For 3 Reasons…

This coming Sunday through Wednesday I will once again be dragging my feet (not to mention my solitary “if you can’t take it on your back, then don’t take it all” backpack) to Las Vegas, and I am telling you this for – as the post title implies – 3 reasons.

flamingo_hotel_las_vegas_NV

• First off, if you should happen to be in the area at the same time, let’s grab a drink, shall we? Drop me a line if you’d like to meet the t behind the “t.”

• Secondly, should my near-future posts appear to be erratic and/or wholly absent, this trip is the reason why. No, I’ll not be dead yet. Or at least we’ll just assume that to be true, until such time as the week following comes round, and you still haven’t heard from me.

• Thirdly and most importantly, I’m telling you this sort of as a promise to NOT get all weepy like I did last year, and post an overly mopey and generally pissy rant about the people who populate, if only for awhile, this fair(ish) city. OK, well at least I will try very hard not to. What? I’m an emotional guy. I can’t always help it.

Now, those of you who know me well may very well believe that the song included today is actually a thinly veiled, “secret” reason #4 behind today’s post. And as always, those of you who know me well, would be absolutely correct in your beliefs. So let’s get crackin’!

• Oh, also, if any of you happen to know where is the best place to catch a good Drag Queen show out Vegas-way, I’d be forever grateful for your two cents!

Looking cool, hanging with nepaliaustralian

I’m not sure.

You see, it might be. Based on the idea that my other efforts were more “reviewish” in nature then they were actually “guestish,” you know?

Know what? I’ve no idea what we’re talking about. You do this all the time. You start a conversation, only after you’re halfway through it in your head already.

Sorry. What I was saying is that I’m not sure if today’s post is the first time I’ve ever done an actual guest blog or not. Do the book reviews count? Because if not, then I can get all excited and giddy while telling everyone that this is my first time ever!

And if the book review posts do count?

Well then, I guess I’ll just have missed my opportunity altogether.

In that case, then no. They don’t count. Now, get all excited and tell everyone. But make it quick, as you’re far too old to be acting like this.

And oh – by the way – you DO realize that you in fact did tell everyone that your first review was also your “first guest post,” right? Thus making this entire conversation irrelevant, and a waste of everyone’s time.

Well, yeah… But I mean, I highly doubt anyone’s ever gonna read that far back to realize that I did – so let’s just keep it ‘tween ourselves, OK?

Ummm… sure?

Great. Thanks!

Hey everybody – lookie, lookie!  Right here! My first-ever guest blog post! Awesome!  I really hope you like it bunches! Woo-hoo! Yay me! *clap*clap*clap*clap* Yes, YES!

•••

Sorry kids, but you’ll just have to read the linked post to understand the reasoning behind today’s tune…

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.

A mother’s love…

It’s happening again. As I’m getting ready to get on a big plane and fly far far away, the little mother in the back of my head is literally screaming.

“What if it crashes? What if you die? Is this how you want to go out? Do you want that last post to be your swan song? Really? You do know it wasn’t your best work, right? And did you get all the stuff no one is ever supposed to know about buried and out of sight? How about those “Dear Santa” letters in your drawers? Didn’t you dispose of them yet? Did you tell the kids how much you love them? Did they listen? Are you going to leave C like this? Aren’t you/couldn’t you/shouldn’t you do something – well – “special” for her? Isn’t it about time that you did? Even though she’ll be livid if you do? Did you get straight with God? Did you ask forgiveness for all the things you’ve done, felt and thought? How about all those things you didn’t? I mean, just in case the plane crashes? Just in case you die? It does happen all the time, you know. That’s why I simply refuse to board one. They’re flying death traps, pure and simple.”

If you hadn’t guessed, that little mother in the back of my head is a direct inheritance from my (only slightly larger) real-life mother. Given to me on the day of my birth, and fed slowly but steadily over the years since then.  I’m none to sure why she’s still around, as I’ve been spending the better part of my later years trying to kill her off. The little one in the back of my head, that is. My real-life mother is far too accomplished a cook to ever knock her off. Now don’t get me wrong, while helpful at times, overall she’s been much more of a hinderance than not.  I fear as if her fear has kept me back from quite a number of things accomplished and adventures to be had. And I worry she’s only gaining in strength, with the more I try to eliminate her. Or the older I become. Or maybe as a result of a little bit of each.

