Okay, son,
Since I’m not where you are
And telecommunications weren’t the right medium,
Let me put this out there for you to know.

You are entitled to nothing.
People with resources are entitled
To what those resources allow.
You have your own resources,
So go get what you can.

Stop bitching about others.
Stop waiting for someone to fix your problems.
Stop denying the opportunity to risk it all.
Go get what YOU can.

Burning anger leaves dirty smoke,
Your fires are fuming in the wrong place.
Your passion, your ideals, YOU
Are not someone else, YOU do not share their fate,
YOU are in control of what happens with YOU.

Put the ‘tude away,
Stop being jealous of the opportunities others have
And make your own destiny become a reality
Or don’t, just stop bitching about it.

For the energy you waste on others
Precludes you becoming the best you can be
Fame, fortune, enlightenment, or whatever.
Take your dirty ass fossil energy
And find a cleaner way.

Good or bad?
Career direction,
Rat race,
Get ahead,
Big house,
Big bills,
Crowded social card,

Eff all that.

Good or bad?
Comfortable with people I’m around.

True dat.

I’m old,
Not so much so
That I don’t have ambition,
But on this day
When the rumor got around
That I was being considered for a job
I would never interview for,
I got a burr,
One that was angry,
Potentially burning dirty,
Flaming across the fields of whatever plain
I work on,
And then I remembered,

Eff that.

That’s all I said,
Because the career thing
Is something I’m over,
Work is work, I’m as high as I want to be.
I’m more in touch with the base of my brain,
Wanting challenge, accepting things,
Not interested in other people’s perception
Of what humans are supposed to be,
Unless that means human,
Not artificially stimulated by this substance,
That possession, tradition, political affiliation.
I’d rather see what happens
On a long run,
Experience the gratification of expression
Through writing, or the peace during
A quiet meditation.

True dat.

I could barely look her way as she gummed her scrambled eggs and talked to no one. I was eleven and she was probably in her fifties. She was disheveled and wore a maroon overcoat. The booths on either side of her were empty, but the good old boys from the farms sat at the tables and paid her no attention as they sipped their coffee and talked the local gossip. I could not take my eyes off of her. I suppose my fascination was more ignorance than fear. As a kid, I had no experience with mental illness and I did not know how to act. Was she dangerous and someone I should fear? Little did I know.

The Revco was a dirty drug store. The lights were harsh, the tiles were worn, and the smell rich. Actually, the odor was more like old grease rather than moth balls, probably due to the small cafeteria in the back. It was there that we sat, she with her eggs and me with my awe.

“What are you looking at?” she asked spewing eggs with each syllable.

I could only look away. I was shocked that she spoke to me and startled that her tone was so loud. Strangely, no one looked her way. My coach, who was also like a big brother and mentor was paying for our food. He never turned to see what had happened.

“I asked you what you were looking at?”

“You, I guess. I’m sorry.

“Ah, whatever, everyone looks at me.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Hmmm, look at me, no teeth, crazy hair, and I am quite mad you know.” She winked. “Do I scare you?”
“Not really. Maybe a little.”

She laughed and dunked a piece of toast into her water and started gumming it like it was jerky. Her eating was gross, but she was not threatening. She was aware of her problems, but she also seemed to have a confidence that she knew more than others gave her credit for.

“You know that I know things,” she said.

“Like what?”

“I know when things are not right. I can feel them.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“It’s hard to explain. I just know. I think it’s part of my sickness.”

My coach sat down with the tray passing me a plate with pancakes and tough looking sausage patties. He also brought chocolate milk and a brownie. This was the kind of breakfast I could really enjoy. Today was going to be a slow day at the tennis courts. Brian worked at the courts for the recreation department and on weekends he would let me hang out at the courts. Sometimes he would give a lesson or meet up with someone to play a few sets. I would handle the business, which amounted to making sure the cash box was not stolen. He was sitting between the lady and me.

“Brian, can you slide over a little bit. I’m talking to that lady.”

He turned and looked at her. She had her head down and was mumbling to her plate. Neither of us could understand what she was saying, but she was more animated than she had been before. Now I was scared, more for her than of her. I got out of the booth and walked beside her.

“Are you okay?”

She looked up and shook her head like a dog trying to shake water off his face. Her eyes were dark and insistent. I knew something was wrong. One of the good old boys said, “Come here, son, get away from her. She’s having one of her crazy fits.” I didn’t leave. My coach did, though. He said something about orange juice and headed back to the cafeteria line.

“Are you okay?” I asked again.

She answered as if nothing was going on, “Something is not right. I only get like this when there is a problem. Who is this guy you are with?”

“He’s my baseball coach and he teaches me tennis.”

“Be careful.”

Brian was back and the lady started talking to a spoon. I sat down and started eating my breakfast. While I had no idea what she meant by “Be careful,” I did not enjoy the rest of my meal. I kept looking around Brian to check on the lady.

“Stop staring at her, it’s rude,” said Brian.

“I know, but she’s not crazy, crazy. I was talking to her and she said sometimes she sees things and then gets like this. She’s cool and then she’s not.”

“That’s what crazy is,” said Brian.

We finished eating and just sat hanging around. The old guys recognized Brian and asked him questions about his family. They had known his father for years and shared how proud Brian’s father was of him. Of course he was, Brian had been the high school quarterback and played tennis in college. Now he was a paramedic, working to earn his teaching certificate, and giving back to the community by coaching youth baseball and keeping me out of trouble.

