W-O-L-D FM

wold-1280Fartin’ Martin used to be one of the hottest DJ’s in the Cleveland area during the eighties. It was now over a quarter of a century later, and the new generation had never even heard of him. Most of the old fans from the eighties had forgotten his name. If they ever thought of him, it was vein of “Gee, I wonder what happened to that crazy farting DJ?” How the world perceived him, didn’t matter much to Martin. The parties of champagne, bubbly hot tubs with naked women eagerly awaiting him, had devolved into cheap bottles of wine, and sleeping in his own piss on a couch with two springs poking through.

He was an alcoholic, and he knew it. But the only twelve steps he wanted, were the ones that led up the door to the liquor store closest to his apartment. He counted them each time he went in, wondering if the irony of number of steps was deliberate. The liquor store was run by a vietnamese couple, who used to extend him credit, but after being burned so many times, had him on a cash only basis. They had one bottle of his favorite wine on the counter waiting, but didn’t ring it up because he often got more than one bottle.

MD 20-20, more commonly known as Mad Dog twenty twenty, was the favorite of many alcoholics. Most wines were only 8% to 10% alcohol, so this wine gave you double the drunk for about the same price. Wine was also much cheaper than whiskey or vodka of any kind. Although Martin knew how far he had fallen, he was a functioning alcoholic. He still had a bit of the charm, and when the words didn’t stumble over each other, he even had a bit of his patter that made him a mini-celebrity.

There always seemed to be some emotionally damaged woman, who he wouldn’t have given the sweat off of his ass to when he was at his peak, that still was drawn to him or at least drawn to the glory of his past. Martin would use them for whatever he could, until he drained them dry, or they got fed up with his bullshit and took off. A pack of cigarettes, a dinner, a roll in the hay, it didn’t matter. On the last item of fun, he usually couldn’t perform his duties anymore. The alcohol had stolen his wood.

There had been a wife and a son, but he managed to screw that one up royally. In fact it was the beginning of the end. Cassie was her name, but he always called her Casey. This led to a few questions about his gender choice back when he was married and popular on the radio. He didn’t care what people thought. He was happy. The problem was that no matter how wonderful she was, he couldn’t say no to his fans. Especially the pretty young ones that wanted to share their nubile bodies. His only response was, “What did she expect, when she married a handsome young celebrity?”

At each job he still managed to get, one morning would come that he came in drunk and locked himself in the control room. From there he’d broadcast love songs and read his drunken poems to his long gone Casey. In fact he had to leave so many stations and cities, these drunken last stands were usually broadcast in a city she didn’t even live in. But on this night, it wasn’t his wife who heard his drunken soliloquy, it was a songwriter by the name of Harry Chapin. Something in the desperation of Martin’s voice and soul touched Harry, and he penned a song about that event. The first part of the song goes:

Hello Honey, it’s me
What did you think when you heard me back on the radio?
What did the kids say when they knew it was their long lost daddy-o?
Remember how we listened to the radio
And I said `That’s the place for me’
And how I got the job as an FM Jock the day you married me?
We were two kids and I was was into AM rock
But I just had to run around
It’s been eight years since I left you babe
Let me tell you ’bout what’s gone down

CHORUS
I am the morning DJ on W*O*L*D
Playing all the hits for you wherever you may be
The bright good-morning voice who’s heard but never seen
Feeling all of forty-five going on fifteen
The drinking I did on my last big gig made my voice go low
They said that they liked the younger sound when they let me go
So I drifted on down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to do me a late night talk show
Now I worked my way back home again, via Boise, Idaho
That’s how this business goes

The whole song is touching, and has a melody that sticks in your head. The songwriter and performed died in a car accident back in 1981, but the song is still out there if you look hard. If you get a chance, please take a listen.

Politically Incorrect

politicallyincorrect1280It is getting to be a really hard job to be a stand-up comic, or in my case a sit down comic. Material is really hard to come by. These days even jokes have to be politically correct. You can’t make jokes about pollacks, or gays, or religion. What a loss are all those ones that started, there was a priest, a rabbi, and a baptist minister. Lord help you if you make a joke about women or black people and especially about black women. You used to be able to make jokes about the President, but this guy is so into secrecy and ignoring the bill of rights, that I’m afraid to make a joke about him. I might end up on some secret list as an enemy combatant. You can’t make jokes about crazy people or drunks because it is a disease, and they need our understanding and compassion. Leave out the junkies and cigarette smokers because they are addicted, and it isn’t their fault. Thank God for fat people.

About the only group of people it isn’t politically incorrect to make jokes about is fat people. Everybody knows that all they had to do was push away from the table earlier, and they wouldn’t be fat. Then you can really unload both barrels on the truly obese people, but they’d probably eat them. [insert canned laughter] Even TV ads jump on the bandwagon of “Yo Mama’s so fat” jokes. Seeing this trend starting, I decided to become a connoisseur of fat jokes..there isn’t any calories in them.

Fat people are portrayed as jovial and good natured. They always seem to be making jokes about their own weight. That’s because they want to take your ammunition away. If they make a joke about their size, and you make another one, then you are being redundant and un-funny. Is that a word? Was that a joke, or just the sad truth? You decide.

Yes, we’ve heard the one about about the seafood diet, where we see food and eat it. We’ve heard them all. Just the way you’d remember every time you were stabbed. As you sit there thinking, “Poor little fat boy, feeling sorry for himself. All you had to do was push away from the table.” In every TV show or movie that has a school scene in it and a bully, it is always the fat kid who is being picked on. Society teaches that it is okay to hate fat people. You can be just about anything in this society but fat.

Being fat is so horrifying to many people that people will kill themselves to avoid being fat. Welcome Bulimia and Anorexia. You ladies are leading the pack with a ten to one ratio over them men for these two diseases. Or is it a case of, “All you had to do was keep your mouth shut after eating.” You carry that hatred of becoming fat into your relationships with men. It isn’t the fat guy who’s getting lucky tonight. In fact, when it comes to one of the biggest complaints by married women, it was their husbands “let themselves go.” Be honest, don’t you make love a little less often, because the fat turns you off. Not that you don’t love him dearly, it just makes the pool boy with the cute ass look appealing.

