I want more, but he is determined to go slow. With each button, my need to feel him inside of me grows stronger. I try to encourage him to go faster by lowering my hands to the hard maleness I knew I would find. He shuddered slightly and I could tell he was affected as much as I am. I raise one hand and tear at the buttons on his shirt, my need overtaking any concern I had for his clothing. He returns the favor by jerking my shirt off and quickly making all clothes disappear. We dropped to the waiting bedroll with the passion that always happened between us.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/31/2009 12:42:17 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: Sub sandwich, huh?

Interesting analogy. I’ll never look at a Subway sandwich the same again!!!

Have a wonderful day. I’m going hiking so I’ll be away from the computer this afternoon. I’m sure you’re getting all the fixings together for a great Super Bowl party tomorrow.

If I get a moment alone in the woods, I’ll be thinking about you in a special way, giving my sub sandwich the attention we’re both aching for you to see about. If only I could wrap your buns around my…uh, summer sausage?! Just thinking about the sound of your lips smacking is making this meat stiffen. mmmmm

I’m not sure what analogy applies to a woman’s body parts. What do you think?

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer…and Eimear had an

entire day Internet-less! Faints.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Fri, January 30, 2009 12:41 pm

To: <gus-email>

Pearse is 5 inches…almost. So YES! I may have lost a few memories, but I can still remember you and what you felt like. Think about it, half of a foot, an entire sub sandwich, half a ruler is huge! I would love to feel it grow from soft to hard….in my mouth.

Getting warmer here!

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/30/2009 12:35:30 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer…and Eimear had an entire day Internet-less! Faints.

Great story. Only one question… Is 6″ from base to tip considered “large”? I hope so.

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer…and Eimear had an

entire day Internet-less! Faints.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Fri, January 30, 2009 12:06 pm

To: <gus-email>

Higgir and I are still good friends. We see each other and email as often as we can. It took me a while after Abeille was born to see she was the same person regardless of her sexual preference. I loved her for the person she had always been. Did you know she used to have a crush on me? Too bad I was not in touch with my sexual side then, I might have had some fun! It took me a bit to understand that my faith does not exclude my sexuality. I have never been with a woman, but who knows what our future holds my dear Gus. In the same sense, I have only been with you and my husband. I am ready to expand my fantasies with you. Yummy, not yuck! Hehe As far as Kurt Warner goes, my reason for liking him is more to do with him as a person, than as a football player. You should read about his life sometime. Not only does he talk about his faith, he lives it everyday. I agree with you wholeheartedly on Eli and Payton. Their father raised all his kids a certain way, and that included them being a good person first. Of course I like Eli better considering he plays for my Giants. Great, how are we supposed to bet when I am pulling for the Cards as well? Hmmm, I guess since I think the Steelers will win, we can go with that. Would love to lose and lick all that cappuccino off of you. Ok, so now my mind is traveling down to your penis and other warm areas. Licks lips, breathing increased, and my areas are warming up nicely. Change of subject. Your new intro is spot on fantastic! Love the opening lines! I literally squeaked out loud when I read it! (You should have seen the dogs faces)   Below you will find a little something special for you. Hope you like it and it has the desired effect.

Love,

Eimear

PS, cant wait to see you cum!

I woke up to a hand over my mouth. I tried to scream, but he was stronger than me. I started to fight back, but looked into his face and saw that it was Gus. Smiling. I was relieved, but raised a hand to smack him for scaring me. Gus grabbed both hands and held them in one of his above my head. I opened my mouth to yell at him but he covered it with his own. His tongue slipping into my mouth, teasing mine, swirling, tasting. I heard a rustling sound and felt Gus tie my hands together. He secured them to the bed, not too tight, but enough to keep my hands in place. He grabbed the front of my button down nightshirt, and ripped it open. The buttons popped off and got lost in the bedding. My breath caught in my throat and my body reacted to his forcefulness. My nipples grew harder, my mouth a little dry, my pussy grew wetter. The heat radiating from my pussy was getting hotter by the second. Gus ran his hands over my erect nipples, causing shivers to run over my body. His fingers gently ran on the inside of my lace panties, slowly following the edges. My breath was coming faster and I knew that my panties were soaked. I felt and heard the tearing of the lace as Gus tore them off of me. How I wanted him to fuck me right now. I needed him inside of me NOW! He was not ready to give me what I needed though. His teasing hands were followed by his devious tongue. Yes! He ran his tongue from the lowest part of my pussy to just above my clit. Licking my juices, causing me to jerk with desire. My legs began to shake from my intense need. Still, he took his time. His tongue worked his magic, and soon I was grinding my pussy on his face. My orgasm was so strong I almost passed out from the force. Gus reached behind me and flipped me over, my hands still secured to the bed. He kissed the back of my neck down to the gentle swell of my ass. His hands separated my cheeks as he ran his tongue around my puckered hole. He raised up and I felt him pull me up to meet him. His hand reached into my still wet pussy and rubbed the moisture over his hard thick cock. He put the head of his cock at my tight entrance, slowly pushing inside. His gentleness belied by his heavy breathing. He finally was in to the base of his cock. He stopped and just held me close, no sounds but our breathing and the pounding of our hearts. He asked me if I was ready, and I said yes, please, now! He began to pump that big cock into my ass, his hand grabbing my hair, pulling as he fucked me harder and harder. One hand let go of my hair and reached for my clit sending me over the edge. I fucked his hand as he fucked my ass. His movements grew in strength, his hands now holding my hips tightly as his orgasm took him over. I could feel his salty cum as it filled me up. We both fell forward, him still inside of me. His breath as labored as mine. He wrapped his arms around me, both of us falling asleep, my arms stilled tied to the bed.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/30/2009 10:49:04 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer…and Eimear had an entire day Internet-less! Faints.

Yeah, teenagers have a language all their own, don’t they? Has been that way for millenia, and even if the words are different it still seems to be the means for young people to develop their own personalities, to prove they are more than their parents’ offspring. For me, the funny part is the sameness of the language of the teens — doesn’t look so different from a distance! But don’t tell them that. LOL

I seem to recall your friend, Paqpe. Sandy blonde hair and thick glasses? I remember you two discovered Adrienne Goff was a lesbian and didn’t know how to take the news, wondering out loud what it would be like for two women to…well, you know. Your response to each other at the time was, “Yuck!” Of course, I was willing to watch you two find out if it really was yucky or not. 😉

This year’s Super Bowl doesn’t interest me very much but I will cheer for the team from Pennsylvania since I have friends who are huge Steelers fans (even one who took my personal Terrible Towel that I bought the day I was in the city of Pittsburgh as they held a parade for their 2005 Super Bowl Champions; at least I still have my bumper sticker celebrating the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory). One of my former customers has headquarters based in the suburbs of Pittsburgh so you can guess what they wore this week. Kurt Warner is a nice guy and all that but two things turn me against him — he reminds me too much of George Michael (the English pop singer) and he’s still just an arena football player to me. My wife and I are charter members of the local arena football team in Huntsville, holding the same seats for the first eight seasons, and we see a different attitude in arena players versus NFL players. Kurt still seems to have that arena player attitude. He’s got talent in that arm, though, and that’s what got him to the Super Bowl, what, twice now? Talent often overcomes attitude. That, and a lot of reps on the field.

Eli and Peyton are two good examples of NFL players whose attitudes seem more professional than Kurt’s. A certain Je ne sais quoi?

In any case, I bet the Cardinals will win because the Steelers won’t be able to overcome significant injuries. Plus, Ben’s low-scoring offense won’t help them catch up when the Cards are up by 10+ points in the second half. I’ll bet a cappuccino with extra cream that has to be licked off the other person’s body!

 

Here’s my revised pitch statement – let me know if it’s any better!:

Readers in stressful times will think about suicide but do they take the time to think rationally about how to cope? The readers of “A Space, A Period, And A Capital” will see Lee’s suicidal thoughts and feel the hurt when he makes painful and irrational decisions, firmly showing readers that in the end, their decision to live is the right one.

Lee Colline stands at a crossroads. In one direction, the path leads to suicide. In another direction, divorce. Two other paths lead to unknown destinations. Lee looks back at his life, searching for clues to what brought him here and what he should do next. In his search, Lee begins to believe that perhaps he’s at the wrong crossroads. He wants to turn around and put himself on a different road by changing the wrong decisions he made. But which ones? Not letting his high school teacher seduce him this time? Not falling in love with a woman thirteen years older? Not getting drunk and spending the night with a male friend? Not taking hallucinogenic drugs? Spending less of his married life at the house of a female coworker? Lee finally sees that the decisions he made were about his increased understanding of the complex adult world around him. Now he must figure out if his mind should keep separate his superficial, perfect “Eagle Boy Scout” life from his secret life as anything but. Lee realizes his destiny’s to choose one of four paths, even if he believes he should be somewhere else. Does the path he selects lead him to find redemption in suicide or divorce? Or is redemption simply deciding to step forward toward the next unknown destination?

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer…and Eimear had an

entire day Internet-less! Faints.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Fri, January 30, 2009 8:58 am

To: <gus-email>

Good morning Gus

Sorry it took me so long to respond, Internet down equals Eimear going bonkers. Anyway, love the pitch except for one line. I have read it several times, and it does not ring solid in my mind. It really could just be me, but it is just not there none the less. “Now he must decide if his mind should keep separate his life as an Eagle Boy Scout from his life as anything but.”   Your words sound like you are a bit better. I am glad if that is the case. As far as the 4 men a woman needs? Cute, as long as you did not care about all 4. Can you imagine caring about 4 women? I do not have the wherewithal to remember that many names let alone much else. Hehe Personally, I will take a man who is just that….a man. To misquote a sticker off of MyYearbook, “love is not finding a perfect person, but finding an imperfect person perfect.” Your birthday is two days before Paqpe’s. I should have known. Paqpe is my best friend, and we have never had an argument in nearly 40 years. We do not see each other often, but it does not diminish our friendship. You and I have run parallel lines. I am not into astrology, but sometimes it can be a bit eerie. Ok, as far as you being nervous. That is a good thing. It means you care about something worthwhile. Ok, if you do puke keep a trash can handy, but otherwise roll with the nerves. I can not just believe I typed “roll with”. I really have been listening to Abeille and Elegeve too much. Next thing you know I will be calling people dude! Who will you be pulling for on Sunday? I will be wearing my Giants jersey, and wishing they were there. We all have bets around here on the Super bowl. Abeille and myself are pulling for the Cards, and Elegeve and Pearse are pulling for the Steelers. (I do believe the Steelers will win and like them, but love Kurt Warner) Abeille gets a full body rub, or Elegeve gets dinner for a week in bed. We do not bet money, so we can be creative in our rewards. Hmmm, wanna bet with me? I have a few creative ideas in mind if I win!

Your horny friend,

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/29/2009 1:04:52 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer

My birthday is May 6th and the Unclaimed Baggage Center is great place to go. Before we discuss that in more detail, I need your help via email. Since you’ve read my novel, “A Space, A Period, And A Capital,” tell me if this is a good “pitch” (in less than 300 words) for what the novel’s about:

A Space, A Period, And A Capital

The Pitch for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Lee Colline stands at a crossroads. In one direction, the path leads to suicide. In another direction, divorce. Two other paths lead to unknown destinations. Lee looks back at his life, searching for clues to what brought him here and what he should do next. In his search, Lee begins to believe that perhaps he’s at the wrong crossroads. He wants to turn around and put himself on a different road by changing the decisions he made. But which ones? Not letting his high school teacher seduce him this time? Not falling in love with a woman thirteen years older (and wiser)? Not getting drunk and spending the night with a male friend? Not taking hallucinogenic drugs? Spending less time at the house of a female coworker? Lee finally sees that the decisions he made are about his increased understanding of the complex adult world around him. Now he must decide if his mind should keep separate his life as an Eagle Boy Scout from his life as anything but. He’s got the opportunity to take any of four paths, even if he believes he should be somewhere else. Does the path Lee takes lead him to find redemption in suicide or divorce? Or is redemption really just deciding to go on to the next unknown destination?

Thanks,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Gus comes charging forth to a Pulitzer

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Thu, January 29, 2009 11:49 am

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

Do not feel sorry for what I have been through. It has made me who I am and a stronger person. Of course, I would not recommend that course for bettering oneself! One thing I have learned since my back injury, I can not lift anything heavy or walk for long. Any time I have a way to walk, I have my battery powered wheel chair. It comes in handy at Universal or Walmart. Otherwise, I use a cane for balance. Sounds worse than it is, since I am just glad to be able to move around. On your back pain, the best remedy is heat and rest. The hot water from the shower is wonderful. Actually, the hot water from the shower is wonderful in another area but I digress. You really should invest in a dolly if you have to move anything heavy….or a husband with a back like a mule! Hehe I am not in the least surprised that ITT Tech loved you! What is not to love?   Thanks for the birthday wishes. I actually do not mind getting older. It seems the older I get the happier I am. You never did tell me when your birthday is? It is nice that you are older than me, just hope that means you are happier as well! Have you ever been to Scottsboro Al? I want to go to the lost luggage place. I looked it up and it is about 2 hours from here and only 45 minutes or so from you. Just a thought for the future if you are interested. Dig deep for the novel, bring forth all your artistic thoughts and make them a reality on paper…er page….er screen. Oh, by the way, yes you do bring me up. Every time I see your email pop up my heart flutters and I get a big ole happy!

Love ya,

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/29/2009 11:10:37 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: Gentle steps on the path to recovery

Wow, Eimear — cancer, heart attack, depression, and permanent disc damage — I’m sorry you’ve suffered these bouts. At the depth of my depression I spent a couple of times in the psychiatric unit of a hospital in 1991, so I guess I’m ‘cured.’ Or not. I have a bad back, too, that I forget about until I start working in the yard, picking up 50-lb limbs and knocking my vertebrae out of alignment, which then causes my back to spasm and sends me sprawling gracefully to the ground! It happened to me earlier this week and I’ve spent the last few days trying to straighten my spine back out. Some things about getting older are just not fun. 😦

In any case, I’m going to focus on my novel the next two days to get it ready for submission on the 2nd of February. That’s the best remedy for my depression.

By the way, I received an excellent review of my presentation at the ITT Technical Institute. They asked for a copy of my resume, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get a call back to teach a course there.

As you said, why do I worry? I have a dear friend like you who keeps me up when I feel down! I hope I do the same for you.

HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY! If it makes you feel better, I’ll always be older than you…

Your friend, Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Lost

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, January 28, 2009 3:32 pm

To: <gus-email>

My dear Gus,

Though I know absolutely nothing about stocks and bonds, the emotions you are and have experienced are something I am familiar with. The roller coaster ride of highs and lows are not yours alone. Blood pressure medicine will greatly effect your sex drive, and will add to your depression. I have dealt with high blood pressure since I was 19 years old. After nearly 27 years of fighting mine, I was finally told I was one of the extremely rare people who just have a naturally high BP. Personally, I think they are full of crap since mine was fantastic during my pregnancy and subsequent 21 months of breast feeding. At one point they put me on an anti-depressant, which at first glance would have seemed to work. Instead, it ended up being one of 13 medicines they had me on and I walked around in a fog for many months. I quit cold turkey. Which promptly threw me into a 4 month depression in which I never left the bed except to go to the bathroom. Though it has been a couple of years since then, I can still remember the feeling of hopelessness and despair. Feeling a failure at being a wife, mother, and person. Abeille was my saving grace through this period. She never gave up and her support was tantamount to my survival. Panic attacks for me do not come often anymore, but they do occasionally keep me from leaving the house. I found after I cleaned my system of all medicines, including BP medicines, I felt better emotionally. Physically, it is tough at times. When Abeille was 2, we were on our way to buy a Sunday paper. I was carrying her while walking on the porch. I must have blacked out, but when I came too I was on the ground with Abeille on top of me trying to wake me up. I had landed on my left ankle which cracked, then on my right leg which chipped my shin and formed a blood clot later. Two ribs cracked, and three discs in my back were permanently damaged. Needless to say, the pain is a constant for me today. Being off of the pain medicine was a tough choice, but considering I could not drive while taking them it was made easier. Not to mention the drugged out feeling on a daily basis. Now, I am sure there was an original reason I went into my medical history, but it seems to have left me for now. (scratches head in confusion….and because it also itches) Oh, yes! Now I remember. Your sex drive and you. Do you think that having sex with you is the only reason I want to be with you? If so, please let me correct that huge mistake. Gus, I have loved you for over 30 years, and we have not been sexually active in those years. Your intelligence, kindness, humor, spirit, integrity, playfulness, are among some of the many reasons I have always loved you. Please do not assume that I do not want the whole package that is you. I do. Now, onto your writing. Granted, you want to make a living through your life’s passion, but first and foremost you write for you. You have a vision, a goal, and not everyone will be wise enough to recognize your brilliance. I am not telling you that you should not feel depressed about their stupidity, just understand that it is their stupidity that has caused this event. In the same sense, not everyone will feel the same way Amazon does. Too much sexually explicit content is not a bad thing unless you are writing a childrens book. The continuation of life can not exist without sex. God created man and woman and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. To procreate. Personally, Amazon needs to get with the program of life and grow up! Oh, yes, and before I forget….If and when we get together, alone, if we never have sex but merely hold one another and talk, my life will be enriched. I know that we planned on meeting with our families first, but I really would like to meet with you alone first. Without their knowledge, just for us. My heart is aching for you and what you are dealing with right now. My arms want to hold you, my ears want to hear your words, my eyes to see you. If you can’t arrange this, I will understand, but know that it is my wish. If I can do anything to help you deal, please let me know. Even if it is just to tell you jokes, then I have an arsenal at my disposal. Remind me to tell you the one about the country cousins and the sheep farm sometime. One more thing before I sign off, you are Gus. Gus is a man. A man who worries about being good, not only to his loved ones, but a good person to those he does not know. He wants to be a good provider, a good husband, a good uncle, a good lover, a good friend. You will always be better than you think. I have always known that about you my love. You have a great soul that inspires others to be the same. I would love for you to see yourself as others see you, but then you would not be Gus if you did. Let me know if there is a way we can meet before we bring the family along. Remember, I love you.

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/28/2009 2:43:58 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: Lost

Eimear,

There’s a side of me that hasn’t been completely revealed until now and that’s when I fall into a cycle of depression, a life-long problem for me. I don’t take drugs for depression although I do take drugs for cholesterol control (simvastatin), blood pressure control (Avapro) and hypertension/panic attack control (beta blockers). Instead, I let myself go through the depressive emotions in order to build up my slightly manic desire to write afterward.

With the death of John Updike, my latest failures to secure an income, the shortcomings of my presentation last night and the fact my novel does not qualify for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, I am temporarily lost without a way to make myself through this world. A psychiatrist I visited in the early 1990s called this “situational depression,” a coping mechanism that I have developed for handling negativity or situations I feel are out of my control. He recommended assertiveness training but sometimes there’s nothing to be assertive about and I go crazy!!!

In such a state of mind, my sex drive diminishes, too.

My wife is used to this side of me but you are not. By now, I should recognize that as soon as my sex drive peaks, as it has with you over the past few weeks, that I doomed to fall into a depression soon afterward but somehow my mind blocks out these thoughts while I’m enjoying them. Since we will not be able to see each other until at least after Super Bowl weekend, I will hope that by the second weekend of February my depression will have abated enough for us to arrange a “get well” party for two. 😉

Meanwhile, I am deeply depressed that my novel, the one I sent you which contains too much “sexually explicit” material and contains too much of my material that has been previously published (even if I did so on purpose), will fail to qualify for a contest I’ve been working toward the last few months. I guess I have no recourse but to self-publish another one of my novels…

At least last year I got the professional recognition I dreamed of. But what of my life’s intellectual goals this year??? 😦

My name is…Gus. But who am I, really?

Thanks for your patience…sigh…,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: “Masturbation! Thou saving grace note upon the baffled chord of self.”

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Tue, January 27, 2009 4:30 pm

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

You are a cruel man….and I love it! Keeping me in suspense and on the edge of my fantasy. For whatever the reason, I love the playfulness you possess. (Yes, I will beg for you to send us both to orgasm, hopefully soon) You need not be apprehensive or nervous about your presentation. Not only are you extremely intelligent, you are a quick thinker. You will succeed quite well in your presentation, among other endeavors. Have you heard of Craigslist? They actually have listing of swingers in many areas. Some have parties in their homes regularly. Hmmm, just thought I would mention it to you for future reference. My arms are surrounding you now, my head resting on your chest, my hands softly running over your strong back. This is my way of saying I am sorry for the passing of John Updike. I was unaware of some of his work until I researched it just now. From the little that I read, I can see humor in his work. I can see why you enjoyed his work. Now, as far as to each of us challenging each other to see what the other shall do in front of or with the other. Wonder who will be the most daring? How do you feel about role playing? I have an idea of you being my sex slave one night. You would not be able to do anything unless I gave you permission. Maybe put you on your knees and use a strap on in you. Not let you touch yourself or me. I could please, tease, and pleasure you at my will. You mentioned the cheerleading fantasy, to which we could make a reality. Maybe you could be my step dad and I could be your bad little step daughter? You might have to spank(lightly) me and punish me for not sucking your lollipop when you wanted. You know, I love it when the cream comes out of your lollipop! I would love to be at a restaurant and have my hand down your pants jacking you off. Standing behind you in a shower and both of our hands stroking you, one or two finger in your bottom until you cum against the shower wall! I am curious about what we can do with food? I would love to hear your ideas in that area! By the way, do you have yahoo messenger? If you do, my ID is hollynds if you get the time for a live chat. Hmmm, they even are web cam accessible. Abeille was just in here and started talking about having some pictures made of Elegeve (her gal) for their 6 month anniversary. Some sexy photos without nudity, that is. Abeille had found one listing but I do not want them to go to someone I do not know and trust to photograph her. You never know what they will do with the photos. How would you feel about taking her photos? How convoluted would that be? My first love photographing my future daughter in laws photos for my daughter? Talk about a circle of life? Lol Abeille said she wanted to take some more photos of me, so we shall see if I get brave. I will use your suggestions if I do let her take them. Any other positions you have in mind just in case? Do you mind that I shave below? Or that I do not wear undies most of the time? I guess those are enough questions for now. Hehe I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Love,

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/27/2009 2:27:15 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: Webcam cocked and ready to fire?

Eimear,

I am thinking about your webcam request and because of a full afternoon, I will put off until tomorrow my response (and yes, I’m relishing in the thought of holding you in suspense, just like I’d love to get you on the edge of orgasm and hold you there for several minutes while you beg for me to send both of us over together).

Right now, I’m a bit apprehensive and nervous about a presentation I’m supposed to give in a math class tonight. A former work colleague teaches classes for her company and has invited me to give an in-class, real-life presentation about math in the workplace. I haven’t prepared anything and the class is in a few hours. I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

And yes, I’ve heard of the swingers clubs in Nashville, Birmingham and Atlanta (but not Crossville). I know there’s one here in Huntsville. Speaking of overcoming sexual mores, there are two bits of news that sadden and gladden me at the same time. The first news is that masturbation and sex in your 40s and 50s may be good for you (but not so much in your 20s and 30s), as it relates to the decreased chance of contracting prostate cancer. The second news is that John Updike died — he was like a hero to me in his writing about active sex in the suburbs. His death is a blow to my belief in the freedom to enjoy one’s bodily needs. I am officially depressed.

Well, I’ve got to prepare for the presentation and try to keep my mind off the logistics of how to create a video of myself masturbating for you (despite my technical prowess, I’ve never gotten a webcam set up).

Can you imagine all the sexual avenues we could explore together? For me, it’s amazing all the taboos I’ve broken in these emails and wonder how many of them we could dare each other to actually overcome in each other’s presence. And we haven’t even included food yet!!! Wait, I take that back — we did fantasize about using strawberries, cream and chocolate but nothing you’ve cooked (yet).   [Not sure how we would include football, although I can see some sort of cheerleader fantasy. Or maybe you can hold a ball (or two), I can tackle you and score a “touch”down, but how does one go about lining up for the extra point? LOL]

That’s all for now.

Your imaginative friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Public restrooms, birthdays, Super Bowls, and orgasms.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, January 26, 2009 5:50 pm

To: <gus-email>

My dear sweet Gus,

First, you do not need to apologize for your delay in writing. I knew you would be busy, and did not infer anything by you not emailing. I will follow your email and respond while I try to gather my thoughts in some semblance of order. I dearly hope you were able to resurrect your niece’s computer, as I too would be insane without mine for different reasons. I wish your wife a happy birthday. I know you will make it wonderful for her. As far as the Analyst position, they would be lucky to have you so I shall wish them luck instead of you. My posing for the picture has put many ideas into my head concerning you. Many, many ideas that brought me to a very quick and hard orgasm this morning. (thank you for that….yum) After reading your latest fantasy, which by the way was the single most erotic story that I have ever read, I began to expand on my thoughts. One, the thought of you having a mans cock in your mouth while he has yours in his is so fucking hot! Excuse my language, but that is a total turn on for me. Meanwhile, on a bed across from you two, a woman and I are tasting each other and taking surreptitious glances at you enticing our own pleasure further. The thought of you coming to me, sliding inside of me, cumming in me, while the woman is on my face grinding, the man behind you cumming in you, maybe the woman going down to lick your juices and mine out of me….sharing a kiss with us. Or the idea of you and the other man jacking each other off onto the woman and myself. She and I could then lick the cum off of each other. Then there is also the idea of the two of you behind us fucking us in the rear and cumming on us or in us. The use of toys is a wonderful idea. I would love to use a vibrator on you, under your balls, into your ass. Did you know they actually have swingers clubs in Nashville and I believe Crossville? The one in Nashville is called TSC, appropriately from The Swingers Club. A friend told me about the club, but there is no way Pearse would ever go. Funny thing about your adventure to The Melting Pot. I had a few thoughts running about what would happen if we ran into each other while you were here. We have never been to The Melting Pot, but I am sure Pearse would love the chocolate. Which would be one reason not to go! The idea of you in the bathroom relieving yourself makes me really wish I had been in the bathroom waiting for you. I have this fantasy of public bathroom sex anyway. Ok, something that is causing me to lower my hand and play, is a request I have for you. Obviously, you a bit of an exhibitionist, so………..cough, I was wondering, perhaps, if maybe you could sort of do something for me. (takes deep breath)(the next is spoken in a quick rush) Would you masturbate for me on a webcam? There, I asked. If you do not want to, I will completely understand. The thought of you stroking yourself while I watch……………………..sorry, I had to finish what I started. Now, I am really smiling big! Where was I? I had to change my sheets because of you. Wish both our juices were mixed on them. Wish you were on here with me. On me. In me. Oh, before I forget, when is your birthday? I am sorry I do not remember. I do not remember mine until Abeille reminds me each year. I tell her I do not have a birthday, I am just getting a year older on the day I was born. I do not mind getting older, it is the other crap of a birthday I am not fond of. I do not like sweets, so cake is out, I am the least materialistic person out there, so gifts are out, I do not like parties, so that is out, which pretty much leaves getting older. This year we are compromising with a “get together” since it falls on Super Bowl Sunday. The get together will include a few of Abeilles friends and just us. Now, if only one of them liked football I would be happy. I am the only one who LOVES football. Sigh. I will tell you this, if we were together during the Super Bowl, I would tape it and let you have your way with me. That is saying a bunch! Well, I must sign off to make dinner for everyone. I do not know if you know this or not, but I love to cook. I have to admit I am a pretty good cook. Abeille is fantastic herself. Be glad to make chili for you sometime.

Your very intrigued loving friend,

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/26/2009 2:28:32 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Satisfaction guaranteed / I am having a what if moment.

Eimear,

I apologize for the delayed response to your emails but as I said in an earlier email, I was going to be out of town this weekend and away from the computer so there’s nothing implied in why you heard nothing from me Saturday evening, yesterday, or today until now. In addition to celebrating my wife’s birthday in Nashville this weekend, I have been dealing with the emergency of my niece’s laptop computer dying this morning in the middle of studying an assignment during her last semester in college.

My wife’s birthday is today so I only have a brief moment to spend with you to share the long list of thoughts, ideas, etc., I have had just in the past 36 hours. I’ve still got to get my wife’s birthday card made and work on my niece’s computer, plus apply for an analyst job position, go over a business plan with an associate, etc. You know how it is with the dogs, home schooling, etc. …sigh…

I saw your email after this one and will include thoughts about it in this paragraph and then I’ll give you my other thoughts in the next paragraphs (expect more detailed info tomorrow). First of all, I don’t know your husband and won’t pass judgment on his comments concerning your racy photo but if the situation were reversed and my wife decided to give me a racy/sexy photo of herself, I would be creaming all over myself. A heterosexual/bisexual woman turns me on, regardless of size (well, except for pathologically-thin anorexics, which DO NOT turn me on). I have seen naked women of all sizes, shapes, ages, and so forth, and rarely do I find a woman who does not appeal to me sexually (the Internet catalogs women of all these categories and provides easy access to see them; try looking for MILF, “mature woman,” “nude cougar,” BBW, etc., after turning off the safe search feature of your browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, etc.) – you’ll see what I mean). Unless you’re a cadaver carved up on a coroner’s lab bench, I don’t know what’s turning off your hubby and would gladly like to see what he’s missing. I’m getting a hard-on just thinking about you posing for that picture! 😉

As far as the multiple partner fantasy, you are the one person I’d like to get together with and share my body with other people. I have met swinging couples who invited my wife and me to join them but Karen IS NOT interested in such a thing (In fact, this weekend she told me she’s getting to the point in her life where she doesn’t like people touching her, including her mother and me. Talk about worrying me.but that’s a subject for a later [very detailed] email.). I have always wanted to be part of the swinging scene but since it takes two to tango, then I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my life with my wife does not include multiple positions, let alone multiple partners.

Now to the thought of how you and I get together for making the fantasy reality…I sigh once again…my mind is just too flooded with concern over my niece right now and how I’m going to fix her laptop computer and am conflicted with sexual fantasies running through my mind at the same time.

[You don’t see it but I’m taking a moment to meditate and clear my mind]

Last night, I had this interesting experience at the Melting Pot restaurant on 2nd Avenue in Nashville. When we arrived at the hostess desk, the girl who greeted us was a delightfully chubby redhead with sparkling eyes. As soon as I saw her, I had to go to the bathroom to relieve myself because I had this fantasy that maybe you had pre-arranged the girl to be there as a turn-on for me. Then, after the redhead seated us, we were greeted by a redheaded waitress, who’s about your height and your demeanor (outgoing, honest, etc.). I joked with her that there must be a requirement to have red hair to work there. She laughed. I was beginning to think you were toying with me and perhaps you had set this up so that when we got together, we would have this girls-on-guy fantasy where one or more redheads would seduce me and lead me to a private room where you would be waiting for me to ravage your body. I kept waiting on the waitress to slip me a note, telling me to quietly leave the room but it never happened. I had a nice, quiet dinner with my wife, instead.

I lay in bed last night imagining what we could do to get together. I fell asleep daydreaming of you and me lying next to each other, exhausted after making love using just oral sex the first time we got naked. And now, I have another throbbing erection and leaking precum just thinking about that daydream.

How will reality set in and change our views of each other once we meet again, I don’t know. Reality has a funny way of changing all sorts of people’s first impressions about all different kinds of subjects, from meeting foreigners for the first time to the expectations of a mixed-race President versus one’s views of his administration’s actual performance. If your husband is no longer interested in you, that’s HIS problem, not yours. I haven’t lost interest because my expectations are not to see you as a 15-year old but as a 45 or 46-year old woman who’s enjoyed life and had a few scars and stretch marks to show how much she’s loved.

I hate keeping this short today but I’ve got to catch up with all I’ve gladly put aside for our special moments together here lately. So while you’re walking the dog or home-schooling, know that I’m here in your thoughts, if not in a long, detailed email. Remind me to tell you about the Turkish maid that visited my hotel room in Ireland late one evening for “turn down” service.

BTW, I mentioned to my wife that you and your husband would like to meet us sometime. She’s willing to meet so let’s think about when — maybe in the next couple of weekends?

Forever curious,

Gus

 

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Satisfaction guaranteed.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sat, January 24, 2009 4:28 pm

To: <gus-email>

As I sit here with a hot and wet pussy, I am amazed yet again at how our thoughts and fantasies coincide. The thought of another man joining in on the fun with us, another woman, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Is this mere writing for you or a fantasy you would fulfill with me? Do you want to be satisfied this way? Before I go on further, I shall await your response.

Love,

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/24/2009 4:04:36 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Out there….somewhere.

Eimear,

Karen decided to stay in and work on her card-making hobby today, freeing me up to work on a response to your email below. Hope you like it!

See the attached file.

Your unsatisfied friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Out there….somewhere.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Fri, January 23, 2009 5:54 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

Just wanted your opinion on this fantasy…..er story.

Now, I shall run and hide in the bathroom as if I never wrote or sent this.

Love

Eimear

When I walked out of the changing room, I saw him. He walked towards me and took my arm to lead me to the hot tub. He never spoke, just smiled at me. It was late at night, and there was only two other people in the pool. The hot tubs water spilled over to the pool, each connected by a wall. As we got into the hot tub, one of the two people left, leaving only a woman swimming. I could not help but look at her appreciatively, and motioned for him to look as well. The lone woman looked up and smiled her thanks while returning the same look to both of us. The water was warm, silky, the jets gently pulsing. He pulled me to him, my legs on either side of his. Sitting in his lap was a favorite position of mine. I love the feel of him rubbing against me, sending tingles of pleasure to my core. He kissed me, my mind reeling with his delectable tongue. I felt my bathing suit top being removed, heard the wet plop as he threw it onto the floor, just out of my reach. I glanced around, but the woman was the only one thereI . She was sitting at the other end of the pool just casually watching with a small secretive smile. I turned back to him, suddenly unable to resist the urge to put on a show. Who knows, maybe she would join us if she got excited enough. When I mentioned this to him, I could feel his cock grow harder. Pressing into my pussy, letting me know he would enjoy the experience as well. His hands never stayed still, roaming over me. Teasing my nipples to stiff peaks, running his fingers through my hair, over my arms, down my legs, everywhere except where I needed them most. Began to move, needing the sensations to continue. I felt a warm body pressing against my back. It took a second to realize it was the woman joining us. I turned and we kissed, our tongues getting to know each other. There were four hands touching me, bringing me closer to cumming. When they kissed, I could feel his reaction, he was so hard and turned on. I knew I wanted to drive him insane with longing, and I knew the perfect way to achieve that purpose. I slid off of his lap and took the woman by the hand. I set her up on the lip of the hot tub, glad she had already removed her suit. I started kissing her lips, her neck, slowly working on her nipples. I could hear his breathing become huskier, a little faster. I nibbled my way down to her inner thighs, wanting to taste her juices, but taking my time. Each thigh receiving my tongue and gentle nibble from my teeth. When I could not stand it any longer, I ran my tongue from her puckered hole to her folded lips. Licking and tasting all her juices. She laid back and raised her legs, her legs pressing against my head to keep me where I was. I could hear him slowly stroking himself, wondering if he was going to cum on us or in us. My tongue dipped inside her ass hole, wetting it for my finger to enter. I heard her words, telling me not to stop, that she needed to cum now. I continued to move my finger in and out of her while my lips and tongue worked on her clit. He clit was a hard little nub and with each touch she would jerk, rubbing herself into my face. Fucking me with her pussy. I felt her freeze, then start to jerk with her orgasm. Her juices covered my face, her legs holding me where I was as she rocked to the last shudder. He moved up to us, and I could see he was going to cum. I took him in my mouth, so far in the back of my throat, sucking on him. The woman slid under him and sucked on his balls as she inserted one finger in his ass. He came with a loud moan, shooting all his cum down my throat. He pulled out and a few drops went on my face to mix with the womans pussy juices. She leaned in and licked both off of me, then kissed him. I felt a hand on my breast, one on my back, then another on my pussy. The next span of time was just feeling, no conscious thoughts, just bodies moving, touching, needing, enjoying, and cumming. We never did see her again, but she has given us many happy memories.

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Showers are a fantasy of mine.

From: gus-email

Date: Fri, January 23, 2009 1:48 pm

To: “Eimear” <eimear>

Against my better judgment, I checked email and now I’m going to be useless the rest of the afternoon!!!! I think I might take another shower. 😉

We can talk about all the rest of the other stuff later, a family get-together, etc. Right now, I’ve got to run to the bathroom!

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Showers are a fantasy of mine.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Fri, January 23, 2009 1:23 pm

To: <gus-email>

Things strike me as funny sometimes. For instance, your wife and I are the same height, around the same weight, around the same age, had similar physical ailments, birthdays at almost the same time, and love you. Does that say something or is it merely a strange twist of life? Below is a fantasy of mine written a few months ago. Another strange twist of life is our similar thoughts. As to when, where, and how, I am not sure. Would your wife feel better about us “meeting” if she were to meet me and my family first? Pearse would not mind us all getting together, and Abeille is chomping at the bit to meet you. Is this something you want? We could meet for lunch one Saturday or Sunday, and go from there. Let me know what you think about my idea. Um, and let me know what you think of the story below. One more thing before I go. Do you think it means something that our fantasies are similar? I would love to hear more of your fantasies. They may serve to fuel my own or match them.

Love.

Eimear

Pulling into the driveway, I notice a large bow on the front door that was not in existence earlier today. Odd. Walking closer I notice a note attached in bright yellow paper. “Come inside, strip to your birthday suit, and join me in a wet surprise.” I felt a stirring of pure excitement in anticipation of what my lover had in mind. Following the notes instructions, I stripped off my clothes of the day, and went in search of my lover. Not in the hot tub, so that left the bathroom. Water was running when I opened the door. What a sight that was in front of me. My tall redheaded lover stood under the falling water, his body slick with body wash. He turned to face me and I could see he was as excited as I was about what would happen. He held his hand out for me and I walked into his arms. Minutes spent in each others arms, sharing our bodies heat, our desire to feel the others curves and muscles. He raised my head to receive his kiss. His kiss that always made me forget to breath. Nothing mattered when he kissed me but that moment. Our hands seemed to move of their own accord, roaming and touching the other. My hands moved over his chest, grazing his nipples, loving the way they hardened into nubs at my touch. My tongue followed suit, licking the hard nub causing him to twitch at the sensation. I dropped to my knees. His hard member reinforcing his desire for me. My hands slowly began to stroke him before I took him inside my mouth. His moan told me he was enjoying the sensations. I reached for the body wash, soaping up my hand. His head was thrown back, his eyes shut, so he was unaware of my intentions. I slid one hand under his balls to his tightly puckered hole, circling, waiting for permission to enter. I looked up to see he was in agreement before I pushed one finger inside. My mouth and tongue moved up and down his shaft, while my finger began to pump his rectum. I could feel my own juices running down between my legs. His own excitement causing my own to grow. Just as I need to feel him cum in my mouth, he needed my own orgasm. He lifted me off my knees and kissed me deeply. His own taste of precum in my mouth now on his tongue as well. My lover pushed me against the shower wall, his hands causing me to lose all sense of control. Hands that lifted my breasts to his mouth, suckling my nipples, nipping them to send incredible jolts to my womanhood. Hands that slid down between my legs, finding me wet and heated and ready for him. Fingers that teased, touched, tortured until I felt myself start to slip over the edge into an orgasm that shook me and nearly caused me to fall. He slammed into me, causing more electric shocks inside of me. His excitement was as strong as mine as he began to pound into me. The sounds made were so intimate, so passionate, so personal that they were ours alone. No other could make these sounds or would understand their meaning. He words to me so beautiful that they brought tears to my eyes. The feel of him inside of me, his balls hitting me, his chest pressed against mine, his hands gripping me tightly, our mounds grinding against each other sent me into my second orgasm just as I felt him stiffen. Through my orgasm I felt his warm seed shoot into me filling me to the point of it running down my leg.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/23/2009 11:49:31 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: Moving fantasy into real time

This morning, after an extra-long shower, I looked at my financial investments and thought back to this same time two years ago when the stock price of a company in which I held options hovered around 35. Today, the stock price is less than 15. My stock option exercise price was $33.66. In other words, the options are under water, if I still held them. So, too, speaking of a technicality, I was a millionaire last year but now that the stock market has plunged 40% or more since its peak, I am no longer a millionaire even though I hold more shares of stock than I did last year. No matter. I am optimistic about my financial future because I know that history has shown the stock market tends to get lively and rebounds in value after a recession or depression. What I can’t say for sure is how long it will take for my finances to return to their high so I will keep chugging along, finding good solid stocks, mutual funds and bonds to buy for their future payoff. I want to get this startup company on its feet!

And now, I look at my list of “to-do” items which includes buying a birthday cake and birthday card for my wife’s birthday on Monday. She and I plan to drive up to Nashville this weekend so we can enjoy a birthday dinner at her favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot, including a bouquet of balloons, a bar of fondue chocolate and a pewter-framed photo of us at the restaurant. Call it our annual pilgrimage, if you will, until The Melting Pot opens locally here in a few months.

Last night, I went out to dinner with some of my wife’s coworkers, including a retired Air Force pilot, a retired Army non-commissioned officer, a few guys who had served in the military in unknown ranks/positions and one soon-to-be 23-year old woman named Elizabeth who had recently joined the group. Elizabeth sat across the table from Karen. I had snippets of conversations with her throughout the night. She owns two 8- or 9-week old Yorkshire terriers, lives in a second-floor apartment after recently moving out of her parents’ house and wears dark-green eye makeup. She has a big-screen TV, a Blu-Ray disc player still in its box, does not subscribe to cable TV services and does not have or currently seek a boyfriend. She used to be a cheerleader at the local high school, attended and graduated from Auburn University and works as an engineer. She’s cute as can be, even gorgeous, if you will, and attracts guys like flies to honey. Keep in mind that she’s half my age but I still had a nice conversation with her, even an intelligent one, despite the difference in age. Sure, she couldn’t name the rock bands for the songs a cover band was playing (she thought a Fleetwood Mac song was by Journey, for instance, and had never heard of Ted Nugent) but then I was never into rock bands all that much so I was not put off by the generation gap.

One time, many months ago, while Elizabeth was still in college but worked as a student employee at my wife’s office, my wife was out of town and had forgotten to take an important item with her on her trip. Elizabeth was going to travel to the same location so she offered to get the item from me before she left. We talked on the phone about a good location to meet. Keep in mind that I had never met Elizabeth in person and she knew nothing about me except what Karen had described to her. Elizabeth debated on the phone whether I should just come to her parents’ house to get the item. Instead, she thought maybe we should meet somewhere else.

Where did we meet? I mean, here she and I are clearly aware that my wife is out of town. We are complete strangers to each other, too. Elizabeth might have had an idea what I looked like because of a photo on my wife’s desk or something similar but all I have to go on is my wife’s description of her — brunette, college student, an athletically fit girl with a nice personality who drives a small car like a Honda Civic or Accord.

Elizabeth discussed with me all the area businesses where we could meet. We finally settled on a parking lot of a local sports park across the street from her parents’ neighborhood, where there are plenty of dark corners and hidden areas to park. Safe and close to home but also full of possibilities, should opportunities arise that hadn’t been spoken of but might present themselves.

As a guy who sees life on both sides of the fence (and yes, the grass sometimes does look greener on the other side), I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be free of my marriage and spend time with other women who may or may not be interested in having sex or making love, but if we wanted to, we could. If ever there was a moment in my life when I wondered about what I’d like to do, despite my not knowing anything about her — her wants, desires, moral attitude — I thought that there’s always a chance that Elizabeth was interested in more than just giving me a package for my wife.

While I waited in the parking lot for Elizabeth to show up, a couple of cars of teenage couples drove past me toward the dark corners of the ballpark. From my vantage point, I got a general idea that the couples were engaging in the age-old act of discovering each others’ bodies (kissing and whatever else), something I had enjoyed with a 15-year old myself almost exactly 30 years before.

Do you remember me telling you that I have never, ever dated a woman with a well-defined, socially-perfect body if she also had a personality with a lot of negativity about her? Well, when Elizabeth pulled up to my car and rolled down the window, it was just the two of us in the near-darkness, two humans in two separate cars, looking at one another with a simple goal in mind.

I’m all about simplicity, by the way. The less complex a situation, the easier I can manage my way through it.

I could tell that Elizabeth was in the mood to talk. After I saw her beautiful face, I was suddenly shy. I had already heard about her good engineering skills and her nice personality. Now, I was presented with something I had not expected to happen. I was alone with beauty and brains in one person. A smart, good-looking, middle-aged man couldn’t ask for much more to compliment his ego.

Elizabeth is a wonderful woman and if she ever decides to marry, she will give her significant other a wonderful life. Right now, she is raising a couple of puppies, doing what many a young person has done, substituting animal care for baby human care.

I carried on a quick conversation with her and cut her off, asking her for the package and wishing her a safe trip, indicating I needed to get back home to receive a call from my wife. I could tell that Elizabeth was disappointed we couldn’t sit and talk for a while but all I was going to do while I sat and talked with her was remember the few times I had sat and talked in cars with other girls, in most cases talking less with our vocal chords and more with the rest of our bodies. In other words, in my thoughts I wasn’t being fair to my wife, Elizabeth, or me.

Last night, as I sat next to my wife and looked across the table at Elizabeth, I couldn’t help thinking that if I wasn’t married, I’d pursue a relationship with Elizabeth, one based first on getting to know each other and if we decided we liked each other’s habits and had similar interests, then we might carry it on to the next step, whatever that step may be. But certainly I could easily see waiting until after getting engaged or getting married to have intimate sexual relations. Just because a woman is beautiful doesn’t mean she wants to jump in the sack. However, I am married to the woman who has been by my side for over twenty-two years of marriage, six years of dating and six years of being penpals prior to our first date — after thirty-four years of being in the thoughts and life of one person, I think long and hard about making a change to that relationship.

Thus, to answer your question, I have never spent even a moment alone with another woman after marrying my wife without my wife being always in my mind. So, my wife’s essence is with me at all times and should my animalistic desires swell up into my thoughts when I’m with another woman, I think about my wife and put away any hint of movement toward sexual activities with that other woman.

I still like to flirt, though, and especially enjoy flirting with married women who agree (and we all know how to read that agreement in each other’s eyes) that flirting’s as far as we’re going to go so we can push the limit of our flirtatiousness without worrying that it’ll go overboard and get us into serious trouble.

Before I married Karen, I dated a few women, only one of whom I had sexual intercourse with. I met her in a class at Walters State Community College. She happened to be married at the time but was going through a divorce. She is the “Sarah” in that novel I sent you and was my “Mrs. Robinson” (you know, from the movie, “The Graduate”). Wait, I had sexual intercourse with another woman, too…Sarah’s best friend, Frances (don’t ask but it got complicated between the three of us there for a while; the ‘seven-day kiss’ in my previous email is a direct reference to the seven days I spent at Frances’ apartment, causing my parents to put out a search for me cause they thought I’d disappeared). Gosh, I better check my thoughts to see if there’s anyone else I missed. I can’t think of any. Sure, I kissed a few women I dated but it didn’t go much further than that. Oh wait, there was Alice Rae Knapp, a woman who lived in a neighborhood behind the old Kingsport race track. We had a Calculus class together at the ETSU-Kingsport Center. Her parents encouraged us to make out in front of them while we were all watching TV in the living room and to feel free to go back to her bedroom if we wanted to get more intimate. She wanted me to get her pregnant so I stopped dating her before we could progress to making love. I was still technically a virgin then and wanted to keep it that way and I sure didn’t want to have babies while I was still in college.

I figured out one time that I have slept in bed with more women (actually going to bed with them and falling asleep in each other’s arms) than I have “slept with.”

Well, that’s a roundabout way to answer your fourth question, without addressing your second and third questions yet.

I don’t mean to bore you with my day-to-day activities but today I am focused on planning my wife’s birthday weekend. Plus, with the startup business activities that I’ve put off to spent this wonderful, intimate email time with you this week, I’ve behind in my life the last few days.

I want to see you. To be sure, curiosity plays a role in that. But at the same time, I’m prepared for the unexpected. Just because my life has been one way every day for the previous umpteen years does not mean it has to be that same way tomorrow. For instance, I have kissed just one woman other than my wife since I’ve been married. When I temporarily lived and worked in Ireland by myself, I was at the annual Christmas dinner party for my office group at Dromoland Castle.

[From the Internet: “Dromoland Castle also recently had a presidential visit from George W. Bush. Situated in exquisite grounds in County Clare; Dromoland dates back to the 16th Century and is the ancestral home of the O’Brien Clan and Brian Boru the last High King of Ireland. Dromoland Castle offers the utmost in five star luxury and is steeped in historic character.”]

The Irish sure know how to party. I danced with just about everyone’s wife and girlfriend that night because their fellows weren’t as interested as I was to have fun on the dance floor but they gladly let me have my ‘bachelor’ night dancing with their women. Well, the party lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Finally, around 3 a.m., the castle management asked us all to leave because the crew would have to start cleaning the place up for an event the next day. As I stepped outside to catch a cab with a couple of my Irish mates to find an open pub, a young woman walked up to me and wanted to give me a kiss as a thank-you for dancing with her when her husband/boyfriend wouldn’t. It had meant the world to her. I figured she meant a peck kiss on the cheek and would gladly oblige. Well, being drunk as I was at that stage, I held my arms open wide as much to keep my balance as anything. She literally jumped into my arms and gave me an intimate kiss I won’t soon forget! In front of everyone streaming out of the castle, too. After she let go, she whispered to me that she kissed me long enough to make sure she felt that she was getting a solid rise out of me so she could use that thought for intimacy with her man when they got home later on. Needless to say, I didn’t live down that reputation for the rest of my time in Ireland! I think some single women at the office were disappointed I wouldn’t take them out drinking, thinking that I’d initiated the kiss with their coworker and was open to new adventures. Adventure, yes, but actively cheating on wife, no.

I am not ashamed to meet you but to prevent my wife’s suspicion of intimacy with a former girlfriend (considering the fact she and I both know we’re not going to make love until I get a good money-making job or other income stream, even in this worsening recession, and might be more prone to offers of love), I want either to meet you without my wife’s knowledge or to first meet you in a situation that would make my wife completely comfortable with the limits on what I would do with you should our talk of days gone by lead to thoughts of continuing where we left off. That doesn’t mean it has to be in the middle of Times Square with a dozen webcams pointed in our direction. I just don’t know what it means yet.

Maybe you have some suggestions? You say you live in Murfreesboro. Are there places in southern middle Tennessee where you like to sit and talk? [BTW, were you ever the same Eimear Books who lived on Willard Drive in Nashville? I found that address on the Internet while I was plotting out places to meet you.]

If we meet without our spouses with us, I won’t say what I will or won’t do with you because I just don’t know. That scares me more than anything. I’m not sure what to do about such a fear except confront it.

We gave each other something we will never lose and have proven to each other that time has not diminished the importance of that gift. Thus, I am not worried if we next meet a week from now or a month from now. My focus is on making sure we have quality time together so we can discuss in person our lives up to now and what we see in our future. I want our meeting place to allow us to be flexible in how we talk to each other, not just two people sitting across from each other at a fast food restaurant. Keep in mind that my inner motto, the goal of all my actions, is simplicity and harmony. I look for balance. I work to resolve conflict. I do not want power — I want peace. I do not seek to control or build empires — I build mutual respect between civilizations, breaking down the barriers of bias and prejudice. Whatever we discuss and agree upon, for our lives together or apart, it will fall within the spheres of living simply and harmoniously.

Well, I’ve spent two hours here at the laptop with this email and I’ve got to get back to my consulting work.

Let me know if you have some place in mind to meet. Let’s also discuss the time and date, too. Meanwhile, even though I have not directly talked about fantasies with you this time, I see that my pants tell me otherwise because of a previous thought today. This morning while I was in the shower, I thought about rubbing the nipples of large, drooping breasts and having intercourse with that redheaded woman up against the shower wall. Needless to say, I had to relieve my sexual tension in the shower!

Back to work!

