Category Archives: CHAPTER 06 – Furtive

Fame

fame1280She wanted to be famous. At the age of ten, she started working towards her goal. Her early life sounded like some script from a B movie. A drunken father run off by her mother when she found him fondling her in her sleep. Her mom didn’t have to say the way her father was fondling her was inappropriate. She didn’t remember because she was six then, or maybe she just blocked it out. But it was written on the many lines of her mother’s face. They lived in a trailer park in an old silve Airstream, which in its day was luxurious, but now was just small and broken in many places.

Norma Jean was passed from foster home to foster home and was always looking for a father figure in her life. Vera Jayne Palmer’s father died in a car wreck when she was three. In 1950 at the age of sixteen she married Paul Mansfield and started going by her middle name. Bridgit Bardot had been “romantically involved” with director Roger Vadim for several years, and then married him at the age of eighteen. Jo Raquel Tajeda had a pretty normal childhood, but used beauty pageants as a springboard until she married James Welch and started going by her middle name.

The path to fame for her seemed pretty straight forward. You get sexually involved with the right people at an early age, marry young and leave your husband for Hollywood, and start going by your middle name. The tabloids showed the other part of getting famous. You must be bolemic, so you don’t have over one percent body fat, and basically sleep your way to the top. The other thing that struck her was that you needed to get drunk or hooked on drugs and display outrageous behavior to keep your name in the news. It also helps to have a spread in Playboy around the age of eighteen to twenty, but avoid Penthouse, Hustler, or the hard core magazines. At ten years old, her path was laid out. It was all right there in the Wikipedia.

She knew that thousands of girls go to Hollywood with dreams of becoming famous, but if you don’t set goals, you don’t go anywhere. That is what her mom always told her. She sat at the computer and entered the password to disable the parental guard on the Web browser, and started to search for articles and pictures on sexual technique. She decided to lose her virginity at thirteen, but only with an older man who would teach her how to be exceptional.

Tonight all that planning had paid off. She was about to enter The Paragon, which was showing the premiere of her first movie. She had reached her goal by the age of nineteen. She hoped to get two more years of films in before AIDS ravaged her youthful looks. But that had to be kept a secret. So please don’t tell.

Cortigiana Onesta

cortigiana_dilume1280Veronica left the gondola to seek the shadows of the building’s doorway. She had paid the gondolier not to light lamps or sing, which was illegal and increased the chance of a collision, but stealth was a necessity. Her family’s ranking was not high enough to allow her to marry the Mayor of Venice’s son, who was the only man she would ever love. When he had told her as much, it broke both her heart and spirit. She gave up her tomboy ways, and followed her mother’s instructions to become one of the most sought after cortigiana onestas of the late sixteenth century. The translation of the Italian term cortigiana onest is honest courtesan.

The other term for ladies of the night was corigiana dilume, which are lower classed women who are more like the prostitutes of today. Although part of the companionship an corigiana onesta involved sexual favors, their education, training and influence went far beyond that. They had to be well versed in politics, philosophy and all the arts. It was only the corigiana onesta’s that were allowed into the libraries and places of higher education, not the wives and daughters. The late sixteenth century was before the great expeditions and Venice controlled all trade on the Mediterranean Sea, but none of this mattered to Veronica Franco.

All that mattered to her was Marco. It was 1565 and Veronica was twenty years old. When the reality sunk in that she could never marry Marco, she trained as a courtesan. This was her first year to be listed in Il Catalogo di tutte le principale et più honorate cortigiane di Venezia, which gave the names, addresses and fees of the honest courtesans. It listed her mother as the person to whom any fees should be paid. Veronica had learned the ways to excite and please men, but it was Marco that she wanted to give herself to. She felt like the sound of her beating heart would surely give her away, as the light from a window lit her path to the shadows. The stillness of the water and the fullness of the moon gave the water highways of Venice a milky surface to reflect the light on. Veronica reflected on the foolishness of her actions.

Veronica Franco would go on to publish two very successful volumes of poetry. One of which contained two sonnets to King Henri III of France. It was said that her skills in the bedroom with him is what led him to lend ships to Venice to fight Spain. She started an orphanage and charity for the children of the cortigiane onestas, with limited success. During the plague of Venice, she would be tried for witchcraft as part of the Spanish Inquisition, but beat the charges to become a free woman again. As the last of her benefactors died, she would live out the rest of her life in poverty. But tonight she was only a young woman standing in the shadows, longing for the oblivion of her lover’s arms.

The Shrink

theshrink1280It had been thirty-one years since I thought that I needed to have my head shrunk. The first time I had been eighteen and the psychiatrist decided I was a manic depressive, or what they call bipolar these days, after talking to me for only ten minutes. He wanted to put me on lithium for the rest of my life, which I didn’t think was a particularly good idea. The bulk of the ten minutes was on me having problems getting laid at eighteen. Though it distressed me, I didn’t think being a vegetable for the rest of my life was the right solution. So he gave me some drug that was more potent than all the illegal drugs of the late sixties and early seventies. It cost over five dollars a pill, which back in those days was unheard of. I had a job with a lot of responsibilities and gave up on his solution after just a few days. Needless to say, my opinion the head shrinking business in general was pretty low.