Even the fat girls don’t like fat guys. Men will lie, cheat, steal and even kill to get laid. So the fat girls won’t end up dying as virgins, even if they don’t manage to keep a guy. You overweight ladies put up with a constant barrage of belittlements, and still keep coming back for more. What about you women who aren’t fat. Yeah, the ones who aren’t even a little bit overweight. When your relationship breaks up, isn’t the first thing you do after all the crying is start on a diet? It wasn’t your fault in any way the relationship took a nose dive, it was the fat. A diet will fix anything.

I see the guy offstage motioning for me to get back there, and end my show. I guess I started out okay, but when it came to the truth, it wasn’t so funny. Well, it was open mike night here at the Comedy Spot, and I had something to say. To all a good night, and may visions of sugar plums dance in your head.  All calorie free.

Death Row

deathrow1280I’m fifty-five years old, and now I’m sitting here on a toilet smoking like a kid in high school. I’m on death row. Are they pissed off that I might take the joy of killing me away from them? This privacy barrier in my cell only shields a little strip of vision. The smoke can be seen coming out the top, or if I bend over, it comes out the bottom. If I get caught smoking or in possession of tobacco, I get extra work duty or loss of privileges. The third strike gets me extra jail time. Does that mean they will stay my execution, so that I can pay my debt to society for doing something that is legal everywhere else in the world? You have to wonder what kind of genius dreamt this one up. Are things getting too boring at the local policy meetings.

The immediate repercussions to the ban, will be like when they did it in Oregon in 1995 and the inmates set fire to the prison. In every other case where they banned smoking in prisons, two things always happen. One is that violence increases and there is a new black market that springs up, more widespread than anything else in prison. You used to be able to buy a tin of bugler tobacco to roll your own, for eleven bucks. Now that same tin costs over two hundred. Cigarettes are the new currency in the joint. I know a guy who killed somebody for a pack of Marlboro. What goes for three to four dollars on the outside, is all it cost to take a man’s life. I heard tell of a guard who got shanked in exchange for a carton, but I can’t say for sure it is true.

The other side of the coin, these smart administrators ain’t thinking about is how they are making their own staff into criminals. I read somewhere that about half of all prisoners smoke. In the same article it said about half of the screws smoke too. For you who don’t what screws is, that means the guards. So if they aren’t getting in trouble and fired for sneaking a smoke somewhere, they are becoming dealers and black market suppliers inside. It is just too tempting for them to pass up thousand a week for ten cartons. It more than doubles their salary, and it isn’t like they have to deal with criminals and junkies like us to get it on the outside. They are going to get busted for possession of cigarettes man. As long as they are cool about how they get it in, they get off scott free. Ain’t nobody gonna rat them out, and bite the hand that feeds them.

The best one I heard was about a Prison in Marion, Ohio where they took away cigarettes from death row inmates but started giving them more benefits. They can spend more money in the commissary every month, and they get served in small groups outside their cells like a picnic. But the best of all is they get five hours of recreation outside of their cell instead of one. Throw in some dancing girls and conjugal visits with them afterwards, and I might go along with it. I’m sure John Q. Public is gonna love hearing that the guy who raped and killed their mother and sister are getting all sorts of extra perks for not smoking.

The real kicker is that all of these bans on smoking are starting to show a flaw in one of their main rallying cries. The second hand smoke is killing all these other people who don’t smoke, and that is why smoking must be banned. As the number of people smoking and being around smokers is going down, you would think the number of cases of cancer should be going down. Well, kiddo that ain’t the case.

Pirate Women

piratewomen1280With the success of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean, a new generation of swashbuckling kids are wielding plastic swords and repeating the line “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum”, because they don’t know the rest of the song. For my generation it was the old black and white movies like Mutiny on the Bounty, Captain Blood, Blackbeard the Pirate and The Buccaneer. All of which would be good imagination fodder for the current crop of budding pirates. They all glorify a lifestyle that most think only existed in the past.

Currently in the Gulf of Thailand, The Malacca Straits, Malaysia, Indonesia and especially off the coast of Somalia. In fact from 1993 to 2005 there has been over 3,583 verified acts of piracy on the seas worldwide, which indicates an increase of 168%. In those attacks 340 crew members died and 464 received injuries. In 2006 alone, 188 people were taken hostage and 15 killed. Most experts think that only 40% to 60% of the acts of piracy are reported. Much of modern piracy is carried out by people from third world countries with economic problems. There is still some activity in Caribbean piracy, which is primarily targeting yachts rather than cargo vessels.

Mostly it is boys who are playing at being the pirates and rescuing what neighborhood girl they can get to play along with them. But the women’s liberation movement, which would allow the young girls to take their turn at the swashbuckling, isn’t limited to modern times. The golden age of Piracy is generally considered to be between the years of 1690 and 1730. Toward the end of that period a buccaneer of some repute was Calico Jack. His ship was known as the “Terror of the Caribbean.” He garnered the nickname Calico Jack from his habit of wearing calico pants. The year 1720 found him sailing off the coast of Ocho Rios.

The governor of Ocho Rios sent out Captain Barnet to pursue and capture the notorious pirate. Calico Jack and his crew were celebrating the recent capture of a commercial vessel while anchored off the coast of Jamaica. They had imbibed so much rum, that Captain Barnet and his crew were able to sneak up on the Terror of the Caribbean. The pirate crew was caught by surprise, drunk on rum, and fled below deck. Only two of the crew stayed to fight Captain Barnet and his men. They put up such a magnificent last stand, that the fighting went on for over an hour. From time to time, the two fighting crew fired shots at their fellow pirates for being cowards.

