Windows…

He sits there, drink in one hand, small unseen food product in the other.

I know it’s food, because he holds it gingerly, like it means something more than the size of it would normally let on. He sits in his chair, chewing. Possibly peanuts. Not to be confused with a food-chewing analytical expert, but to me his mouth definitely did seem to swish in the sort of fashion that you’d think it would, had he been chewing on nuts.

Anyway. He sits, eyes casually glued to what turns out to be a television screen. And he does so while she leaves, seemingly unnoticed, from the room. Walking briskly away in her white blouse and black slacks. A look very similar to what you’d expect Bebe Neuwirth to wear on the set of “Frasier,” though this specimen is NO Bebe Neuwirth. No bother, neither am I. Neither are any of us, really.

Mmmm, Bebe.

But alas, I digress.

So he sits and chews, as she sashay’s from the room. And though the poetician in me wants to say that the two were in perfect sync and beat with each other, for whatever reason they were not. And that, my friends, is all the story that there is to tell. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they in love with each other? In love with someone(s) else? I’ve no idea. I only spy them through their front bay window and make a mental note as I pass along.

Another bay looms into view as I stroll along. It’s a very Polish town, Buffalo, and many of the post-war “cookie cutters” reside here, all storeys single, all front windows bay. Maybe for ambiance, maybe for budget. Maybe just for passersby to have a tale to tell. But this second window provides none. The lights are all lit, but oddly. That weird sort of odd, where the owner was trying to leave just enough on to connect one room to the other, in an effort to traverse them when sauced. But not so many on as to blow their National Grid bill while they were out, getting sufficiently loaded for the experience.

The third looks similar, but buried deep within the kitchen – oh yes, in these houses, every room is viewable from the bay – is a woman hurriedly speaking on the phone. I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, but I do notice that something is wrong with the phone. Wrong, but right. And then I see it – she’s wrapping her finger round the phone’s cord.

A cord!

Have I stumbled upon the Smithsonian? No, just a person who knows better than to believe every advertiser who says that your way is dead and the next way is king. She’s wringing the cord like she’s nervous as she speaks anxious-eyed into the phone. Is she? I’ll never know, as I’ve already passed her by.

The final window I look into shows no communication, no companionship whatsoever. I suppose you could say, the sort of window I fear of one day owning myself. In it, is just one elderly woman, sitting alone in a televisonless, phoneless, and decidedly Bebe Neuwirthless room. Spilling over her comfy chair almost as if she and it are slowly morphing into one. I would normally compare her to a sloth, but honestly, I can’t think of a single sloth that has ever looked so forlorn. So alone. She sits, looking into her lap at something. Looking into her lap at nothing. If not rejoicing over avoiding It so long, hoping that Death would hurry up and come already. And in either case, dreading what she’ll offer It to drink when It finally arrives. The bleak scene deadens me as well.

So I continue on.

I continue on, but decide that my window-gazing is done for the night. Their stories will be forever unknown to me anyway, and I’m a mere shadow to them. A whitened-shave legged aging ghost walking in an effort to stay attractive to no one in particular at the moment. A wanderer who knows the path all to well from taking it almost every single night, though finding something new on each and every pass. A nobody who is only noticed – if at all – by the cloud-covered moon hovering brightly above. A moon that most likely sees – should he be paying attention – only a spindly armed pot-bellied dreamer peeking into worlds that he really shouldn’t be visiting in the first.

I continue on and am able to avoid what – had I still been window-gazing, would have surely stepped upon – a colony of ants. I spy them as they all toil furiously, together and in earnest. In one big and shameless heap of achievement. And I wonder, are they like that because they are not as smart as us, or are they like that because a long time ago, they in their wisdom decided to refuse to build windows?

Windows that would have kept the outside world outside, windows that would have kept them trapped?

Windows that would have allowed each to look into – ever-so slightly – each other’s souls?

•••

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Cuts me up

At a certain point, while waiting for the Rueben that would end up being sanitized of flavor and eaten alone, I opened my portfolio and started scribbling the following:

Sitting alone, I rage at this world for no reason in particular. This world, that does nothing to shake me off, but yet embraces me not either.