Shortly after turning fifty, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease, that would cripple me and eventually put me in a wheel chair. What it was doesn’t really matter. I was having a hard time getting my head around the concept, so I decided to give the head shrinkers another chance. I hoped thirty years of experience had improved their capabilities.

To make an analogy of the LSD trips of the sixties, of which I was too young for, and the head shrinking business is as follows. The psychiatrist is the drug pusher, and the therapist the guide or friend who talks you through the trip. So the psychiatrist tried me on a variety of antidepressants that had the sum total effect of making me sleep all the time. Although it was better than the drug I was given thirty years ago, it still didn’t make for a viable solution. At the same time as she was trying me on the smorgasbord of antidepressants, she told me to see a therapist. At the time, both sexes were available, and I was given a choice. As much as I love women, I knew myself well enough that I’d be trying to impress her, rather than telling the truth. So, the guy was the lucky one to get stuck with my problems.

The first time I saw him, he called me from the waiting room by calling for, “Mr. Doug.” I thought that was a strange mixture of formality and casualness. He appeard to be in his mid-thirties, and the next thing that I noticed was his tall height and slender frame. It was obvious he wasn’t hanging out at the gym each evening, working up a sweat, but that was fine. I don’t think the endorphine high is the solution to all problems. I don’t think he had to bend down to go through the door of his office, but something about how he held his shoulders forward gave that effect. I didn’t know what to expect, but noticed right away there wasn’t the type of couch they picture in all the movies. There were dolls, drawing pads, crayons, and hand puppets for the kids. There was a couple of comfortable looking chairs and a regular sofa, that didn’t look so comfortable. When I asked where I was supposed to sit or lie, I was given a choice. I chose the chair and have ever since.

The drug pusher finally found an antidepressant that didn’t make me sleep all the time, or render the family jewels useless, so we agreed to me staying on that for a while. The overall effect was that I didn’t get to distressed about anything, but I didn’t get too excited either. I guess that was the intended solution, but it was not that invasive and I decided I could live with it.

Never having been to a therapist, who really isn’t a doctor, but a licensed professional instead, I didn’t know what to expect. We ended up talking about what I wanted to talk about. It wasn’t all these questions about did I hate my father or did I hate my mother, that the movies portray. I eventually visited these subjects, since it seemed like I should to keep the movie industry correct, and I ran out of other meaningful things to talk about. But it was on my own time. The therapist didn’t tell me what to do, or what not to do. He gave suggestions on mental exercises to try. Some of which seemed a bit new age, but I tried to keep an open mind. After a few months, I just missed an appointment and didn’t go back. There were no big good-byes, and no I think we are done here speeches. I just felt like I could deal with what was to come.

Almost a year later, I got a second surprise from my incurable illness. It gave me such intense pain on a constant level that I would do anything to stop it. Literally anything. I had stayed on the anti-depressants, but even those didn’t sidetrack the desire to leave this mortal plane. It ended up being a cocktail of narcotics that took the edge off of the pain. It didn’t get rid of the pain, it just took the edge off of it. The pain is always 3 or 4 on a scale of 10, with the evenings going up to 7 or 8. So it was time to rekindle my dialog with the therapist.

This isn’t a story with interesting facts, a twist at the end, or any of the other literary games I’ve played with you. It is for those of you who find that life has thrown you a curve you can’t deal with. Ask for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If the first professional isn’t getting you to where you need to be, then go to somebody else. Although I doubted it, they can help.

My therapist is a Star Trek fan and believes the government is hiding something about Area 51, so he can’t be all bad.

Ziggy’s Bar

ziggysbar1280Ziggy’s bar was just down the street from the mobile home that Aaron lived in for almost two decades. The owner displayed his collection of autographs of movie stars. He had worked on it his whole life. These weren’t 8×10’s or movie posters with the autograph printed on them, they were all originals. Most of them were made out to the owner of Ziggy’s. It was fascinating that he had collected the autograph of almost every major film star prior to the seventies, that you could think of.

There was a circular drive in the trailer park, and the bar was only a hundred yards from Aaron’s home. It was classified as a mobile home, because it was seventy feet long and twelve feet wide, but it had permanent glassed in Florida room and porch attached as well as a covered car port. It wasn’t one of those little silver trailers that people pull behind their cars, and which are often portrayed on TV as the primary domicile in trailer parks. Still, Aaron felt sort of like “trailer trash”. He was a little overweight. His teeth were a little crooked. He was a college dropout. He had his own business, and was actually a pretty smart fellow, but it was more famine than feast with his business.