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: It is tomorrow in Eastern Standard time

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Thu, January 22, 2009 11:50 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

Using a technicality, we did grow up in the Eastern time zone, so maybe I can get away with writing to you now. Just a few things that have been rattling in my mind after my last message I sent. One, if I met you I would not hide. I am not ashamed of our history, or our present or our future what ever that may be. So if we do meet, it will be with no shame or guilt in the bright glare of sunlight. In the same sense I would never want to hurt either one of our spouses. Considering what would be on our minds to do with each other at the aforementioned meeting, I am not sure we could achieve that goal. Two, if we were to meet, is this something you would only do once? Sort of satisfy your curiosity and then move on? Three, if we were to meet, kissing is not the only action that would happen. Are you prepared for that event? Am I? The thought of you finally cumming inside of me after all these years is a long standing wish of mine. Sorry, got sidetracked. Fourth, and very important to me. Is this something you have done before? Fifth, is more of a statement than a question. We have been apart for many years and I have not told you what did or did not happen during that time. I dated, as do most people, was engaged twice but more for the thought of being engaged than wanting to be married. At the age of 27, I had been with one man, as in him penetrating my vagina. I had played around some, but did not want more. This is when I met my husband. We hung out for 6 months before he held my hand. We did not have sex until after we married. So now we have come full circle, and I await your story to know my future. Hopefully, I will drift into sleep soon and wake with a renewed spirit. Or at the very least, less bags under my tired eyes.

Love,

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: “To sleep, perchance to dream- Ay, there’s the rub.”

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Thu, January 22, 2009 5:23 pm

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

You are correct in that the details of the story are my greatest desire at this moment. I shall wait at your request until the morrow to see what it brings. Should I assume one thing? That the story coincides with reality? That, too, I shall find out tomorrow. Sleep well my sweet man, and I shall try my best. Sleep is the most elusive respite at my disposal. I have much to consider, many avenues to pursue mentally. One thing I will mention, my hubby suggested I meet with you for lunch one day to catch up on old times. I said it was possible. We would see. Oh, yes, one other other thing, lol, I live in Murfreesboro.

Love

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/22/2009 4:39:52 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: A fantasy one step closer to reality

Eimear,

We all have our worries, our doubts, our moments of questioning our motives. What if…? What might happen? What can go wrong?

We live with these thoughts and the older we get, the more we gather these thoughts and put them into categories, whether consciously or subconsciously. Categories such as child-rearing, spouse training, extended family care, tax payments, household maintenance…and going outside our comfort zone.

 

I am here with you because I am simultaneously within and outside of my comfort zone. I am imagining one life while living another. I am a character within a novel that was written before I was born but that does not yet exist because you and I have yet to write its ending and won’t finish it because it has a perpetual storyline, with no clear clash, climax, and conclusion. I am also a person trying to make his way through life, talking to business executives and embedded firmware development engineers every week in order to see if I can get a startup company going.

And all the while, I live with a woman who’s had breast biopsies, gall bladder surgery, hysterectomy as major surgery, an auto accident where her body went into the side door and general wear-and-tear on a 47-year old body that is probably 75-100 pounds overweight for her 5’2″ frame. Yet despite all this, I do not see her body as other than the one that belongs to the woman whose voluptuous body I married when we were 24 years old. I no more expect her body to turn into Raquel Welch than I expect Raquel Welch to appear at my door and look like she did when she was 24. I admitted to you that I no longer achieve orgasm with my wife and the main reason is that our primary position for making love is me over the top of her. Because of the size of her belly, I cannot easily maintain a pumping action into her vagina. Plus, I am older and my joints aren’t what they used to be so my ankles, elbows, and knees don’t hold me up like they used to, thus making the pain of the joints holding myself up over my wife’s torso break the enjoyment of making love before I can climax.

I’m telling you more than I ever planned to but I don’t mind. I will always be as open and honest as my memory and focused train of thought will let me (sometimes, an idea or thought comes to me but slips away by the time I get to the end of the current emotion or idea I’m expressing).

I recall more emotions and thoughts about our time together 30 years ago than I thought possible so that I’m not sure if I’m the person I am now, or the person I was 30 years ago who fell in love with a funny and caring red-haired girl from Blountville, Tennessee, USA. I would usually analyze these thoughts and emotions to determine their origin, their cause, their effect, and where they’re going. Right now, I don’t want to analyze. I just want to feel.

I know you are no longer 15. Thank God for that! I would be jealous if you got to keep your youth while the rest of us aged. I don’t desire a 15-year girl. I desire the 45-year old woman who used to be 15. I don’t care if she’s put on a few pounds. I’m not interviewing my former lover for one of those anorexia shows they call TV beauty pageants.

Beauty is more than skin deep. I have known this all my life and never, ever dated a woman whose socially-perfect proportions were out of balance with her shallow personality or antisocial behavior.

You are an overall, all-around beautiful woman, despite the changes to your body.

===

As I promised you, in my last email I delivered the beginnings of a story about two former lovers meeting 30 years later to give us the perspective to see what could happen should something like this happen in real life. While I think about and write the story, my thoughts are the thoughts of the life of the main male character as if I’m really there. I see that you seem to read it as if you’re there, too.

Good. Let us continue with this for a minute and see what happens…

===

Gus and Eimear kissed longer than two people have ever kissed, longer and more intimately than the lovers in “The Princess Bride” and with more passion and longing than any poets had ever described. How long is that? Well, the Guinness Book of World Records states that the longest kiss lasted 30 hours and 45 minutes in 1999. Gus and Eimear put that record to shame. Their kiss lasted so long that the electricity of the hotel dimmed from lack of power because Gus and Eimear had drained all the sparks for themselves. TVA reported that energy use decreased for the first time in years because the power grid went down unexpectedly over the seven-day period that Gus and Eimear locked lips. Yes, that’s right, folks. Gus and Eimear lived off each other’s love for over 168 straight hours.

By this time, Gus’s wife and Eimear’s husband and daughter had reported Gus and Eimear as missing persons but Gus and Eimear did not know this. They only knew the world that had belonged to them 30 years ago had surrounded them once again, blocking out the rest of the old, unimportant universe. They didn’t care what else was going on. They believed that what they had, with no food, no money and nothing but their renewed love for each other, would sustain them for the rest of their lives. They forgot about their responsibilities — home schooling, dog walking, dog feeding, cat feeding, fish feeding, bird feeding, spouse/child feeding and all the other minute details of their former daily lives. They truly set the standard for the insanity that inhabits the thoughts of lovers. Make no mistake about it, they had fallen in love…again.

Now, these two lunatics (and they were lunatics, certifiably crazy in love), they were not ones to shuck their duties. An objective observer could show that these two people had performed all their duties with the attention and care they deserved, producing many good results and making a mistake once in a while but not more than anybody else in a 30-year span.

What would happen to them when or if they break out of the trance of love? Will they get in trouble with the police? Not really. They might get a stern lecture from an old cop about scaring and upsetting one’s family but they had broken no laws. Or had they? Couldn’t their spouses accuse of them of adultery and abandonment?

Well, now that the subject is out of the bag, let’s examine it. The accused have the right to a fair trial and the belief that they are innocent until proven guilty.

Did they commit adultery? No, because that word has the strict meaning of “extramarital sex that willfully and maliciously interferes with marriage relations” or “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.” Even the impeachment trial of Clinton did not prove he committed adultery; instead, he was accused of lying about having sexual relations with another woman. All that Gus and Eimear did was kiss. They did not fondle each other sexually, they did not take off their clothes or engage in any activity remotely close to the definition of extramarital sex. People kiss each other everyday and nothing is said about it.

Did they abandon their spouses? No, not intentionally. They only meant to get together for an hour or two, and instead lost track of time while they talked but did not speak with their lips.

But technical definitions and arguments may all and well be good in the court of law but what about in the private homes of Gus and Eimear? At some point, they’ll sit down individually with their spouses and talk about what happened (assuming, of course, that their spouses are willing to sit down and talk about what happened; let’s assume they do).

Neither Gus nor Eimear are looking for forgiveness because they know in their hearts and head that they did nothing wrong. Sure, maybe they got a little carried away with their fantasies, but in the end they only wanted to be together, even for just a few uninterrupted hours. They had achieved that end. That did not mean they loved their spouses less or didn’t care for kids and pets.

So Gus and Eimear explain exactly what happened, and depend on the trust with their spouses for belief. They let their eyes and touch tell the truth that nothing explicit happened when they were in the arms of another.

Now we can’t be sure what the spouses will say or do but at least they’ve heard the truth.

The truth will set you free.

What if the spouses say, “Sorry, not that I can’t believe you but I can’t accept this. Who in their right mind forgets about their own family?”

Spouses can tell the truth, too.

And it is here that we step back and ask the question to you, the reader. Can you imagine a love so strong that it would make you forget your family? Let’s be practical. You know full well that love does not put food on the table. Love does not put a roof over your head, clothes on your body or gas in the car. Thus, love is not real, is it? It is only in your imagination but no matter how unreal it appears to be, you can carry it in your thoughts the rest of your life or you can forget about it in a moment, like the love you had for one person that you forgot about or put away to dedicate your love to another. You can carry multiple lines of love in your thoughts, too. Only you have a limit on what or whom you love, and what that love does to you.

Now let’s get back to Gus and Eimear. They have returned to the real world, changed forever. For a brief moment (and seven days is a brief moment when you’re sharing a kiss), they got to see the inside of the universe to which they’d lost the entrance when they locked away their love 30 years earlier.

People abandon their lives, in all senses of the word, in every way imaginable and wreak havoc on those around them. Suicide, divorce, drug abuse, murder, war, and drunk driving all represent negative acts of abandonment.

But are there positive acts of abandonment? Isn’t that what Gus and Eimear thought they saw when they glimpsed the other side? That there are other worlds and galaxies to which they can go and just leave the occupants of their old world behind to pick up the pieces and put things together in whatever order will work?

I don’t know. I’m just a writer, not an oracle or someone who can see the future. These questions I leave to you tonight. For you see, I know the people who the characters Gus and Eimear are based on. In fact, I’m one of them. I’m Gus. Eimear is not the real name of the person Gus knows. But he, I mean I, am with her in my writing and in her thoughts, even now. If you asked me, and you did, if there is a sense of destiny here, I would agree. But it’s the details of the destiny that I won’t describe for you tonight because, you see, I do know the future about this part of the story. And let me tell you, it’s the details you (and you know who you are, my dear no-longer-petite friend) want to hear more than anything else in this world. As much as or maybe even more than the details you’d want to hear about the future of our (oops, I mean, your) child.

For now, let us think that we are still dreaming and that at any time our fantasies are only one step away from reality. We can last one more night letting our thoughts drift in and out of time and place and person…

===

Eimear, I am a rational, practical person who understands the natural give-and-take of human nature, just as you do. I am not expecting fireworks to go off or lightning to strike should anything more than these emails occur between us. In fact, I don’t expect anything. Instead, as I did so 30 years ago, I welcome the unexpected and that scares me more than anything I can think of. As I said in the story above, let’s sleep on this for a day and see what tomorrow brings. Tonight, my body is too worn out to think of much else — in fact, I can’t think at all (as you can imagine, my penis has been very busy lately).

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: A fantasy one step closer to reality

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Thu, January 22, 2009 11:45 am

To: <gus-email>

My fears lie not in the unknown, but more in the known. The person I am started with you 30 years ago. The way you gave me the freedom to be myself. I still have that freedom when I speak with you, when I dream of you. My reality is in my physical body. It is not merely 30 years that have transpired. The excessive weight, the stomach that protrudes, the breasts that droop, the scars of surgeries past. My breasts that bear the scars of biopsies, their pink scars showing the unfounded fears that could have been. The 8 inch scar running across my extended stomach brazenly stating a gall bladder surgery of many years past. This is not the body of a mans desire, more the body of a woman comfortable with herself. Sure, the thought of being trim again would be nice, but the comfortable feeling was never in existence during the trim stages. The thought of being with you in many different ways, sexually and otherwise, is marred by only one thing. My physical being. Though I am comfortable with myself, it does not mean you would be. In fact, I am almost positive of that fact. I should be worried about the effects of what could happen between us and the results carrying over to our home life….our spouses. I should be, but I am not. I am however worried about the effects of my feelings for you. The physical side of a relationship would be dealt with inside my mind, with only the thought of more between us. It is the emotional side that I fear. Does that enter into your thoughts? Is it just me that feels the incredible pull, the sense of destiny? Maybe it is just me. Maybe I am still dreaming.

Love

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/22/2009 10:42:48 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: A fantasy one step closer to reality

I have a business lunch to attend in a couple of hours and then I’m going to the Red Cross to donate a pint of blood. In the interim, I sit here in my study and stare out the window. The album, “Chariots of Fire,” plays on a record player. Memories flash in my thoughts, memories of 30 years ago, memories of memories, memories of moments that never existed but could have and should have. And maybe will.

I checked the distance between two points, between one person’s home and the other person’s home. We are not crows so we cannot fly directly to each other’s place but we can still fly, can’t we? I mean, if speed is time compressed over distance, then cannot one person squeeze some time between two events that otherwise would not have been available? What if both of them sped toward the other, like the two trains that sped toward each other on parallel tracks in school math problems?

The distance from my house to downtown Nashville is little over an hour and a half, depending on traffic. But what if a person lived south or southeast of Nashville? What’s the driving distance, then? And what’s halfway between the two?

I look out the window of my house almost every day and see cars go by that I’ve never seen before. The drivers may never have seen my house before, either. In fact, they may not even notice my house. I don’t know who they are although I might determine their gender or race sometimes. But I don’t know their names, where they came from or where they’re going.

So if I drive into someone else’s neighborhood, do I get noticed? Does someone write down my license plate number and record it for the future? Does someone follow me where I go?

Of course not. I am not important enough to be tracked. I am a regular guy doing regular things.

Except I’m not thinking about taking a regular action.

What if today was not today but a day in the future, say like a week or a month from now. What if I KNEW what I was going to do? What if I told the other person what I wanted to do, that is, to meet her between two points in time, between two houses, trying to make real what has only been fantasy so far?

Would she do it?

Let’s see what happens if we did meet up.

Gus arrived early at the meeting point, an old hotel in the town where the parents of James K. Polk lived. He had been to the town once before with his wife when they were looking for a winery and stopped at the James K. Polk Museum to get directions so he had a good mental map of the area, which gave him the idea for the hotel.

He parked his car toward the back of the hotel, in case coincidence placed someone he knew and didn’t want to meet in the town on the same day and at the same time.

He walked down the street to get a breath of fresh air and settle down his demeanor. He reminded himself that he had not arranged the meeting with Eimear to fulfill fantasies they had shared in an email exchange. No, he was there in order to see what 30 years meant. It meant more than a deep aching of the body, the feeling of loss he always carried with him from when he was 16. Thirty years is only a phrase used to describe a planet’s gravitational rotation. Thirty. Twenty. Ten. One. One million. The number didn’t matter. Gus had committed himself to seeing this moment through and right then nothing else mattered.

Gus stopped in front of a fast food restaurant and looked at his reflection in the picture window. Still six feet, one and a half inches tall. Still smiling. A few wrinkles. A touch of gray at the temples and some gray mixed into his red hair. His moustache and beard were nearly completely white. Oh well. At age 46, Gus had earned the stripes and the new paint job on his well-worn racecar of a body. He didn’t mind those. He remembered the picture of Eimear and him standing in front of a maple tree. He weighed about 165 pounds back then. “Back then.” Well, Gus guessed it was 30 years ago so perhaps time does have some meaning. Now his weight had added an air of wise sophistication to his overall look, checked earlier in the morning at 229 pounds. Sure, there was some unnecessary flab but there was also some new muscle added since he was 16. He didn’t mind the sidelong glances that women gave him, even if he wasn’t vain enough to think they all admired him for any sort of middle-aged sexiness. He was pleased with his body and that would suffice.

Gus didn’t know what kind of car that Eimear was driving so he turned around and walked briskly back to the hotel. All he could do was stand at the entrance and watch who drived up, especially at that time in the morning. He doubted very many people checked into this hotel and even fewer at nine in the morning. He found a raised flower bed and sat on the edge.

Gus opened up a Moleskine journal he carried around with him at all times and wrote down his thoughts:

“I can’t believe I’m here. But at the same time, why can’t I be here? There’s nothing the matter with meeting a friend from 30 years ago. I have no ulterior motives or illicit intentions. I just want to sit down and talk with the woman with whom I blossomed sexually. We just want to get together and see what we’re really like, compare our looks across a 30-year span and continue a conversation we never want to finish.”

Gus closed the journal and stuck it back in his pocket. As he put the pen away, he looked up to see a face he instantly recognized. The face belonged to a body that was steering a black Mitsubishi Galant into the hotel parking lot. By the expression on her face, Gus could tell Eimear hadn’t yet seen him because the hotel stairway obstructed the view.

Gus started walking out to where Eimear parked and raced through the thoughts he’d wrestled with the night before. What if I didn’t show up? What if I turn around right now and hurry around the corner? If I do that, I’ll obviously lose Eimear. I don’t think either one of us would ever get the courage to arrange a meeting like this again unless many more years had passed. Gus stopped walking. He still had the chance to hide before she saw him.

At that moment, as many moments like this seem to happen, the clouds on that otherwise overcast day broke apart, cleared an opening, and a shaft of light fell on Gus, drawing Eimear’s attention immediately. She looked at him and broke into a big smile. Gus stood there and understood the moment for what it was. He had nowhere to go but forward. His smile beamed back at her as he ran to the car door.

“Well, it’s about time you got here!” Gus exclaimed humorously, to ease his tension.

Eimear stood up and closed the door. “You’re funny. Here, give me a hug before I go crazy.”

Gus and Eimear embraced in the parking lot. Gus felt the tight muscles of his neck and arms warm up and melt into Eimear. He felt the same thing from her. Well, he had hugged her. There’s nothing the matter with that, he thought, even if he couldn’t ignore the swelling in his pants. After all, he was a guy and she was a gal. He felt her warm breath on his neck and wanted to rub his face against hers but that could wait.

Gus released his grip on Eimear and held her away from him, still smiling from ear to ear. “You know what?”

“What?” Eimear asked, shivering in the cold.

“I could stand here all day and look at you but maybe we should go inside.”

Eimear nodded. “Great idea!” She grabbed Gus’s hand and pulled him toward the hotel lobby.

They got a hotel room, ignoring the knowing look on the clerk’s face and walked to their room, their arms around each other’s waist, satisfied to be walking side-by-side without talking.

Gus let Eimear in the hotel room, like a gentleman, and stood in the doorway for brief second or two. “Remember you are here to talk,” he thought to himself, somehow knowing that line of thought was in vain.

Eimear took off her coat, threw it on the bed and spun around to face Gus. “I can’t believe we’re really here!!!” she shouted.

Gus gritted his teeth. “Shhh!” he said, always worried that someone might be paying attention to what he was doing and tell him it was wrong.

“I LOVE YOU!!!” Eimear shouted at the top of her lungs and laughed, breaking into a smirk as she watched Gus’s facial expression change from worry to grimace to mirth.

He took two steps toward her and grabbed her waist. “I love you, too, but boy, you sure know how to push my buttons.”

Eimear sighed. “That’s WHY I love you. You let me push your buttons.” She put her arms out, asking for another hug.

Gus leaned down and held Eimear against him, placing his head on her shoulders, rubbing his ear against hers, disregarding any sexual feelings he had and enjoying the pure companionship that two former lovers can share without any hangups.

They held each other for twenty or thirty seconds saying no words with their vocal chords although their hug was holding forth on a dissertation about the history of the human species and the need to establish trust between tribes through the interchange of basic signals like eye-to-eye contact, pressing hands together and grasping one another with no harm intended.

They sighed into each other’s ear. They varied their embrace, feeling the body changes they couldn’t see, running hands up and down, clasping hands together and squeezing tightly, not wanting to let go in case this wasn’t real, or was a dream and they would wake up if they pulled apart.

Not sure what to do but trusting his instincts, Gus backed Eimear up to a bed, pushed a little and the two of them bounced onto the bedspread, laughing and giggling.

Eimear put her hand on Gus’s cheek. “You know, I love what we’re doing here but you still have your jacket on and your buttons are cutting into my belly.”

“Oh, sorry.” Gus stood up and took off his jacket. Eimear rolled over on her side and patted a spot beside her on the bed. Gus lay back down on the bed and faced Eimear.

They stared at each other’s eyes for a while then slowly looked at their facial features, taking in the new freckles, the wrinkles, and the longer ears and longer noses that inevitably come with getting older. They were not disappointed in what they saw because what they had was more than they could ask for.

Eimear ran a finger over Gus’s forehead, down his nose, and touched his lips. Gus almost kissed them but decided to speak first.

“Thanks for being here.” He then kissed her finger and held it against his lips.

Eimear nodded, grabbed Gus’s hand and kissed his fingers one by one. As Eimear contined kissing, Gus scooted closer and put his arm over her shoulder.

“I…” Gus managed to say before Eimear pinched his lips closed and shook her head. Gus had forgotten how much they used to speak to each other without talking. He was out of practice but saw that Eimear was still wiser than him and could easily re-teach him what they’d learned together so many years ago.

 

Gus moved his hand away from Eimear’s mouth and moved closer. He took a big breath to smell her scents. He noticed the slight clay or chemical-like odor of face makeup and the oversanitized smell of the bedspread. His thoughts reeled when a more subtle scent, an aroma that he’d locked away long ago, rushed through his body, charged him like an electromagnet and pulled his lips to hers.

————————–

Eimear, that’s all for today. I’ve got to go to a lunch meeting. I’ll try to check email later on, if I have time.

Yours truly,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: This is another fantasy…or is it? I hope your fantasy

was a reality.

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, January 21, 2009 7:31 pm

To: <gus-email>

How can one man reach my inner desires after so many years apart? Your fantasy is one of my own. The idea of watching, or even more so, the idea of joining in with you has made my own desire flare extraordinarily. My breath is coming in rapid bursts, my legs pushed tightly together to try to ease the ache you have caused with your words. Your actions. I have the same fantasy of watching you pleasure yourself anally. I do not know where the fantasy comes from, but the desire is still there. I would love to run my tongue around the rim, gently inserting my tongue. Using edible lotion, massaging, tasting, then inserting one finger, then more. Maybe the use of a vibrator, my own that is still moist from me. To have you bend me over, stimulate my own anus, to prepare me for your penis by inserting your fingers. Then the pain/pleasure of having you inside of me. To feel you slowly slide further in me, the strain on your control, on my own control not to buck back against you. To feel you completely inside of me, your balls pressed against me, your hands holding me, waiting until I am ready to take your thrusts. When I can wait no longer, I beg you, please now!

I will say that these are not mere words for me. They have become a part of my reality when I think of you. I have never had anal sex, as my hubby was not interested. He would not allow me to touch that part of him. My fantasies of you include watching you pleasure yourself in many different ways. Water jets, anally, manually, by vibrator, or any other means available. I will admit I am not well versed in the masturbation techniques of a man. In fact, I am just now learning the female side of masturbation.

I have many fantasies that may not be the norm for most. Many I have not shared with you, but will do so if you promise not to think bad of me. Let me know. Attached is a short story concerning the matter above. I hope you enjoy the read. Now, as you signed off to find a moment of release, I shall do the same with the thought of your pleasure filling my mind.

Love

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/21/2009 5:10:59 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: This is another fantasy…or is it?

Words are only words, after all. Right?

Or are they?

Haven’t lawsuits been filed and won over one misplaced word? Haven’t many people been moved by a short phrase like,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

I sit in front of my laptop computer and wonder what these new emailed words in front of me mean and from whom have I received them. The power of the words is not in doubt. Uncertainty looms in my mind, though, that the words come from the person whose name I remember.

Why should I fear the strength of a few lines of electronically-inked words?

Why?

Because I am middle-aged and middle-aged people reach a plateau in their lives from which they can see not only the trail they’ve climbed but also the trails others have climbed and left behind. These trails, though blazed by strangers, and maybe because of it, give off an air of mystery, making middle-aged folks like me wonder if perhaps stepping off the current path and meandering over to one of those other well-tread paths might lead to….well, that’s the mystery, isn’t it? We don’t know where the trails might lead. They’re alluring but also a bit scary.

I am at a loss for words. Fear grips me now more than any other time. And I don’t know why.

Why?

“Why, why, why?!?!” I cry out in my thoughts. How can this be that I’m sitting here, where I’ve often wanted to sit, waxing the poetic surfboard to ride the waves of fantasy with the one person I’ve trust my life to? It cannot be. After all, I love my wife. She is a wonderful person. She has stood with me when my mind was not all there and waited patiently for me to come back to normalcy (whatever that is), including a couple of bouts of excessive alcohol consumption and misunderstood suicide ideation. Then why this desire to know more about the person on the other side of this email exchange?

Why?

It does not matter why. Not all questions are meant to be answered, let alone asked. What matters is the “what.” What shall I do next? Shall I tell the person what I feel? Shall I share not only the fantasies but also the specific details of the fulfillment of one person’s desires that he and only he knows about but has always wanted to share with the woman he last held in his arms 30 years ago?

The body has many orifices but a few draw special attention when a certain feeling warms a person’s insides. What shall a person do when there is no one around to give the orifices the attention they deserve, especially when fondling the genitals will only partially satisfy the cravings?

I asked myself the same question the other day because I wasn’t sure if it was right that a man should like his anal orifice stimulated. Wouldn’t that mean he’s homosexual or something, since that’s the orifice most used by two guys together in heat?

I don’t have anyone that I can safely ask that question so I’ll ask you, since I have to trust that the person on the other side of this email exchange is the one person I would trust this to.

Imagine, if you will, that I’m home alone for a month while my wife is out of town on business. There are two cats in the house but they’re easily locked away in a separate room when I need absolute isolation. I’m itching. I’m hurting. My testicles are burning. My penis throbs and aches for release but something feels different. I suddenly feel a new sensation. The opening of my anus, my sphincter muscle, is twitching. Not used to this feeling, I sit on the toilet and see if perhaps a bowel movement is about to happen since I’d eaten hot peppers with dinner an hour earlier. I wait. No, nothing there but I go ahead and wipe my butt out of habit, anyway. Mmm. That was different. I wipe more toilet tissue across the rim of my anal opening. That…that actually felt.well, I mean…it felt good. Is that supposed to happen? I reach around with just my middle finger and rub around the rim again but it doesn’t feel as good. Too dry. “Too dry?” I think to myself. Hmm… Well, my wife has that bottle of pepperment foot cream she’s always keeping stocked in the bathroom and runs out of all the time even though her feet seem cracked and dry. Would she? Well, I hadn’t really thought it out before but maybe she rubs a little of it on her vaginal opening when she needs to relax herself before reaching orgasm.

I stand up and turn around to look at the various bottles stacked together on the shelf above the toilet — face cream, hair conditioner, hair gel, skin scrub, skin softener, defoliant, and…ah, there it is…peppermint oil-based foot cream. I flip open the cap and smell the cream. Very potent! My nostrils flare in unexpected excitement. I squeeze a small amount of the cream and rub it on my erect penis. Woo-wee! What a wollop! Precum gushes out of and down the side of my penis. For fun, I rub my finger in the precum and stick the end of m finger on my tongue. Suddenly, I feel both my penis and anus throbbing in unison. Is my body telling me something that my brain can’t fathom?

I squeeze more cream on my palm, coating two or three fingers, and set the bottle down. With one hand, I lift my scrotum out of the way and reach down with the other hand to rub the cream on my anus. Precum squirts out again even before I reach the rim. My body is definitely anticipating what my thoughts don’t see.

I touch one finger to the edge and my legs nearly buckle. The…well, I can’t find a word to describe the feeling that shot through my body. This is something completely new. The only other time I experienced something like this was when I spent the night at Jeff Fleischer’s house when we were high school mates and we tried to have anal sex without using lubrication. The touch of his penis on my anus was interesting but the “piercing” was not.

The little bit of peppermint cream on my rim was tingling me and pumping precum out in a flow I’d never seen before. I let go of my balls and rubbed my fingers in the precum, bringing them up to my mouth for a tasty little treat. With the other hand, I rubbed my middle finger around the rim and surprisingly my sphincter muscle relaxed a little, allowing me to push the finger up inside and massage the inside. As I rotated my middle finger around, my penis bounced, sending waves of pleasure crashing against my groin and weakening my stance. I leaned against the bathroom counter to hold my balance.

I pushed my finger in deeper. As I did so, my ring finger and forefinger pressed against the outer edges of my anus, pushing me to almost pass out from the extra film of peppermint oil soaking into the tender tissue, now swollen and willing to take whatever I could give.

I decided to ignore the homophobic thoughts sitting on the edge of my stream of consciousness and started stroking my finger in and out of my anus. At the same time, I stroked my penis and sat back against the counter to keep from falling to my knees. My body had been heating up for several minutes so the manly scent of my underarm sweat mixed with the smell of the peppermint oil and precum to nearly drive me to madness!

I pumped two fingers in my anal opening and stroked my penis faster. I stuck a third finger in with the first two and held them there as my sphincter muscle tightened in a last squeeze, my penis shooting load after load of cum across the bathroom floor and down my hand which held its grip around my reddened member.

After the sphincter relaxed, I pulled the fingers out and sent a shock through my body. I stood there shivering, unused to this new style of autoerotica. I debated moving my hand to my mouth to taste my cum but I stopped. The first time I tasted my own cum was going to have to be a special moment. I wanted to share that special moment, perhaps an Australian kiss after making love, with the one person who would understand but I did not found a way to reach her until a few months later. And after I found her, would she be receptive to my newfound desires? Would she, in fact, want to have anal sex with me, perhaps first through an innocent email exchange and then later in a form more solid than just fantasy, perhaps starting with mutual anal massages and then progressing to penetration and thrust by my penis?

 

I don’t know. After all, these are just words. And you know what they say about that. Action speaks louder than words.

Eimear, my friend, does that answer the question you posed in your email subject header?

Fantasy aside, I can tell you that if two lovers who had been apart for 30 years were to meet again, they would have a moment of getting to know each other again. It would be like starting again. Looking each other up and down. Taking in the changes that 30 years wroughts. The first touch. The first hug. The first intake of breath after forgetting to breathe, taking in the new scents. The first kiss, the spark flying across the lips just before they touch. The first taste of each other’s mouths. The tongues rubbing together. Hands wanting to slide around to feel what’s has changed and what to do with the changes. Wondering if they should take it further. But then, they’d have chosen an appropriate meeting place so they could take it further, if they wanted. Would it be a scarf and a waterfall? Would it be in winter or early spring where the cold weather drove them to an indoor location? Even star-crossed lovers have to consider some logistical issues.

Speaking of logistics, I’ve got to do something about these wet and swollen pants before my wife gets home.

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: I got a wild hair and wrote this….and warning, below it is

another fantasy. Um, how do you feel about anal sex?

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Tue, January 20, 2009 6:35 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

The computer sat innocently enough on the table by the bed. The keyboard free of debris, the mouse sitting angled on the blue mouse pad. Is it possible for an inanimate to call to you? My heart started beating a bit faster thinking of what lies beyond the monitors screen. I feel the strong pull of him, his words, his thoughts, just him. My thoughts drift to his face, still enticing after all these years. Those eyes that could melt the ice I had surrounding my heart. If I had never loved him, there would be no dilemma. No questions now, no doubts, no hesitations. Yet, I do feel the love, it has remained one constant in my life. Something I relied on to keep me whole. Would life not be better if we had someone?s love inside of us that restored our soul? I am one of the lucky few who has this love. That is why I am wavering now. Is it wrong? Should I find the strength to walk away from my 30 year old dream? What does it mean to my significant other that I am thinking about my first love in this manner? That is the thought of him pleasuring himself that brought me to my own orgasm? To know that it was my words that brought him to his own orgasm? Miles separate us, years separate us, yet we both found pleasure thinking of the other at almost the same time. Suddenly, I see a reminder that I have a message waiting for me. My first instinct is to jump on the bed, disturb the dogs, and see if it is from him. I grasp the door knob tightly. I am not sure if I want to close the door or run the other way. I guess the main reason I feel guilty is that I do not feel guilty for loving him the way I do. He made me the woman I am, at the age of 15. He made me feel loved. I shut the door and knew the dogs would forgive me after a few pets and kisses. I clicked on the email and saw that it was an ad for a penis enlargement. Talk about a let down. I laughed softly, remembering that he was never in need of that ad. I closed out the email and saw an incoming email. I waited, absently scratching the dogs. It was from him. My breath still caught in my throat, just as it always did when my thoughts turned to him. I read each word with a voracious appetite for knowledge. To share a part of him, his thoughts, his ideas. Time slips away for a short period, I am transcended into another place with his words. At times his thoughts mirrored mine. Other times his words piqued my curiosity further. Needing more, yet afraid to know the answers. At his closing, I see his signs off as my friend. He was, has been and will always be my friend. My heart knows he will be more to me. But how much? Do I have the right to feel these sexual feelings? Those that remind me of his touch, his lips, his breath on me. Wondering if I would feel the same from his touch, his lips, his breath today? Thirty years have passed. Two spouses, one child, experiences, times rewards and punishments, yet my thoughts always return to him. I turn away from the monitor and walk outside with my two furry companions. As they romp in the crisp January cold, I see a tall red haired man laughing. Chasing them around, tossing their favorite Frisbee in the air. I see a young girl with red highlights in her hair joining in the festivities. Her laugh infectious. I do not know how long I stood there in my dream, but the sound of whining brought me back to reality. I could not help but smile at the two spoiled dogs whining to get back inside the warmth and on their bed. It has long since stopped being mine. I am merely allowed to share a small portion with them. I let them in the bedroom to rest after their exertion. I walked to the bathroom, feeling the need to soak in warm water. This was my time, my time to expand my mind. Time to follow my dreams where they lead me. The water was running, my clothes crumpled on the cold floor, steam beginning to fill the air. I remembered a line he said about my picture. Something to the effect that he saw the girl he once loved. I braved the mirror and looked at myself for the first time in a long time. Older, wider, same color hair, not many lines, (thanks grandpa) yet the difference most outstanding to me were my eyes. There is a sparkle in them that was not there until I turned 15. I had been filled with nothing before I met him. He gave me love, and allowed me to love for the first time in my life. Well, other than my stuffed dragon Puff, but not sure that it counts. Now, here I stand, naked, staring at myself in the quickly steaming up mirror wishing. Not sure what I am wishing for, or even sure I want to know. I turn away and step into the bath feeling my body getting aroused by my thoughts of him. The warm water slides over me, gentle warm hands urging me further into my fantasy. His hands merged with mine as I felt the time honored pleasure take over. I heard the not so gentle scratch at the door reminding me that the dogs needed love as well. This short respite will have to carry me over until my dream state comes around again.

Warning…..

Blindfolded. Kidnapped. By the only man I would allow to do so to me. He had stood at my door holding a box wrapped in the funny papers. I laughed but opened it dutifully. Inside was a silk scarf nestled in dainty paper. Looking at him curiously, he merely said put it on. I started to put it around my neck, but he smiled and said not there. Not knowing where else to put a scarf, he lifted it up and wrapped it around my eyes. My blood raced at what was ahead for us. He shut my door and walked me outside, opening the door and making sure I was belted in. He got in without a word, driving for what seemed like hours. No words were spoken, just thoughts running rampant. Just when I thought I would burst from excitement, he slowed the car and came to a stop. I wanted to take the scarf off, but knew he would when he was ready. This sexy, romantic man opened my door and led me to parts unknown. I could smell and hear water, and feel that he ground was uneven in parts. He spoke the first words he had said since leaving and told me to stand there for a minute. I could hear him moving around, but could not figure out what he was doing. He returned to me and said, do you trust me? Even though I did, my heart began to beat faster. I told him yes. He reached out and started to take my clothes off. Piece by piece, inch by inch, taking his time. Trying to slow my breathing and my heart rate was impossible. I gave up and let him take control. Soon, I stood there in nothing but a scarf. I could feel his eyes roaming over me, taking in every curve. I could hear him undressing and wished I could see for myself. Still, I stood there blinded waiting for his next move. He took my hand and walked me to the waters edge. Leading me into the waters warm gentle fingers washing over me. Teasing, licking, soothing any doubts I may have had. I could hear water splashing gently, must be a waterfall nearby. He stopped and placed me near the waterfall. His hands clasped both sides of my head and lifted my lips up for a kiss. His kisses make my knees week and erase all other thoughts. Those big warm hands of his tease the tips of my breasts, causing me to make those sounds meant only for him. With my eyes covered, I did not know if anyone was watching, but at this point it did not matter. His hands slid down my stomach to find I had shaved my mound smooth. He murmured words, but they were muffled by the fact that he was nibbling my neck. His hand covered my wetness, slowly inserting one finger and drawing out a soft moan from me. He moved his hand and rubbed my core making me to move involuntarily. I needed his touch, I needed his lips on me, I needed him inside of me. He moved his hand away and I almost cried out from the loss. He picked me up and set me gently on the jutting rock and spread my legs. His hot breath teasing me, making it nearly impossible to stay still. I could not help but beg him, please, now, I can?t wait any longer. He heard my pleas and lowered his mouth to my waiting wet heat. His tongue tasted, teased, and tortured until I felt the waves of desire overtake me. He rode the wave with me drawing out my orgasm. He stood up and slid into me with one long stroke. Filling me to the hilt, causing more waves inside of me. He began to move with a fierceness that told of his need for me as well. His breath was ragged then stopped for a few seconds. His body tensed, then I felt his hot seed as it shot inside of me. He fell on top of me and removed my blindfold. After blinking several times, I saw the beautiful place to which he had brought me. Quite beautiful, but nothing compares to our making love.

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Eimear, electronic age, old age, and my desire

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Tue, January 20, 2009 3:43 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

My head is reeling from your email, as usual, so bear with me as I ramble. First, I love Eimear. The name of course, but that it came from you is all the more special. Even thirty years later, you make me feel special. That is something time nor loss of some memories could erase. Your words have brought back many memories to me. I do remember putting the car in reverse. My only question remains today as to why I did that. I know it was not to hurt the transmission, but many ideas have bounced around my head. None of which I can decide is the truth. I guess the closest I can find is that I loved seeing you shocked or thrown off your game. You always seemed so in control and strong. I loved your face when something was out of the ordinary. Like I said, I am not sure what is the truth even after all this time. Well, the truth of that incidence. There are many other truths that I know to be real. Hold onto your hat, or anything else you have handy. (I will use my imagination here) I have spent the past few days searching my own feelings, trying to see where I was going with my gamut of emotions you charged up in me. To paraphrase another, I have found several things to be self evident. One, my sexual desire for you never died, never withered away, never replaced by my husband. (just between us here please) I love him, that is not in doubt. However, the pure excitement, the full body enjoyment I felt with you does not exist. If this makes you uncomfortable, please skim on down to somewhere. If I do not say… er…type it now, I may not have the courage even through the blanket of a computer monitor. Your touch made me not only a woman sexually, but a woman in the emotional sense. You took me from a child to a woman with mere words, then a sexual woman with your touch. As independent as I was, it was quite a roller coaster ride. For the first time in my life I needed someone. Allowing myself to feel love was a blessing. A blessing I still feel today. I am wiser, aged, yet I still remember the feelings of love I felt in the pictures you shared with me. Ok, so on to the sexual side of my feelings. Is is considered cheating or immoral that I daydreamed of you stroking yourself thinking of me? Or my fantasy? Of both of us in the fantasy or one of our making? Should I mention that the very thought of that made me pleasure myself? Or that you were in my mind instead of my husband? I have never been one to use another in my fantasy life. Not once in my marriage has another entered my fantasy life other than my husband. Ok, maybe once Phil Simms, but that was just because I had just read his book. Hehe However, in my heart there has always been another. Whether consciously, or unconsciously, you have always been there. Is that wrong? To never lose the love of another? Is it wrong merely to act on that love, or to remain in love? I have no answer. If it is wrong, then I guess I am wrong. What would happen if we were to meet? Would my love be that of a woman/child? Would I act on my feelings? I have doubts that I would remain faithful, so it is a good thing I do not live close to you. Ok, so back to the “if it makes you uncomfortable, skim down part.” Yes, my sex life if non-existent with my husband, but my feelings, sexual or love, for you are not based on that part of my life. It has been and always will be based on you and how you have always made me feel. Do I want to stop our cyber sexcapades, the answer is a resounding NO! Unless you want to stop, then I will of course respect your beliefs. For whatever reason, knowing that my words can bring you pleasure makes me feel more like a woman. Yes, forgive me for saying that I wish you were sharing that with me. Though it may only be by way of technology, I can still feel our connection. Satisfying, but reality intrudes when I am still alone. I nearly pounce on the computer when I see I have an email. My heart jumping around in my chest like a monkey in a cage. (Borrowed that from a song I once heard and loved….not enough to remember the title though) I am not sure what my purpose in this email was intentionally, but it has changed the further I go. Your picture, ahhhh, may I say with all sincerity, yum. Brought many thoughts to my mind, sexually as well as others. You are quite sexy, some things never change. I need to go for a bit, since I am traveling down a road I need not go. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon. Kind of like standing in front of the microwave yelling hurry up! I will respond on the many topics I left out due to my mind being on you pleasuring yourself.

Love

Eimear

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: First love, the love of a child, life and erotica

From: gus-email

Date: Tue, January 20, 2009 2:18 pm

To: “Eimear” <eimear>

Eimear,

I have decided to give you an Irish name in the novel I sent you. It is now Eimear. Eimear was the wife of legendary mythological Irish hero Cúchulainn. Not that I’m putting any pressure on your character to be legendary or great. Just forever memorable!!

All my life, I’ve gotten lost in trances. My first and second grade teachers commented on my grade cards that I had a tendency to daydream. Rather, I see my daydreaming as looking beyond the moment to interpret on a separate plane of existence the events occurring around me. In that manner, I have lived my life, aware and yet unaware. Intensely involved in the here-and-now and yet far away at the same time. Some have said these childhood habits lead to the adult habit of multitasking, taking in more stimuli than normal and thus not able to concentrate on any one task with full understanding of what’s going on. Scientifically, we’ll continue to learn more about more about how the brain works in conjunction with the rest of the body. In the meantime, whether I see true visions or whether I have hallucinogenic daydreams doesn’t matter. What counts is what I do with these imaginary episodes. I have learned to turn my visions into poems, scene sketches, short stories and in a few cases, novels. I claim no new insight into the workings of the human mind because I do not believe in the concept of the mind as it has been commonly described. Instead, my interest lies in the interaction between people outside of place and time.

For instance, you and I have not physically seen or touched each other in over 30 revolutions of the Earth around the Sun. Seasons come and seasons go. In that time, the human population has grown how much? In 1974, the world population was 4 billion and is approximately 6.7 billion today – people have been having babies at a rate that has nearly doubled the total since we last saw each other. With you having one baby and Starke having none, that means there’s a decrease of one child in your parents’ bloodline. My sister had two and I had zero, so there’s a net loss of zero in my parents’ bloodline (same for my wife – she had none and her brother had two kids). Does that mean anything? The way I see it, as time passes, we have the opportunity to meet more people and at the same time we have the opportunity to lose contact with more people.

When we go through our daily lives, dealing with the same set of people for many days, weeks, months or years in a row, what happens to the connections we established with people we no longer see? They sit in our memories, either stored in our heads or in physical representations of our time together (photos, audio/video recordings, etc.).

As you well know, we can’t rely on our brains to hold memories because physical changes to our body include clearing out our brain’s synaptic connections after drastic changes like a heart attack.

I sit here now and remember when I was driving my pride and joy, my 1967 Dodge Dart with a slant-six engine, and you sitting beside me. We were returning from Kingsport to Blountville, I believe. You asked me what happens if a car’s transmission is switched from drive to reverse when the car is moving forward. I replied that I didn’t think it was a good idea. You said, “Oh yeah?”, then reached over and switched the gear shift from D to R. The car screeched to a halt as I held on to the wheel to keep the car pointed straight and immediately switched to P to keep from tearing up the transmission. Now, you may no longer hold that memory in your head but I do. Does that mean that the memory is only half as important as when it occurred? I don’t know. That’s what I want to figure out with whatever life I have left (God willing and the creek don’t rise, as the saying goes).

So it is that I find myself here with you in virtual space, just like where more and more humans find themselves, reaching out and touching someone with electronic data (but data nonetheless that feels like the real thing in our brainwave patterns).

Last night, I went to bed early, around 9 p.m., so I could just lay in a trance and wander through my thoughts. I worried. I smiled. I felt tingling sensations in erogenous zones of my body. I frowned. I panicked. I relaxed. I felt a gamut of emotions while going over my life, wondering what would happen if I just ended my life the next day.

You see, you and I long ago established comfortable living zones for ourselves, choosing mates with whom we felt compatible, building our shelters (our nests, if you will), planning our lives as if we’d probably live with the same mate for the rest of our lives.

There’s another saying that goes something like life gets in the way of our making plans for life. I could look it up on the Internet to get the exact quote but I won’t. I want to stay focused on this email to you (and what you can’t see right now is that I’m also working on converting vinyl LP albums to MP3 so every few minutes I’m turning off and on the MP3 record button on a record player just to the right of my right elbow. At this moment, I’m converting an album of electronic music of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky as interpreted by Isao Tomita).

Eimear, my dear, sweet friend, what would my life be like if I knew you were no longer out there somewhere, a potential mate for me should my life with my current mate suddenly end? This is not just a rhetorical question. I have thought about that question many times in my life, although life being what it is, the times between these thoughts have varied as long as years and as short as minutes between each other. I don’t hesitate letting you know that I have gone long stretches not actively thinking about you because you are part of my core being. I am who I am because of you and am me with you as an integral part. I do not have to think about you to have you with me. You are with me always, with every twitch of the digits of my fingers as I type these words or turn of my head as I look out my front bedroom window to see the UPS truck and propane gas delivery truck drive back-and-forth through my neighborhood.

I am comfortable with my life with my wife because I am comfortable with my memories of you. One relationship led to another. I met my wife in the summer before she and I started seventh grade and then met you the fall of my eleventh grade. Although my wife and I were penpals in junior high and high school, I had no strong sexual attraction for my wife until after you and I opened each other up sexually. Before I settled down on the thought of marrying Karen, my relationship with Helen ebbed and flowed between my relationship with Karen and vice versa. In between those two relationships, I checked in on you occasionally to compare what I’d had with you against what I was having with Helen and Karen. In a moment when I thought I needed you more than the other two, you were with a guy named Joe(?). Another time I went to your parents’ house to find you, your mother made sexual overtones to me, which made me realize that as an adult I was attractive to women of all ages, and thus my eyes were opened to non age-specific relationships, leading me to a sexual relationship with a woman named Sarah who was 13 years older than me. She wanted to know if I was a virgin and I told her I was (I based that statement on the fact that technically I had never ejaculated into your vagina; is that what they call splitting hairs?). She thus enjoyed seducing me and making me a man, or so she thought.

You had made me a man long before my relationship with Sarah. Did I make you a woman? I hope so.

Today, we sit here through the delayed communication method of an email to say we are together once again. Is that a fact? Well, I am sitting here now with an image of you in my head, an image that is more than just a new or old photograph, or a strongly-remembered scent, but a fuzzy wholeness somehow – the embodiment of Regina Lynn “Eimear” Gusetts Books (at least, I seem to remember your birth name is Regina Lynn – pardon me if I’m wrong; I recall you HATED the name, Regina). You will sit here in the future to be with me in your head, too (and other parts, depending on what the brain triggers).

As I write this email, I can switch over to the close-up photograph of you from 2007 and see the same woman with whom I fell in love 30 years ago. Your deep-green eyes with brown highlights, the smooth texture of your skin, your delightful freckles, red lips and the color of your hair – nothing has changed. To be sure, you’re more than a photo of your head and shoulders. You describe your body as having stretched your skin in places, down and/or out. I am not much different in that respect – no one ever told me a guy’s testicles would droop like a sack of golf balls!! At least the parts work, though. Your previous email was more than proof enough of that. ;^P

The photo of your daughter reminds me so much of you at that age, full of pep and ready to have fun. You are very lucky to be able to look at her and see yourself as you were 30 years ago (and I guess she’ll always be a 30-years’ delayed view of you, won’t she?). I smile right now, remembering you and me dressing up as Raggedy Ann and Andy for a Halloween party while your daughter recently dressed up as a Raver for a Christian dance club. Life doesn’t change all that much, does it? We still dress up for parties and have fun when we’re young. Meanwhile, we old folks get turned off by the loud noise! LOL

As I sit here, thinking about the present – what I’m doing at the moment and will be doing in the next few days (rendezvousing with business associates at lunch to discuss whatever we want) – I think about you and wonder about the future. Putting aside religious beliefs and the thought of an afterlife, the only thing we know about for sure is what we have in front of us, relatively speaking. We only have one moment in which to live. The moments pile up, we can recall them in memories or books and call them the past because it’s something we imagine or believe has already happened. We make plans for a time period called the future. But what we have is now. That’s it and that’s all there ever will be. Even if we invent a time-travel machine, we’re still living in the moment.

The moment is now. This second. This nanosecond. This picosecond. And the next one. And this one right now, including the one at the beginning of the sentence and the one that occurs with this upcoming period at the end of the sentence ==>.

In a poem, I shared such a moment with another friend who was lost in time:

For Denise: A Center For Effective Living

A moment past a moment passed a moment down the hall,

And in that moment past passed a moment that I saw

Your happiness, though fleeting, pass too quick for me to see

How your momentary happiness brings happiness for me.

Your wonder and your beauty you attribute to your mom,

As you told our group the abuse you faced with no aplomb,

How it brings dissociation to the girl within,

Within an end you have just started to begin.

The pain, the jolts, the frightened child you will face

Will break you down, but finally leave without a trace;

So as you walk down this lonesome road,

Remember your friends and our humble abode.

We dressed each other’s wounds from many a war,

Relieved our shell-shocked minds to get ready for more;

Our Oak Valley days we know were the best

For the friendships we made will take care of the rest.

===================================================

Despite all the photo albums and concert ticket stubs, newspaper headlines, books, vinyl LPs, income tax documentation, old computers and other stuff piled up around me that carry the burden of proof of a previous existence of mine, I don’t live in them. I live here, in the ever-changing moment.

When the moment occurs that I realize you no longer live somewhere on Earth while I am still alive, who am I in that moment? I am no longer the person I was, that’s for sure. But it’s more than that. I lose a possible future, too, when a moment could have occurred when the two of us would be physically together in the moment, as if we were back to who we were 30 years ago.

We are not the same people we were 30 years ago. No one is, of course. Yet we seem to sit here in our email-to-email exchange acting as if we are. And we are, of course, in many ways. We’re still sexual-interesting beings – I’m a guy who can still get sexually aroused at the drop of a hat, and you, too, you say. At the same time, we’ve become people who love our spouses yet easily write sexual fantasies to each other without any concern about our writing being misconstrued as betraying the trust of our marriage partners.

My adorable friend, I am in a dilemma. You say your husband’s lack of sexual interest is tied to diabetes which implies to me that he may not get erections as readily as he used to, if at all. I cannot say that my wife is disinterested in sex with me – she just doesn’t want to have sex with me until I return to the workforce fulltime because my consulting business is not bringing home the money I used to make and she wants to go back to being a world traveler, spending my money to do so instead of using credit card or home equity debt. What I can say (and this is very difficult for me to say because of my deeply-held personal belief that I am telling you something that should stay in a marriage but since you are the ONLY person I feel I can talk to about sexual issues, I’m going ahead and telling you), I have not achieved orgasm in my wife in a long time. Thus, my dilemma is that I have two solutions for getting sexually excited – the first, when my wife is ready and the second, when I read your emails – but I have only one solution for full sexual satisfaction and that is through sexual fantasies such as the ones you and I have written.

I consider dilemmas to be challenges that are usually easily faced. This dilemma, the private aspects of one’s sexual bedroom issues, is not one that I planned to share with anyone. In fact, I had considered suicide as an alternative. Don’t worry, unlike your daughter’s deceased boyfriend, I’m not suicidal in the classic sense of true danger to my physical existence; suicide is a theoretical escape mechanism I use in my philosophical musings when considering changes to my personal life – if anything goes wrong in my life, I think, “Well, it’s not worse than suicide”. So, in this case, not ejaculating in my wife is not worse than suicide. There’s no reason to kill myself just because I can’t get my rocks off when I’m on top of my wife. There’s the obvious alternative of masturbation. No doubt, my wife is masturbating when I don’t know it and vice versa.