When finally subdued, to the surprise of Barnet and his men, the two courageous pirates turned out to be women. They were Mary Read and Anne Bonny. Now the most famous of women pirates. Anne Bonny was born the illegitimate child of a maid in County Cork, Ireland. She fell in love at the age of 16 with a sea captain named James Bonny, but she had a wild side to her, and soon grew tired of him. She met Calico Jack and convinced him to pay James some money in exchange for a formal separation. She dressed as a man and snuck aboard the Terror of the Caribbean to become Captain Jack’s mistress. The reason she had to dress as a man, is because it was considered bad luck to have a woman on board a ship.

Mary Read’s background started in London as the daughter of a sea captain and his wife. Upon her father’s death, she had to disguise herself as a boy so that her father’s company and holdings could become an inheritance for his ‘son’. It could not be legally transferred to her mother or any other woman. The inheritance lasted until Mary became a teenager. Since she had been pretending to be a boy most of her life, and forced with having to make her own way in the world, she joined the British Army as a foot soldier. She eventually fell in love with a member of the Horse Regiment and confessed her true gender to him. She gave up the military, donned dresses, and married the soldier. For the first time she was living as a woman and enjoying it. She and her husband bought out their commission in the military and opened and English Inn called The Three Horseshoes.

Shortly after that her husband died. Forced back into making her own way in the world, she reverted to what she knew best, which was the military and pretending to be a man. This time around she was unhappy as a soldier and when the ship she was on was attacked by Captain Calico Jack, she took the opportunity to join his crew. She was a fierce fighter, and first to volunteer to join any boarding parties, so none of the pirate crew figured out that she was a woman. Anne Bonny however did figure it out. They became friends and started spending lots of time together. So much so, that Calico Jack became jealous until he too found out she was a woman. He agreed to keep her secret.

Captain Calico Jack Rackham and his crew were brought to trial, and found guilty of piracy. They were sentenced to be hanged. In deference to their gender, Mary and Anne were given a separate trial. At this trial they were also found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Both of the woman claimed to be pregnant and were given stays of execution until after the birth of their children. Mary Read died in prison along with her unborn child, but Anne Bonny managed to cheat the gallows and escape, supposedly with a new lover.

At the hanging of Calico Jack, Anne Bonny is credited with saying “if you had fought like a man, you would not now be hanged like a dog.”

Big Brother

bigbrother1280They’d been in the Department of Un-American Activities (DUA), for three years. That was since it’s very inception. They had all had a background in law enforcement, but getting into this department was really tough. There was more psychological testing than physical, regulations, or weapons. To be in this department, you really had to believe in what it stood for.

In 1949, George Orwell wrote a story set in London, called 1984. If had put the setting as the United States and added twenty-five years, he might have been seen as prophetic. In his rather dark view of the future, the government had become a totalitarian entity that used fear, propaganda, and indoctrination to force compliance of the general population. They were constantly monitoring every action of the people, and even their thoughts to some degree.

Have you noticed lately, when there is a crime and the police aren’t around, they often end up showing pictures of the criminal in an appeal for the public to help them? In fact, you often see multiple pictures of the offender from different angles. It used to be that this only happened with bank robbers, then they added convenience stores, and now it is most businesses. You have cameras in every ATM machine, and many intersections now have cameras. They even photograph people who run red lights, and send them a traffic ticket. With face recognition software no longer a science fiction concept, they can set system to look out for certain people or track their movements. These aside from the satellites that can see the stitching on a baseball from space. Add to this almost every type of mass transportation is constantly monitored. Airports, planes, trains, and even buses are adding cameras, and in many cases microphones as well.

Schools are adding surveillance, employers are monitoring their employees, and it doesn’t stop at video and audio tracking. Back in 2005 around 75% of employers tracked where they employees went with their Web browsers and monitored all e-mail. That number is surely higher now. It doesn’t stop at the workplace. Even at home when you surf the internet, you are not safe. In 1996 a federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Act started regulating data preservation. It required any Internet Service Provider (ISP) to retain any records in their possession for 90 days upon the request of any governmental entity. Now your ISP is required to keep a year’s worth of records on everything you do online.

Telephone calls are monitored for certain key words, and automatic recording is kicked in when one of the trigger words is said. What you check out from the Library is monitored and certain books are an immediate trigger to specific surveillance on individuals. You can be pretty sure that this extends to ordering books as well, regardless of whether it is online or by phone. President Bush’s administration has admitted it does wire taps of American citizens without a court order. The CIA which by previous laws could not spy on Americans, now has the authority to do so by provisions in the Patriot Act. They have even been caught sharing that information with other governments. Recently declassified documents show that the practice of spying on Americans actually goes back to the Vietnam era. One group especially targeted were journalist. So much for freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

We are at a fork in the road, where one path leads us towards a totalitarian government like the one described in 1984. The other, is an uncertain path in which we as Americans must constantly be on vigil to keep the government from taking away our freedom and liberties. The choice is yours, on which one we take, not the governments. Maybe it is time for you to read the book again, but borrow it from a friend. If you check it out from the library or buy it, the government knows what you are reading.

Chasing Dreams

chasingdreams1280I can’t begin to count the movies, books, and winners saying some variation of, “Just chase your dreams, you can be anything you want!” For most of us, that isn’t true. Gee, what a stick in the mud, you might be thinking. Maybe I am, or maybe I’m just a realist. I’m not saying it is bad advice, I’m just saying temper it with a sprinkling of reality.

If you want to be happy in life, the first thing that must fit in somewhere, is someone to share your life with. Whether it is a guy, a girl, a combination of both, a friend, or whatever you desire, the choice is yours. Until then, or if you don’t find a significant other, then get a pet or two. You need something to love, and to love you back. In some cases the pet might be the best choice. If you treat them kindly, they will love you unconditionally. That can seldom be said of the love you get from other people. In fact if you are in the United States and heterosexual, there’s a 50% chance you’ll end up divorced. If gay marriage becomes legal in all the states, I bet the number of divorces there, will run pretty close to the same percentage.