So. I’m going to get on that damned plane, without first squirreling my secret things deeper away. I’m going to get on that plane despite her booming voice, echoing in the (surprisingly otherwise empty) cavern of my skull. And I’m going to do so, simply to spite her. To make her shut up. Hopefully, once and for all. Of course, I’m also going to get on that damned plane simply to get to the destination I need to be at. But as goals go, that hardly sounds lofty at all, so we’ll just skip that part.

My real-life mother, of course, will once again be asking for both my flight number and the times of departure and landing. Both ways. She doesn’t need this info, as she will neither be flying on, piloting or controlling the landing of my plane. But she requests it anyway, so she can frantically track the flight’s progress, minute by minute, hour by hour. And as you may recall, since Satan’s personal sex-filled low-slung Camero – the internet – is not allowed in their house, she does this all by phone. I’m pretty sure, in fact, that this played at least a part in the advent of prerecorded messages. I asked her at one point why she needed the departure time, as even she had to admit, very few crashes occurred at this juncture of the journey. To this she simply replied “well, I need to know when to start praying, don’t I?”

That indeed she does.

Did I then ask her why, if she normally says to “put it all in God’s hands”, she then has to meticulously track each and every flight that her boys venture on, even after she’s dropped J.C. a line? Hell. To. The. No. With mom, it’s best not to ask questions that help to highlight that even God himself will never be fully trusted. So she will pray. And she will check. And she will get upset when I land, and don’t even have the decency to call C and herself to let them know that I’m safe. And then she’ll become more irritated still when she tries to commiserate with C, only to hear a response of “if he dies, I’m pretty sure someone will call me. If no one calls, I’m pretty sure things went just fine and proper.” OK, C would never actually use the “and proper” bit, but I sometimes like to pretend she’s British as well. Because the Brits have the coolest accents, and they really do know how to layer.

Anywho, back to mom. Both the slightly larger real-life version and the little one, currently reading over my shoulder and sulking in the back of my head. As I believe we’ve already established my feelings on the latter, I feel I should also mention that I truly love the former. She has always made sure that I was OK. And even if she slipped on occasion, causing more damage than good, I know it was done from love, not malice. And I do appreciate the fact that she worries about me. I just wish it didn’t manifest itself as being so – well – worrisome. I also wish she would actually be able to “put it all in God’s hands” one day. I know that’s what I plan on doing again when I get on that big plane, hopefully with a window seat assignment. See, the one thing I can never tell mom I do is this. I do pray. Just for a moment. Each and every time I hear the engines flair and the pilot announcing that we’ve been cleared. I would like to think I do so because I mean it. But honestly, it could be just another instance of my Roman Catholic Voodoo genetics kicking in. Regardless of the reason, I do make sure I’m straight with God before we hit the air. At some point in time, all my secrets will be laid bare any way, no matter how deeply I try to bury them now. They’re safe enough where they currently stay. But if I’m placing myself in a situation wherein there’s even an outside chance resulting in me meeting the Big Man, I think it wise to at least first make sure He’s cool with me, prior to our introduction. So I spend a moment asking Him to forgive me, and asking Him to take care of mine, should my plane be the one that’s going down this time. It does happen all the time, you know.

Oh! That reminds me – one more tradition I delight in sharing with my mom is this. Each and every time I leave she says “make sure to take God with you.” And each and every time I respond with “but ma, I only bought one ticket.”

I know, and still she loves me, right?

Here – please enjoy a little traveling music for our journey and I’ll look forward to seeing you all again the week of the 12th. If you don’t see a post by then, then you’ll know that mom finally nailed it…

10/21 muscle heads and misconceptions

I’m sitting on the airplane feeling peckish.

Well, I’m not actually feeling peckish at all, but it’s such a lovely word, I thought I would throw it in for effect. What I am actually feeling, in fact, is remorseful.

When I first arrived at my point of departure within the New Orleans airport – concourse D, in case you’re interested (a simply dreadful little hub consisting solely of one restaurant/bar, one news stand, one overpriced trinket shop and about six gates all trying their best to devour the people waiting to go through them, one painfully slow passenger at a time) and found a “crew” of muscle heads at the bar, I thought for sure I had found material for my next post. Boisterous, beer-toting and dripping with machismo, this group almost embodied everything I find distasteful about American males – John Waynes on steroids, if you will – and it appeared to me that had they their bodies not, their confidence would be vacant as well. I was glad that the time I would be required to “enjoy” their company was limited, and hopeful that none of them would share my flight. But one of them did.

And he sat in the row directly in front of mine.