He was down at Ziggy’s, drinking on his tab just a few days before his 32nd birthday on a balmy September afternoon in 1987. Although he went there alone, it was sort of like the show “Cheers” where everybody knew your name. Donna was bartending, and that always brought a smile to Aaron’s face. She was around nineteen or twenty and almost drop dead gorgeous. She did do some modeling, but modeling in Daytona Beach was small potatoes, and seldom lead to careers in the business. She had one of those bubbly personalities that is just fun to be around. Although she knew she was very pretty, she was still really down to earth. If you had to define it, probably a bit ditzy. She always went along with the blonde jokes with a chuckle, and often shared ones that she had heard elsewhere.

When Aaron told Donna to get the lady another beer on him, she put her hands on her hips and smiled at him knowingly. She whispered, “Are you bottom trolling tonight?” The girl across the bar had obviously had enough to drink. One eye kept drifting to half mast, and she had stopped making the effort to pull up the straps of her shirt, that kept falling over her shoulders. When Donna delivered a fresh cold draft to her, she smiled and thanked Aaron from across the bar. Trisha got up and moved over to the seat beside Aaron and introduced herself. She leaned in to whisper something to Aaron, and her short, but buxom body kept rubbing against him as she asked if he wanted to go back to his place with her. While he had visions of “hanky panky”, she just wanted to lay down and sleep a while. As Aaron and Trisha left the bar, Donna smiled and waved knowingly, while inviting Aaron to “beer wars” when she got off work.

The only time that Donna flirted with Aaron, who was around twelve years older than her, was when he was with another woman. Aaron had noticed that pattern, but doubted that Donna even knew herself well enough to have spotted it. The beer wars she referred to, was when one patron of the bar bought a round for another person and then that person would buy a round for the original giver. This would escalate until both people had so many beers around them it was impossible to drink them all. The two originators of the “beer war” would then invite the rest of the bar to help them drink all these beers. It almost always made for an instant party there at Ziggy’s.

Although Aaron often drove his car the hundred yards to Ziggy’s, this afternoon he had not. So he helped the tipsy Trisha navigate the walk to his home. As they both sat on the couch, she quickly expressed her intentions and asked, “Do you mind if I lie down here for a while and take a nap?” Although that wasn’t what Aaron had in mind, he was enough of a gentleman that he acquiesced to her request.

As she slept, he looked at her in the light of his living room, which was brighter than in the bar. Aaron had thought Trisha was almost as pretty as Donna, but he noticed the make-up was too much, the fingernails painted, but chipped and her clothes were ripped in a place or two. He wondered if she was a prostitute? The thought put him off entirely.

When she woke up about an hour and a half later, Aaron suggested they go back up to Ziggy’s. He was still concerned that Trisha might be a prostitute, and that wasn’t his forte. When they arrived back at the bar, Donna had finished her shift at six and proceeded to make good on her promise of a beer war with Aaron. As usual it led to a party the whole bar was involved in.

Trisha continued to sit with Aaron, and actually was pretty good company. As the beer flowed, she started to take on her “pretty glow” in Aaron’s eyes again. When they left later in the evening, the night went more as Aaron had originally imagined. There was never a word of money, and she stayed for several days. Aaron had already asked an old girlfriend to be his date to his birthday party, and was loathe to break his word. He explained the situation to Trisha, who seemed to be understanding and sent him packing off to his birthday party at Ziggy’s. When Aaron’s old girlfriend left early, he went back to the trailer to bring Trisha to the party. She came to the party, but something was different in her behavior. An hour or two later, Trisha called her old boyfriend to come pick her up.

Over the next dozen years, Trisha would make a “booty call”.   Sometimes it was months between visits and other times just weeks or days. She would arrive at Aaron’s home unannounced or pop in on him up at Ziggy’s and stay a day to a week each time. She found it inconvenient when Aaron found a steady girlfriend, but took it in stride and left after visiting a few minutes. There was never ever a mention of money, but Aaron might notice some small thing missing. There was never a romantic relationship between the two of them, even though they found comfort in each others arms and bodies when she visited.

One day a decade or so later, Aaron woke up and saw that she was gone. This time, Trisha had taken too much for him to ignore.

Misfit Toys

misfit_toys1280Daytona Beach, is, “The land of misfit toys. If you don’t fit in anywhere else in the world, you end up in Daytona.” Being born there may indicate a predisposition to being a misfit toy, and if so, I’m guilty. Growing up in Daytona, “the world’s most famous beach” is a strange experience. I’ve spent all but 14 of my 51 years on this Earth, living in Daytona. The years between age 7 and 21, are when my family moved around a lot. Later, when I was old enough, the misfit toy in me headed back to home ground.