Part of the happiness you will have in a relationship is based on the financial security that you will have. I’m not saying money is everything, but you do have to eat and have a roof over your head. In the relationships you get into early in life, it isn’t expected that you will have much more than a dream of what you want to do with your life. The trick is that you must keep making progress towards that dream, or your significant other will lose faith, and move on. That isn’t to say if you fall once, give up and do something else. It is saying if you keep falling year after year, and you start to see your mate losing faith, be flexible enough to consider changing course.

As much as some of you may hate to hear it, a college education does make a difference. I didn’t have one, and was able to do better than most, but don’t bank on it. I could have been more secure if I did complete my degree. My father wanted me to go to college and had managed to set aside enough money for me to go. At eighteen I knew everything there is to know, like most kids that age, and I was going to prove I could be just as successful as him without a degree. I was tested numerous times and always fell somewhere in the genius category, so what did I need a degree for? Well, I failed. I ended up working for a leading technical University, and I was one of the most technically advanced people there, but I was just in the middle income bracket.

You are going to end up working the bulk of your life, whether you are a man or woman. Learn how to do something you like. It will probably be the single most important thing you can do to be happy in life. Play to your strengths. Are you good at drawing, or music, or sports? Whatever it is, be realistic in your comparison of your skills versus those at the top of the field you are interested in. You obviously aren’t there, or you would be at the top of the field. Next ask yourself is it something you can learn, to reach the top of the field. Here we come to the hardest aspect of facing reality. If you dream of being the next rock and roll guitar hero, compare your guitar playing to those around you. They are better, so keep learning. When you get to the point that there is nothing more left for others to teach you, and you are still miles away from those you admire. Then you probably won’t reach your goal. Sometimes it takes talent to reach that extra mile. In the process of this trip, did you learn enough to make a living at it? Is just working in the field going to be enough to both make you happy, and to allow you to make an equal contribution to the financial requirements of a relationship?

The same is true of someone with talents and capability in the sports industry. There are only going to be a few legends in each sport. Are you good enough to become one? Are you good enough to be a paid professional in the sport? Can you lean enough and improve your skills enough that by a reasonable age, you will have reached your goal. If you are pushing thirty, and you have never made it out of the minor leagues, you’ll probably not be a baseball legend. In the sports industry, it is especially important to have a fall back plan. People get hurt on a regular basis. Those injuries can knock you out of the sport at any age or point in your career. Do you know how to make a living doing something else? Lance Armstrong is an amazing example of someone overcoming adversity and still reaching the pinnacle of his sport. The reality question is, could he have overcome the loss of a leg and still been able to reach that same pinnacle? Even if he could, an even tougher question is do you have the drive that would enable you to overcome the obstacle?

Last but not least are religion and politics. They don’t make for good bedfellows. A politician will forever be tempted to abuse his power for favors and money. A politician and his family will always live under a microscope and be held to a level of scrutiny that almost no one can handle. If you decide to run for office, whether big or small, try to do your job with as much integrity and honesty as you possess. As for religion, the majority of all the people on Earth find comfort in some form of spiritual gathering led by church leaders of one religion or another. Keep in mind that more wars have been fought, and more people killed in the name of God and religion than for other reason. Churches are led by people, not God. People are capable of error and sin. So follow the spirit of God within you, not what people or religious leaders tell you. There are many religions on the face of this Earth, so be tolerant of others beliefs. It is the intolerance that has led to so much bloodshed in the past, and continues to do so in these current times. A simple rule to live by, that won’t contradict the tenants of any religion, is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is golden.

I never had a son or daughter to pass my thoughts on life to, so I’m putting the Cliff Note’s version here. It isn’t the type of advice you’d give a very young child. It is more of a reality check you would give someone in their late teens. That being at the time they are least likely to listen. The last little note is that for those who reach to very top of the heap in any industry or sport, they usually have to be so single minded in their pursuit, that they can focus on nothing but it. In doing so, they don’t do as well in other areas of their life, such as their relationships.

Rebellion

rebellion1280Mosha and Areal were the leaders of the most radical sect of the Democratic Underground. They were both young, beautiful women who used the fact to their advantage. They always dressed in revealing clothes because the split second of hesitation their male pursuers took, was usually enough for them to dispatch them. The American Republic’s storm troopers had recently started recruiting woment to offset this slight advantage. Their significant others officially only held the position of body guards. Bald Mosha and her husband Roger, who shared her hair style were one couple, and Sean, who was once a Republican Guard cop was Areal’s lover.

The Democratic Underground was an outgrowth of the Democratic Party, which was now illegal to belong to. In the aftermath of 9/11 the mantra of the government had become, “If you don’t support our initiative, you are aiding the enemy.” This applied to every legislative bill or thought the Republican party put forward. With the power they were given by the Patriot Act, they didn’t even hide the fact they were wire tapping American citizens illegally. They kept lists of what books the citizens read, they rewarded children who told on their parents.

In 2006, the elections had put a tiny margin of Democrats in majority both in the House of Representatives and the Senate by only one member. This last backlash against the Republicans was intended to reverse the trend of power accumulation by the Presidential office, and the loss of civil liberties that was becoming common place. Soon after the Democrats were put into office it became apparent they weren’t going to stand up to the power structure of the Republican Party. They made noises that they would force a deadline to get America out of the Iraqi war, but backed down with barely a whimper. Next came a vote of no confidence on the Attorney General of the United States, but they were outmaneuvered by the Republicans again. After surviving the no confidence vote the Attorney General set up the Department of Unamerican Activities.

This beaurocracy set about classifying certain American citizens as aiding the enemy and defining them as enemy combatants. That way they were stripped of all rights. There was no due course of law, no habeas corpus, no release of evidence you were charged with, no time limit on how long you could be incarcerated. The interrogation camps the CIA held in other countries became every police station in every locale. The rush to be reclassified as a Republican was a silent capitulation to the new power structure.