But another dilemma does occur here and that’s the part of my life where my upbringing clashes with my beliefs and I want to keep both. My upbringing said to treat the Commandments the Bible says were given by God to the Jewish people as sacrosanct. One of those commandments is, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” However, my belief is contrary to that commandment – anything goes, as long as it does not interfere with another person’s right to live freely.

This last dilemma has lived in my thoughts my whole life. Certainly, many of us humans have the same thought. We call it guilt.

So, if I sit here and read your stories, get an erection, including precum wetting my underwear, and later find a secluded place in the house away from my wife and cats to ejaculate, am I guilty of anything? I just don’t know.

The fact is I don’t have kids so I don’t have to construct a world view that contains non-contradictory moral and ethical education to teach my kids for their success in this life. I have only me and the behavior I exhibit that hopefully makes my friends and family feel comfortable with me and keeps me out of trouble with the contradictory laws of the societies I participate in. I wrote a poem about that dilemma to a woman who thought that just because I liked to flirt and didn’t believe in the institution of marriage as a reason that two people could live together legally, I should consider getting a divorce from Karen (as if!):

To Jacque: The Piano Plays On Words

We met here, unprepared,

With no witty wisdom to guide us,

No owner’s manual to read

Nor any rules but this:

“Nice to look at

Easy to hold —

Once it’s broken

Consider it sold.”

Rules can be broken

Like the strings of an old piano,

Struck by old hammers

Guided by the tiny fingers of an innocent girl.

Broken toys can be fixed

Except for dolls

Whose gestures only have meaning

To the citizens of Playland.

Happiness, like love and interest rates,

Is fleeting, funny, fickle and fantastic;

Emotions are just statements, after all,

(Not states of mind)

And death but a game.

When you sing in Playland,

Remember there are no notes,

For the piano plays on words.

=================================

Eimear, I am a philosopher. By philosopher, I mean I think through the actions I have taken, take, and will take and extrapolate universal meanings out of what I do. I have combined my youthful trance-like states (i.e., daydreaming) with adult-level analysis to derive what it means to be human.   I don’t believe I was as much of a philosopher when we dated as I was after I was in a terrible car wreck later on in high school. I suffered a concussion that only lasted 15 or 20 seconds. In the jarring and scarring of my brain, as well as the brief period of unconsciousness, my thought patterns were permanently changed. From that point on, I’ve written incessantly.

We constantly change. I am not the same person I was when I started writing this email. You are not the same person you were when you started reading it.

Thus, who I am now? Who are you? If our exchange of sexual fantasies saw the light of day, what would we say? Would we explain that if only we could achieve orgasm with our marriage partners, we wouldn’t be writing the sexcapades? I might. I don’t know. What I know is that I share everything with my wife, even if sometimes I forget to tell her right away. Some day I’m sure that I’ll tell her you and I reminisced about our teenage romance and got carried away with recounting our memories by mixing in adult fantasies. Karen will probably not like to hear that but she will hear it sometime, I’m sure, accept it and go on. I won’t tell her that you and I wished that we’d had a child together, who could be as wonderful as the daughter, Abeille, that you have now, and I won’t tell her that I sometimes imagine what life would be like with you and me together. She would not want to know these things and our marriage will not change if I have these thoughts. It’s no different than the fact that any two people in a marriage have random sexual fantasies that they have no plan to take to fruition but might let the fantasies slip into their thoughts the next time they make love to their marriage partner. As the saying goes that I attribute to my wife, it doesn’t matter where you get your appetite as long as you come home for dinner.

I suppose that’s what you and I are doing today. We’re whetting each other’s sexual appetite, with the extra salivating spice thrown in of our actual sexual relationship from 30 years ago, and it makes no difference whether we achieve orgasm in the presence (or thought) of the email or later on with our partner. But is that all?

Do you see where I’m going with this? I don’t want to spoil the fun but the fact is that I live in the moment. If too many moments line up in a row in which I’m getting sexually aroused and ejaculate because of fantasies I’m sharing with you then it could be construed that I am having a virtual sexual relationship. Now, my strict belief of marriage is that marriage is a physical barrier that keeps bodily sexual contact just between two people and thus prevents sexually transmitted diseases from getting into the two people who share the exclusive sexual relationship. But in this day and age of virtual connections between people, my definition of marriage may no longer be valid, especially in the court of law which rules our civil lives. Does that mean I must amend my definition to restrict the sexual thoughts in my head, not because of a religious commandment or psychological guilt but because my behavior in electronic text demonstrates a mental propensity for infidelity? Recent court rulings seem to lead to that conclusion.

Therefore, I am stating for the record that in addition to being a philosopher, I am also a writer. In general, the stories and novels I write are about the events in my life. I would like to think that my novels may one day stand on their own two feet in the marketplace and provide an income for me as long as the expectations of the market do not force me to write stories or create storylines I do not like just to make money but allow me to continue to write whatever I want. Right now, I want to write about juicier topics than the ones my friends and I have recently discussed. The one person with whom I have a natural understanding that talking about the juicy topic of sexual fantasies, a friend I met when I was 16 and she was 15, is also the person who understands that we are not trying to become virtual sex partners when we exchange stories that may serve as scenes in future novels of mine. The stories we share may also include imaginative tales of “what if” scenarios of our being together but it does not mean we are trying or planning to get together in the real, physical world nor does it exclude the possibility that if our marital status changed for no reason related to our being friends, we could get together in the future.

It reminds me of a close friendship I had with a woman named Brenda (who became the character Fredirique in some of my writing). I went to her house many times and Karen never felt threatened by the visits even though she knew that I desired Brenda on a certain level, which only manifested itself in the stories I wrote about my adventures with Brenda, like this poem I wrote about her:

Meditation on a Dress

Between two points, a line,

Between two friends, a love

(A line of love? A love of lyin’?);

Love bends in compensation,

The line becomes a curve

And the curve becomes a dress,

A soft, not subtle, red —

Like a drunkard’s nose

Or a fragrant rose —

“Cotton knit piqué,” you say,

In your suave, cosmopolitan voice.

Aggressive, or should I say assertive,

Attitudes that greet your dates and boyfriends

Do not sway your friends

For we know your throwing back your hair,

Winking in confidence and coming back with snappy answers

Are but your daily masks and

Have nothing to do with us.

================================================

Eimear, my friend, I like the latest story you shared with me but it was not as enticing as the previous one you sent, because of the location of the “quickie” story (not the writing style, which fits the story perfectly). As a guy, I have never been able to get off while holding a woman up and thrusting into her – too many distractions! LOL If I wrote the story, I would have the woman’s behind propped up on a railing or some other structure that lets me do the pumping without having to worry about slipping or dropping her. Otherwise, the story causes the usual effects on a guy, if you know what I mean.

And by the way, you’ve inspired me to write a story about two lovers getting back together after many years apart. I’m busy with my consulting work for the next few days but will hopefully be able to slip in some time to write the story later this week.

I’ll leave you with one more poem:

And so it came to pass

And so it came to pass,

The time that had been spent with the One in silence.

Neither wind nor sun,

Seed nor house,

Could break the path that One had chosen

To teach the truth of life.

Some marveled at the silence

And chose wordless meditation.

Some saw that words had meaning

And gave power to the Word.

Some rejected all truths,

Seen and unseen,

And chose to veer off-course.

I chose to build a shelter of thoughts

That empowered me and ruled me at the same time

For time and place lost in the reality of mine/mind.

I rose in the morning like a wind

Passing through a forest,

Breaking limbs and pulling off leaves,

Seeming to cause death to peacefulness

But perpetuating life instead.

I woke in despair and disappointment

That another day of pain awaited me

Not knowing that pain does not exist,

Only life.

I stepped out of bed to turn off the alarm clock

Only to realize that the music was in the remnants

Of a dream and I was truly standing in a bar

Throwing popcorn at a woman

Who stared at me through space and time

With a look of unsatisfied control in her eyes.

I turned off the alarm clock and saw

I was running late and would once again

Arrive at my workplace in a state of fear and agitation.

I prepared myself through the cleansing routine

For presentation to those I chose

To spend the majority of my working hours with.

Preparation or not,

I knew the primary responses from those

Who would meet my existence that day.

And so it came to pass…

Time became a valid comparison

For all of us when we took time to notice.

Reproduction became a secondary function

To meeting meeting schedules.

Empathy became a state production

Complete with a dozen roses, dinner and a nice movie.

Heartbeats threatened our very existence

When we became aware

Of their Hitchcockian foreboding of mystery and death.

Another day of work passed

From morning to lunch to afternoon

And I faced the prospect of dinner,

Then evening and sleep once again.

Only this time I let alcohol numb the pain of monotony…

Before I gave in to my shelter of dreams,

Dreams where I can exist with any you I choose.

===========================================

I’ve attached a recent photo of me for comparison. I was in the heat of the sun all afternoon at the Nashville Speedway during an IRL race event so it’s not a polished, professional photo of me but the self-shot photo captures the middle-aged adult Gus pretty well, I think.

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: First love, the love of a child, life and erotica

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, January 19, 2009 1:18 pm

To: <gus-email>

First things first, I will read your novel-in-progress as soon as I am done with this email. I just wanted to express a few things about your reaction to my story. I have to admit, I hoped you would have a similar reaction. Forgive me for saying so, but the fact that you did made me react in a similar manner. Only difference is I can stand without embarrassment. Hehe (I could be really graphic and say unless moisture runs down my leg, but I won’t) Your reaction gives me courage to send another. Wonder if you will find it as….reactionable. Ok, so that is a made up word, but I like it! I will say I have only had one regret in my life, and that is the unknown with you. Often it has given me pause. Ok, as far as menopause goes, it hit at age 34. 11, very close to 12 years ago. I lived for many years feeling unsexual. Something happened when the hormones leveled out and I became sexual again. It is not that I never felt like a woman, but that part of my life was far down the list of importance. Yes, I am older and wider, but my fantasy life seems to be in high gear most of the time. Just in time for Pearse to develop diabetes and lose all interest. Life is funny sometimes. Henceforth, fantasy life. May I tell you another secret? Dumb question, Eimear. I started to write a story about us meeting many times over the past few years. Every time I would start, I would delete the story. I guess I was afraid of where my fantasy would take me.

Presidential election…..hmmmm. Tough call. I respect him as our president, but find it racist that anyone would like him because he is of color. If we are not to see color, then why keep bringing it up in every conversation? Then again, I just did. Oops. Hehe I was not actively pulling for either candidate, as I liked Mike Huckebee. Though, even I will admit he would be too good a man for the presidency. Kind of like Jimmy Carter. Oh, off topic, but I have been meaning to ask and keep forgetting. Do you have a Yearbook account? If not, please check it out and check out a certain redhead whose name is bigmama on there. Abeilles ex-boyfriend Rob, the one who committed suicide, set up the account for me. I kept it out of my love for him, but it has become fun as of late. I have some cute pictures on there of Abeille. I am attaching a new picture of Abeille. Don’t panic, she does not normally dress like this. She is getting ready for a Rave at Rocketown. Rocketown is a teen dance club owned by Michael W. Smith. It is a Christian organization, one that I feel comfy in letting her go to without supervision. They have really big security. I went the first time and lasted for about an hour. Seems the music is prone to giving old redheads headaches. I sat in the car for the next 4 hours…in downtown Nashville….at night. Only once, the next time I dropped her and her friends off and went home. No headache. Imagine that. Oh, yes, I also sent a picture of me. I really do not like having my picture taken, but Abeille made me. Once. She gave me the poor puppy dog look. Sigh. It worked. When you see the picture, just imagine me taller, smaller, and prettier. In other words, Abeille. Ok, so somethings are lower than they used to be, but they are still there. I just have to reach down lower for them. Lol

Love

Eimear

I watched him from across the crowded room. He smiled readily, laughing at some ones words. He talked to many people, but his eyes were only for me. The desire we both felt shone through for the other to see. With each tick of the clock I could feel my passion for him growing. A friend spoke to me distracting me from my thoughts. Minutes later, I felt his strong hand grasp my shoulder. The warmth of his body pressed into my side causing a tingle to run directly to the core of my being. He greeted my friend, but I could tell he felt my reaction. He asked if he could take me away for a few minutes. I would never turn him down, and he took me outside to the darkened alley. He roughly pushed me against the wall and yanked my dress up above my waist. He sucked in his breath when he found I wore nothing underneath but my garters. I knew he loved the look of them on me. He lifted me up and devoured the pulse at my neck. I tried to undo his pants to draw out his swollen cock, but he was there first. This was not the time for foreplay, the need was too intense. He slid into my waiting core, the force so strong that I lost my breath. I wrapped my legs around his waist and opened myself completely to him. He told me how he wanted to fuck me. He wanted to feel his cock slide into to my hot and wet pussy. How he wanted to feel himself engulfed tightly inside of me. These words were for me alone, his blunt passion filled words sending me spiraling. The soft spoken man had turned into my wild lover. Our hips moved together, each thrust of his was met by one of my own. The rough and cold bricks against my back were forgotten. The only thing that mattered was our movements, our needs, this moment in time. He told me how he had wanted to fuck me all evening, until he could not wait any longer. His teeth bit into my neck a little roughly, bringing forth a guttural moan from me. I begged him not to stop, as I was going to cum. His hand reached between us and touched my clit which brought me over the edge. He pounded into me harder before he joined me in release. Neither one of could seem to catch our breath for several minutes. He slowly lowered me to the ground, straightening my dress and dressing himself. He leaned in and kissed me deeply. Making me wish we were in bed and could start back over. My Knight had made my night.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/19/2009 12:22:13 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: First love, the love of a child, life and erotica

Eimear,

Ahem. My, my. I am not embarrassed by your story but I sure would be too embarrassed to stand up right now. lol

I think you and I are in the wrong business. We should be publishing novels using some of our sensual scenes. Speaking of which, attached is the latest version of my novel-in-progress that I plan to submit for this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

Now what was I thinking about…my goodness…I think I’ve lost my mind. I should have responded to the first part of your email BEFORE reading your story. You sure know how to throw a guy for a loop, even after all these years.

Concentrate. Focus. Take a deep breath. Do not think about the story for a minute or two. Calm down. Look, it’s nice weather outside for a late mid-January morning.

Okay, I think I can get my mind back on this page. Maybe. Just maybe. This is TOO much. I’m having feelings that I blocked from my mind a long time ago. I had worked so hard to box up, lock up and hide my feelings from 1978 that I can’t believe how easily you found the box and broke the lock with just a few words. That redhead magic of yours still works. But then, you already know that, don’t you?

And yes, of course, your secret is safe with me. I would have to confess the same thing if I shared your secret so consider it a mutual thought. Believe me, I’ve thought about this many times, especially over the last few days, and realize that, 1) I can’t turn back the clock, 2) our genetic material is pretty old so don’t even imagine the unimaginable, and 3) menopause is probably making itself known. So when I found that picture of your lovely red-haired daughter from 1998, I just dreamed she was mine and felt happy that you could provide the loving home I could not. Okay, suddenly I feel like crying. Move on to next subject, Gus.

As far as you letting her try things at home, you and I are on the same page. My parents let me try my first taste of alcohol in their presence (I drank my first beer when I was six) but they didn’t go on with other things like tobacco until I was in my middle teens. Little did they know that Elizabeth and I had smoked cigarettes when I was 10 and Elizabeth was 8! Thank goodness we didn’t get hooked. Smoking is an addictive behavior and tends to stick with people who have addictive personalities. When police officers and school counselors try to scare parents and kids that smoking tobacco can lead to drug use, they really should be saying, “Test your child for the propensity for addiction. If your child has an addictive personality, then he/she will almost certainly get hooked on many bad things, including drugs and gambling.” Sounds like your daughter is not the addictive type.

I’m glad you and Abeille are so close. Hearing about her emotional roller coaster once a month reminds me that I had Karen “spayed” almost two decades ago after her OB/GYN doctor discovered she had fibroid tumors inside, in the lining, and outside of her uterus (I’m having deja vu that I told you this already in a letter or an email many years ago). Thus, I have not had to deal with PMS-type problems for a blessed extended period of my life.

Glad you got to see some snow. I looked out the window many times this morning but didn’t even see snow in the air. Oh well. Blame it on a fellow Tennessean, Al Gore, inventing the Internet, which in turn caused global warming. 😉

Australian kiss, huh? I remember Joey Francis telling me in junior high that a similar act was called the missionary position. While we’re on the subject, I’ll let you in on a funny scene. Elizabeth and I were talking together when we were young teenagers. Elizabeth told me her best friend was going to try a BJ with her boyfriend and Elizabeth asked me what that meant. I knew that BJ stood for blow job but had no idea what that meant. We just couldn’t see how blowing on a person’s genitals was going to get that person very excited. We both laughed that we were so naive when it came to sexual knowledge.

Let me know what you think about the novel. And sometime later this week, maybe I can share writing ideas with you and/or Abeille.

Most importantly, thanks for being a friend with whom I trust my very soul (if such a thing as a soul exists. BTW, that was a jab at humor. If God exists, He/She allows humor as well as worship, praise, etc.).

Do you plan to watch the Presidential Inauguration tomorrow? I haven’t decided if I’m going to watch. My friends seem to be divided on the issue. I just hope that no matter what Americans think about Obama as a person or as a representative of the Democratic Party, they will find a way to bridge the gap that divides this nation into two right now.

Your friend,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: First love, the love of a child, life and erotica

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Mon, January 19, 2009 11:23 am

To: <gus-email>

Good morning Gus,

I hope this Monday finds you well. Letting the dogs outside gave me a great start to my day. We have snow. Ok, so it is only enough to make two snowballs, but still it is snow! After reading your letter and the beginning of your second novel last night, I found myself having feelings I probably have no right to feel. Some memories come back to me after I am reminded of them through verbal or visual stimulation. Reading your novel made me wonder if our time actually happened that way. Your style of writing convinced me it was true, until it came to Starke and I hugging. Then I knew you had taken poetic license with some things. That would never had happened back then. Lol Now, quickly for the feelings I have no right to feel. I was jealous. Ok, there I said it. Now, lets move on to the other feeling. I felt in utter detail the love I felt for you then. I was taken back in time to where my world revolved around you. My first love, the love shared for a lifetime. My breath caught in my throat, a really goofy smile on my face, and my heart banging in my chest. Do not get me wrong, I love my hubby, but no one has ever made me feel like you did. Moving along now. As far as you offending me with your words, that is impossible. Um, just to show you why, I am getting brave and letting you read one of my erotica short stories. Now, it is my turn to say I hope I do not offend you with my words. I do not let anyone read these as they are personal fantasies. Not even my hubby has read them, though I did write one at Abeilles request called An Australian Kiss. She had to explain that mean a kiss down under. Sad, 15 and she explained it to me. I have to admit, I am very nervous about you reading the story. I do not want you to think less of me by my graphic display of emotions or my wild fantasy. So, now do I erase all of the above and not send it or do I bite the proverbial bullet and hope you do not send the men in white coats for me. Hmmmmm. I guess you will have the answer if you are reading this section. Oh, before I forget, and I probably would, though I may have had some physical challenges, my life has been so blessed. You guessed it! Abeille. She said she would love to talk to you sometime. I am reminded everyday how wonderful life is for me. Even that one time a month when she grows fangs and the only thing you can do is buy lots of chocolate. Occasionally, I get the flip side of that coin and she is a leech. She even wants to sleep with me, snuggle and talk??all night long. For three days. Let me repeat, all night long. Still, better than the fangs. I have waited for the terrible teens to show up in her, but it is showing no signs so far. When she wanted to try pot, I let her at the house. Yes, I know, a shocker there, huh? She puffed and gagged and pretended to be high. She no longer wants to smoke pot. Hehe When she wanted to taste alcohol, I bought some wine coolers. (They carded me and I felt good until the kid half my age informed me they card everyone no matter how old they look?.bitch) She drank half a bottle and ran into the wall. Odd, she no longer wants to drink either. Her friends think I am a cool mom, but I have ulterior motives. If she is where I can keep monitor her, and it is made to seem not so unattainable, then maybe it will never be a problem. So far, so good. She even has friends who stopped because she did. Abeille marches to her own beat. A leader, ok so maybe a bit like her mom there. One part of your email jumped off the page to me. I will tell you something as long as you never tell anyone else. Not even your wife. Just between us, ok? I already know that you will keep your word since I am going to tell you. That is just who you are. When Abeille was born, I thought for a moment of time what she would have looked like if you were her dad. Red hair pretty much was a given. She is a part of me, and you will always be a part of me, so yes she is a part of you as well. Convoluted sentence there, but it seemed to work for me. One more thing before I sign off, when can I read the rest of your novel? Hurry up! I mean, I would love to read it when you are ready. Cough. Below is one of my you-know-whats, please do not think I am insane. Insaner? Is that a word?

Love always

Eimear

I never thought I would enjoy shopping. Not until my boyfriend and I went shopping for clothes today. We had been invited to a wedding for a friend, so I needed a dress to wear. After searching for over an hour in several different stores, I was ready to call the whole thing off and just send a gift. My boyfriend suggested one more store, and boy am I glad he did. The store had quite a selection and very nice dressing rooms. Dressing rooms that had seats for your male counterpart. After picking out several dresses, I was led there by a sales person along with my boyfriend. He sat down in a plush chair, while I stripped and tried on the first dress. I did not shut my door all the way, and my boyfriends eyes followed every movement. I made sure I bent over to give him a nice view of my ass and maybe just a glimpse of my pussy. He shifted in his seat, adjusting his growing erection. I just smiled and walked out to see if he liked the dress. He said he did, but really wanted to see me try on the others first. I removed the first dress and hung it back up slowly giving him ample time to look at my naked body. I raised one leg on the seat and leaned down, slightly spreading my thighs for him. I ran my hands down my legs and back up stopping just short of my wet pussy. Glancing back at him, I noticed I had his full attention. I also noticed his cock was at full attention. Turning around, I took both hands and ran them over my erect nipples. Pinching them, causing us both to moan. The sales lady returned with a few more dresses and my boyfriend did not even try to hide his hard cock. Not sure he could have anyway. I put on another dress as the sales lady left and walked out to see if he liked this one. His voice was a little tense, just how he sounds when he is turned on. He said keep trying on more please. My pleasure. I opened the door all the way, and let him watch as I stripped the dress off. I lowered one hand and inserted one finger into my wet pussy. I wanted to play with my clit, but instead I raised my wet finger to my mouth and licked off the juices. My other hand was tweaking my nipple to an even harder state. My boyfriend lowered his hand and started rubbing his hard cock through his pants. I smiled at him, letting him know how much I loved him playing with himself. How turned on I am knowing he is turned on. I sat down on the seat and spread my legs to give him full view of what I was going to do next. One hand stayed on my breasts, while the other dropped below to massage my aching clit. I rubbed it for a minute then slammed one finger inside of me wishing it was my boyfriend. Two fingers, while my thumb flicked my clit. I could tell it would not be long, but I wanted him in my ass. I reached down with the hand that had been on my breasts and got a finger wet with my juices and slowly inserted it into my ass. Once inside, I started sliding it in and out harder. Fucking my self in the ass and the pussy?needing it to be my boyfriend. Knowing he was sitting there stroking his cock while watching me put me over the edge. The orgasm shook me to the core. Several minutes later, I looked up to see him still stroking himself. I got dressed and grabbed the closest dress and told him to come on. We need to go to the mens department next.

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/18/2009 6:58:18 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Sullivan Central High School and more..

Eimear,

You…I…well, this opening line appears harder to write than I originally thought. There, it’s done, not as dramatic an opening as I intended but at least I’ve gotten over the hump of starting this email to you.

This morning I attended traditional Sunday service at the church to which I’ve belonged since 1986 (and which now has one of those modern, contemporary sanctuaries with projectors and pews turned to face the white screens where song lyrics and Bible verses are posted for the whole congregation to see…sigh…I’d rather sing from a hymnal…call me old-fashioned, I guess). I can’t say I was pleased with the new look of the remodeled sanctuary which opened back up on Christmas Eve after extensive work, including tile floor. But it’s not all about me. The sanctuary was full, with a mix of old and young couples. The new service, with the song lyrics posted on the walls in front of the church, makes me sad. I’m a traditionalist in the old sense, where one can sing any of four parts from the church hymnal. However, folks seem to enjoy the new look and the new old-style service. But this is a Presbyterian church, not a non-denominational praise church. Oh well. That’s not why I’m here.

After church and brunch at a local franchise restaurant called Another Broken Egg, Karen and I shopped at Tuesday Morning and then toured the new subdivisions in our area. Where people get the money to buy these McMansions, I’ll never know, but based on the number of foreclosures we saw in other less-new but not ?established’ subdivisions, it’s obvious not everyone can afford what they signed up to pay for, or so a foreclosure seems to imply. One of the subdivisions we toured is carved out of the southern end of the hill on which we live. Our house is located at the base of the northeastern end of the hill which someone named Little Mountain. In Tennessee, no one would dare stick the name mountain on such a tiny hill but this is Alabama, after all.

Our builder told us privately as we walked the property while the house was under construction that the hill is named Rattlesnake Mountain by the locals because of all the snakes here. In my 22 years on this property, I’ve seen a few snakes, with even one of them crawling out from underneath as I stepped out of my RAV4. I assume the snake was in the grass next to the driveway and was on its way across the yard when I conveniently parked in its path. I stepped out of the car, grabbed the head end of the snake and threw it back into the woods, much to my wife’s chagrin. She doesn’t have a morbid fear of them but doesn’t like them, especially three-foot rattlers like the one I tossed. I see them as a natural balance of control against the rats, mice and moles that live in the woods. We also have turtles, broad-headed skinks, lizards, large, hairy spiders, frogs, snails, you name it.

I hate to see the hill get carved up for high-end subdivisions but since I don’t own the property behind my house, I have no say in what gets done to it. The owner, Margaret Ann Goldsmith, an acquaintance of ours, used to own 16,000 acres here in this part of north Alabama called Big Cove, founded by white people in the early 1800s. Her father and other relatives amassed the land through foreclosures and other business dealings so now Margaret Ann and her children are reaping the benefits by turning old farm land into housing estates. Her prerogative and privilege of birth. So be it. She donated several hundred acres of wooded bottom land less than a mile from our house that surrounds the Flint River and serves as a drainage basin to filter debris and pollution from road runoff and provide sanctuary for birds, fish and other wildlife. Another friend of ours, Soos Weber, is the manager of the land preserve so we are grateful for our friends and their effort to preserve some green spaces.

After our tour, Karen and I returned home. I had misplaced a pen made from deer antler and was looking for it when I came upon some notes I’d written on restaurant receipts when I didn’t have a journal with me. Lo and behold (and this serendipitous moment is beyond coincidence, considering the timeliness of our recent email conversation), one of the notes, dated 15 May 2008, says, “Story of sexual encounters with Eimear,” which meant I planned to include stories about us in an upcoming novel.

And now, I sit back to ponder your last email while listening to old records by Chuck Mangione, and Eumir Deodata, a jazz composer, including songs like “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” very somber and soothing.

I did not mean for you to cry when I explained to you the lack of faith/belief in or strict following of a particular sect of religion labeled Christianity. I have faith. I have plenty of belief. What I do not have is a need to repetitively practice human-derived rituals in order to help the human body grasp the meaning of the mysteries of the universe (although I admit I attend church socially). I have faith that the world I live in today will not change much and will be essentially the same when I wake up every morning. I believe in the dynamics of the environment of this planet that interacts with the Sun and the rest of the orbiting bodies of this solar system that will undergo significant changes as it swirls in the Milky Way galaxy.

We are not that different, you and I. Well, of course, you’re a woman who’s had a child and I’m a childless male but other than I mean basically that we’re two human beings of nearly identical genetic makeup. Humans have developed genetic anomalies that manifest themselves in unique combinations. For many people, there is a need to gather in large social groups and come to common agreement. We’re not the only animals to exhibit this behavior but in humans we’ve added the twist of complex voice communications. Now whether the brain developed complex thought patterns first or whether the vocal cords became more flexible (or perhaps an ever-evolving bond between the two), I don’t know. I haven’t found evidence of what caused the Great Leap Forward, as one author put it (Jared Diamond). Some would say it was God stepping in and putting humans in the Garden of Eden. Others would say it was through a different legend or primary tale of their culture. What I want you to see is that because I do not profess belief in our culture’s primary stories does not mean I feel I am separate from you. We are together on this planet and for me that is enough. Our heritage is similar and I am thankful.

As I read your email, I remembered the last time I read through the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh), looking at the collected wisdom of the desert tribe we call the Israeli people. Now, I can do without a lot of the stuff in the early part of the Old Testament. It’s either the stuff of legends or the establishment of rituals. However, there’s one book that deserves special attention, one written in approximately the 4th century BC. When was the last time you read the Song of Solomon (Hebrew title, Shir ha-Shirim)? Since it’s short, I’ll include it here:

Song of Solomon

Chapter 1

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.

Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.

Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.

Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.

Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.

We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.

While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.

Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.

The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.

Chapter 2

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.

As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.

Chapter 3

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?

It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?

Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.

They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.

King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.

He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.

Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.

Chapter 4

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.

How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!

Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,

Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

Chapter 5

I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.

I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?

My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.

I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.

I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.

The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.

What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Chapter 6

Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.

My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.

Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.

Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them.

As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.

There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.

My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?

I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded.

Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.

Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.

Chapter 7

How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.

Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.

Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.

Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.

How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!

This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.

I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;

And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.

Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.

Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.

The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.

Chapter 8

O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.

I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.

His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please.

Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?

If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.

I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.

Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.

My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.

Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.

Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.

My dearest friend, Eimear, does not your poem, which may have been written about another, but speaks to me with the same elegance and grace as the Song of Solomon, grab my body and pull it closer, even 30 years hence? Such thoughts are dangerous to the health of my heart. And to know that you wrote this poem after suffering cancer and a heart attack! Mon Dieu! No wonder. My life has been nothing but ease and comfort compared to yours. Would that I could give you a day, a week or a month of my easy-going Sundays to replace the pain and suffering you felt only a few short miles north of me.

I seem to remember you having had cervical cancer at one point in your life but I did not know about the heart attack. I’m happy that you have a loving husband and daughter who helped you recover from the body ailments. I’m sorry that you lost long-term memories. I would love to have talked with you to see if you remember any details about our time together that I have forgotten. Some things I can recall with ease, such as when you and another girl (Kim Lewis?) used to put me in special poses on the band practice field. I remember our first night together, including running out of gas in the middle of Blountville, getting Dad to put gas in the car, eating pickles, baking cookies, talking, talking and more talking, and finally, a peck kiss at the door. I remember a special moment in the bathroom at your house, other similar moments together, including in a school parking lot and at a local park (Steele Creek Park?). I remember you taking me into the girls’ locker room at Central, sneaking me in as a joke and a surprise for the girls in there. I remember visiting your grandmother and eating ice cream at a local burger joint. I remember talking with your parents. Most of all, I remember the days and weeks disappeared and our months together ended just as quickly as they began. Could we have only been together for two months or at least less than three? First loves are like that, I guess. A candle that burns too bright or burns from both ends. I lost all contact with the outside world during that time and have no idea what the rest of my friends were doing – they said they thought they’d lost me (and I did lose many childhood friends then because they lost I had abandoned them for a girl of all things! (i.e., although I didn’t find out until I was in college, the majority of the guys I hung out with from junior high until early in high school were gay and assumed I was, too, but only found out I wasn’t when I broke out of my androgynous schoolbook boy shell to fall in love with you). You were the only world that mattered to me. Nothing the matter with that, right?

I suppose you see your daughter going through the same pangs of love that we did, even if within the arms of another girl. I can understand that a girl can provide things that a guy can’t and at the same time, one girl can’t get another one pregnant if the heat of the moment gets them carried away. Okay, so I’m getting too close to imagining thoughts that I shouldn’t. Next paragraph…

I started this email with one set of thoughts and find myself walking along a string of words I didn’t know I was going to write. Interesting, huh?

Oh yeah, I just remembered what I was going to say. You mentioned that your daughter has the intelligence of her father and likes to write poetry. Do either you or your husband have a friend or home-school teacher who specializes in creative writing? I have learned that the art of poetry increases not only with practice but also with in-depth study of the form and methods behind the meanings and roots of words, as well as sentence structure. In addition, your daughter would benefit from learning another language (such as Latin, Greek, German, Spanish, French, Russian or other Indo-European language) to help her see ways to compact multiple definitions into a short phrase or even create basic double-entendres using one or two words from a foreign language. Of course, if the poetry is going to be used in a country or rock pop song, foreign words may not be useful but it would still help broaden her horizon should she decide to branch out into story or novel writing one day. I’d gladly discuss this with her if she’s ever interested. If she’s anywhere as mature as her mother was at 15, look out world! You were years ahead of me back then and still are in many ways. It’s you I should respect, not the other way around.

I thank you and your daughter for the kind words about my writing and the negation of the reviewers’ comments. I have to be careful not to get conceited about my writing. I enjoy writing for writing’s sake and have observed that when I write about my friends, whether in a direct manner or in an obtuse reference, they enjoy reading what I wrote. That does not say that I am a great writer or one destined for universal approval. It only means that my happiness brings happiness to others. Simple and hokey but true.

As an example, I will always remember our short time together with fondness. Even though I want to think you loved me for my mind, we didn’t need long to progress through the stages of love. Our relationship leapt quickly from a platonic getting-to-know-you-better into a discovery of the body that I never expected. In other words, you spoiled me but shocked me, too. Do you recall sitting in a church parking lot with my father, asking about sex? If your long-term memory no longer holds that scene in your head, you’re missing a funny story to tell your daughter. The memories of our relationship kept me going physically for years. In fact, I went from being with you, when touching, hugging, kissing, etc., were par for the course, to a long-term relationship with Helen Guinn. Would you believe that in the years that I spent together with Helen, we never really hugged (although we did put our arms around each other for photographs) and in fact, we never so much as kissed or participated in other normal physical relationships that a male and female share. Do you see what I’m saying? My need for physical contact was consumed by you and me in two or three months and lasted for years to come, until I started dating my wife.

You probably don’t remember when we communicated after I had decided to marry Karen but you told me you were upset, at least half-jokingly, that I had not given you a chance to get us back together before I married someone else. In my mind at the time, I was too blind to see that you were right. Why hadn’t I seen that the relationship I had with you, no matter how brief, had flown to the stratospheric reaches of the sky with the audacity to throw love in the face of the gods and quickly fallen from the excessive heat, like Icarus and his wings? It had not died, though. Love does not die. It smolders in the ashes, waiting to be reborn.

I had no hand in creating, bearing, or raising your child. I can only hope that in your daughter a piece of our love has been reborn in her so that she can understand and fully appreciate the strength, joy and special moments she shares when overpowering love touches her head and heart. As you mentioned in your myspace writing, these overpowering moments in our youth set the foundation for the rest of our lives that we build upon forever more.

I have spent more time than I thought I would drafting this email and have yet to cover all the topics I thought about over the last night or two as I set about creating a mental outline from which to direct my thoughts to you electronically. Thus, my time has run out and now I must attend to my domestic duties, figuring out what to fix my wife and me for dinner.

If you are interested in reading any of my published novels, you may find them here:

Are You With The Program? [semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award]:

This story is a description of a labyrinth that a worker must get through in order to reach retirement. The opening page is a description of the hieroglyphic script on the door to the labyrinth. In other words, this novel is a metaphor and everything is not as it seems.

Milk Chocolate :

Abeille may enjoy Milk Chocolate, since it includes a couple of lesbian characters loosely based on friends of mine from college with whom I took a long-and-strange spring break trip.

Helen of Kosciusko :

This book describes my life with Helen so to you it may be the least enjoyable of all the novels I’ve written. In fact, it’s less conventional than any of the others but then, as I described earlier in this email, my life with Helen was not normal.

Passing The Time :

This novel describes the dark periods of my life and in fact, if you read this novel, you will have read many of the exact same passages of my next novel, “A Space, A Period, And A Capital.”   The repetition serves a purpose that I can’t tell you about just yet.

Sticks To Lying :

My niece started reading this novel and called it boring, like some of the other stories I’ve written, in her mind. I explained to her this story is a representation of real life and many passages are supposed to be normal and thus boring. Hey, she’s 14, she’s not into real life that adults see all too often!! Anyway, I wrote the novel as an “art imitates life” text. It is not supposed to be a pop best-seller.

I am not a conventional novel writer so I don’t believe you’ll find my writing as readable as, say, Jim Butcher (your favorite author, according to myspace). Again, my stories are about and for my friends, including real-life scenes that have been fictionalized or novelized, if you will. You will be in my next novel so hopefully you may enjoy reading it if you don’t enjoy reading any of the others above.

I have attached the working draft of the story I wrote including a character loosely based on you that I’ve incorporated into my novel-in-progress currently titled, “A Space, A Period, And A Capital.” I hope you like it but you certainly don’t have to — some parts are pretty raw so I apologize in advance if I offend you in any way. I don’t forward this kind of writing to females because it tends to get a guy in trouble so if I’m getting myself in trouble here, let me know!!!! This is the first time that I’ve included writing of this nature in my novels.

Thanks for being my friend. I value the no-nonsense/no-games aspect of our give-and-take through the years. We ask nothing of each other except honesty and an open ear. Let’s hope our minds keep working, even if our bodies don’t!

All the best,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Sullivan Central High School and more…

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sun, January 18, 2009 11:46 am

To: <gus-email>

Never long-winded, merely detailed. I just happen to love all the details! You might even say I am detail oriented. Lol Looking forward to your email.

Eimear

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/18/2009 9:47:54 AM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Sullivan Central High School and more…

My response is delayed because of busy MLK, Jr, weekend. Expect another long-winded response from me tomorrow.

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: RE: Sullivan Central High School and more…

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Sat, January 17, 2009 3:37 pm

To: <gus-email>

Gus,

I am sorry I did not write back yesterday, but I spent the day starting and erasing about 11 letters to you. Each one did not seem to convey the right emotions or expressions of respect I have always had for you. In my first letter, one question I wanted to ask was if you had come to know God. I do not know how much it means to me that you have. I literally sat here and cried. Abeille thought I had lost my mind until I told her why. She sat here and cried with me. Nothing is as important as your journey to faith. For you to say I played any part in that….well, it just made me cry. Now, I am going to condense some random thoughts concerning your letters. My mind seems to work like that, so please try to follow the ramblings of my mind. The fact that you had too much tea and had to tinkle, made me tinkle as well. Thanks for that, by the way. Your poem was touching and poignant. Your insight and brilliance in writing has always amazed me. Not that I do not know you are artistic and smart, but its ability to bring out the truth. I want to read your first novel, as well as any and all future novels. I am not just asking for the heck of it, I truthfully want to read and grow with you. I am ecstatic that you have found peace and happiness in writing. Unfortunately, not many people in this life find that avenue of peace. Your use of memories held by objects, such as your old desk, will enhance your journey. Abeille wanted me to pass on a few messages to you. One, the reviewers are full of shit. (her words) Two, your poem is filled with truth and vision. (her words again) It just so happens that I agree with her completely. I hope you don’t mind I let her read your poem. She has written some herself, and has a talent for poetry. To know who I am now, look through my daughter. She is not a typical 15 year old girl. Her maturity amazes me at times. I have to remind myself who is the mother and who is the daughter. She sees the goodness in people, not the outside. She sees no color, no size, no ethnicity, just the person. She will give freely of herself, or support what you are doing. I will say that is one of the best accomplishments of my life. Seeing your child blossom into a good person is a reward unto itself. I would love for you two to meet or at least speak online. What a concept, my first love and the love of my life meeting. That would bring me great pleasure. You should have seen her face when she saw me back then. That was at least 75 pounds ago. Back when I actually had a waist. She is made like I was then, only certain aspects are bigger. I will leave that to your imagination. She has a girlfriend of around 6 months or so. She has dated boys, but for now loves Elegeve. I would not have chosen this lifestyle for her, but I will always love and support her. Even though my mom know Starke is gay, she does not know about Abeille. Really do not want to send her to an early grave. My days are spent learning from her as much as teaching her. Fortunately she took after her Dad in her intelligence. She mastered the computer years before I could do more than email. I am glad to say, I can now fly through the Internet with ease. I spend quite a bit of time playing around, trying to learn as much as possible. One day it may work out for me. Lol As far as the other side of my life, I have been very lucky. Several years ago, I had a bout with cancer, and a heart attack. I came out of both stronger emotionally. Physically, it took a while to recover. The hardest part came from the heart attack. It took away some short term and long term memories. Many months of patience and love brought me out of the haze back to the light. My dear hubby and daughter were helpful, but a little too funny near the end. They would tell me how I promised certain things to them. Like 50 dollars or sexual favors to each respectfully. Yeah, like I said, too funny. And speaking of sex, a lot of my stories lately have been more erotica and I do not believe you want to read that! I am going to give you my poem I wrote lately. I hope you will enjoy it, though after reading yours I almost did not want to send it to you. Your writing gives me great pleasure. As does all the memories I have of you. You have always been a part of my life. I will always love you Gus.

Love always,

Eimear

 

Heart versus Head

My heart is acting contrary to my head

Which one will speak to me the loudest

Should I listen to common sense for now

And wait for my heart to follow its path

Or should my heart scream loudly to me

Sounding out the noise of my head

When the night has drawn upon nigh

And the suns warmth left for the day

My mind travels near sleep to pleasures

Pleasures of the mind and soul to be

Always settling upon the face of love

Testing my strengths and weaknesses

Trying to find out my resolve

Looking closer to my hearts desires

They seem to have a strong hold

Keeping me enthralled at possibilities

Heat turns my cheeks to a rosy hue

With thoughts of carnal lust and glee

Would I still have the feelings

The joy and excitement inside

If I was near him on each day

Or on the nights I so desire from him

I can feel his touch from miles away

Is it real or just imaginary now

Have I lost my mind to live in my heart

My eyes are closed yet I see clearly

His hands are pulling me closely

Our bodies touching gliding as one

Ah, the touch is as real as is the love

Our touch, our love, our destiny

——-Original Message——-

From: gus-email

Date: 1/15/2009 1:43:48 PM

To: Eimear

Subject: RE: Sullivan Central High School and more…

Eimear,

Wow! What a wonderful surprise. I have been walking down memory lane lately, going through a “storage room” in my house (i.e., a spare bedroom), sorting stuff somewhat and finding tidbits that spark strong memories I haven’t had in YEARS! For instance, yesterday I opened a drawer of my student desk (the one I used in high school and college, which still serves as my primary desk in my adult years, too, I guess), and I found a photo of Abeille that you sent me from 1998. Of course, I have no memories of her except your mention of her in a letter or two that I received (something about her being able to use a computer (Commodore 64?) when you couldn’t at the time? LOL). In any case, I decided to see if she existed in the virtual world.

Lo and behold, the oracle of the Internet gave me a connection between her name and you through an email posted on a comment under a photo on a photographer’s website. As a technology user, nothing should surprise me but I still marvel at the “miracles” that a mass-communication device like the Internet produces.

Today, I sit in my study (e.g., an uncluttered corner of the storage room/bedroom) and listen to old records from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, using a Christmas present (Brookstone iConvert USB turntable) to convert the vinyl LP albums to electronic form (MP3, in this case) so I can listen to the songs on my computer or portable music player in the future, if I like. At this moment, the album, “More Songs About Buildings And Food,” by the Talking Heads, is playing.

Spider webs flutter in the space between the window and the screen on this sub-freezing day. Looking out the window, I can’t tell it’s almost 25 deg F below normal. The sky is clear. Birds jump from limb to limb. A wild holly waves its green leaves at me in the slight breeze while a deciduous cousin hangs its red berries for any interested animals to carry off and spread the deciduous holly’s seeds somewhere else.

I hear noises in the house and figure it’s probably squirrels in the attic, mice in the walls, a cat and/or skunk in the crawl space or just a house popping its joints in this awful weather. The raccoons and bats may have gotten into the chimney again. Who knows?

Such are my days in early 2009, enjoying a midlife retirement, writing and watching the world go by. I’ll tell you why, since you sort of asked.

My wife’s brother died rather suddenly in June 2006 at the age of 51 — he had blood clots in his legs that over a two-day period spread to his lungs and then into his heart, causing cardiac arrest and death. Although he was in the ICU section of a hospital, they could not revive him. Hey, if they can’t save you in a hospital, your time has come! My brother in-law and his family are avid participants in the activities of a large Baptist church in Huntsville so they were surrounded by their church friends immediately after my brother in-law passed away. I acted as the oldest male in the family during the visitation at the funeral home, greeting people at the head of the line, hearing their stories about my brother in-law and all the good feelings he left in others. At the memorial at his church, many hundreds of people showed up (one guess was 1500 people but I think it was exaggerated to make the family feel better; at a church of 5000 people, something less than 1000 must seem small). Again, the minister and friends exclaimed the glories of my brother in-law: church elder, Sunday school teacher, Boy Scout leader, emergency ham radio operator, NASA physicist, supportive co-worker, etc. In addition, over the next few months, we attended commemorative events at NASA for my brother in-law’s work on a gamma-ray observatory to be launched on a satellite (it launched successfully in June of 2008 and is called the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (more details at: http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/)).

From that point on, I realized more than ever that there’s a higher chance of mortality for us as we hit our middle years.

Thus, even though my vocational work satisfied both my bosses and customers (as well as my wife), I felt dissatisfied. My job at the time, senior program manager, meant I had to travel from coast to coast in America as well as to a few European countries. As I traveled, I had a lot of spare time to examine my life, wondering if I have completed all the tasks I had assigned myself when I was younger (in other words, my life’s dreams) and would get the same sort of reaction to my life’s work as my brother in-law if I died suddenly.

Now I know you have harped on me in the past about putting my life in the hands of the Lord. So had my grandmother (now deceased). Although my brother in-law and his family belong to a Southern Baptist church, they have not performed the usual task of handing me Bible tracts. Instead, they have observed the work I do for friends and family and come to the conclusion that, in their belief, the Lord works in mysterious ways and therefore I give to others in wonderful ways even if I don’t do these things explicitly in the name of their Lord and Saviour.

So, anyway…well, you can see I’m a bit long-winded here. Blame it on your influence on me, even after all these years!

As I traveled, I continued to write in my journals. I also wrote letters to friends, poems for myself and others, short stories for my nieces and nephews and fooled around with the idea of completing some good novels. More importantly, I contemplated my dream of having a novel published and formally reviewed professionally.

All my adult life I have written in my journals during work hours. Through these observations I have constructed interesting story lines, many based on real life, that would make a mildly interesting plot. The older I’ve grown, the more complicated the storylines have become. Well, after my brother in-law died, I felt this burning desire to get a novel written and published more than ever. I found myself drifting from thoughts of work to thoughts of plots and subplots. My work didn’t suffer in the classic sense but my maniacal drive to make my job the perfect embodiment of my life declined somewhat. I realized what was going on and coordinated with my boss to offload some of the 12- to 15-hour a day duties so that I could work just 8- to 10-hour days like the rest of my coworkers, freeing up time to work on my novel ideas. This extra time gave me the taste of blood, so to speak — I felt like a vampire pursuing its next victim. I wanted to write my “Great” novel!

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked my boss for a leave of absence so I could finish the novel. I went back and forth with him, his boss, and the human resources department to see what they could do to accommodate my request. The company had never granted a leave of absence except for medical emergencies. Therefore, we compromised and I retired from the company with a severance package. My boss’ boss did not want to see me go because he had hired me originally and knew the contribution I had given the company but understood that sometimes a person has to do what he has to do. That was in July 2007.

I was free at last! In celebration, I wrote the following poem:

These are my skyscrapers

 

No Empire State Building,

No Sears Tower or

Big Ben.

 

They shelter me nonetheless.

Tall,

Slender,

Alive –

Here without any assistance from my kind.

 

I cannot describe the noise rain makes upon their leaves…

— White noise?

— Light applause?

 

They bend to accept the wetness.

 

If only I had a palette of colors to describe them,

To make up for starving phrases like

“shades of green” and “variations of brown.”

 

They do not talk.

They speak of time.

 

Summer showers pass

And now they bend toward the sun.

 

I’m nothing but a lucky observer –

Fortune smiles upon me –

While standing beneath the treed canopy,

White noise giving way to dripping sounds,

Rising and falling with the passing breeze.

 

The bluejays call.

A hickory nut plops.

A cardinal chirps.

The finches reappear.

 

I’d rather scrape the sky with trees

Than touch the clouds with glass and steel.

10th July 2007

 

Immediately, I threw myself into my writing, completing a novel in October 2007. Well, as luck would have it, the folks at amazon.com had teamed up with Penguin Books and HP to host a writing contest called the “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.” I had a couple of weeks to edit the novel and get it submitted in time for the November contest deadline. There were a total of about 5000 entries for the contest. Only 836 novels made the cut to the semifinalist stage in January, including mine. All semifinalists received a formal review by Publishers Weekly. Again, including mine! A novel of mine reviewed by a professional! I had achieved my life’s goal.

Gee. That was too easy. Retire in July. Finish a novel in October. Get a professional review by the following January.

I also received reviews by Amazon regulars (“top reviewers”), including the following:

Amazon Top Reviewer

The prose style is mostly graceful and competent, but studded with some compound sentences that are way too complex and which run on way too long. I know this is being done for comic effect, but it still gets in the reader’s way. It’s being carried way too far in places. The idea seems to be a corporate satire involving an overlooked research and development organization specializing in … I’m not sure. Software? Architecture? There’s not enough here to give me a feeling for this organization’s place in the overall structure. Are they competing against other organizations? Facing layoff or merger? Working towards a prize? I get no sense of what conflict faces these people, and little sense of the main character other than his sense of humor. An entire scene flashes back to the spider incident in the first-person narrator’s childhood and seems to be there just to establish the narrator’s quirkiness. I was on board with that back when everyone threw doughnuts at each other. This should be rewritten for a faster start which involves some sense of conflict. What’s at stake here? That’s where the plot will come from.

Oh, and by the way, here’s the professional review:

Editorial Reviews

manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, an independent organization

This ponderous novel is about as exciting as a corporate annual report. What starts out as a modestly interesting virtual reality thriller quickly degenerates into a slog through one bland middle manager’s life in the world of software engineering. Bruce Colline, the narrator, works for the software company Cumulo Seven. Its program, Qwerty-Queue, may or may not have something to do with influencing financial markets, but that’s never made clear, thus robbing the story of what little suspense it offers. Dozens of interchangeable characters clutter the novel, and their insipid dialogue is filled with jargon that will put even computer geeks to sleep (“I got with Fawn to go over her programs, including Tirelem, RRR and Perencles”). At the few points where the plot develops a modicum of forward momentum, the author quickly dispatches Bruce to a conference call, a meeting or his email. By the end, even the author has grown tired of slathering words on the page (“The moment was special, unforgettable and yet, difficult to put into words.”). Instead of unraveling an absorbing mystery, Bruce merely stumbles upon some mundane truths about corporate America.

Well, be careful what you ask for. I had told myself I wanted to receive a professional review. I didn’t say what kind of review!

My friends who had read both the novel and the reviews felt like I had done a great job. After all, I hacked together a novel in a few months, spent almost no time editing it down to the well-tuned essence of an almost-great story and yet received professional recognition, more than the majority of writers ever get. A friend of mine wrote me a note of encouragement, ending with the quote by Scott Adams, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” In other words, I am a creative person but that doesn’t necessarily make me an artist. So be it. I still like to write and won’t stop!

And now, a year later, here I am, writing another long-winded piece, this time a letter to a dear, dear friend of mine from 30 years ago.

Where have we gone in 30 years? You have reached a state of happiness, pleased with who you are, a bit larger in body than when we dated 30 years ago (but just think of it as your body catching up to your beautifully large personality), and still married to the man you share an offspring with.

Yeah, I’m bigger than I was in that picture, too. I think I weighed 165 pounds back then. The last I weighed a couple of days ago, I was 230 pounds (and that’s after losing 10 pounds since Christmas). My goodness, 55 pounds! That sounds so much bigger than it looks in person, I can tell you. LOL

Eimear, I’m happy to hear you’ve been able to raise your child using home-schooling. My brother in-law and his wife home-schooled their two kids. The oldest graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA in Computer Engineering in 2006 (a month before his father died) and the youngest is in her last semester in Nursing at college with a 4.0 GPA, also. Needless to say, they get their smarts from my wife’s side of the family!

