Archive for March, 2009

There is a place within the heart of consciousness where the soul escapes in times of fear. This castle on a hill is fortified by the cliffs of doubt upon which it was built.

Accessible only through the left side of our thought process where creativity subsides, this unlimited space of peace is rarely stumbled upon by those who climb mountains. Most homes will be foreclosed upon, others remain forever without life within them, yet here I am in mine.

Rationality is forbidden in here, for without a sense of worry, nothing makes sense. Windows are without glass, for this place is never cold, windy or damp.

It is the stilling of the mind that carries one down the path within. Casting doubt, putting away fear and entering the stillness of nothingness leads to a golden door that one must simply knock upon with pure faith to enter.

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A waitress at Miller’s Diner collected table scraps for my dogs, Brandy and Dusty. The yellow bus that dropped me off from school stopped directly in front of the restaurant that invented the fried onion blossom.

With a red geomerty book tucked at ninety degrees under my armpit, I ran inside the restaurant to grab at least two large coffee cans stuffed with ham bones, gravy, mashed potatoes, and other succulent morsels scraped from unfinished plates.

Any normal dog would enjoy a life filled with daily feasts, fresh from the tables of many masters, but Brandy and Dusty turned their noses up at the food from Millers.

Bits of hoagie sandwiches were sniffed at or buried alongside the many bones in the earth around Brandy and Dusty’s dog boxes. The waitress, Dotty Smith who gathered the table scraps and placed them in coffee cans did not separate food that dogs like from items like carrots, peas and beets. She always seemed peeved with me and the cans.

My step- father worked out a deal with the owner of Miller’s Diner in exchange for the dog food. He agreed that his step-children would shovel the parking lot of Miller’s Diner when it snowed. It was Dotty’s job to put the leftovers in cans everyday. It was mine to carry them across the street to our dogs.

“Hi Dotty.”

“Hello. I just mopped the floor. Hold on, I’ll get it for you,” she protested, sucking her teeth at me.

“Thanks Dotty. Hey listen, I’m selling candy for the high school band.”

“My grandson Chris is in the band. I’ll buy from him,” she snapped, handing me the cans that served momentarily as a steel bra.

“Just so you know, they’re a buck a piece. Thanks anyway. I’ll see ya later.”

I was obligated to toss out the food the dogs would not like, and often, just having come home from school with a growling belly and algebra to do, I’d pick over odds and ends inside the coffee cans– pieces of food that were not touched at all. I was a kid who loved vegetables. Pieces of red cabbage were a favorite until the day I pierced the roof of my mouth with what was a tie for a loaf of bread that Dotty had nearly killed me with.

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Rains in Fargo

Spring floods worried Bill and Liz until they were sick. In times when warm, moist air masses blowing out of the South collided with the North flow of the Juniata River, disaster seemed imminent. Bill stayed up all night when it rained, sipping cups of Maxwell House, sneaking beers and smoking cigarettes to ease the burden of river fear.

Bill, in an insulated shirt and two pairs of long-johns watched with the window in the kitchen open as the river rose like an overflowing toilet. He guarded with a flashlight and judged the creek’s course based on the distance of the fling of his smoked Camel butts . If things got too bad, there was not much they could do but run upstairs and wait. The passing river ice and trees in the yard were like watching a train wreck.

The home in which they lived for more than thirty years was a wooden, two-story dwelling– taller than it was at the base, but with a good foundation. The house on numerous occasions was shaken to its beams by several hydriodic floods that gushed through the Petersburg yard, wearing away the many layers of enamel paint that insulted the structure.

Spewing Spring floods had eaten entire woodpiles that Bill had carefully chopped and stacked against the house. The losses made him sick.

A charcoal barbeque grill with near-edible pieces of day- old chicken skin still clinging to embers of doused lumps of coal floated like a marshmallow raft atop the dirt-brown flood water. The boat of picnic slowly made its way onto the front porch like a carcass dragged in by the cat, although the river itself was not an animal.