I often wonder, is it me who is “wrong”, or is it this mortal coil who is in error?

And why do I feel such a deep and gaping disconnect? Why can’t I just drink the Kool-Aid everyone else here has seemed to indulge so greedily in? Why can’t I put on the mask of contentment and believe it to be true?

Why in the fuck am I sitting alone in an over-the-top Vegas cafe on the verge of tears?

Again?

From moijoie (click on image for more)

Now I must tell you, while I would very much like to edit a great deal of the above, I’m leaving it intact for the purpose of this post. A purpose I’m still unclear of, actually. I’m leaving it like it is, because while it may not be a very good read, the words came with immediacy and with intent. The words needed to come out before the tears did. Those damned tears.

What’s with them any way? For years, I bemoaned the fact that I found it literally impossible to shed even one, but as of late, it’s all I can do to keep them in. And this time it wasn’t because of C, or dad, or my suckass job (OK fine, not “suckass” per say, but not at all where I really want to be). No, this time, it was because of the people that surrounded me. The good and gentle folk, patiently waiting for their flavor-sanitized food. Affecting smiles through their clown makeup. Attracting attention through their jangling jewelry and their cackle calls. Thoroughly enjoying themselves in a world that is only real if you ignore the fact that it is not. I felt bad for these people. I know, it’s stupid. Here they are, having a grand old time in their plastic kingdom, and here’s little sackcloth t, pitying them in their joy. But I suppose that’s just it – there was no “joy” present, just en-joy-ment. The air was full of whatever it is they normally pump into the Vegas resorts, that magical stuff that never allows you a sleepy nod. But joy? Joy was not in the air. Joy wasn’t even in the room.

“Wow t, thanks for coming back, only to totally harsh my mellow, dude!” No, wait – let me explain first. C.S. Lewis is my “go-to” guy when discussing joy, so we’ll be seeking his opinion momentarily. For me, joy is much more than the orgasm. For me, joy is knowing that the orgasm will come. OK, I suppose that Mr. Lewis would most likely never endorse an analogy like that, but he might have said something like this instead:

“In a sense, the central story of my life is about nothing else ….. it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic; and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally be called unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then, joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Or a bit more succinctly:

“The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.” 

He might have said that. Had he ever written about it. In books possibly titled something like “Surprised By Joy” or “Letters To Malcolm.” And if he had, what I believe he would have meant is this – Joy comes in the anticipation. The wanting. The Longing. Much like the giddy hand-clapping that goes on while trying not to, but trying to, fall asleep on Christmas Eve, joy isn’t the present you’ll receive the next day, it’s the – well – the Joy you feel in the waiting for it. It’s almost better – scratch that, it is better – than the actual gift altogether. What I saw in Vegas were people who were not feeling joy. What I saw in Vegas were people who only kept telling themselves they were. The smiles never really lasted long enough. The nervous twitches never totally settled. The voices still rose, and tempers still flared while waiting in line. Or for a cab. Or waiting for food. Or for a drink. Or waiting for, well, you get it. There’s a shit-ton of waiting to be done in Vegas. And while they were waiting, the thin veneer of “joy” could be seen running down sweaty necks and off of twitching palms. They had drank the Kool-Aid, but it had no affect, so they simply pretended to be stoned instead.

And I felt bad for them.

It was at that unforeseen moment that the tears began to well, and I had all I could do to keep myself together. Not only did I feel bad that they were tricking themselves into their joy, I began feeling deep throbbing pangs of my own, wishing that I could be back with my Joy at that very moment. Back where I’m accepted, even without the clown makeup or the jangling jewelry. I longed so badly to be there. To be safe. And in that longing, my Joy increased. And my strength along with it. And I used these to muster the wherewithal to tighten the belt of my big boy pants, before soldiering on with the rest of my little trip. One that will go down in the history of the human race as an absolute and utter yawn.