The Green Party, and the Independent Party as political groups, vanished with barely a whisper. Talk of a two party system was not discussed. At least not by anyone who didn’t want to be hauled away for unamerican activities, or even treason. By the time of the 2012 presidential election, it was illegal to be a Democrat. The choice was between two Republican candidates, and primaries were not even spoken of. The overthow of the American system seemed almost complete, and nearly a bloodless coup.

The Democratic Underground tied its ambitions to the true patriotic acts of the forefathers of this country, who stated of their own times….

“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”
– Samuel Adams – second president of the United States

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
– James Madison – 4th U.S. President

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”
– Thomas Jefferson – 3rd U.S. President – who’s motto was: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves… Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step over the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a Thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
– Abraham Lincoln – 16th U.S. President

Homophobia

homophobia1280When you are a child, and your parent tell you not to take candy from strangers, or get into a stranger’s car, they don’t tell you the details of the reason why. It is something along the lines of, “There are bad people out there who would hurt you.” That is terrifying enough for a child, that it is probably best they don’t know the rest. I applaud those parents who take the time to not only tell their children these warning signs, but also tell them how to counteract it with techniques like the windmill or car escape methods. There are a lot of sick bastards out there.

To admit you have homophobia is not politically correct these days. Everything is pointing to how the gay community is a persecuted minority. The Wikipedia defines homophobia as the irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. It can also mean hatred, hostility, or disapproval of homosexual people, sexual behavior, or cultures, and is generally used to insinuate bigotry. The term homophobic means “prejudiced against homosexual people,” and a person who is homophobic is a homophobe. When the gay community gives reasons for the irrational hatred of homophobes, they never include, that as a child you might have been kidnapped or raped by a homosexual. I don’t quite get how it is irrational to fear homosexuals after an incident like that as a child.

When I was around five and a half, I went up to the municipal tennis courts with my father and one of his friends. Getting to go anywhere other than the house I lived in, or the motel my grandparent’s owned was always something I would plead, beg, grovel, or whatever would work to get taken along. On my Dad’s tennis outings, I got to be the ball boy, like on TV. I was thrilled to do it, and my Dad didn’t mind the fact he didn’t have to chase the stray balls. Florida is sunny and hot, and pop made sure I drank lots of water, so I didn’t get dehydrated. Little boys plus lots of water equals frequent bathroom trips.

Right in-between the tennis courts was a community center. This wasn’t my first trip up to the tennis courts, so I knew right where the bathrooms were. I needed to go, and told my father I was a big boy and could go myself. I was pretty sure I had the mechanics down by know. Stand in front of the toilet, unzip the pants BEFORE going to the bathroom, not after, zip up the pants, wash my hands, and consider the mission successfully accomplished. My father made sure I felt okay doing it alone, and I assured him I was. In hindsight he shouldn’t have let me, but how do you know the exact date, time and age that it is okay?

When I got to the bathroom, there was a man there washing his hands and asked if I needed any help. I told him no and went about my mission. He continued to wait, which made me kind of uneasy. As I was washing my hands he complimented me on being a big boy and remembering to wash my hands. He asked where my father was. At this point, I knew something was probably wrong. So he would be afraid, I told him my father was right next door, and was on his way over here. The stranger said he would walk me back over to my father. He could have been well meaning up to this point, but on the way out he stopped by the round penny gum machines and asked if I wanted some gum?

At this point, I knew this was the exact scenario my father had warned me about. I tried to remember everything he told me to do if this happened. Back in the 1950’s there weren’t as many techniques taught to the public. I just knew that I wanted to get back to my father, and fast. The stranger was a full grown man, and I knew that I couldn’t outrun him all the way out of the building and the distance to the tennis court. So I just started walking as if I didn’t suspect anything. The stranger offered to hold my hand, but I refused and walked just a step or two in front of him. Just as we were about to reach the door in the chain link fence that opened into the tennis court he asked if I wanted to go for a ride? I had the presence of mind to ask what kind of car he had, knowing he would probably answer that question. He pointed across the street to the Robin Hood motel and said the blank color, blank car was his. The blanks are because I don’t remember the car or the color, but I tried to read the license plate so I could give my father or the police the number. Even before first grade I knew my letters and numbers.

So that I wouldn’t alert him that I was onto him, I said, “I’ll have to ask my father.” and I started for the door in the fence. He grabbed me by the arm and started to drag me across the street. At that exact moment my father came through that door, saw what was happening, and started to yell at the man. The stranger dropped me in the middle of A1A, and a saw a car heading my way. As I was about to start scrambling to my feet, I was lifted into the air by my father and he took me back to the sidewalk. I don’t remember if the police were called or not, but the tennis game stopped immediately and we went home.

This tennis court like most had the green canvas all the way around the fence, and probably on the door too. My father couldn’t have seen me, or what was going on. I hadn’t yelled yet, and I couldn’t figure out how he knew to come save me. He said that I had just been gone too long, but I think that parents have a little ESP radar when it comes to their kids. He denies ESP, but even at age 50, I’ll still subscribe to the idea of it.

What this stranger had in mind, was probably along the lines of what had happened to me around a year earlier. The neighbor boy who must have been around twelve or thirteen waned to play “naked army”. I played army many a time in the vacant lot next to our house, and have never heard of such a thing, but most of the time older kids didn’t play with an only child like me. He did manage to get me to pull down my pants, but when I felt both of his hands on my hips and him touching me from behind, I ran crying into the house. The neighbor boy didn’t manage to seal the deal, but it was close enough that I remember every second of the experience to this day.

I will readily admit I am a homophobe. Do you blame me? For the rest of my life if a man made a pass at me, I would tell him in the strongest terms that I don’t go that way. Some continued to press the matter and would try putting their hands on me. This would bring me to anger instantly. I never hit one of them, but when I pulled my arm back, they saw something in my eyes that convinced them I wasn’t kidding, and they left. I’ve even had some very close male homosexual friends over the years, but they knew never to touch me in a sexual way.  Most guys are turned on my women making out together.  For me, it was time to change the channel.