He had the window seat (the muscle head would get the choice seat of course), and beside him sat an elderly gentleman of British descent, who had a very cool accent and – I would later find out – not nearly anything nice to say with it. The aisle seat was open and less-than anxiously awaiting the African-American woman who would occupy it for the 57 minute flight we were about to embark upon. But, when she arrived, she also had a very young daughter in tow. While the seat said nothing, it’s very appearance gave notice that it would only support one human being at a time thankyouverymuch, and the daughter would simply need to find somewhere else to sit. Luckily, the flight attendant must have already known about the seat’s attitude on all this, and she had come armed with a second seat assignment and a question to the two men already seated – would either one of them please give up their seat, and take the child’s (just a few rows back) so that the daughter could sit with her mother? The elderly Brit said yes. The muscle head said nothing. Of course.

The daughter was resplendent in her Garanimalesque white shirt/pink pant combo, topped off with white bows keeping her two almost out of control pigtails firmly in place. She was smiling ear-to-ear while waiting in the aisle, but once the go-ahead was given for her to take the middle seat that was now vacated, her face twisted in fear at the realization that she would have to sit right next to this strange man. At such a young age, she too, apparently already knew disdain for those of the muscle head persuasion – smart, this little one was. And then the damnedest thing happened – the muscle head looked at her with the softest eyes imaginable and – while I couldn’t see his mouth – a smile was evident in his tone when he said, “don’t worry, I won’t eat you.” The girls face lifted into a grin even larger than the one she wore while awaiting her seat – almost as if she actually was afraid of being eaten at some point in time – and relieved to know that today at least, was not going to be that day.

She plopped right down next to the muscle head – and – the two of them spent the entire rest of the flight talking to each other. About everything. In hushed tones they spoke about the in-flight magazine, the safety instructions, the muscle head’s own children, the in-cabin overhead light and the in-cabin overhead air valves, not to mention the where they had been and the where they were going to next – both geographically, and in life. The mother tried to jump in whenever she could, but the girl and man spoke so much that precious little room was left for anyone else to invade their chat.

Odd – it occurred to me – here I was, condemning a man I had never spoken with to something akin to hell simply because of what I imagined he must be like, while at the same time, a little girl actually opened her mouth in an effort to know him better and sainted him as a result. And trust me, I could tell by the look in her face when they finally parted ways that she could plainly see the golden halo she had placed above his head. And by then I could (finally) see it as well.

St. Sebastian: patron saint of muscle heads – err – athletes

As this was going on, it also dawned on me that while this man and girl were taking advantage of fate by getting to know another human being that, while they would never see each other again, they could learn from and enjoy right now – I sat rigid-backed in my seat, my iPod headphones jammed defensively into my ears – protecting me against having to ever acknowledge the existence of the elderly woman sitting right next to me. I mentally smacked my wrist and pulled the headphones out, opening my mind at the same time just enough to let someone else in. And she turned out to be a lovely woman who had successfully raised five children and had earned herself a trip to Venice – based solely on frequent flyer points, no less. It appeared that she was flying alone, and she was old enough that I had the good sense not to ask her if anyone would be joining her on her trip. I didn’t really need to know any way, and there was no reason to risk upsetting an otherwise jolly traveler.

The flight ended. The lesson was learned. The experience, embedded in my soul. I felt good about what I had been brought to understand, even as I felt bad about the fact that I needed it brought to my understanding. The man and the girl made their goodbyes, and while I won’t say they hugged (because I can’t recall if they did), it certainly felt as if they should have. The girl and her mother made their way down the aisle to debark, and then the man stood up. He wasn’t the muscle head I thought he was at all! He had the same haircut as the muscle head I was thinking he was, and the same general face as well (understanding that all I ever saw of it was his forehead and eyes). But other than being very tall, and proportional to that height, he was no more a muscle head than I am a person who is willing to judge an individual based on their character instead of their appearance. It was then that I replayed the scene from the airport, only to discover that none of the muscle heads were worthy of my disdain in the first place, and none of them were really even that boisterous in fact.  They just happened to be very large men with beers in their hands, trying to get to where ever it was they were going without hassle or care. And in my apparent rush to judge, I decided that they were the issue, when I fact, the issue was me.

So, in 57 minutes, I learned that muscle heads are people too, little girls (at least one) are much smarter than I, it’s quite all right to introduce yourself to a person that you’ll never see again, you can get quite far on frequent flyer points, people are not always going to fit nicely into your preconceived notion of who they should be  – and possibly most importantly – as a general rule muscle heads, or rather large men at any rate, do not eat children.

Even if they’re feeling peckish.