Category Archives: CHAPTER 12 – Educible

The Terminal

theterminal1280It wasn’t a deliberate Goth movement. It was born out of chaos and grief. Everyone had people close to them who died. Everything about life was dark and gothic.

On December 30th, of 2005, President George W. Bush signed into law a project to research, fund, make recommendations, and come up with alternatives for near-Earth Objects (NEO). Some at the time wondered if he had seen too many Hollywood movies on the subject, but the scientific community rallied behind him with the motto of “It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.” The concept furthered his administration’s policy of governing by fear.

What was known by George W. and a select group of his cronies, was that there was already an object being tracked that had a high probability of an Earth collision. It wouldn’t be here until well after his second term of office was over, but he had been judged so harshly on other issues, he wanted to get it right on this one. The time table of the research was fifteen years, but the object would be here in approximately fourteen years. The celestial debris is known only as 2002 NT7.

Nostradamus made a prediction in Century 1, Number 69, that goes:
“A mile-wide mountain (asteroid) strikes earth
after there is peace, war, famine, and floods,
the asteroid strike causes widespread flooding of nations,
some of which are ancient.”

In the Book of Revelations in chapter 8, verses 6 -13:
“8:6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!”

It seemed like everyone knew that something huge from space would impact the Earth and blow enough debris into the atmosphere to create another ice age. Except for the general public. The game was that no one could judge accurately enough which side of the Earth would be facing towards 2002 NT7 during the 24 hour period of a day, until it got so close that everyone knew catastrophe was on the horizon, and there was nothing that could be done about it. Or so the Press told us.

Due to Bush’s foresight, we did have an option. We could blow it out of the sky and into small enough pieces that they would burn up in our atmosphere. We only had one shot, so we wanted to make it count. The powers that be, wanted to know what part of the Earth would be destroyed. The bottom line was, that if it was China or Russia, let nature take its course, and we still have our weapon intact for the next collision. The U.S. Government couldn’t be held responsible if something from space struck our old cold war enemies, and the only nations on Earth, strong enough to challenge the United States at all. The men with cigars in secret rooms in secret buildings that are answerable to no one, made the decision we could deal with a little cold to gain worldwide advantage for generations to come. Or so they thought.

As fate would have it, the area of impact covered major portions of both China and Russia. The U.S. powers were silent about the solution. We couldn’t take the total population of both countries into our own, but as a humanitarian effort, we allowed a million people from each country. Who was allowed to emigrate was up to each country’s government. Obviously the most important people from each country’s government were brought over, along with the people who had the necessary skills to rebuild the country after the catastrophe. The problem with secrets as big as the United States capability of destroying the huge rock that struck the Earth killing almost 800 million people immediately, is they don’t seem to stay secret.

The truth of America’s capability to destroy 2002 NT7 didn’t come out until after the impact. The reaction would probably have been worse, but the sky was blackened for over a year, and nothing could grow. Food could not grow. The plants that turn carbon dioxide into oxygen couldn’t grow. Even the plants and fish of the sea died. Next was the series of plagues that swept the remaining population of earth. All of the unburied bodies were a breeding ground for diseases we thought were relegated to history. But the rats and mosquitoes were more than glad to spread these plagues to the four corners of the planet.

As if that wasn’t enough, and God had to punish the country that could have done something but didn’t, all of our stores of weapons grade biological bugs were compromised. The U.S. had huge stores of food, and didn’t do as bad as most other countries. Our doctors knew how to fight the plagues that showed their face again on this planet, even though millions of American’s died. It looked like the United States was still going to come out of this debacle with an advantage. That was until the biological weapons leaked out of facilities that were no longer staffed or maintained properly. They were what decimated the once mighty Empire of America.

The Marionette

themarionette1280She had always been in good physical shape. She had always loved attention. She had grown up in New Orleans around street performers. She knew Perri the Hobo, Ruthie the Duck, Pops, Chicken Man, and many others. Divorced and single again at thirty-two with no real marketable skills, Teresa knew that she didn’t want to wait tables, work at McDonalds, or some minimum wage office job. She also didn’t want to return to New Orleans because of family, memories, and some unresolved legal issues.

In New Orleans the low end average for a street performer in Jackson Square is around $10 per hour. Teresa had two assets that earned her a better average than most street performers. Although she loved the kids, and her shows catered to them mainly, she always wore outfits tight enough that Dad wouldn’t mind hanging around and feeding his kids dollars to give her. From time to time, she’d have a few drunk college kids try to handle the merchandise and be a nuisance in general. Her solution was just to move closer to a family group and start playing to the kids. Even drunken college assholes don’t try to feel up pretty mimes in front of mom, dad, and the kids.

Her biggest problem was with the cops, followed by problems with other street performers. The cops would hassle anybody who had a hat or open guitar case out for donations. It didn’t matter that we were offering entertainment in exchange for donations, versus the winos that just stood there stinking and begging. One cop who was in a particularly bad mood decided her outfit was a sexual advertisement for prostitution services. Teresa did spend the night in jail, but the next morning the judge took one look at her mime make-up and costume and threw the case out of court. The second and sometimes more dangerous part of street performing is dealing with other street performers. You would be amazed at how territorial they can get. It is not that they have any legal right to a particular corner or storefront, but possession is nine tenths of the law, and they made sure they possessed it every single day.

In the silence of her movements, she had lots of time to think about things. Sometimes she would be deeply interacting with her audience and other times running on autopilot. Her biological clock was starting to ring loudly as her thirty-two years would give way soon to thirty-five. That age seemed to be the last of the safe years. Beyond that the chance of a child with down’s syndrome increased as well as other health problems for the child. Being a street mime, was no way to provide for a child. Even though many, many people at minimum wage or below brought child after child into this world, Teresa knew that she couldn’t.

As much as she loved her pseudo mom Ruthie, and her pseudo dads like Perry and Chicken man, the things her real parents went through, and put her through are things she promised never to put a child through. So many times well intentioned tourist would get family services involved and more than once each year, they had to change cities to avoid her becoming part of “the system.” She was lucky enough to have both parents, and even then the fear of being taken away made her life hell. How would it be for a child that only had a mother? It seemed single moms spent their lives fighting an uphill battle, and became worn out ghost of themselves far younger than most women.

