Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Mother's Mince Pies

Matilda (Tilly) Kerrigan

Christmas reminds me of my mother's mince pies. She used to throw them at me as dusk was falling and shout, 'Get a bloody job and don't come back until you've got one.' Then she would slam the front door. The fact that I was eight years old never entered, what I believe, was an irrational mind. I remember sitting for several hours in a snowdrift listening to the church bells ringing in the distance. I wondered what would be in my brown parcel on Christmas Day. I'd swear and curse if it was mincemeat again.

My elder brother always received the best present: a wooden train set, a plastic trumpet, or a Cowboy Annual. Who in their right mind gives a son mincemeat? My sister once got a wig. It's not like she was bald or anything. And it looked just like a cat's hairball.

My mother often sent me away with 'cold ironic words', for example: 'Bonehead!' 'Don't forget to write!' 'Who's got the I.Q. of a deranged cabbage?!' I believe my mother may have been struck on the head with a heavy object when she was young or had lived too long with archaic furniture. She once made me sit in our dustbin for three hours because I said Grandmother smelled funny. I've fond memories of Christmas, especially Christmas Eve, when I was allowed into the house to sleep in a warm bed.

I have no photographs of my mother during that time but I recall that she resembled Santa Claus to a degree: black hooded eyes full of resentment, a pale face, long hair and white scraggly beard (she made a point of not shaving at Christmas). As she served us our Christmas meal (spam and eggs) she smoked a cigar and downed shots of whiskey.

After the meal had been consumed my father would twist his vocal chords in a vain attempt to sing a carol while we clenched our teeth waiting for its painful demise. I believe it's the only time we felt like a 'real' family. The radio would be switched on and tuned to some station broadcasting dour music that left anyone breathing gasping for breath. As the radio crackled my father would exchange his normal attire for women's clothes. He would make a short speech about Santa being bi-sexual, tri-sexual or something, and imitate our next-door neighbours who, at this juncture, would usually be glaring through our front window.

The brown parcels containing presents would be handed out by my father, still in drag. I remember feeling faint with rage. A bloody hamburger! I threw the uncooked meat in the direction of my father's new dress, cursed and sweared, and ran out into the cold damp air.

I ran, then walked with half-closed eyes waiting for my heart to beat in time with the falling snowflakes. I was a kid, small, with a curious imagination. I could sense that more magical moments, unexpected sights, and wonders lay up ahead for me. First, I had to lose the baby face, the bony spectacles, and avoid becoming a crack addict. The world was spread out like the sun, ready for the taking.

Reflections: The street outside my house is covered in snow. The wind is bitter and the absence of pedestrians and children is proof of severe weather conditions. One of the great things about Christmas is that you can relax with family, relatives and friends and just be yourself. There is no one to impress. Time to put away the mask. It's a relief to see the faces of the people you love, or to hear their voices on the telephone.

All relationships endure conflict at some stage. Hopefully there is enough love, courage, strength and understanding to ensure it does not persist a lifetime. No minute, hour, or day of the year exists without someone, somewhere, on this earth thinking about a beloved partner, family member, relative or friend (they though indestructible) who has become ill, or died. Then one's worst fears are realized.

Enjoy those times when the gentle wind blows and life tastes warm, refreshing, better. And the sound of laughter fills the air.

Dedicated to the memory of my mother Tilly Kerrigan (1926 - 2004)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Uncle Hoppy's New Partner

Uncle Hoppy's New Partner

I come from a respectable, humble family. My father is a great game hunter. One memorable afternoon he found a complete Scrabble Deluxe crossword game, a Snakes and Ladders game board, and three dancing dice doing the Tango on a transatlantic cruise. He's an excellent horseman and swimmer. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the death of six horses due to their failure to execute the butterfly stroke successfully, or to understand the meaning of the 'prone position.'

My father is tall, attractive, full of vitality, and is at one with nature. His empathy with birds borders on the remarkable. In fact, he flies south each fall with a flock of warblers he counts as dear friends. Ladies are irresistibly drawn to my father. At least fifty-three people in our town bear a striking resemblance to him, right down to the 'mark of the beast' on their forehead. 

Everyone within a family, of course, likes to score points, and 'family feuds' provide an emotional battleground par excellence. Children must compete with each other for their parents' attention, and it is well known within the domesticated fowl community that pecking order shapes one's personality. One room is too limited to contain the egos of a father, mother, brother, sister, a Red Junglefowl, and antique vanity furniture. With the wealthy, the feud may be about property, inheritance, and money. Those with little, or no, money, are infatuated with who gets the last chocolate digestive biscuit?

Anyway, one afternoon my Uncle Hoppy - who was born with grey hair, and always wears black (even while bathing) - arrived at our home. His hobbies include singing female arias from operas inside a vacuum cleaner, and disguising himself as Portland Place in London. Lately, for some extravagant reason, an American bison accompanies Hoppy everywhere he travels. He treats the bison like a partner, or mistress, and takes her on romantic outings. To the bison, I imagine, it is love without responsibility.

The trouble started when Hoppy's wife discovered the bison was pregnant. Uncle Hoppy was adamant that while he did not love the bison, he had at last met a creature he could truly connect with; someone to hug, kiss, and who conversed with conviction about their commitment to individual liberty.

The incident caused a feud within the family, as expected. Some family members seethed with rage, some wept, some played Russian roulette with six rounds in their six-shot revolvers, and some bitterly quarreled about the consequences for the 'good' family name. Others' sat exhausted by laughter. Yes, laughter. Previous feuds were brought up, and dissected like raw meat. Some family members ran out of the house, took to the air, and have not been heard of since.

A month later, Hoppy phoned me. His voice sounded weary, but he was happy. The bison and Hoppy were living in a one-room apartment in Marseille. The bison was taking dancing lessons. He added that the bison wished to become a ballet dancer after the birth. I wished them well. What does it matter, after all, as long as they are happy. Their passion will weary, as passion does. No-one wishes an affair to end in failure, however, except the cold of heart. And the injured party, of course.

*

Reflections: True love is noticing a lover's wandering eye and smiling; or counting the number of blackheads on their face, and still wishing to engage in meaningful conversation. Moreover, nodding your head in agreement, even when you don't understand a single word they are saying.

Sometimes love is looking and remaining silent.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Foolish Wondrous Things

I met my current girlfriend, Kerstin, in a drive-thru pharmacy where she is the Chief Pharmacist. While she looked weary, I was drawn to her intense blue eyes, the curve of her lips, her natural dark brown hair and overt beauty. I also felt attracted to the tattoo lettering on her forehead: Shake Well Before Use. I tried to cheer her up with a few witticisms. It seemed to work. She listened, smiled, and said, 'You're crazy'. Then she laughed, 'You're crazy.' I began to worry that this might be the extent of her vocabulary. Thankfully, I was mistaken.

She has a habit of pinching my cheek but always brings it back. She enjoys it when I quietly plead,'Who's stolen my soft, well-shaved cheek?' 'What shall I do without it?' Infantile, I know, but if it makes Kerstin laugh, I'm happy to oblige. Kerstin loves dancing; I love shooting inanimate objects. Perhaps, that's why she doesn't hear every word I say to her; too busy dodging bullets.

The inevitable road to decay in our relationship has yet to show its bored, weary face. I give it another three months, or, until my ammunition runs out. Kerstin can be sensitive, and ask stupid questions: 'Am I beautiful?' 'Is my sister prettier than me?' 'Does a woman's age matter?' 'What does "ironic sadness" mean?' She's still cute, so I take whatever she throws my way, including cutlery and furniture.