I started college in 1980 with high hopes. Life gave me an alternative path, which I couldn’t resist, so I followed the road less traveled for a while and got around to completing my bachelor’s degree in 2001 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a major in MIS (Management Information Science, or something like that) and a minor in math.

My wife and I still live in the first house we bought in 1987 for $91,900 (using $5,000 her father loaned us as a down payment), financing $87,000. We paid off the house last year. The 1.3 acre lot next door to us came up for sale in 2006 for $50,000. We decided it wasn’t worth it. A builder bought the lot and erected a 3,800 sq ft home in 2007. He put the house up for sale last week for $494,000!!!! If you could see the odd juxtaposition of our rundown 1,800 sq ft home versus the monstrosity next door, you would laugh. I have a rusted 1962 Dodge Lancer and smashed 1992 Chevy S10 truck sitting in the side yard on one side of the house. The side facing the new house, I have four tires holding an eroding ditch together, two plastic chairs from Wal-Mart covered with algae and a clematis growing through and around them, and a preformed pond liner from Home Depot turned upside down, looking like a turtle all curled up. Oh, and a pile of lumber from the back deck I took apart when we had a sunroom added to the back of our house in 2001.

Why am I telling you all this? I guess because at one point I wanted to impress you with how great my life had become but now I realize it’s more important to show you the real me – a country boy who’s lived the city life, almost falsely. I know who I am now — I am a person who was raised to appreciate technological advances in society and to set my life’s work in that area. At the same time, I am a lazy country bumpkin who’s just as happy to sit and watch the world go by, letting his house fall apart around him in the process. I don’t need a fancy house or a fancy car, an expensive vacation or jetsetting lifestyle. I’m happy just sitting here writing a letter to a friend of mine and could sit here writing this letter the rest of my life, no matter how good, great, poor, non-artistic or outlandish the writing may be.

I’m glad you’re writing. I would enjoy reading your work. By chance (if you believe there’s such a thing as chance), back in December while working on my latest novel I added a character loosely based on you (see, I think of you, too – you should see all the pictures of us and others I posted on facebook). I plan to submit that novel for the next “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award” contest, which takes place in February. The novel still needs some editing so it’s not quite finished yet. Hopefully, it will be polished enough to garner attention from an editor for the contest.

Eimear, I guess we’ve seen enough of the world to know what we like. For the most part, I wake up each morning and go to bed every night with a smile on my face. The world is just fine to me, no matter if the mass media news outlets and bloggers want to paint a negative picture about the global economy. I see that I won’t make more than a tiny bit of difference in how the solar system or galaxy is going to be 200 million years from now and that makes me happy. I made a small difference and that is enough. All the rest of it, no matter whether you’re Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton or Joe the Plumber, is just a relative measurement of an iota.

You remember that coworker of yours that got on your nerves because he/she kept saying, “C’est la vie”? I believe your response was life is what we make of it and not what happens to us so we shouldn’t just accept what happens. Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe your coworker was right in one sense. We’re middle-aged now, wiser and [supposedly] smarter. I’ve also come to the conclusion that life is a little of both of what you said. Sometimes we make things happen and sometimes life makes things happen to us. Either way, we’re here to talk about it and for me, that is enough, n’est pas?

My wife has been patient during this midlife retirement of mine but thinks it’s time I get back to a regular desk job and maybe she’s right. Just like Pearse depends on you for certain aspects of life, I’ve depended on Karen for quite a bit. She stayed with me during dark episodes of my life that I’m not sure I would have stuck around for if our roles were reversed (of course, I know I would have but sometimes I look at the old me and wonder why she stayed with me then). Now, I owe her the gratitude of going back into the moneymaking world.

As you and I know, it’s who we count as friends that make this life worth living. I recall many a moment of the short time we shared together and savor each one like a finely aged cheese or a rare bottle of vintage wine. I sometimes walk through a crowd and smell the perfume you used to wear (Tiempo?). How many people have you stayed up until 5 a.m. in the morning with just for the sake of talking? For me, not many (maybe one or two, at most, including…let’s see, probably only Elizabeth (my sister), Karen and Helen, oh and a couple of party buddies from college who are still good friends of mine). Little could I have imagined the influence you would have on my life. Same goes for your parents and Starke. Starke is still the most overall intelligent/creative person I’ve ever met. Your mother taught me so much in so little time — as much as I adore and love my mother in-law, I often wish your mother had been my mother in-law because of her laughter and kindness that clearly showed up in you (no doubt, your daughter carries on those traits). Your father showed me the importance of being a laid back father, which I have carried into my role as an uncle.

I hope you show your daughter how to twirl a baton before she graduates cause as a photographer she’s going to be juggling and spinning a busy schedule around!

I have lived a good first half of my life and happily include you in it. The second half of my life brings many new surprises and joys. Perhaps we can all meet up sometime to see what we expect of life in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond!

Well, I’ve had too much tea to drink and I’m dying to go to the bathroom so I’m losing my ability to think and write right now. Plus, I’ve got to go figure out what to fix for dinner tonight. If I could cook, I’d fix a big batch of chili. Instead, I’ll see what frozen delight is available in the freezer.

My parents still live in Colonial Heights and are healthy for their age (74 and 75). My sister’s first husband divorced her many years ago to marry a younger woman. Even so, he and his brothers are still friends of mine (in fact, his youngest brother and I are friends through facebook). Elizabeth and her second husband (a sergeant in the Virginia National Guard), live with their kids outside Richmond, Virginia. Elizabeth’s two kids, age 16 and age 14, are doing well in school. Her stepdaughter, age 1), thinks school is not cool so she gets by with Cs and Ds. As a school counselor, Elizabeth is trying to make sure her step-daughter gets passing grades. Elizabeth, her husband, and kids are a work in progress!

By the way, during the year between the two novel contests, I have been caring for my 91-year old mother in-law, who lives in Rogersville, TN. I have lived with her on and off for weeks at a time, especially during periods when she’s in and out of the hospital or rehab unit at a nursing home. Amazingly enough, she can still drive around town. I have tried to make up for her dead son and must be succeeding. She no longer refers to me as her son in-law but calls me her son. One time, while we sat and watched a baseball game on TV, she mistook me for her husband and talked about my wife as if she were our daughter. Talk about a great surreal moment for a poem or novel! I just hope there’s someone in my life, if my wife is no longer living, who can share moments with me like that when I’m an old geezer. My mother in-law spent 30 years caring for her sick husband and valued her freedom after he died in 1997 (although she would never put it like that), including a trip to the Holy Land with a friend of hers. However, loneliness finally set in and I think until I gave her attention she felt she was ready to die. Now she sees that she brings out the best in people, including me, and wants to continue to live to make others’ lives more fulfilling, and thus hers, too, in the process.

Okay, my bladder is screaming. Gotta go! Forgive my bad writing. I haven’t got time to go back and edit what I babbled on about.

Say hello to your parents and brother for me. Talk to you soon. I want to read your writing, even if it would embarrass me.

All the best,

Gus

============================================

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Sullivan Central High School and more…

From: “Eimear” <eimear>

Date: Wed, January 14, 2009 10:24 pm

To: “Gus Emboshill” <gus-email>

Gus,

Hi there. This is Eimear, and what a blast down the past the pictures are. Abeille and her girlfriend got a huge kick out of seeing me that young….not to mention that small. You have often entered my thoughts leaving a sweet smile on my face. I would love to hear about your life since we last spoke many years ago. Please write back and fill me in on how you have been doing. I have been married over 16 years and have one beautiful 15 year old daughter….Abeille. She is homeschooled, bright, outgoing, and very artistic. Everything I was not! Lol She plans on being a photographer when she graduates next year. We live just outside of Nashville, and Starke lives about 30 minutes away with his partner of 14 years, Onie. Mom and Dad still live in Blountville, and are doing well. Me? Well, I am very happy being a mom and wife. I lost the challenge with food, and put on a bunch of weight. For the first time in my life I like who I am, though. Life is good, even if I can’t do a cartwheel anymore. (ok, so I always sucked at that anyway) I spend quite a bit of my time writing, either poetry or other stories that would embarrass you. Hehe Have you continued to write? Ok, I have given you a bit of my life, now it is your turn. Please.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Eimear Books

——-Original Message——-

From: Gus Emboshill

Date: 1/14/2009 8:02:59 PM

To: hollyndsfamily

Subject: Sullivan Central High School and more…

Via facebook

Gus Emboshill

6:02pm Jan 14th               Sullivan Central High School and more…

To eimear

Abeille,

I believe your mother and I went to high school together. I have recently posted a bunch of photos from my time in high school (1977-80), including ones with your mother. I also posted several photos of Starke Gusetts from his performance in the musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Please give my regards to your mother. Good luck in whatever you’re doing in life!

Regards,

Gus Emboshill

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Shorts

Life In The Cove

Life turns into blog entries that tend to turn into chapters of a book about life. Art in the pretense of “Art”. No conspiracy theories here.

24 February 2009

What is a novel?

While waiting at a local haircut shop this morning, I skimmed through a copy of a popular news magazine that commemorated the recent U.S. Presidential inauguration. I glanced through the articles in the special edition portion of the magazine, getting a feeling of deja vu, knowing that the stories about the new President were nearly identical to the articles from a copy of Life magazine I have that commemorated an equally “maverick” President in the early 1960s. Nothing is new under the sun — it’s just repackaged and sold to the next generation.

As I moved out of the special edition section and into the regular features of the magazine, I found an article about the current state of the “NOVEL,” that great and glorious epitome of civilization that proves the right of literacy to call itself the culmination of human evolution. Well, like all evolving things, the jury’s out the revolving door on the format of the novel. Seems like the Japanese craze for miniature things electronic, including handheld wireless walkie-talkies (i.e., cell phones), has sparked a new craze for equally-small novels. Thus, literature, instant gratification and attention deficit syndrome have finally mated (in an era where a ménage à trois can, with the aid of genetic manipulation, result in an entirely new species) and created the mini-masterpiece. In the meantime, self-publishing continues to grow in self-respect, joining fan fiction in the need for knowledge to be free.

Thus, as a kid, while reading cartoon stories (oops, I mean classic tales like Ivanhoe that we would now call graphic novels), I saw the advent of the online novel. Hell, that’s why I’m here, isn’t it, cranking out my own stories in this little mishmash mashup virtual shop of horribly written novels.

I have always kept a copy of Thomas Payne’s Common Sense beside my writing desk. He was the pamphleteer who inspired me to care about my writing, infusing it with meaning while using concise language. In him, I saw that the desire to write is truly a manifest destiny wherein that which we call a self is not fully reflected in a mirror but sometimes also reflected in the use of words, the toolset given to us by our forebears to show to ourselves and others that we exist outside time and place. A hall of funhouse mirrors, if you will, with embedded webcams to capture our fleeting facial expressions.

Isn’t that what a novel really is, anyway? An exaggeration of our vanity? An image we can laugh at or with, depending on our point of view? Emmett Kelly incarnate, a sad-faced clown looking back at us, with Pathos and Irony leaning against his shoulders?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Therefore, my novels reflect me, a user of mainly Western European languages, who writes outside the mainstream. I do not write specifically for others, although Muses do catch my attention and give me the strength to write when I feel too depressed to move. I write for me. I write to me. I fall in love with the idea of reading my writing everytime I open this blog. I crave the next woid I put down on paper (“woid” = ode to Dorothy Parker). Well, actually, I use paper so little now that paper has become my pocket shorthand, little guideposts I write to myself to remind me what I did on a certain day, in hopes that the zeitgeist will be remembered later on.

I write long tales that will not sell in Books-A-Billion or Barns of Novels. I write to the reader in me. I’m just as likely to write nonsense as common sense. One of my favorite poems has no purposefully-written English words but tells the story of a desert prince whose object of his affection he can never marry so they meet one last night at an oasis, where, unbeknownst to them, an alien spaceship is dumping some toxic waste from its sewer receptacle and accidentally blinds and disfigures the two Persians, giving a whole new meaning to “star-crossed lovers”:

Sounds In The Night

Onaki som
Vrimurnika
Ola, mifrind, ola
Cizurpi, Ta
Omal jamal
Amarki ti nipur
Solonga long
Ananika
Aloki fanipa
Apar tipar
Avert aumur
Nipusi ti amour

– 7 October 1985
As we completely pave over this planet with homogeneous neighborhoods and shopping districts, let’s recognize that life is Chaos ruled by Entropy. Anything is possible and anything can happen. Shouldn’t a novel be the same way?

23 February 2009

Overcoming Boredom

In a few months, I’ll have lived and breathed on this planet for 47 years. During that time, I have repeated myself so often that I’ve come to understand the concept of the midlife crisis more than once, too. You know what I mean, the reality that you’ve lived as an adult for 20-plus years and mortality is no longer a concept but an actual counting down of days so you look around you and see the ennui associated with seeing the same thing over and over and over again, despite attempts at experiencing something new.

Sometimes, enough time has elapsed that I can repeat something I’ve forgotten about. But eventually, the brain pathways are refreshed and memories return.

So it was that I experimented with online social networks. I got in contact with schoolmates I hadn’t seen or heard from in 30 years or thereabouts. I discovered the lives they had led and thus some of the various possibilities that any one of us could have taken from the day we left the mandatory education labor camp known as high school (or primary school). I learned that there are some genuinely nice, caring people out there while I am still the intellectual snob I always thought I was, laughing my way through life as if I was somehow better than everyone else (and yes, no need to tell me, it’s as pathetic as it sounds — I grew up in an average middle-class home, with an average middle-class life and average middle-class intellect).

At the start of the day, I am still stuck with me. Sure, I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning to watch the sky brighten, with the tree silhouettes slowly coming into view in the foreground, as the luscious deep reds and blues in the background dimmed the stars, outlined the mountains, and gave way to a gorgeous sunrise. After all, I am an animal capable of wonder, unaware if my fellow housemates — a black-and-white tetra fish, two Cornish Rex cats, female human being, some potted plants, and hidden ones such as spiders, roaches, and the like — enjoy the wonders of the universe as much as I do.

I suppose that’s what it’s all about for me, discovering whatever “it” is in the moment. Once “it” is tagged, numbered and filed away, I’m ready for the next “it” to enter my field of view. Otherwise, if I have to stare at “it” for too long, I get bored, nervous and edgy. Like a child throwing a temper tantrum, I scream and shout, pushing people out of the way, calling them whatever names and making up whatever stories I can to get them out of my way (as if someone would bother stalking me) so I can go on to the next “it” I find by myself.

I suppose that’s what worries me. If enough of a surrogate me is created in cyberspace, thus giving others who may not even know me an idea of what the next thing may be that will hold my attention as the “it” of the moment, I may never discover something new for myself. Instead, I will be fed a diet of things that are just enough different or far enough in time from the last time I encountered them that I’ll believe it’s something new and completely different.

After all, a car is just a car. A pair of shoes is just a pair of shoes. They are all just accessories and necessities. Yet, look at how many of my fellow humans get excited when the next car model hits the showroom floor or a pair of shoes gets displayed in a store window. They will fully exclaim that this is “IT”!!!!

I have owned Italian and German sports cars. I have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I have traveled to foreign lands and spoken foreign tongues. I have held a variety of jobs. But the one thing I’ve never been is someone else. No matter what I do or where I go, I fall asleep as me and get up with me in the morning.

Of course, we can never escape ourselves. We can reshape our bodies, calling it steroid therapy, botox injection, cosmetic surgery (just exactly what is “plastic” about plastic surgery?), artificial limb attachment and so on. We can replace many of our organs. But we haven’t found a way to replace our genetic heritage, our collection of thoughts and other aspects of whatever “it” is that basically makes us us. [The symptom of amnesia is an interesting manifestation of that idea, though.]

Today, I have nothing to offer myself as a solution to my boredom. Usually, I just entertain myself with another short story disguised as a blog entry (which later serves as a portion of a chapter in a future book). However, last night’s dreams were so delightful that I don’t feel like writing anything down, not even my dreams, which would be too difficult to translate into words. I can savor the dreams and not spend a penny today.

I’ll just jot down a note for myself here, trying to capture the dream image of myself as a baby in a crib staring up at math formulae floating above my head like stars in the sky or figures in a rotating mobile, each one being a partial solution to the economic turmoil we’re now facing. As I reach up and pull down a formula, I see the way to fix the economy. I keep pulling down more and more math symbols until I see that the solution to the economic mess is not mathematical at all. Instead, it’s simply a matter of telling people to realize that our mindsets will be messed up for a while until we get used to the idea of resetting our financial goals and expectations. It won’t stop economists from touting large numbers or politicians from promising political fixes. What it will finally take is a concerted effort by the people to declare war on the economic profiteers (né pirates) and look for sacrifices in order for them to fully vent their rage before they can accept defeat in the worldwide battle for economic supremacy.

Will there be a modern-day version of storming the Bastille? It depends on how well the governments and news outlets can keep people feeling helpless and disconnected from one another. I look for either a rise in despondency/apathy or increase in random acts of violence against financial institutions to show which way the people are going. Ireland is already showing increasing signs of violence but it is a relatively isolated place, both geographically and informationally speaking. But is it the canary in the mine, though? And how many times has someone like me seen and felt these same thoughts, thinking that he’s the first one to discover them?

Ah, boredom…’tis hard to overcome when methinks too much, eh? Best be entertaining meself quietly while I keep me mind focused on cranking the millstone like a good peasant. Them feudal lords knows what they’re a-doing, don’t they?

Yeah, right!!!

I especially like the political idea of “You just keep working so we can use your taxes to fix the situation.” Hmm…isn’t “fixing the situation” why I’ve already paid off my house, put money away for retirement and lived below my means my whole life? At least I have the luxury of not working right now so there are no taxes that I pay to fix someone else’s life savings, home equity value or underwater mortgage. My wife and I are good students of history and have always avoided overextending ourselves.

Sorry, but after looking at the lives of others on facebook, I’m mad as hell and can’t take it anymore — I have no desire to help some of you repair your overextension just because you weren’t good students to begin with. I’m taking a small part-time teaching position to reach out to those who still have an open mind and may want to learn how to enjoy a comfortable life without plastic surgery, overpriced neighborhoods and heavily-mortgaged lifestyles.

For the rest of you who lived below your means, I congratulate you. Join us in the revolution to turn this economy around! Teach others to turn off their televisions and stop listening to the radio. Stop subscribing to advertising-based magazines. Don’t open general-interest or other ad-based websites. In other words, don’t let someone else tell you what you like — use your own brain to decide what you like or dislike. You’ll be amazed at how much more relaxing your life can be when you spend more time with people like you who enjoy a basic lifestyle without constantly competing with each other about who has the bigger boat, newer backyard grill, shinier diamond ring or fancier renovated house. You’ll taste foods for the first time for what they are and not for what the advertising agencies promised. You’ll appreciate the leaf on the tree for the color it has and not think of it as just something you “have to” mow or rake in the fall because your yard has to look more pristine than your neighbor’s.

That’s what resetting your expectations is all about — simply redefining what it takes to overcome the boredom in your life. You don’t have to buy things or change your body to substitute for an empty life. Why not just be you, complete with all the warts, boredom and everything else that comes with it? You’d be surprised how much fun, creative and fulfilling it can be to discover more about yourself!!!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:06 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, surrogate human, teaching

22 February 2009

Who Do You Work For?

I don’t believe in international conspiracies. I don’t see spies around every corner. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

As I once said, I rarely have dealt with the underworld of crime. But then, what exactly is the underworld? And what is crime but the violation of someone else’s definition of correct behavior?

I grew up in a small town in the United States in the 1970s. I joined a youth gang when I was nine or ten years old. In the gang, we stole cigarettes, candy, magazines, over-the-counter drugs, and other items from local stores. We also snitched cigarettes, cigars, liquor, and prescription drugs from our parents. We broke into other people’s homes to steal the same items, which we would consume in houses under construction as we vandalized them. Sure, we had a clubhouse but the core members of the gang never fully trusted it because it was an open secret among all the neighborhood kids. We terrorized little kids to keep them from telling on us but inevitably a kid would tell a sibling who would inform his or her parents about one of our activities, getting us in trouble.

Once you join a gang, you never really get out. Even though I left the gang after my parents found out about a house I vandalized, my gang buddies never forgot about me. Throughout my teenage life as the perfect Boy Scout, which included earning an Eagle Scout Award, I always had the old neighborhood bullies on my back, so to speak. My later “crimes” with them, such as they were, included cheating on tests, ratting out rival gang members to teachers, terrorizing younger kids and generally protecting my former fifth grade band of brothers whenever they got in trouble (diverting a teacher’s attention is just too plain easy when you have an angelic face like mine).

After high school, I lost touch with my buddies. Their criminal lives had taken some of them in and out of juvenile delinquent detention centers and later county jails. One of them served time in a federal penitentiary, from what I heard. Overall, our lives had taken tracks in two different directions.

Or so I thought.

A couple of years ago, after accumulating a large stock portfolio, I decided to retire in midlife. I looked forward to a life of leisure, doing whatever I wanted to do. And for the most part, I have. Except for this one small thing.

You see, just about the time I retired, I got a call from a woman named Melissa Wu. Ms. Wu claimed she had seen my CV (or resume, if you will) posted on a website called monster.com. Now, I don’t exactly remember posting my CV on the Internet but sure enough, there it was. Anyway, Ms. Wu mentioned that I had been highly recommended by a colleague named Litho. Litho? Wow, I hadn’t heard a name like that since…well, since fifth or sixth grade.

Ms. Wu told me that the job she was interested in my taking involved a software development project between a firm in China and one in the United States. She told me that both firms wished to remain anonymous in exchange for a hefty bonus and a exclusive contract for my services for the next two years.

Smelled fishy to me, doesn’t it to you, too? Like a really bad movie plot. But, unfortunately, life is like that sometimes. I told Ms. Wu that I had retired and wasn’t interested in a job. She told me that she or someone from her recruiting firm would call me back.

A few weeks later, I got a call with no identity on the Caller ID. The caller’s voice sounded familiar.

“Litho?”

“Gus! Hey, how’s it going?”

“Pretty good. Yourself?”

“Can’t complain! Hey, I understand you’re available for hire?”

“Well…”

“Hey, come on, man. Do me a favor here, will you?”

“You in trouble?”

“Not at all. It’s just that I’ve got this Web business thing going on and I need someone who can help me get the whole system all tested out. We’re using worldwide connections to computers tied to a Microsoft Home Server and thought maybe your software testing skills and management skills could get this thing finalized.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Say, I tell you what. We were hoping to get you or someone from back home involved in this. But, thing is, we need you to move to Shanghai.”

“Shanghai?”

“Yeah, pretty cool, huh? Look, I know you ain’t working right now and could use a little spare pocket change. What say you come over to China and check us out?”

To cut the story short, I told Litho I’d think about it. He called me back a time or two and when I was still hesitant, he got Ms. Wu back involved.

Melissa was more convincing than I thought. She walked me through the technical details of the setup, which intrigued me. We finally worked out a deal where I didn’t have to travel out of country. Instead, using a simple VPN connection, I communicated with a test team in Shanghai, one in the U.S. and one in Bangalore to organize a complete test team.

We finished our task last October.

I felt like I was in the movie, “Paycheck.” As soon as I received confirmation of a deposit of my bonus check in my account in UBS in Switzerland, I started getting odd vibes, especially since my deposit occurred the day the stock market took a dive. In a panic, I checked my account and it had actually grown.

Litho had told me that the system I had tested would truly be a global network. Sure enough, I and my team had shown how a small network of home servers strategically placed in homes, offices, universities, government facilities, convenience stores and just about any out-of-the-way places could control untold number of computers, no matter whether the computers had so-called secure antivirus and firewall software installed, by taking advantage of a backdoor method I had developed in testing KVM switches. A KVM switch is a device that lets you hook up a computer to a box and extend the length of cable of the Keyboard, Video, and Mouse devices (as well as USB devices like flash drives and MP3 players) — extending the cable included a virtual cable connection across the Internet. Thus, while theoretically you could not directly download files from the computer through the KVM cables, you could take “pictures” of what was going on across the KVM cables and process them realtime, meaning you could duplicate the exact actions of your home computer or a computer in a government lab and send those actions to a bank of servers halfway across the globe. Litho was impressed that my test team not only worked out all the bugs but had made excellent suggestions for improving the system’s robustness, transparency and scalability. He promised that my work would not go unnoticed.

Today, while the global stock markets are plunging, my private accounts are growing. BTW, I no longer have an account at UBS. Seeing the attention that UBS was getting a few weeks ago at a quiet government office near Washington D.C. that my own private home server network alerted me to, I just as quietly split my UBS account into deposits at other remote locations under companies, accounts and names that Litho highly suggested I use to protect my investments.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, you see, everything I’ve done in the past two years is completely legitimate. I have contracts, paycheck stubs, IRS tax payments and other documentation to clearly show my work is on the “up and up.” But I still smell a fish, don’t you? So, when you think you’re working for a U.S.-based company, take a look at the list of U.S. companies that are foreign owned, like Holiday Inn, compiled in the book, “The United States of Europe” by T.R. Reid.

Think about it. Who do you work for? Don’t lean in too closely or you might smell a fish, too. Sometimes it’s better not to know. Hey, if the IRS thinks it’s legit, it’s legit. Take my word for it.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 2:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, government, novel, Story, technology, writing

Means and Meanings

I should not be here, putting words on patches of global paper, scratching my thoughts with found fonts, carving my name on lumps of coal or in swirls of oil.

I meditate on words, all the same….ommmm….I cannot escape the past and I never live in the future…the present moment leads to the next…that’s all…ommmm.

Quote: [of Aldous Huxley:] “You could always tell by his conversation which volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica he’s been reading. One day it would be Alps, Andes, and Apennines, and the next it would be the Himalayas and the Hippocratic Oath.”
— Bertrand Russell, Letter to R. W. Clark, July 1965, from the Yale Book of Quotations
Hahaha. Today I look at the world I live in and marvel at the provincialism inherent in my being. I see that others, including Barthelme and Ballard, wrote their fictional best often while wrapped in the cocoon of suburbia, so provincial living is not a crutch upon which to lean my limits.

I’m granting myself some patience here. My blood pressure is up because I am still distraught about giving up the future of running a company and while I’m writing this, I’m converting my pop albums to MP3 that I once bought to impress some forgotten girls (The Moody Blues, Loverboy, Peter Schilling, The Rolling Stones, and Lionel Richie). The time and money we waste on the false sense of romanticism!!! I love my wife but the women I chased until they started telling me all I wanted to talk about was my wife…ironic, isn’t it? Pay for dates with other women so they can tell me who I love. That’s okay. I can forgive the indiscretions of my youth. It’s the boring albums that still clutter my house that make me shake my head. For a person who shuns materialism, I sure am a pack rat. To quote Tracy Daugherty, who paraphrased Henri F. Ellenberger from the piece called “The Psychology of Destiny,” published by Donald Barthelme in Forum:

the individual is free to choose from among the traits he has inherited from his family to shape an elected destiny.
In other words, I have elected to accept my pack rat attitude from various family members. No excuses.

As far as my tough business decision goes…sigh… A little background here. A work colleague invited me to his church a few weeks ago for a Friday evening get-together. That evening enlightened me about my strengths, weaknesses, desires and dislikes. As I walked among the churchy engineers and their spouses, watching their behavior — mainly, their range of comfort in a crowd — I clearly saw that running a company or being involved in any business at all is not what I want to do in life, despite its attractiveness. As my sister pointed out to me recently, at heart I’m a nonsocial nerd. Thus, I know deep down I will always be uncomfortable in crowds and shouldn’t be trying to manage a group of people (I learned that lesson at my last job but sometimes forget about it). Rather than keep being involved in a venture that I’m not interested in and pushing my blood pressure up in the process, I feel it’s best to step away now and let those get involved who are comfortable taking the lead. Someone like another work colleague who played sports in college and is successful in sales/marketing, or a prominent local attorney who founded a sports team (in other words, guys who are team players and have been involved in organized sports) tend to do a great job talking up a brand-new product line and running a company better than a typical old nerd like me — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs being the notable exceptions to typical nerds, of course.

In that, my father and I are different. I remember when he and I were at a sports function one evening and there was a private reception going on. My father felt no qualms insinuating himself into the crowd whereas I understood that we were walking in uninvited. That uninvited attitude of mine is a clear indication that I am not completely a chip off the old block, as the saying goes, and not cut out to hob-nob with business owners and others who feel comfortable mixing with each other as if they belong together. My father has no problem with the instant feeling of belonging to a group. I, however, do not feel as if I belong to any group, and act like a jovial, laughing clown to hide my discomfort. Like Groucho Marx said, I do not want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.

I am not a loner but I am not a joiner, either. I walk my own path where sometimes others walk with me and sometimes I walk alone. I do not need or want others following me because I don’t necessarily know where I’m going but sometimes people follow me, anyway, because it seems that some people have the idea that I’m good for entertaining them for a little while.

Such is my life as I approach 47 years on this planet, not having any clue what I’m doing but about to stand up for eleven weeks of four-hour stretches in a classroom and tell kids how to live their lives. God help the poor kids in my classes. If they only had a clue!!! lol Perhaps in my entertainment, they’ll find nuggets of wisdom to call their own.

How can the means justify the end if there is no end in mind? Does one seek the mean? Can one find meaning anyway? If there is no meaning, no means, no end, and no bounds for a meaningful mean, then what? Easy answer: laugh at the questions because they are just the smoke and mirrors of words. That which I call a tree looks like a giant stalk of broccoli to a giraffe, a stack of timber to a lumberjack and a house to a bird. In other words, if you find yourself drawn to my writing, don’t take anything I say seriously because I’m just playing with the arrangement of words and offer no concrete advice. I am entertaining myself. Nothing more. All else is just a reflection of the cultural norms, ethics, morals and disjointed commercial advertising upon which I was raised. There is not some coherent whole hidden among the reeds that I am slowly revealing to you like a wise sage. But if there is, then let me know ’cause I haven’t seen it yet myself. %^D

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 9:57 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, novel, Story, teaching, writing

21 February 2009

Chapter excerpt — Gus [for mature audiences only]

Hello, my name is Gus. Have I told you that already? I can’t remember. My memory is slipping past me in the checkout aisle. All I’ve got is this grocery cart full of miscellaneous items, like a box of floppy disks, a broken ceramic sculpture of a seated pipe musician, a stone mask from Mexico, a HotWheels Ferrari dealership, half-empty bottle of Stetson cologne, and a purple fish net. In front of me, two books about men whose ideas and writing greatly influenced my life. J.G. Ballard. Donald Barthelme.

RE/Search No. 8/9: J.G. Ballard” Copyright © 1984
Hiding Man: a biography of Donald Barthelme” Copyright © 2009
I am alive today because of them. I am dead today because of them.

The “Best of the Doobies” vinyl LP album spins on a record player, the sounds playing quietly through the needle like the thumping of an automobile audio system nearby, flexing my eardrum at the threshold of my thoughts while stopped for a red traffic light.

According to people who grew up with me during our years together attending primary school, my label was “nerd.” Despite my dislike of labels, people label me and each other anyway. I cannot change people’s perception of me from that time period.

I want to die. I did not plan to live this long. I do not plan to live this long. I have had enough of people and their labels. I have had enough of my labeling animals “people” just because they happen to look like me. I have had enough.

I have nothing left to contribute to this world. It will and does exist without me. I am not a megalomaniac. I do not need to rule any part of this world. I do not want to prey upon the fears and desires of others, even though that is essentially what I’ve done my whole life, in my own small way, from baby life onward to other lives and incarnations but never, I think, as a carnation.

I have tried but never succeeded in escaping the world of words. Instead, I perpetuate it.

Tonight, I’ll eat dinner with my wife and two of our friends. After dinner, the four of us will attend the traveling version of the musical, “In Recognition Of Your Achievement,” loosely based on the movie, “As A Member In Good Standing Through The Year.” I saw the Broadway version of the show in NYC back in February 2007. Two years ago this month, as a matter of fact. Tonight, I am reliving my personal private history, adding other humans to the memories of laughter, frowns, and boredom I experienced by myself for a $180 ticket to a Broadway show while on a week-long training session in the “art and nuance of creatively wasting people’s time unknowingly” at the Crowne Plaza during a New York winter, where I also experienced a taping of the ever-popular television show, “Laughing with Llamas,” down the street.

I have relived history my whole life, too. Speech and writing in itself is a reuse of our history of learning to talk, read and write. Damn. I guess there is no social human future that is absent of the past.

I don’t remember how old I was when I realized I was ambivalent and ambiguous but not ambitious about sexual orientation. I first understood the feelings when I was five or six, sensing that I was attracted to no particular person, regardless of gender. Then, as I grew older, when I reached the edge of the slide down into the sensual pool of sexual maturation, I knew what my body was saying even if the thoughts had not sufficiently been trained or developed to understand the chemical attraction I felt for no one. Once, seeing my behavior, my father asked me if I was a homosexual. I honestly answered no. I had no specific attraction to people of the same sex. Instead, I was attracted to neither sex but silently suppressed any personal desires to act upon my chemical needs, knowing that my successful participation in the suburban subculture of my hometown meant that I should maintain a general healthy sexual attitude toward others. Thus, throughout high school, I kissed two people – publicly displaying affection for a couple of months with a woman a year younger than me and privately sharing a kiss with a man a year older than me. Otherwise, I was celibate, sharing the majority of my years in primary school with a woman, Helen, who did not desire sexual relations with me so that I didn’t have to pretend to want to kiss, hug or otherwise feign sexual interest in her, which in turn let me suppress any sexual attention I knew I wanted to pay to no specific gender. I maintained my sanity by adopting a jovial attitude, perpetuated by my schoolmates even to this day.

My sister and others in primary school thus called me a “nerd.” Yeah, that’s right. Me, Gus!

When I started college at the Good Citizenship College, I had only one schoolmate from secondary/primary school upon whom I could depend to help me maintain my sanity and false self – Cambie, who was my roommate at the dorm during my freshman year in college. To shorten that story, I flunked out of school as my persona fell apart. Cambie was too interested in girls and not enough interested in school to pay much attention to his roommate’s sanity.

I returned to the subculture of my youth in an effort to reestablish my connections to a false sense of self, living at home with my parents. In that mode, I completed college-level courses at Flunkin University, left home to attend the Institute of Model Rocketry Appreciation (where I also reconnected with my female friend from primary school, Helen, who helped me once again fully function in a dysfunctional funk for a while, until I started spiraling downward) and finally, after running away from home on a 10-day route from my hometown to Seattle, WA, to Los Angeles, CA, and back in late September/early October 1984 and a detox visit to my grandmother at the end of that year, I returned home one more time and graduated from Questionable Character College, where, in the midst of taking classes, my first official mental breakdown occurred in 1985, followed by a short series of psychological counseling sessions. You should have seen the fuss they made over a guy named Gus. I did tell you my name is Gus, didn’t I?

So, by 1985, I had lost myself, found myself, realized myself was not myself and still had not accepted who I was. Well, what’s a guy to do but find the woman with whom he knew would not want children by him and marry her? In 1986, I married the one woman from my childhood who waited patiently on me to “grow up” and become a money-earning man. For many years, we stayed interested in each other sexually, diverting any nonmarital sexual attraction back to one another. Chemically, we were compatible (and still are, as far as I know). In our years of marriage, I have had only one full mental breakdown, in mid-1991, and one partial mental breakdown, in 2006. In the first one, I was able to stay employed with the aid of counseling to keep me within the bounds of my subcultural social upbringing. In the second one, I lost the desire to project my false self any longer. Since then, I have been essentially unemployable from a personal point of view. I leave the house occasionally, always fearful that others can see or have seen the real “me” and will label me incorrectly. I am not heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, androgynous, transsexual, or any other label of sexual orientation that I’m aware of. I prefer sex with myself, basic autoerotic notions of masturbation having satisfied my sexual needs my whole life, while I can think about anyone or anything I’ve seen in fantasies as a personal turn-on.

In other words, I do not need contact with others to satisfy me sexually. Is that the definition of a “nerd,” a person who is satisfied by one’s self and no other? If so, then I reached the limit of myself much too long ago. All else, this investigation, a so-called self-discovery, is for naught. But I’ve always known that, haven’t I?

In this cage of words that surrounds me, I limit myself, I know. But I have no other understanding of the world without words. I do not understand infinity although I know how to spell it. I see a rotating mass slowly cooling down and call it a planet, giving names to pieces and parts of it, claiming ownership of a section of thin crust that floats over the roiling magmatic core and call that piece of crust my home.

Did I tell you my name is Gus? I can’t remember. But I remember something. The temporary intransigence of others, who led me to believe one thing while I have led myself to believe another, makes me laugh. We try so hard to give permanence to that which does not exist in perpetuity. We want to save species whose end time may have come due to our population explosion but we cannot accept the inevitable wholesale elimination of creatures that found a way to survive on Earth’s crust for millennia before our species swept all before it. We especially cannot see that no species is permanent, including ours, but the magnification of a few thousand generations of us makes many believe in the concept of “forever.” So be it. Let the masses keep massing. They have and will do so without me. I have found me and now can let myself go on.

As I have said more than once, no need to keep repeating myself. As I have said more than once, no need to keep repeating myself. As I have said more than once, no need to keep repeating myself. Oops, sorry about that. Sometimes, these old records of mine skip a few times before I notice. Did I tell you my name is Gus?

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 9:40 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, novel, Story, writing

A Carnival Setting

Saturday, 21 Feb 2009 – The Start of Carnival. My thoughts…what are thoughts? Oh boy, today is not a good day for me. Whatever thoughts are, perhaps the neurochemical firings of the synaptic endings inside an organ encased in a hard shell, they amount to junk.

So much flashing through these thoughts. Brief images. The increase of Latino gang activity in North America. The stock market plunge. Greed, greed and more greed. The detainment of Chinese dissidents during Hillary Clinton’s visit to discuss the triumph of economics over personal freedom. Brouhaha over a cartoon. The gangland murders inside Dublin pubs. The waste of energy to fight a “war” in Afghanistan that won’t ever be won (a few thousand years of history has proven that, in case you missed it). The continued reversal of investment in stock markets. Led Zeppelin songs on a record player. A “bill of rights” on facebook.

Today, I wish for a blank slate to begin new thoughts not influenced by mass media or pop records.

My wish is granted. Turned off the TV. No more surfing the ‘Net on general websites like google or yahoo that used to be an excuse to look for bargain stocks. Like my thoughts, the stock market is simply junk right now – I can wait a few weeks to buy or sell and probably won’t miss the bottom.

Instead, I’ll just sit and watch the bare trees swaying in the wind this afternoon. There’s always tomorrow. The luxury of not being human is not worrying about how to make money everyday or what to do about other mouths to feed. Today, the world can completely take care of itself without me. I just want to take care of myself, selfishly, deliciously so.

I’m going to enjoy Carnival by doing something I absolutely, positively enjoy more than anything I can think of – nothing!

No more journal/blog/facebook/twitter/plaxo/linkedin/comment entries for a while. Whenever I feel like getting back in front of this laptop computer, I’m going to work on a novel in progress. I put aside the novel to entertain others online, in the process ignoring me for too long. For now and a while longer, I’m disconnected from the online world, and will be kind to the one person who appreciates what I do, think, and see more than anyone else – me. I’ve spent too much time creating a surrogate “me” that I forgot the real “me” is here and needs his own special attention, especially from me. Call me a nerd, if you will, but I like me…a lot. And in my nonhuman world, “me” is all I’ve got!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post

20 February 2009

Update on the startup I worked with

I was supposed to meet with a local business leader about his involvement in a potential startup. A couple of weeks have passed and I have not heard anything more about a meeting with him. Of course, he’s a very busy man so it doesn’t mean he’s lost interest in the idea. In fact, from what I understand, he clearly saw that the idea is a good one and should be established in the market, especially as this economy gets ready to turn around, meaning that the startup team should strike while the iron is hot.

On a separate note, my life has taken a detour. After much consideration, I regretfully informed the startup team earlier today that I’ve decided I’m not the one who should act as general manager for their group. For the startup to work, I believe the person in charge should have a burning desire to achieve specific, concrete goals, including staying on top of the incremental successes of a small startup. I recently accepted a teaching position and feel that at this point in my career my skills are best applied to teaching others, as opposed to always looking for the next round of funding, going on the road to sell/demo the product, managing engineering design, overseeing the manufacturing process, etc., that a startup will require of a general manager/CEO/president/project manager for many months to come as it ramps up into a full-fledged company.

I thanked my colleagues for inviting me to join the well-rounded group of engineers – I’ve always been impressed by the combined engineering talent of the team. I know they will be successful and encouraged them to keep plugging along on the design work. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for an available, proven leader to step in and help them get a solid sales/marketing plan put together and full production started. A colleague suggested they periodically check the US PTO database to ensure no one else has received a patent in their market. I also said that as soon as they get the prototypes built, including a small trifold brochure describing the product’s basic functions and potential applications, one of the team members should work with his contacts in the product’s market to promote the prototype units. He can use the prototypes and word-of-mouth advertising to get the short-term funding they need from local investors.

Legally speaking, I told them the business plan I created for them is theirs to keep — they can feel free to use and/or modify it as needed. Also, with the email I sent them I surrendered any agreed or implied ownership I may have had in their startup.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my body, like I’ve lost a dear young friend who I deeply cared about. Although I look at life with a cheerful countenance, sometimes my decisions are painful. Today’s decision was tough. As much as I like to think of myself as somewhat visionary and forward-thinking, I realize that my current actions might reflect a short-term attitude. Today I gave up a potential future of a pot of gold and a busy business life for a handful of change and a quiet academic life. Such is the mindset of a retired person with no more materialistic goals.

When your life goals have been met and quiet meditation is your daily existence, with self-actualization and a comfort zone fully established, you should not give in to the worldly temporary temptations of a past life you freely gave up to receive the bigger nonmaterialistic reward that now lasts indefinitely.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:31 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, finance, future, investment, market, money, success

18 February 2009

One Self Expression

18 February 2009 – Big Cove, Alabama. How many of us align our daily thoughts with our daily actions? How many of us, instead, live a life where thoughts and actions pushme/pullya in different directions?

I put myself in the category of the latter. Why?

Well, the subculture which nurtured my childhood did not provide the outlet I needed to discover I was not part of that subculture. Therefore, I spent years of the one life I have living subconsciously. “Years,” a word which designates time, of planets and solar systems in motion, hinting at the piles of moments constituting what amounts to “me.”

Did I excel in my childhood subculture? To an extent, yes, I did. But not totally, because the subconscious self – the real “me” that was suppressed in order for a particular style of “me” to be on display for my parental units and their society – hovered transparently overhead.

At the same time, I am all of me, no matter who I think I am, so when I achieved or did not achieve a goal set by me or someone other than me, even I can only go by my behavior. My behavior and the record of my behavior determine who I am to those around me, because whatever my thoughts may or may not have been were unrecordable during my childhood.

As those before me were limited in the expressions of themselves due to the tools available to them (or created by them), the expression of me has been limited to the tools at my disposal – crayon, pen, pencil, typewriter, 35mm film, digital camera, 8mm movie film, camcorder, computer and smart pen. In the future, others will create and re-create themselves using brain scanners, mating their actions with their exact thoughts and thought patterns to create masterpieces of what it’s like to be one particular human with specific, unique visions.

And yet, the goal of the human species, collectively and individually, is procreation. No matter how well or imperfectly I capture and express myself, the fact remains I have no offspring to call my own. At the end of my life, when I look at the collection of artifacts that chronicle my participation in life on this planet, nothing truly matters except the evidence of my genetic re-creation. Human subcultures may contain evidence of my business and artistic participation. In fact, some may have celebrated what I did. But none of them will matter in 200 years any more than any of my ancestors from 200 years ago really matter to me except as contributors to my DNA. For those ancillary ancestors, the aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews of generations ago who had no children, their influence on me amounts to nearly nothing, unless their nurturing behavior preserved a direct ancestor of mine.

So it is not the accolades of my life that determine who I am in human form, even if they boosted my ego and gave me a moment to enjoy. It is my gift of DNA that makes me human. Otherwise, if I have no children, then I might as well have been a computer or other machine, even if my nurturing behavior helps preserve a direct ancestor for a human offspring, because in this generation or the next, machines will nurture humans in a surrogate manner similar to the way people used to before the advent of computing machines, thus eliminating the excuse the childless have to call themselves human.

I accept the fact I may never be totally human, a fate I long ago determined while living in a subculture centered in the Appalachian mountain chain on the North American continent 37 years ago. In the interim, while I walk this planet, I will discover more of what it’s like to be the perfect embodiment of an animal that didn’t take the opportunity to reproduce itself when it had the chance. In the perspective of walking down the path of the second half of my life, I look up at a life clock I purchased nine years ago and placed on my desk to remind me to stay focused on my task of self-discovery (Internet version available here). According to its estimate, I have 15,052 days left of a natural life. In that timespan, I expect myself to contribute to the development of artificial human surrogates which mimic human thoughts and actions that will help the aging human population prepare a future for its offspring.

Imagine a “home companion” that reminds you of your significant other and can talk to you about your past while the two of you sit at home watching television or eating dinner together.

The home companion has collected all the bits of you:

  • recorded in your years of living on the Internet (e.g., as a member of social networking sites (facebook, myspace, twitter, yahoo, aol, napster, amazon, baidu, etc.), Internet search results, web browser bookmarks, random comments you’ve left on websites, the games you’ve played, the activity of any IP address that can be linked to you),
  • your TV channel selections through the years recorded at the offices of cable/satellite TV offices,
  • the electronic files on your computing devices (computers, cell phones, DVRs, smart appliances, etc.),
  • your shopping patterns indicated by the items you’ve purchased,
  • electronic captures of your brain patterns,
  • images of the objects around your domicile, and other daily living areas (office, school, etc.), and
  • links to every other connected person who may share objects or life patterns with you.

That home companion exists today but you just don’t see it yet. And that is the contribution I am making to the success of your offspring. No need to thank me. I’m having fun doing this, including posts on facebook and the study of future cybernetic organisms – hope you’re having fun here, too!!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 4:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: cybernetics, future, surrogate human, technology

17 February 2009

Taking a Break From Economic Analysis

[This post offers no advice, economic or otherwise, so feel free to skip it]

While I sorted my collection of old vinyl LP records recently, I found a set of albums that belonged to a schoolmate of mine. She and I had shared some good times together and presumably she left the records at my place because I had a stereo system on which to play them. In the 25 years that I’ve kept the records, I’ve lost track of why I was supposed to have them so I decided to believe she had loaned them to me until such time she could get them back.

I contacted my friend through facebook, copying her sister on my message, in case my friend was not a regular facebook user. Sure enough, her sister let me know that my friend rarely checks facebook (in fact, I think it was her daughter who set the account up for her). Therefore, the sister said she would gladly receive the albums instead of my friend.

So, to get the records back to my friend, or at least her family, yesterday I took the records with me to a local store that specializes in packing, boxing and shipping items. I have used the store in the past to ship items that I sold on ebay, with satisfactory results. I walked into the store on a Monday, a government holiday in the United States (Presidents Day or Washington’s Birthday), not expecting to see anyone I knew.

Inevitably, when we’re looking our worst or are in a mood for not talking to others, we run into someone we know. Wearing an old parka I picked up in Ireland a couple of years ago, I stood in line at the store and looked over to see a former work colleague, Don, who was dressed in nice casual business attire. Don had worked in marketing but as he looked at my ragged outfit, he told me he now has his own import business. I told him about Tree Trunk Productions while his eyes scoffed at me in Don’s way of wearing his thoughts on his face (his face said, “He has his own website? Ha! Exactly what kind of website does a guy like that have?”).

Don has an off-kilter sense of humor, sort of like Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinison rolled into the suave character actor, David Niven. He bites your head off and spits it out, all while telling you how nice you are and how well he will always remember you as he hands your head back to you, wrapped in paper and stuffed in a nice hat box.

[We exchanged emails later in the day, using both of our humorous points of view to take joking stabs at each other. Hey, what are friends for, right?]

I returned home, picked up my wife and drove us to the theater to see the movie, “Coraline.” After seeing the movie, my wife felt depressed the rest of the day. It didn’t help that we went to a local Chili’s restaurant afterward, sat for 10 minutes without receiving service and walked out to the protests of “Wait, wait” from the hostess (going instead to a new corner pub that opened a little over a mile from our house and serves good burgers).

To be sure, the storyline of the movie is not the most uplifting:

if your parents intentionally ignore you in order to pour their energy into their job (which, if their current project does not work out, means even less food on the table than the scraps you’re eating now), turn to a fantasy world to relieve your boredom.

Perhaps the story is poignant in this economy. I enjoyed the movie more than my wife because I fully comprehend the importance of a fantasy world for one’s creativity. Understandably, fantasies in and of themselves do not put food on the table, but the fantasies may result in your creating something that attracts the attention of people who like seeing or reading fantasies and who will pay you to share your fantasies with them. Even if you have no ability to turn your fantasies into a viable enterprise, having a creative escape mechanism can help you relieve the daily stresses and boredom that creep into your life.

I have lived a sheltered life, rarely bumping into the “underworld” of illegal activities we call ‘crime’ that some estimates say totals more than all government military budgets put together. So, while trillions of dollars are spent in the exchange of goods and services that don’t get taxed, may include bribes, definitely include the exchange of free electronic copies of software, music, movies, and literature, I walk through the world expecting my colleagues to participate in the “up and up,” buying and selling items for which we expect to pay government taxes and from whom the item was acquired legally, benefitting our society with this social framework of trust. I know, I know. Don’t tell me. What kind of fantasy is that, especially in this economy?! … lol … At least I returned a set of albums to a friend of mine, which makes me feel good and costs nothing but packing and shipping.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 12:03 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, government

13 February 2009

The face of the future

First of all, I’m sorry that your company is losing such a valuable employee. However, these economic times catch people in jobs that have become superfluous to belt-tightening companies so it’s not the employees who are missed so much as the company is glad to report reduced costs, no matter what the future circumstances may be. In other words, some layoffs are related to trimming dead wood — this particular layoff looks more like strategic planning. I ate lunch with with a sales colleague the other day, and from what I gather, the OEM business is going through turmoil at your company right now. Guess you got caught in the crosshairs, to use a well-worn battle analogy.

In any case, wow! You’re at a crossroads that I envy. The possibilities, though not endless, seem infinite nonetheless. The variety of skills, interests, resources, and mindsets you’ve built…I want to change your name to “THE BABEL TOWER OF POWER”! lol

As far as what you can do with what you’ve got…hmmm…that’s an interesting one.

As you and I can clearly see, the global system of trade, quasi-capitalistic (certainly opportunistic, maybe too much so), is headed down a path toward more reductions in payrolls, more bankruptcies and more chaos at the macro- and microeconomic scale as small mom-and-pop businesses feel the pinch while their customers lose jobs at large factories and megacorporations. How far we keep spiraling down, I can’t say. I know that I’ve lived through three recessions (about one per decade), including in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and now the fourth one in the late 2000s. The world hasn’t come to an end during any of them. My mother in-law lived through the “Great Depression” while my parents were born during its late heyday in the mid-1930s, and they’re still here to talk about economic cycles.

In every case, humans found not only a way to cope but a new way to live. My father in-law went from a life as a teacher/school principal to the life of a government inspector, then a radio DJ and finally the owner of a two-way radio installation/repair shop up until the year or so before he died. My grandfather spent 29 years in the Navy (1929 to 1959), and retired to the leisurely life of a security guard. My wife’s aunt ran a florist shop. My great-uncle ran a post office and his wife was the secretary at a doctor’s office.

In other words, in the work lives of many of my relatives, government employment helped them through the rough economic times, both during the Great Depression and WWII.

Hopefully, we aren’t facing another major world war. What we are facing is a shift of the balance of economic strength from Europe/United States to Asia. China holds large reserves of purchased U.S. treasuries, as well as spent decades converting exported cheaply-manufactured goods into hordes of imported hard currency.