Teresa broke her train of thought as she saw the father of the enthralled little girl on the bench, starting to let his eyes wander as he got bored. She quickly change positions, making her assets shake as gravity settled their movement and smiled with a wink in such a way, the father couldn’t be sure if it was for him or his daughter. His attention back on the mime, he gave his daughter another dollar to put into the hat. She squealed with glee as she ran up to the hat to put in her dollar and receive a deep and grateful bow from Teresa.

Other Worlds

otherworlds1280As a child, traveling the universe in both time and space is much easier. There are no quantum theories, or faster than light equations necessary. It only takes a bit of imagination. As an only child Chip had an abundance of that as well as an energy reserve that would put the Energizer Bunny to shame. When you don’t have real brothers and sisters to share your play time with, you tend to develop a better imagination. Maybe not better in the quality department, but richer in the broadness of the brush strokes. Reality isn’t there at every poorly thrown punch or misthought word to yank you back, with threats of telling parents.

It is when the neighbor kids are far away, and having a playmate around is quite an event, and your mother makes a concerted effort to see that other kids come to visit, so you can develop your social skills, that you can really go deep. It is like a cliff diver in Acapulco on the precipice 147 feet above the water at cliffs of La Quebrada, that you can build up enough velocity to go deep down below the surface. Every trip into the wooded acres next door was an exploration of “my jungle”. A visit to a distant, childless Aunt was a trip through a haunted house. But the richest of all adventures was when there was an attic available.

Even if there were other kids around, I could draw them into my adventure with the richness of my descriptions. Much in the way that I draw you into my stories here in the Technowomb. The lushness of the green plants that crowd us in too close together, listening for the sounds of predators both of the animal kingdom and those of tribes who’s primary food source was the hapless visitor to their land. All of this and more from the discovery of a single pith helmet

The discovery of an aviator’s cap would take us all flying in the open cockpits of dual wing fighters, where you could actually see the look in the eyes of the enemy pilots as you danced the three dimensional ballet of bullets and banking turns. The explosion of a plane over the hill, or the long drawn out scream of a pilot blown from his plane fades as the distance between you and him increases. The tongues of flame dance to the tune of the machine guns like an epileptic doing the St. Vitus dance. The billowing smoke of the fires make us choke and cough with the sickeningly sweet smell of charred flesh mixed in.

On many occasions my soliloquies of description and adventure sent a playmate screaming in fear and covered in tears to a baffled parent. But the true companions, were those who could take it. The ones that no matter how intense the air got, nor the detail of gore, danger and death, could sway their dedication to these adventures that I led the way on. You could certainly separate the wheat from the chaff on a single outing of this nature with your mother’s newest endeavor at nurturing your social skills.

I see that you are still here.

Cursed King

cursedking1280At age 70, pale, gaunt and emaciated by years of torture, Jacques de Molay the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned at the stake on March 19th, 1314. Although there are many accounts, most Templar scholars say his last words were, “Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us – God will avenge us.” Others claim that he called upon the King and Pope to join him in judgment before God. Either way, Pope Clement died a month later, and Philip the Fair, King of France died seven months later. The two men who unjustly condemned him and all the Knights Templar Order to death to gain control of their wealth and lands, made true his curse. King Philip did allow him the one request to leave his hands unbound, so that he could pray in his final moments.

The Knights Templar had been created in 1128 by the Roman Catholic church, to guard the road between Jerusalem and Acre, an important city on the Mediterranean Sea for the faithful to make the pilgrimage. During those two hundred years they earned a name for valor and heroism, and they also participated in the Crusades. The Order became a favored charity across Europe and grew rapidly in wealth, membership and power.

Before Jacques de Molay was named Grand Master, his predecessor, Theobald Gaudin had held a position of tolerance towards the Mamlukes, who occupied the Holy Land, and had been failing to advance the Crusades in a series of battle losses to the Saracens. Jacques, who had been spending most of his time in England, quickly relocated to Cyprus after Theobald’s death. This is important because it is said a secret sect of the Knights Templar escaped to Scotland after Jacques death and kept the order alive for another four centuries. The relocation came too late, and the losses of the Order kept mounting until the Holy Land was lost entirely. With those losses the popularity and “untouchable” status of the Templar faded. King Philip was deeply in debt to the Order. Seeing this opportunity to escape his debt, usurp their power, and take their wealth was too much to resist.

By escape, I mean the infamous persecution of The Order of Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307. King Philip IV, ordered the arrest of all members of the Order of Knights Templar in France. Of those 138 who were arrested, 36 died and 123 confessed to various sins under torture. The date Friday the 13th is sometimes credited as being a date of “ill omen” because of this event. To recant a confession, was a crime punishable by death. For seven years the the French King had Jacques de Molay tortured. Finally he had confessed under torture expecting absolution later. When he found that the common practice of absolution wasn’t to be given to him, he recanted is confession, and the King could be free of him and the Order forever, or so he thought.

The night before the Order was arrested in mass, a single covered wagon and a few knights were seen leaving the city. The remaining knights did not resist their arrest and even their deaths. This seemed highly unusual, and under torture of the worst kind, not one of the knights disclosed the contents of the missing wagon. That over a hundred of the most heroic knights would meekly meet their death for someone’s gold or jewels seemed impossible. What treasure did that wagon hold? Some say it was the Holy Grail, others the Ark of the Covenant, or some other artifact of incalculable holy worth.

Signs of the Templar’s and their order showed up for the next four hundred years in Scotland. It is said the Order assisted Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace in their fight against England led by Sir William St. Clair. It is believed that this Scottish branch of the Templar’s evolved into what is now known as the Order of Freemasons. Some of these men migrated to the land known as America to found a new country. Some of the more famous ones are, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Marquis de LaFayette, Arthur St. Clair and 46% of the Generals in the new Continental Army.