The Timucuan Indians had inhabited the area in the early 1800’s, but had been decimated by disease and wars. The second Seminole war between 1835 and 1842, removed the remaining indians of the Seminole tribe. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Florida became a popular tourist destination. Daytona Beach was officially founded in 1870 and incorporated in 1876. The town was named for its founder, Mathias Day. What made it famous was the unique composition of the sand on the beach. It was solid enough that a normal car could drive on it, where most beaches in the world require special four wheel drive vehicles.

This combination of car and beach led to the first recorded, “my car can beat your car” race around 1902 between H.T. Thomas and Alexander Winton. The owner of the winning car was Ransom Olds. Hmmm, that last name sounds familiar. Yes, it was the founder of Oldsmobile. Nascar was created in 1947, but there had been oval track racing down on the beach since 1936. It was the tides of the ocean that drove racing from the beachside, and Daytona International Speedway was finished and the first race run in 1959. although the track has a seating capacity of 168,000 excluding the infield, there are usually about 250,000 to 300,000 people who descend on Daytona for the Nascar races.

I don’t know if it was my own memory, or just the 8mm films my father showed me, but I do remember the races down on the beach. The automobile racers were the first of the “great invaders.” The next to follow were the motorcycle racers in 1937. The city father’s didn’t catch on until 1941 to start having “official bike weeks” every year to draw more tourists. The third horde of people to decend on Daytona were the “Spring Breakers.” A 1960 movie called “Where the Boys Are” portrayed young men and women partying in Ft. Lauderdale. After the city fathers of Ft. Lauderdale started discouraging the event there, Daytona Beach became the Florida coast mecca of Spring Break. The latest throng to swell the limits of Daytona are the participants of Black College Reunion in 1884.

The 2004 census of Daytona was 64,422 full time residents of this lovely seaside resort. Think of a town that had its roads, traffic lights, businesses and police department proportionate to a city that size. Now think about the approximate chaos created by a quarter million people for race week, up to a half million people for bike week, two hundred thousand spring breakers, and a meager hundred thousand participants of Black College Reunion. I think chaos is too weak a word to describe what happens, but I can’t think of a word that really captures the experience. All told, about eight million people visit Daytona every year.

With all groups but the Nascar bunch, the amount of “tit flashing” going on could be second only to New Orleans at Mardi Gras. But in Daytona you don’t even need the beads as an incentive. Even though “flashing your tits” is illegal, it is a yearly event. Once a sheriff told me, “We only arrest the ugly ones.” He said it jokingly, but I think there was a thread of truth to the statement. There are some very scary mammaries flashed each year. Every red blooded male amateur photographer is happily snapping away, and the professionals don’t turn down the scary bikers telling their old lady to flash the photographer. The advent of the video camera has inspired an influx of risque Steven Spielberg “wannabees.” The young women of the non-Nascar events come to Daytona with a desire to experience the madness, with as much abandon as a high school girl wanting to lose her virginity at the Senior Prom.

Although it might sound like a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, it has its dark underbelly as well. Each year brings one or more Spring Break jumpers thinking they can hit the pool from a high floor, like in the movies. The other tragic demise is the student climbing from balcony to balcony to reach the girl, but falling to his death instead. Black College Reunion is rife with black on black violence, with many of the male participants not even being in college. They are just here to cruise the strip and pick up girls. The worst incident was in 1998, when a black man opened fire on a busy Daytona street around midnight. Four policemen and two bystanders were shot. The policemen killed the shooter, and almost triggered a race riot.

The race car crowd is a heavy drinking bunch, who take to the local streets with dreams of being the next Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt. The bumper stickers supplied by the city when I was growing up said, “If you want to race, Daytona is the place.” I think that too many aggressive drivers took that to heart, and the slogan faded away from the city’s printing presses.

Believe it or not, the bike week crowd is the best behaved of the invaders. They are more polite, tip more, and are more likely to let you into traffic. There had been a build up of outlaw bikers each year, but after the 1986 event, the towns politicians outlawed the wearing of “colors.” There is still a lot of beer drinking, revving up of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but you’d be surprised how many doctors and lawyers are bikers. Sadly, each year at least one biker is killed. It is mostly in crashes with an automobile, where the driver didn’t see the biker.

There are two common sayings in Daytona. The first is, “Do you know what the difference is between a Yankee and a Damn Yankee?” The answer is, “A Yankee comes down here, spends his money and goes home. A damn Yankee comes down here and stays.” The other is, “When you get the Daytona sand between your toes, you can never leave.”

Mantis Rider

mantisrider1280Tommy stared in shock and amazement at the tiny man shaking his fist at him from the back of a praying mantis. The man was saying something to Tommy, but it only sounded like a high pitched buzz. There was no doubt the little man with pointed ears was very angry with Tommy. The television and movies had a character named, “Spock”, but Tommy was pretty darn sure this wasn’t some tiny Vulcan.