Therefore, on what does our long-term future rest? What, if I were you, would I consider the best place to invest my time and energy to ensure a healthy future for myself and my significant other(s)?

I’ll recap your interests here for myself. You said you had reams of stuff ranging from books on business bios to fashion design, poetry, fiction, history, travel and marketing.

You’ve traveled more widely than I have and have more contacts in the Asian world, I surmise. Thus, I won’t assume I know more than you do when it comes to both observing and imagining what the world will be like when Asian influences upon global mass media outshine the U.S.-centric “Western” mass media that we grew up with.

My discussions with Asian friends, employees and coworkers (mainly intellectual ones – I don’t think I have a single “rural” Asian friend) has shown me that what I read in my youth about Indian and Chinese cultures incorporating other cultures as they travel, rather than overrunning them as Western culture tends to do, will reflect a future past replete with Western tones.

So, sitting here in my comfortable study, looking out the window where I can see wild Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) growing in the ditch of my wooded wild yard, populated with other non-native species like nandina (Nandina domestica), vinca (Vinca major), daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and untold others, I know that this planet is getting tinier every day.

If I were you, I’d study the next wave of human development, where the language of global business, English, will incorporate other pictographic symbols, such as Chinese characters for a logical numbering system that English does not have (for instance, note how our numbering system in the teens (eleven, twelve, thirteen, etc.) is different from the rest of the decade numbers (20s, 30s, etc. – decade+one (21), decade+two (22)), thus making English-speaking children waste time learning as archaic a numbering system as English money or American weights and measures). I would see if there is a university student exchange program that gives you a paid study time abroad, preferably in a large Chinese city (but studying in a small village has enlightened many of my friends who worked for the Peace Corps). I would use my skills of fashion, poetry and business to teach those around me about working holistically in the global marketplace, showing my new colleagues and fellow students that those who can absorb multiple cultures and find a way to combine the best of the cultures into valuable resources (like a computer system interface that is not slanted toward English but appeals to all humans’ understanding of picture-words), will be the ones who define the “next great thing” like the intuitive interface on the iPhone, the image of a stadium as a bird’s nest, a simple swoosh to define a product’s marketing such as the ones that shoe manufacturers use, or any other method where storytelling and product sales meet elegantly.

I have always believed in your ability to see beyond your limitations. In some cultures, you are still “just a woman,” good for having babies. To be sure, you are capable of and may desire to have children, but you will do more than that, too, I know.

Most importantly, the perspective of both sexes is necessary to move the world of humans fully into the 21st Century. The latest U.S. Presidential election showed us that gender and race have almost become a moot point. Almost. That’s a word that worries me. When economic times get “bad,” especially in the news, many people look back and declare the past as a better time, including old ideas that no longer make sense. If we want to keep moving forward to a truly better time, then you, a young, talented, ambitious businesswoman, are the reason we will do so.

No matter what you do, you will succeed. No question there. You’ll have fun while learning and teaching others. Another no-brainer. I’m no wise guru or oracle but I’ll pretend to be one for a moment and peer into the future. This crystal ball in front of me is a little dusty so pardon me while I wipe it clean. Okay, the haze inside the ball is clearing. I see an image of you 30 years from now. You’ve received some sort of accolades from your associates. You’re standing in front of a virtual podium, from which you’re broadcasting a 3D message to viewers and fans around the globe, both to people on the street and to people in online role-playing games. From your words, I gather that you’ve written a bestselling story that was turned into a 3D “movie” — apparently, in the future, as we write stories, our text is instantly converted into animated “movies” so that we can see we’re moving our characters in 3D space as we type, complete with hyperlinks and running commentaries from online collaborators who can watch and participate in our writing with us — a combination of word processors and role playing games that you helped invent. I can hear from your talk that storytelling is a completely market-driven vocation, so that any mention of a place, an article of clothing, food, or even the characters that we create (who typically resemble real people we know or celebrities), automatically links to the rest of the real-world existence of these. You thank a bunch of people who helped you out, including your university friends who were on the cutting edge of software development in a village of unemployed intellectuals in 2009 and 2010. Your friends pop up in 3D broadcasts next to you as you mention them and thank you for their success, too. Your son surprises you and sticks his head in from his job as a manager of a space hotel, saying that without your foresight to establish a foundation for research into how to tap the “brainpower” of idle computing devices in people’s homes and offices (including computers, UMPCs such as cell phones, and smart appliances), we might never have figured out how to eradicate major diseases, an effort that ultimately enabled him to overcome the paralyzing disease that made him a quadriplegic and later learn how to permanently work and live in space.

See, I’m excited for your future! I hope your boyfriend is, too. Next time he wants to meet you, remind him that you’ve got a space colony to establish so you can’t diddle-daddle too long. lol

BTW, the classes I’m teaching as a part-time adjunct instructor are “Introduction to Computer Programming,” using the Python language, and “Strategies for the Technical Professional,” which is the first class that students have to take at ITT Tech, meaning I am the teacher/coach that ITT Tech students see as the “face” of ITT Tech. No pressure on me, huh?

Gotta go. Time for lunch. Tell your boyfriend, in case he doesn’t know it already in his country, that Valentine’s Day is the biggest holiday in the U.S., so he owes you something important (whatever it is that you think he can afford to give you, of course), since he knows you before you got famous and can take you some place nice without having to take your entourage with you, too.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, election, finance, market, money, success, teaching, technology, writing

11 February 2009

Divvying Up Your Earnings

Making money is easy. Even in this economy. No matter where you find yourself, you can earn a wage using your own initiative. How you go about it is up to you.

I have seen people sitting in parking lots / carparks outside large box stores (Dunnes, Wal-Mart and the like) offering items for sale out of their vehicles. Although I declined to purchase the seller’s “cheap” item that can be found at a higher price inside the big box store, including warranty and return policy, I have observed others buy an item from the trunk of a car without blinking an eye.

I can guess that some of those items for sale had walked out of a store on their own or “accidentally” fallen off the back of a delivery truck, couldn’t you? But I’m not here to promote illegal sales. I’m only pointing out that people find ways to put food on their table without resorting to standing in line for unemployment benefits (or go on the dole, as they say).

So, if this economic downturn has put you on the street without a regular wage to call your own, what can you do?

I won’t speak for everyone out there because the myriad ways one ends up without a living wage would require a book to describe how you ended up where you could sit and read this blog entry while wondering how you’re going to pay your bills this month. Today, I will speak to those of you who’ve had the opportunity to earn a few years’ wages and could have put a little money away for a rainy day.

Okay, so now it’s a rainy day (as a matter of fact, right now the sky is falling outside my window as a rather large set of thunderstorms pass by overhead). You’re sitting on the doorstep, deciding if you should hold your hand out while playing random tunes on a harmonica. [To be sure, you could earn a few coins an hour panhandling in that way and might even make yourself famous if you could park your body in front of a popular webcam. Never turn down the chance to make money and have fun at the same time.] What do you do?

Have you ever thought about an income based on company dividends? While all your friends are telling you to have a party because life sucks, look at the money you’ve put aside. Say, it’s enough to pay a few months’ rent. What do you do?

Well, I’m not your broker or your advisor, so don’t expect me to have an insight into your financial goals. However, if I were you, I’d open a window on the Internet and see what my money could do for me. Perhaps I could start a small company, using the money to pay for fees and business licenses. Or I could buy a used van and put all my stuff inside, finding a free place to park down by the river. I could go down to the local bank and take out a loan using my money for collateral. Or I might just have to pay rent, after all. Certainly, I’d be looking for another job, calling up friend, coworkers and family to see what they had to offer. In the meantime, I suggest you look at your financial future.

This economic slump will not last forever, even if it will get worse. Therefore, now’s the time to start looking at companies whose stock is very low yet they’re stilling paying out quarterly dividends. Why should you care? Well, let’s say that you and your friends all have the same amount of money to invest in your lives. Some of your friends will inevitably buy something to satisfy their need for instant gratification — a boat, an RV, a second car, etc. In times like these, you can open the classified ads and find all sorts of bargain basement deals on motorbikes, SUVs and other items that looked good to someone when the economy was hopping but now are eating a hole in their wallet. So, while your friends are scrambling to find someone to buy their toys, what could you be doing? Instead of putting your money to instant use, why don’t you invest your money in stocks that pay dividends? That way, once every three months, you have an income that you can use to buy more stocks or to pay household bills, instead of paying for a houseboat that you use a few months out of the year (of course, if your dividend income keeps growing, you could have both, but let’s stick to the basics for a moment).

The point here is that you have a choice in what to do with your income — before you find yourself on the street penniless, think about taking care of your future using today’s paycheck. Sit down and determine what you’re going to do with that 20% you promised you’d put aside every two weeks. Make sure some of it goes into dividend-paying company stocks. That way, when or if you end up without a regular paycheck, you have a little buffer built in that rewards you for your foresight. Then, when you’re out of a job while sitting down looking at a small nest egg that will only cover a few months’ rent, you know you can focus on the rent, and let your upcoming dividends pay for insurance or other bills you worked out to pay annually, semi-annually or quarterly. Better yet, if your dividends are working out well, you might even decide to take that nest egg and start your own Internet business.

Don’t wait until you’re out of work to say, “If only I saved up some money!” Your financial future starts now. Invest in it.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 12:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post

09 February 2009

Making the most of a household budget

How many of us started our adult lives knowing the amount of money to budget toward our monthly cost of living? Not many, I suspect. If you were like me, you might have asked your parents and older friends what they paid for “utilities” (energy, sewage, water, recycling, etc.), rent/mortgage, and other miscellaneous costs, but you didn’t realize what your out-of-pocket costs were like until you saw your savings depleted for deposits toward phone, apartment, insurance and utility usage, not to mention that first down payment for an automobile or later for a home mortgage.

As the months went by, you got a decent idea what your future monthly payments would be like, especially annual utility costs that cycled from season-to-season. Depending on your household and number of roommates (including friends, spouses, significant others, siblings, children and/or extended family), you pooled resources to pay bills, assuming that whatever was used the month before was going to be used in the same amount the next year.

But is that true?

In some parts of the world, droughts and water restrictions have driven the cost of water through the roof, forcing us to make changes to our water usage habits such as no more watering patches of lawn (brown is the new green) or washing the shaggy dog (shabby chic is still in, isn’t it?).

What about our energy usage?

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy and EPA, the following shows the average annual energy usage of a typical household in 2001:

  • 49%, Heating and Cooling
  • 13%, Water Heater
  • 10%, Lighting
  • 8%, Other (household products, including stoves, ovens, microwaves, and small appliances like coffee makers and dehumidifiers)
  • 7%, Electronics
  • 6%, Clothes Washer & Dryer
  • 5%, Refrigerator
  • 2%, Dishwasher

What does that mean, exactly?

Well, if you’re paying an average of $500 per month for energy usage, then converting all of your lights to high-efficiency CFL bulbs or LED fixtures, reducing monthly lighting costs by 75% and 90%, respectively, you’ll save $37.50/month with all CFL light bulbs or $45/month with all LED light fixtures. A decent monthly savings.

But is that enough to convince us to pay the higher initial costs of the CFL bulbs or LED light fixtures versus conventional incandescent bulbs? Tough call. Personally, my wife and I have switched out light bulbs from incandescent to CFL as the incandescent ones burn out. That way, we don’t waste the incandescent light bulbs we bought. [I guess we could just remove the incandescent bulbs and store them as backups but we’d rather use them up and not worry about keeping track of the old bulbs. As you can see, I’d like to say we’re an energy-efficient household but even as informed and educated as we are about the importance of reducing energy, we aren’t true converts to the “cause” but we are making changes.]

More importantly, wouldn’t reducing the other two items on the annual energy usage list make more sense economically on both the macroeconomic scale (you know, the part where experts say, “If everyone switched to GenX superefficient technology, we could power the whole Eastern seaboard for a year on just one flashlight!”) and the average household scale (the one we really only care about)? The answer, of course, is yes.

But how do we remove or reduce that 62% of our monthly energy bill? In many cases, such as flats or apartment buildings, you can’t remove or change the heating or cooling system yourself so your only choice is personal reduction. Say, like turning down the thermostat at night and throwing an extra blanket on the bed. If you own your home, you should consider switching to highly efficient heating / cooling systems like heat pumps (in temperate climates) or solar water heaters.

The important thing to keep in mind is the fact that unlike other bills that don’t vary from month to month (car payments, housing rent, etc.), you have control over your monthly energy usage. And since you have control, it’s important to know where to make the most impact with your changes. Washing dishes by hand versus using a dishwasher is not going to save you a lot of money (assuming you already have or own a dishwasher), because in both cases you’ll use hot water and often you’ll use more hot water washing dishes by hand. If your monthly usage is similar to the average household, even eliminating dishwashing altogether will only save you 2% of your $500 bill (or $10). In other words, don’t tell your boyfriend that taking you out to eat is going to save him money because you won’t have to wash dishes. Unless, of course, it’s Valentine’s Day or your birthday – in that case, he probably won’t want to dispute the facts. ;^)

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:06 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, investment, teaching, technology

Elevator Pitch

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “elevator pitch.” Basically, an elevator pitch is an extended version of a first impression. Imagine an aggressive young entrepreneur spying a wealthy old business owner stepping into an elevator (or lift, if you will). The entrepreneur jumps in, too, goes through a quick introduction, and starts a pitch about a product or business. The business owner holds up his hand and says, “Okay, I like your style, kid. I’m riding up to the 80th floor. You’ve got my attention until I step off.”

We all make first impressions on each other, whether we intend to or not.

A reader went through my websites, read a lot of the material and asked me what I’m really all about because my writing is all over the place, from business discussions to esoteric philosophical posing. He wanted to know what my purpose was in getting involved in a startup.

Good question. Obviously, I haven’t developed an elevator pitch and used it to narrowly define my presence in cyberspace.

Five or six years ago, I talked with a coworker, Ron, whose son was attending Georgia Tech. I reminisced with him about my freshman year at Georgia Tech and the decisions I made that led me away from the institute, hoping that his son would think through the effects the decisions he made would have on his future success. Ron laughed that I had a good story to tell and should think of myself serving as an example to others. In other words, I had started down a path determined for me by adults that would lead to their definition of success yet took another path that to the adults looked like failure but had led me to success all the same. Not everyone has such a story to tell.

I suppose he’s right. In my latest adventure of reconnecting with primary school mates through online gathering places like facebook, myspace, and myyearbook, I have discovered that every one of us who has found the other via the Internet has made a success of his or her life, despite hardships and diversions from a predetermined path.

On the other hand, some of my schoolmates died long ago. Others either aren’t jumping on the cybersocial network fadwagon or are just not available. Their level of success I cannot determine. I know one or two of them are too busy for casual surfing because of their successful position in society. But others? I can’t say and won’t guess.

So where does that leave those like me who don’t have a vested interest in the future (i.e., no offspring to nurture)? I took a nap at lunch today and woke up with the remnants of a dream on the edge of my consciousness. From what I gather, the dream had to do with standing in front of a group of people of various ages. I asked the people to come back to class the next time with an elevator pitch. When one of the people asked me what an elevator pitch was, I then told them the story of my life and how it had led to my being there in front of them at that moment. The elevator pitch I gave them was this, or something like it:

“I imagine some of you have no idea what you want to do with your life but you’re here because you want to find out. As you can see, I have been in your shoes. If you want to keep having fun while figuring out how to use your strengths and weaknesses to succeed in this world, this class is for you. Even if you don’t want to succeed, this class is for you because we’re going to have fun. In fact, I’m going to reward you everytime you show up for class [handed something out]. Before we continue, I’ll let you in on a secret — there’s no such thing as failure, in this class or anywhere else. Life is just a series of events that you can learn from and the more you open yourself up to learning, the more fun you’ll have getting ahead in this world. If you want to be here but for some reason can’t make it, I’ll do what I can to get you out of the ditch or out of a rut and back on the road to success. Just let me know why you can’t make it so I can help you. I can’t think for you, either, but I can help you learn how to focus your thinking on what works for you.

“I’m not here for my health. I’m here because I want to learn from you and know that you’ll learn something from me. Once you figure this out, you’ll see the world in a whole new way, that the world was built for you to do well and have fun doing it.

“You can’t stop other people’s opinions of you, positive or negative, but you will start taking care of your opinion of yourself. When you go to bed tonight, review the day’s activities, ignoring the voice of any nagging naysayers you heard that day. Instead of rehashing what you have done over and over again, think about what you learned so that you don’t have to repeat yourself again. We only repeat ourselves because we haven’t taken the time to see the lesson we’ve learned over and over again. Okay, you’ve learned it! Go on! Tomorrow, the next brand-new day in your life, you’ll find yourself waking up with a smile, ready for the next adventure.”
I sit here with a smile, believing that I’ve found my elevator pitch. I hope you’ve found yours.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, success, teaching, writing

08 February 2009

More about “Revolutionary Wealth”

As I leave the subject of what the futurists, Heidi and Alvin Toffler, have to say about the world economy, I’ll quote a few passages of their book, “Revolutionary Wealth,” that captured my attention enough that I dogeared the pages where I marked the passages for future re-reading. From the paperback printed in 2006 (ISBN: 978-0-385-52207-6):

Page 5

Tomorrow’s economy, for example, will present significant business opportunities in fields like hyper-agriculture, neurostimulation, customized health care, nanoceuticals, bizarre new energy sources, streaming payment systems, smart transportation, flash markets, new forms of education, non-lethal weapons, desktop manufacturing, programmable money, risk management, privacy-invasion sensors that tell us when we’re being observed – indeed, sensors of all kinds – plus a bewildering myriad of other goods, services and experiences.

Page 109

Beginning with our six billion-plus brains, and based on the rates at which they absorb information and how fast we forget it, Lesk roughly calculated that the “total memory of all the people now alive” is the equivalent of 1,200 petabytes of data. Since a petabyte is equal to 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes, 1,200 sounds like a lot. But, Lesk nonchalantly assures us, “we can store digitally everything that everyone remembers. For any single person, this isn’t even hard.”

After all, he continues, “the average American spends 3,304 hours per year with one or another kind of media.” Some 1,578 hours are spent watching TV, another 12 in front of movie screens – which adds up to about 11 million words. Another 354 hours are devoted to newspapers, magazines and books. The result, he suggests, is that “in 70 years of life you would be exposed to around six gigabytes of ASCII.” Today, you can buy a 400-gigabyte disk drive for your personal computer.

Page 355

In the United States and most rich democracies, wave conflict is usually subtler than in the poor world. But it is there nonetheless. It appears at many different levels, ranging from energy policy and transportation to corporate regulation and, above all, education.

Industrial America was built on the back of cheap fossil fuels and an immense infrastructure for distributing energy around the country. Costly and overdependent on imported oil and gas, the American energy-distribution system includes 158,000 miles of electrical transmission lines and 2 million miles of oil pipelines that, because they are heavy fixed assets, are hard to alter in response to rapid change.

The United States is rushing to build an advanced knowledge-based economy but remains saddled with an industrial-age, legacy-energy system politically defended by some of the world’s biggest and most influential corporations against a growing, growling public demand for fundamental change in the system. The conflict is not usually posed in these terms, but it is, in fact, an example of Second Wave vs. Third Wave warfare.

Page 356

The U.S. transportation system, on which most business enterprises directly or indirectly depend, is still gridlocked by a politically powerful triad of oil companies, car manufacturers and often corrupt highway-construction firms.

Thus, while America’s communication system has introduced a dazzling succession of innovations, making it possible to distribute knowledge in ways never before possible, Americans are still denied energy and transport systems that would be more efficient, safer and cleaner. These key elements of America’s infrastructure – and their component subsystems – are de-synchronized and fought over by vested industrial-age interests and breakthrough innovators advancing the knowledge-based wealth systems. Wave conflict again.

 

The Tofflers go on to show a few examples of similar issues in corporate business practices and mass education (the “factory-focused education system,” as they call it). What I see here is opportunity. We will not get rid of the oil dependence infrastructure or interdependent massive road system anytime soon so how do we make use of these systems to take us out of the 20th Century and place both feet in the 21st Century? Obviously, the viability of alternative energy has a long way to rise up in the forefront of the national conscious before there’s any kind of massive outcry for a personal solar/wind/geothermal power plant in every household. More people are using alternative energy than our last energy crisis in the 1970s but we haven’t tipped the balance away from oil and coal just yet.

Therefore, while our elected officials debate the components of the megatron stimulus bill that will supposedly jumpstart our economy, I suggest every one of us look at our place in the economy and see what we can do to put food on the table while lowering our dependence on fossil fuels. Simple things that frugal shoppers have used for centuries like buying dry goods in bulk. More complicated things like switching low-level home lighting from house current to solar panel charged rechargeable batteries (e.g., solar lights in the walkway leading up the house or end table lamps using directional LED lights next to the bed (for those in either houses or apartments)). Some homes in desert/subtropical areas already use solar electrical panels or water heaters disguised as roof tiles. In other words, it doesn’t take an act of Congress to change your habits to decrease your dependence on oil.

At the same time, let’s encourage each other, as well as young people thinking about their careers, to look at non-traditional jobs, ones that may not have even been invented yet, in order to help build a new future for all of us. Maybe someone out there can create herself a “job” that simply means you’re compiling what your network of workers/friends/family are doing online and find a way to build an instant market or product they can all use/buy simply by talking about it (e.g., pose a series of fun questions that invite marketing input on a line of potential Internet products, products that may save lives in a regional emergency (“5. In relation to question 4, if you knew that folks in New Orleans were about to experience another hurricane, how could your cell phone help?”)). Based on what Lesk said in the Tofflers’ book, it shouldn’t take a big disk drive to store the data you’ve collected and you should be able to use a home computer to process it.

With the increased use in online applications like facebook and twitter, surely we can spend time not only remembering the good old days and chatting about our latest love interests but we can also open a dialogue with each other, asking difficult questions like, “What have you done to make your life better today? I’ve lost 13 pounds so far this year by asking myself these questions: 1) Did you eat one less doughnut? 2) Did you walk up-and-down the shopping center instead of drive from store-to-store?” Let’s have fun but let’s also find ways to enjoy our lives together responsibly.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 7:24 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, election, finance, government, market, technology

07 February 2009

A Phoenix with Nine Lives

Thursday, 5 February 2009. Eimear, I believe in the power of not believing. Do not put unnecessary expectations on the future so that what happens to you, no matter how wonderful, will surprise you.

As I told you earlier this week, Thursday (today) was going to be a day of decision-making. What the decision(s) would concern, I did not know and did not try to comprehend (Je ne comprends pas le futur, I suppose I could say, perhaps incorrectly, in the little French I remember from high school).

Yesterday was a day for good news. My family learned from the doctor that all is well for a family member. In addition, the dean of the local campus of a technical institute arranged an interview with me on Friday for an adjunct teaching position. I also got an email from a friend who wanted to talk about a business deal.

This morning, I woke up but could not concentrate because my thoughts were jumping from one good feeling to another. Even so, I thought back to my earlier plans to make today a special day for determining my future, in this case with the word “future” having more of an unsure feeling, as if I planned today to say goodbye to myself or at least get rid of my “self” as in the old “me,” making way for the new “me” to take over what I’ve recently thought were the resources being hogged and wasted by the previous self.

Now, I sit here coming down from an adrenaline high. You’ve told me what brings you ultimate joy is the happiness you see in your daughter’s laughter, which adds to your sense of wealth. I have no children so my sense of joy comes from what makes me go to sleep while trying not to build excitement of what I’ll wake up to feeling in the first minutes and hours of the morning of the next day in unbridled anticipation of what the rest of the day will bring.

This morning, I only expected to shed the skin of my old self. I placed no other burdens on me, so that there would be no debts I felt the old self had left to pay off that would force me to keep perpetuating the old “me.”

Now, how I purge my old selves has been a personal secret of mine, but certainly nothing new to the thoughts of other humans like me. I am not inventing something new here but simply applying age-old secrets of the phoenix to my life. I may yet share the secret with you. We’ll see. hehe

My old selves have their stories to tell because they have existed in a cycle of birth, living, and death, every self giving an example of one person’s way to deal with the stimuli s/he faced. Occupationally, the selves have served as a lawn boy, piano refinisher, fast food cook, store clerk, college student, baritone horn musician (Georgia Tech Navy ROTC marching/jazz band), fast food cashier, restaurant cook, door-to-door book salesman, telephone book deliverer, engineering assistant, technical typist, computer systems operator, computer graphics illustrator, control room specialist, data analyst, test engineer, engineering project manager, senior program manager, company owner/president and consultant. The common thread I see, the essence of all of these versions of me, is the part that records on “paper” the major and minor events of each self’s existence, including language patterns in the form of verbalized thoughts, as well as physical whereabouts of a self such as attending the showing of a movie picture, consuming food in a public place, etc., and putting these recordings into stories. Basically what all humans have done from the dawn of time.

In recording these stories, I have created works of fiction I’ve told you about and posted on my website (http://www.treetrunkproductions.org) as well as works of nonfiction, such as school reports, guides to the use of hardware and software (called user manuals), test plans, program management plans, business plans, etc.

The works of fiction I have given to the world for free because they belong to everyone as my repayment for their participation in my life, even if marginally as a member of the species, Homo sapiens, who wanders anywhere on or near this planet.

The works of nonfiction have served as the barter I exchange for labor credits (i.e., money) I use to make a viable place for me to live with other humans in the social system we call the economy (the one you and I might see as naturally capitalistic because of our upbringing under the political system called the United States of America).

One of the works of nonfiction that I devoted a good bit of time to back in October 2008 was a business plan I put together for a group of inventors and investors who had come up with a product that has no market. In fact, their product creates the market. Therefore, my business plan had to include not only the usual financial incentives to entice investors (legal rigmarole) but also describe the product and its potential market in some detail. I shared the business plan with the team of inventors and they agreed that the plan described what they wanted to productize (after he suggested it, I added a nine-page product description written by one of the inventors that gave the product more clarity to an uninformed reader). The plan included either a way to form an S / C corporation or a limited liability corporation (LLC), depending on what the inventors and/or future investors wanted.

A week or so ago, I went to lunch with a former work colleague of mine whom I consider a great man. He and his wife have raised wonderful children while he has created for himself a good sales/marketing vocation, mainly at the company where I worked with him. He played hockey and tennis while growing up in Canada but has lived in the Huntsville area for over 20 years now and calls this area home. Through his sports and business connections, he has established a good network of friends he calls upon when he either needs to give or receive advice.

At lunch, where I just expected us to talk about what we’d done in the past few years, our conversation led to my interest in the business plan I’d developed in October. I bounced a high-level idea of the product and a general biography of the inventors off my friend to gauge his interest. He said he was willing to hear more so I got him to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), allowing me to disclose in full detail the product the inventor team had put together up to now.

During our phone conversation earlier today, my friend said he had looked over the business plan and is more than excited to get involved in the product’s marketability. In fact, I was surprised at his enthusiasm. He was excited enough about the product that he had told a colleague highly placed in the Huntsville business world about the general principles of the product, seeing if his colleague would want to join him in making the product successful. More than that, he told his colleague that I would be the one to run the company!

Well, that got me shaking like a leaf. One of my dreams since childhood that I started nurturing in sixth grade as I sold stickers shaped like UT football helmets from my school locker, imagining myself an entrepreneur (making pure profit on the sale since I had gotten the stickers for free from local businesses in Kingsport and Knoxville), was to run my own company one day. That’s why I now have my own consulting firm that I call Tree Trunk Productions so that I can be my own one-man CEO/President/owner of a company.

However, my recent work occupation/self was not a person who wanted to run a company of more than one person because he didn’t want to serve at the whim of others. He had retired from the business world so he could be an independent person, free to follow whatever whims of his that would vary from day to day. That old self finally realized that what had first been a set of freely random actions had in fact become a patterned set of actions. Freedom was illusory, in that sense, because he had not given himself up to actually doing completely random things from moment to moment. He ended up finding a label to justify his limited set of actions and called himself a writer, even going so far as to find pride in that label and further call himself an author.

Isn’t there a saying along the lines of “Pride goes before the fall”? [yes, it’s an abridgement of Proverbs 16:18, according to my quick search on the Internet] Well, I knew that my pride of calling myself an author would doom me to end that author’s life. In other words, by calling myself an author I had accomplished the goal that my desire to call myself an author had achieved. I did not desire to live the poor, lonely life of an author but only to call myself one. Mission accomplished! On to the next life.

So here I am, the new self, now ready to start my new life. I will interview tomorrow for a part-time teaching position that I may or may not get. Either way, I have offered my training services to another person in the training/education field and fulfilled my wish to present myself as a teacher/guru. Whether my other wish to live as a guru is fulfilled now or later in life matters not, because next week I will meet with business leaders higher up the food chain to determine my future as a company leader. Upon that I expect my future depends. What becomes of that future, I do not know, but that is what excites me today.

And now you see why I told you that patience has a payoff. For me, patiently waiting for what becomes of me has indeed been gratuitously rewarded in a way I had not expected! The new me was born today and like a newborn has this whole new world to get to know. What’s more exciting than that?!

Je suis prêt à l’avenir. Le futur est maintenant!

Meanwhile, tonight we attend a funeral home visitation for a friend of my wife who died this week. Death and life are always intertwined. One should be prepared to accept both at once because one does not exist without the other ,so I say celebrate them as they do in New Orleans!!

More as it develops…

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 9:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, success, writing

06 February 2009

Just the Facts, not Opinions, Sir

All of us read, hear, and see discussions about the science of global weather patterns, including a phenomenon known as global warming. Political pundits argue for and against the need for the human species to take note of our contribution to changes in weather patterns, including global warming, and change our economic habits. Opinions on the subject of global warming vary like the colors in a paint store. If you don’t have an opinion of your own, you can mix and match other opinions as you please.

Although I don’t work as a scientist, I can observe the weather at a local level and make an informed opinion. I can research the weather reports and scientific studies available at my local library or those posted on the Internet and come up with a summarized view of global weather changes through history.

My observations at the local level tell me we don’t seem to get as much snow in the northern reaches of the southeastern United States as we used to, which may imply the average temperature of storm systems passing through the area is higher than it used to be.

My reading of Internet reports shows that the average annual temperature of the planet is slowly increasing, and with it are increasing amounts of “greenhouse gases.”

What I can’t prove to myself is the total contribution that one species spread across the globe, Homo sapiens, is causing. To know that, I would have to know the total amount emitted by all species, including plant, animal, eubacteria and the like. I want to know what non-species’ influence to include, like volcanoes. I would also have to know how much extraplanetary influence on weather comes from the Sun and the rest of the galaxy/universe.

Some of this information I can gather from the Internet. In my research, what little I’ve performed, I have come across interesting projections made by scientists who don’t seem to be placing blame on the cause of global warming but merely pointing out potential effects. The most interesting effect I’ve seen so far came from an article titled “Sea level rise may be worse than expected” (accessed on 6 February 2009), with the following points making the most impact on me, especially the highlighted one:

  • When an ice sheet melts, its gravitational pull on the ocean is reduced and water moves away from it. That means sea levels could fall near Antarctica and rise more than expected in the northern hemisphere.
  • Antarctic bedrock that currently sits under the weight of the ice sheet will rebound from the weight, pushing some water out into the ocean.
  • The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet will cause the Earth’s rotation axis to shift, potentially moving water northward.

Of all the reports I’ve read, none of them have talked about the shift in the Earth’s rotation. Instead, they’ve pointed out that the melting of glaciers will remove weight pushing down on rocks and dirt, changing the dynamics of plate tectonics, and they’ve mentioned the possible change to the flow of ocean currents and the ocean’s rise. All of these I understand and can see the possible effects, including more or less frequent earthquakes, volcano eruptions, flooding and severe weather changes.

I don’t understand what the simple fact of the change in Earth’s rotation will do. We know from the study of magnetic changes in bedrock that the Earth’s magnetic poles have shifted in the past. We have analyzed the slight wobbling of the Earth and seen how it may have led to the periodic rise and fall of previous human civilizations.

But has anyone studied the change in Earth’s rotation and fully understand the effects? I’m not an eternal optimist nor a doomsday downer, because in my life I’ve seen that every up has a down and every low point has a high point in a cycle. Therefore, if Earth’s rotation shifts on its axis, there will positive effects for some people on this planet and negative effects for others. The question I want to answer is how soon will the shift start occurring (if it hasn’t already) and what should I do to prepare myself and my family to be on the positive side of the shift. On a larger scale, how should we as a global population reduce the negative effects on our species’ continued success on this planet (and can we)?

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:00 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: technology, weather

03 February 2009

How Do You Measure Wealth?

When I was a child, I walked through a bookstore and saw a tome titled, “Future Shock.” The title intrigued me, most probably because of the word, future. I leaned against the book display and read the future classic, skimming through the chapters and marveling at the adult world that the author, Alvin Toffler, told me was speeding by faster and faster. Yet, there I stood in the world of books, where piles of discount duds sat gathering dust, not moving at all. I could imagine what Toffler was talking about but I could not see it. In school, we still sat and listened to teachers lecture us about the material we were supposed to have read the night before, who would subsequently hand us a list of 10 or 20 incomplete items (T/F and multiple choice questions, for the most part) that required us to prove our retention of the information the teachers and accompanying text had imparted to us. The only shock we felt in the classroom was the occasional pop quiz or open-ended essay question for which we were unprepared. [To be sure, some students were shocked in general, having not mastered the skill of listening and studying, but that subject I will discuss another time (in a previous blog entry, I alluded to the KIPP schools, which serve as an example of what I think future schools should be like).]

Almost 40 years later, I sit here and read “Revolutionary Wealth” by Heidi and Alvin Toffler, published in 2006. How did the future play out compared to the predictions of the first book and how does the future look in the second? Well, it comes down to how you measure wealth, it appears.

How do you measure wealth? I suppose most of us think first of our monetary holdings (assets vs. liabilities) and then perhaps our health. We might even talk of the wealth we expect to inherit in this life or the next one.

The Tofflers look at wealth in another form, that of intangible wealth, such as time and knowledge.

As I read the futurists’ vision of a world ruled not by limited land, building and manufacturing capability but by inexhaustible resources, I remember that the book, written between the dot-com bust and the leveraged mortgage burst, gives us an insight we should appreciate more than we probably do. I’m not saying that the Tofflers and their kind are the ultimate wise gurus to whom we must turn to save this planet from economic destruction. Instead, I believe we can compare their vision against reality and find a projected path upon which to base our investments for the future.

For instance, a Who’s-Who of leaders recently met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Imagine the tribal leaders of old gathering in a circular ceremony to divine the future by reading the position of the stars in relation to the ashes of the fire and you get a clear idea of the value of our current leaders gathering to produce the documents that will tell the world how to recover from the current economic slump.

The Tofflers examined the role of knowledge (part of the trinity of data-information-knowledge, well discussed in many books and Internet articles) and prognosticated about the need for knowledge to be free. Well, most of this babble I read about in the late 1990s, during the dot-com rise, so nothing of this revealed anything new to me.

Instead, I came to realize that the Tofflers rehashing of the concept of prosumers continues to show where the future is headed.

In this current economic crisis, the world decries the inept spending habits of Americans, who mortgaged their futures in order to enjoy the present, driving economic frenzy on a worldwide scale to milk the mortgage market for all it was worth. No one denies the intangibles of the economy are like a house of cards or the invisible clothes that an emperor once wore to great ridicule. So why do we sit here and cry in our mortgaged milk that was spoiled by imaginary hands?

Think about it. You probably spend your day in one activity or another where you exchange your capabilities for nothing. Nothing, in this case, is a substance that we call money, love, or some other intangible thing that we all say clearly exists, even if you can’t see it. In other words, you spend time at home raising your kids, watching their behavior and providing guidance to put their behavior into what you and others around you consider an acceptable range. From where is that range derived? Remember, the world is full of different ways to raise children, all of which provides good survival skills for them. Or you developed a set of skills that helped you acquire the right to sit in a building and display those skills in a something called a job, as if a job is something that has always existed. But our forebears, some of whom worked directly on a plot of land, did not have jobs. They subsisted on the land, doing what they had to do to feed themselves and their offspring. They may have gone days or weeks without any activity necessary to put food on the table because it had already been gathered and stored or hunted and dried. There was no job to speak of, such as something you could easily say had a time value (like an hourly wage or total subcontract worth).

For those who don’t know what a prosumer is, I’ll summarize the best I can – the combination of producer and consumer. I go to the kitchen, fix myself a PB&J sandwich and eat it. I am a prosumer of that sandwich. In that sense, all of our forebears who worked the land were prosumers. Sure, some of them sold excess food or animals, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Looking at the history of the human species, I think we can clearly say that the majority of our history involved consuming. We picked berries, ate wild grain, hunted animals, all of it “produced” by this planet. Over time, our brains developed the habit of prosuming to enhance our rate of survival. We picked up stones and broke off pieces to increase our killing capability. We wrapped animal skins around our bodies that we had cut off and cured. We learned how to sew animal skins together and later how to make cloth using our sewing skills. Along the way, we developed our first intangible skills, including language and writing (via pictographs).

And it is language that stays with us today. And where our prosuming will take us into the future.

For you see, while Americans are used to carrying the world on their backs, claiming the lead in technological developments and per capita consumption, a revolutionary change occurred. Their language, a derivation of English, will no longer dominate the language spoken on the Internet. There are now more Chinese-speaking people on the Internet than Americans. And their domination of the languages spoken on the Internet is catching up fast.

What does this mean for the future? If history teaches us anything, it appears to show us that humans have mastered the skill of prosuming and will continue to use that skill to great advantage, whether in the home or at the local/corporate/national/global level. The 20th Century view of the world as having distinct populations divided into national territories will soon become obsolete if it hasn’t completely done so already. Therefore, the intangible wealth of the future, as measured in the form of economic power, time management and knowledge prosuming, rests in the hands of those whose language facilitates prosuming.

If I sat at the World Economic Forum, I would propose that we modify the current language of world business, English, to incorporate the numbering system of Asian languages, which enables people to learn math at an earlier age and speak to each other no matter where they live, physically or virtually. We create a truely basic but extensible world language (we can add more characters or pictographs at any time). I would recommend that we empower those who desire to join the world economy – no matter how poor or rich – by issuing all of them both credit and assets, including a virtual mortgage they can borrow against but also pay interest on as well as ownership in a few global companies and NGOs that gives them a stake in the goings-on of their fellow humans all around the globe.

Knowledge seeks to be free but so does prosuming. If we free up people to produce and consume within a flexible framework of an ever-changing world economy, our intangible wealth will grow, every one of us building an inexhaustible surplus with which we can share or barter, as needed.

That’s the kind of wealth I want. Don’t you?

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, finance, government, investment, market, money, stocks, success, technology

02 February 2009

What’s a groundhog got to do with it?

2 February 2009, 11:32 a.m. – Two nights in a row with no sleep…am I supposed to see my shadow today? At my age, I know my moods, my body ailments, and my set of reactions to the familiar world around me. Once, I would attack the world like Don Quixote, jousting at monsters with relish, exhilarated in the extreme during the thrust and plunged into depression when the dragons of the world defeated me with laughter. The highs and lows have mellowed somewhat with age. I, I, I…it’s not all about me. I have to keep telling myself that, reminding and repeating myself often, because as a selfish person I tend not to care about others. I just said this to myself and heard echoes in my thoughts of repeating even these set of words. The next thing I know I’ll say is, “Yet, because I was raised to worry about what the neighbors think, a selfish person like me still doesn’t exceed a limit of social decency that I wish did not exist.”

I look at the words, phrases, and sentences I’ve written and exasperate myself with my attitude of “good enough” (as in “good enough for government work”), not taking the time to perfect my use of the rules and suggestions of the English language. Thus, I’ll use too many commas or place a word with a similar but not quite precise meaning (e.g., “I see” versus “I comprehend”).

I write for an unknown reader. Well, I write for myself first but myself as a person with a group of colleagues (including some imagined ones, such as other writers who had brains superior in calculation capability than mine but whose inspiration gives me hope for the value of my work), well-read colleagues who may not exist except in my imagination. Colleagues who enjoy reading dictionaries, plant identification books, philosophy, cartoons, economic analysis reports, sports headlines, milk cartons, random blogs, user manuals, billboards, handwritten letters from friends, LP liner notes, fortune cookie slips and literary fiction.

On a flight from one forgotten destination to another a few years ago, I read a book highly recommended to me titled, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves.” The friend who suggested the book to me majored in English in college and had more than a passing interest in the correct use of punctuation, even though her career had moved into computer equipment sales. I suppose our lives crossed paths for a reason (a reason, mind you, not a purpose). I reason that I wanted to major in language studies or literature but my upbringing pointed in the direction of the hard sciences such as chemistry, engineering or computer software design, thus my vocation would always clash with my avocation of reading and writing literature (literature in the form of poetry, short stories, novellas, skits, plays and novels; I hesitate adding the word “essays” to the list because the blogging world has taken over the world of the formal essay, where even a haiku becomes both blog and essay; I might add “graphic novel” one day should my artwork interest hold my attention for longer than a day of drawing). So literature becomes a joke about a panda that serves as a book title which mixes my life and my friend’s life well.

You know the joke, don’t you? A panda walks into a bar, sits on a stool, munches on some peanuts, kills the person sitting next to him with a gun and then calmly walks out of the bar. A patron turns to the bartender and asks, “What was that all about?” The bartender responds, “Don’t you know that’s a panda?” The bartender hands a poorly written children’s alphabet animal book to the patron, who turns to the letter P and reads the definition of panda: “an animal, native to China, that eats, shoots, and leaves.”

Today, literature as solely a written art form almost has no meaning. The Internet has invaded our thoughts and actions so pervasively and persuasively that we’ve become both creator and audience at once. The visual arts, including rap and hip-hop songs, take literature from the static written page into the three-dimensional realm from whence it originated. Our storytelling ancestors sitting in caves would understand us and our need to carry around Internet devices in the form of cell phones and other UMPCs.

Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I watched the movie, “Inkheart,” at a local theater. If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, then you should stop reading here because I’ll soon discuss spoilers. As in right now. LOL Toward the end of the movie, the character played by Jim Broadbent (one of my favorite actors, by the way), the writer of “Inkheart,” expressed his wish to move out of the regular, lonely world of writing and into the exciting world he created with his writing. I don’t know how the third act of the movie jibed with the “Inkheart” book series on which the movie’s based, but I was happy to see the writer character get his wish granted.

The night before, I slept in a fit of delirium. I tossed and turned, fighting the enemy who has stalked my dreams and wishes like the shadow from “Inkheart.” I suppose all of us have seen such an enemy as mine, who works night and day to drain me of my true desire, waiting for the moment to suck the life blood out of me and turn me into a zombie, with which the shadow can play like pieces on a chess board or marionettes on a puppet stage, reducing me to the role of an automaton working in an office full of fellow robots. In the dreamlike state, I defeated the enemy because I surrounded myself with the love and support of those who believe with me that my creative talent is worth calling myself a writer. Or more than that, really…I’ll take a deep breath here, look around me to make sure no one is looking, feel my heart beat in my throat before I speak and finally say, “I am an author.”

After watching the movie, my wife and I returned home to watch the spectacle known as the Super Bowl. With a superlative like “super,” we can automatically assume the bowl is anything but. However, I have accepted the conditioning of my society to cheer for or against the participants of the main event, grown men running around chasing an inflated bag of sewn pigskin (and if you ever want a humorous view of football, listen to Andy Griffith‘s comedy sketch “What It Was, Was Football,” – even if you’re not a fan of “The Andy Griffith Show,” the skit is funny), whilst with bated breath we gaze at the screen for gleeful exposure to commercial advertising.

As the NFL game progressed, I glanced at the clock, mentally counting down the hours until the countdown ended for the opening of submission of works of fiction for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award at www.createspace.com/abna. When the game ended after 9 p.m. Central, I grabbed another bottle of Yuengling Black & Tan and headed to my study, where I could sit and listen to jazz on old vinyl LP albums and watch the countdown clock on a webpage. Tick. Tock. Or so my brain thought because the silent digital display simply showed the word, “Tonight,” underneath was which a counter of hours, minutes and seconds. My blood pressure leapt when the numbers dropped from 01:00:00 to 00:59:59. Had I made any glaring mistakes in the work of fiction itself, much less the other text I had to submit for the contest, including an excerpt of less than 5,000 words, a pitch statement of less than 300 words, an anecdote, a biography and a description to be used for the novel should the contest judges deem my novel worthy of posting on amazon.com as a semifinalist in March?

Finally, as the hour shrank to ten minutes, I resigned myself to the fact that no matter how well my novel succeeded in capturing the attention of the editor(s) who reviewed first the pitch statement (to reduce the 10,000 entries down to 2,000) to create a reasonable set of good entries and then read my novel excerpt (to drop the entries down to 500, I believe), I had written an opus, though not perfect, which represented me, complete with poor punctuation – with ill-advised comma placement, or omission – and lack of precise word usage.

A groundhog does not determine the next six weeks of weather any more than a randomly selected judge determines the worth of my writing. At 23:11 (11:11 p.m. Central, or 12:11 Eastern time on 2nd February 2009), I clicked the Submit button and received confirmation that my novel submission was completed and accepted for the 2009 ABNA contest.

HAPPY GROUNDHOG’S DAY, EVERYONE!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:12 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: ABNA, General, writing

01 February 2009

Love In The Time of Recession

I wrote a long note to a friend on facebook, hit the backspace key to correct the spelling of a word and the whole note disappeared. I know the first note was a work of genius so I’ll try again…

Anytime I attempt to discuss the subject of love, I can’t help sounding cheesy or sentimental but here I am, anyway.

I cannot say that I own my wife’s love; she owns me. My love is like a debt I can never repay so instead of worrying about how much principal or interest I owe, I share that love with all my friends and family, telling them about what my wife has been for me, has done for me and what little I feel I give in return.

She and I became penpals when we were 12 years old. From that point on, I shared my deepest thoughts with her, never once worrying that she would make fun of me or use my thoughts against me. I accepted her for who she was, too, never criticizing her behavior, no matter how much different it seemed to my own.

As we’ve grown, we’ve learned to give the other room to discover new aspects of ourselves that didn’t exist when we first got married. We did not marry preconceived notions of what the opposite sex should be like or a perfect image of a marriage partner. Other than our names, nothing else is the same as it was 22+ years ago.

That’s the major secret to the success of our marriage.

We also agreed to basic financial rules to avoid the issues that drive wedges into many marriages — money problems — such as:

  • Rule #1 – tell your spouse/mate when spending more than $50 for anything besides birthday/Christmas gifts for the other.
  • Rule #2 – put aside 20% of our income toward retirement and do NOT touch it until retirement.
  • Rule #3 – live beneath our means so we can save up to spend cash on vacations, cars, or other high-cost items, avoiding unnecessary bank loans or credit card debt.

I hope you find someone to share your secrets with and never have to worry about losing that person’s trust, no matter what the two of you become as individuals. For those of you who have seen your spouse leave you for another, I sympathize. Humans should know they can fall in love with a pile of dirt, if they want to – isn’t that what popular movies and books show us? It’s the person who cares for you who counts, not some stranger who looks good for a few months and wants to take you away from the person who really matters. If anything, we should be angry at those who attempt to steal our love and NOT be attracted to them. Instead, we’re temporarily blinded by “love” (lust in disguise, for the most part). Such is human folly!

As I told another friend on facebook, I hope you find the person you want to take your last breath with. I consider myself very lucky to have found mine at age 12, although I didn’t know it then, which made discovering the fact so much more fun!

In these recessionary times, stress increases, putting pressure on our relationships. If we build a strong foundation, then we can weather these tough times. My wife and I have weathered three recessions and will continue to weather more because our love for each other includes respect in the form of simple financial responsibility. After all, love isn’t rocket science. Put your partner before materialism and see what happens!

30 January 2009

Do you sell short?

In a declining economy, what strategy do you use to build your stock portfolio? After all, if you look at the stock market purely as a form of gambling, then it doesn’t matter what happens to the stock price or its effect on stockholders as long as you’re the one making a profit during a buy or sell.

Or does it?

I’ve played with that idea my whole adult life (a mere 33 years to you oldtimers). Should I just be concerned about profit for me since I see so many others trash the stock or value of companies for their personal gain?

The Bernie Madoffs and Kenneth Lays of the world give me pause.

Am I motivated by profit?

A childhood friend recently invited me to join an MLM group to which he belonged and claimed he was enjoying a healthy profit. Through the years, many friends of mine have invited me to join similar money-making ventures, including the classic Amway pitch and other networking methods involving sharing profit among a hierarchy of participants. After each presentation, I have respectfully declined my friends’ invitation, despite the good life my friends are living based on their MLM success.

Why pass up a sure thing? Why, indeed. Well, what is a ‘sure thing’?

In my business life, I have experienced the ups and downs of economic cycles, enjoying fat bonuses one year while getting no annual raise the next, based on the company’s performance and profit projection. Not once have I declined a bonus check or pay increase so why do I look at selling short or joining an MLM as something different?

Good question. And after watching another economic decline in my lifetime — one that will likely surpass the ones I saw in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s — I have realized what my answer is:

Fear.
That’s right. Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear that my actions will cause undue negative consequences for people I may or may not know (selling short). Or taking advantage of other people’s fear of not being accepted (MLM/network marketing).

Most of us belong to one group or another. After all, we’re social animals. We’re all joiners –some of us joiners are leaders and many of us are followers. We often act like the ubiquitous rock doves or common pigeons (Columba livia) you see lined up on building ledges and power lines — establishing a pecking order.

As this global economic decline keeps shaking more and more people out of offices and factories, tens of millions of people will be looking for some way to make a living. They’ll want answers to why they lost their jobs, pecking the ground and each other, hoping someone steps forward with the answers they want to hear.

I’m not a betting man but if I had to make a bet, I would place my wager on the leader(s) who convince people to join up in an MLM or network marketing company that promises to provide economic stability while securing profits and good living for the members and family of the MLM, even selling other companies short in the stock market to build their MLM’s profit. In other words, now is the time to look for people who are promising a glorious future in an “us versus them” scenario. It’s those kind of folks who will deliver on their promises, in both the near-term and quite possibly into the long-term, too, especially if they use emotionally-charged pitches involving religion to get you to join.

History has shown us these kind of schemes have been proposed over and over during economic slumps and there will always be those who join, no matter what. If Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay can dupe people during the best of times, look out for who’s coming out of the woodwork in the worst of times!

I won’t sell stocks short and thus, I won’t sell myself short, either. I don’t lecture people, if I can help it, but this time I’m warning you to avoid joining a group whose leaders paint a rosy picture. Just because a guy or gal is nice-looking and has a slick proposal does not mean they have your best interests in mind. Don’t sell yourself short.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:03 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, finance, investment, market, money, religion, stocks, success

29 January 2009

Dedication for “A Space, A Period, And A Capital”

Does every work of nonfiction/fiction require a dedication? Of course not.

Why have one, then? I don’t know…

Tradition.

Loyalty to our network of supporters, perhaps.

Whatever the reason, here’s my dedication in front of the novel I’m submitting for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, “A Space, A Period, And A Capital”:

To Fredirique and Vincent, forever unattached.

To Nicholas, who will see one day that he’s standing
on the debris-covered spiral origins of the Yellow Brick Road.

To Jorge Luis Borges, for showing me the value in

repeating the telling of a story, because parallel universes do exist, if only in our tales.

To other writers, such as
Edgar Allan Poe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and William S. Burroughs –
your conversations with me in my dreams
taught me to accept myself as I am

and write from my perspective, no one else’s.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:12 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt

28 January 2009

Story idea subplot…

Belle and Maria are a couple of confidence artists who hook up with the main character, Gus, to get his extensive 401(k) retirement holdings, a scheme they cooked up after the 72(t) law was put in place.

Gus met Belle through a mutual email friend. After email exchanges between the two of them, Belle figures out that Gus has a load of financial holdings and is looking for a way to convert the holdings out of 401(k) without substantial penalties.

Belle discusses her new email friend with her best friend, Maria. They decide to introduce Maria to Gus. They email him a cock-and-bull story about themselves as neighbors in Stuy Town, when in fact Belle and Maria had met as prisoners on Rikers Island when they were juvenile delinquents. Through the years their crimes increased in complexity and they spent some time in jail for money laundering, where Belle met her husband, “Don Juan” Pompilian.