Clever Trees

clevertrees1280In nature the environment determines much of the success of all life forms. Has the weather been suitable to growing the plants that small animals feed on? If so, then there should be plenty of smaller animals for the larger animals to eat. Most creatures and plants are on relatively short life cycles compared to human beings. Some exceptions are swans, giant tortoises, turkey buzzards, and box turtles, which can exceed a hundred years. The crown for longevity belongs to the plant world in the form of the trees. These denizens of the forest can reach 5000 years of age. Less than twenty miles from my home is a tree that was living during the time of Christ.

As much as mammals, reptiles, birds and fish must fight for survival, the same is true for trees. If the seed falls too close to the parent’s trunk, it will be stunted for lack of light, if it survives at all. They must fight against disease, animals that would burrow and hollow its insides, to the slaughter of whole forest wholesale by the growth of the human population. But without them, humans or any living thing that needs oxygen can’t live. As humans struggle to adapt and live, they learn. What if the same was true of trees?

In the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, in the Two Towers there is a race of tree herders called “Ents”. They are trees themselves but have the power of intelligence and communication to look out for the other trees. I’m not saying it could or couldn’t be true, I ask more from a philosophical standpoint of what would we learn if we struggle with life for a thousand years? Maybe even if we saw five generations come and go like the old oak tree on your street?

Would it be that grow strong and straight, so our canopy of leaves is high enough to get plenty of sunshine? Would it be that we need to give ourselves space to thrive, without crowding our neighbor? Would it be that we should stand firm in the face of adversity, yet be pliable enough to bend like a tree in a storm, lest we snap and break? Would it be that as a group we can weather a storm better than a tree alone? Would it be that our diversity gives us strength? Would it just be that tomorrow is another day? Would we be clever trees?

Seven Days

7days1280As a child being raised in a Christian family, one of the first puzzling things about the Bible was the part about God creating the world in seven days. In Genesis 1:1 it says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Okay, I had no problem with that. Mom and Dad say it is true, then it is true. In fact, as a very young child before school, the seven days part didn’t present any problems to my childish logic. The problem arose when I went to school and started learning about science and history. As I grew older, I found an answer that I could live with, that still allowed me to learn and appreciate science. As I approach the twilight of my days, the subject seems more volatile than when I was a child. Enter stage left, creationism.

First let me say that I am still a Christian, and that I don’t take the Bible word for word as being the exact words of God. Humans have changed the wording of the Bible on numerous documented occasions. The most notable is the fact we call the most popular version of the holy book the “King James Version.” That is because King James in 1611, translated, added and modified some of the wording. To go back even further, in 367 A.D. there was an influential bishop by the name of Athanasius who published a list of approved books to read, and rejected others. His list was the basis of what the current books of the Bible are. If you were to compare the Roman Catholic Bible to the King James Version, there are a multitude of differences. Now we have the New King James Version and the New International version, which are again vastly different.

So when it comes to “creationism”, which is basically teaching the concept that God created the heavens and Earth. The first issue is which version of the Bible would you have the school system use. For that matter, why not the Qur’an, the Buddhist Bible or Hindu teachings. Maybe an amalgamation of all of them? That wouldn’t satisfy any of them. What of the separation of church and state, so that all religions can be practiced in America? But I stray from the main topic. Even with creationism there is the “Young Earth Creationism” proponents that believe the Earth is only about 6,000 years old.

The simple explanation I adhere to, is that we do not know how long one of God’s days are in our measurement of time. Some scientist put the big bang event around 15 billion years in the past, and the formation of Earth around 5 billion years ago. Does that mean a day is 5 billion years in our time? Not necessarily. Who can say that God’s days are of equal length? Maybe it is an oversimplification, but I believe that by understanding science we are starting to learn about the mechanics of how God’s world works.

If you plant a garden, you put the seeds in the ground and watch it grow. You may help it along by watering it, or adding fertilizer. You might get down on your knees and weed it by by hand. Maybe the scientific universe is our attempt at scratching the surface of understanding. Maybe gravity is God’s method of holding everything in balance. Maybe E=MC2 is just how God gets things going and stops them.

I don’t presume to know the answer. All I’m doing is explaining how I reconciled the seemingly opposing theories of science with the religious teachings I grew up with. These are just my opinions. As the old saying goes, opinions are like ass holes. Everybody has one. The other saying is, that we all have minds of our own, and can make up our minds for ourselves.

Marissa Cooper

marissacooper1280Marissa Cooper is the name of a character on a television show, by the name of The O.C. With all of the serious things in this book, how did a night time soap opera targeting angst ridden teenagers get in here. I’m fifty one and just about to turn fifty two. I certainly don’t fall into the producer’s target market. It is not my favorite TV show. It is not even in the top ten of my favorite TV shows. Marissa Cooper is a pretty girl. Not the world’s best actress, since her background is in modeling, but she managed to pull it off passably. You ask if I have the hot’s for her, I say I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers, but she isn’t really my type. Then why the hell bring it up, you wonder.

I think it is because of all the reasons that this shouldn’t be a show that I like, yet I do, that must say something about who I am. First let me say the series has been taken off the air at FOX. It ran for four seasons, and Marissa was only in the first three seasons. The last season is still available on iTunes, but don’t bother. After they killed off Marissa, the show nose-dived. That was probably why it didn’t get a fifth season. The whole series is available on DVD, and somebody is bound to start doing reruns soon. So if you didn’t see it, keep an eye out for it.

Wikipedia says the show was one of the most popular new dramas of 2003. They credit much of its success to their practice of taking totally unknown bands and singers and featuring their work in the show. At the end, they’d announce who it was, and what album the song was on. By feature, I don’t mean it was a segment unto itself. They would weave the songs into the soundtrack of the story, much like any movie soundtrack. But they kept finding good stuff every show, and it was masterfully matched to the storyline. I don’t think the music aspect was the reason for its success, but it certainly didn’t hurt. As an old fart, who used to be way into the music scene, I was interested in what the new generation was interested in. The artists the show found, were so good, I bought a couple of CDs.