At some point during their conversation I looked to the lady. She had stopped eating and was staring directly at me with a catatonic look. I was scared, not of her but of whatever she couldn’t say. Brian said goodbye to the good old boys and we started to leave. On the way out we saw a board game about tennis. Brian bought it in preparation for the slow day we were going to have at the courts. Nobody ever came out to play on cold, misty days.

We were just about to leave the store when the lady from the cafeteria fell to the ground. Brian, being a paramedic, ran to the back of the store and began to help her. The manager called Eastern State Hospital to have someone from the asylum return her to her room. I just watched. When the hospital attendants arrived, they helped her towards the door and I walked behind.

She turned and said, “Be careful.” Then she was helped into the van and driven away.

We worked that day, really we played the tennis board game all day. When it was time to go we put the game in the file cabinet and left. That was the last time I went to the tennis courts with Brian. He would be my coach for another six years, but as I got older, I went in a different direction. Ten years later, “The Goose,” the recreation guy for the city asked me to work the tennis courts one night. I was so bored that I looked everywhere for something to do. The board game was still in the file cabinet, worn, but all there. Maybe some things just survive.

The old lady from Revco was an angel sent to protect me, at least that is what I believe. She may have been mentally ill, but she was also gifted with an ability to know when something wasn’t right. She was harmless, but everyone saw her as crazy. Perhaps her truth was something most of us prefer to ignore. She knew there were bad people out there.

Brian was one of them. He was popular, handsome, but a local legend. His secrets would become a dangerous illness that would put him in a different sort of institution. He would betray the good old boys, his father, and from a distance, me. Brian would confirm that sicknesses hidden are often evil and that being somebody is really nothing at all when you do the things to people he did.

Hopefully, my toothless angel has found clarity wherever she is.

Photo Credit: Soyfeliz via wikicommons

The East River was open.
No security was near,
The UN was in some terrorist’s sights.

The bazooka shell never made it
Although it did cause a water spout
Some fifteen feet high.

Inside Che’ had been differentiating
Between revolutionaries and terrorists
With rhetoric more targeted than the weapon outside.

He spoke of responsibility,
Moral justification, and the
Romance of using violence for what is right.

His life was spared
By the faulty firing of a bazooka from some
Revolutionary, assassin, or terrorist.

Theoretically,  it depended upon
The trigger person’s
Constitutional makeup.

The next day security was beefed up
With patrol boats closing off the East River.

Photo Credit: stock.tookapic.com

That which seems so clear
May only be a mask
Hiding our blind spots.

Dr. Bach claimed the greatest
Of our mighty nation,
Except of course for the materialism.

He opined about the need
For teachers to be leaders
As weakness infiltrated our ethos.

“Technology and materialism,”
He said from his pulpit,
“Have outstripped our moral endurance.”

Turns out the learned man, Bach
Was living life as a professor
Out in the open spaces of Iowa.

His life was devoted to the understanding
Of religion and faith.
Did he think computers the Tower of Babble?

Was he worried of nuclear bombs,
Or radicalism in other faiths?
Maybe he just didn’t see past his manifest.

That which seems so clear
May only be a mask
Hiding our blind spots.

Recent events
Wash away at the foundation
Of all that is good
And I stand as a bystander watching with
Eyes that should be sending laser beams
But my chill is not from fear
Rather strength has brought the calm
A detached way of seeing
That the pride and purpose of righteousness
Only serves to stir negativity and disarray
In a life too short
The resistance I’ve developed
Against the grandiose extravaganza of ambitition
Has allowed me to see my success on my terms
Under the peacefulness of just being
I’m no longer surprised by others
The shock of tragedy expected
The failures of Man something so over reported
That few of Our miserable foibles rise
To a level I care about
I am who I am
Doing the best I can
And I feel good with that
I don’t need breaking news
To help me rationalize my relative worth
Against the rest of society
For I am my judge
An impartial arbiter of me
Able to recognize the flaws
And work out a plan to fix them
While peacefully celebrating my goodness too
It’s nice trudging along
In the positively complacent swamp
Just being with my family
While simply being me

These days where my mind waffles
Like the temperatures and combating seasons
I wonder what I must have been like at eighteen
Of course I’ve got my aunt
To remind me of what an ass I was
So it’s not too hard to put glue
To the mental puzzle pieces
I wish I could deny
Hanging with friends was cool
But hanging on my own was better
Never one for the big social events
Always more interested in the quirky,
Subdued scene

Today when my mind rests
Like the air outside
Before southern moisture
Slams into arctic dryness
I wonder how different I am at midlife
Now my aunt can’t say
But I know who I am
Solidly entrenched in my family
I cannot deny
Hanging with this clan
Without the draining faucet that is a crowd
Still interested am I in the quirky,
Subdued scene

So give me a snooty beer
Or language that is base without acidity
Give me tv shows with a specter
Keeping musicals far away
I’ll take my little house
That is a home
Over some cookie cutter mansion
That loses soul in its expanse
Let my car get me there
And if I have to manually roll the windows down
That’s okay
Because the effort feels good
Let the music play with variety
And if it happens that Elvis comes on with “Blue Christmas”
I can take it

Let my kids grow up
Without the pressure of sports leagues
Instead playing the games
For fun instead of the for the scholarship
As they should
Love the “playing”
And the scholarship will be the icing
In fact let my kids grow up
Comfortable in the situations that are in
Sure of who they are
Whether finding themselves surrounded by crowds
Or the solitude of family
Hopefully always
Subdued and quirky