*
Today a passer-by told me my hair was on fire. Unfortunately, I left it on the train. I immediately ran down the rail track like an escaped convict. I had to retrieve the wig at all cost as it belongs to my neighbour, Herry Guttenchest, who likes his hair uncombed, not half-cooked. He had kindly lent me his wig to wear in a 'police lineup.' It appears the victim of the crime, Monsieur Flambé, had the  sharp creases stolen from his trousers while he was travelling to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

As I raced past a station platform I was chastised by waiting passengers for never being on time. I remember thinking 'I should write to the newspapers regarding this matter' when I suddenly fell from a railway bridge into a river. Some men on a barge fished me out. The water was icy and black. I asked if they'd seen a burnt wig. My inquiry was met with silence and strange looks. Perhaps the men thought I had tried to drown myself.

I had to think fast. I'd bath and tell Herry that his wig had been stolen. To make my story viable I'd say the assailant had one-leg, and had been riding a unicycle sideways on an escalator in a downtown department store. Herry should buy that; he bought the wig, after all. I started to laugh. The men on the barge gazed at me in bewilderment. As I reentered the bleak river I felt light-headed. The rapture I was experiencing appeared to be shared by the swans drifting close by.

*
Reflections: One tends to make a great number of mistakes in life. For example, measuring a lover's arm with a 'spring tape measure' during lovemaking; following a spouse disguised as a cigar, a dress maker's dummy, or three policemen, to establish if your partner is up to no good, or, at least, shoulder height; mimicking the cry of the Great Black-backed Gull during a long silence at a senior management meeting; mistaking rich green grass swaying in the breeze for the ocean and decide to go scuba diving. All foolish wondrous things. But hazardous, nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Something in Common & The Seagull

I've fond memories of my first wife. If only I could find them? One Sunday while throwing stones at a neighbour's house - they constantly complained about the noise of our gramophone which only played German tunes - I saw her for the first time. That morning I felt like an empty bus going back to the depot but I couldn't find one without a driver. Suddenly pleasure came back into my life; albeit temporarily.

In the half-light - a slender girl with a pale face named, Betty Blocker - looked beautiful with her crossed legs, crossed arms, and crossed eyes. It was only when she stepped into the full light I could see all her sensitivity. She only had two teeth: an upper and a lower at the front, which she brushed with vigour. If only she had used toothpaste. She talked without thinking, and I thought without talking. Did I love her? No. Did she love me ? No. At least we had something in common. Something attracted me to her. It may have been clean undergarments.

I was only eighteen when we decided to run away. For a while we were as thick as pillows. I once give her a black eye and she refused to take it. Then a split lip. She refused that too. How could I express my feelings for her? I became panic-stricken and confused. I began to speak with an American accent and wear lip gloss on my nose. Then it became all surface, a calamity, my stomach ulcer made its debut in Bjornson's Mary Stuart as a lord with one line to speak. The ulcer became inconsolable and used to shut itself in the washing machine and weep. It finally left to join a group of painters and writers in a village in France. It writes occasionally but still forgets to include two 'C's.

My marriage to Beta disintegrated and we began to despise each other. She always appeared drunk at half-past nine each morning - one hour after me - which I found irritating and deplorable. I became tired of sweat and perfume so we give our dog to a neighbour. It now works as a Security Consultant at a large Parisian department store. It has nothing more in the world to hope for.

Sometimes I think of Beta ... the half-light, how her heart never deceived me, our time spent together hugging, kissing, playing with each other, and talking about the angle a bowler hat should be worn. Of course, we were both temperamental ... our failure to communicate struck us both dumb. We once met unexpectedly in a shop window display. We both had toneless voices and frightened each other. As we said goodbye I fell down a hole in the sidewalk. It made us smile and laugh. For a moment we both felt liberated. As I dare say the people watching on the sidelines also did.

*
Reflections: While in New York in March 2008 my wife, Sylvia, and I attended a production of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov at the Classic Stage Company. I've always enjoyed this mysterious and mystical play. It shows one can be separated by centuries, continents, and language from an author, playwright, etc., and still find their works compelling. This play still resonates with a contemporary audience and touches upon eternal and important questions about life.

We were lucky to get tickets and be seated in a side front row. The play and cast were outstanding. The actors included Dianne Wiest, Alan Cumming, and Kelli Garner who was especially remarkable as Nina.

Sylvia and I had the good fortune to speak with Dianne, Alan, and Kelli after the performance. I was astounded when Kelli said she had been playing to me during the performance. I felt honoured and felt an irresistible urge to tell everybody within shouting distance and beyond. As Kelli, a gifted young actor, and a strikingly beautiful girl, walked away into the dark, rainy night, my wife touched my arm and brought me back to reality.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Recession & A Catastrophic Book Launch

Presently, I've more debts than clothes, more toes than my left foot can accommodate, a home that slopes precariously towards the sea, and a dog that believes it's the reincarnation of Cyrano de Bergerac. It wears a large prosthetic nose over its left eye and looks remarkably like Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf in the film The Hours. Instead of barking the dog shouts at me through a 30W megaphone: "Lug your guts away, salami, or stay and I'll remove you slice by slice!"

Am I the only person who covers his head during the day and stares wide-eyed into the darkness? I've just made a swift decision. It took me three days and five nights looking through a bored hole into my neighbour's house. We must move to a smaller house with a cheaper rent or preferably no rent at all. Christmas will soon be upon us and we are not prepared, financially or emotionally, for its arrival. At least my wife and I will not have to worry about where to hide presents this year. I'd run away but I can't find my red goose feather parasol collection.

Just between ourselves, in a bid to live on less during the current recession, my family and I have moved to a deserted farm which has no electricity. The house is surrounded by mud, rabbits, carrots, and thickets; similar to the interior. To save cash, my wife no longer dyes her mustache and we use candles to see in the dark. The candles are kept in a sealed box. You might find this foolish, however, the sealed box is in a hardware shop in the village waiting to be purchased. In this way, we save as much cash as possible. We also spend more time outdoors where its warmer, and sleep huddled together in a tall iron stove located in the kitchen. Thank goodness we've no coal to burn ...

To add to my despair my wife is speaking with a dubbed voice! It sounds like German or Spanish? Neither of which I am familiar. Quite honestly, I find her action deplorable. She could have the decency to provide "subtitles", or "inter titles" commonly seen in silent films. The result? I am confused about my feelings towards her. In fact, I don't recognise the woman I married two weeks ago. The photographs of our wedding are of little value; all night shots taken with a camera with no flash.

I think she's already cheating. Yesterday she quickly ducked into the oven to take a phone call. The chicken we were cooking for lunch took the opportunity to jump out and used a spare key to vacate the house. I alerted the cops. They said it successfully crossed the border in a stolen car and was last seen at a Burger King drive thru.

Last week I travelled to London to attend the launch of my book: "Fifty Ways to Approach an Incandescent Light Bulb While Disguised as a Cabbage". The event was catastrophic. Why? After I read from the book, talked about light bulbs and cabbage, and hosted a Question and Answer session, the idiot responsible for the launch of the book used too much explosive. The book shot into the sky and is currently orbiting the bald head of a man in Alaska called Mr Ima Tuna.

*
Reflections: How quickly the faces of some people you have known well can change from one of beauty to one of ugliness; of sensitivity to one of hate; from real to caricature; of truth to a refuge for lies, ignorance, conceit. An intuitive momentary glance, however, will confirm the slow decay of existence, the rapid passage of time, and how the past remains with us. Perhaps a level of ignorance about truth, love, courage, life, is conducive to our well-being?

The fatigue of life withers our judgement, opinion, sensitivity, and our relationships with friends, work colleagues, partners, family. We are all prone, occasionally, to acts of weakness, poor judgement, selfishness, indifference, cynicism, insincerity. Some individuals, however, play the part to perfection; daily, by the hour, by the minute, by the second. They have forgotten what life tastes like.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Can You Ever Get Too Much of Anything?