The story takes place in Orange County, California, thus the O.C. It follows a group of high school students from pretty well to do families, and a juvenile delinquent a lawyer brings home to live with his family. With so many shows, movies, plays, books and so on, the character development stops there. This brings us to why I fell in love with the show. The characters in the storyline are more like real people than most I’ve seen. Our lives are in a constant state of motion until we die. We don’t fit neatly into little nicely labeled boxes such as debutante, drop-out, geek, or anything forever. Marissa is one of the beautiful people of the rich families in the O.C., but when her mom gets a divorce, she ends up living with her mother in a small trailer barely big enough for one. Marissa is a tragic beauty. Things happen in her life and with the choices she makes in men to keep her fighting against depression.

The rich lawyers son, Seth, is pretty geeky. He is into comics, far past when most people give them up, but he is an artist who draws them as well. He falls for the terminally cute Summer, who for the first couple of seasons has the closest to a predictable character. But in the end, Seth and Summer hook up in a way that is believable and gives depth to her character. In one of the seasons, the attorneys wife realizes her problem with drinking and ends up in rehab. The fight she has to battle the addiction is realistic. The good boy Seth experiments with marijuana. The shallow Summer, becomes involved with an environmentalist, and truly gets involved with issues that matter.

What I’ve described is just a well done show, with an interesting storyline and well written characters. I’m fifty and far from being in high school, but I identify with the poor bad boy taken in by the rich, and the pretty Marissa constantly fighting with depression even though it seems like her life is enviable. When my mother and father divorced I was around thirteen. I didn’t see it coming and they were too busy dealing with their own issues to really see what was going on with me. My mother had a complete nervous breakdown, and had to be carried away by the guys in white coats. I lived with her for six months while she progressively went down the road of madness. I spent part of the time with my father, who wasn’t rich, but was the Innkeeper of a Holiday Inn and had many perks that most don’t enjoy. I would throw a pool party and invite the whole 8th grade class of 100 plus students for a pool party with hot dogs and sodas. Then to be reunited with my mother in her parent’s house, which was a wood frame hose on a north Mississippi dirt farm. I was a geek and a hippie, yet was accepted by the cheerleader crowd because they needed my artistic talent.

Life isn’t clean, linear, or very predictable for most of us. It is the challenges and how we deal with them that shape us into the people we are. Now at age fifty two, I live in constant pain so intense that most of you can’t even image it. Even through all the codeine and morphine, the pain never stops. A news program showed a person with a similar condition and said that untreated, the pain level would be similar to giving birth every eight minutes. That now shapes who I am, and what words I write in hopes of leaving something for posterity.

Woman As God

godaswoman1280I’ve heard it said that God is a woman,
It might have been said, only in jest
Or by some woman feeling gender blessed.
But I don’t believe it is so.
Is it a feminine trait to let children die?
All the world’s suffering, with no reason why.

Men say there’s a lesson to be learned,
Rights to be earned,
of the details I’m unconcerned.
They only learn by their own mistakes.
We must let them suffer, to make them strong.
With that logic, there’s nothing wrong.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Don’t cry, don’t show your pain.
These are the words, which come from a father.

Come let me kiss it and make it all better.
Lay your head here, and cry on my shoulder.
You’ll understand it all when you get a bit older.
Sit down and write it all in a letter.

Nurturing women can heal with love.
In their arms, they soothe your pain,
And you find yourself coming back again.
They lift your spirits high, on the wings of a dove.

It doesn’t matter what you do.
I’ll always be here for you.
These are the words, which come from a mother.

Hole Rider

holerider1280Every hole is a portal. We seldom know what’s on the other side, but we pass through anyway. Your mother’s birth canal was a portal into this life. The hole they dig in the ground to bury you is another portal. Francine wasn’t happy with where her life was at, and she was always looking for a portal to somewhere better.

Francine was looking for a life portal, not a death portal. It is pretty easy to find death portals. Men are more inclined to use guns or jump from high buildings to find the death portal, and women usually prefer pills as a path there. If you don’t leave a note saying you were looking for the portal, the police often look at your departure as a murder. Like there are death portals, there are life ones as well. Most of these have to do with a frame of mind, and deliberately making choices that will lead the person down a different path in life. Francine didn’t want to have to work that hard.

She wasn’t sure how old she was when she started it, but she couldn’t remember much of her youth being a happy place. A father who did things to her he shouldn’t have, and a mother who looked the other way. He didn’t rape her or even try to have physical sex, but his hugs were too long, and too tight. He used to bounce her on his knee far passed an appropriate age. His looks of love, weren’t quite right either. Where his eyes lingered, made her uncomfortable. Any time Francine tried to talk to her mother about it, she just changed the subject after telling Francine that she was imagining things.

When passing through doors, she would stop and press hard in different directions. If anybody said anything to her about it, she’d just say that she was into aerobic exercises. She would close her eyes and feel around the edges of an open window, letting her mind seek out a pressure point that would expose the portal to a different life. Sometimes when she was sure she wouldn’t be caught, she would even go around the walls, tapping and pulling on things, like there was a secret door to be discovered.

Very early in life, she found that telling others of her quest would bring nothing but laughter and derision. So she didn’t try to make friends too often. If she did hang out with some other girls, she never would share that part of her life. She never got asked out for a date during high school. Like many little girls who got unwelcome advances, she turned to food to put on enough weight that she would be unattractive to men. When she graduated from high school and her acquaintances went on to various colleges, Francine went to work at the local diner as the second shift waitress.

Of course it didn’t pay much, but it was enough for her to get a place of her own. It was a tiny one room efficiency in the truck stop motel right behind the diner. She would still bow to her mother’s request to come over on holidays, and her additional weight kept most of her discomfort around her father at bay. Even though she had her own place, her life didn’t feel that much different. Now it was the long haul truckers that were making passes at her, and they weren’t veiled at all. Her extra weight didn’t seem to matter to them. It isn’t saying much, because if it was female, and still living, they’d try to get lucky with it.

It was another Thursday night at the diner, with a few of the regulars who stayed until she left each night. They didn’t mean her any harm, they were just lonely old guys who appreciated the fact she would even talk to them and be nice. They’d tip a little extra when they could, and she considered them her fan club. There were two highway patrolmen in the back booth, spending a large part of their shift sipping on the free coffee the management extended to all law enforcement officers. They both carried enough weight that Francine thought it would take a huge shoe horn to fit them into the booth, and a tow truck to get them out. It didn’t seem to bother them at all.