Tommy wasn’t scared when the mantis landed on the back of his hand. He had held one in school. He even remembered that they were called praying mantids because of the way they held their two front feet like someone in prayer. Lots of people spelled the name wrong, writing it like preying mantis, but Tommy had paid attention that day in school. He remembered mantids usually each flies, moths, and spiders, but big mantids will even eat reptiles, small mammals or birds. Tommy was told after sex the females often eat the heads of the smaller males. He didn’t know what sex was, but he didn’t like the sound of this “head eating” business. He promised himself to never have sex with a praying mantis.

The mantis rubbed its two front legs together and cocked his head sideways, as the little man continued his angry tirade. As much as Tommy wanted to take the mantis and his rider back home, so someone would believe him, he knew it would be wrong. His parents had instilled a strong sense of conscience in him. As he looked down, he saw other mantids with little riders. They seemed to be battling some sort of dark multicolored beetle. The mantids and little men with swords seemed to be dispatching the beetles with ease, but there were so many beetles it was apparent they would eventually overrun the little warriors.

Tommy decided to help the little humanoids, and started to kick and stomp on the multitude of beetles. Suddenly two more riders on flying mantids, seemed to be heading straight for his face. As he tried to dodge the oncoming flyers, he lost his footing in the slippery bug guts of the beetles he had trampled.

He woke up with a head ache and surveyed the ground around him. There were still many smashed beetle bodies, but not a praying mantis or rider in sight. Now he started to wonder if it was his imagination or something he dreamed while unconscious. He looked for little footprints, broken swords or any proof that he had seen tiny riders, but came up empty handed.

Twenty years later, he still visits that field behind his house, to see if the riders have returned.

Lord Alfred

lordalfred1280bLord Alfred F. Bee was born in New Jersey, as just Alfred Frederick Bee. He bought a very famous castle in Exeter England by the name of Rougemont Castle. Then he decided he needed a title, so he bought one of those too. You can buy a title in England too. Or for that matter get it for free if you are willing to do the paperwork and file it with the HM Land Registry. You have to look up the records to see that there isn’t already a Baron, Lord, Sir, Laird, Count, Earl, Viscount, Duke, Marquess, and so on, by that name. If you go through one of the Internet sites that “sells” titles, they supposedly do the research for you.

Lord Alfred had a pure bred Straffordshire dog he named Churchill, oblivious to the fact it angered the local residents that he’d name his dog after one of the country’s greatest heroes. He chose the breed because it sounded British. The residents of Exeter play along, calling him Lord Alfred, but are snickering behind his back at his “puttin’ on airs”. They play along because tourist are the primary basis of the town’s economy, and up until now they couldn’t visit the Rougemont Castle. For that matter most of the locals had not been past its gates unless they had business with the Devon courts. So they expected it being opened, to drastically improve the economy.

The Castle was mentioned in Shakespeare’s play Richard III. It got its name from the elevated position where the original Norman edifice was built by order of William the Conqueror in 1068. There isn’t much from the original Norman building except some walls that form a bailey around the courtyard and the gatehouse, which is the earliest surviving piece of Norman castle architecture in all of England. The gatehouse, walls, and dungeons are grade 1 historic monuments, and the rest of the castle is a grade 2 monument. This means you can’t change or tear down the history of England without official permission. As part of the purchase agreement, Lord Alfred Bee agreed to open a portion of the castle to tourists, and allow certain ceremonies to be conducted on the grounds. This played perfectly into his ego, which was as expansive as the 42,000 square feet of interior room.

For the past thousand years, the building has functioned as the home of the County Devon judiciary and courts. So it has been well maintained and in many cases modernized without changing the historical flavor of the building. Most castles you can buy in Europe are in great disrepair, and though they might have forty bedrooms, there may be only two bathrooms. It would be up to Lord Alfred how he converted offices and courtrooms into bedrooms and ballrooms. He just couldn’t move the walls.

Alfred picked up this historic piece of England’s past for a measly 1.3 million pounds, which works out to be a cool $2,568,167 U.S. Dollars. He had made his money on what wasn’t much more than an Internet scam. He sold “how to” books and virtual space in his virtual online shopping mall. As if that wasn’t enough, he also sold wholesale items to the “tenants” of his online mall. To make the deal sweeter, if they sold a “shop” to someone else, they got a percentage of that person’s income, which was usually nothing. This was all promoted through hour-long infocommercials with famous stars and even sponsored an Olympic athlete.

He was slick about how he did it. He sold the “How to make a million on the Internet” book for three to five thousand dollars. If he had tried to sell the virtual stores, there was no real property and he could have gotten shut down. But he could sell the book for as much as he wanted, if people were willing to pay for it. Getting those same “rubes” to sell other stores for a percentage was classified as sales commission rather than the downline of a pyramid scheme. What ended up sinking them in the end, was an eleborate scheme of shuffling people wanting a refund from one department to another and never returning the money. Most of the upper level staff was caught and arrested, but Alfred managed to escape the country before that happened.