One morning last week I woke feeling dizzy. As Dizzy is our live-in nanny - our last child left home fifteen years ago - I was charged with sexual harassment. I felt like drinking long and hard but opted for alcohol instead. Regardless, I pleaded 'sexsomnia' but the judge, Mr Justice Useless, was arrested during the hearing for 'sleepwalking'.

I should have pleaded 'parasomnia' only the police officers' fell asleep while taking my statement. To make matters worse, my counsel, Mr Lola Heyday, snored while addressing the bench during my plead. The cost? Well, the facts! On the morning of the alleged incident I had woke from a deep sleep - recorded in my statement as 8 feet in depth - believing Dizzy to be a 'two and a half metre' high veggie pizza called 'Barefoot Sally'. I was mortified this was not brought to the court's attention.

I was gratified, however, to be fully exonerated of the alleged charge. The jury unanimously agreed that Dizzy did indeed look like a pizza and eat her for lunch.

*    
An ex-manager of mine was a popinjay and wore a poppadom on his head which he only removed when conversing with street signs. His love for comfort included sitting on a hard-boiled egg strategically placed on his office chair each morning. Sometimes his face would go deathly pale: testimony that the egg was working its magic on his posterior. His brain vacillated frequently causing him to fold his arms behind his back, raise his right leg in a Nazi salute, and anxiously declare, 'If my wife sees me with a paint brush my goose is cooked!' For the rest of the day he would walk on his hands.

He had a mania for sermonizing about painting and could make day feel like night to anyone witnessing his performance. I remember one day he looked at me with his moist mouth - his eyes were elsewhere - 'I've some canvasses I'd like to show you which I will be exhibiting soon in my outside toilet'. I remained taciturn. Sometimes he resembled Goya on a good day and radiated the aroma of a rotten Corot. For six months he studied under the eye of Charlie Orchard (the rest of Charlie's body was never discovered) a well-known harmonica player, who had studied under a hospital bed in Paris.

Stunned by my silent interludes he used to talk about his reputation in artistic and social circles and his collection of park gates. All his misery stemmed from wanting to be himself: no mean achievement. He appeared to live outside of life. Everything he thought, and said, was convertible into cash. He possessed no imagination: a meaningful prerequisite for a manager. perhaps, but an artist?

*    
Reflections: For some people there is 'never enough' of anything: money, time, gossip, praise, clothes, trains, bowel movements. No one, to my limited knowledge, has fought fate and won. Your true soul is written upon your face (if not in public, at least in private) and cannot disguise envy, greed, hatred, unhappiness, selfishness, and that you need to use the bathroom.

Spring and regeneration do not exist forever, for anyone. It's not the journey that counts: it's your intentions and actions that define your true self. Others can accurately describe your life if you are unable. Camouflage helps most people cope with their life as best they can. The rest? Too self-obsessed, prejudiced and ignorant. They're already dead and don't know it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trying to Live an Authentic Life


Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot identified the fear of being forgotten as possibly one of the greatest anxieties which humankind face. Conscious of the fact of death and annihilation; conceivably preceded by protracted and painful suffering and illness, it is not uncommon for individuals to wish they had never been born in the first place. However, as Mark Twain remarked, ‘In religion and politics, people’s beliefs are, in almost every case, acquired second hand and without examination’. Acceptance without questioning leads to ignorance and prejudice, and the failure by individual’s to seek enlightenment concerning other people’s ideas, beliefs and culture.

Any study of anthropology will illustrate, while variable from tribe to tribe, some form of religious belief has persisted; a durability. It must be acknowledged, that similar to other words in daily use, the term ‘religion’ is open to a wide range of interpretations. What does the word ‘God’ mean? It can't represent anything the average individual can comprehend if God is identified as a supernatural being. To the anxiety-riddled individual the belief in, and reverence for a supernatural power (or powers’) regarded as creator and governor of the universe, gives comfort. A supreme being, aware of their existence, and preparing a place in the hereafter, gives console to those who fear death, and have a burning desire to exist after their earthly death. Why do some individual’s need to believe the soul, essence, or personality of a person exist after their death?

For some people religion provides a unitary purpose for living; a community and social group for the lonely; and for the dejected the hope of better things to come. I am reminded of the quote by Friedrich Niezsche, ‘A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything’. The difficulty with the three theistic religions’, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is the ambiguity and conflicting statements on how humankind should behave on moral issues including marriage, divorce, adultery,
the treatment of women, abortion, alcohol, sex, race, homosexuality, criminality, animal rights and war.

Sacred texts, which some people believe to be the irrevocable word of God, were generally documented following the events from memory, or stories handed down over time. The texts remain caste in stone; fixed and unchangeable; never revised or updated to reflect contemporary human behavior where a change of attitude on the part of the general public may have altered, for example, birth control; abortion; euthanasia; in vitro fertilization; the role of women in society; Sabbath observance; and other ethical and moral decisions we may make, consciously or unconsciously, each day.

The introduction of the Book of Revelations in the New Testament has caused many Christians and non-believers to be traumatised by the depiction of hell awaiting those not deemed one of the ‘Chosen Few’, and the visionary presentation of the end of the world. No one is sure; however, which individual(s) wrote the book, or when it was written. Some find it hard to read, understand, and to contemplate. George Bernard Shaw dismissed it as ‘the curious record of the visions of a drug addict’.

Where did the idea of original sin emanate? Why did a benevolent God create an earth where people are prone to suffering, illness, and internalised guilt. In fact the term ‘original sin’ does not exist in the Bible or Jewish writings. The Fall in the Garden of Eden, according to St Augustine, meant humankind would consequently be flawed, and therefore liable to suffering and evil. He was convinced the consequence of original sin was damnation and applied to people who hadn't committed any sins, including newborn babies if they died before their souls were cleansed
by baptism.

Some Christians advocate that the apparently needless suffering and deaths of small children has a purpose in God's plan. They believe it inspires others to carry out ‘good works’ for God on earth, and that the innocent children will be rewarded in an afterlife. I consider it unjustifiable to punish an innocent child in this world to formulate a point and to awaken the consciousness of others. Such a facile approval of suffering in life seems immoral and contemptuous. 


It beggars belief that members of some churches are staunchly opposed to medical intervention in the case of illness and prefer to depend on prayer to achieve healing. Their blind devotion to what they call ‘God's will’ has, in some instances, resulted in unnecessary death. The parents’ refusal to seek medical treatment, and conceivably the failure to administer simple antibiotics in some cases, has resulted in the death of a child. Devout Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions for themselves, and their children, when this action may save a live.

By referring to religious belief as an illusion, Sigmund Freud tried to show how our wanting something to be true often has the effect of making us believe it is true. In the case of religion we want to believe there is some God, heaven, or reward which compensates for earthly frustrations and death. He believed religion avoids dealing with the harsh reality of life by promoting a self-deluding and infantile belief in a father figure who will save us from feelings of helplessness and fear.

Does God answer prayers and physically intervene to grant certain individual’s a favourable conclusion to recovery from suffering and serious illness? Some Christians perceive illness as a battle between God and the Devil; the result of the patient’s treatment dependent on the strength of prayer and their relationship with God. Where prognosis is ominous the patient may be held responsible for prayers not answered. It should be borne in mind, however, that virtue does not correlate with happiness or vice with misery. 


Suffering, shortened life span, bereavement, torture, murder, physical and mental abuse are not the sole preserve of those deemed wicked and immoral. The injustices of this world, and the seemingly random distribution of good and evil, are beyond human prayer to a supernatural being. The conviction that God will make evildoers pay for their transgressions in an afterlife may give solace to believers, but not to others.