A big gust of wind rushed into the diner from the now opened front door. Francine headed towards it to close the door, thinking it was only the wind that had opened it, when a disheveled young man with wild eyes and a somewhat bloody face burst through the entrance and grabbed her. It seemed like everything but him was going in slow motion. She could see people slowly starting to stand up, and the two highway patrolmen trying to get out of the booth, so they could reach for their guns. While all of that played out slowly in front of her eyes, the bloody young man had gotten behind her and had one hand around her waist, and a gun in the other hand at her head.

As the young man used her for a shield, maneuvering her between the patrons and himself, he backed through the hole in the counter to where he was behind her and she was facing the cash register. He demanded she open the register and get all the money out. As the patrolmen and other started to get to their feet, he pulled the gun away from her head for a moment and fired the gun once up in the air. He yelled the next bullet would be in the waitresses head, if any of them stood up or did anything stupid.

Francine did exactly as the wild eyed young man told her, though her hands were shaking so hard she barely had control of them. With her hand full of cash, the man started stuffing what few bills that were left down her chest and into her bra. Seeing nothing but change left in the cash register, he reversed his position to where he was backing out of the entrance with Francine still between him and the patrons. She was being pulled backwards, and couldn’t see where they were going, until he spun her around just a few feet from a pick-up with both doors thrown open. As he pushed he towards the open passenger door, she noticed a glowing light that seemed to circle the open door. It might have just been a trick of the interior light and her imagination, but she felt sure that she’d found her portal.

Sad Geisha

sadgeisha1280It was August 7th, 1945 and Shaliwen’s world was irrevocably changed. The Earth was upended and would never be right again. A small bird in the nearby tree, chirped as if the world was the same as when it was a chick. Her country, which she believed was true and right with the Universe, must have been the most vile and corrupt place for God to have let something happen like this. Her Emperor, who was supposed to be a direct descendant of God was reportedly paralyzed with fear, and unable to speak. Shaliwen could understand that to a point, because her throat choked closed every time she tried to utter a word out loud. She felt a fear like she had never experienced in life. It was worse than shame, rape, even worse than death itself.

She had run deep into the woods to this beautiful little garden, which somehow kept its beauty in spite of the sky and Earth being torn asunder by fire. She had run to escape the vision of the people pouring down the roads ragged, burned, and some even looked like they had melted. Inside the geisha’s house a small girl of age two lay quietly whimpering, her name was Sadako Sasaki. She was held by her mother, but never cried out loud. They were only a kilometer or so away from the terrible explosion, but they lived. Something changed within them, but they both looked whole on the outside.

The day before as she tended to a tiny bit of land barely a meter square with flowers, and a varying parade of rocks that she would find, plants and sand, what we would call a Zen garden, the sky was split asunder. First was a light, that she instinctively looked away from. She feared it was the face of God it was so bright. A few seconds later a roar like the scream of a runaway train’s engine made her fall flat to the ground on her stomach. That was followed by the rush of a wind that smelled of a million deaths. Shaliwen thought the world had come to an end. In some ways, her world did.

Far away in the distance people could see fires covering the whole area where Hiroshima should be. No one could understand what had happened. The concept that a weapon created by men could do such damage was beyond comprehension. The thought that even their enemies would use a weapon of that magnitude on innocent women and children seemed too horrific for even them. It was true that because of an error in the delivery time, Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor before the declaration of war was received by the Americans. That error was not a source of pride in Japan, but could the American’s taste for revenge be so great that they were behind this. The Japanese had attacked a military base far from the main shores of their motherland. This was an attack on civilians in a major city in the heartland of her country. Because the previous six months had brought bombing attacks on 67 cities throughout Japan, the American’s were the first enemy thought to be behind this wholesale destruction.

Sixteen hours after the event, radio broadcast from Washington D.C. told the Japanese government what had happened earlier in the day. They announced that at 8:15 in the morning, the Americans had dropped a single bomb on the city of Hiroshima. This terrible bomb was called an atom bomb. Until that broadcast the Japanese were not sure of what had really happened. In Japan no one could imagine that the Americans would turn around and do it again in three days to the city of Nagasaki. Six days after that attack, Japan surrendered.

In the initial attack on Hiroshima, most estimates put the number of dead from the immediate attach at 70,000 people. Due to the effects of the atomic explosion, such as radiation poisoning, the estimates of the bomb’s death count by the end of 1945 was somewhere between 90,000 and 140,000. Most of those killed were civilians. If the war had ended differently, the Americans would have been charged with war crimes of a level never known by mankind before or since then. As of 2007 and the writing of this piece, the explosions of atomic bombs over Nagasaki and Hiroshima are the only nuclear attacks in mankind’s history of war.

In 1955, when Sadako Sasaki was practicing for a big foot race, she became dizzy and fell to the ground. It turns out that even though she wasn’t that close to the explosion at Hiroshima, the radiation poisoning it carried had caught up to her. She was diagnosed with Leukemia. Sadako had been a very athletic child and hoped to get well and race again. One of her friends told her of the legend that anyone who folds a thousand perfect paper cranes would be granted a wish. She took this to heart and even shared the legend with a boy she shared her hospital room with. He thanked her, but said that he would die before he could make that many cranes. As he predicted, he died that night. Sadako was afraid of death, as most of us are.

The popular version of the story was that she fell short of her goal of folding 1000 cranes, having only completed 644 before her death, and that her friends completed the 1000 and all of them were buried with her. The truth was she had folded a total of 1,300 cranes by her death on October 25th, 1955. She had plenty of free time to fold them while in the hospital, but the problem was a shortage of paper. She would use medicine wrappings and whatever else she could scrounge, including the paper from her fellow patient’s get well presents.

Her classmates and students from other schools petitioned the government to make a statue of her for the peace park, and they did. In 1958 the first of two statues were built outside of Hiroshima. Another one called the paper crane monument was built at the Nobori-cho Municipal School which Sadako attended, and in Seattle, Washington there is a Sadako Peace Park and a statue of Sadako Sasaki in it. More recently in 1995 the children of Santa Fe’s Arroyo del Oso School in New Mexico conducted a fund raising campaign to have a statue of Sadako built at their school. Also in 1995 in Santa Barbara, California the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation built the Sadako Peace Garden and set aside August 6th of each year to be Sadako Peace Day.