Alfred wasn’t his real name, and even though Rougemont Castle recently went up for sale, it wasn’t that castle he bought, nor England he escaped to. I came to know this person because I was the one who programmed and made famous a certain online shopping mall. It was one of the 100 busiest shopping malls on the Web at that time. He bought the mall because it was famous, and I was supposed to go to work for him because it was my brain-child. Even though his organization had beautiful offices and hundreds of employees, and his offer to me was a rich one, something didn’t feel right. I declined and am glad that I did. The Olympic athlete wasn’t part of the operation other than a hired announcer, so he dodged the bullet. I did go on to create a Web site for him.

Teen Death

teendeath1280Mandy stared at the cold marble stone in disbelief. She steadied herself against the ground in front of the grave, feeling like she was going to heave again. She looked again at the stone with Sean’s name on it and couldn’t believe it was real. This must be some horrid nightmare that she would wake up from, and feel relieved it didn’t really happen. But it did, and she knew that she’d never be the same. This is the sort of event that bent and twisted you for the rest of your life.

There were grief counselors at the school who tried to help, but their platitudes of “you’ll get over this eventually.” and “life must go on” were absurd and useless. How could stupid statements like that help when the grief hit you physically, like a bat to the stomach, which takes your breath away. You gasp for air, but you’re throat is closed. You cry until your sobbing becomes dry heaves racking every fiber of your being. She even thought her soul was hurting.

It wasn’t the same as the other seniors at her high school who lost a classmate or even a friend. For her it was losing her soulmate. The man she was going to marry. The man she was going to spend the rest of her life with. The man she was going to bear children for. A whimper escaped her mouth as she started crying all over again. This was the man who had been her childhood sweetheart since the third grade. Now they were seniors, about to truly start their life together. When he dies in a car crash, and it was her fault.

Sean wanted to do it bareback, and she refused. For those who don’t know the slang, bareback is having sex without a condom. They had been sexually active for years, but neither of their parents knew it. As with most teenagers, finding a place and time to “do it” was an ongoing challenge, even when you had a willing partner.

Mandy had planned their life together pretty much through college, the wedding, the children, the empty nest period, to their old age alone time. Taking a chance of messing up her well laid plans by having sex bareback, just wasn’t responsible. Getting pregnant would have thrown everything out of order, so she refused. They argued. Sean stormed off and got drunk, and died on his way back to apologize to her. God, what she would give to be carrying his child now. How could she have been so stupid and trite. The faucet of tears let loose again.

Sean had become a statistic. One of fifteen other teenagers who died each night from drunk driving accidents across the United States. Death by a car accident involving alchohol is the leading cause death for children aged 15 to 20. Mandy couldn’t bear the thought of living a whole life without Sean. She couldn’t stand the thought of another man’s hands on her body. She decided to become a statistic too.

Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds. You may find it surprising but girls in that age group about twice as often as boys, but boys die about four times as much, because they chose more lethal methods in their attempts. Mandy was aware of those statistics and was determined to be successful in her first attempt.

She said a little prayer asking for forgiveness for what she was about to do, and begged God to let her be with Sean.

The shot echoed against the cold marble stones in the empty graveyard.

Schoolgirl Uniform

schoolgirluniform1280The schoolgirl uniform fetish has become one of the most widespread clothing oriented fetishes in the world. The fetish is that someone derives sexual pleasure from either wearing the uniform, or viewing other people dressed in the uniform. Even though it is considered a sexual fetish, it doesn’t require any sexual contact. In role playing among couples, the uniform has become popular with both men and women. The Wikipedia states that the schoolgirl image may appeal to women because it allows them to project a more youthful, innocent or virginal image. Those same reasons cover why it is popular with men as well. The Wikipedia goes on to say that a less sexual aspect is the feelings of nostalgia it may cause, taking a person’s memories back to a simpler time in one’s life. Still the contrast of a fully developed woman in a “childlike” role is probably the driving reason for its popularity.

There are actually a wide variety of the schoolgirl uniforms. In Japan their uniform is known as “burusera”, which is slang for sailor and bloomers. This japanese version is most often a military style dress based on the English naval uniform. This style is pronounced sera fuku in Japanese. It is a variation of the word seifuku, which refers to a uniform in general.

The western version of the schoolgirl uniform is usually based on the Catholic or parochial school uniform. They make a distinct departure from the military style. They are usually comprised of a white shirt, necktie, blazer or sweater with the school crest and slacks for the boys, with tartan skirts for the girls. The skirts often lead the girls to trouble with the administrators, when they try to wear them shorter than they were originally designed to be worn.

It seems as much as men are chastised for looking at women, many if not most women still dress in a way that they are sure to be looked at, regardless of age.