Unless the videos surface, I suppose.

I’m back home now, away from the lights, the noise, the airborne stuff that never allows you to sleep. And I’m happy. Just before I sat down here, I was ironing my Korporate Amerika trousers, once again forming a new crease mere millimeters away from the intended one, all while dancing about pretending to be Peter Murphy. And as I did, I thought again about those poor people. And I wondered if they too were “back to life” by now. I wondered if they too were ironing and singing and screwing up their trousers in the process. And I wondered if they too were happy. More importantly, I wondered if they had finally found their Joy.

I hope that they are. And I hope that they did. For again, as C.S. Lewis might have said at some point in time that “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” If so, we’d best get cracking.

Resulting from dawdling red orbs & angry white flakes

Judas Priest’s “Hell Bent For Leather” slammed through the tiny car speakers, at a volume much louder than forty-two year old ears were normally in agreement with, while long-overdue snow, February-fattened by the still-unfrozen lake, came barreling down and forward kamikaze-style towards my windshield. Combined, they helped to create an experience unlike any I have ever felt before, one that made my 60 mph feel much more like a warp speed 9. One that took me out of the driver seat of my little Versa and into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. The icy road gave nowhere for my tiny tires to latch on to, thus lending to the experience a feeling even more transcendent and dreamlike.

Jumping from lane to lane in a effort to tunnel past the dawdling red orbs of those other drivers who were moving much slower than I, it still felt as if my car was standing perfectly still, if not actually losing ground. The feeling made me queazy and uneasy, but a touch excited at the same time. Somewhere in the back of my skull, a little mother screamed at me to slow down, but I couldn’t. It was too much of an experience to embrace, especially when in consideration that not once in the forty-two years my ears have been alive, have I ever felt anything even close to the same. It didn’t end until my exit jumped up to greet me, and I was reduced to once again traveling at speeds more legal, on roads more treacherous though signaled.

Now, I don’t want to say that what occurred was one of those “life flashing before your eyes” type of moments, but only because it was exactly not that. I suppose that I mention the feeling however, because what I did undergo could best be understood if it were envisioned as sitting across from that type of experience, playing checkers and getting on quite famously together. And the feeling was this: while pummeling down the road, braving an army of fat snow flakes and bobbing red orbs, it dawned on me just how pointless the whole thing was. Is. All of it. But not in a bad way. Not in a “slamming me to a halt” sort of way, but rather, a “lifting me above it all” sensation. That little mother in the back of my head had nothing to fear, as nothing bad could really ever happen. It may have seemed scary to her, but I actually was in control. Of course, I had nothing to fear either. Even as I blindly rushed towards school, fretting about the fact that I would be late to take an Ecology test that I had forgotten to study for (why Ecology????).

It dawned on me, this rushing about and studying and sometimes failing are all manmade things. Things that have no purpose or reason in the real world, other than to make us feel good about ourselves. And I don’t mean our “real world”, but rather the world’s real world. Life’s real world. So, in those few moments spent racing head-on into Mother Nature’s fat white army, I felt not my life, but the world flash before my eyes. And I was liberated as a result. I needn’t fear. The world would continue on, even if I was late to class. Even if I did poorly or in fact failed the test I had forgotten to study for (why Ecology????). The world would even carry on if I allowed at least one set of those little red orbs to hold me back from achieving – what under those conditions – was to be considered breakneck speed. And from there, I was pulled into even wider things. The world would carry on pretty much regardless of anything that might happen. If I never get out of my dead-end job, the planet won’t care. If I somehow happen to find or create a new future, career-wise, the world will be similarly nonplussed. Should I lose C even, the world will still turn. When I lose my dad later this year, it will continue to as well. And should I somehow damage relationships along the way with any of my Three, or others that I love – or the others that I don’t love – nothing will change. That damned planet is just going to keep on spinning. I am just one tiny prick (pun intended) on the stipple of Life. And free as a result.