I realize that not all homosexuals are child molesters. Neither are all heterosexual males child molesters of little girls, but as a society, we tend to react first and ask questions later in both cases. When those men touched me as a child, it didn’t seem right.  It did make me feel sick inside, it was disgusting and I don’t feel my fear of homosexuals is irrational at all. They often give the reason for homophobia as, fear that you are a homosexual yourself. That is not true in my case.

I cannot support gay marriage. I don’t feel there should be special laws to protect homosexuals. I don’t understand why that struggle is important.  Holy matrimony and marriage are concepts of the church.  The church denounces homosexuality.  Why do you want to be members of a society that forbids your form of physical expression of love.

I didn’t live my life as a victim. I didn’t use these two incidents to explain away any negative behavior I had growing up. Fact is that there wasn’t that much negative behavior at all. I am not trying to teach hate or intolerance.  I do believe that it is not a matter of choice for those who have different sexual tendencies.  I don’t think they can be retrained to think a different way.  I am saying that being subjected to unwanted advances made me physically uncomfortable.  I am trying to say that homophobia in not always an IRRATIONAL fear of homosexuals.

Postscript June 13th, 2016: Yesterday there was the deadliest mass shooting by a single person in the U.S. history.  It was 45 miles away from where I live.  It was at a bar often frequented by members of the gay community, in Orlando.   Like all rational people, I was both shocked and horrified.  I have never struck another person male or female, gay or straight.  I don’t believe in violence.  This detailed experience I wrote ten years ago, could be easily misconstrued in this environment of sorrow.  The easiest solution would be to delete it.  But I still think it needs to be said that because of a couple of very bad experiences, even as an adult I got frightened when a man made a pass at me.

My prayers go out to the victims and the family of the victims of the horrible shooting in Orlando.  Truly.

Shower Phobia

showerphobia1280For Marion, it started when she was five years old. Her parents were out on the town, for some grown-up time, and her babysitter had her boyfriend over. Marion was left to her own devices watching TV in the upstairs family room. The babysitter had put on a Disney VCR tape, but left the remote with Marion. This was in the days before the V-chip which limited what kids could watch, and as fate would have it that night, she ended up watching Alfred Hitchcock’s original masterpiece, Psycho.

It was originally made in black and white, and the TV broadcast was in black and white as well. But Marion remembers it in vivid color. Especially the shower scene, with all the red blood flowing down the drain. The thing that made little Marion stop on the channel to begin with, was the name of the main character in the beginning. She and the woman in the movie had the same name.

She didn’t remember anything of the movie after the shower scene. The only thing she remembers is her parents finding her in an upstairs closet, whimpering under a pile of clothes. Apparently the babysitter had tried to find her earlier. Failing to find her, she called Marion’s parents. Needless to say, that babysitter was never hired again. If her parent’s had known how much the lifelong counseling would have cost, they might have even sued her parents.

Janet Leigh, who played Marion in the movie, after seeing it would only take showers when she absolutely had to. Even then she would check to make sure every door and window was locked and then she would leave the bathroom door open. No longer little Marion, did the same thing. She was successful after college and a concession she made when buying her first condo, was to have a bathroom with a window into the living room, and no place for a shower curtain to hang.

In growing up, she never watched another showing for the original 1960 Psycho or any of the sequels. In fact she couldn’t watch any movie or TV show with Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates. A few cruel schoolmates made fun of Marion’s phobia by mimicking the screeching violins and making stabbing motions with their hands. She was reduced to tears and whimpering almost immediately. None of those schoolmates ever became her friend, and with enough people visiting the principal’s office the drama stopped.

As she grew older, she read about the movie as part of the therapy to overcome its effect on her. She knew the blood was actually chocolate syrup. The shower scene that replayed forever in her mind was only two minutes long in reality. The stabbing and blood seemed so predominant, but there were only three frames that showed any knife penetration at all. Even those three frames show the knife only going in about an eighth of an inch, with no blood coming out. It was more of a subliminal hint of the carnage.

Now that a man was attacking her in the bathroom. One she did not see through her carefully placed window into the living room. A man who was obviously male and not dressed up as Norman Bate’s mother, all she could do is think of movie trivia. She noted the curvy knife he wielded was more like a sacrificial knife than the kitchen knife of the movie. He mind refused to believe this was really happening. It must be a cruel joke and the knife will be made of rubber. She didn’t recognize the man, but he’s surely an actor, and the hidden cameras will be brought out after they say she’d been Punk’d.

But the knife went in. She felt the pain and froze. She couldn’t react. She couldn’t protect herself. She started to whimper as the man rose the knife to strike a second time. She felt like she was falling down a tunnel and the light of the bathroom was getting farther and farther away. Her fear of the movie wasn’t unreasoning. Somehow at five, she must have known how she was destined to die.

Hooking Up

hookingup1280Celeste felt a rush of adrenaline, and Matt’s train of thought took another unexpected turn and started picking up speed. She loved intelligent men. Especially ones who were tall and slender like Matt. She was desperate to take some scissors to that mop of blonde hair, and create some order out of chaos, but it was too early for negative comments. There were enough positive things, she was curious why her mind even brought the subject up for air. She could follow and interact with Matt’s conversation, and still ponder all these other feelings she had. The thought of a roller coaster entered her mind as their conversation took yet another turn, and her goose pimples got goose pimples.

They had just met earlier in the day. He was a sophomore, and she was a freshman, at the prestigious Yale University. They met here in the first semester going into their coed dormitory. For a University that used to be so straight laced, now it is a requirement for freshmen and sophomores to live in the coed dorms, unless they are married or over age twenty-one. Most of the dorms have communal bathrooms and showers. Some have floors segregated by sex, but you often find guys living on the girls floors and vice versa. Those who complain or don’t get with the program become “sexiles”. The Yalexicon still has the “walk of shame” as being in rumpled evening wear, walking to your dorm from someone else’s room early in the morning. It lists “couch duty” as being forced to sleep on the couch in one of the common rooms because your roommate and their companion want some sack time without an audience.