Gas Alternatives

levitation1280Ezra was like a lot of the hill folk in West Virginia, with several cars in various stages of disassembly out in the yard. Ezra was good enough at fixing cars that he even had a shed to work on them, and other people brought their fancy cars by for him to fix. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and as nationalities go, Americans have been known for being rather ingenious in coming up with solutions. What appeared to passer-by as a sports car floating in mid air, was just some super strong wire that Ezra had come up with and hooked to a pulley system on the walls. He needed unfettered access to the suspension system of cars and he couldn’t afford one of them fancy lifts the garages had.

In the spirit of invention, there have been a multitude of alternatives to fossil fueled automobiles, but the car industry along with the oil industry have managed to squash anything that has come along. It would be negligent on their part in the interest of their stockholders if they allowed something to go to market that would undermine the multi-billion dollar industry they both enjoyed. Even inventions that would extend the mileage of existing gas combustion engines to much further distances had to be cut off at the knee before they reached the marketplace. It didn’t matter that they were destroying the ozone, polluting the air, or contributing to green house gases. The profits must remain high. When the pressure from the public got to be intense enough, the industry would roll out its own solutions to the problem, that would still allow them to maintain their monopoly.

Over a half a century ago, at the end of World War II, South Africa picked up where Hitler left off in producing gasoline from coal. No modifications were needed to the existing engines. It didn’t do away with the poisons let into the atmosphere, but it allowed South Africa to be independent of the oil producing companies and their pricing. The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal with over a 200 plus year reserve of coal. The company that did this is name Sasol, and of course was bought by Exxon Mobil. They have 30,000 employees, including the largest number of Ph.D.’s of any company in the Southern Hemisphere. They have also successfully created gasoline from natural gas.

Over twenty five years ago, in 1980 a company figured out how to create diesel fuel from old fryer oil, which is certainly a renewable source. Did you ever hear anything about it? I thought not. Some of the more exotic alternatives to fossil fuel gasoline are, urine based batteries, Ethanol, Methanol, magnetic motors, polystyrene drinking cup capacitors, wind turbines, and electrolysis just to name a few. But lets go with what the Auto industry has decided to allow us to use, the Hybrid vehicle.

It doesn’t leave out their partners in crime, the oil industry. They already own almost all the patents to the technology, and they developed it over 29 years ago. In 1970 Toyota announced their first hybrid. In the early 1990’s, an excess of CO2 was determined to be a major contributing factor to global warming. If the manufacturers had actually implemented the technology they had twenty years ago, I wonder where we would be on the greenhouse gas problem now.

Flying Car

flyingcar1280The dream of a flying car have been popular ever since the Jetson’s cartoon ran on the ABC network back in 1962 and 1963. The idea of not being constrained to roads and traffic jams definitely had its appeal. As the population increased, the cost of fuel and the traffic with it, the concept sounded even better. The fact is that the first flying car was built by Waldo Waterman, and took to the air on March 21st of 1937. It was called the Whatsit. It looked more like a tailless airplane than a car, but was powered by a Studebake engine and could fly at 110 MPH and drive at 55 MPH.

What is not commonly known, is that in the 1950’s the Ford Motor Company did a serious feasibility study for a flying car product. It determined even back then that it was technically feasible, econimically manufaturable, and had significant realistic markets. But when Ford approached the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), all known forms of air traffic control were inadequate for the volume of traffic that Ford proposed. Heck, even the original Henry Ford in 1940 said, “Mark my word: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will com.”

In the sixties Dr. Paul S. Moller started on his dream of building a skycar, which was featured in Scientific American. Over the years, he has built several working models. One of which, was round and looked like a flying saucer. His persistent dream version is more of what we might consider a science fiction version. It is called the M400. To date 110 million dollars has been spent on its development. It has four turbine engines that rotate like a Harrier jet for vertical take offs and landings. Right now the cost is about a million dollars, but if they could go into full production the price would fall to around $60,000.

The major hold up has been how to manage all of this traffic in three dimensions. The FAA, NASA, and a bunch of other organizations mainly known by their letters have been building highways in the skies for many years now. It is only since the growth of G.P.S. systems, and the power of computers have increased to the point that actual use of flying cars becomes possible. Right now you must have a pilot’s license to operate one of these vehicles. In the near future you will basically log on to the system, enter your destination, and the air traffic control system will automatically take you to your destination. The system will maintain the distance between vehicles, speed, and almost all other navigational functions. So special pilot training won’t be necessary.

The first car to really fit into the vision of a soundless anti-gravity vehicle wasn’t invented until the year 2012. Although it was silent and appeared to be true anti-gravity, it was more like gravity focus or gravity funneling. Like two giant magnets that are polarized to repel each other, there is electromagnetic energy created by that opposing force. It is that energy that is used to drive the vehicle up and forward.

This amazing manipulation of gravity wasn’t discovered by one of the giant automotive corporations, or one of the aircraft companies, it was discovered by an MIT dropout in his garage. Rather than sell his invention to the auto industry, he built kits that people could adapt to their own vehicles. He didn’t have the clout or connections to take his invention main stream, so he hired Gary L. Cowger who was the president of General Motors North America. This was accomplished by giving Gary a two percent interest in the patent itself. Gary knew it would be worth billions.

