Monthly Archives: April 2004

Mike Meets his Maker

I write this entry with the full knowledge that it is of no interest whatsoever to my reading audience. Feel free to ignore it as I post it here mostly for my own reference later.

Mike the Spike is a Dracaena Draco plant that I obtained sometime around 1990. At the time, he (I use the pronoun loosely) lived in a 4-inch plastic pot and stood about 10 inches high. As of the Sunday before this posting, Mike stood 6-feet 8 inches tall (taller than me mind you). Sadly, due to Mike’s recent habitat, he had become a very poor specimen who was badly in need of more outside exposure than I could give him without putting him out of the house. Knowing it was a choice between exposing him to the elements and letting him die a slow and horrible death in the relative darkness of the indoors, Mike was placed on the back patio to seek the sun and his own destiny. Sadly, the wind, the elements and no small help from gravity acted to bash most of the remaining vigor out of his ancient frame. Sadly, this is where the allegory begins. Mike had reached a sad crossroads. I couldn’t let Mike grow any taller since he would slowly deteriorate and eventually become too big to get out the door again. However, I had no way to curb Mike’s growth because of his linear construction. Any trimming would leave a long thin stump that might or might not produce new growth later. And so, the potentially fatal step had to be taken. It was time to either begin him on the journey into a new and robust life or into a slow spiral into decomposition. And so it was, in one fell swoop Mike lost 2 feet in height. Luckily for my sanity, my hope that Mike will find new life is not unfounded but as with anything biological there is always doubt. I have either euthanized my botanical friend or given him a hearty push into the rest of his life. It’s a pity that as a community we don’t have the heart to treat our own species with such compassion.

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In which we find out that Grandpa’s Dead but Mother’s Not

Last night dad called to sarcastically ask for a moment of silence for my maternal grandfather. Unbeknownst to me, grandpa had died 33 hours before and nobody had bothered to call and tell me. The average person would have been annoyed or put out but I consider this par for the course where my mother is concerned.

After observing a satirically short moment of silence for my grandfather, (Grandpa and dear old dad stopped getting along when gramps waved that gun in dad’s face.) I decided, with my wife’s help, to call to check up on my mother. No answer. A couple hours later, still no answer. Since mother is not one to do anything except wallow in her own misery either inside or outside of the house this was unusual. Playing detective, I called the funeral home in charge of the deceased, his former abode in the nursing home, (Have you ever noticed the types of places they call homes? Nobody ever comes back from a home of any sort.) and some random gentleman who has the same name as my uncle and lives in the same area but clearly, after much questioning, is not the party in question.

Fine. Knowing mother, she went to work. Let’s give the old workplace a call. After a bit of minor schmoozing, the lady on the other end of the phone informs me that not only is mother not at work but she also didn’t call in. For other people, that might be of no real concern. For this woman, however, if she doesn’t call in then it’s 90% likely that she’s adding yet another evil smell to the world.

The story so far: It’s been several hours and my generally homebound mother is not answering her phone and has apparently not been seen anywhere in town where she would be expected after such an event. No relatives are available and since she has attempted suicide once before it was clearly time to enlist the aid of a professional. Ten digits later and a representative from the Frankfort police force is on his way to find my mother’s corpse. A mere twenty minutes later we’ve heard nothing. At times like this, the content of the answer is much less important than actually obtaining an answer of some kind.

Tired of waiting, I once again phone the missing person and amazingly she answers. Her first words are to berate me for having called the cops on her. In many ways I can understand this sentiment. The second set of words are amusing and more typical, “Well, I’m not dead. You got a little too anxious, Mr Greedy.” Now I find myself stuck in an hour long conversation in which I’m again trying to convince this maternal maniac that I am *NOT* part of a conspiracy to kill her. Regardless of the outcome, I at least have the amusing mental picture of my mother popping out of bed like jack-in-the-box as a patrol officer shines his light into her window. That’ll teach her to answer her phone and the door when the trooper pounds on it.

Sadly, what has been overshadowed in this little drama is the person who actually did lose his life. Speaking with the healthcare worker at the nursing home where he spent his last days, we find that my mother had been removed from the contact list for this patient so she was not even called as it became obvious that death was no longer a stranger to my now deceased relative. That left grandpa at the mercy of my uncle for comfort in his final hours on Earth. Based on the somewhat tearful words of the lady at the nursing home, Mike didn’t respond with great alacrity to the first call so she personally had to sit at his bedside during his last night on this planet. She explained that he simply stated he was “Afraid to be alone.” I frankly don’t blame him for the sentiment but it’s shocking to think that this brute of a man who did so much to mentally scar his children should come to the point of begging for simple human comfort from the only resource left to him in his final hours. If nothing else, this teaches us just what is at the core of each and every person. No matter what callous or evil exterior the world sees, at the center of us all lives a tiny child who’s scared of the darkness under their bed or the light at the end of the tunnel to eternity.

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Books: New Grub Street – George Gissing

So I’m reading New Grub Street by George Gissing. This is a pleasant little narrative about the business of literature. Not the best known novel ever written but when your reading schedule is governed by random selection from a large library of classic novels you’re bound to hit upon a few obscure nuts from time to time. Anyway, discussion of the publishing industry made my Neural Gnomes tap away.

Before the internet, the average writer was doomed to anonymity due to the costs of publishing. Unless you were lucky, rich or exceptionally good your material simply didn’t get published. This is of course debated to a certain extent by those who hold most of literature (some people I’ve heard have even been known to criticize such masterful work as Moby Dick) to be naught but a widespread waste of words. We’ll pick fights with these people later.