And if matters as important as this are – in the grand scheme of things – of no real importance at all, then how much less important still must the vein search for cash, cars, glory and girls be? How wasteful of our time can the pursuit of power, fame and position be? And why do we find ourselves rushing about on snow-blind nights, searching these things out, instead of simply enjoying our freedom from them?

Now, I know none of this is exactly “news” to you, and assuming you haven’t fallen asleep by this point, I wanted to let you know that I already knew it as well. But there was something within this particular moment, this one nugget of unforeseen time, that allowed me gleam the whole blessed wreck from God’s viewpoint instead of my own. Or in other words, for a brief moment I was able to see the “whole” of it instead just the “now”. And in so doing, I realized that the now of it was all that truly mattered. Some of you who dig through my mental rubbish on a weekly basis might now be thinking, “so could this be the long-overdue response from J.C. you were in search of a few weeks back?” I’d like to think it was. But even if it wasn’t, I was glad of the experience. I was glad to be reminded that most – if not all – of the things we as humans chase after, have nothing at all to do with our humanity. And all the things that do, are right there at our finger tips the whole time, free for the taking. All we need to do is stop running into the world, and reach out to it instead.

•••••

The song included in today’s post was the one that I was listening to as I ended my journey (both spiritually and physically) while pulling into the campus parking lot. And yes, it is actually on the same disc as the first song mentioned today. Don’t ask, my mixes can get pretty nasty. Anywho, I’m including it here, because it felt like such a fitting way to end my “ride”, bringing into even greater focus the nonsense with which we surround ourselves. Of course, I’m also including it because it’s damned good. The brainchild of Ben Folds, Henry Rollins and one Mr. William Shatner, I fear too few people know of it’s existence. An error I hope to remedy somewhat today.

And yes, I’m using the Avatar version. Because Avatar is way cool.

11/4 a prostitute, Jesus, & a whole bunch of finger-wagging in between

She was a prostitute.

I could tell she was because this was Vegas, and the only women in Vegas who talk to me are either my vendors, or prostitutes. And this one sure wasn’t a vendor. i said “hi” to her in response (and don’t you look at me that way – if i’m allowed to talk to other women, i’m allowed to talk to her as well – i mean, she’s obviously someone’s vendor!) and i made it quickly known, with my best altar boy smile, that we would only be sharing a brief verbal exchange – nothing else. And we did. And it was quite nice. Turns out she’s a single working mom (of the “working girl” variety) and she has a teenaged son that she’s trying to raise to be better off in the future than he is today. The chat didn’t last long, and she was even nice enough to ask me if i had changed my mind about, ummm – making her a vendor of sorts – before trotting off to the next drinking hole. Presumably one where the men were willing to do more than just chat for a spell.

Now, this exchange happened several years back, but it still sticks in my noodle, creeping back into my memory on occasion. And for the most part it does so because of her eyes. You see, when she was speaking of her son and their life together, they positively twinkled – but when she was “talking shop” they deadened to the point where you would have thought she was describing the passing of her first puppy. She never mentioned anything remotely like that, of course, but she did have a way of letting me know, mostly through her body language and facial expression, that she had definitely seen the death of innocence. She had most likely seen it several times, in fact, and was clearly no longer surprised by the human animal. Unless one of them said that they just wanted to chat for a spell, i suppose.

So, why did i speak to her? Excellent question. Especially considering the environment i was raised in. One wherein on almost a daily basis we heard that we were to “love the sinner, but hate the sin” while at the same time being taught (sometimes subliminally, sometimes outright) to not only avoid and shun “the sinners”, but anyone at all who had the bad misfortune of being even remotely different than us. Being seen with a hooker gets you arrested. Being seen with a drug dealer gets you killed. Being seen with a gay person makes you one as well (i suppose it rubs off or something?). Being seen with a homeless person makes you a ne’er-do-well, and being seen with a priest gets you molested – oh no, wait – they never did alert us as to that one. Anywho, i guess against my upbringing and my better judgement, i ended up speaking with her, once again because of those eyes. i suppose i just needed to reach in and see if they really were as dead as they appeared. i was relieved to find out that they were not, but saddened to realize that we live in a world where so many eyes are dead, so many innocence’s killed. For the life of me, i simply can not understand why it happens so often – this human ability to see another as mere property, or worse. For one of us to determine that our needs are so very important, we can treat other humans as little more than disposable play things, in order to achieve our goals. In short, i guess i’m just not getting why we created a world in which we need some people to be gainfully employed as prostitutes.