He started the financing by taking a million advance orders for twenty thousand dollars a piece. This raised twenty billion dollars in initial start-up cash. To grease the wheels of commerce and cut through the red tape, he provided the U.S. military, law enforcement, and a few well-placed politicians with the first ones at ten percent less than cost. Gary’s initial two percent bonus was a cool four hundred million dollars.

The actual cost per unit was based on the weight of the auto body it had to lift. So it became nouveau chic to take obscure older mini-cars and convert them into flying cars. Henry had been on the Chicago police force for over twenty years. When he spotted the 1953 Isetta with a flying car conversion kit in this part of town, he knew something was wrong. He was a big fan of the flying cars and he knew that only four 1953 Isetta’s were known to exist in the world. No one in their right “legal” mind would bring something of that value into the barrio. He turned on his lights and siren, forcing the Isetta and its driver to the street below. He called for back-up before approaching the flying car with his gun drawn.

Cleopatra

cleopatra1280She looked down at her daughter in the bucket among the reeds along the Nile river. She was the daughter of Ptolemy XII, king of Egypt. She had five brothers and sisters, but was the most educated of them, speaking six languages and having great knowledge of the arts. She was eighteen when her father died in 51 B.C. and her father’s will said that she and her ten year old brother Ptolemy XIII should rule Egypt together. She is the woman of legends who span more than two millennium, known as Cleopatra.

Powerful men of the time used her brother as a figurehead, while they ruled with their own ideas. They wanted to kill Cleopatra to cement their power over Egypt so she fled. Three years later, when she turned twenty-one, she returned to Egypt to seek out Julius Caesar. She rolled herself in a carpet and was snuck past her brother’s guards. Caesar was a powerful general in the Roman army at age fifty-two. As soon as Cleopatra presented herself, Caesar was amazed and delighted. He didn’t like her just for her beauty, but for her intelligence and her personality. This didn’t keep him from taking her as his lover almost immediately.

Enthralled by her, he decided to help her by fighting against Ptolemy XIII and his army. He defeated the opposing army and her brother died in the Nile river at the age of fifteen, drug down by the weight of his golden armor. Caeser had Cleopatra married to her youngest brother of twelve years, who by her father’s will could not rule, so she ruled Egypt alone. When Caesar returned to Rome, he left a pregnant Cleopatra behind.

It is said that she gave birth to Caesar’s first true son, because he already had an adopted one. But the truth was she took the male son of a hand-maiden, who had given birth around the same time as her. The hand maiden was without family or husband, so Cleopatra had her killed so that no one could dispute the baby’s birthright. She took her own daughter and set her afloat on the Nile, hoping some family would take her in.

If Cleopatra was to secure her place in Caesar’s life and her son’s future, it had to be a boy. She named him Ptolemy Caesar so that all would know who his father was. His nickname was Caesarison, which means “Little Caesar”. Although Caesar never admitted this was his son, he kept Cleopatra, her brother-husband and her son as a guest in his palace in Rome for a year and a half. He had a bronze statue of Cleopatra put in the Temple of Venus, who was the goddess of love and beauty. Caesar declared that Cleopatra should be a goddess not only in Egypt but in Rome as well. Rumor spread that Caesar was planning to make himself king and Cleopatra queen.

On March 15th, 44 B.C. a group of senators assassinated Caesar. When his will was read two days later, Cleopatra and her son were not in it. So she returned to Egypt and had her brother-husband killed a few months later. She had Ptolemy Caeser share the throne with her, because a woman could not be Pharoh.

Enter Marc Antony. Heir to half of the Roman Empire of which Octavious and the senators who murdered Caesar get the other half. Antony had met Cleopatra before and fell in love with her. He promised to make Caesar’s birthline legal and bequeath the whole Roman empire to Caesarion and Cleopatra. She bears Marc Antony twins.

Octavious’ army are closing in on Alexandria and Antony comes to her aid. But before he can reach her Octavious captures Cleopatra and puts her in the mausoleum she built as a prison. A miscommunication reaches Antony that Octavious has killed Cleopatra. He stabs himself with a sword to commit suicide, but when told that Cleopatra is still alive, he wants to see her before he dies. His closest companions sneak him into her mausoleum/prison where she tears off her clothes to cover his bleeding body. She later commits suicide by having her servants sneak and asp snake into the mausoleum in a fruit basket, and by what traditions says, has it bite her breast. She left a letter asking to be buried next to Marc Antony.

Although I write this in January of 2007, I think that Cleopatra’s body will be discovered thirty kilometers from Alexandria in a temple called Tabusiris Magna by famed archeologist Zahi Hawass, sometime in late summer of this year. This discovery will be considered to be much more important than the Tomb of Tutankhamon.