In today’s world, as this entry and its cohorts demonstrate, any author no matter how puny of mind, content or vocabulary can castigate the masses with his or her random banter. Amusingly, the shear volume and availability of writings from every conceivable corner of the Earth has cast the average writer right back into the same cloud of anonymity. We’ve advanced in technology and technique but somehow ended up with the exact same problem we had before. We are at the mercy of some ruling authority whether it be the publishing house or the volume of work to be perused. I suppose I should just go randomly read a few dozen blogs as a way of spurning the officious intervention of this oversized internet thing.

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A few story ideas

First, a few story ideas before I forget.I’ve always had this fear of waking up in a hospital bed after having been in a coma. Specifically, I imagine myself waking up to find my wife standing over my hospital bed. Upon further questioning in my raved imagining, I find that it’s not in fact my wife but my 5-year-old daughter grown to adulthood. I’m sure this has been done as a story a dozen times or more but thinking about it sure scares the willies out of me.On a more pleasant note, I’ve always wanted to be able to trade consciousnesses with people I see on the street. This lends itself to a nice twilight zone type short story but one that I’m sure has been done a million times before. This has a special appeal to me since I remember spending much of my childhood wishing I could trades places with someone, anyone at all, just to cut short dullness of my pathetically sad existence.

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Who owns who?

As I sit here watching Fantasia for only the 3rd time with my 5-year-old I’m ironically reminded of the futility of possessions. Yeah, yeah. Those who know me with more intimacy than that transmitted by blog entries are sitting agog in their chairs at those words.

The 5-year-old in question did NOT want to watch Fantasia; instead she was dead set on watching Lion King 1 ½ which due to some unknown circumstance has made itself unavailable at the moment. Anyone who has a child this age knows that quickly the whole point of this child’s existence became the capture and interrogation of any individual who knew the whereabouts of her lost movie. Clearly, the child has gone from possessing the possessions to being possessed BY the possessions. As is often the case, this caused a particular set of neuro-gnomes (to be the subject of a later pictorial) to bang fervently away in a particular section of my brain.

Preliminarily, we need to determine the purpose of these moving picture things and other forms of art. One of the primary motives for consumption of the arts is the simple visceral reaction invoked by the artwork being consumed. Secondarily, the work acts to expand the general realm of experience for the viewer. Since humans are the sum of all that they see and hear in a lifetime, art makes us better and broader people no matter the format. This being the case, the greatest possible benefit is derived from any artwork at first encounter with subsequent repetitions being naught but further study on an already familiar concept. So now one might ask: what exactly is the purpose of accumulating a library of anything when clearly the true value of every item diminishes with each use? It would seem the only items worth actually owning are those that you wish to sincerely study and refer back to over a long period of time. Surely my 5-year-old can have no plans to study The Lion King in depth over the next 15 years and refer back to it in her doctorate thesis? Doubtful, so then why own any but the keenest and most worthwhile of items? Why spend one’s hard-earned monetary resources on items which depreciate in value and take up space causing you to need special furniture or a bigger house? Are we so materialistic as a people that the act of owning the possession is actually more important than its real value?

This is a tough pill to swallow for someone like myself who tends to approach his library like a collector rather than a reader. On one hand, my tendency to hoard makes me want the entirety of world literature at my fingertips. Rationally, I realize the sad truth that despite the moniker of “classic” many of the novels in my collection are, in fact, obscure and valueless crap. At least I feel I’m a step ahead of the people running garage sales piled with Danielle Steele paperbacks and the complete series of Rocky movies on Betamax.

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What *WOULD* Jesus Do?

What would Jesus Do…. Firstly, I’m always so amused by the fact that the religious crowd that subscribes to this worthy but vague mantra think they know so well what Jesus would do in a given situation. Who can say with any degree of accuracy what a man would have done over 2000 years ago? Despite the reams of “documentation” surrounding Jesus’ life, I can’t help but feel that the spirit and intent of these eye witness accounts has been lost through half a dozen translations and the passage of so many years.For now, let’s put aside the lack of hard data on this topic and concentrate on the intent. Many people say that all of religion boils down to the Golden Rule, so let’s use that simple mantra as our starting point in a few examples. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Mrs. Smith is cheating on her husband and the congregation at her church finds out about it. I can say with a high degree of certainty that Mrs. Smith’s indiscretion will cause a furor of conversation among all her acquaintances. Given the probable veracity of my proposition, let’s apply the popular What Would Jesus Do? question to this situation. I assert absolutely that the answer to this question is NOT “Jesus would gossip about Mrs. Smith to the Apostles.” In fact I’m hard pressed to come up with any situation for which the WWJD answer is to gossip about someone and yet gossip and scandal is common among all groups including religious ones.It has been proposed that religion is not so much a set or rules for its members to follow as a construct to allow the systematic dissolution of the guilt that results when a member steps outside the bounds of societal norms and expectations.

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Tattered Becomes an International Crime Syndicate Kingpin

Until very, very recently my mother (also known as the head lunatic) has been an annoying but tolerable pain in my expletive. Her random accusations that the entire town was attempting to put an end to her life was tiring at worst and amusing at best. Her constant paranoia was redundant, unfounded and entirely the product of a deranged mind. Clearly, her entire workplace was not part of a complicated scheme to ruin her life. Any logical person can see that her ex-husband was not driving past in a truck that he no longer owns. The neighbors were not spying on her and nobody had to poison her 15 year old dog to bring about its death. All well and good, harmless banter you may say. Indeed I would agree until I was recently implicated in this international crime ring dedicated to her ruination. I am simply amazed that this woman can have no self esteem whatsoever and simultaneously believe that so many people spend their valuable time harassing her and planning her destruction. In any case, I count this as final justification for disassociating myself from her and her idiotic ramblings. I leave this blog entry as the final memorial to the hysteria that is my mother.

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