Belle emails Gus a story about her husband dying and the fact that she is a financial investor who can help Gus arrange his finances, despite her need to focus on her husband’s medication.

Meanwhile, Don sets up a shadow company that appears it can handle the conversion of 401(k) accounts to 72(t), when in fact all he plans to do is convert Gus’ 401(k) directly into cash for Don, Belle and Maria to split.

After the transaction is completed, Belle informs Gus that her husband has died and she’s going to fulfill his wish to have his ashes buried on the Black Sea, not far from where Don’s family is from in Romania.

Gus spends weeks trying to contact Belle and Maria to find out the status of his 401(k) conversion to no avail. He discovers he’s been duped and goes to Romania in search of the sheisters, following a cold trail that placed them in Constanta.

From there, he travels to the Trans-Siberian Railway, where the main plot continues…

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, Story

24 January 2009

Chapter excerpt — What Has Been and What Will Be?

15 January 2009. Wow! What a wonderful surprise. I have been walking down memory lane lately, going through a “storage room” in my house (i.e., a spare bedroom), sorting stuff somewhat and finding tidbits that spark strong memories I haven’t had in YEARS! For instance, yesterday I opened a drawer of my student desk (the one I used in high school and college, which still serves as my primary desk in my adult years, too, I guess), and I found a photo of your daughter that you had sent me back in 1998. Of course, I have no memories of her except your mention of her in a letter or two that I received over the years (something about her being able to use a computer (Commodore 64?) when her mother couldn’t at the time? LOL). In any case, I decided to see if she existed in the virtual world and could say hello to her mother, Eimear, in the process.

Lo and behold, the oracle of the Internet gave me a connection between her name and you through an email posted on a comment under a photo on a photographer’s website. As a technology user, I should expect no surprises but I still marvel at the “miracles” of social connections that a mass-communication device like the Internet produces.

Today, I sit in my study (e.g., an uncluttered corner of the storage room/bedroom) and listen to old records from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, using a Christmas present (Brookstone iConvert USB turntable) to convert the vinyl LP albums to electronic form (MP3, in this case) so I can listen to the songs on my computer or portable music player in the future, if I like. At this moment, the album, “More Songs About Buildings And Food,” by the Talking Heads, is playing.

Spider webs flutter in the space between the window and the screen on this sub-freezing day. Looking out the window, I can’t tell it’s almost 25 deg F below normal. The sky is clear. Birds jump from limb to limb. A wild holly waves its green leaves at me in the slight breeze while a deciduous cousin hangs its red berries for any interested animals to carry off and spread the deciduous holly’s seeds somewhere else.

I hear noises in the house and figure it’s probably our cats in the living room, squirrels in the attic, mice in the walls, a cat and/or possum in the crawl space or just a house popping its joints in this awful weather. The raccoons and bats may have gotten into the chimney again. Who knows?

Such are my days in early 2009, enjoying a midlife retirement, writing and watching the world go by. I’ll tell you why, since you sort of asked me in an email.

My wife’s brother died rather suddenly in June 2006 at the age of 51 — he had blood clots in his legs that over a two-day period spread to his lungs and then into his heart, causing cardiac arrest and death. Although he was in the ICU section of a hospital, they could not revive him. Hey, if they can’t save you in a hospital, your time has come! My brother in-law and his family are avid participants in the activities of a large Baptist church in Huntsville so they were surrounded by their church friends immediately after my brother in-law passed away. I acted as the oldest male in the family during the visitation at the funeral home, greeting people at the head of the line, hearing their stories about my brother in-law and all the good feelings he left in others. At the memorial at his church, many hundreds of people showed up (one guess was 1500 people but I think it was exaggerated to make the family feel better; at a church of 5000 people, something less than 1000 must seem small). Again, the minister and friends exclaimed the glories of my brother in-law: church elder, Sunday school teacher, Boy Scout leader, emergency ham radio operator, NASA physicist, supportive co-worker, etc. In addition, over the next few months, we attended commemorative events at NASA for my brother in-law’s work on a gamma-ray observatory to be launched on a satellite (it launched successfully in June of 2008 and is called the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (more details at: http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/)).

From that point on, I realized more than ever that there’s a higher chance of mortality for us as we hit our middle years.

Thus, even though my vocational work satisfied my bosses and customers (as well as my wife), I felt dissatisfied. My job at the time, senior program manager, meant I had to travel from coast to coast in America as well as to a few European countries. When I traveled, I had a lot of spare time to examine my life, wondering if I had completed all the tasks I had assigned myself when I was younger (in other words, my life’s dreams) and would get the same sort of reaction to my life’s work as my brother in-law if I died suddenly.

Now I know you have harped on me in the past about putting my life in the hands of the Lord. So had my grandmother (now deceased). Although my brother in-law and his family belong to a Southern Baptist church, they have not performed the usual task of handing me Bible tracts. Instead, they have observed the work I do for friends and family and come to the conclusion that, in their belief, the Lord works in mysterious ways and therefore I give to others in wonderful ways even if I don’t do these things explicitly in the name of their Lord and Saviour.

So, anyway…well, you can see I’m a bit long-winded here. Blame it on your influence on me, even after all these years!

As I traveled, I continued to write in my journals. I also wrote letters to friends, poems for myself and others, short stories for my nieces and nephews and fooled around with the idea of completing some good novels. More importantly, I contemplated my dream of having a novel published and formally reviewed professionally.

All my adult life I have written in my journals during work hours. Through these observations I have constructed interesting story lines, many based on real life, which would make a mildly interesting plot. The older I’ve grown, the more complicated the story lines have become. Well, after my brother in-law died, I felt this burning desire to get a novel written and published more than ever. I found myself drifting from thoughts of work to thoughts of plots and subplots. My work didn’t suffer in the classic sense but my maniacal drive to make my job the perfect embodiment of my life declined somewhat. I realized what was going on and coordinated with my boss to offload some of the 12- to 15-hour a day duties so that I could work just 8- to 10-hour days like the rest of my coworkers, freeing up time to work on my novel ideas. This extra time gave me the taste of blood, so to speak — I felt like a vampire pursuing its next victim. I wanted to write my “Great” novel!

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked my boss if I could work part-time or take a leave of absence so I could finish the novel (as well as take care of an ailing mother in-law). I went back and forth with him, his boss, and the human resources department to see what they could do to accommodate my request. The company had never granted a leave of absence except for medical emergencies. Therefore, we compromised and I retired from the company with a severance package. My boss’ boss did not want to see me go because he had hired me originally and knew the contribution I had given the company but understood that sometimes a person has to do what he has to do. That was in July 2007.

I was free at last! In celebration, I wrote the following poem:

These are my skyscrapers

No Empire State Building,
No Sears Tower or
Big Ben.

They shelter me nonetheless.
Tall,
Slender,
Alive –
Here without any assistance from my kind.

I cannot describe the noise rain makes upon their leaves…
— White noise?
— Light applause?

They bend to accept the wetness.

If only I had a palette of colors to describe them,
To make up for starving phrases like
“shades of green” and “variations of brown.”

They do not talk.
They speak of time.

Summer showers pass
And now they bend toward the sun.

I’m nothing but a lucky observer –
Fortune smiles upon me –
While standing beneath the treed canopy,
White noise giving way to dripping sounds,
Rising and falling with the passing breeze.

The bluejays call.
A hickory nut plops.
A cardinal chirps.
The finches reappear.

I’d rather scrape the sky with trees
Than touch the clouds with glass and steel.

10th July 2007

===============================

Immediately, I threw myself into my writing, completing a novel in October 2007, “Are You With The Program?” (in a nutshell, the story is a description of a labyrinth that a worker must get through in order to reach retirement; the opening page is a description of the hieroglyphic script on the door to the labyrinth. In other words, this novel is a metaphor and everything is not as it seems.). Well, as luck would have it, the folks at amazon.com had teamed up with Penguin Books and HP to host a writing contest called the “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.” I had a couple of weeks to edit the novel and get it submitted in time for the November contest deadline. There were a total of about 5000 entries for the contest. Only 836 novels made the cut to the semifinalist stage in January, including mine. All semifinalists received a formal review by Publishers Weekly. Again, including mine! A novel of mine reviewed by a professional! I had achieved my life’s goal.

Gee. That was too easy. Retire in July. Finish a novel in October. Get a professional review by the following January. Maybe I should think about this more seriously?

I also received reviews by Amazon regulars (“top reviewers”), including the following:

Amazon Top Reviewer
The prose style is mostly graceful and competent, but studded with some compound sentences that are way too complex and which run on way too long. I know this is being done for comic effect, but it still gets in the reader’s way. It’s being carried way too far in places. The idea seems to be a corporate satire involving an overlooked research and development organization specializing in … I’m not sure. Software? Architecture? There’s not enough here to give me a feeling for this organization’s place in the overall structure. Are they competing against other organizations? Facing layoff or merger? Working towards a prize? I get no sense of what conflict faces these people, and little sense of the main character other than his sense of humor. An entire scene flashes back to the spider incident in the first-person narrator’s childhood and seems to be there just to establish the narrator’s quirkiness. I was on board with that back when everyone threw doughnuts at each other. This should be rewritten for a faster start which involves some sense of conflict. What’s at stake here? That’s where the plot will come from.
Oh, and by the way, here’s the professional review:

Editorial Reviews
manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, an independent organization

This ponderous novel is about as exciting as a corporate annual report. What starts out as a modestly interesting virtual reality thriller quickly degenerates into a slog through one bland middle manager’s life in the world of software engineering. Bruce Colline, the narrator, works for the software company Cumulo Seven. Its program, Qwerty-Queue, may or may not have something to do with influencing financial markets, but that’s never made clear, thus robbing the story of what little suspense it offers. Dozens of interchangeable characters clutter the novel, and their insipid dialogue is filled with jargon that will put even computer geeks to sleep (“I got with Fawn to go over her programs, including Tirelem, RRR and Perencles”). At the few points where the plot develops a modicum of forward momentum, the author quickly dispatches Bruce to a conference call, a meeting or his email. By the end, even the author has grown tired of slathering words on the page (“The moment was special, unforgettable and yet, difficult to put into words.”). Instead of unraveling an absorbing mystery, Bruce merely stumbles upon some mundane truths about corporate America.
Well, be careful what you ask for. I had told myself I wanted to receive a professional review. I didn’t say what kind of review, especially if the reviewer does not understand the metaphorical subtlety and judges the book by its cover, so to speak.

My friends who had read both the novel and the reviews felt like I had performed a great job. After all, I hacked together a novel in a few months, spent almost no time editing it down to the well-tuned essence of an almost-great story and yet received professional recognition, more than the majority of writers ever get. A friend of mine wrote me a note of encouragement, ending with the quote by Scott Adams, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” In other words, I am a creative person but that doesn’t necessarily make me an artist. So be it. I still like to write and won’t stop!

And now, a year later, here I am, writing another long-winded piece, this time a letter to a dear, dear friend of mine from 30 years ago.

Where have we gone in 30 years? You have reached a state of happiness, pleased with who you are, a bit larger in body than when we dated 30 years ago (but just think of it as your body catching up to your beautifully large personality), and still married to the man you share an offspring with.

Yeah, just like you, I’m bigger than I was in that picture, too. I think I weighed 165 pounds back then. The last I weighed a couple of days ago, I was 230 pounds (and that’s after losing 10 pounds since Christmas). My goodness, 65 pounds! That sounds so much bigger than it looks in person, I can tell you. LOL

Eimear, I’m happy to hear you’ve been able to raise your child using home-schooling. My brother in-law and his wife home-schooled their two kids. The oldest graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA in Computer Engineering in 2006 (a month before his father died) and the youngest is in her last semester in Nursing at college with a 4.0 GPA, also. Needless to say, they get their smarts from my wife’s side of the family!

I started college in 1980 with high hopes. Life gave me an alternative path, which I couldn’t resist, so I followed the road less traveled for a while, finished an associate’s degree in 1985 and got around to completing my bachelor’s degree in 2001 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a major in MIS (Management Information Systems) and a minor in math.

My wife and I still live in the first house we bought in 1987 for $91,900 (using $5,000 her father loaned us as a down payment), financing $87,000. We paid off the house last year. The 1.3 acre lot next door to us came up for sale in 2006 for $50,000. We decided it wasn’t worth it. A builder bought the lot and erected a 3,800 sq ft home in 2007. He put the house up for sale last week for $494,000!!!! If you could see the odd juxtaposition of our rundown 1,800 sq ft home versus the monstrosity next door, you would laugh. I have a rusted 1962 Dodge Lancer and smashed 1992 Chevy S10 truck sitting in the side yard on one side of the house. In the side yard facing the new house, I have four tires holding an eroding ditch together, two plastic chairs from Wal-Mart covered with algae (plus a clematis growing through and around them), and a preformed pond liner from Home Depot turned upside down, looking like a turtle all curled up. Oh, and a pile of lumber from the back deck I took apart when we had a sunroom added to the back of our house in 2001.

Why am I telling you all this? I guess because at one point I wanted to impress you with how great my life had become but now I realize it’s more important to show you the real me – a country boy who’s lived the city life, almost falsely. I know who I am now — I am a person who was raised to appreciate technological advances in society and to set my life’s work in that area. At the same time, I am a lazy country bumpkin who’s just as happy to sit and watch the world go by, letting his house fall apart around him in the process. I don’t need a fancy house or a fancy car, an expensive vacation or jetsetting lifestyle. I’m happy just sitting here writing a letter to a friend of mine and could sit here writing this letter the rest of my life, no matter how good, great, poor, non-artistic or outlandish the writing may be.

I’m glad you’re writing. I would enjoy reading your work. By chance (if you believe there’s such a thing as chance), back in December while working on my latest novel I added a character loosely based on you (see, I think of you, too – you should see all the pictures of us and others I posted on facebook). I plan to submit that novel for the next “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award” contest, which takes place in February. The novel still needs some editing so it’s not quite finished yet. Hopefully, it will be polished enough to garner attention from an editor for the contest.

Eimear, I guess we’ve seen enough of the world to know what we like. For the most part, I wake up each morning and go to bed every night with a smile on my face. The world is just fine to me, no matter if the mass media news outlets and bloggers want to paint a negative picture about the global economy. I see that I won’t make more than a tiny bit of difference in how the solar system or galaxy is going to be 200 million years from now and that makes me happy. I made a small difference and that is enough. All the rest of it, no matter whether you’re Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton or Joe the Plumber, is just a relative measurement of an iota.

You remember that coworker of yours that got on your nerves because he/she kept saying, “C’est la vie”? I believe your response was life is what we make of it and not what happens to us so we shouldn’t just accept what happens. Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe your coworker was right in one sense. We’re middle-aged now, wiser and [supposedly] smarter. I’ve also come to the conclusion that life is a little of both of what you said. Sometimes we make things happen and sometimes life makes things happen to us. Either way, we’re here to talk about it and for me that is enough, n’est pas?

My wife has been patient during this midlife retirement of mine but thinks it’s time I get back to a regular source of income (i.e., a “desk job”) and maybe she’s right. Just like your husband depends on you for certain aspects of life, I’ve depended on my wife for quite a bit. She stayed with me during dark episodes of my life that I’m not sure I would have stuck around for if our roles were reversed (of course, I know I would have but sometimes I look at the old me and wonder why she stayed with me then). Now, I owe her the gratitude of going back into the moneymaking world.

As you and I know, it’s who we count as friends that make this life worth living. I recall many a moment of the short time we shared together (two, maybe three months) and savor each one like a finely aged cheese or a rare bottle of vintage wine. I sometimes walk through a crowd and smell the perfume you used to wear (Tiempo?). How many people have you stayed up with until 5 a.m. in the morning just for the sake of talking? For me, not many (maybe one or two, at most, including…let’s see, probably only my sister, my wife and Helen, oh and a couple of party buddies from college who are still good friends of mine). Little could I have imagined the influence you would have on my life. Same goes for your parents and your brother. He is still the most overall intelligent/creative person I’ve ever met. Your mother taught me so much in so little time — as much as I adore and love my mother in-law, I often wish your mother had been my mother in-law because of her special laughter and kindness that clearly showed up in you (no doubt, your daughter carries on those traits). Your father showed me the importance of being a laid-back father, which I have carried into my role as an uncle.

Thinking back, I remember the days and weeks disappeared and our months together ended just as quickly as they began. Could we have only been together for two months or at least less than three? First loves are like that, I guess. A candle that burns too bright or burns from both ends. I lost all contact with the outside world during that time and have no idea what the rest of my friends were doing –- they said they thought they’d lost me. You were the only world that mattered to me. Nothing the matter with that, right?

I will always remember our short time together with fondness. Even though I want to think you loved me for my mind, we didn’t need long to progress through the stages of love. Our relationship leapt quickly from a platonic getting-to-know-you-better into a discovery of the body that I never expected. In other words, you spoiled me but shocked me, too. Do you recall sitting in a church parking lot with my father, asking about sex? If your long-term memory no longer holds that scene in your head, you’re missing a funny story to tell your daughter. The memories of our relationship kept me going physically for years. In fact, I went from being with you, when touching, hugging, kissing, etc., were par for the course, to a long-term relationship with Helen. Would you believe that in the years that I spent together with Helen, we never really hugged (although we did put our arms around each other for photographs) and in fact, we never so much as kissed or participated in other normal physical relationships that a male and female share. Do you see what I’m saying? My need for physical contact was consumed by you and me in two or three months and lasted for years to come, until I started dating my wife.

I seem to remember you having had cervical cancer at one point in your life but I did not know about the heart attack. I’m happy that you have a loving husband and daughter who helped you recover from the body ailments. I’m sorry that you lost long-term memories. I would love to have talked with you to see if you remember any details about our time together that I have forgotten. Some things I can recall with ease, such as when you and another girl used to put me in special poses on the band practice field. I remember our first night together, including running out of gas in the middle of Blountville, getting Dad to put gas in the car, eating pickles, baking cookies, talking, talking and more talking, and finally, a peck kiss at the door. I remember a special moment in the bathroom at your house, other similar moments together, including in a school parking lot and at a local park. I remember you taking me into the girls’ locker room at Central, sneaking me in as a joke and a surprise for the girls in there. I remember visiting your grandmother and eating ice cream at a local burger joint. I remember talking with your parents.

Glad to hear your daughter has found love at the same age we were (I still can’t believe it’s been 30 years ago for us). I suppose you’ll watch your daughter go through the same pangs of love that we did. As far as her wanting to be a photographer, I hope you show your daughter how to twirl a baton before she graduates ‘cause as a photographer she’s going to be juggling and spinning a busy schedule around!

I have lived a good first half of my life and happily include you in it. The second half of my life brings many new surprises and joys. Perhaps we can all meet up sometime to see what we expect of life in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond!

Well, I’ve had too much tea to drink and my bladder tells me to go to the bathroom so I’m losing my ability to think and write right now. Plus, I’ve got to go figure out what to fix for dinner tonight. If I could cook, I’d fix a big batch of chili. Instead, I’ll see what frozen delight is available in the freezer for this househusband to heat up.

By the way, during the year between the two novel contests, I have been caring for my 91-year old mother in-law, who lives in Rogersville, TN. I have lived with her on and off for weeks at a time, especially during periods when she’s in and out of the hospital or rehab unit at a nursing home. Amazingly enough, she can still drive around town. I have tried to make up for her dead son and must be succeeding. She no longer refers to me as her son in-law but calls me her son. One time, while we sat and watched a baseball game on TV, she mistook me for her husband and talked about my wife as if she were our daughter. Talk about a great surreal moment for a poem or novel! I just hope there’s someone in my life, if my wife is no longer living, who can share moments with me like that when I’m an old geezer. My mother in-law spent 20 years caring for her sick husband and valued her freedom after he died in 1997 (although she would never put it like that), including a trip to the Holy Land with a friend of hers. However, loneliness finally set in with old age and I think until I gave her attention she felt she was ready to die. Now she sees that she brings out the best in people, including me, and wants to continue to live to make others’ lives more fulfilling, and thus hers, too, in the process.

Okay, my bladder is screaming. Gotta go! Forgive my bad writing. I haven’t got time to go back and edit what I babbled on about.

Say hello to your parents and brother for me. Talk to you soon. I want to read your writing, even if it would embarrass me.

One last thing before I go. You probably don’t remember when we communicated after I had decided to marry my wife but you told me you were upset, at least half-jokingly, that I had not given you a chance to get us back together before I married someone else. In my mind at the time, I was too blind to see that you were right. Why hadn’t I seen that the relationship I had with you, no matter how brief, had flown to the stratospheric reaches of the sky with the audacity to throw love in the face of the gods and quickly fallen from the excessive heat, like Icarus and his wings? It had not died, though. Love does not die. It smolders in the ashes, waiting to be reborn.

I had no hand in creating, bearing, or raising your child. I can only hope that in your daughter a piece of our love has been reborn in her so that she can understand and fully appreciate the strength, joy and special moments she shares when overpowering love touches her head and heart. As you mentioned in your myspace writing, these overpowering moments in our youth set the foundation for the rest of our lives that we build upon forever more.

I have spent more time than I thought I would drafting this email and have yet to cover all the topics I thought about over the last night or two as I set about creating a mental outline from which to direct my thoughts to you electronically. Thus, my time has run out and now I must attend to my domestic duties, figuring out what to fix my wife and me for dinner.

Thanks for being my friend. I value the no-nonsense/no-games aspect of our give-and-take through the years. We ask nothing of each other except honesty and an open ear. Let’s hope our minds keep working, even if our bodies don’t!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, General

19 January 2009

Every Day Is Special

I dedicate this day to a coworker and friend of mine, Jay Hereford, who taught me many moons ago that the color of your skin is irrelevant to what you can or cannot accomplish. Jay, I still remember sitting at home after calling in “sick” and watching the Million Man March, listening to the convoluted speech by Louis Farrakhan and feeling glad that I live in a country that has made so much progress in allowing free speech by people of all colors on the national stage. Along with Joyce Battle and Jackie Crutcher, you let me be me so that we could enjoy a work environment without undertones of racial bias so prevalent in certain workplaces of the South.

I wish you never had to call in sick to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr, Day. May tomorrow and the rest of the term of U.S. President served by Barack Hussein Obama be a blessing to you.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 9:47 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, government, Martin Luther King Jr, success

13 January 2009

Chapter Excerpt – Rational Exuberance

17th December. Sitting here at midnight with a copy of the novel, “Wide Sargasso Sea,” by Jean Rhys. Reminds me of the book, “Black Elk Speaks,” introduced to me by my enigmatic friend, Helen, with whom I shared the universe of ideas that no one else could see or understand. Even now, after nearly 23 years living with my wonderful wife, I still feel an ache of absence for Helen. She and I held no traditional romantic notions for each other so I will never speak of a broken heart – more like a disconnected mind, a separation of souls, if you will.

My wife and I understand each other physically and share the same interests. Helen and I were mentally connected somehow. The closest I’ve come in comparing my relationship with her exists in the friendships I formed first with my sister and then with my first girlfriend, Reneé Dobbs, with whom I held a school-based relationship from third grade until she died in fifth grade – Platonism personified. I have wanted to put in words what Helen has meant to me and failed to find the perfect poetic form of expression, except in a poem I gave her of which she has the only copy, and in my best book-sized attempt, “Helen of Kosciusko,” a novel of ideas and expressions.

I do not claim a high enough level of intelligence to express what Helen and I experienced together. In fact, the pain of my separation from her clouds my judgment and prevents me from comprehending in an impartial manner what Helen seemed to know when she told me clearly, “Don’t be confused,” after I told her I wasn’t sure what our friendship was all about.

Therefore, I gave up trying to decipher our coded conversations and accepted them for what they were – the definition of a friendship outside space and time. What we had I may never describe to myself or the world satisfactorily.

My wife has always seen Helen as a threat because, even though my wife is the smartest woman I know, she hasn’t seen that Helen and I existed together on another plane, far distant from any type of “normal” relationship that gets in the way of two people in love.

Helen will always be a part of me. We were buddies, pals, kindred spirits but never lovers. Many girls thought because Helen and I ran around together, we naturally were sexually involved with each other so the girls did not want to get in the way until Helen and I stopped dating. But Helen and I never dated. We just were one person and another person doing things together. Does that make sense? I don’t know. We were both happy for the other to get married.

Helen believes in Christ and the simple fact that our purpose on this planet is to glorify God by having children that also honors your father and mother in the process. I do not believe in an omniscient creator of the universe and thus have no need to worship and honor my ancestors. I have not produced offspring because I have felt no need to put a copy of myself or my parents on this planet. Helen has known this about me for a long time. She and her husband have been able to honor their parents with kids. My wife and I have been able to give our parents the care and attention that only childless couples can devote themselves to, conflict-free.

As much as I would have liked to hang out with Helen, I knew the day would come when her serious need to fulfill family obligations overrode my desire to have fun. She completed her college degree while I…well, I continued my journey of self-discovery.

Neither Helen nor I are the people we were. I know of my old self and know almost nothing of Helen’s new self. That is why I am here now. I am thinking on paper about why I still remember Helen fondly, why I believe there is still much territory of the mind I could discover with her but probably won’t, due to current circumstances. I only hope that in her offspring a little of our time together has rubbed off and perhaps one of them can continue exploring, looking for the hidden treasures of the mind. If that happened, then I can die a happy man.

I chose never to try to impress Helen’s father that I would make a good son in-law for him. I knew he and I would not see eye-to-eye. However, no matter how “badly” he may think I influenced Helen, I thank him for the daughter that he and his wife raised and put in my life. I thank Helen’s husband for the support he gave Helen as they raised their kids together. Both these men gave Helen what I could not give or ever planned to give her – a family.

I have continued to explore the mind by myself, going slowly to ensure that I record what I’ve discovered since I don’t have a companion like Helen to help me interpret what I see. My wife does not explore minds – she lives in the present and deals with everyday reality, allowing me the freedom to dig into the thought process. I would not trade my wife for anyone but I still would like to see the world through Helen’s eyes, to know once and for all if she and I have uncovered the same secrets (or the fact that there really are no secrets, just experiences that not everyone else has had). I have always believed that Helen and I could advance the evolution of the human mind; we would prove that the multiple streams of thought inside individuals can simultaneously occur in others’ thought processes in such a way that a synergy forms between all members of the human species, opening up instant understanding of the manner in which we are all uniquely motivated to live. Once this unveiling occurs, we will break the fear and terror that binds too many people and instead demonstrate that our general self interest to survive can be channeled to help all humans thrive without repression, lies and deception. Helen and I would train others to look beyond superficial means of communication – how we dress, how we use facial expressions, how we speak, how we write – and delve into the deeper layers that put aside our cultural and individual personality traits so that we can find the universal human self we all share. After we get that training accomplished, there’s no holding back what humans can do together, regardless of our particular quirks, handicaps, or capabilities. In fact, we’ll do better because of them.

If Helen can instill (or has instilled) just a little bit of this in her kids, nieces, and nephews, there is hope for the future. I am trying to instill this in my nieces and nephews and know there is hope for the future. Perhaps you and your kids can do the same. It is a legacy I would proudly share with Helen, no matter whether we ever see each other or talk together again.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 8:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post

12 January 2009

Another taste of spring

Spring in north Alabama arrives in spurts, backtracks and hides in the folds of winter’s icy coat, bursts forth out of nowhere with celebratory song, gets slapped around and cut down by Arctic clippers and finally, with an air of confidence that befits spring in a more southerly climate, settles in for a few short weeks before summer stomps in like a bargain-hunting bull in a going-out-of-business Waterford china shop.

Yesterday, as I gazed out the dining room French doors, questioning whether I should step into the chilly sunroom, I saw my next sign of spring (the first being the daffodils, marsh marigold, Star of Bethlehem, Lenten rose and daylilies poking their way up through fallen leaves) — goldfinches in their winter attire, pecking at the nyjer bird seed feeders.

The birds arrived just in time for a cold snap due to freeze this part of the world over the next few days. Oh well, at least they give me hope that wherever they’ve been, they still like to stop by my backyard for nourishment in preparation for the rites of spring. Won’t be long before hummingbirds come back. And although I like their profiles in the stark naked trees, crows will leave these woods soon, I’m sure, for warmer climes.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 3:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, General, novel

10 January 2009

State of the World 22 Years Later

In the here and now, looking back over 22 years since the purchase of my first (and only) primary living quarters commonly called a house, I review the State of the World report (subtitled A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society) published in the same year, 1987. Beside me, a vinyl LP album titled Radio-Activity by Kraftwerk converts from analog to digital format so that in the future I may listen to the MP3 version of this album from 1975. I drink a glass of blackberry wine from Keg Springs Winery.

The contents of the 1987 report are as follows:

  1. Thresholds of Change, by Lester R. Brown and Sandra Postel
  2. Analyzing the Demographic Trap, by Lester R. Brown
  3. Assessing the Future of Urbanization, by Lester R. Brown and Jodi Jacobson
  4. Reassessing Nuclear Power, by Christopher Flavin
  5. Electrifying the Third World, by Christopher Flavin
  6. Realizing Recycling’s Potential, by Cynthia Pollock
  7. Sustaining World Agriculture, by Lester R. Brown
  8. Raising Agricultural Productivity, by Edward C. Wolf
  9. Stabilizing Chemical Cycles, by Sandra Postel
  10. Designing Sustainable Economies, by William U. Chandler
  11. Charting a Sustainable Course, by Lester R. Brown and Edward C. Wolf

The book poses the following statements:

  • Economic activity could be approaching a level where future growth in gross world product costs more than it is worth.
  • By 2000, three out of five cities with populations of 15 million or more will be in the Third World.
  • Over two-thirds of the people in most European countries are now against the construction of nuclear plants.
  • More than half the cities in the United States will exhaust their current landfills by 1990.
  • Climate change could carry a global price tag of $200 billion for irrigation adjustments alone.
  • The existing scientific effort falls short of what is needed to assess the impacts of human activity on the global environment.
  • For some of the major adjustments facing humanity, a relatively small number of countries hold the key to success.

For some of these statements, the future has fulfilled the promises implied. For others, I have yet to decide if the statements were sufficiently detailed to point to a future “answer.”

Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” has covered much of the territory that the Worldwatch Institute discusses in their annual report so I’m not here to repeat, support, deny or imply any opinion in the realm of statistical data about sustainable societies. What I do know is that the house next door to me is now for sale at the astonishing price of $494,000, a far cry from the $91,900 I paid for mine 22 years ago, a 538% increase in neighborhood house value, even in today’s depressed housing market!

What does that say about the rest of the world?

For instance, a gallon of gas should cost almost $5 by now in the United States and it did, briefly, late last year. It’s back down to less than $2 again, however.

What does that mean to me?

Well, looking at the 1987 State of the World report, I expect I would find that extrapolated predictions may or may not match a calculated formulaic rise that one item we all use has followed. Too many extenuating circumstances, too many factors accounted and not accounted for get in the way of seeing the future clearly.

Therefore, when I hear politicians and experts making claims that their plans will make the future better, I smile to myself, knowing that the likelihood of all the claims lining up with plans is small. Not impossibly small and not impossible. Just small. There’s a chance all the claims and plans will line up as if everyone knew they would and made it happen.

I will stay the course. I will continue to invest in the stock market, put money in mutual funds, buy bonds, watch my neighborhood for suspicious activity and…you know what, that last one is a doozy, because everything is suspicious to me – no wonder Clint Eastwood decided to make the movie, “Gran Torino.” You try watching your neighborhood to determine what is ‘normal’ activity against which you can decide that something stands out enough for you to call a neighbor or police. But I digress.

The state of the world is changing every second. We can track trends and guess within fairly accurate limits where we can make our next measurement. We know species will lose sustainable environments and disappear from the face of the Earth forever. We also know that the human population will continue growing, but not indefinitely.

I say, so what? Billions of people have no control over the state of the world. They (we?) live rather uneventful lives by world recognition standards. Instead of preaching about the general state of the world, let’s talk about what we’re going to do tomorrow to put food on our individual tables.

I want to eat three or four small meals each day, with the first meal, breakfast, already determined – three/fourths of a cup of oatmeal, three tablespoons of ground flax seed, a cup of tea and a banana an hour later. For a middle-aged man, that meal is sufficient. What about for you? What’s sufficient to get your day started? I doubt it’s preprocessed refined sugar wrapped around a square, rectangle or toroid object. If you believe it is, then ask yourself what exactly you are eating and where it came from.

See, it’s not some pie-in-the-sky state of the world report that makes a difference in how you’re using the world and leaving it in a better shape for your next generation. It’s really only a matter of how you go through the day, each hour and minute doing whatever it is that you do to say you make a difference in your circle of influence.

Oh, and in case you hadn’t looked at the link to 1987 above, there was a stock market crash that year:

  • US Stock Market Crashed on Monday, October 19th, 1987 with a 508 point drop or 22.6%.
  • Stock markets around the world followed with falls, by the end of October Australia had fallen 41.8%, Canada 22.5%, Hong Kong 45.8%, and the United Kingdom 26.4%.
  • The World’s Population reached approx five billion (5,000,000,000).

And guess what, despite all the doom-and-gloom news that year, we’re still here. Yes, the average world temperature is a little warmer, and before long, ship traffic through the Arctic Ocean in summer will be unfettered while at the same time the only polar bears may be the ones in zoos. I’m not saying the world will be a better place or a worse place 22 years from now, if you and I are still around to talk about it. I’m just saying that to become the quiet millionaire next-door, you gotta stick to a plan. Money doesn’t grow on trees, it grows in the marketplace of ideas. Some ideas will falter. But many of them will grow and take your investments up to new heights.

Pick a plan. I don’t care what it is but make it a smart one. Just like a treehouse built in a single tree is more likely to fall than one spread among several trees, you should spread your investments around. That’s about as smart as it gets. Playing the odds, not playing it odd.

How about in 22 years, you and I meet up in a space hab unit for a few days of weightless spa treatments? Maybe a vacation arranged by the company that will buy out Bigelow Aerospace in the future, including a flight on Virgin Galactic. I’ll go ahead and set my calendar now for the 10th of January 2031. Of course, by then we’ll have some sort of biological implants that’ll let us communicate “telepathically” so when our brain patterns match up while we’re getting our epidermis revitalized and our DNA rejuvenated, we can compare notes on how well the past 22 years have been to those of us who weren’t spooked by the occasional dip, drop or plop in the world economy. We can ROFL with LOL all we want by then!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:22 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, finance, General, investment, market, money, stocks, technology

08 January 2009

My Review of iConvert™ USB Turntable

Originally submitted at Brookstone

Our USB turntable converts old records to MP3 files instantly—no computer necessary! It’s incredibly easy to use. Just insert a flash drive or SD®/MMC® memory card, play your album, and press “record.” Your favorite songs are instantly transformed into digital MP3 files. You don’t need to u…

iConvert™ USB Turntable

Tape penny on stylus for scratchy record

By bigcove from Big Cove, AL on 1/8/2009

 

4out of 5

Gift: Yes

Pros: Good Protection, Easy to Set Up, Fits Well, Stylish, Adds Functionality, Lightweight, Durable

Cons: Flimsy

Best Uses: Daily Usage

Describe Yourself: Avid Listener

Primary use: Personal

I have a vinyl LP collection that I haven’t heard in almost 25 years. This iConvert record-to-MP3 player has brought my high school and college years back to life. The setup was easy but I recommend taping a penny on top of the stylus arm (above and behind the needle) – the extra weight seems to keep the needle moving forward without skipping for all but the largest scratches.

[Audacity software will help you edit out excess noise if you want to download and learn it.]

Higher bit rates helps make the MP3 converted music richer.

(legalese)

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Prayers do not require a religion

Regardless of your belief and/or practice in an established religion, prayer and positive thoughts for others benefits you and the people for whom you direct your meditative thoughts.

Please pray for my friends in Israel, Lebanon, and other Middle East countries. I got word from a high school mate of mine, Baruch, a Breslev Chassid who lives in northern Israel, that a bomb landed in his neighborhood today – please pray for him and others in that part of the world as they work through this difficult time with their neighboring countries whose militant and dissident occupants use violence to achieve their ends:

This morning we awoke to the sound of an exploding Katyusha, just a block and a half away. It landed on the top floor of a nursing home around 7:35 this morning. Two injuries were reported due to the scattering debris. Thank God we are okay. Again, at 10:55 this morning a siren alerted us to another attack possible attack. Reports indicate that Hamas in Southern Lebanon is responsible for the attacks in the North, but whose fooling whom here. My wife just told me that two rockets exploded in Nahariyya this morning. The location of the second will be reported later, once we determine its location.

For those who want a deeper insight into what’s going on here in Israel. Hashem (God) is wanting to draw us closer to Him. It’s like when a child tugs at your leg, you really don’t pay attention until the child starts climbing your leg or crying. That’s kind of what’s going on now. Hashem wants to get our attention and draw us closer to him. He only wants us to rely solely on Him and no one or anything else.

Please also pray for my friends in Ireland. The recession is very tough on my friends in southwestern Ireland. Every week it seems another larger employer is closing down or announcing major layoffs. Please pray for them as they find employment more and more difficult to attain:

Dell confirms plans to shed 1,900 jobs in Limerick
By Louisa Nesbitt and Ian Guider Thursday January 08 2009, Independent.ie

Dell Inc., the world’s second-biggest personal-computer maker, will cut almost 2,000 jobs in Limerick in a cost-cutting measure.

The company plans to move all manufacturing from the Raheen facility to Poland over the next 12 months following a global review of its operations.

The measures at the 18-year-old Dell plant, which became a symbol of the Celtic Tiger boom years, dealt another blow to the economy with unemployment already at its highest level in more than a decade.

Dell employs about 4,300 people in Ireland. Around 1,900 people will lose their jobs as a result, while thousands more ancillary jobs could also be at risk in the mid-west region.

The lay-offs will begin in April and will be completed by January of next year.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:13 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, religion

07 January 2009

Visions From Youth

In high school, I had a vision and wrote about it in my English composition class (Mrs. Bryant was the teacher’s name), doing what all writers do, turning a vision into a short story:

The occupants of the space station, two women and five men aboard, would witness the world economy in the midst of a severe infrastructure collapse and wonder how they’d return to Earth safely. At that moment, an object from space hits Earth and destroys almost every living thing. The astronauts / cosmonauts / taikonauts then have to figure out how to survive and keep the human species going.

The story ends with the occupants deciding to split into two teams. One team will return to Earth and attempt to repopulate on the ground. The other team will remain in the space station and preserve technology for the future, attempting to navigate over to other orbiting objects (satellites, space debris, etc.) to build a space raft that would be maneuvered into a high enough orbit that its rate of orbital decay would take decades to crash into Earth. The reader is left with a sense of hope that the ingenuity of humans will help the species survive.
I read this article about a “perfect space storm” and wondered if that could be part of my vision.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:25 AM 1 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, Story, technology

03 January 2009

Launch Delayed Due to Fog

The woman who doesn’t believe in or have dreams appeared in one of my dreams last night. That one and another dream stand out among the untold REM thoughts I had.

Lately, a few months after seeing people in nursing homes who have no quality of life left ahead of them and just last week, after seeing similar people in the hospital hooked up to a spider web of tubes in their last hours of life, I have wondered if a society should allow self-elimination as a decision to make a major change in the way people live. Needless to say, self-elimination is the choice not to live any longer, but if one has excruciating, unbearable pain in the midst of terminal cancer or faces a fate worse than death, is death of one’s choosing a viable option? Although my life is a happy one, self-elimination is still the a possible decision that looms when I come up on the fear that I might end up a ‘vegetable’ putting costly economic and emotional burdens on family, friends and society.

The first dream I had I can barely remember because the people and their activities in my dream constitute the classic nightmare. They performed acts of unconscionable, deplorable but imaginable violence on people and other animals – murder, torture, cruelty of all sorts – as if their actions had no consequences and they just happened to be torturing and killing that day instead of feeding the poor or attending to the sick. I woke up realizing that if I or someone else chooses self-elimination, then we are no different than those non-conscientious people in my first dream.

The second dream stands out for its theme of hope.

In this part of the world on an early January Saturday morning, fog hangs over the landscape. As I look out on the 270-degree view from the sunroom into the backyard, my eyes wander up the hillside, over the wet leaves, around the big boulders, through the gray and light brown tree stalks and into the fog that obscures a distant view. My dreams will fade away with time like the foggy forest beside me, unless I record all the details while they’re fresh in my mind.

Before I went to sleep last night, I sat up in bed and read “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” The epic tale contains many references to the importance of dreams, just as other ancient texts such as the Talmud and Bible do. Therefore, I am not surprised that my dreams gained more than average importance for me this morning. I attribute the technological aspects of the dream I’m about to recount to the two books I’ve just finished, “Outliers: The Story of Success” and “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,” and the book I’m currently reading, “The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal.”

Space exploration serves as a thematic background for me. In last night’s second dream, I found myself sitting with a group of about 70 friends and family, including Gwynn, her husband and children, her parents and other familiar faces. We sat in rows of chairs that were like seats in the cabin of a space shuttle (each row composed of two sets of seven seats divided by a center aisle, with five rows; thus 2 x 5 x 7 = 70). We faced a speaker who pointed at a 3D projection and explained why a particular experimental spacecraft had been built. The space plane he described had two hulls that were like delta wings attached to each other in a hinged manner so that the plane ‘flapped’ to gain momentum. A previous version of the plane used freely sliding weights to cause the hulls to flap up and down but gravity was not sufficient to keep the plane flying so a piston system had been installed to increase the plane’s chance of taking off from the ground and flying into space. The speaker asked for volunteers to ride in the plane during its maiden flight so they could provide weight balance and give a subjective account of the flight.

I sat in the middle of the third row that was in the section on the right side of the aisle facing the speaker. Gwynn sat in the same row but in the middle of the section on the left side of the aisle. She spoke up and joked that all her father’s constant talk about community responsibility (getting good grades in school, having children, chaperoning your kids’ school events, joining social groups, etc.) could be summarized into sending all his offspring onto the plane for the experiment. If the experiment succeeded, Gwynn’s father could point proudly to the bravery and honor that his children and grandchildren have shown. If the experiment failed, why couldn’t he exclaim the same thing, Gwynn asked out loud in a mocking voice, even though he would have no surviving representatives of his genetic output left to hear his wisdom and carry it out?

Gwynn’s father, who sat ahead of me in the first aisle, started to speak and we all turned to face him. “I believe…,” he said, hesitating before continuing, “I believe that you misunderstand my philosophy. Responsibility to the community includes NOT taking unnecessary chances.”

Gwynn laughed. “Dad, that’s where I disagree. Each generation makes its own decisions, even while taking the advice of previous generations into account. I say we all get on that plane and help test this plane.”

Gwynn’s father cleared his throat. “In times of threat such as war, yes, then we must volunteer to protect the community. But this is just a plane, and one limited mainly to space use at that. Our community responsibility does not mean we have to help test a plane of which few citizens will ever use.”

Gwynn laughed again, got up and walked toward the door at the rear of the room.

Her laughter reminded me that I’d had some good times with her when we were in high school together so I followed her to see what she was up to. She slowed down when she saw me so we could walk together.

We walked out of the briefing room and down a corridor that further indicated to me we were inside a vehicle in outer space. Or at least we were in such a vehicle. I had no idea if we were on Earth or in space.

Gwynn motioned us inside a small control room. I could hear the quiet rhythm of hidden machinery, like someone breathing behind me. Gwynn quickly talked me through the uses of the keys and knobs on a panel in front of us, which operated the launch and guidance of a small experimental sphere into the midst of space debris. She then looked at me and laughed again.

“You know what. This experiment is more important than that other one. And for you, even more so, because it involves exactly two people, you and someone else.”

“Really?” I looked back down at the knobs and calculated the risks involved in launching a two-person craft from the space station we were on. I felt someone step in between Gwynn and me and could see out of my peripheral vision the other person was wearing a space suit but no helmet.

I lifted my head and standing next to me was Helen. We smiled at each other with a look of familiarity that spoke of a long time apart and the satisfaction of being back in each other’s company once again.

Helen put her arm around my waist. “Hey.”

“Hello.” I felt a warm glow running up my back from where Helen pressed her hand.

“So you want to go up in this thing with me?”

I smiled even bigger than before, sending signals to Helen that only she and I could interpret, my face saying, ‘There’s no one else I’d want to go out into space on a dangerous mission with.’

She returned the smile, her eyes saying, ‘Of course, what was I thinking?’

I put my arm over her shoulders and looked back at the control panel. “Well, Gwynn, the launch is set for tomorrow night, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Rick, it is.”

I looked at Helen, sighing with the satisfaction of the restoration of my inner peace. “There’s a meteor shower tomorrow…”

“And…” Helen jumped to continue my sentence, as she used to.

“And that means there’s a two in a million chance of our being hit by micrometeors. In other words, of a million meteors of different sizes flying around us, two of them will go undetected and hit our spacecraft, creating untold damage, up to total destruction of the craft. What that means about the rest of them flying around us and their influence on our flight, I don’t know.”

Helen squeezed my waist, telling me she didn’t care.

I pulled her to me, hugging her, leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Do you want to go out there tomorrow night and take the chance of dying with me in space?”

She leaned the side of her head into my face, letting me know that she could die with me and be happy. “But I don’t want to die yet, do you?” she whispered in my ear.

I pulled back and looked down into her eyes. “No.” There was still just too much more life left to live, especially with her.

Helen hugged me tightly, her face buried in my chest.

I nodded at Gwynn. “Some things are more important than advancing technology.”

Gwynn laughed again. “It’s funny hearing you, of all people, saying that. Oh well.” Gwynn shrugged her shoulders and walked out of the room, disappointed that I wouldn’t help her with a technological experiment but happier that she had gotten Helen and me back together.

I woke up, noting that I had slept on my left side, with our oldest Cornish Rex cat asleep under the covers of the bed, leaning against my chest, and our youngest Cornish Rex cat sleeping against the crook of my back. My wife dozed quietly behind me.

I got up, used the bathroom to pee and wash my hands. My wife woke up and requested I bring her the mouthpiece that helps her sleep without snoring. I gave her the mouthpiece, fed the cats who were then begging for food, cooked myself a bowl of oatmeal, fed the fish, heated a mug of Earl Gray tea and walked out to the sunroom to write. I sat next to the copy of National Geographic that detailed the 50 years of humans traveling into space that I had read a couple of days ago. Hmm…

The fog has lifted but full sunshine is still just out of reach. Time to eat my oatmeal and figure out what to do about my dream. My dreams have come true before. Haven’t yours?

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:53 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, novel, religion, Story, success

01 January 2009

Simple, Short and to the Point

May we all enjoy the next 365 days. In other words, have a great year, regardless of the cumulative number and start day you assign to it. Mine just happened to start today, the 1st of January, and is arbitrarily numbered 2009 (human history is much older than 2009 years, of course, but since my ancestors chose to follow this numbering system so will I).

30 December 2008

When a Blog Entry Is Just a Diary Excerpt

Tuesday, 30 Dec 2008 – Rogersville, TN (limited number of crosslinks due to slow Internet access). Every culture develops ceremonies for which humans can spend time away from their assortment of usual activities, thus giving special meaning to the humans’ lives because they gain a sense of unique value while focusing on their participation or non-participation in the ceremonies. Wintertime ceremonies flourish this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, with calendar-synched activities occurring in the warmer Southern Hemisphere. Living in the Northern Hemisphere my whole life, I’ve lost the true global perspective on how a winter ceremony that we Northerners have globalized appears to someone who’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt, swimming trunks and sandals singing “Winter Wonderland” or “Frosty the Snow Man” in the southern half of the world.

Many centuries ago, my ancestors chose to adopt the ceremonies that the Roman Empire had adapted itself to (I can see the value of a large political system changing from a multitheistic emotional support system to a monotheistic one, “proving” to the general populace that a single emperor makes more sense than competing emperors), thus participating in the rituals developed under the banner of the Christian religion, including the use of a Romanized language.

This winter, as in all the winters of my life, I received gifts on or about the 25th of December, symbolizing the rebirth of our emotional selves (our souls, if you will) in the midst of the doldrums of days with less sunlight. As I’ve grown older, I’ve given gifts to more and more people in a subconscious attempt to even out or exceed the number of gifts I’ve received, a sort of yin-yang of Christmas, if you will.

As I approached the day of Christmas, I found myself reading “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys, a book that loosely chronicles the life of the author who grew up in the Caribbean islands. Before I could find time to finish the book, the days of gift exchange occurred and I find myself awash in more bundled pages to focus my eyes upon:

  • “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell
  • “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” by Leonard Mlodinow
  • “The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal” by Jared Diamond
  • “The Story of Chicago May” by Nuala O’Faolain
  • “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin & Heidi Toffler
  • “Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace” edited by Mark Tovey
  • “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore, a popup book by Robert Sabuda

I also received the following movies:

  • Layer Cake
  • Memento
  • A Clockwork Orange

I have one CD to hear, “Cripple Creek 2007, Better Than Ever,” as well as a hunting knife to play with, a bottle of Puerto Rican rum to drink and a crank-powered LED flashlight to shine ahead of me (I think I should create my own ceremony using the items just listed, don’t you? LOL).

With all of those wonderful gifts in my possession, what did I give away? Not much, frankly. I made necklaces for my wife and mother. Every other gift which bore my name was purchased with my wife’s money this year – such is the life of a consultant in the idle part of a working 12-month calendar.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog entry, probably my last one for the year 2008.

While I sat in the hospital last night, waiting for a medical professional to stop by the hospital room where my 91-year young mother in-law lay in bed after being admitted through the ER earlier in the day for uncharacteristic body function measurements noted by a home health care worker, I flipped through some old magazines in the patient/family lounge. I skipped over the “Mature Living” and “Field and Stream” magazines I had read on previous hospital visits and picked up a copy of the September 24, 2007, edition of “Newsweek” with Alan Greenspan on the cover. The articles on Greenspan including a general business review of Greenspan’s career by Daniel Gross, an interview (‘two-hour tutorial’) with Jon Meacham and Daniel Gross and an excerpt from Greenspan’s book, “The Age of Turbulence.”

A paragraph from the excerpt haunted me during my dreams last night, especially the highlighted phrase below:

As awesomely productive as market capitalism has proved to be, its Achilles’ heel is a growing perception that its rewards, increasingly skewed to the skilled, are not distributed justly. Market capitalism on a global scale continues to require ever-greater skills as one new technology builds on another. Given that raw human intelligence is probably no greater today than in ancient Greece, our advancement will depend on additions to the vast heritage of human knowledge accumulated over the generations. A dysfunctional U.S. elementary and secondary education system has failed to prepare our students sufficiently rapidly to prevent a shortage of skilled workers and a surfeit of lesser-skilled ones, expanding the pay gap between the two groups. Unless America’s education system can raise skill levels as quickly as technology requires, skilled workers will continue to earn greater wage increases, leading to ever more disturbing extremes of income concentration. Education reform will take years, and we need to address increasing income inequality now. Increasing taxes on the rich, a seemingly simple remedy, is likely to prove counterproductive to economic growth. But by opening our borders to large numbers of highly skilled immigrant workers, we would both enhance the skill level of the overall workforce and provide a new source of competition for higher-earning employees, thus driving down their wages. The popular acceptance of capitalist practice in the United States will likely rest on these seemingly quite doable reforms. [bold/italicized emphasis is mine, not Greenspan’s]
It is not an accident that human beings persevere and advance in the face of adversity. Adaptation is in our nature, a fact that leads me to be deeply optimistic about our future. Seers from the oracle of Delphi to today’s Wall Street futurists have sought to ride this long-term positive trend that human nature directs. The Enlightenment’s legacy of individual rights and economic freedom has unleashed billions of people to pursue the imperatives of their nature—to work toward better lives for themselves and their families. Progress is not automatic, however; it will demand future adaptations as yet unimaginable. But the frontier of hope that we all innately pursue will never close.
I continue to educate myself about current economic and research trends so that I can understand where our society is moving, giving me the insight I need to understand where my skills are best applied. Despite my continuing education, I know my level of intelligence limits my true comprehension of fields such as quantum mechanics and synthetic drug development. In other words, my ability to go from the front suite of a corporate office to the labs of a research university and integrate my knowledge of the two into an in-depth whole would not impress the deepest thinkers of the world but might fool the general person on the street. So if I, with an IQ measured many years ago at a level a standard deviation or two (but not six) above average, realize my limitations, what should I expect of the vast majority of humans living under the rest of the bell curve?