Celeste came from a small midwest town, and even though she wasn’t a virgin, this sexually relaxed environment caught her off guard. Her father nearly went ballistic when he found out about the forced coed dorm situation, but the school was sticking to the rule. The only thing he could have done was to quit his job, and move the whole family to the New Haven area, so she could live at home there and attend Yale. So he extracted promises from her, they both knew she’d never keep, so he would at least feel he’d done his fatherly duty.

“Hooking up” was rampant on almost every college and university campus. To girls the term referred to everything from kissing and making out to sex, but for the guys it almost always meant at least oral sex. Each year in America from five to seven percent of sexual partners are pick-ups, one night stands, or prostitutes according to a 2006 survey by the National Science Foundation. Whereas college students in the neighborhood of seventy percent have engaged in casual sexual intercourse with someone who they were not romantically involved with. In many cases the students say that they aren’t sure of what their long term plans are with their life, and don’t want committed relationships that would interfere with their studies or career plans. This isn’t a male driven phenomenon. The women are just as likely to initiate the “hook up” as they guys are.

Celeste’s mind wandered back from this analytical view to the tune Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band. It was more from her mother’s generation than hers, but it was the first song she realized was talking openly about sex when she turned thirteen. It was sort of the first glimpse into this totally different world the grown-ups lived in that was interwoven with the world of stuffed animals and Disney movies that she was leaving. She smiled a little wider, because she realized all the signals her mind and body were sending, meant that someone was going to get lucky this afternoon. Although they were drinking wine, she had not even finished one glass yet. She was just impressed that Matt offered her that instead of beer.

Her mind wandered back to the fact that five Orthodox Jewish students at Yale, challenged the forced coed rule as religious discrimination in a U.S. District Court. The judge dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs could have opted to attend a different college or university if they were not satisfied with Yale’s housing policy.

She stood up and wordlessly took Matt’s hand and started walking. You could hear her softly say, “Viva la coed dorms!”

Bonbon

bonbon1280It was my father’s third marriage on April 1st, in the year 2000. No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. It really happened. Bonnie or as we more often called her Bonbon, was my date to my father’s wedding. I was the best man. The ceremony and reception were on the beach, so we are all there in tuxedoes, evening gowns, and bare feet, but that is a different story all together. Lets go back in time, and start at the beginning.

It must have been around 1983 or 1984 that I met the charismatic Bonbon. She was the “shooter girl” in an upscale night club. A shooter girl goes around with what are basically test tubes with shots or mixed drinks in them and sell them to the patrons of the bar. The first thing that caught my eye, was she had really thick hair that was past her waist. I’ve always been a sucker for long hair, and she had some of the most beautiful I’d ever seen. She had a bubbly personality, that you could see from a distance. She was a performer and you could see the crowd react to her like the water parting for a boat passing through it. When she made it over to my table, it almost took my breath away. She was wearing a rather skimpy bikini, boots, a holster with a bottle of mixed drinks in it, legs that went on forever, and a smile that would melt the polar ice caps.

Thinking back, it might have been my birthday, because she kept coming back and giving me shots for free and sitting at my table talking. I found out that she was a bartender at another bar in town and this was just an evening gig for some extra money. So she invited me to stop by where she was bartending some time. Needless to say, I made it a point to go by there very soon after our meeting. When I arrived, I was met with a big hug usually saved for long lost friends who haven’t seen each other for years. I didn’t mind. I stayed most of the evening, just chatting. I found that she had a son who was two and lived with her son’s father. Oh well, I thought, all the good ones are taken. But I continued to be a regular patron of whatever establishment she was working at.

We got to be close friends. Going for lunches, and hanging out from time to time. She threw me a birthday party each year thereafter. She always made me feel special. I was certainly no hunk or popular trend setter, so I couldn’t understand how we got so close. She was one of those who would truly stop traffic or turn every head as she entered a room. When the races came around she would inevitably be a promoter for one national brand or another. They would even send her to other cities for events. Her star certainly seemed to be rising.

She started working out in the local gym, and took what was an incredible body and sculpted it into perfection. In fact it almost became a caricature. She didn’t have classically beautiful features of the face, but her personality and body more than compensated for it. She had always been so down to Earth. Kind and considerate to everyone in almost every circumstance. She did end up marrying the father of her child. She ask me to be a photographer, and I agreed to, even though it would be hard. I was smitten with her. One of the strangest things was during her vows, I had the camera up and in telephoto mode for a close up, when she turned and spotted me she winked. I was totally stumped. I later asked her about it, and she said she didn’t remember doing it.

The marriage only lasted a year. My hopes rose that our relationship might move to the next level. My father and I visited London, Salzburg Austria, and the length of Italy. For me it was a pilgrimage of prayers and rituals. Starting with lighting a candle for her in Notre Dame, to touching the back of the dog on the door of the chapel of Pisa. For those of you who don’t know, the leaning tower of Pisa is just the bell tower for the chapel and they had a baptistery for the unsaved. I wanted Bonnie for my wife and promised God almost anything and everything, if it came to pass. That was back in 1993.

When I came back, we spent more time together but it certainly wasn’t heading quickly down the path I had prayed for. Then she got discovered by a Hollywood producer in 1996 and ended up with a bit part in Jingle All The Way with Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her bit part didn’t make it into the movie, but I think it was on the deleted scenes section of the DVD. In fact the studio or the producer paid for a boob job for her to do the scene. When she came back, she still was always warm with me, but I noticed a change in her. For several months we would do a wine tasting and dinner every two or three weeks, and actually started getting affectionate.

I had never forgotten my pilgrimage, but the person I fell for then wasn’t as down to Earth, and her dreams involved marrying someone rich and someone who worked out as much as her. I did not fit either of those bills. Bill France Sr. was the founder of NASCAR and the architect behind the building of the Daytona Beach International Speedway. His son was Bill France Jr., who was around our age. She didn’t get involved with France Jr., but it was a cousin, or some other close family member. So I backed way off and let her explore that lifestyle. We might get together for lunch, but it was very seldom.