The monument most seen of Sadako Sasaki is the one built in 1958 at the Hiroshima Peace Park. Even now a half a century later people from all over the world fold cranes by the thousands and send them to her monument in Hiroshima each day. On a plaque at the bottom of the statue it is inscribed with:

“This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world”.

True Love

truelove1280It is said there is someone for everyone, when it comes to love. With the divorce rate being what it is, I guess that most people believe there are several someone’s for everyone. Whatever the case, most will agree that getting over your first love is the hardest. I don’t think that I ever did.

I’m just about 52, and I’ve never been married. I’ve gotten close a couple of times with an engagement, but never followed through. There are things that shape us and our beliefs and our feelings about love. One big factor in my youth was my parents divorcing when I was thirteen. I didn’t see it coming, because they never argued, or even raised their voices. I can remember only one time a couple of years before they divorced they had heated words with slightly raised voices. When it did happen, I was devastated. School counselors tried to help, but they aren’t really equipped for that sort of thing, or at least the ones available to me didn’t know how to reach me. This happened in the late sixties, and even at that young age, I started self-medicating with the popular drugs of that era, but primarily marijuana. I’m not going into much more detail about how hard it was to deal with, but I did make myself a solemn promise that I’d never put a child through that. I would wait until I found someone I felt would work through any problem in life, and not resort to divorce.

I wasn’t much of a ladies man in junior high and high school. I had a couple of crushes and a few dates, but not near as much as they guys on the football team. I was more of the artist, musician, hippie type than a jock. In northern Mississippi, that probably isn’t the most popular social group to belong to. Even after high school, I felt awkward with the ladies. I refined my approach, woo and seduction techniques, but was pretty much of a player and looking only for the night’s company. Most of my prey was found in the bars, and you might be surprised to find that drunks and alcoholics hang out in bars. I was trying to find a diamond in the rough, but usually ended up with a crush on the bartender. They were sober and had a reason to be there other than getting drunk. I spent a lot of time and money at the bars, but luckily enough I didn’t succumb to alcoholism. I think I saw too much of it in both guys and girls around me, that I was turned off by the binge drinking.

I had been praying most of my teenage life to find the one person meant for me. I really wanted to find true love and start a family. One day on my walk into high school about a mile and a half away, I drifted off into a dream or vision. I was looking at a blonde woman as we were about to enter an amusement haunted house. As we approached the ticket window, I looked up to see a two story building done somewhat like a castle with paintings in the upper windows of people screaming. They looked something like the album cover of In the Court of the Crimson King, by a group called King Crimson. An internet search will supply you with the image if you are curious enough. The woman was pretty, but not exactly what I had expected. She was a little taller than me, and though not fat, she wasn’t skinny either, she just had a large build. I looked at her face again and saw the softness and beauty and felt comfortable that I could grow old seeing that face. Inside the haunted house it seemed to go on forever, with room after room of various scenes of horror. Toward the end you had to enter a hole that led to a spiraling slide you went down face first in the dark to a pile of pillows. This emptied out into a gift shop. I came out of the vision walking down the hall of high school toward my first class. I was in awe. I had quite a bit of experience with the paranormal, but never a vision so detailed and all encompassing. I saw nothing other than the action in the vision. I don’t know how I walked, opened the door at school, or anything else in the real world, when I was so totally immersed. Even 35 years later, I can clearly remember the overwhelming experience of the event. I only have had one other vision like that in my life. It was of my death in a car crash at a place I recognized, with people I recognized, at a time in the future. I never went back to the location of the crash or ever spoke with the people in that vision again. My death did not come to pass in that way, and some of the details are so different, that I feel sure that it will never happen. The vision of the woman at the haunted house that I thought would become my wife and partner for life, didn’t work out that way, but read on to see what did happen.

After high school, I lived and worked in Detroit, Memphis, Orlando, Atlanta, and ended up moving back to the town of my birth, Daytona Beach when I was around 19. I had not thought about that vision of 3 or 4 years prior for a long time. One of the attractions in Daytona is called the Boardwalk. Many cities have them. This one was like most with arcade rooms, a pier, cotton candy, ferris wheels and bumper cars. As a child I had loved it, and as an adult, it was a nice place for a date, other than the bars. I’d go down there several times a year, and one day when I rounded the corner to the main street behind the boardwalk, I saw the exact building of my vision. I was dumbstruck and speechless. I had frozen mid-stride in the street and didn’t move until a driver laid into their car horn in frustration. I was 21 or 22 at the time, and the vision came flooding back. I could not remember a photographically clear picture of the girl, but I did remember most of everything we went through within the house. I remembered the basics of the woman’s face, height and build.

Each date I went on thereafter, I tried to take to the haunted house. Even if they were far from the physical picture in my mind of the tall blonde, I still tried to go. Every single time I tried, either the amusement was closed, or the girl I was dating refused to go. That was the case until I was 23 and met Robin. We’ll leave the rest of her name to mystery. If she ever reads this, she’ll recognize the story.

I was still playing acoustic guitar and writing songs on a regular basis. A friend of mine by the name of Billy Pitts and I played ever since I came back to Daytona. We had decided to try and find a female lead singer, and maybe do a few local gigs. If one of our folk style songs hit it big, so much the better. He brought me over to a girl and her roommate’s house, telling me they were gay, but could really sing. When we got there and played for hours upon end, talking during breaks, and so on, I was not getting signals from a woman who was gay. Or at least she was interested in both sexes. I recognized her from the vision, but was looking for more proof. She was 5′ 11″ and I was 5′ 10″ so even the dimensions were correct. Still I needed more. I had told her nothing of the vision, the haunted house, or anything to do with the paranormal. On our first date, we went to the attraction and this time it was open. As we were at the ticket window, she looked up and smiled the exact same smile from the vision. The adrenaline was so high that I was walking on air. It was kismet. It was the culmination of years of prayer and waiting. The inside of the house was exactly as in the dream, and ended up opening into a gift shop at the bottom of the circular slide.