What about the mysterious near-death experience? This phenomenon has been presented by many people as testimony the human mind is capable of continued function after death. The idea consciousness could exist and work independently from the human body invites fantasy; ghosts and immortal souls, transmigration and reincarnation. Gravely ill individuals have, on occasion, reported out-of-body experiences where they seem to be souls travelling outside their bodies. Many people do it in their dreams; some experience it when they take drugs. Some scientific experiments suggest out-of-body experiences are illusory, and may be the result of chemical reactions in the brain, even when triggered in the brains of dying people. Scientific research has indicated the disturbance may be due to malfunctioning of certain brain areas because of interrupted oxygen supply or disconnection, and can be provoked by stimulation with electrodes administered by doctors.

Consider the mindset of a spiritualist medium. Their claim to contact the dead and channel messages to a relative(s) is extravagant, highly unscrupulous, and immoral. Some people may feel no harm is being perpetrated, and that an individual recently bereaved may benefit from engaging in superstitious nonsense. Many visit a spiritualist medium in a time of acute grief; a vulnerable time for any one. The comfort of receiving a message from a deceased loved one may be analogous to a fix of morphine. However, while content to receive a message from the other side (sic), the effect will not necessarily last long for the bereaved individual.

Martin Heidegger believed we must live with the insight that while death is the most important fact in the life of every single human being, no one will experience their own death. Others will share this experience; not the deceased. The sorrows of death are of the living, not of the dead.

Each individual has their own interpretation of life and death. I consider we come into this life by chance and leave by the same route. The opinions and views of others, of which we are inundated daily, for example, the news media, television,
newspapers, the internet, researchers, politicians, TV evangelists, church leaders, advertisements, and sales people should not be accepted without critical thinking incorporating the broader concepts of rationality and objectivity.

Our society is full of phony scientific claims used to market everything from breakfast cereal to cancer treatment by bogus practitioners who make false claims and give patients’ erroneous hopes for their future. We should stimulate and encourage our children to be critical and sceptical of claims, arguments, and pronouncements made by others regarding social, ethical, moral, political, secular, and religious issues, and to continue to question their authenticity in the absence of categorical scientific verification, objectivity, and honest analysis.

Finally, we should appreciate and value the gifts that those loved ones now deceased shared with us. The core values they engendered including love; sincerity; generosity of time and energy; broad mindedness; compassion; and abhorrence of intolerance, bigotry, hypocrisy, and the purported wisdom of know it alls’. The deceased will remain in our consciousness and in that of our children. Beyond that it is of no necessity. Life is for the living in this world. The promise of a theoretical supernatural paradise holds no sway for me. By living an authentic life as defined in the statement ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ (which predates the Bible, and conceivably primary interactions between Homo sapiens), there is hope humankind can survive into the foreseeable future. Individuals should, however, restrain their desire to believe things as a consequence of social pressures to conform. One must be willing to ask if conformity is motivating one’s belief or opinion, and, if so, have the strength and courage to abandon a position until they can attain a more objective and thorough evaluation.

Bertrand Russell said, ‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.’ There are no crisp, clear answers. Why should there be?


(2009)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Owner of a Foggy Mind & Bathing in Yogurt

This morning I'm looking out of the living room window of my home. There is a muddy pool of rain water on the grass. I may, however, be looking in through the window of my home at a pool of water on the green carpet in my living room. If only I could dig into my memory . . . Wait a minute . . . Yes! . . . My foggy mind is laid to rest when a thin, little man drives up in a car to ask directions.

The little man is lost and explains that he turned into my driveway to seek help. I tell the little man to leave my house immediately! I tell him I have no driveway! I find his little manners despicable! The thin, little man leaves my living room with great haste. In fact, through the living room ceiling leaving his little car and two little legs in the process. I could tell his temperature was going up during our encounter. I will, of course, try to ascertain his name and address tomorrow. Tomorrow? Yes. No sense getting myself worked up over nothing.

I hate to watch individuals suffer unless they are relatives or friends. Fortunately, I'll no longer have to stand in a bus queue and make idle chatter with people who, just like me, neither wish to smile, speak about grey winter mornings, timetables, how their children smell like sweet vanilla, and how their dog once desired to starve itself to death due to a bad internet connection. I now have a car. A little green car. It does, of course, tend to make the living room appear smaller. Sometimes I hear the little green legs walking around the house. I can never catch them. I believe they're dying to become immortal.

*
Sometimes the lyrics of a song can send me into a deep depression. One afternoon I was having a warm bath, I heard Bill Withers singing, "Lovely Day". I think it was the line, "Just one look at you and I know it's gonna be . . . a lovely day". I immediately adorned my chastity belt equipped with a GPS tracking system, locked all the doors and windows, loaded my handguns and rifle, ripped out the phone line and sat in the kitchen sink where I had a clear view of my record collection, and contemplated my weakness for bathing in yogurt, jumping on sandcastles wearing one shoe, and my desire for women and love.

Suddenly I realized I was torturing myself and enjoying it. I no longer felt trapped. The fog I was living under suddenly lifted and I found myself sitting - half-naked - on stage with the New York Philharmonic during a performance of Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony nicknamed “Little Russia”. Somehow it all seemed appropriate. A stunned tuba player blew a lady's left ear off before he fainted.

*
Reflections: It is beguiling how language stimulates one's thoughts and emotions. A sequence of words, either spoken or written, can make your heart droop. The words begin to haunt you, follow you to your place of work, and back home. Finally, to your bed, where everything worth having ends.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Attack of The 50 Foot Woman & African Horse Sickness


Today I feel like a leafcutter ant which has lost its switchblade. My adolescent son is starting to resemble a marsupial mole. His eyes and ears are hidden by fur and his nose has enlarged and covers his whole face. On the upside it prevents him popping white heads over the breakfast table. 'What if it's African horse sickness?!' he says, rubbing his swollen head and neck.

To make matters worse my son continually plays 'Highway to Hell' by AC/DC on his didgeridoo into the small hours. He's been arrested three times for loitering in our home. He calls everyone a 'liar and a hypocrite'. I can barely stand the truth, and he talks so slowly. Sometimes I believe I'm not parental material. I'm too authentic, full of anxiety and dread. Having my frontal lobes positioned at the rear of my brain doesn't radiate any degree of security. In fact, it only raises curiosity, especially at the beach.

I've always enjoyed going to the movies. It was summer. I was nine, or ten. I remember watching a film called Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I fell in love with the protagonist, Nancy.

When I left the cinema a man was selling full sized, cardboard cutouts of Nancy. I had to have one. The complex problem of how to get her home never crossed my mind. I was in love for the first time. My uncle, Ivar, who lived close to the cinema, was content to cut a hole in the roof of his house so Nancy could stay with him. At least she would be partially dry. He said I could visit Nancy whenever I wished.

When I called at Ivar's house a few days later I was alarmed she wasn't visible from the top of his roof. Was she taking a bath? Was she shaving her legs? The memory has never faded. A neighbour told me Ivar was infatuated by Nancy - her height, the feel of cardboard - and had rented a hot-air balloon. He had secured Nancy to one side and both had disappeared into the cold, midnight sky. He said Ivar had cried out with an emotional intensity he had never witnessed, 'My one true love! My one true love! At last!' 

Ivar and Nancy were last seen high above the Zuyder Zee heading north. This episode has made my relationships with women complicated and unexciting, especially when the subject of cardboard or hot air enter the conversation.

*
Reflections: My father was a strict disciplinarian. One afternoon he telephoned home and told me to stop picking my nose. I truthfully denied his accusation. He wouldn't listen and told me to 'eat a pocket handkerchief' as punishment. I sat for several hours shivering in silence: partly in fear, partly on a chair.