Years later, I did join a gym and she had been working out so much for competitions, that she had become a professional trainer. She never went for those really muscular competitions. It was more just a perfectly sculpted feminine look. She worked up a series of machines to work on, and showed me how to do each one. Then there was the obligatory, “You can do three more and then quit.” When that three was done there was another three waiting. I didn’t work one of the machines correctly, and ended up hurting myself after only a couple of months of working out. So that put a quick end to gym experience.

I did find out that in the evenings she was a waitress at an elite little steak house with a live piano player. I started taking my dates there and loved the place. The food was outstanding, the piano player great, and Bonnie introduced me to the owner who always seemed to have a new brand of wine he would want me and my date to try. It was around this time that my father had decided to get remarried and asked me to be his best man. I had met his bride to be, but the wedding would be the first time that I would meet a lot of her family. I wanted to have an impressive date, so I asked Bonbon if she would accompany me. It was out of town, and a two or three day stay at the Hotel where the reception would take place. To my surprise, she said yes.

We had grown apart over all of these years, and the conversations didn’t come as easily. On the three or four hour drive to the hotel, she talked more about her life, her dreams, and what she wanted out of the future. It seemed even more shallow than just a year or two earlier. It saddened me in a very deep way. As we got closer to our destination, she was kidding about what type of house we would live in. Or I thought she was kidding, anyway. My half sister, her husband, Bonbon and I were to share a two bedroom townhouse when we arrived. The bedroom had two double beds, so there wouldn’t be any awkward moments about sleeping arrangements.

We did lots of celebrating, and she was stunning. The bride to be’s sons were suitably impressed, and my sister and Bonbon hit it off famously. When we were in the townhouse, Bonbon found one reason or another to be completely naked and have to come get me. Whether it was for help in the bathroom, or some other made up excuse, I saw more of Bonbon than I ever had before. In looking back, and as I even knew then she was giving me one opportunity after another to take it to the next level. I chose not to do so.

I had been so smitten with her for so many years, and gone through my journey of sacred sites in Europe praying for her love. But the person who was naked here before me wasn’t that woman. She had the same body, but not the same soul. Or I may have just been so insecure that I couldn’t deal with being with someone so popular. It might have been that I listened to what she said she wanted, rather than read the signals she was sending me then. I might have been making up signals that I thought she was sending, when that wasn’t at all what she intended. Maybe we had just grown so far apart the distance was to great to traverse. I never did make my play for her.

The day we were leaving, my sister and her husband had already left for an earlier flight. Bonbon came out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel on her head. I was in the living room, and when I saw the light coming through the venetian blinds following the curves of her body, I just yelled, “Hold that pose!” It was like the shots I had seen in galleries and photo books, where the light was perfect. I got my digital camera and took a shot of her standing and holding the chair, with her head turned away from the camera. The next was lying on the floor like the image above. I took four photos, when I realized there were no more shots left on the digital camera. I wanted to take more pictures, but I couldn’t get rid of photos from my father’s wedding. So we stopped.

A month or so later, she came by to get copies of the photos. They were tasteful, and she certainly wasn’t shy about her body. I saw her once or twice after that, but it was mainly just a hello in passing.

The Way Station

thewaystation1280The white clapboard house sets on flat ground. There are no trees, shrubs, or even flowers anywhere in sight. It is always daytime, but you can’t see a discernable sun in the sky. A porch winds all the way around the house, so there are plenty of places to sit and walk. There are other people walking around, but no one seems interested in anyone but the person they are paired up with. The style of clothes being worn, looks like a giant hand plucked people out of different times. Some people are inside of the house, and others walk around on the flat perfect lawn. There is no sound other than the low hum of voices. There is no music and no sound of traffic or planes.

If you’ve been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I personally have never met someone who has been there more than once in the early part of their life, but I’m certainly not saying that it is impossible. Sometimes in the end, people go there and stay.

This is the way station between the living and the dead. It isn’t the one that everybody goes in their mind right after the death of a close friend or family member. This is the one that comes unexpectedly. Years after they died, and when you thought you had moved on. Of those I know who have been there, it was usually at a time of stress. When there was something big in their life, and they needed the specific advice, input or feedback that only this dead person could give.

Some might say this place is just your mind that you make up when you are solving a problem. Your mind plays both parts in the play. Your mind is asking the questions and answering the way you think this deceased person might answer. But stop and ask yourself, why is the feeling so overwhelming. You hear and see the others there, but connection between you and the lost soul is like a bubble the filters out everything else. It filters out the details of the way station as well, but it traps the feelings of connection. Where your conscious mind was forgetting the exact image of their face, or the lilt in their voice, this time it is in perfect focus. As much as you are wanting to share the stressful situation, you instead just drink in all the details that you have forgotten over the years.

I took care of my Grandmother when she was dying of Alzheimer’s, and towards the end she was there more than in this realm. You might say it is just a trick of her failing mind, and maybe it is. It might be that the insanity brought on by a death that someone can’t handle, turns this place into the Hotel California, where you can check out, but you can never leave. This is where they can’t come clear back to this world of living, and you can’t go entirely to their world without dying. It is somewhere in-between.

I’m dying of a neurological disease with no cure, or maybe I’m just losing the will to stay alive in so much constant pain. At the age of fifty-one, I’ve outlived all my lifelong friends. When you go through life, you are lucky if you make a handful of friends that you keep your whole life. We have many acquaintances, but few true friends. In my case, their deaths were by various means and for various reasons and I do miss them all. I’m not at the point where I see them often, or for that matter, at all. The only time I’ve been there, was to see my Grandmother. I’m glad that she cloud of Alzheimer’s confusion had vanished, and she was clear in her thoughts and actions.

If any of these little “Tales from the Technowomb” have touched you in some way, and you’d like to come talk to me. I’ll check into the way station often, and you can come tell me your story. I’ll be there soon, and I’m looking forward to meeting you.