If technology complexity increases indefinitely, how do we keep unskilled workers productive?

In this season of reflection and gift giving (and cuddling up by the fire in the Northern Hemisphere, including me on the chilly December day, even if the “fire” is a set of artificial logs heated by natural gas to supplement the warm air blowing out of the vents of a home central heating/cooling pump system), I say that we skilled workers who have the ability to develop and integrate complex systems should give our unskilled workers the gift of simplifying the usability of technology systems. The gift that keeps on giving, as they say.

We stand up and protest when car manufacturers insist on putting iDrives into mass-produced automobiles. We tear up any user interface that requires more than two or three buttons to operate. We treat every system as if it was an emergency situation that can be handled with the press of a large red panic button to set into motion immediately (or stopped just as easily).

As Greenspan noted, the behemoth of the education system, like a large cruise or battle ship going at full speed, cannot be stopped and turned on a dime in a short period of time. While school experiments such as KIPP are taking place and slowly influencing the way students are taught – the bottom-up approach to building a better functioning society – skilled workers will work on building systems that anyone can use, a top-down approach that hopefully will let us meet in the middle more quickly, not only putting the current topsy-turvy economy back on its feet but make our global society more cooperative and working toward a peaceful solution to many local skirmishes that are caused by economic inequalities that can be tied to poor education and workplace training.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:03 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, General, government, investment, market, religion

11 December 2008

Change in Plans

I had planned to write this blog entry about the recent revelation concerning the contagion sweeping the world in the form of happiness. Then, I thought about the news article and realized this is not news. We have been sharing happiness, joy and a positive attitude with one another for millennia. Instead of talking about spreading the ‘disease’ of happiness, I have changed my daily habits so that I’m spreading happiness almost every day. [NOTE: I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs]

In concert with the report on happiness, I was also going to discuss the prospect of investing in “green” technology during a worldwide recession, telling you where I had planned to put my money to ensure that not only does the economy get a boost but my portfolio grows in a green way, too. Then I realized that a recession, or a contracting economy (“contracting” as in diminishing in size, not as in formal building proposal), is a form of green technology in itself.

By letting the economy shrink and forcing many people to curtail spending on superfluous goods and services, we actually find ourselves making decisions about what’s important for our survival. Then, instead of buying the “next great thing,” we can see for ourselves that spending time with other people, in lieu of spending money on items that substitute for one-to-one interaction, can bring us joy and happiness.

In conclusion, I have determined that a recession causes happiness! Or at least, if we put our minds to it, we can use this economic slump to bring happiness to others via our smiling faces and personal talents such as storytelling, singing, dancing, card-playing and game-playing, instead of giving each other a gee-whiz portable music player, catch-all cell phone, all-in-one transportation device or humongogigantisaurus televising entertainment complex.

==========================
Secrets to Share Happiness — Part One

Now, to the ways we can share happiness.

I am a technology buff and believe that ingenuity in the realm of technology brings people together in a one-to-one way we hadn’t thought of 100 years ago. Who would have thought that our journals/diaries would become public announcements in the form of blogs that we would want to connect to others’? As a technology buff, I want to use the tools available to me and know that the progress of technology will continue to increase the ways people connect with each other.

At the same time, technology serves as a dilemma to those of us who recognize that the raw materials needed to support high-tech growth have to come from somewhere and usually it’s from areas outside of our immediate sight. Thus, as we enjoy the world’s largest LCD TV installed in our special-purpose HD theater room, we do not see the local strip mines and the low-paid workers who extract the precious metals needed for producing LCD panels. Nor do many of us see the island forests cleared to build factories and other manufacturing infrastructure in Malaysia.

I tell you this because I believe our happiness should not come at the cost of ignorance. When we approach our friends and colleagues in virtual connections in the hopes of spreading happiness, let us keep in mind the cost of virtual reality. That way, as you move forward, you can with clarity ask yourself whether walking down the street to visit a dying neighbor is more important than checking the list of holiday joke emails you’ve received from your worldwide network of virtual friends.

With that said, during the recent U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday, I visited my hometown, the place where I spent my days going to study reading, writing and arithmetic with my school mates. During the holiday, a former school mate of mine told me that I should connect up with other former primary school mates through Facebook. I created a Facebook profile and all of a sudden I found myself reconnecting with people I haven’t seen since 1980. Facebook and other social networking sites are fun to use (I also have profiles on LinkedIn, Plaxo and Naymz).

Over the past few days, I have scanned dozens of photos from the period 1978-1980 and posted them on Facebook.

The happiness that people have expressed in seeing themselves and other school mates in photos from 30 years ago cannot substitute for much in my life, other than actual face-to-face contact with them. However, because the group of people I spent my school days with have dispersed across the globe, this is the only way we have to see each other, and for the advance in technology that has made this possible, I am thankful. I balance this virtual happiness time against the good times I spend with friends, neighbors and colleagues in my town.

So, see, there is a way to share happiness during this worldwide recession. You can physically visit with your neighbors, friends and long-lost relatives and you can visit them virtually. When engaged in the latter activity, keep in mind the cost to the environment, even if you have to stretch your unused altruistic muscles to do so — your future neighbors, friends and long-lost relatives will happily thank you, I’m sure.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:13 AM 0 comments Links to this post

03 December 2008

Don Quixote’s not dead.

Yesterday, while ruminating about the future after eating a mesquite-smoked turkey sandwich, I remembered what I had forgotten I remembered — the subject for a future blog entry. Therefore, the future is yesterday because the blog entry is now.

I dedicate this blog entry to a friend of mine named Ali. Ali grew up in Lebanon, the son of a Christian mother and a Muslim father. He saw firsthand the violence that religious belief causes. When he moved to the United States to earn a college degree, he saw firsthand the tolerance that religious belief causes. Ali eventually got his PhD and somewhere along the way he became a U.S. citizen, giving up the riches of his Lebanese inheritance, including a Ferrari his father promised him if he returned to his birthplace (his family is part of the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East that, frankly, I know little about). How many of us know the price of freedom that someone like Ali has paid? I see it but I can only imagine the conflicting thoughts and health-wrecking emotions that such a person goes through, to give up family ties in order to live freely.

While thinking about the main subject for this blog entry, I took a walk through the woods behind our house. A cold breeze stirred up freshly-fallen maple leaves, burning my ears that were trying to hear the sounds of spring which always warm my body frozen stiff from cabin fever. Deer tracks in the mud reminded me of the overpopulation of Odocoileus virginianus in this part of the country. We humans attempt to control the deer by shooting them for sport and to a small degree, it helps. However, the deer keep multiplying. If ever there was a problem looking for a solution, then finding a way to deliver deer meat to homeless shelters and the homes of the poor fits in there somehow…perhaps we should teach the poor to hunt for themselves. What’s that saying about teaching a man to fish? Let’s see, “he’ll never go hungry”? No, that’s not it. “He’ll sit in a boat all day and get drunk”? Maybe that’s the one.

While incense burns nearby, I spend a few minutes contemplating the rotation of Earth on its axis as the Sun passes by in the low southern sky. Interesting, how the problems of the world economy, the pestilence, the poverty, the history of humanity, the dos and don’ts, the haves and have nots, and all the other human-centric issues just disappear. Prayer and meditation cure many an ill.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched the movie, “The Man of La Mancha,” starring Peter O’Toole, Sophia Loren, and James Coco. I wanted to see how the movie compared to the book I had read recently, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (“The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha”). Surprisingly, the two matched up pretty well. Both had slow parts that made me wonder where the author was taking the narrative. Most importantly, the movie reminded me of today’s blog entry. But first, some lyrics from the movie:

“The Impossible Dream”

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
========================

For you see, the subject of today’s blog entry concerns the understanding (or misunderstanding) between two religions — an impossible dream, it seems at times. In the Western world, Christianity dominates as the form of ethical, moral and meditative education given to children and practiced by adults. In the Middle East and northern Africa, Islam dominates. Or rather, I should say that through tradition and relative success, families in these regions have found the two religions useful in producing offspring. I will not argue that one religion is more or less violent than the other. To turn a phrase, religions do not kill people, people kill people.

Having grown up in an English-speaking Christian society, I celebrate when those of the majority population truly accept others who may not speak English and do not profess Christianity as their emotional foundation. At the same time, I expect acceptance of my language and other behavioral skills when they are in the minority at the local population level.

At my mother in-law’s house last week, I skimmed through a stack of National Geographic magazines. I had just finished reading a local newspaper column about wrestling entitled, “WWE no doubt thankful for its money-making DVD sets,” and reminisced about the conversations that Ali and I had about the old wrestling stars. There’s nothing like a good rumble in the ring for fans of all backgrounds to enjoy time together. I would talk about watching the likes of Ric Flair while Ali reminded me that Ric was successful only because of the popularity of wrestlers like Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant and Ivan Koloff. Ali taught me much about Lebanese wrestlers, such as Sheik Ali, telling me that wrestling was as popular there as it is here. Who knew? Obviously not me.

Anyway, I came across the August 2008 issue of NatGeo that focused on Persia, “Ancient Iran: Inside A Nation’s Persian Soul.” There, I read an interesting paragraph:

The legacy from antiquity that has always seemed to loom large in the national psyche is this: The concepts of freedom and human rights may not have originated with the classical Greeks but in Iran, as early as the sixth century B.C. under the Achaemenid emperor Cyrus the Great, who established the first Persian Empire, which would become the largest, most powerful kingdom on Earth. Among other things, Cyrus, reputedly a brave and humble good guy, freed the enslaved Jews of Babylon in 539 B.C., sending them back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple with money he gave them, and established what has been called the world’s first religiously and culturally tolerant empire. Ultimately it comprised more than 23 different peoples who coexisted peacefully under a central government, originally based in Pasargadae — a kingdom that at its height, under Cyrus’s successor, Darius, extended from the Mediterranean to the Indus River.

So Persia was arguably the world’s first superpower.
Cyrus the who? Because of my upbringing that emphasized the history of my northern European ancestors, I had never heard of Cyrus, yet here it appears that a leader had great vision millenia ago. Why don’t we learn more from him in the land of the current superpower, the United States?

The NatGeo article pointed to the acts of magnanimity carved into the Cyrus Cylinder, an object that should be getting more attention than the cryptex, a cylinder supposedly invented by Da Vinci that many studied during the height of popularity of “The Da Vinci Code.”

Which brings me to the main subject of this blog entry — Islamic feminism. Yes, that’s right. We spend so much time in the West worrying about Islamic terrorism that we forget about the daily lives of the majority of Muslims, who find a peaceful way to raise children, run businesses and get along with their neighbors.

In general, I do not support feminism as a force majeure because of the tendency that the word “feminism” attracts and is associated with radicals. Some say that the only way to change a society is through radicalism but I disagree. Radicalism is required only if suppression and oppression are the status quo and the general populace suffers declining health and higher death rates. I believe that feminism should be practiced (and thus demonstrated) and not shoved down the throats of those who cannot comprehend the value that women bring to a society that touts equality.

What is feminism?
Plenty of websites and blogs define feminism. You can use your favorite search engine if you want to investigate what others say about feminism. I define feminism as the attitude that women are equal to men in all walks of life, including mental and physical activities, but enjoy specific differences that enhance the relationship between the two genders.

Some activities tend toward gender bias because they concentrate on gender-specific traits but that does not mean a person of the other gender cannot participate. However, the inclusion of a member of the opposite sex in such activities requires acceptance by the group. Even with an open mind, the group may not include the other person for a variety of reasons but if the group believes in feminism then the issue of gender is not one of the reasons for excluding the other person.

Islamic feminism (or nisa’iyya in Arabic) is similar. For those who’ve read and practiced the teachings of Muhammed, Islamic feminism may seem like a nonissue. For them, the Qu’ran clearly makes a place for women. The same could be said about the Bible. But many people interpret the Qu’ran and the Bible in male-dominant terms. By the same token, many women are comfortable living in a male-dominated world. Religious tolerance allows for this way to live.

Religious tolerance also allows for Islamic feminism. If you are a Westerner, I implore you to consider the prospect of an Islamic feminist and smile with gladness. For when you accept the purpose of feminism, you accept the concept of equality. When you consider a man and woman as equals, then you can accept a Christian and Muslim as equals on this planet, too. And only when we learn to treat each other as humans without preconceived notions clouding our thoughts can we work together to build a better world.

25 November 2008

Wearing Off My Fingertips

Well, the world is not coming to an end this week but boy, I tell you what, I’m not sure about some of my stock picks. I thought Rio was a good long-term buy (and given a long shot for a robust recovery of the economy by 2012, it will be) but news today implies that Rio’s debt sinks the company like Somali pirates after finding a ship full of jungle camo parkas — with no ransom, to boot.

 

So be it. I want cheap stocks to buy and that’s what I get. Rock-bottom, in the cellar, down in the mine shaft CHEAP!

 

Anyway, I haven’t had a lot of time to search for good stock deals this month. Instead, I’ve let my fingers fly over the keyboard piling bad phrase upon tired anecdote in an effort to complete a new novel for NaNoWriMo 2008. And I did it! Since I now have no fingerprints after typing like a coffee-coddled medical transcriptionist for the past few weeks, maybe now’s the time to start of life of crime. Just kidding. In any case, mission accomplished for this month — 53,467 words and counting.

 

Time to start thinking about a delicious lasagna meal for Thanksgiving!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 2:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post

24 November 2008

Wooo, Pig, Sooie!!

This was my “culture hog” weekend (you know, when you go from one art trough to another, soaking in, slopping up, and stuffing yourself on the high culture, low culture, folk culture, or popular culture). Saturday, I saw the Metropolitan Opera perform “La Damnation De Faust” by Berlioz via HD theater. Definitely a blued-hair crowd at the Regal Hollywood 18 in Huntsville but that’s okay. The music was classic Berlioz with a set similar to the multilevel jail set from the movie, “Chicago,” with acrobatics and infrared-controlled video projection a la Cirque de Soleil (during one of the intermission interviews, I found out the opera’s director, Robert Lepage, also directed the set of a Cirque de Soleil show). Glad that opera has been modernized for us young folks. LOL

The only negative about the opera was the lead female singer, Susan Graham, who looked a decade (or two) older than the character she was portraying, Marguerite. John Relyea as Mephistopheles clearly upstaged and out-acted Marcello Giordani, a decent-acting Faust with a bland face but an even better singer with a good French accent.

Sunday morning I attended a local Methodist Church in Huntsville, built in the style of wood-and-brick European cathedrals, to enjoy singing the old-time harmonious church hymns, hear a halfway decent choir and hope for a good organ solo (and a bonus! — the boring annual “time to pledge your money and services” sermon by a newly ordained minister).

Last night, I watched the swingin’ performance of the Miss Tess Trio (a smaller version of Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade) at the Flying Monkey Arts Center in Huntsville. Wow! They had three to six couples toe-tapping and dancing on the floor at any one time. I felt like I was back in the Jazz Age, what with the brown-baggin’ going on and moonshine jug sitting on the table nearby. The opening act, Helen Keller’s Ukulele was more interesting, as far as music style goes (imagine a mix of circus music and Tiny Tim) but not something to dance to — that music was more appropriate for a soundtrack, in my opinion — the lead singer wearing what I call grandma glasses, shoulder-length hair and a green scarf, sang with a soft voice. I drank a bottle of old-fashioned ginger ale from the Buffalo Rock company — great fizzing sensation!

Anyway, the band inspired me to sketch them in action. The band members autographed the sketch after the show and asked me to scan and email it to them because they thought it was cool (so do I, knowing I drew it in dim light from the stage!). I forwarded the sketch to the band this morning.

Helen Keller’s Ukulele inspired me to rewrite my novel and retitle it from “Passing The Time” to one of the following:

· Rational Exuberance
· A Period Not Yet Justified
· A Space Not Justified
· Capitalized and Justified
· No Photos Outside Tourist Areas
· A City Goes Silent
· A Space, A Period and A Capital

The novel is a prequel to the next one which will star the illustrious one (a/k/a Belle) and the silent one (a/k/a Maria).

 

Here’s a sample from the novel:

A few weeks later I found myself at home alone, with my wife gone on a business trip and my cats just wanting to be left alone sunning in the dining room. Bored, I drove over to Fredirique’s house so I could once again heave open the ancient garage door and face the daunting task of solving the mystery of Japanese rice burners. I knew Fredirique wasn’t home so I could work on the bike in meditative peace, sort of like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, only I haven’t read the book so I know about as much about it as I did fixing the bike.
Sitting on the concrete floor in the suffocating heat of that day was bad enough but here I was trying to be a backyard mechanic, skillfully whacking at a stubborn bolt with a broken pair of pliers. After two hours of banging and cursing, I leaned backed, letting my neck rest on the cool vinyl of the weight bench. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, but only momentarily.
In my half-awake state, I heard the sound of an approaching vehicle whose engine noise reminded me of an old Volvo. Didn’t Fredirique own a Volvo, I wondered. The engine stopped and a door opened. With my eyes closed, I couldn’t see the person coming but I imagined someone getting closer.
“Lee, are you all right?” a concerned voice said into my left ear. I looked up to see Fredirique leaning down over me. Caught as I was half-asleep, my mind raced through a multitude of personalities like a cat in a room full of catnip. In the same moment, panic swept through my mind, then relief when I realized I was not under attack by an invisible voice. At first, my platonic self looked at her sisterly eyes but then my caveman self took over and I glanced down at her shirt hanging open, exposing her white bra which, of course, led down to her hips shrink-wrapped in a pair of tight shorts. My eyes continued to slide down her thin white thighs until my self-conscience self took over (pretty well stereotyped by the psychiatrist-obsessed Woody Allen) and I found myself looking down at my hands stained with grease and engine oil.

 

“Uh, yeah, I just can’t seem to get the engine case open,” I managed to say out of my dried-out throat.
“Why don’t you come inside for a minute and cool off? I can turn the air conditioner on for a little while.”
“Okay,” I mumbled.
“I’ve got some juice leftover in the fridge, if you want some,” Fredirique yelled from her bedroom as she unpacked her suitcase. “There may be a beer or two in there, too.”
“No thanks,” I managed to say, sprawled out on the couch.
“Are you sure?”
I lay there in the cool silence.
“I’ll get it for you, for a price,” she said as she walked up to the couch from behind.
I leaned forward, craning my neck and cocking my eyebrows. “Like what?”
“Well, considering that I’ve let you keep your bike here for over a month and…well, you can see that the air conditioner doesn’t do that good a job.”
“It feels fine to me.”
“Lee-e-e-e,” she said in a nasally, whining voice, “I mean it. When you stop sweating like a pig on my couch, you’ll see what I mean. You won’t feel cold anymore.”
“So, uh, you want me to fix your air conditioner.”
“No, I had something else in mind,” she said in a quiet voice, while beckoning me to the bedroom hallway with her finger.
I sat up on the couch. “So what do you have to drink?” I said as I got up and walked toward the kitchen.
“Lee, come here for a minute, will you? I have something to show you.”
I stopped at the kitchen doorway. What exactly was going on here? Either I was misreading the signals or Fredirique didn’t know when to stop teasing me. I shrugged my shoulders and turned back toward the living room. “What do you want?”
“Come on into the bedroom,” her voice called out.
I stepped into the small hallway and stuck my head in her bedroom. Seeing her unmade bed with the covers piled up made me smile. Miss Architectural Digest didn’t make her bed.
“No, over here,” she said behind my back. I turned around to see Fredirique standing in the bedroom at the other end of the hallway.
I walked up behind her.
“Give me your honest opinion of what you think,” she said, putting her hands on her hips with pride.
“Of what,” I asked timidly.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 3:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: chapter excerpt, General

20 November 2008

Fall in a Maturing Maple Forest

Mid-day sun, an orchestra conductor warming up and delighting the crowd, a diverse group of beings, including shabby (some say a bit nutty) shagbark hickory trees, cedars always dressed for the occasion, stately oaks with their well-weathered skin, and the vast majority, young, fashionable maples showing off their golden, amber, and persimmon coats worn in late fall; chickadees, thrushes, and tufted titmouse birds, like children at their parents’ feet, enjoy the 54 deg F air, restlessly flying from tree to birdfeeder and back, with tasty treats in their mouth. Red berries of a deciduous holly hang in undetected suspension, envious of the popular sunflower-and-safflower deluxe seed mix from Wild Birds Unlimited.

In this cozy atmosphere, I look down at the three tomes I recently purchased from Woodward Books, a “premium” used bookstore on 108 E. Jackson Avenue in the historic Old City area of Knoxville, TN:

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Limerick, edited by G. Legman
Crashing the Party (first edition) by Ralph Nader
Before I dive into discussing those heavy volumes, I pick up a book I have read and reread, laughing at the timeliness of human folly that I remembered from Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” that is summarized in other books like Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” but seemingly satirized best in Machiavelli’s book written around 1513, “Il Principe” (better known as “The Prince“), which I hold in my hand.

While the U.S. President-elect assembles his advisory staff, perhaps he can learn from the ageless wisdom and observation of previous advisors, as in the final section of Machiavelli’s 500-year old political treatise, Chapter XXVI, “An Exhortation to Liberate Italy from the Barbarians” — [substitute “United States” for “Italy,” if you will]:

HAVING carefully considered the subject of the above discourses, and wondering within myself whether the present times were propitious to a new prince, and whether there were the elements that would give an opportunity to a wise and virtuous one to introduce a new order of things which would do honour to him and good to the people of this country, it appears to me that so many things concur to favour a new prince that I never knew a time more fit than the present.

And if, as I said, it was necessary that the people of Israel should be captive so as to make manifest the ability of Moses; that the Persians should be oppressed by the Medes so as to discover the greatness of the soul of Cyrus; and that the Athenians should be dispersed to illustrate the capabilities of Theseus: then at the present time, in order to discover the virtue of an Italian spirit, it was necessary that Italy should be reduced to the extremity she is now in, that she should be more enslaved than the Hebrews, more oppressed than the Persians, more scattered than the Athenians; without head, without order, beaten, despoiled, torn, overrun; and to have endured every kind of desolation.

Although lately some spark may have been shown by one, which made us think he was ordained by God for our redemption, nevertheless it was afterwards seen, in the height of his career, that fortune rejected him; so that Italy, left as without life, waits for him who shall yet heal her wounds and put an end to the ravaging and plundering of Lombardy, to the swindling and taxing of the kingdom and of Tuscany, and cleanse those sores that for long have festered. It is seen how she entreats God to send someone who shall deliver her from these wrongs and barbarous insolencies. It is seen also that she is ready and willing to follow a banner if only someone will raise it.

Nor is there to be seen at present one in whom she can place more hope than in your illustrious house [Historical note: refers to Giuliano de Medici. He had just been created a cardinal by Leo X. In 1523 Giuliano was elected Pope, and took the title of Clement VII.] , with its valour and fortune, favoured by God and by the Church of which it is now the chief, and which could be made the head of this redemption. This will not be difficult if you will recall to yourself the actions and lives of the men I have named. And although they were great and wonderful men, yet they were men, and each one of them had no more opportunity than the present offers, for their enterprises were neither more just nor easier than this, nor was God more their friend than He is yours.

With us there is great justice, because that war is just which is necessary, and arms are hallowed when there is no other hope but in them. Here there is the greatest willingness, and where the willingness is great the difficulties cannot be great if you will only follow those men to whom I have directed your attention. Further than this, how extraordinarily the ways of God have been manifested beyond example: the sea is divided, a cloud has led the way, the rock has poured forth water, it has rained manna, everything has contributed to your greatness; you ought to do the rest. God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.

And it is not to be wondered at if none of the above-named Italians have been able to accomplish all that is expected from your illustrious house; and if in so many revolutions in Italy, and in so many campaigns, it has always appeared as if military virtue were exhausted, this has happened because the old order of things was not good, and none of us have known how to find a new one.
And nothing honours a man more than to establish new laws and new ordinances when he himself was newly risen. Such things when they are well founded and dignified will make him revered and admired, and in Italy there are not wanting opportunities to bring such into use in every form.

Here there is great valour in the limbs whilst it fails in the head. Look attentively at the duels and the hand-to-hand combats, how superior the Italians are in strength, dexterity, and subtlety. But when it comes to armies they do not bear comparison, and this springs entirely from the insufficiency of the leaders, since those who are capable are not obedient, and each one seems to himself to know, there having never been any one so distinguished above the rest, either by valour or fortune, that others would yield to him. Hence it is that for so long a time, and during so much fighting in the past twenty years, whenever there has been an army wholly Italian, it has always given a poor account of itself; as witness Taro, Alessandria, Capua, Genoa, Vaila, Bologna, Mestre [Note: The battles of Il Taro, 1495; Alessandria, 1499; Capua, 1501; Genoa, 1507; Vaila, 1509; Bologna, 1511; Mestre, 1513].

If, therefore, your illustrious house wishes to follow those remarkable men who have redeemed their country, it is necessary before all things, as a true foundation for every enterprise, to be provided with your own forces, because there can be no more faithful, truer, or better soldiers. And although singly they are good, altogether they will be much better when they find themselves commanded by their prince, honoured by him, and maintained at his expense. Therefore it is necessary to be prepared with such arms, so that you can be defended against foreigners by Italian valour.

And although Swiss and Spanish infantry may be considered very formidable, nevertheless there is a defect in both, by reason of which a third order would not only be able to oppose them, but might be relied upon to overthrow them. For the Spaniards cannot resist cavalry, and the Switzers are afraid of infantry whenever they encounter them in close combat. Owing to this, as has been and may again be seen, the Spaniards are unable to resist French cavalry, and the Switzers are overthrown by infantry. And although a complete proof of this latter cannot be shown, nevertheless there was some evidence of it at the battle of Ravenna, when the Spanish infantry were confronted by German battalions, who follow the same tactics as the Swiss; when the Spaniards, by agility of body and with the aid of their shields, got in under the pikes of the Germans and stood out of danger, able to attack, while the Germans stood helpless, and, if the cavalry had not dashed up, all would have been over with them. It is possible, therefore, knowing the defects of both these infantries, to invent a new one, which will resist cavalry and not be afraid of infantry; this need not create a new order of arms, but a variation upon the old. And these are the kind of improvements which confer reputation and power upon a new prince.

This opportunity, therefore, ought not to be allowed to pass for letting Italy at last see her liberator appear. Nor can one express the love with which he would be received in all those provinces which have suffered so much from these foreign scourings, with what thirst for revenge, with what stubborn faith, with what devotion, with what tears. What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse obedience to him? What envy would hinder him? What Italian would refuse him homage? To all of us this barbarous dominion stinks. Let, therefore, your illustrious house take up this charge with that courage and hope with which all just enterprises are undertaken, so that under its standard our native country may be ennobled, and under its auspices may be verified that saying of Petrarch:

Virtu contro al Furore
Prendera l’arme, e fia il combatter corto:
Che l’antico valore
Negli italici cuor non e ancor morto.

Translation:
Virtue against fury shall advance the fight,
And it i’ th’ combat soon shall put to flight:
For the old Roman, valour is not dead,
Nor in th’ Italians’ breasts extinguished.
–Edward Dacre, 1640.

==========================================

While researching medical companies worthy of my investment, a friend asked me if there were solar companies that might give us a better ROI. I think she’s got me there. From a quick look at the industry, including a blog, industry news, and analysis, it appears that the price of solar and other alternative power stocks has dropped significantly lower than the general market, offering a good buy opportunity, IF AND ONLY IF the alternative energy market will recover anytime soon. I don’t see that happening, assuming history is correct. We saw the same thing back in the 1970s, when the oil embargo pushed Americans into thinking that alternative energy might save us from the influence of foreign oil. For a few years, solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave energy, nuclear and human power gained the attention of the general public. Many people found a way to adapt their daily living to alternative energy sources but the vast majority continued to use oil and coal-based power to fuel their lives.

My father taught energy efficiency courses for Virginia Tech in the late 1970s and showed me then what I still know today — when it comes to sources of energy, the average American citizen wants something cheap, reliable, and easy-to-use (e.g., an electric car will not work for the family that likes to travel long distance; the noise and vibration of neighborhood-located wind turbines is unacceptable). I perfectly understand — I live in the woods but I’ve found a way to use solar at home (photovoltaic cells to re-energize rechargeable batteries). We use CFL bulbs in the house. We close off heat pump vents and doors to unused rooms. On the other hand, I drive a used 1995 6-cylinder BMW 325i that gets 34 MPG on the highway at 57 MPH, not a hybrid Prius that gets 50 MPG, simply because I can’t justify new car payments for what boils down to a slight decrease in monthy gas bills. With the recent plummet in oil prices and the tightening of the credit market, I doubt many Americans will adopt alternative energy on a large-scale basis unless the U.S. government heavily subsidizes or mandates it. Therefore, until I see concrete evidence that the Obama administration will add alternative energy to the budget deficit, I will continue to watch the solar market but not invest in it.

Now, returning to my crystal ball and the investigation of the medical business. Hmm…medical supplies or medical services? Health insurance companies or outpatient physical therapy clinics? Tough decisions, indeed.

Meanwhile, back to helping a team of engineers get their invention to market, all while working on my NaNoWriMo novel. Life is fun on this warm fall day! Hope yours is, too.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:05 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, General, government, investment, market, novel

18 November 2008

A Match for the Ages

Some of us got to watch the match via the wonders of the Internet. For those who were there (and you know who you are), the match between Munster and the All Blacks (New Zealand), where Munster led 16-10 at the half and 16-13 until late in the game, cheering for the tired, courageous, injured and wornout players in red must have felt like the kind of fun and fable we long to tell our children about.

Although the Munster team lasted as long as they could, they lost 16-18 in a match we will tell our children about.

Thirty years after the famous 1978 match, Munster can still hold its head high:

To the brave and faithful, nothing is impossible.
Long live the 2008 Heineken Cup champions!

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 4:48 PM 0 comments Links to this post

15 November 2008

Dusting Off The Crystal Ball

A coworker named Joe once told me, “Saying I’m a millionaire is easy — getting there was even easier…and fun, too!” He bought, lived in and sold homes back during the Internet bubble at the turn of the 21st Century. When the Internet bubble burst, he gave up his “easy” job as a day trader and returned to the workforce as a computer programmer. A few years ago, I heard from a friend who’d received Joe’s resume and asked if I would hire him. I said sure, he was a good guy and seemed to know what he was talking about. I have no idea if my assessment of him was true but I was willing to back it up by stating that Joe’s air of confidence stood for something.

In these unsure economic times, unconfident people hope for a simple solution to their woes.

In 2006, I joined an international group of folks who dedicate their time during the month of November to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days in an event called National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). The winners simply have to tell a story in 50,000 words or so. I’ve successfully completed two novels during NaNoWriMo 2006 and 2007 by putting fingers to keyboard and telling a straightforward story, including a satisfactory ending.

Everyone likes a good story. I guess that’s why we see and hear the concerns from citizens all over the world. Their local news media tell stories about the sluggish economy, including bankrupt companies, job redundancies, etc., that don’t have a happy or satisfactory ending right now (unless you’re a sadist or masochist).

I dug through our storage room at the house this week, looking for some old writing material that might spark a memory for a plot for this year’s participation in NaNoWriMo. Not only did I find a great storyline (an idea for intertwining story about a couple of old flames, one from high school and one from college) but I also found an old crystal ball I’d forgotten I’d acquired in 1984 from a soothsayer who had “retired” to the life of a homeless alcoholic on the streets of Knoxville.

I saw the crystal ball in his Army surplus canvas bag while he was digging for aluminum cans in the dumpster in front of my house and offered him some beers and cash for the ball. When the fortune teller sold me the crystal ball, he told me that his mother had entrusted the oracle to him on her deathbed, telling him never to use it unless he found himself in dire straits. He had never used the sphere for fear he’d see his future, something he was not interested in. Instead, he preferred to tell other people’s futures through Tarot cards.

So here I am, sitting here with the crystal ball in my lap. Last night, I bought some incense sticks to try to simulate the conditions you see when wise men and women peer into their crystal balls (okay, maybe it’s just special effects smoke machines you see in the movies but go with me here).

I set the ball on a fleece blanket and polish it to remove my oily fingerprints. As I polish it, I see an image appearing in the ball, kind of like a portable LCD TV the day after the digital TV transition February 2009, or a shaken snowglobe — white clouds spinning around, a virtual tornado. Wait, wait…I see something appearing. It’s…it’s…well, it’s a stethoscope? No, no, it’s a staff with a snake wrapped around it. Yes, that’s it. The classic medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius. I shake globe and rub it and it still displays the snake and staff.

What does that mean? Hmm…well, I don’t predict the future and certainly have no confidence that a crystal ball I traded for some fermented hops is going to tell me the future. However, I think I see what’s going on. In the midst of a shakeup in the way people have chosen to pad or protect their portfolios, one thing is clear: we want our lives and the lives of our loved ones to contain good health. What better way to ensure we’re healthy than to invest in the medical industry?

I’ll play with the crystal ball and see if there are any specific medical companies that I should buy (and maybe Joe should, too). Meanwhile, I’ll keep working on my NaNoWriMo story.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 12:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post

10 November 2008

A Sporting Mood

While we grow up, we play with our mates. We behave like any other animal – pushing, shoving, biting, rolling around, hitting, hugging, poking…you name it, we do it.

Eventually, we capture the attention of our adult caretakers who direct us toward organized physical activities like ball tossing, block stacking and body tagging.

Those of us who display exemplary talents for throwing and chasing after balls often get promoted into organized team sports like soccer (i.e., futbol), baseball, basketball and football (with its American, Canadian and Australian versions).

The majority of us who play these organized sports do not progress to the next level of play, moving on to something else in which we excel. That is, a large population of youth may play football in secondary school but only a portion of those with superior football skills will continue playing football in primary school and even fewer will play the sport on college or semipro teams.

Therefore, the further the player progresses, the better we presume the player has become. Also, the player’s value to society increases, giving the player the option to convert the combination of talent and skill into a usable trade in the open marketplace of job opportunities, including the amateur “job” of college scholarship-funded student-athlete.

For the past 19 years, my wife and I have watched American-style football from the same seats in Neyland Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. We have enjoyed the drama of the game as well as the increasing maturity of the players as they grow from boys to men in their three to five-year college stint. We continue to marvel at the ability of the players to take bruising hits week-in and week-out while still finding a way to attend college classes, study class material after or in-between classes and improve their ability to play football the next game through weight room training or team practices.

Most importantly, we appreciate the players who understand the team concept, putting egos and superior talent aside in the drive to win football games.

During this football season, we have observed the inability of the group of players to overcome talent shortcomings or poor individual efforts on the field in order to win each week’s game. Many theories regarding this year’s team have been touted by fans, boosters, former players, current players, former coaches, current coaches, news media and current athletic administrators. We watched as the most common consensus among this diverse group of people coalesced into the desire to get rid of the head football coach, the adult who has personal responsibility for attracting the players’ attention in primary school to come play football for him in exchange for a college education. The coach was forced by the director of the athletic department to resign last week. No matter what people thought about the man himself, they now face a future without him coaching and leading the football team. The football players responded by proclaiming they would win the rest of the games to show their respect for the coach and prove the athletic director’s decision was wrong. However, they lost their next game, 13-7, while hosting a typical “weak” homecoming team, an opponent favored to lose to the Tennessee football team by 27 points.

In business, we use group dynamics to make our company move forward toward a set of common goals. Every person in the company has a set of job duties that contribute in part to those goals. When the employees fail as a group to perform their duties in a way that makes the company successful, how long should we wait to place the blame for their failures on the company’s CEO, president, or department VP? This question follows a CEO or president every day, whether employees, stockholders and the board of directors consciously think it.

Not every adult gets to play professional sports on a team but every one of us participates in team activities, no matter what we do.

So, when you work with others, observe the team’s group dynamics and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I tuned in to the team and the individual efforts of the team’s members?
  • Can I put aside my ego to assist a member of the team I do not like personally but needs my help in order to get the team to succeed?
  • In the depth of misery (i.e., the team is collapsing from loss of control or intense conflict), can I use humor to pull the team back together again?

HINT: You should respond, “Yes!,” without hesitation. After all, the chances that your team is sitting on a field in front of 100,000 screaming fans are fairly slim. More than likely, you’re sitting in a room with less than 10 people where team decision-making is easy. Therefore, no matter what your team struggles with, remember the sports teams that have to make decisions in front of thousands or even millions of people — they practice team continuity on a daily basis in order to achieve their team-based goals — like the successful sports teams, no matter how great your talent, you should always put the team first and be the one to show others how to achieve the team’s goals by disregarding ego-driven or externally-initiated conflicts. Don’t wait for a leader to get fired for you to be the one to make a difference.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 1:58 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, General, success

05 November 2008

Gesundheit!

Gesundheit! You just sneezed. If sneezing is contagious, does the simple act of saying, “Gesundheit!,” make one sneeze? There you go again – Gesundheit! – I guess it does.

We learn our behaviors through imitation and repetition. We learn our behaviors through imitation and repetition.

As the paragraph above demonstrated, we sometimes repeat a behavior without knowing why. In primary school, I discovered the works of the behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. [Before that, I read books by psychology and psychiatry “gurus” such as Freud, Adler and Jung but always felt their works about the animal mind (especially, the human mind) missed the vital aspect of animal behavior – after all, we do not respond to other persons’ thinking but to their behavior, either immediately in their presence or delayed by communications devices (notes, letters, telephones, televisions, computers, etc.). Thus, to me, the Freudian focus on what occurs at the thought level reflects more about the history of human culture and the expected behavior of specific humans in a given culture/subculture than it does the actual functioning of the whole human body, including the brain (and unfortunately, the almost universally accepted concept of a mind sitting somewhere in the area behind our eyes and between our ears).] I felt relieved that someone else agreed with me that a “mind” does not exist. Or, at least if we’re going to study humans, we should look only at their behaviors and not build elaborate schemes for second-guessing how a person’s brain (synapse-based storage and processing system) was arranging and rearranging sets of symbols in a higher-order, invisible mind.

Today, the people in the world who are tuned in to their local media outlet are responding to the news that Barack Hussein Obama will be the 44th President of the North American continent’s political organization called the United States of America. If we observe the people’s behavior, we see a range of facial expressions, vocal cord utterances and arm, torso and leg movements. We respond to their behaviors in various ways, including my typing this blog one-handed while holding a sleeping cat in the other arm.

But my responding to the outcome of the election does not concern me. Instead, my interest lies in our behavior in the days ahead. With a new U.S. Presidential administration moving into the White House in 2009, we can change our behavioral patterns of the past and establish new ones. We can stop repeating behaviors that have no purpose other than to show we still use our bodies to imitate, store, retrieve and repeat learned behaviors.

As you get a moment away from your daily set of normal routines, use this change in Presidential officeholder to look for new behaviors that will change and enhance your daily life:

  • Turn off the television or step away from the computer to give an evening to greeting a neighbor you’ve never met before and learn about one of his/her unique behaviors/skills like fly fishing, flower arranging or painting; turn around and teach that behavior to someone else on your next “free” evening.· Take an inventory of your work skills to see if there’s a skill such as file sorting, carpentry, or negotiation you could offer and teach to a volunteer / charitable organization; teach that skill to someone else and then get that person to teach it to another.

    · Teach your child a behavior that he or she can use to make life better for anyone, including how to sew a button, change an automobile tire or cook a simple meal on a stove; then get your child to teach that behavior to someone else.

In other words, we can do a lot for each other when the contagious behavior we share is more than just sneezing. Hope we run into one another at a neighbor’s house or local charity one day soon. And I know you’ll recognize me when I hear you sneeze, because you know what I will say. No, it’s not “Gesundheit!” – it’s “Teach me more!”

30 October 2008

The Number One Secret to Success and Happiness

When you find yourself on a planet whose most widespread inhabitants are bacteria, what action do you take to survive? Do you try communicating with the bacteria? When you deplete your food supply, do you avoid confrontation with the majority population (in case the bacteria have large-scale defense mechanisms) and eat some other species besides the bacteria?

How did you figure out the population count and distribution patterns to begin with? Quite possibly, you anticipated the types of organisms you’d encounter and brought surveying instruments with you to measure a sample population, from which you then extrapolated total population data.

No matter how much you analyzed and prepared your approach to the planet, you know you have made decisions that will limit your capabilities.

However, you maintain one important goal — personal survival.

And so it is in business, also. When you entered a new market, you prepared a set of goals and objectives, made assumptions about the market conditions, including competitors and customers, but inevitably missed some important factor that you couldn’t see until you stepped foot in the market.

Question is, if initial results are disappointing or a negative market condition looks too daunting to overcome in a reasonable timeframe, do you just step out of the market and start over later?

The answer is no. You must pretend that you’ve crash-landed on another planet, with some tools and food for immediate life sustenance. But to ensure long-term survival, you have to study, process and cultivate the surrounding resources. Setbacks will hit you at every moment as you learn about the inert and hostile aspects of an environment not tuned to your existence. You celebrate the smallest iota of success. If you’ve arrived with a team, then every member reassures the other when solid, thought-out efforts do not lead to success (even if the effort resulted from a hunch rather than analysis), because only through experimentation can we ever achieve success.

Friends, strangers, coworkers and family have expressed their concerns to me about the current economic conditions during this pending U.S. Presidential election. They all look forward to the exit of the current President as if the change in the U.S. political administration will cure the global economic headache, no matter whether they believe McCain or Obama will win the election.

The U.S. economy indeed faces many challenges ahead, tied as it is to the rest of the world and the competition for limited resources. However, we humans share this planet with other species that, though more abundant than us by many magnitudes, have no clue about the temporary ebb-and-flow of money. Their minute-by-minute survival does not directly change from the simple uptick or downtick of the price of a stock, mutual fund or barrel of oil. In fact, their species thrive with no regard to human existence, which points us to a simple secret.

So, what’s the number one secret to success and happiness? Well, it’s an easy secret to share, one that young wise people know and old wise people have learned:

All problems are insignificant and transitory.

We’ve crash-landed on this planet together. We depend on each other to survive. The current economic conditions dominate the mass media communications networks but don’t forget these conditions, as dreadful as the news organizations play them up to be, are insignificant and transitory. We will survive. And better yet, we will thrive. If a mixed race man and a former prisoner of war can run against each other in a civil contest for U.S. President, then together, WE can accomplish anything. Let’s put our minds and bodies to the task of making this planet a better place to live, work and play.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 10:23 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: business, election, General, success

21 October 2008

The Best Time to Start a New Business

When is the best time to start a new business?

Last year, a small group of engineers and other technical types saw a problem and invented a new gadget to fix the problem. They test-marketed a “proof of concept” unit, which excited the customer who used the gadget and gained interest from others who wanted to purchase the unit, even at the hand-built stage the unit was in. The inventors realized this high level of interest meant they could go to market with a set of prototypes. Instead, wanting the product to reflect their engineering expertise and professional approach to problem-solving, they hammered on the design details of this gadget for the past year and finally filed for a patent last month.

One of the engineers brought me on board about a month ago to run the business side of their venture. After examining their gadget and analyzing the gadget’s potential market, I assembled a business plan to give the inventors information they needed in order to see if they really wanted to incorporate a business, finalize the product’s design for manufacturability, work with a contract manufacturer (CM) to mass-produce a bunch of units, start selling the gadget by the dozens and build enough momentum in the marketplace to attract a buyer. At the same time, I established a budget so the inventors could see the investment dollars they needed to offset the cost of the startup, including consulting/contracting fees for accounting and engineering support, salary for a technical manager and payment to a CM for a set of preproduction units (and the first run or two of production units, depending on cash flow).

As is the case for many startups, the inventors want to maintain majority control of the company so they will benefit from their invention whenever profitability and/or buyout occur. They don’t want their invention to make someone a gazillionaire while they end up getting pushed out the door without so much as a dollar for their efforts. They have seen this happen to friends of theirs and don’t want to make the same mistake. Therefore, I set up the business plan to show their majority ownership position to potential investors.

The investors we’ve spoken with so far see the great potential for this product, which is somewhat recession-proof and opens up a completely new market. Well, as luck would have it, we started selling the business to investors during the recent downturn in the stock market. In addition, the U.S. Presidential election takes place in two weeks. Combine those two uncertainties and investors have shied away from putting money into a new company until at least after the election and perhaps until after the first of the year.

So what’s a couple of months, right? Well, with this delay, we’ve already lost one of the key members of the group, who would have worked as the technical manager to coordinate all the development activities but can’t wait until 2009 for investors to fund his salary. He left this week to work a regular, six-figure, salaried engineering job and he’s taken his expertise and the investors who counted on his participation to make the product a success.

Meanwhile, the remaining members of the team have agreed to move forward with the product, albeit at a much slower pace.

Those who take risks know they don’t fail. They just add to their list of lessons learned. Although this current business venture hasn’t yet failed, it has faced a setback and reminded me of a valuable lesson:

There’s no such thing as the best time to start a business but there sure are times when getting a business started would be much easier!

I’ll keep you posted.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 12:53 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: election, finance, General, investment, market, money

09 October 2008

A Simple Thanks Will Do

Regardless of your position on the subject of religion, you understand the interconnectedness between creatures of the same species — chemically attracted to one another, genetically predisposed to reproduce like offspring and amazingly sympathetic to each other’s pains, joys and sorrows.

Therefore, if we’re programmed at birth to help one another (discounting the ones whose genetic makeup drives them to non-procreative actions such as murder and self-isolation), should we feel grateful and thus express our gratitude to those who treat us kindly? In other words, what does the concept of “common courtesy” — the give-and-take of a civil society — mean to you?

A friend of mine once said, “Be kind to everyone because you don’t know who’s having a worse day than you are.” Usually, this friend of mine lives her life in New York City as a loud, boisterous, happy person, with no care in the world other than gladly spending her husband’s money and helping old people across the street.

Unfortunately, her husband was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which has spread to his liver. Medical science is full of unexpected, miraculous recoveries from devastating diseases that run counter to the normal outcome for people who’ve received radiation and chemotherapy to slow down the destructive nature of the diseases or even put the diseases into temporary remission. I don’t know what will happen to my friend’s husband but I know they will pray for miracles while the certified medical professionals follow their prescribed course of action.

About the same time as this, I found out my mother in-law has deteriorative vertebrae that will prevent her from living the active home life she was used to for the past 91 years. I took care of her for a few months last year, moving her from a hospital to a physical therapy unit at a nursing home, getting her much needed physical therapy to strengthen her leg and back muscles that eventually put her back in her house and her active life in the community. A few weeks ago, I returned to her house to get her medical attention for a kidney infection. After X-ray and CT scans of her body during an examination to determine the extent of the kidney infection and possible diverticulitis/colitis, a surgeon once again recommended she go to the nursing home for physical therapy. The physical therapists do not want to push her as hard as they did last year because they worry my mother in-law will literally break her back. Of course, she feels frustrated by the lack of progress.

This past weekend, good friends of mine suffered a heartbreaker when their son, who ran to the grocery store for his mother, seemingly lost control of his car. The emergency personnel who arrived at the scene watched the young man’s brain shut down as he went into a coma. Examination at the hospital revealed broken ribs, broken femur, crushed ankle, collapsed lungs and head/brain trauma. He remains in a coma and now has pneumonia. He will stay in the hospital for weeks, at least.

Also this past weekend, my parent’s next-door neighbor of 38 years died. His health had declined recently so he had talked with my father a couple of days before he died about setting up legal documents for his son so the transfer of property after his death would not cause any hardships. Unfortunately, his son found his father’s cold, dead body before he was able to create the paperwork he’d talked about.

Meanwhile, everyday, all over the world, people get maimed in fights, receive brutal torture, die in political skirmishes and starve to death from malnutrition. Children are born with birth defects directly attributable to negative environmental conditions (whether through the mother’s negligent behavior and/or exposure to toxic chemicals), creating hardships at birth they will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Despite all of these people’s stories, despite their tragedies and suffering, most of them maintain a positive view of life. They thank God or their lucky stars that there is hope. They ask for miracles but do not expect them. They will accept whatever happens, even if they suffer mental strain and stress in the process.

From this, I have learned not to take anything for granted. With relatively good health, I have what I need. With loving family and caring friends, I have more than what I need. I don’t ask for anything else. I do hope that people around me see the appreciation I feel for their presence in my life when I smile at them with a ridiculously big grin, say “Thank you” for no reason, or slightly nod in passing. We may not agree about our political beliefs, religious beliefs, or favorite football team, but we share this planet together. Instead of labeling others and wishing them out of existence, let’s reach out to others and see them for who they are: fellow members of our species. If you can’t think of anything to say to one another, a simple thanks will do.

19 September 2008

FWIW, AYWTP Revealed

More than one reader has asked about the organization and meanings behind the novel, “Are You With The Program?” [AYWTP]

I have procrastinated, putting off any thoughts I have held about considering answering that question. After all, the humor disappears when one has to explain a joke.

In any case, while driving from my parents’ upper east Tennessee house to the domicile of my mother in-law late Thursday evening, I played around with the idea that maybe the world hasn’t come to an end after major U.S. financial institutions collapsed like stick-and-stilt houses in Galveston, Texas, during Hurricane Ike (e.g., Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG, to name a few of the stalwart companies finding themselves shorted out of existence by bigger players in the international market – has NYC completely lost its financial center luster and/or has the U.S. seen history repeated in that military strength means little in protecting the virtual world (intrinsic stock value, debt, etc.)? Thank goodness the U.S. still has value as a major consumerist society.). If so, then my desire for mystery surrounding my writing will survive even if I give away some of the secrets of my last published novel. I drove past “photo enforced” speed limit zones in Mt. Carmel, and porpoised across the peaks and troughs of the road through Church Hill, with a rhythmic chant of “Three, one, two, four” rattling in my mind, keeping me awake at midnight.

Why the sequence, 3-1-2-4? Well, AYWTP has four sections but the chronology, such as it is, twists a little. The novel opens with section three of the superficial, chronological order of the story, then goes back to the first section, progresses to the second, jumps to the fourth and final section, and finally leads to the epilogue.

On the surface, AYWTP reveals the “Walter Mitty” escapist mindset of the main character, Bruce Colline. Unlike Thurber’s tale relating the fantasies of Mitty, however, Bruce’s takes place in a Jorge Luis Borges’ labyrinthine world with Swiftian-style parables right out of Gulliver’s Travels. Literally and figuratively, Bruce finds himself trapped in a labyrinth. The reader follows Bruce as he slips and slides down dead-end allies, backtracks to what seems like the main path, steps in and out of time, and finally uses his sense of smell to seek out the monetary reward of retirement at the other end of the rat race maze in which he’d wandered for years. Along the way, he encounters mini-societies, subcultures and individuals whose rules for living seem preposterous to general readers because of their absurdities but represent a distorted sense of reality that only (AND truly) makes sense to those who’ve lived it (and those who’ve lived it have told me they know exactly which scenes in AYWTP are nearly word-for-word retellings of their peculiar lives).

One easy example of the parallel to Gulliver’s Travels: while Gulliver found himself tied down by Lilliputians, Bruce found himself bound by a mechanical spider.

In an unintended “art imitates art” moment (ars imitatia artis?), I seem to have copied the style of Cervantes with the opening pages of reviews, both real and imagined, in AYWTP. I suppose all novelists owe their existence to the works of Cervantes, even if they don’t know it.

So, too, I owe a debt of gratitude to Gabriel García Márquez, whose novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” told me that the ghost stories, urban legends and tall tales of my youth about folks in the southeastern United States varied little from similar fables in other parts of the world, including Ireland and Columbia.

AYWTP also satirizes business books such as “The 4-Hour Workweek.” In fact, the working title for AYWTP was “The Four-Tablet Workweek,” but I decided the working title limited the scope of the story.