And just before i get down from my soapbox (“Oh hell no, he’s on another one of his meandering rants!”) – to those of you who are captains of industry, religious leaders and citizen-kings or queens – please note that i am not only speaking of, and to, the people who dismiss humanity for their own sexual gratification. i am also including those of your ilk who simply have to have – all to yourself – the same amount of acreage that at least five families could live comfortably on. Those of you (both religious and atheist alike) who needle your way through religious texts and hand pick words and phrases solely in an effort to damn someone to hell, simply because their way differs from yours. Those of you who shun and ostercize good people and neighbors simply because they don’t wear the right clothes, or have the right job, or share the correct color of skin. To you too, i wave my not-so-mighty finger of indignation (shaming you undoubtedly in the process), for your excess, for your selfishness, for your abuse of your fellow man, for your – well – for all the things you do that i try to pretend i don’t do as well. And in my train(wreck) of thought, this is usually right about the point where Jesus steps in… (What? It’s not like i didn’t warn you he was making an appearance right up there in the title or anything):

Whoa pally, just back it the flip up there for a second! I mean, let’s be clear: you’re not exactly due for Sainthood anytime soon either. Well, of the Roman Catholic variety, at any rate. We’ll discuss true sainthood when the time is right. And yeah, you were nice enough to talk to one of my sisters who happens to be an “undesirable” in most humans eyes. It’s been duly noted, and that’s one more Gold Star for you that I’m placing along with the rest. Yeah, I actually do keep track of those things. Surprised? But I gotta tell ya – even with it’s addition, you still wouldn’t have nearly enough to cover up all the check marks you’ve made in the book, to date. And no, I don’t keep track of those – so stop gettin’ all bug-eyed, and just relax. My point here is this: you focus on your story boy-O, and stop with all the ‘i can’t understands‘. YOU stop treating my people like mere objects. YOU do the right thing – all the time. Or at least as often as you can.

You know, my Light may have come into this world through my own actions, but it can only be spread through yours. I need you to carry on my work – not in word, but in deed. OK fine, in word AND deed. Go ahead – keep your silly blog, but don’t focus sooooo much on the words only – I’ve got quite of few who do that already, and their follow-through is spotty at best. You see, we’re a team, you and I, and I have no use for whiners on my team. So stop pontificating. Stop ‘wishing‘ you knew what to do – because we both know that you already do. Just get out there and do it already! I love you bunches, t. Now you go and do the same – Cool? (((MeHugs))) And hey, next time you’re trying to be all ‘High n’ Mighty’ in my name, you might want to think about actually mentioning my name in the process. Just sayin’…

That Jesus, always derailing my most stoic, “in-your-face world!” posts. The way he talks, you’d think he was the son of God or something. Heck, the way he talks, you’d almost swear that i didn’t speak to a prostitute at all, but rather, just a person. One who, like many of us, has a hope for a better future – and unlike some of us, still a bit of a twinkle in her eye. And maybe in the end, she helped me far more than i ever thought i was helping her as a result.

10/28 of slain dragons and school girls

His name is Josh.  A fact that only took me 7 weeks after first meeting to find out about him. Before that time however, i knew that he was majoring in web design. Of this, i knew almost even before he announced it to the class, in fact. He is a fellow student in my PSYC 101 course, and in addition to sitting on the other side of the room, i feel he may also sit on the other side of the world from me.