The telephone rang. It was my father. 'On second thoughts ... eat the right hand pocket of your trousers instead.' I felt interned. I consoled myself with the fact I was wearing my sister's favourite dress. As I was bare-foot I picked my nose with the big toe of my left foot. I shook my head and thought how gullible my father was. To be devoid of a sense of humour and resemble a Prussian carp can't be easy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

'What is "Great" about Jay Gatsby?' - (Part 1)


At least the post was on time. One of the letters was addressed to me. It contained a note: C♯, or was it D♭? I knew this cryptic note held a deep dark secret. For some reason it reminded me of the noise the automatic doors at the local library make when they open and close, and go for lunch at a deli across the street.

When I entered the library it was half-full. Two police officers were at the scene. An officer was reading the library its rights; the library was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI). I overheard it got the alcohol from a nearby second-hand book store. It looked on the verge of collapse. It was drinking coffee, and eating pretzels.

I approached a librarian; a tall, dark-haired woman with bright eyes, a generous mouth, and an old woman's face. I watched her place the old woman's face in a drawer which she immediately locked. She put the key down her considerable cleavage. She looked at me and said nothing. I cleared my throat.

'I'm looking for a book ..."

'And I'm here to ensure you leave satisfied,' she said, with a swift smile.

She lent over the desk, her ample bosom lit by the desk lamp. I could see the key was in a warm and safe place.

'My instinct tells me you're looking for a novel that has "Great" written all over it. Short, prose infused with lyricism. Ingrained with wonder, romance, realism, amorous pleasure ..." As she spoke she gazed upward as if to obtain her flow of words from an outside source.

I felt hot and dizzy. Her confidence overwhelmed me.

She pointed to a section of the library. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. You'll find it in the "Classics" section.' Then she added, softly, 'I recommend you look at Chapter 5, page 88". We exchanged glances, then she smiled, "I promise, you won't be disappointed.'

I found the book and sat at one of the old oak tables. After sniffing the book, I turned to page 88. A message was written in pencil at the bottom of the page: Bemelmans Bar, 9.30 p.m. I looked again at the message. Who had scribbled the note, when, and why? Then I thought: All relationships that evolve into love, explode into conflict.

I met my first wife through on-line dating. I think it was a niche site. DateAGolfer, DateAPedalKayake - some subspecialty site. She uploaded a picture of her sister which set my pulse racing. I had to chase it for two blocks before a fellow citizen kindly intervened to contain it.

The problems in our relationship started when I met her for the first time. She always wore "underwater flippers", and carried a rudder when she played golf, attended classical concerts - especially, Mahler - and the odd time we attempted copulation. Once her rudder stuck in my mouth, and I had to be rushed naked to a hospital. The doctor's though I was straight from a masonic meeting. Her leg muscles got so large they slept in their own room. Our marriage became dull: she blamed the lack of light in our home - I removed every light bulb - and having our beds in single file.

As I left the library the librarian smiled enigmatically at me. She was the opposite of my present wife - female. A well-proportioned lady who radiated uninhibited sensuality.

It was exactly one o'clock. I had a meeting with my analyst at 2 o'clock. I could hardly breathe, and had a lot to think about. Suddenly I heard a strange sound. I turned round and discovered it was my old friend, Hedvig Oppenheimer. He was laughing, but looked overly anxious. As he spoke saliva dripped from both sides of his mouth.

"I can't stop thinking about Gina Lollobrigida. You know, the Italian actress. I mean it's the sweetest name I've ever heard. She was a looker. What do you think?"

"What about Jennifer Lopez. Isn't she from the Bronx?" I said, thinking about other things.

"J-Lo? You're joking . . . It hasn't got the ring of Gina Lollobrigida!"

"What about Sophia Scicolone?"

"Who the hell is that?"

"Sofia Loren. You know . . ."

"Not in the same league."

It was a hot day. I watched Hedvig walk toward the town square. His mouth wide open, crying, "Gina. Darling, Gina . . ."

I walked with quick steps towards the office of my analyst and was glad of the company. Perhaps she could answer some of the questions racing round my mind? For instance: 'What's it like to be a human being?' 'Who wrote the first book?' and more importantly, 'What was so "Great" about some guy called Jay Gatsby?'


 Reflections: Everyone has enemies. Even enemies have enemies. At work, where you live, in your social life, in your bed, in your socks, in your shoes. The strange thing is that some of those enemies may be individuals you have never met, conversed with, or corresponded with. Am I the only person to believe that humankind is in a terrible state of decay and has stopped evolving?

Some people feel it necessary to judge quickly with a deep sharp thrust to avoid judgment of themselves. How shall one know them? Their faces and minds reflect emptiness; their hatred is as clear as crystal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What is "Great" about Jay Gatsby? - (Part 2)


Sometimes life plays tricks when you least expect it, or need it. As I walked towards my analyst's office, LIFE decided to play a virtual game where the supposedly 3D "me" became an extension of the real "me". I began to float in some hard-to-pronounce netherworld, where you can dance, chat, play, and hang out with other nuts in 3D. Not my scene. I'm 2D - always have been; always will be - at least, until I receive confirmation my current wife has vaporized, and I can't stick hard alcohol.

Suddenly, I stop floating, shiver, then smile. I remember my pal, Jesse (named after Sitting Bull's left leg, and Standing Bull's left ear) only drinks wine, and it has to be the most expensive on the list. He's sixty-two, tall, with tousled white hair in his pocket which magically appears on his head when he thinks he spots a female.

Jesse's eyesight is poor, and he refuses to wear anything to improve it. I believe it stems from a bad experience with colonic hydrotherapy. For a while he didn't blink, or exhale after smoking, and said repeatedly, "It was a giant enema, I tell you. A GIANT ENEMA! Who's playing the bagpipes?!" He's been arrested twice for sexual assault. Once, for attempting to copulate with a Marlin Lever Action .22 Rifle, and, on another occasion, for inappropriately touching an organic drink at a health-food convention.

As I walk I pass a bridge. I make a note to change my diet; eat more wheat-grass. One of my ex-mother-in-law's - an ex-wrestler, who dresses as a rabbit when she's not in the ring - told me, "Eat green, and be self-sufficient! And never sit on a flowery sofa!" She's a compulsive collector of people who shake their hair in public just for effect. She's over ninety, but you wouldn't know it. At the last count she had over six hundred people on her farm; mostly female. The last time I visited she was excavating the lawn to extend the house's basement. Her ardour is undimmed. I think she gets her warm, mischievous humour from eating raw artichokes.

As I enter the premises of my analyst, Milena White, I start to sound and look like an injured dog. If I said I was in love with Milena, it would be true. But not as described, and portrayed, in books and magazines; films and television. I will confess to desire, passion, jealousy, and my own definition of love.

We are all different; think differently. Milena is blessed with large brown eyes, an elegant nose, high cheek bones, and long and shapely legs which she displays to enliven, or disarm me. If she has a weakness, I'm not aware of it.

The lady at reception - glossy white hair, and well-manicured - welcomes me. She advises Milena will not be in attendance today. A woman called, Lee Mailer, will take the session. Suddenly, I feel cold. The lights in reception become sharp, and I close my eyes. I bite on a knuckle, and an elderly man in reception hits my face with a magazine. In fact, he follows me to the door of the consulting room, ranting, "You could have rabies, anything ... you degenerate!"

I hurriedly closed the consulting room door. I felt the bitter taste of mortality in my mouth, and toyed with the idea of pretending I was a trapper walking downwind, upriver, to get away from a bear walking upwind, downriver. I couldn't remember what language to speak; English, French. I believe I smelt a sniff of overcooked weasel as I hit the carpet.