More could be said. I hope that this blog entry answers the main questions my readers have posed concerning AYWTP. If not, I’ll consider expanding the explanation at some future date, maybe even in this lifetime. Otherwise, my body is tired and I feel scatterbrained at 2:00 a.m. – with no current Internet access, I’ll have to fact-check and post this blog entry sometime later today. Good night and good morning to you, my faithful readers.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 11:59 AM 0 comments Links to this post

15 September 2008

Another writer/thinker takes his leave

I never read any of his work but heard about him through the years. Sadly, David Foster Wallace, a writer of popular “thinker’s fare,” bid farewell to the waking world by hanging it up, so to speak, committing suicide over the weekend. He joins a long list of literati who chose their own ending, including Spalding Gray and Sylvia Plath.

His reason for leaving has escaped the news so far. Any reason for suicide seems a sad one, including those for whom physical pain has overwhelmed their senses.

May his literary legacy last and he rest in peace.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 12:38 PM 0 comments Links to this post

11 September 2008

Living By Translation

What makes you “you”? Some say that to know ourselves we must get to know people not like us, in order to see our true selves through others. Yet, as we meet new people, our personalities change ever so slightly, through either the new knowledge we’ve gained or the quirks and quips we’ve taken on from those we’ve met. Therefore, we have no one shape or personality, unless we decide to live in a subculture of homophily, a good subject rather timely for the type of propaganda (i.e., advertising) that groups put out to appeal to their kind:

I promised myself not to get drawn in to the rants and raves, the rhetoric, and the preposterous pontifications of those involved in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. Yet, I can’t resist because I don’t have a vested interest in the outcome of the election, or as my father would say, I don’t have a dog in the fight.

Thus, I can research subjects, read books and discuss ideas that are incongruous, go off-topic, and genuinely clash.

Of course, we’ve all heard about the Presidential candidates — Barr, Keyes, McCain, McKinney, Nader, Obama, Paul, etc. — are they Presidential? Really? Honestly, I can’t say that any of them particularly appeal to me. However, one of them will become the U.S. President, a figurehead overseeing the world’s largest economy, the “leader of the free world,” if you will, and serve as a focus for many who want certain ideals to guide the direction the United States will take over the next four years.

In my travels, I have heard international opinions about the role the U.S. has played in the past 10 or 12 years and the role others would like the country to take. Some praise the U.S. for taking a role in rooting out terrorist groups, a role being celebrated today, 9/11, in honor of the thousands who died on 11th Sept 2001. Others blame the country for creating an environment of fear, directly feeding into the mood that terrorists want people living in peaceful countries to feel.

I attended publicly-funded schools from age 6 to 18. During that time, I encountered a variety of personality types. Some people treated classmates in a passive-aggressive manner, some acted as “school yard bullies,” some naturally gravitated to leadership roles, some sought no specific group or clique and lived independent lives and some meshed with all social groups, acting neither as leaders nor followers. Needless to say, the world culture reflects the same mix of personality types.

So the easiest way to look at the future of the U.S. is to look at the adult roles people play today with whom I attended public school. In other words, the U.S. just turned 232 years old this year, a mere child in the ways of the world. What will it act like when it grows up?

While the airwaves fill with chitchat, I have decided to investigate the possible futures this country may take by thumbing through a few books I picked up at Unclaimed Baggage recently:

I had put aside Don Quixote, the last book I got at Unclaimed Baggage, after getting halfway into the second book. I will finish the novel one day, I’m sure, just not today. Cervantes makes me put down pen and paper and stare at the wonders of the world with no desire to write anything.

As I delved into Living to Tell The Tale, I saw reflections of myself and better understood the makings of an imaginative writer like Marquez, who saw the world around him wrapped in mystery. His tales fit with those of Cervantes like two pieces of a Spanish jigsaw puzzle, with just a small section missing. That missing piece of the puzzle hides in the pages of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston’s tale of life in Florida, once a bastion of Spanish culture, tells the story of a child of American culture raised in the shadows and heat of the Spanish Caribbean just like Marquez and probably in the same way Cervantes would have, seeing mischievous creatures rising out of the swamps and rivers like gators out of drainage ditches today, dragons of old basking in the sun and rattling human minds.

I don’t read books all day. But for the most part, I read. Sometimes I surf the ‘Net, looking at news headlines or checking my investment portfolio. I ponder the purposes of every news item — seeing the journalist, the news editor, the publisher, the headline maker (from politicians to pontiffs to pickpockets), the popup ad, the popup ad designer, the popup ad company’s owners, the popup ad product maker/owner, the Web designer, the intended audience for both news item and popup ad — and see the general storyline that my culture wants to tell.

How easily do we get steered toward entertainment, whether through general news or advertising, that we believe enhances the life we think we lead? A rhetorical question, I know.

That’s why I rarely watch television. I find very little on all the local or cable stations that helps me in my daily life. It’s as if everything on television is humming a tune to a beat I can’t hear with words in a language I can’t understand. But somehow I think that the Internet gets around this because I can choose my own channels, so to speak, even though the majority of the Web sites I visit post text in English. Shame on me. I should know better than to let my favorite form of mass communication, text, fool me into thinking I’m thinking for myself with an open mind. I may search for random phrases using general predictive search engines provided by Google or Yahoo but I should know that I’m still looking at a limited world of ideas, specifically those posted onto the World Wide Web in English. How many people out there have found the solutions to problems but I don’t have access to them because they speak a non-English language and choose not to use the Internet?

I’m living most of my life by translation, in other words. A friend of mine, Ann P., told me she much rather prefers to read poems and stories in their original language because translations lose the alliteration and true meaning of words and phrases. She likes meeting homeless people on the street because they have a world view unlike hers. I know what she means.

The next U.S. President, no matter where he or she grew up, no matter how much money he or she has, had, or will have, does not live an everyday life close to mine. The candidates seek public office, the highest one in this country, with the sole intention of saying whatever it takes to get votes. I do not. I have no convictions strong enough that I want to live the rest of my days behind the shelter of the Secret Service. However, I thank the candidates for their devotion to this task. They have helped me know what makes me “me”:

  • I am a leader of men and women who can move about the world making business and personal decisions without an entourage.
  • I am a writer, an observer, a satirist, a thinker.

The candidates’ public lives help me live my private one. If all of our lives aren’t a definition of the dedication to the idea of freedom, then tell me what is.

Seven years ago, 2,993 people died because of their beliefs. Some were dedicated to business, some were dedicated to military service and some were knowingly or unknowingly dedicated to martyrdom. I have learned who I am from all of them, no matter which of the 90 countries they came from. I hope and pray that the next U.S. President will learn from them, too, and work with other countries to make this world more peaceful and prosperous for everyone. The world won’t end because of one country’s president but the administrators and workers of one U.S. Presidential term can inspire the world to work together. Let’s support the next U.S. President, regardless of who he or she is, and not get trapped into believing or feeding each other empty rhetoric.

28 August 2008

Don’t Blame It On Rio

After enjoying the feats of Olympic proportions in and around Beijing, after watching the ripple effect of a little fist fight between Russia and Georgia, and after giving my wandering eyes a moment to look over the financial futures, I decided to give my investment portfolio a vacation down in Brazil to see what’s heating up south of the equator.

A lot, it turns out. For instance, it doesn’t take a science whiz to figure out that lifting the veil on the mining and construction business reveals COMPANHIA VALE DO RIO DOCE (RIO), a mining company scratching around in the dirt at the moment, is ready to raise a little ore for those looking to diversify. Even better, Vale counterbalances my high tech and domestic acquisitions. I missed Vale’s recent stock price peak, but again I’m not always looking for a quick buck. I want to strengthen my holdings for the future. Besides, who wouldn’t enjoy a train trip to the Amazon basin and who better to supply the track then the local miner/engineer?

Some of you will tell me that the Amazon forest, a big carbon dioxide sink, continues to diminish in size thanks to the expansion plans of energy and mining companies like Vale, thus putting our families’ futures at risk due to uncertain environmental impacts. I agree that the future is uncertain, risk is inevitable and human progress means more roads, housing estates and industrial parks will sprout up in so-called pristine or virgin wilderness. I’m an optimist and believe our destiny is to completely transform the planet, including the creation of no-development zones called national parks. In the process, some species will go extinct through human actions. However, keep in mind that ultimately all species on this planet will go extinct.

So, for all the whale and spotted owl preservers out there, I commend you for showing concern for some species not essential to survival of the human species. I hope you’d pay more attention to the contribution of bacteria to the human food chain, especially ones that feed our sources of protein like fish or soybean. The planet we live on constantly changes and if we really care about ourselves, we’ll provide a living space for the generations to come by paving roads, plowing fields, digging mines and building schools up to the fence lines surrounding national parks built to protect buffer zones like forests, coral reefs, arctic tundra, open prairie and the headwaters of major rivers and creeks, which in turn create the feeding beds for bacteria.

In other words, chaining yourself to trees or crashing into whaling vessels does not solve world hunger. Far better to invest in or work for companies where you can make a direct impact on their effects. I feel completely comfortable investing in Vale knowing that their sustainability efforts mesh with my own.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 3:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General

18 August 2008

Windmills and windfalls

I fight, or at least if fighting’s too strong an action, struggle to get inspiration from my Muse to continue quality writing on my novel. My novel sits in an incomplete, incompetent state. Forthwith, I survey the state of the world economy, instead, and ponder placing a worthy investment in the information traders residing in the land of the Upanishads. Infosys, anyone? How ’bout an amateur like me investing in Wipro, also? After all, an increase in one’s wealth often turns the head of an inattentive Muse.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 9:21 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General

15 August 2008

A Remembrance of Things Past

After watching the movie, “Seed,” today, I thought I’d repeat a journal entry about the day my brother in-law died two years ago that led me to seek the meaning of personal freedom…

3 July 2006. The fact that I’m sitting here is a positive thing. My command of the English language, slightly better than average on the best of days, is less than that today. Although my wife’s brother was not a close friend, we still shared the desire to do well, to give our families what they needed to survive into the future. Unfortunately, my brother in-law is no longer here, no longer living, that is. He died on the 28th of June at 2:14 p.m., after what appeared to be cardiac arrest. Blood clots in his lungs that had traveled from other parts of his body prevented him from being able to pump enough oxygen-carrying blood through him. When I saw him Tuesday night, he was taking very shallow breaths. His wife, Pat, thought he was doing better on Wednesday morning, having been able to sit up. Then sometime after lunch he started coughing, couldn’t catch his breath, and then his eyes rolled back in his head. Pat screamed for a nurse. The staff came in and revived him. They rushed him from the regular hospital room to CCU. On the way, Allan squeezed Pat’s arm and told her he was okay.

Pat called Janeil at some point during this time, probably after Allan was placed in CCU. According to my cell phone log, Janeil called me at 13:37. I was just finishing up a late lunch at a Sonic drive-in. She told me that Allan had been placed in CCU, that Pat was very upset, and Janeil was on her way to the hospital. I asked if I should join her and she told she’d let me know if I needed to come.

At 14:24, Janeil called me to tell me that Allan hadn’t made it. I told her I was on my way to the hospital. She asked me to call David Hale, Mom Berry’s minister in Rogersville, to get his assistance in telling Mrs. Berry about the death of her son. I finished up a couple of tasks at work that would allow me to take the rest of the week off. I then tried calling Dr. Hale’s house and got the answering machine. On the way to the hospital, I called the Rogersville Presbyterian Church office and reached Mrs. Hale (Sarah), telling her that Allan had died and that we wanted Dr. Hale’s assistance to help. I gave Sarah my cell phone number and asked him to call me back after he’d finished a consultation with someone in his office.

I can think of a lot of little details right now, and as usual, do not feel like writing them down, knowing that I’ll forget them in the future; despite their insignificance (like driving with one hand, changing gears with the other that was holding a cell phone and hoping I didn’t miss what the caller was saying as I changed gears, especially while driving through the Governor’s Drive/Memorial Parkway underpass; telling Sarah that my cell phone battery was running out), they would contribute to my remembrance and full understanding of the day’s events. The only important thing that matters is that Allan died. All else truly pales in comparison.

At the hospital, I wasn’t sure where to find my wife — luckily, Janeil was in the lobby talking with a couple of women from Pat’s church. We went back up to the “Consultation Room” where Pat and her son (my nephew) Jonathan were. I still recall lots of WBC (Whitesburg Baptist Church) folks hanging around, all of them part of Pat’s church family, but giving myself a feeling of being crowded in. Neither Janeil nor I are used to being around a lot of people, especially strangers, when we need time to soak in the emotions of loss.

I wasn’t at the hospital when Pat, Jonathan and Janeil got the news of Allan’s death so I did not see their first reactions. So what I remember most is when my niece, Jana, came to the hospital, looked at her mother asking, “What’s the matter?” and then bursting out loud, crying, “No!,” when she found out about her father’s death. Since I’m writing this for myself, I can selfishly tell myself that I didn’t feel like I deserved to be in the room with them. They are such a loving family and I am such a cynical, sarcastic clownish guy, I realized just how little a comforting person I am. I couldn’t look any of them in the eye during that time. I was frozen in place, looking down at a piece of paper with Dr. Hale’s and Ben Cunningham’s (a Rogersville friend of the family) home phone numbers.

“Brother Dick” and “Brother Jimmy” (senior ministers at WBC) came into the room at some point to comfort them and have prayers. So did other folks, Jerry Spain, a close friend of Pat, being the one I remember the most.

The whole afternoon at the hospital was beyond surreal. In fact, I don’t even know what surreal means anymore. I’m sure that it includes the adjective “unfair”. Eventually, we went back up to the CCU room where Allan’s body still lay dead in bed. His 51-year old face was amazingly smooth, devoid of wrinkles. His jaw lay askew, off to one side. He had a several-day old beard. Just as I had noticed the day before when he was alive, he had much less hair on his head than I had seen a few months before (I am more aware of men losing hair, now that it has been shown that hair loss is attributable to heart and blood circulation problems). I thought about touching him but decided I didn’t deserve to.

Later, after Pat had signed release forms (including an organ donor form), I stood in the hallway with the nurse while the rest of the family – Janeil, Pat, Jonathan and Jana – saw Allan’s body in the room one more time. The nurse explained to me that even though Pat had signed an organ donor form, about the only thing they could take were the bones and maybe some ligaments or tendons.

I sit here writing about the day Allan died when I had hoped to be able to sit down and write about the day I spent in Munich with Ann and Jonas – a wonderful memory of walking through the streets the day of the 2006 World Cup match between Germany and Sweden. Alas, death has overshadowed that warm, summer day in Bavaria. I’ll always have dim memories of Swedish wood creatures, American coffee shops (Starbucks and San Francisco Coffee Company), Johannes berries, funny costumes, a phone conversation between Ann and my father in broken German, chasing down a couple of bicyclists in the English Garden in an attempt to return a dropped overshirt, watching surfers in the middle of the city, looking out over the city from the towers of the Frauerenkirche (sp?) by myself while waiting for Ann and Jonas (with an elderly lady telling me her memories of the city, all in German, with me only being able to say “Ja, ja”, and wishing I could say something more comforting), eating ice cream next to polizei cyclists, then cracking a joke in bad taste, seeing the look of alarm/disgust on Ann’s face, sensing something wrong and then hours later having a conversation at the end of the day in the courtyard outside a San Fran ‘Offee House where Ann laid it on the line about integrity, flirting, sex and everything else that that dirty joke seemed to embody (certainly including some of my writing, no doubt).

The rest of this week has been a blur, more so for Pat I’m sure. We spent time on Thursday and early Friday planning for the funeral, visiting Maple Hill Cemetery to pick out plots, going to the funeral home to pick out a coffin and plan the memorial service, visiting Dr. Jackson (Brother Jimmy) at WBC to plan the funeral service and have a “heart to heart” talk about the days/weeks/months ahead. Friday evening, family gathered at the Laughlin Funeral Home to receive friends and family (including Janeil and my favorite couple from Covenant Presbyterian Church, Leon and Flora Trotter; some of Janeil’s coworkers; my former employee, Donald Gaither and his wife Jenny; others who I should remember but can’t). Saturday was the funeral service at WBC and subsequent burial at the cemetery. Saturday night, Janeil and I took my parents and sister on a tour of Big Cove and then had a late snack at Nikko Restaurant – Robert and Anna were such gracious hosts to spend time with us, feeding the fish in the atrium.

Yesterday, Janeil and I sat with her mother at Pat’s house while Pat and the kids went to church. We also visited with Pat’s family. Last night, Janeil and I went to see the movie, “The Devil Wears Prada”. Today, Janeil has been resting in bed watching TV while I have been doing very little else. Watched the movie, “Before Sunset”, which triggered this writing session out in the warm sunroom with the cats sleeping in the sofa across the room from me, all of us listening to the gurgle of the waterfall outside and the music playing from a nearby wireless speaker.

After listening to the accolades that Allan received for his dedication to what he loved – God, family, work – I have pondered my life’s record and what I would be remembered for. I’m not a big participant in any part of north Alabama society so I expect low participation in my funeral, and thus, little public record to go over.

Right now, a small hawk sits in the branches of the fig tree that grows over the waterfall next to our house. The hawk was here yesterday, also. Does it sit waiting to pounce on a bird sipping water from the base of the waterfall? There was a turtle that lived in the upper part of the waterfall – I wonder if it has fallen prey to the hawk. I hope not but if it has, such is the way of life.

Oh wait, there are at least two hawks in the tree. They’re both small so it’s possible they are juveniles. I take it back. There are three. The third one is bigger – brown with a white chest, while the other two are mottled brown and white birds.

The wooded hill behind our house is slowly being divided up into housing areas for humans. We live on the northeast end, in a subdivision built in the early 1960s along the edge of a farm (basically, in unplowable land). A subdivision at the southern end of the hill was built a year ago and now roads from the subdivision are being extended into the woods. Perhaps the construction/destruction is pushing the animals this way.

So what do I want to remember of my life in the days/weeks/years ahead? I have spent the majority of my life since high school performing functions that were not my desires. In other words, my adulthood has been more compromise than personal promise. When Ann spoke to Jonas and me about integrity, she knew very little about my life. In my brother in-law (and in many of my fellow Eagle Scouts), I have seen the example of a person who led a life full of integrity. In the newspapers and TV news channels, in my worklife, and in most other places, I have seen more than my share of people who have exhibited a central guiding set of moral values or desire for integrity different than my own. What I have figured out is that we are born with an internal set of rules that changes very little. I am the same person I remember being when I was four or five years old. I remember looking at kids beside me in kindergarten and Sunday school, being able to pick out those who cared for and enhanced a personal belief system tied to the church. I have no way of knowing how much was nurture or nature. A mixture of both, to be sure. At an early age and even to this day, I fascinate myself with the ability to think thoughts incongruous with a way of life that ensures the best path for a lengthy, safe passage to the end of a long life.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 2:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, government

13 August 2008

Speeding fines doubled when workers present

As some of you know, I have written many words over the past few months toward the makings of a novel that I call, “The Mind’s Aye.” Over 98 thousand words at current count. I have wandered through a few plots while building up the novel and figured out that I needed to write an outline to keep me focused on the main plots, leaving subplots to make themselves known as I write. Here ’tis:

Plots of “The Mind’s Aye” [Overall, a satire about horror / murder mysteries]:

· The novel opens with the description of a 62-year old woman, Semina, holding a poem in her dead hand.

· Two murderers, Bruce and Lee, seek victims based on the hated stereotypes they project through body language (their first victims we see are two preppy, retired yuppies idiotically playing golf in the midst of a bad thunderstorm). Later in the novel, some of their dead victims unexpectedly get revenge on Bruce and Lee.

· Two email friends, Archie and Belle, carry on an extended email conversation. One of the email friends, Archie, will be killed by the murderers.

· A blogger posts entries every so often. No connection to any other plots or subplots until near the end of the novel. The blog entries just show evidence of the blogging world.

· Ghosts appear in the novel first to habitually tell their stories to the reader and then to gather at a summer festival on the border between Russian and Mongolia (near the trans-Mongolian rail line) on the night of a new moon in order to figure out how to end their days wandering among the memories of the living. The story of the summer festival gathering of the dead is told by Anne – daughter of Belle’s husband, Don – who has an uncanny way of seeing the world in ways others cannot, e.g.:

Don’s oldest daughter, Anne, just returned from the Trans Siberian Rail “experience”. She and her Mother, (Don’s ex) were on a 6-day trip through Russia and to China when they were taken off the train in Mongolia because her Mother (who is a world traveler and has lived as an expatriate in Berlin for 18 years) failed to get a visa for 14 days (instead she got one for 4 days).

They were taken off the train! Nobody spoke the language and I would have had a nervous breakdown; Anne is very smart and somehow managed to get them out of there, sooner than later, in a few days, and on the way to China.

Anne lives by Murphy’s Law (if anything can go wrong it will go wrong). She took Don to see an opera in NYC, the opening act a guy dropped dead, had a heart attack and fell off a ladder (opera canceled to say the least). At La Scala in Italy, the lead singer lost his voice so a man in the audience volunteered to sing (under the stage) and the lead singer mouthed the performance. There is always something with her…

  • Vague references are made to characters from my novels, “Helen of Kosciusko,” “Milk Chocolate,” “Sticks to Lying,” and “Are You With The Program?” The characters, after their vague re-introductions, interact with characters in this novel, including the living and the dead. Turns out that Bruce and Lee come from the other novels.· The author is both a living and dead character in the novel (revealed why during the course of the novel). The author tells the full story of the crazy woman attack mentioned in the epilogue of “Are You With The Program?” The crazy woman’s husband is one of the two murderers (Lee), a former Army sniper/scout [based on a real person] who married the crazy woman [a cross between two real people] when they were both in high school; he received several years of special training but flipped out after he was deployed overseas to kill alleged enemy combatants (we, along with Lee, find out the “enemy combatants” were low-level civic leaders opposed to expansion of U.S. business interests in their parts of the world); his mother in-law is named Semina. Lee kills Semina because she keeps blaming him for ruining her daughter’s life years after her divorce from Lee. After escaping from Bruce and stalking the author for weeks, Lee kills the author in a fit of jealousy, seeing that the author still has strong feelings for both Semina and her daughter (i.e., his ex-wife).

    · After the author dies, he becomes acquainted with Belle’s email friend, Archie. Both of them know the plots of this novel and meet up with the dead people at the summer festival, including some of the people that Bruce and Lee killed, as well as a few recently dead famous people (Aldous Huxley, Michael Jordan’s father, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, …), who aren’t ready to be forgotten but attend the festival out of curiosity. Most of the dead find release from the world of the living during the summer festival (using tricks from the book, “Consciousness Explained”*). Turns out some of the American dead, because they never learned how to connect with their past (their ancestors from Europe and Asia), with no real sense of history or geography, have to return to the United States in the fall and attend an American-style football game at a secondary school in a suburban community called Colonial Heights. As a reward, the winners get to have their memories taken away from the living so those dead ones can live in forgotten peace. The losers will continue on as fond, almost heroic, memories to the living – fathers, mothers, football players, cheerleaders, etc. – roles the dead played but did not believe in when they were alive. A young woman, Ellen, who passes by the football field on the cool night of the full moon will stop and sit in the metal bleachers to record the ghosts’ football game as a fictional short story she’s writing, not realizing that she’s telling an actual story.

    · The two murderers, Bruce and Lee, reconnect with each other at the end of the ghosts’ football game. They had separately been tracking Ellen and each planned to individually kill her because she is a niece of the author. They greet and agree to kill Ellen together. Some of the dead see the pending attack of the murderers on Ellen. Through the force of their will, through the energy they possess as memories recorded in Ellen’s Livescribe Pulse pen, they trip the two murderers and cause them to kill each other instead of Ellen, thus becoming entries in a policeman’s logbook and a reporter’s notebook, then a lead story in the local newspaper, a wire story for “News of the Weird” and spreading out to international blogs commenting about the strange, mysterious story of two people accidentally killing each other in the middle of the night instead of their intended victim. Bruce and Lee end up wandering the memories of the living for decades as they go from blog entries to ghost story anthologies to storylines for multiplayer games to 3D characters in an immersive mental illness reenactment training suit/mind implant for police psychiatrists. Although they had acted the part of killers during their lives, they had unfulfilled dreams that now haunt them every time their killer stories are relived. Bruce wanted to be a famous author who traveled on speaking circuits and met a lot of interesting people. Lee wanted to spend his days mountain biking around the world and working for the preservation of wild spaces where bikers and hikers could see untamed plants and animals in their native environments.

    · As the author wraps up the novel, posthumously, so to speak, he meets Semina at a party for the winners of the ghosts’ football game. Even though they’re dead and have no emotional capabilities (just the desire for new experiences), they decide they don’t mind being held to this planet by memories of the living because they led the lives they wanted to live – she because she talked the talk and walked the walk of the life of a loving Christian woman (having no enemies because she loved and embraced all races, genders, and religious practitioners), and he because he fulfilled all his dreams, not the dreams and wishes of others – and thus will wander the world of the living with gladness as long as the living want to keep memories of them alive. After all, isn’t that the true meaning of reaching heaven or nirvana? Being remembered for what we did for ourselves, and by extension for others, not for what we didn’t do, could have done or should have done.
    ===================================================
    * It’s an interesting book. I like the fact that the book sets the stage for the understanding that the classic “stream of consciousness” does not exist. A brain is constantly sorting through inputs from parts of the body and sending signals back to various body parts (muscles, glands, organs, etc.) to be ready to respond to anticipated external stimuli. Consciousness is our way of thinking that the back-and-forth signal-sending is one deliberate act after another, an ordered pattern, when in fact the brain often goes through multiple, simultaneous arbitrary decisions and automatic responses, tossing aside a lot of meaningless and/or important body part responses before our “consciousness” becomes aware of it. Thus the so-called “Eureka!” moment, the joining together of seemingly incoherent patterns into one meaningful one all of a sudden. If a ballerina has to coordinate many muscle movements at once in order to perform an effortless “pas de deux” with someone else, then a thought is similar, the coordination of many brain synapse firings to perform an effortless calculation and subsequent conclusion. Therefore, “consciousness” or “thinking” is only a concept for the practice and exercise of our brain muscles (i.e., synapse firings). When you let go of the concept and tell yourself that you have neither consciousness nor unconsciousness nor subconsciousness, then you open yourself up to a whole other level of brain usage. You can give your brain the opportunity to solve many problems at once, multitasking, as they say in today’s jargon. The dead people in the novel fully understand this because they no longer have body parts. They only exist as synapse firings (stored and recalled memories) in people’s brains.

Posted by TreeTrunkRick at 12:59 PM 1 comments Links to this post

Labels: General, government

09 August 2008

A Trail of Two Cities

With a large portion of the world’s population focused on the Olympic events in the political entity called China, I have remembered a bit of research I performed, comparing two companies named SAIC and their respective headquarters, one near San Diego, California, USA, (a little jewel called La Jolla) and one in Shanghai [上海市], China.

When one looks to invest in companies, what is the interest? Personal? Economic? Strategic? When I examined the two SAICs, Science Applications International Corporation and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, I wanted to see what these Pacific Coast bodies did to promote a stronger, more prosperous, conscientious society.

Stock price history…well, you can get that just about anywhere. In any case, if you look, you’ll see the two companies have quite a different stock history over the past two years. The one in America has maintained a rather steady price, giving one the impression this is a company that can survive a recession well but won’t create instant millionaires in times of economic booms — very easily a company I’d consider should these recessionary times carry on. The one based near the Yangtze River Delta has demonstrated that good economic times mean a good ride on a Chinese automotive manufacturer — now that the fun two-year ride has coasted to the bottom of a hill, one can wonder, “Should I jump back on and follow the trail back to the thrill hill of higher stock prices as the economy kicks into gear in the near future?”

Can you predict the future? I shy away from predictions, myself. Instead, I close my eyes (putting on imaginary blinders, if you will), hold out my two hands, with a record of the recent past in one hand (going back only to the late 1950s because the major world wars and their causes/aftermath are irregular, misleading economic indicators in my assessment) and a semi-scientific projection of the next 50 years in the other hand. If the two feel balanced, then I can comfortably agree with the saying, “Those who study history know that the price of eggs in China does have something to do with it.” [Whatever “it” is is up to interpretation, as any student of American presidential testimony about two-letter words can attest.]

Therefore, my reenactment of blind justice in determining the fate of my investment in stocks can only tell me what the future price of stocks will hold. In other words, if I was a bear, I’d sell some worthless stock, buy SAI and hold it for a year or so to shelter myself from the turbulent market of the coming months. If I was bullish, I’d buy 600104.SS and hold it for two years, when the economy will have boomed a bit again.

But I have my wits about me. I have the future of my extended family to consider. These companies, although both involved in the design and manufacture of goods and services, have more going on than just bolts, screws and sheet metal.

On a personal note, last year I interviewed for a job with Microsoft to run their Microsoft Home Server test lab in Shanghai (thank you, thank you — okay, that’s enough applause; oh, that was the toilet flushing, my dear, not applause? Sorry, my mistake). As I made my way through the various interviews, violence in China was rising. Bad snow storms were blocking millions of Chinese from taking a holiday and hostilities toward foreigners rose up in Shanghai. I had worked with many expats who spent half the year working in Shanghai and they agreed that Shanghai’s status as one of the world’s largest cities, if not the largest, did mean that crowded conditions forced one to spend time in the parts of the city where you worked. But hey, don’t most of us spend the majority of our waking hours near our workplace? My Shanghai worker friends also noted that hostility could be an issue, if you made too big of a deal about your foreigner status. Then again, have you ever attended a rugby or football game wearing the opponent’s jersey? As a character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail noted, “Now we see the violence inherent in the system.” Mob mentality has not changed — you can get the same reading of large groups of people in Gustave Le Bon’s 1896 treatise, “The Crowd.” Also, many years ago I interviewed for a job with the U.S.-based SAIC and have visited its headquarters. I tell you all this so you understand my interest in comparing the two SAICs.

Bottom line: what can I tell you to help you decide which stock is worth making your life better in the long run? Look at the smog in Beijing during the Olympian broadcasts for the next couple of weeks. Shanghai Automotive, a member of the Fortune Global 500, helped create that smog putting a lot of cars and trucks on the road while giving gainful employment to bright, enthusiastic workers. Meanwhile, Science Applications, a Fortune 500 company, serves the interest of a lot of government agencies while giving gainful employment to bright, enthusiastic workers. Which do you think is better (or worse)? There is no right answer. Admittedly, it’s a tough decision. As some wikipedia author stated, this is an antilogy. Now you can see why I prefer to make my decisions in the dark. My nieces and nephews will have to decide if the world is a better place as they divide up my stacks of money amongst themselves. I’m guessing they won’t really care where the money came from, even if I leave these crumbs of blog entries that mark the trail. But for those of you who I bump into on this trail, you may like to know where I found the bags of gold slung over the back of my mule. Good luck prospecting!

 

[20 June 2008] The irony in searching the Internet for frugal living / conserver tips. Supporting an infrastructure of energy-consuming devices in order to investigate how to live a life “off the grid,” or at least at a reduced use off the grid. But where else to look? The library – nope, books printed on dead trees. How about myself? Do I have the knowledge and skills in my head to seek and live in a low-impact environment? Can I grow my own food? Have low enough overhead to live off my retirement fund?

Like the guys in “Of Mice and Men,” I dream of settling down into my own place, with no interruptions. Could I survive there, e.g., in a home in Red Boiling Springs?

06 August 2008 – Carbon Copies

In understanding the underlying causes for my belief in a concept called “freedom,” I have re-read the books of my youth that adults had taught me would help me know the definition of freedom in literary terms, including “Brave New World,” “1984,” and “Don Quixote.” While reading these books, my thought patterns resembled many of those who had read the books before me. So, instead of individuality, I experienced sameness. No one forced me to read these books at this time although assuredly many people read the books when I did this past week. So I simultaneously held thoughts at the same time as other people. Yet, I felt I reached a personal, singular understanding of the world around me, about the consequence of mass media writing history on the fly (giving out labels to groups of people, both the written about and the written for), about the effects of those labels on my thinking, and about the amount of time I have to spend to separate fact from entertainment after being exposed to “news.” Reinventing the wheel in my mind like many others while at the same time mentally seeing myself in a snowstorm but not caring that every one of us snowflakes is different than other snowflakes cause our effect is generally the same. In other words, what I think of as freedom. Free to feel unique when at any moment I am not. Accepting the unreality of reality. Knowing that when I speak of my freedom to casually trade on the stock market, some people somewhere are reluctantly working 12- to 15-hour days, giving up personal dreams of their own while they build their company’s value, which helps make the stock price go up for free carbon copies like me.

04 August 2008 – A Nobel Effort

How driven are you to make your voice be heard? How about biting your tongue, figuratively speaking, while the threat of death hangs over everyone’s head for making harmless, satirical comments about your country’s leaders? Such a life few of us could live. Yet, thanks to his perseverance, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who died yesterday, kept writing in secret until he felt the time was right to go public with his oceanic output, driven on like waves on a rocky shore.

When I was a teenager growing up in the suburban foothills of east Tennessee, I read “The Gulag Archipelago,” and felt I’d never know the opposite of freedom in the way Russians and others under centralized, totalitarian, collectivist, communist or similar type governmental authority experienced. When all belongs to all, what belongs to the individual?

That’s when I understood who I was to be — free to think and act for myself, free to place a value on my mind, free to learn about ideas and practices not taught in my hometown, free to climb the social and corporate ladder if I chose, and free to love others with no fear.

I wonder if General Electric, as an individual corporate body, follows a true free trade path of its own. It seems to. I’ll make sure my investment portfolio grabs up some GE stock as it continues to rise to new heights after shucking off the likes of light bulbs.

31 July 2008 – Water Rights

While scientists and laypeople debate the decline of fresh water stored in ice, including such places as Greenland, North America, the Himalayas, and the Arctic, those of us who depend on freshwater sources not tied to melting ice face real concerns for how long enough fresh water will remain available to everyone at reasonable prices.

Almost anywhere you travel on this planet, you will find local populations arguing over water rights. Some argue for the right to pleasurably use fresh water, including motorboating, water skiing and swimming. A few stand firm for the right to use waterways to transport goods, control flooding and provide hydroelectric power. Many argue for the right to water non-food sources such as suburban lawns and golf courses. Others argue for the right to irrigate farms planted with water-hungry crops. All of us agree that we need fresh water to drink, prepare meals and cleanse our bodies.

Do those who live in a freshwater basin with currently adequate or excess capacity have the right to prevent access by those whose freshwater basin cannot support its human population? Simplistically speaking, the answer is no – as generalists, humans have migrated to sources of better water and food supplies and can continue to do so. Realistically, we often compromise on the issue in order to have water available to our specialized human society.

With enough fuel and refining supplies, we can turn polluted and/or salt water into potable water for human consumption. We can even divert gray water to keep lawns, landscaping and golf courses looking green.

Fuel and refining supplies. That’s the issue, isn’t it? The cost of fresh water. The price we’re willing to pay for water rights.

Necessity is the mother of invention – Plato.

Just as relatively inexpensive fuel has not forced a major change in the way humans power most machines, the low cost of fresh water has not forced a major change in the way we use water. Of course, on a local scale, humans have always found innovative ways to transport and use water, including irrigation, the artesian well, and canal rotating boatlift.

Futurists have warned that the human population will reach an unsupportable number. Apocalyptic writers and speakers have predicted doom for millennia. More recently, the popular press has brought up a new arbitrary date for human destruction – the so-called Mayan End Date – that will occur in December of 2012. When that date passes, we will find some other calendar-based countdown to prove that humanity as we know it will change dramatically (Anyone wanna pull out a copy of Nostradamus’ writing and reinterpret his stuff…again? How about another go at Revelations? Maybe Confucius left us some undiscovered pearls of wisdom about the specific future deterioration of society?).

When I was a kid, I would go with my parents to visit friends of theirs. While they chatted about adult topics I was just beginning to understand, I would wander around the house and look at the photos, paintings and knick knacks hung on walls, or skim through titles of books on hard-to-reach shelves. Curiosity drove me to seek that which I did not know or did not yet understand. One of the most common items I saw was a ceramic plate with some pastoral scene and the following poem:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

When we let our eyes and ears rest on general news – such as those broadcast at 5, 6, 9, 10, or 11 p.m. on local television stations, hourly on local radio stations, or every minute on 24-hour national/international news stations/websites; newspapers; weekly/monthly magazines; or even personality-based talk shows on television, radio and the Internet – as we’re wont to do at times from habit or boredom, let us remember that the news we see is rarely the news we need. If we see a talking head enunciate, “The End of the World as we know it? Details at 11,” let’s remember that that teaser line was written to entice the viewer to sit through commercial advertisements while waiting for the detailed, emotionally-tinged news report.

In practice, let’s not fall for the emotional trap. As a work colleague pointed out to me several years ago, rumors are meant to get your goat and are useless – stick to the facts. Ignore propaganda, even when it’s forwarded to you as a must-read email from friends and family.

In other words, almost everything that goes on around you is something you cannot change. Accept it. Sure, feel free to question why something cannot be changed at this moment. You may trigger an idea that you can pass on to someone who can make change. But don’t waste your time getting emotionally charged up on an issue upon which you have no influence.

If you have to get emotional, thrive in the realm of change. Get thrills out of facilitating those in your circle of influence.

As the human population grows, we’ll continue to get bombarded with theories and predictions of pending disasters. Don’t listen to these naysayers. Instead, think about what you, your family, your friends, your work colleagues need to think positively, to move forward, to give us and the generations to come a world we can live in.

You need fresh water. Therefore, figure out where your water comes from. Determine which water basin supplies your municipality’s drinking water treatment plant (you may discover that desalination is involved). Ask where your wastewater sewage treatment plant discharges its effluent – is it upstream of the intake for fresh water? See if you can put your gray water to useful purposes. Find out for yourself if your freshwater basin has sufficient capacity to meet the growing population in your area. See if other regions have made claims on your freshwater supplies or vice versa. If any of your discoveries make you uncomfortable about the future of fresh water in your area, get proactively involved. If nothing else, tell someone active in your community to act on your behalf to protect your water.

You don’t have to carry the burden of negative stereotypes such as “tree hugger” to care about your water. As a living being on this planet, you have the personal right to seek fresh water. Don’t give up that right.

28 July 2008 – The Cradle of Civilization

Anyone remember the Fertile Crescent, the area of the world where the seeds were literally harvested and planted that sprouted into civilization as we know it? As the death toll rises in the Middle East, as politicians wave their arms and shake their heads about conditions in the Persian Gulf region, let’s harken back to the early days of Homo sapiens and the trek from the jungles and savannas of the African continent into Eurasia.

How easily we forget the history of our forebears, who discovered the richness and diversity of golden fields of grain, the need to coordinate with one another to collect and store the grain, the desire to figure out new ways to put the grain to use and the simple training techniques applied to their descendants. In this age of “getting back to nature” during a large cutback in available bank financing and the subsequent recession-like ripple effect in the world economy, let us remember those who came before us and worked the land in order to secure a future for themselves and their offspring. Let us ignore our differences for a moment, pointing all mirrors away from our sight and put a microscope up to our eyes to zoom in on the overwhelming sameness of our DNA. Why all the fuss about color and body shape? Why all the focus on “genetic disposition”?

Americans say they value freedom, with some putting bumper stickers on their vehicles, proclaiming, “Freedom isn’t free!” They condone the use of constraint and violence to protect freedom for the general populace and yet, when I look at many Americans yelling “Freedom!,” I see people wanting others to conform to their way of life. Is that freedom? Is that what our ancestors wanted when they crossed the deserts of northern Africa? Is that what they wanted when they started gathering grains? To some degree, yes, they did. They expected their children to follow their example in order to preserve the family “fortune.”

But without innovation, where would humans be when weather patterns forced them to move to other lands, or when soil productivity diminished over many years, giving little back in return for the seeds spread out at the beginning of the growing season? Innovation means change. Innovation means being different than your neighbor, your parents, your siblings, your spouse and children.

Regardless of your position on the subject of evolution, you do know that plants and animals can be made to produce offspring vastly improved in disease resistance and nutrient production. Either through selective reproduction or genetic modification (or both). This happens in the wild, on the farm or in the laboratory. Accidentally and on purpose. We can make corn/maize into just about anything these days. Parents can choose the types of kids they want.

Innovation. Choice. In other words, everything that “freedom” means, including responsibility for the consequences of our free actions.

I expect people to look at my middle-aged, distinguished body and expect answers from me because I look authoritative. I give them the true meaning of “freedom” back to them when I laugh about having to be serious, when I crack a joke at an inappropriate time, tell a humorous story about an uncomfortable subject or in general show them that looks do not dictate how you should act. The masks we wear through genetic determination do not tell us how to live.

When we look back at the forgotten ancestors of ours who wandered all over the planet with no wheels or wings, we can remember that many of them did not know what a border crossing was, or a passport, or a religion affiliation card. They only sought more fertile land. They followed herds of edible animals. They often stayed one step away from danger — one fruitless season, one hurricane/typhoon, one wildfire, one ferocious beast, and unfortunately, one opportunistic fellow human preying on another of its kind.

Today, I live in a city that thrives on the production of military goods and services. I see the direct result of one country’s desire to maintain an image that the rest of the world is out to get us, thus giving us the right to pour money into molds of missiles, satellites, helicopters, etc., even when we know that some of those objects will end up on the other side of the battlefield one day, giving us reasons to produce more and better weapons. Such is the way of warfare. I expect such ways to continue forever in human activities. There just seems to be an innate fear in us that we direct toward humans who look different than us or have something we’ve been taught by our ancestors to want or despise, and thus must fight for or against. We build elaborate advertising campaigns and training programs to encourage overly physically aggressive members of society to participate in warlike activities, including organized sports and government armies (what else can you do with them?). We see members of these organizations come out of the finely-tuned training with a strict sense of right and wrong in the field of play but a fuzzy sense of what to do in other parts of society. All longterm training leads the student to such a life, not just in testosterone-driven areas. As I observed many years ago, can a concert violinist and a racecar driver ever see eye-to-eye about their importance in their chosen fields of study? They should, because each is devoted to reaching perfection:

“They’re all dedicated to their art/craft, and in the end, focusing on one thing and doing it well is the ultimate satisfaction.”
As we look back at the dawn of civilization, can we find a key to unlock the secret to a better way of living today? Can we say that any previous cultures had put that secret to use in their time? Can we only cry “Freedom!” and still not know what it means, ten, fifteen or even fifty thousand years after we understood that the planet was for us, not against us (or at least, benignly indifferent to our existence)? The secret lies within every one of us, if we take the time to notice. Our ancestors knew the answer and we’re here because of their putting the secret to practical use.

What is the secret that was given to us in our cradle of civilization?

Come on, you know what it is — you see it every time a mother lets her child waddle across a room unaided, or a father lets his child surf the Web unattended:

Teaching our children to be willing to adapt so that they can think for themselves when they need or want to innovate. At the same time, we must practice the willingness to adapt ourselves.
The world will go on without us. Let us give our children the freedom to be themselves so they can decide how to handle all the changes the world will throw at them. Don’t force them to be like us. Give civilization the chance to grow. As society matures into something with which we’re not familiar, let us find a way to adapt to the changes.

Innovation. Change. Freedom. Choice. This, the brash adolescent still stomping around the cradle of civilization in a temper tantrum, shouting “Freedom!” while carrying the banner of a democratic republic, is what it’s all about. It’s painful to watch but that child will learn to innovate — just give the child a little room to grow.

26 July 2008 – If ever someone earned an award…

Congratulations to Soos Weber, our local ecologist / nature enthusiast on receiving the DAR Conservation Medal!

I met Soos through her husband at the time, Chuck Weber. Chuck and I helped set up and coordinate the Huntsville Christmas Tree Recycling Program back in 1990. Soos and Chuck always seemed to put their private lives aside for the sake of taking care of the environment. I lost contact with Chuck years ago (probably a good reason that the Christmas Tree Recycling Program no longer exists; that, and the fact many people use artificial trees, making Christmas tree recycling too expensive on a large-scale basis, meaning a lot of trees uselessly get put in the city dump every year).

My wife and I continue to see Soos, especially since along with Soos we’re life members of the Flint River Conservation Association (FRCA, pronounced frik’-uh, for short) and supporters of the Alabama Public Television program, “Discovering Alabama,” and its one-hour segment, program #63, on the Flint River:

“63. Flint River. Across the nation today, numerous rivers and streams are being encroached upon by sprawling growth and development. Such is the case with a beautiful mountain-fed stream in north Alabama. The Flint has historically been surrounded by hardwood forests and abundant wildlife. Today, the accelerating growth in Madison county and surrounding areas is rapidly robbing the Flint of its special natural qualities. In this show, host Doug Phillips floats the Flint River from near its mountainous headwaters to its juncture with the Tennessee River. Along the way, interviews with various experts and local residents help to highlight the impressive history of the Flint and the pressing changes that threaten the river today.”
We also support the Hays Nature Preserve and the Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary through the Friends of the Preserve and Sanctuary program.

Once again, way to go Soos! Your energy and dedication put the rest of us to shame but we’ll try to keep up, all the same.

Summer Storm

Thickening clouds. Darkening skies. Ominous foreboding.

This isn’t Hollywood. Instead, the atmospheric disturbance we call a thunderstorm passed over my domicile earlier today as I finished up, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Oomph of compressed air hitting the house. R-r-r-rattle of the window frames in ode to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “Lex III: Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi. All forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.”

Tears flowing down my face at the reading of a fictional dying dog, named Karenin after a character in “Anna Karenina,” when I haven’t had a dog in my life since 1980. Seeing paragraphs that reminded me of “Atlas Shrugged” and the leaders of a capitalist society going on strike to take the jobs of day laborers:

After the three of them had had a good laugh, the editor told the story of how his paper had been banned, what the artist who designed the poster was doing, and what had become of other Czech painters, philosophers, and writers. After the [1968] Russian invasion they had been relieved of their positions and become window washers, parking attendants, night watchmen, boilermen in public buildings, or at best – and usually with pull – taxi drivers.

What drives people to such extremes, banishing intellectuals to work with their hands instead of their minds when some of the intellectuals would gladly trade their intricately complex minds running thoughts like the turbulent water over Victoria Falls for the enjoyment of a laborer’s life, with a job so automatic one could think with the lazy, cool waters of a spring-fed creek again? Why coerce when you can coax?

Why do we – why do I – create blogs like this one to expose our – my – minds? Do we wish to stir the hot and cold zones of others’ thought processes to create a tempest, a sudden summer storm? Do we seek to quench our vanity’s searching thirst, instead? Or are we covertly coaxed into revealing our minds in ways no external form of punishment would reveal? Are we closer to the idea of the character Tereza?:

Gazing at the remains of Old Town Hall, Tereza was suddenly reminded of her mother: that perverse need one has to expose one’s ruins, one’s ugliness, to parade one’s misery, to uncover the stump of one’s amputated arm and force the whole world to look at it. Everything had begun reminding her of her mother lately. Her mother’s world, which she had fled ten years before, seemed to be coming back to her, surrounding her on all sides. That was why she told Tomas that morning about how her mother had read her secret diary at the dinner table to an accompaniment of guffaws. When a private talk over a bottle of wine is broadcast on the radio, what can it mean but that the world is turning into a concentration camp?

Almost from childhood, Tereza had used the term to express how she felt about life with her family. A concentration camp is a world in which people live crammed together constantly, night and day. Brutality and violence are merely secondary (and not in the least indispensable) characteristics. A concentration camp is the complete obliteration of privacy. Prochazka, who was not allowed to chat with a friend over a bottle of wine in the shelter of privacy, lived (unknown to him – a fatal error on his part!) in a concentration camp. Tereza lived in the concentration camp when she lived with her mother. Almost from childhood, she knew that a concentration camp was nothing exceptional or startling but something very basic, a given into which we are born and from which we can escape only with the greatest of efforts.

And so it is we find ourselves accompanied in our lives by pervasive, intrusive, invasive, persuasive forms of media. Gentling coaxing us forward to the light, promising us much and delivering little. The light at the end of the tunnel turning into the barrel of a camera pointed back at us and recording all of our movements. Oh sure, you just want to post some private pictures on a social networking site for your friends and then don’t get a job because what your friends thought was acceptable is not considered acceptable by a prospective employer. Or, someone just wants to quietly share his thoughts “off camera” about a Presidential candidate, using words he had told others not to use in public (but anything goes in private, right?) only to find he’s been nailed to a tree like some crazy fool trying to skip over the River Styx on a monorail tour of Hades, described in the tourism office as a “fun and exciting trip through the layers of Dante’s Inferno.” Did he forget to read the fine print: “fees and tips not included”?

In “Democracy on Trial,” Jean Carolke Elshtain points out a similar issue:

The Czech novelist Milan Kundera tells a chilling tale. In a 1984 interview with Philip Roth, Kundera notes a “magic border” between “intimate life and public life…that can’t be crossed with impunity.” For any “man who was the same in both public and intimate life would be a monster. He would be without spontaneity in his private life and without responsibility in his public life. For example, privately to you I can say of a friend who’d done something stupid, that he’s an idiot, that his ears ought to be cut off, that he should be hung upside down and a mouse stuffed in his mouth. But if the same statement were broadcast over the radio spoken in a serious tone – and we all prefer to make such jokes in a serious tone – it would be indefensible.”

Can a man, who claims his public legacy by association with a great civil rights leader who himself claimed a legacy through his belief in the principle of civil disobedience laid down by the likes of Gandhi, survive a gaff spoken privately in a public place like some bad stage play about a person overheard in public when a PA microphone was not turned off during a burst of offensive ranting offstage? Not when that man’s legacy includes too much baggage stuffed with dirty laundry that others want to see, feel and talk about. Not when attention on him deflects attention from what a normal, sane, rational person would see as important political issues. Not when inimical sharks have been circling around him for years ready to rip into his carcass.

I hold no claim on reality or normality. I wake up each day and feel the aches and pains of a poor night’s sleep, not expecting anyone to have recorded my dreams, not expecting anyone to know my early morning wishes and would be watching and waiting to see which wishes of mine remained unfulfilled at day’s end. I can separate my reality and fantasy any way I wish because I am a relatively obscure writer. I have no duty to write a certain way for a paying public. I can spend days without writing a word, never worrying once about the lack of words to put food in my mouth. In other words, I value freedom. I value who I am, not who I am to others. I do not seek fame because I’ve seen the price one pays for having a public face.

Some want to be the fierce storm passing through people’s lives, drawing attention to the strength of wind, rain and lightning that one can throw down like Zeus. Some want to be the protectors, providing shelter during the storm. Some want to be the ones who go on missions to help restore the lives of others after the devastating storm has passed. I want to continue to live out my childhood dream of a mountain hermit, digging ditches for a living, asking nothing of others but a few goods and services I can’t produce in my cabin in the woods. I’ll leave you with my last hoorah for Rand’s opus, “Atlas Shrugged,” some of the twelve passages I’ve marked for future re-reading:

“So you think that money is the root of evil?…Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor – your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this what you consider evil?”

“Did you want to see [your work] used by whining rotters who never rouse themselves in any effort, who do not possess the ability of a filing clerk, but demand the income of a company president, who drift from failure to failure and expect you to pay the bills, who hold their wishing as an equivalent of your work and their need as a higher claim to reward than your effort, who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of incompetence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in manner nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude – so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for? Would this be what you wanted? Would you feel proud of it?”

“Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that ‘the good’ was a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of the rights of another. If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it – well, so does any burglar. There is only one difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act.”

“Market? I now work for use, not for profit – my use, not the looters’ profit. Only those who add to my life, not those who devour it, are my market. Only those who produce, not those who consume, can ever be anybody’s market. I deal with life-givers, not with the cannibals. … Here, we trade achievements, not failures – values, not needs. We’re free of one another, yet we all grow together. … What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing? Every living thing must grow. It can’t stand still. It must grow or perish.”

25 July 2008 – Telling It Like It Is

For that one reader out there (you know who you are) who wondered what I meant when I said that, “green is always gold, if you know where to look,” I didn’t mean “green” as in environmentally-friendly, although I won’t deny there’s money to be made in that field. No, I was vaguely referring to the banking industry and the “greenbacks” (some old-fashioned idea about US printed money only being green — not true anymore, of course, but still largely greenish in color), including one of my favorite stocks, FHN. If you tracked FHN recently, you saw you could have nearly doubled your money in two weeks. Even I hesitated and only captured a 27% increase in my investment over a few days’