Saturday, January 30, 2016

Someone Once Said, "Perception is Intentional"

Someone once said, “Perception is intentional.” I can’t remember where that comes from but when I was around eight years old I really wanted a rubber Creature from the Black Lagoon doll. I had seen them someplace. One rainswept March morning I was walking through my neighborhood when I saw one poking up in the distance. I could see it quite clearly. It was in the backyard of a Lakeshore Drive summer cottage. I knew the owners wouldn’t be back for months so I had nothing to fear as I trespassed and headed toward the little rubber monster. But as I got close I realized it wasn’t the treasure I sought but a dead and feathered chicken planted upside down in the ground. What I had thought was the doll turned out to be chicken legs and feet.
     I stood there in the cold drizzle, staring at this macabre little sign – sign of what? Was it meant as a threat? Or a curse? Was it evidence of a bizarre religious ritual? Was a cult operating in my little community? A cult hostile to poultry?
     Or maybe the whole thing occurred in a dream that eventually seeped like oil into my memory.
     I never did get one of those damn dolls.

Friday, January 29, 2016

It was Gray the Day of the Christmas Miracle

It was gray the day of the Christmas Miracle. I had ended a disastrous three-year drinking binge and was drying out at my sister’s house. Since I couldn’t be trusted, I had given up my wallet, but the alcoholic mind is a criminal mind and I began saving change. I was trusted with enough money to buy small purchases such as milk, snacks, etc. For weeks I hoarded coins.
     Once I’d scraped together seven dollars I decided to spend it. It was a week before Christmas. I started walking the mile to the liquor store. Cold drizzle fell, coating everything in a glaze of ice. Magical thinking is another facet of the addict’s character and as I walked I kept my gaze on the ground, looking for lost change, hoping to find a dropped wallet. Seven dollars wasn’t enough to get the job done. The entire walk into town I was frantically looking for lost money. I kept telling myself it was a silly, futile hope but I couldn’t help it. Lost money, I kept thinking. Lost money lost money...
     And then the street opened into the center of town and I saw something that made me question my sanity; a ten dollar bill! It was like I’d wished it into existence! The bill was frozen to a snowbank. And next to the ten I found a dollar bill and then another one! I looked around for a film crew. Mr. Funt? I felt like I was hallucinating. I peeled the bills off the ice and went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of cheap whiskey and some beer. As I headed back, I really felt as if something supernatural had happened to me. And that’s the story of my Christmas Miracle.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Met Her Several Years Ago

I met her several years ago and she made a drastic impression on me. She was in her early twenties and very pretty in a frail, delicate way. She was the kind of person you immediately want to protect or rescue. Epic, punishing drug use had turned her into a damaged shell. She had vacant, permanently-glazed eyes. A kind of dead gaze. She moved gradually, as if she had to concentrate on the smallest gestures, and spoke slowly, forcing out uncomfortable-sounding words. She stumbled through sentences in a halting manner. She was so fragile and edged I was afraid that if I surprised her she’d shatter like glass. She told stories and they all involved drugs. Like the time she kicked heroin (cold turkey) while watching a Leave It to Beaver marathon. The show became a traumatic trigger for her and now she couldn’t watch it without suffering drastic flashbacks. She bragged about shooting meth at her grandmother’s house and spending two days maniacally rocking in a chair on the front porch. She stole cocaine (and a car) from her mother. She told me that she once ran out of heroin so she shot up with water just to shoot something. I asked her if shooting water had made her feel better and she shrugged and replied, “No, not really.”
     She seemed doomed and carried the weight of tragedy like a boulder on a cliff. She was hovering over death. I still think about her often. I wonder what happened to her. I can’t seem to remember her name. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Own a Time Capsule

I own a time capsule. It’s an old black suitcase packed with the past, filled with proof of an existence. I inherited it from my grandmother who inherited it from her “Aunt” Theresa. The things inside date from the turn of the 20th century. It is my most cherished possession. If there’s ever a fire, I’m saving the suitcase. When I open it, the stale smell of dry decay hits me like a sigh. It’s a scent I respect. The suitcase contains tatters, moments. There are more questions than answers inside.
     The black suitcase holds remnants from an old show business career. “Uncle” Elmer and “Aunt” Theresa were show-folk who roomed with my great-grandmother during The Depression. The case is filled with stage programs, photographs and other ephemera. Everything is brittle and yellow now, some items (like newspaper clippings) are crumbling to dust. The suitcase also contains Elmer’s sadly unfinished memoir, “Confessions of a Press Agent.” An elusive spirit lives in these typewritten pages. I can’t help but meditate on the transitory heartbreak of existence when I look at this stuff. Uncle Elmer is all but forgotten. What chance have I got?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

I Once Spent a Month in a Place

I once spent a month in a place that made me rate my feelings of hopelessness and helplessness (and worthlessness) every morning. I had to rate them on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being the most severe). I also had to rate my sadness and guilt and feelings of disconnectedness. It was a strange way to begin the day but I dutifully filled out the log and handed it in every morning. I hovered around a 2 on most days and remembered thinking the scale needed more numbers and gradations. After we finished scoring our feelings of helplessness and hopelessness (and worthlessness) we went to breakfast. Negative introspection will do wonders for your appetite and eating will do wonders for your negative introspection. There are no strangers in a place like this.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I've Never Met my Best Friend in the Flesh

I’ve never met my best friend in the flesh, so to speak. We met on an online writing site and hit it off. We talk on the phone almost every day. We’ve been through a lot over the ten year span of our friendship and she calmly accepts my limitations. But, like I said, I have never actually seen her in The Real World (whatever that is). No regrets, that’s the way we like it.
     I was in the produce section of the grocery store yesterday and noticed a little girl sitting in her mother’s shopping cart singing Pleasant Valley Sunday. It’s fascinating how The Monkees have stood the test of generations. I left the vegetable racks smiling to myself.
     When I got home I called my friend and told her about it. I knew she’d appreciate it. She digs The Monkees too.