"I read some of your notes while you slept. You seem tormented by fear, anguish, desire, and a guilty conscious? You're obsessed with sex, and this has driven you to constant bouts of infidelity? How many wife's? Six, at the last count .... honestly! ... you better get up. There's only twenty minutes of your session left." Her voice was warm, courteous, with a hint of good-humour. I sat in a chair opposite her and looked at her face for the first time. She was strikingly beautiful, extremely sexy; like a young Jane Russell.

I tried to impress her. "My body has become a silent companion. Indeed, my soul is locked in a cage, and the key is misplaced, or, worst, lost."

She sat back in her chair. Her smile was swift and dazzling. She give a dry, pure laugh. "Who sent you to me, the Devil?"

My anxiety faded almost at once. She made me feel happy, because she was happy; or full of mischief. I didn't care.

"What's it like to be a human being?" I asked.

"Wrong person to ask. I'm an alien."

She leaned over the desk. "I read that your third wife locked you in a cupboard under the stairs as punishment. Why would you let her do such a thing?"

"It was either that, or watch her weight-lifting while dressed in a skin-tight leotard."

"Don't be surprised, or upset, by what I'm about to say." Her voice was soft, controlled. "Most inhabitants of cities tend to be, or become - I'm sorry to say - invisible, anonymous, part of the mass. I'm not preaching powerlessness, shallowness and hypocrisy, but take a good look around."

She then spoke in a calm, friendly manner. "Search for the important things in life -truth, integrity, fairness, loyalty, courage, strong friendship, partnership, love, wisdom and learning, humour - plan your life with great care. Remember, no-one is indestructible." She sat back, and winked at me. "And don't believe anything you hear, unless it's a horn." Again, she give a dry, pure laugh. I was stunned into silence. She seemed to eliminate my anguish and turmoil.

"Have you ever read The Great Gatsby? I asked.

"Why, yes. Why do you ask?"

"Why was Jay called "Great"?

"Have you read the book? And you still don't understand? My advice is to read it again. Then you can tell me, tonight, in your own words, what is "Great" about Jay Gatsby. I'll meet you at Bemelmans Bar, 9.30 p.m". She leaned towards me. "My friend, Julia, give you a copy of the book at the library this morning and directed you to page 88. She knows the type of man I like. Totally unprofessional, of course, but invigorating just the same."

I left the consulting room, ran home, and read The Great Gatsby ceaselessly. As I waited in Bemelmans Bar I felt tense and anxious. When Lee arrived wearing a thin, black dress, and shoes with very high heels, her face radiant and beautiful, I felt a gentle wind touch me, and suddenly life tasted better than ever.

The End?

Reflections: Some people find music - in all its guises - tedious, because they don't take time to truly listen. Some people don't read books; they find it laborious, regard it as a luxury, rather than a means to gain insight to different thoughts and viewpoints. Most cities and towns are littered with libraries, bookshops, art galleries, museums, which some people - to their loss - refuse to experience by simply walking through the door.

We are inundated daily with junk television, junk films, junk magazines, junk advertising & marketing, junk websites, junk blogs [sic] and junk rubbish. The list of junk is endless. It's strange how some people are swift to criticise individuals for eating a poor diet, but not for "not reading" books, novels, or obtaining differing perspectives to events happening around, or to them, or other human beings around the world. It might just lift the conversation/debate to a higher level and help push the bigots and bullies to the sidelines.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Marcelline: Out of my League



During a recent sojourn in London I observed many beautiful women; some with wondrous faces; some with wondrous legs, and some with faces like used newspapers. Who am I to talk? My face has a deep-grained tiredness, which makes me look permanently worn out. When disorientated tourists ask me directions - holding an open map of Paris while in London is a giveaway - I begin to stammer and flush. My beard makes strange noises not unlike Orca, the killer whale, when he's hold up in a hotel without a view of the sea. Implausibly, the male killer whale is the only creature - other than human beings - who kills for revenge. Furthermore, he has to be paid upfront in used banknotes.

I find women who look tense, determined, and have an abrasive edge, are great as friends, but not as lovers, or adjustable footrests. As I went for a short walk on Long Acre Street, Covent Garden, I first saw, and met, Marcelline. She was wearing a thin, black dress stretched tight over her hips, and walking - forgive me, running - her hand through her short, black hair. Our eyes didn't meet until she dropped a glove. I called after her, waving the glove to get her attention. She thanked me with a pleasant smile and resumed walking.

Digression: I can be a suave and witty man, but only while asleep. This has drawbacks. Meaningful dates with the opposite sex tend to take place while I'm awake. However, as soon as I set eyes on my date, shyness and anxiety descend like a dark cloud, or a giant image of Burt Reynolds in the film, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, in which, I believe, he played a dark-haired poodle that wore a hairpiece. End of Digression.
 
I had a sudden urge for the impossible. I decided to run after her. Perhaps to Marcelline it was my illusionary arrogance - or my resemblance to King Lear - but she stopped, smiled and looked at me from head to toe. She became prettier by the minute. I felt a stirring of unused powers. A new fire in my eyes, and gas is so expensive. In my stupor, I asked if she wished to share my umbrella, to which she laughed, 'Why? Do you think it might rain?' The sun shone bright, and the sky was pale blue. She radiated youthful warmth, and solicitude; I radiated naivety, stupidity, and acne vulgaris which should have cleared up thirty years earlier.

We had lunch at a French restaurant in Covent Garden. Over the next few hours we talked about everything, except the bill. I've always preferred the company of females to that of the male. With men it's sport, work, colleagues, sex, dirty jokes, sport, work, colleagues - mostly without truth, emotion, detail, or intellectual prowess. In the absence of alcohol; utter tedium.

I find woman easier. Their emotions are undisguised; they speak with passion, foolishness, anger, tears, intuition; openness about love, eroticism, jealousy, betrayal, adultery, troubles, their bodies, ageing. The list is endless, and may all evolve from one conversation.

Marcelline? Out of my league. Out of my life. A significant encounter, nevertheless, which left a definite impression. I paid the bill. It was worth it to converse with a lady so beautiful, somewhat romantic, and with considerable intellectual curiosity. I remember every detail, except the food.

*
Reflections: Any disharmony or disorder you sense from your contemporaries, or peers, may be because they see only with their eyes, not their minds. I merely point this out so you may closely observe your circle of friends with a detached manner. If you can't find a detached manner, an unattached manner will do just as well.

The brains of some individuals are underused and in need of the breath of life. Such people are clearly recognizable. They tend to preen themselves frequently, their bluster is trumped by their vanity, and their faces betray entrapment, animosity, and numerous cosmetic surgery treatments which may include a beard transplant or Vulcan ears.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Thin Man


The cottage is silent and deserted, and rain falls through holes in the roof, delicately touching my shoes. I recall exceptional times, and exceptional people to whom this ruin was once home.

I met Arthur for the first time at the grocery store. He was thin, and wore his clothes like an old, wire, coat hanger. Though much older than me, we talked, wherever, and whenever, we met. In fact, he worked along with my father as a farm labourer. Arthur treated all women with courtesy - an old-fashioned trait, seemly, by some men today - and had an easy, relaxing disposition. He was full of commonsense, and not an inkling of bitterness permeated his body.

One day, Arthur, told me about the night he first met Ellen. I listened intently as we sat beside a stream; the glint of the sun playing with the steady current. His first recollection of Ellen was her kicking him in the face. It was during a dance held in a local church hall some thirty years earlier. Ellen's right foot had caught Arthur's nose as she fell on the floor. After an abrupt silence they both went outside and successfully suppressed the bleeding. He recalled it had been an unseasonably warm and windless night.