We started spending a lot of time together, and very quickly things advanced to higher levels. On top of all the things I had seen, and now was feeling, we just fit. Our interest in music and books was so similar that we counted over fifty sets of trilogies that she would have one or two of the books and I had the other, or me with two and her with one. The same was true of our music collection. I’d have some albums by an artist or group and she’d have the others. It was so apparent that we were the other half of each other.

I was staying with my grandmother at the time, and she had gone for the week. Robin came and stayed the weekend with me and things moved on to the next level physically. I took her back to her place before my grandmother came back because she had to be at work on Monday. I had been given orders to not have any parties while my grandmother was gone, but I didn’t consider one person a party. Anyway, the long and short of it was that I was kicked out. I think it had to do with our sleeping in her king size bed more than anything. A day or two later she regretted her actions and wanted me to move back in, but I had already loaded my car up and spent a couple of days sleeping on the beach, and I worked the midnight shift. Robin started having me stay with her, and we shared a single bed. Two big people on a single bed, you better get along well. After two weeks, her two roommates felt I should move or start helping on the rent. Robin and I decided to get a place of our own, and leased a two bedroom house for a year.

It was heaven. It was the first time I had lived with a woman for more than a few days. She taught me all about love. She was eleven months to the day older than I, and I relished calling her my “old lady.” She was my first love. Robin had been married for a couple of years, but never bothered to get a divorce. After about five or six months, I asked her to marry me and she accepted. We paid a lawyer to do the divorce, and after receiving our money, he came up with a bunch of additional fees we couldn’t afford at the time. I won’t bore you with all the details and stories of happy events, other than to say we would do anything to make the other persons dreams, hopes, and fantasies come true. Even if it involved sex in semi-public places, or even a third party. I could never imagine her not being in my life. Especially after all the ways came to light in how we completed each other. My grandmother had to sort of eat humble pie, because I chose Robin over her. She’d accepted an invitation for dinner, but did not make a real effort to accept Robin. Over the coming years, she would offer help, but with strings. Most of those were meant to give her control over us, and the relationship between Robin and her never grew any better.

For the most part I worked the graveyard shift as a night auditor in hotels along the beach. I ended up teaching her the front desk clerk work and she started working in the hotels and motels as well, since it paid more than what she had made before. Neither of us were really moving ahead in life. We got by okay, but never were making enough money to save any. It was paycheck to paycheck as many people still live today. Over the next three years, we lived in various places of varying luxury. We were in a cute little house towards the end of that time, that we had to move out of, because of eminent domain. The city was taking the land to build a convention center. We hated to give up the place, but had decided that one of us needed to get some more education if we intended to do better in life. My mother and her husband offered us a place to stay while I went to college, and my father was going to help with tuition. So we packed up and moved to a rural area of North Carolina. The place we were living was a travel trailer on my stepfather’s five acres of land that was at a ninety degree angle to their regular mobile home.

We got there in summer, and the next semester didn’t start until fall. I wanted to study computer science. Robin was able to find a job pretty quickly as a bartender at the Hang ’em High Saloon. There was only one motel of any size and it was a Holiday Inn. With my comprehensive background, I thought I was a shoe in there, but the manager felt I was over-qualified. The only position he had open at the time was a groundskeeper, and I would have gladly taken it, but that was not to be. Robin didn’t really have a problem being the only breadwinner. Our overhead was very low, and it didn’t take much to get by. The problem arose in the difference of religions. Robin had been interested in Wicca, but wasn’t a practicing Wiccan. My stepfather was Mormon and my mother was Southern Baptist. My mom really tried to accept her, but her husband became openly hostile to her. It was to the point she wasn’t welcome in their trailer less than 100 feet from ours.

I failed to mention he was a disabled veteran, and retired gunnery Sergeant from the Marines. The closest city is one of the primary boot camps for the Marines. As a bartender, which was a job she had never had before, she got more attention that she ever had in her life. Add this to a bunch of desperate marines at boot camp, and you might imagine the level they’d go to impress her. Eventually the bad environment at home, compared to the bright lights and attention at the bar proved too much for her to resist. She started getting home later and later in the morning after the bar closed. Sometimes quite drunk. It wasn’t much more than three months after we had moved there, that she decided to leave. I was devastated.

I kept going to the bar and putting myself through hell when I had any money, and often sat for hours outside watching when I didn’t. Eventually she asked the owners to bar me from the establishment. She was staying at a couples type of housing on the marine base, so that was totally unavailable to me. There was a crew of marines, their wives and girlfriends that hung out together. She became part of that group, and around a week after leaving came back to get her stuff. She asked about whether she could have this or that, and I just told her to take everything. None of it mattered without her. Somehow through all the hurt, she made a half-hearted attempt to stab me. I took the knife away easily, but never understood why she would want to stab me, since it was her who was leaving. Shortly thereafter Robin and the usual gang was at the Hang ’em High Saloon, when one of the drunk guys stuck his head in the decorative noose and pretended to die. They’d dragged him back down to the seat and let him pass out. That evening at closing, they had to help him out to the car. Once home, they decided to let him sleep it off, rather than drag him in the house to puke up everywhere. When they went back out the next morning it turns out he was dead. It also turns out that he was the person in the group Robin had started sleeping with. A day or so later, the police charged her with murder, because she was the bartender on duty. They also charged the owner of the bar for having a noose in his establishment. The charges were dropped shortly thereafter, but I watched all this unfold in the newspapers.

I went through some sort of nervous breakdown and lost touch with reality for a while. As I started to come back to my senses, I realized I had to get out of that area or I was going to die. So I ended up moving back to Daytona Beach. I never heard a word from her for five years. When I did, she invited me up to Georgia to see her. She had two boys at the time. Before going up there to see her, I explained it would be hard for me to ever trust her again. For the five years we had been apart, I never got seriously involved with anyone. She said something to the effect of hoping that she hadn’t ruined my life or ability to love. I did go, and stay for a few days. She was on welfare and attending electronics courses. It was good to see her, but it didn’t feel the same. She had put me on a pedestal and apparently been talking to her friends about me in ways I didn’t think I could ever live up to. All in all, it just didn’t feel right anymore. I called a couple of times after that, but there was no connection in our conversations or lives at that point. I heard from her one more time after that by phone five years later. She was back into Wicca, and I didn’t even want to go see her this time around. Not that I think Wicca is horrible or evil, but it does have some darker aspects to it.