His non-committed unbranded t-shirt, that almost begs to have a “Dungeons & Dragons” logo emblazoned on its front, covers an almost skeletal upper body. And his good twelve-to fourteen inches of hair, in a tightly-pulled but random pony tail, covers the upper most portion of the t-shirt, only where it lays against it carelessly. His beard is very similar to that of one who has been trapped in a sand storm that has lasted for far too many years – blown back, gritty and brittle, with smallish patches strewn about the face showing areas where the hair refuses to grow any longer – if it in fact ever did. His eyebrows have proven much more successful in their growth attempts, and are very near exceeding their goal of meeting each other in the middle. He has the rare type of body wherein the feet appear to be almost as long as the vertical portion of the body, with his profile resulting in very much an “L” shape to the eye. His arms and legs are true to the bust they grow off from, and are quite thin and willowy as a result. The arms are in constant motion, and when he speaks, the hands alternate between random waves into the air or rubbing bared elbows in search of long-lost scabs – but only if they are not wringing, one against the other, in an apparently failed attempt to remove the flesh altogether, if not the blood of some long-forgotten sin. In short, you can tell by a body language that almost screams out to be heard, he would feel so much more comfortable if he never had to say another word to another living human being in all of his existence, let alone to an entire room full of people. And yet he still does anyway.

In fact, this man, who will do very well once plunked behind a lit screen that requires no conversation i think, is actually quite vocal in class. Not just when he’s called upon to do so, but also when he feels he has the right answer, or if he feels that he simply has something to add to the general conversation. And when he opens his mouth, he usually does. True, it takes painstakingly long for the knowledge in his head to be presented to the rest of us. His voice is not exactly what you would deem as “strong”, and while he doesn’t stutter per say, his words do have an occasional way of cutting out – losing volume altogether mid-word – only to be audible again at the end. But still, he carries on, until every thought is expressed and his contribution complete. In other words, it is apparent that he has a very large issue with feeling comfortable in public, both in speaking, and possibly just being in his own skin at the time. And it also is quite obvious that he is using this school experience to – if not deal with the problem altogether – at least knock it down to a much more manageable size.

Once, towards the beginning of the semester, he took the floor – and i mean literally – he stood directly in the middle of the floor and provided a brief summary on some such thing or another. His fade-in/fade-out staccato was in full effect and his hands were working overtime in finding something to keep them occupied. As much is his nature, throughout his dissertation, his eyes never left the floor. Except once, that is. He was almost finished delivering his speech in a fashion almost heart-wrenching to watch when, at the back of the room, school-girlish giggles from women far to old to be acting like school girls could be heard. It was brief – but it was enough. Josh’s eyes immediately darted towards the corner of the room where the offending sound came from, and while never breaking his vocal stride, he flung daggers of hate and anger that could almost be felt cutting the air as they zipped across the room in search of their target. Targets that themselves should hardly have been throwing verbal stones. In fact, let’s just say of these women that neither of them are exactly going to be mistaken for Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe any time soon. And from their mouths never is heard a word that actually adds to the value of the class – whether it be voluntary or coerced from their lips.

The entire incident was momentary and i’m quite sure that of all the big wide world, Josh and i are the only ones still thinking about it – that is – if Josh even still is. And while really such a minor thing, i felt (feel) bad that women who refuse to deal with their issues can find it so easy to laugh at one who is. And i feel even worse that in this instance, i did nothing about it to help Josh, standing there way across the world from me. But in this instance, i’m not sure if any “help” given wouldn’t have caused more grief instead. In every walk of life, there will be school girls – of all shapes, sizes, sexes, age and race – ready to impress you with their ignorance by laughing at someone – anyone – who just doesn’t “fit”. And while Josh may try his best, i don’t feel that he could ever truly “fit” anymore than i could. And i suppose, based on that, he and i really are a lot more alike than i initially thought. i suppose we’ll both have to carry on, simply trying our best to deal with our issues, while both ignoring the school girl chatter that will occasionally come into our lives as a result, and making sure that we don’t add to its cacophony either.

i won’t be there to see it, but i do hope Josh’s story has a good ending. One wherein his issues have been slain like bloated dragons and he has risen triumphant against the storm of the ignorance of others. And from what i can see, he seems to be doing his best to ensure just that.