Ellen looked at Arthur with her bright eyes.

'Would you like to go out?'

'We are out!'

'No, silly. Would you like to go out on a date?'

'Well, I don't know? You just kicked me in the face. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think a relationship with you could lead to more violence down the line?'

'What weight are you? Seven stone? I'd take you for ten at least?'

'Ten what?'

'Ten stone, stupid! What weight do you think I am?'

'It's hard to say. It's getting dark, and the moon isn't bright tonight?'

'Go on. Have a guess?'

'You're upsetting my blood pressure!'

'No need to be shy.' Ellen whispered in a warm and sensual tone.

'Ten stone!'

'On the nose!'

'What's on my nose?'

'Not your nose!'

'Well, whose nose?'

''Nobody's nose!'

'I know that song.'

Ellen started to sing:

'Nobody nose the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody nose the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah

Sometimes I'm up and sometimes I'm down
Yes lord, you know sometimes I'm almost to the ground O yes ...'


They sang two or three choruses together. Arthur sighed, but there was something about Ellen he liked. She made him feel good with her boisterous laughing, nudging and winking. There would never be a dull moment with her around. They agreed to meet the following Saturday night.

Spring turned to summer and they tied the knot. Arthur got drunk at the modest reception after the wedding, and Ellen had to carry him the whole way back to their cottage. Arthur & Ellen; Seven stone & Eighteen stone; Skin & Bone. When Ellen died, Arthur moved to England, and rented a small room from an elderly lady who cleaned the local Mission Hall.

It's cold and dark as I depart the ruin of the cottage. The rain plays tricks, and voices and conversations appear to flow from the cottage; forging their way into my mind, memory, and the depths of my soul.

*
Reflections:: Did you know the name ‘digestive’ originated by reason of the high content of baking soda used to aid food digestion? Neither did I, until I sought an explanation from one of my teacher’s.

Ms Peters seemed to know a lot about biscuits. In fact, she informed me about the history of biscuits, including tube packaging and brand portfolios. During her account Ms Peters became quite energised and passionate. Her eyes bulged, and her hands whirled in escalating loops. I thought she was deranged. Imagine knowing so much about the history of biscuits, and getting excited telling how different generations enjoyed eating them. What sort of nutcase is that? I bet she went home every day after school and scoffed digestives until she fell asleep.

Anyway, someone told me that Ms Peters exploded in school one day and as a result all the pupils in her class were covered in baking soda. For some reason, after this incident, there was a startling decline in pupil's attending the school with 'acne and pimples'. I never found out who Acne and Pimples were? Probably got married? Who nose?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can a Perpetrator of Crime change Him or Herself?


Can a perpetrator of crime change him or herself? I doubt it. I'm in my father's home. My home, also, before I married. I'm not frightened: I'm angry, frustrated, disheartened. Empathetic to the despair, pain and sorrow my father is feeling. What would my mother have thought? I sense, not for the first time, the total indifference of the universe. I'm not ambiguous about my love for my father who is awake in the next bedroom. Is he another victim of apathy? Are we both looking into the same abyss?

From my bed I see the dim colour of the walls, the white of the ceiling, the flowery curtains. A world of fragrances and faint sounds, mainly the ticking and chiming of clocks. Random memories appear. I want to see my mother's face. I get up quietly and fetch a photograph from a sideboard downstairs in the living room. While the black and white photograph captures my mother in stubborn mood she is undeniably beautiful. The photograph radiates her strength of will, wisdom, and humour, which, thankfully, she never lost.

Today, my father's home is a house of clay. My father no longer feels safe. He sits in grief-stricken silence. Is it any wonder the church buildings in the area remain locked when not open for Sunday worship? In fact, the buildings resemble security-leaden fortresses, not places of worship.

As my father, who is eighty-five years old, and I eat breakfast the trauma of yesterday's events are clearly etched on his pale face: his speech is scarcely audible. We talk and ask each other questions to which there are no answers. Who? Why? When? My father is fearful they will return. I try to allay his fears though I am unable to tender assurance.

The perpetrators used a 'jemmy' (a small crow bar) to break the wood surrounding the side door of my father’s home to gain entry. My father and I had been out for something to eat and visit the local library. It happened between two and four o'clock on a sunny afternoon. Incredibly, no-one seen it happen; the physical appearance of strangers. Strange. Each room, cupboard, cabinet, drawer, armchair, seat, was overturned and ransacked. The thieves took cash and other sentimental items. It is impossible to describe the scene. My late mother's clothes, and personal items, jewellery, did not escape their onslaught. Property crime, while constantly in the spotlight, is one area of human endeavour where perpetrators largely go unpunished. Odd but true.

Photographs of the scenes of destruction are taken as we try to settle our father, while visibly upset ourselves. The police come and take a hazy statement from my father. Next, the forensic team. The police don't voice any hope of catching the perpetrators. In fact, the police have no information regarding the level of burglary in the area, possible offenders, or those known to handle stolen goods. It's a struggle to get a basic answer to a basic question out of the large silent garbs. I could go on but it would provoke a sudden shift in my already bleak mood.

I shiver with despair. I'm sure the burglars carried out some kind of reconnaissance prior to breaking into my father's home. Perhaps they called at the house? Stalked him at the local post office, or the local shops? An elderly person living alone is an easy target.

Throughout the world jails are full of people who feel no guilt for their crimes. They are deluded and undaunted by their shameful actions against humankind. Some perpetrators relish their life of crime and live with impunity. They sleep sound at night because they see no higher power than themselves. They have an inordinate ability to lie to themselves. Cut of from the real world they remain ignorant of their own faults, and, regrettably, remain free to commit further offenses.
*
Reflections: What is evil? I cannot answer that. All I know, is that actions which by their nature are destructive of human life and property, are customarily carried out by individuals who find it easy to blame others for their behaviour. They live in denial and with scant though for the well being of fellow human beings. I'm just thankful we're not all cut from the same cloth.

Friday, June 12, 2009

'Dance, Boy, Dance!' - A Play in One Act (Part One of Three)


CAST OF CHARACTERS

TESS: early 20's - a confident, vibrant and cocky female. She understands life has more to offer than her present existence.

JOHN: early 20’s - though well-dressed in a suit and tie he appears submissive and nervous. His conversation and actions display considerable unease.

ROSS:  mid 50's -  a part-time lecturer and unsuccessful writer. He possesses a dry, acerbic wit. His marital status is ambiguous even though he wears a wedding ring.


SCENE

The action is continuous and takes place in a bar.

TIME

Early afternoon. The present.

SYNOPSIS

When part-time barmaid TESS and a middle-aged customer ROSS are joined in the bar by JOHN, the divisions between fantasy and reality become vague. None of the characters remain untouched by the events that unfold on a quiet afternoon.
 

ACT ONE (Part One)
 

[TESS is behind the bar wiping the counter. ROSS (the only customer) is sitting on a bar stool. He lifts his glass - half-full of brandy - to enable TESS to wipe the counter.]
 
ROSS: The one thing that radically changes one's life is death and believe me I’ve experienced both. I died in New York last Tuesday and was boxed home by Friday. Here I am; a man devoured by life, reborn!

TESS:  Is that a fact?

ROSS: Facts are to play with when bored and you feel utterly useless. May I kiss you good night?

TESS:  It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.

ROSS: A pure technicality.

TESS:  How many times have you been married?

ROSS [softly]: I believe twice. My first wife died of old age ...

TESS: And the second?

ROSS: She lived ... I died.

[TESS laughs and continues working.]