The first year we were together in the two bedroom house in Daytona, shortly after I had asked her to marry me, she had gotten pregnant. We talked it over, and decided that we weren’t in a secure enough place in our lives to start a family. Besides, we would have the rest of our lives to do that. So by mutual agreement, she had an abortion. That is the closest I have ever come to having a family. Someone to carry on the family name, because I am the only son of an only son. My name and bloodline die with me. I don’t think that abortion is wrong and should be outlawed. I do think that the decision I made with her to abort the child is one of the few decisions in my life that I regret.

Reception Room

receptionroom1280I had been sitting in this room for a long long time, before what I assumed to be an angel entered. The clock on the wall with no hands, kind of said it all. I was beyond where time made a difference. As I sat naked in what appeared to be a reception room, I realized that I had died. It wasn’t outright suicide. I knew that the doses I was taking of morphine, might be reaching dangerous levels. I have been living in constant pain for many years. The last two years I had been prescribed Vicodin four times a day, morphine twice a day, and some other nerve specific medicine that had just been discovered.

The pain that night had been intolerable. I’m used to pain, and a lot of it, but this went beyond anything I had ever known. I’d taken my normal dose of medications at the regular time, but it didn’t even make a dent in my suffering. So I took an extra Vicodin tablet, which was my normal reaction to an extra bad day. Even then, I was curled up on the floor in a fetal position going back and forth between moaning and crying. I took another morphine tablet. That started to help, so I took another. Somewhere in the process, I crossed over the line of what my body could handle.  I do remember sort of drifting off to sleep and thinking, “finally I’m not in so much pain.” I must have died soon after that.

Opium has been around for over a thousand years, and morphine is a derivative of opium. It has been one of the most commonly used drugs by doctors and families for pain and to help suffering ones to pass over in a humane way. They just drift off to sleep painlessly, and don’t wake up.  It has been abused for its high for as long as it has been used medicinally.  I had never taken it before it was prescribed for me, and I never abused it or sold it.  I was guilty of not being careful enough with my dosage.  So it was not a deliberate suicide.

It didn’t surprise me to be aware of my surroundings and thinking again after death. I had believed in life after death for most of my life. Still the guy behind the information desk with glowing red eyes and rams horns on his head didn’t fill me with warm and fuzzy feelings. He was too classically close to depictions of devils or demons. My only interaction with him, was a question of whether it was okay to read a book from the case behind him. His reply of “What is it worth to you?”, was all it took to shut me up. I was hoping for some sort of book on what to expect in the afterlife, but the horned one’s willingness to barter brought to mind tales of people trading their souls for various things on Earth. I returned to my quiet analyzation of the things around me.

One thing that struck me right away was I was still as fat as I was in life. During the last year before this happened, I had only been able to stand for a couple of minutes at a time, and to walk a few feet a day.  Finally when my Lymphatic system stopped working I ballooned up to almost 350 pounds. It wasn’t that I was an athletic slim person before dying, but the extra weight at the end was a major burden. In most of the religious text I had read, you were supplied a perfect form, free of defects. I guess that I just assumed it wouldn’t be a fat form. I had never been comfortable with my body shape and especially when I was naked. So there I sat with my knees closed and my hands strategically placed. The irony of the empty coat rack was not lost on me. Neither the horned fellow or I had much use for it, nor did it have anything visible of use to me.

After what seemed an eternity, no pun intended, a beautiful blonde woman floated into the room. Her palms were open and facing towards me, which for some reason gave me a sense of peace and acceptance. She didn’t have a halo, but the shimmering white gown and snow white wings certainly made me think of the images of angels I had seen in life. As I continued to think about it, the only named angels I remember from the Bible are Michael and Gabriel. Well, Satan was an angel, but he fell from grace.

I tried to make sense of my surroundings. If I was Catholic and what I had done was considered to be deliberate, I would be in Limbo, or on my way there. Many who have had near death experiences talk of being met by loved ones on the other side. Neither the guy with glowing red eyes, nor the beauty with wings struck me as relatives who had passed over before me. Then I noticed that the beautiful blonde, who I assumed was an angel, was wearing some sort of corset, that drew attention to her ample breast. I tried not to think of it, hoping it wasn’t some test that would banish me to hell for impure thoughts. But it seemed the more I tried not to think of it, the more I did. I was grateful for my strategically placed hands being where they were.

I heard the sound of a thousand fine crystal bells and realized it was the laughter of the blonde. Her form of laughter set my mind at ease that I wouldn’t face a horde of angry demons in a fiery hell for eternity because I thought she had nice breast. A more human-like chuckle was followed by, “My face is up here.” Which was at least the temporary home of a big grin. She said follow me, and I will tell you of your tasks.

First, let me say that I didn’t feel like all the mysteries of the universe had laid themselves open for me. I could feel the presence of God around me, but I wasn’t meeting anyone by the name of St. Peter and being escorted through pearly gates either. I found that I had things to do here. I had a job of sorts. Everyone was able to look back to any point in their lives and see exactly what happened without prejudice of any kind. They could also follow the path of anyone they interacted with in life, to see how their lives affected others. My job as such was to help people use the tools available to see these things. In some ways it reminded me of the way computers work, and as much as I loved working with computers in life, I found myself loving my work with this tool as well. I was also able to see tiny little slices of other people’s lives outside of my own sphere of influence for what short periods of time it took to instruct them. It was a somewhat voyeuristic thrill, but I also tried to make use of what lessons they learned during their lives as well.

This was neither heaven nor hell, or anything I had heard a name for. It was another level of existence after death. It was somewhat closer to the creator, but I knew that there must be other levels of existence that were even closer yet. I sought to learn life’s lessons, lest I be destined to be returned to live them again, and strove to move on to higher levels of existence. I now understood why so many that I met in life called me an old soul.

What I saw, may not be what everyone sees after death. It may be that each person sees what they need spiritually.