The charcoal grill was kept far down the yard near horseshoe pits. Cluttered around it were piles of beer cans and bottles that vanished when the time was right, as did charcoal grills, or gardens planted in hopes of dryer seasons.

The floods were fierce, but the house that lasted those floods for almost a century is as whole as the woman Liz who still lives there and takes pity on those in Fargo.

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Peace has come onto me. It seems seven years of major depression has lifted. Although I should be contemplating suicide right now, the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. I thirst for life in these times of economic ruin. Smiles cross my face out of nowhere for no apparent reason– involuntary stretches of the lips at the thought of little things.

Bulbs in city gardens erupt from dark winter soil like the joy in me. Early varieties of forsythia shine with the fragrance of morning sun. To the left and to the right, they grow and glow like q-tips pulled from waxy ears.

As birds sing secret songs that only I remember, my shadow struts a step ahead along uneven sidewalks that are forged as mountains by thick roots of maple trees.

Dancing in morning rays upon unpruned bushes, my shadow slaps me five in the dew of dawn.

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It was not my intention to shed demons into the mind my psychiatrist, but having learned to cast darkness from my own psyche during times of heightened stress, and wanting to demonstrate the reality of my enslavement to an invisible, evil force all around me, I released one from my ear while in a small, windowless office in downtown Manhattan while my shrink listened halfheartedly to me complain of a severe pain that wrecked me from the inside–

“I hurt so bad,” I said. “For God’s sake is this the modern world or what? The medicines are not erasing the pain. Perhaps I have syphilis and my mind is rotting. I can’t take anymore pills and what do you mean, I’ll have to take these for the rest of my life?”

“We can only control your illness, not cure you, Mr. Taylor.”

“Illness? But this came out of the blue– out of nowhere– it came from two Mormon guys that I met on the Upper West Side. It was hot outside. I needed rest and water for I had been preaching. I happened to walk past a pretty limestone building the moment I noticed a rainbow over Central Park. I took it as a sign and turned towards cool air blowing from inside the chapel. There was a sign on the door that invited me, and all guests inside. It was the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and at the time, I thought perhaps I was on the path to sainthood so I went inside and it was then that I invited them to my house for further instruction. Don’t get me wrong, doctor, I was not interested in what Joseph Smith had to say– the men were hot if you know what I mean– attractive in the biblical sense. They came to Brooklyn the next day and dropped off one of their bibles and from that moment, my thoughts wouldn’t stop. Did you know that Joseph Smith found the Mormon bible in the woods?”

“I am not going to prescribe anything that you will become addicted to. I will give you one more refill on Xanax, but this is it and you have to promise to give lithium a try.”

I rubbed my earlobe, pretending that it itched while she wrote a prescription for both lithium and Xanax.

After she handed me both prescriptions, I noticed the refill for Xanax was for 120 pills, unlike the 30 she had issued the month before, but I didn’t say a word and quickly folded the paper before she had the opportunity to recall her error.

If it had any say in the matter and if I were not required to obey rules of the dark arts, I would have permitted her to suffer through all of eternity, but I decided to give the lithium pills a try and return to an appointment the next month.

I arrived at St. Vincent’s Hospital twenty minutes prior to my appointment. I felt that being prompt would demonstrate that indeed I was not the schizophrenic once assumed, nor was I bi-polar as Dr. Travis had feared, months before. A clock in the waiting room ticked slowly. The sound of the second hand could be heard above the chatter of those in the waiting room near me. I noticed a slight variation to the rhythm of the clock each time the thin hand passed twenty-past the hour. Dr. Travis had yet to call for me and already, we were fifteen minutes past our scheduled appointment time.

Just as I was about to inform the receptionist that I was leaving, Dr. Travis, with her short bobbed hair cut unevenly entered the waiting room carrying two large shopping bags from Bed, Bath and Beyond. She noticed me immediately and asked what I was doing there that day.

“I have an appointment,” I explained.

“No, not today,” she insisted in traditional, snobby, Jewish mind doctor fashion.