ROSS: We should hit the road together. You can be Clyde and I’ll be Bonnie Rabbit. Of course, we'll be the focus of outrageous attention. They'll say we're both mad or one of us. Photographs will confirm it's me. [With a slight snigger.] At night I'll play your favourite songs on a piano. I don't believe you've heard me sing?

TESS:  I’ve heard you talk and I’m not sure what language it is?

[TESS and ROSS both smile.]

ROSS: The place is quite today. Must be a lot of people in their bathtubs ... perhaps to calm their nerves? Playing with their little boats. I get out the old tin tub once a week. I, however, require a heavenly creature  present to restore my soul, keep me in high spirits and to pass me a lovely warm towel.

TESS:  What exactly is your line of work?

ROSS: Let me get the chronology right ... For a short period I was Emma Bovary’s accountant. Then I read street, shop and advertising signs for a man in Paris who was hard of hearing. For four weeks I was a chestnut tree: one of many surrounding a square in Montparnesse. Presently, besides being a fruitless writer, I make cameo appearances in flourishing novels. [He finishes his drink.] The money’s not great ... [TESS laughs.] Which reminds me?

[TESS takes the glass; fills it with brandy, and places it in front of ROSS.]

ROSS: Cheers. [Takes a mouthful.] Marvellous. [Pause} My lungs have resumed full working order. As for the rest of my body ...? I await confirmation.

[TESS smiles and goes in to the storeroom behind the bar. JOHN enters, walking slowly and awkwardly towards the bar. He runs a hand through his hair and nods sheepishly at ROSS.]

ROSS: Have you brought news from the outside world?

JOHN [puzzled]: News? ...  uh ... what news?

ROSS: I’m starved for news. Is the world all right? [gestures towards the door.] I’m curious? Aren’t you? Isn’t everybody?

JOHN: Uh . . . what?

ROSS: Curious? About other people? What they do? What they say? Do they mean what they say? [Pause] Do I mean what I say? Am I acquainted with what I’m saying?

[During a brief silence ROSS takes a drink and looks at JOHN again.]

ROSS: You remind me of a zombie. An ex-wife, in fact. Why don’t you sit down? Let’s have a tête-à-tête. I’m all ears. That’s a figure of speech by the way, just in case you have poor eyesight.

[JOHN remains standing at the counter unsure what to do with his hands. He taps his fingers on the counter.]

JOHN: [timidly; an afterthought]: Uh . . . pardon?

ROSS: Deaf, too. [Feigned surprise] Probably genetic.


End of Act One (Part One)

Read Act One (Part Two)

Reflections: My neighour isn't pleased with my new garage. He says it takes up most of his living room and kitchen. He has no thought for anyone but himself. When I'm revving my car engine all I can smell is cooked food.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Dance, Boy, Dance!' - A Play in One Act (Part Two of Three)



ACT ONE (Part Two)


JOHN: I’d rather stand ... If you don’t mind?

ROSS: Mind? I don’t have a mind. I lost mine a long time ago. [Pause] No, that’s not right. I hocked it to a pawnshop. It's still there in the window for all to see. 

[BESS returns from the storeroom and sees JOHN standing at the counter.]

ROSS: I’d like to buy my fresh young friend a drink. I've never seen anyone so clean. He has - what can I say? - the most extraordinary fluttering blue eyes. Here stands a sensitive, young man completely sound in body and soul. Naturally, I'm consumed with envy and despair. He reminds me why I keep a low profile.

BESS:  [to ROSS] And what’s the young man’s name? We haven’t been properly introduced.

ROSS: [to JOHN]: What did you say your name was?

JOHN: I ... er ... didn’t. [Pause] It’s ... John ... 

ROSS: The nice young man's name is John

BESS:  Well, John. What would you like to drink? [Quickly, with a smile and a raised hand.] Don’t tell me. Let me guess ... vodka?

JOHN: Not exactly ... I haven’t drunk vodka in a while. [nervously] It makes me woozy ...

BESS: [to ROSS] It makes him woozy [to JOHN] Lucky you. A little brandy, maybe. What do you say, Ross? [BESS doesn’t wait for an answer and goes to the back of the bar.] Two brandies coming up for the boys in the house. [BESS pours the drinks.]

ROSS: Isn’t she magnificent? Bess has been working here all summer and as a consequence I’ve turned into an alcoholic. She endures - daily - my whistling nose, racing pulse, motionless demeanour and incessant ramblings. My doctor believes I should share my bed with a woman. Anyone, but my wife. In the dark her wide open eyes would shrivel the most ardent of unearthly creatures.

[BESS sets the drinks on the counter in front of ROSS and JOHN and stands with her hands on her hips.]

ROSS: [lifts his glass to JOHN, then BESS]: Cheers, to one and all. [ROSS and JOHN drink.]

BESS:  We’re not usually honoured by distinguished suits in this establishment. [She stares at JOHN for a moment making him feel uneasy.] Are you static or do you move around?

JOHN: Well, yes ... no ... It depends ...

BESS:  Depends on what? Your girlfriend? Your wife? Your tailor? [With a feigned smile] The hole in the ozone layer?

JOHN: Depends on circumstances ... whether I feel welcome in a place, or not ... whether I’ve got money ... circumstances ...

ROSS [feigned lament]: Work is the most despised of all human activities. It should be outlawed. Anyone found working should be incarcerated. One's life should not be dependent on places, people, or gadgets. [Pause] Even the simple art of breathing can be a chore. All I require is a folding bed, a dash of hypocrisy and I'm luminous. Totally, luminous! Isn't it strange how some people are dying to live, and some are dying to die? My advice is to keep clear of all ideas and concepts. You will be ignorant, uncreative, boring, but your life will be less complicated.

[BESS and JOHN stare at ROSS who has resumed the centre of attraction he desires.]

ROSS: I believe it is time for two more brandies, please. Put my young friend’s drinks on my tab. I insist! Such a charming, sensitive stranger deserves a cordial welcome.

[BESS fills both glasses and leaves them on the counter in front of ROSS and JOHN. She continues cleaning the bar. BESS and JOHN periodically exchange glances.]

ROSS [to JOHN]: That really is a fine suit. Don’t be put of by my cheap clothes. Believe me, I have worst at home. Rooms, wardrobes, trunks, full of them. Ladies clothes, all my exes clothes. I must round them up - the clothes, not my exes! - and give them to a charity. [Mockingly] It’s finding time.

[ROSS takes a drink and looks at JOHN who is fumbling in his pocket. He wonders why JOHN is so nervous. When JOHN looks up he notices BESS is staring at him.]

BESS:  What do you want here?

JOHN: I wish ... I need to talk to you. [Pause] Somewhere quiet.

[ROSS sips his brandy and turns his head to watch and listen, intrigued.]

BESS:  What do you want to talk about?

JOHN: [quietly, without eye contact]: Me ... I mean you ...

BESS:  I don’t enjoy talking. I find conversation more engaging. More impressive, more rewarding. [Pause] Providing they are authentic as regards feelings and behaviour.

JOHN: What do you mean?

BESS [moves closer to JOHN; speaks softly]: A good conversation is like making love. Rich and glorious. [Pause] Full of sighs, whispers, intense pleasure.

ROSS [to BESS]: Remarkable! [Clapping; playful] If I could speak French I’d say ‘Bravo!’

BESS [briskly]: If you want a conversation with me, lose the suit, tie and shoes. I don’t converse with stockbrokers or accountants. I’ve encountered both and had to fake suicide once or twice to recapture my sanity.



End Of Act One (Part Two)



Reflections:  I've finally concluded I can't predict anything with any degree of accuracy. This includes my prediction that I can't predict anything with any degree of accuracy. Furthermore, I feel I've never tapped my full potential. This could be the reason, that wherever I travel, water leaks from my left armpit.