“I have the appointment card you wrote for me.” I quickly pulled the card from my jeans and showed it to her. She was embarrassed in front of the loons in the bin and insisted that I come with her that moment.

After she placed her bags beneath her desk she asked if there was much improvement.

“No, not much but at least I no longer burn out light bulbs in my house. I was going through four bulbs a week since leaving Trinitas Hospital, but it has stopped. I think it was the lithium and I thank you for that,” I said.

“Any side-effects?” She asked.

“Yes– I spent two nights on the bathroom floor unable to lift my head to the commode to puke, but overall I believe, Dr. Travis, that you have exorcized my Morman demons. The sad news for Glaxco Smith Kline is that I stopped taking the lithium. I gained more than forty pounds this month. My God, look how fat I am! This just can’t be!”

“We can try adjusting the dosage,” she said in a rather cheerful manner as she prepared to write another prescription without asking any additional questions relating to my mental health status–

“I’m done with you,” I said, as if she were my wife whom I had caught cheating. “You don’t listen to anything I say to you. But before I go, I want you to place the following comment in my record because I want my opinion to be vividly clear so that forty years from now, when we are all dead and gone, at least I had my say– I had a religious experience. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less, Dr. Travis… a religious experience. Got that, princess?”

At that very moment, a light bulb in a small lamp in her office popped. She nearly jumped into my loving arms that very moment. She quickly flicked on the overhead florescent lights above as I stood up to exit.

“If I were you, I’d get a new lamp,” I said. “When that first happened to me, I made the mistake of simply replacing the bulb. Now look at me. Good-bye, Dr. Travis and thanks for taking this load from my mind and for all that Xanax!”

As I departed St. Vincent’s outpatient psychiatric center for the last time, the fire alarm went off behind me. Despite the sirens I could still hear the uneven pattern in the rhythm of the clock on the wall. I hoped that Dr. Travis took my advice by not replacing a bulb in a lamp that had been used to channel my demons. All I know for sure that it was not I who set off the alarm that day.

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A red-headed, fat queen who used craigslist to find sex subjects was murdered in Brooklyn earlier this week. Radio man George Weber bit off more than he could chew after luring a sixteen year- old boy into his Carol Gardens home, only to be stabbed in the neck more than fifty times by a teenager obsessed with hitting the reload button.

When news first broke in Brooklyn, before everyone realized the radio DJ was a child molester with a taste for spanish boys, character witnesses described Webber as a friendly guy, beloved in the hood–

“It’s a friendly neighborhood. Everyone loved George. He trusted and was kind to everyone. His back door was always unlocked,” a neighbor reported to the Times. “That’s probably how the murderer got inside without signs of forced entry,” a neighbor reported before the truth reared its ugly head.

The murder is tragic, yet unsurprising considering what one finds on craigslist.

In all likelihood, Weber sent out fake photographs of himself, promising an afternoon of skiing and sucking in South Brooklyn. The boy was probably terrified of what was waiting behind that unlocked back door in Carol Gardens.

Red pubic hair is enough to frighten anyone who has never seen it.

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Spitting Snow

Brooklyn had what the Old Farmer’s Almanac would consider an ‘onion snow’ this morning. Less than a dusting of frozen precipitation fell at dawn– a sign to anyone who gardens that it is almost too late to invest in cold weather crops, including radishes, beets and scallions which prefer a cool earth, even one covered in a blanket of snow.

Clusters of crystals have merged in the upper atmosphere forming large conglomerates of pollen-like flakes that blow in the breeze like dandelion episperm. The snowflakes are as large as Susan B. Anthony silver dollars. Wall Street investors who still have jobs could catch these on serpent-like split tongues on their way to work today.

Already the squall is fading. The brief storm was certainly the Northeast’s ‘onion snow’ of 2009.

In the blink of a spring morning, at the sight of winter’s last blast, this ‘onion snow’ brings tears to the eyes of a March lamb who goes out to taste the last drop winter before the season passes over.

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