The Fox

fennec-fox_523_600x450

I caught a fox in the farm truck. At least, I am pretty sure I did…

It’s a wet, dark night tonight. The clouds still hang fat and grey in the sky, though they seem to be done dumping water on us. The remnants of a Supermoon peek through the cracks. A drenching like this is rare and the toads sound thrilled. At times like this, the desert is peaceful and sated, with a medicinal creosote scent hanging in the warm damp air.

When I opened the driver’s door on the old Amigo (1995’s nicest bachelor wagon), a light went off and an animal shape lept to the alert. I remember the vague shape and the dark eyes in the moments it took me to gently relatch the door.

The frenzy of escape took over, and the creature began to run about the inside of the cab as if inside an egg in space. It hit each window squarely with the back legs, as if to burst forth, the chase brightly lit by flashes of the moon. The underbelly was brilliantly white and the canine paws comically dainty.

Suddenly, stillness. I had long enough to wonder what to do now, before I heard a scrambling, and the creature escaped through one of the Jeep-like holes in the back. As it escaped out the back, I lept to see if I could see it clearly, but it was a shape lost in the desert night.

I reflected on what seemed a good omen and wondered about what made it lucky. Until that moment, I had no idea that a fox was in the area. This is important news to a chicken farmer. I’ll have to rethink my security, which has grown lax. I have a jump on things, though, because I spotted the fox.

In the Shinto mythos, the Fox would be Inari, a lucky god and patron of farmers. The Hindu would say that it had brought me a message, perhaps of great change from Kali. The Japanese, themselves, believe that it could really go either way and the Chinese believe simply that it is a messenger of bad luck. The Japanese counter this with statues of Oinari’s Messenger, Kitsune, that stand guard against these other bad fox spirits.

In Feng Shui, this would be Kimon, warning me that my current path was perilous and fraught with danger. The Tibetans would warn that the color portends calamity.  

Or, perhaps, it is simply a rainy night and it is good to get in out of it, especially when your home is a burrow in the ground.

If it needs meaning, I’ll call it Kitsune, our only defense against the demon gate of the Northeast. That sounds better.

fox mask

Of course, it was probably just one of my barn cats, who look like ‘Morris the Cat’ from the old cat food commercials, but that wouldn’t have been as good a story.

Morris-the-Cat

_/*\_

—–

Further reading: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/oinari.shtml

The stunning mask was the work of this artist: https://www.etsy.com/listing/94972453/white-okami-kitsune-mask-japanese-fox

Advertisements

Suicide is Painless (The Sad Clown, Part 2)

mork-orson

A friend of mine posted a statement this morning, in reference to the article Being Suicidal: What It Feels Like to Want to Kill Yourself“, which said simply “Honestly, cannot comprehend.”

This was before the more vivid picture arose of Robin Williams’ passing. We were left with so many questions, but this is one I had experience with, and could answer with some authority.

The closest example I can give you, … , is that one time you were so tired that your chest aches. All you wanted to do was close your eyes, and the very act of being upright and awake seemed like a Sisyphean task.

In a suicidal depression, your heart hangs like a heavy weight and it is almost impossible to lift it off the floor. At that point, every error and failing comes swooping in like a vulture, and even stupid things gain a soul-crushing gravity. The errors and sins pile in, more and more, until the idea of laying it all down sounds so sweet and peaceful. The self-preservation mindset is overridden with the idea that killing yourself is not nearly as scary as facing tomorrow. There is a gasping relief in the idea that it is almost over, and a peace that it is all in your control. The act gains urgency as the realization settles in that it had always been in your power to end it and there was really no need to suffer as long as you have already.

That is the tipping point. Sometimes, it can be held at bay with goodbye letters as you struggle to explain why this course makes the most sense, and the unexpected return of a close friend or a well-timed phone call can make all the difference. Even then, though, the sirens’ song of self-destruction lures you back to the rocks and it takes continued, pointed resistance to stay focused on staying alive.

When you are self-destructive, killing yourself is the easy part. Staying distracted enough to keep going is an almost impossible task.”

His reply is typical as a normal person, with a genuine love of life, grapples with this issue. He compares it to the most awful thing he can remember, but finds a way to hit the nail on the head with the following statement “Maybe I haven’t been miserable enough for long enough…. Even with that, I knew that things would improve, or that, at the least, I could manage to tolerate them. If I couldn’t, who knows what I might miss out on…? You can always kill yourself tomorrow, and I’m a bit of a procrastinator anyway…

I don’t seem to have the psychic makeup to be suicidal, too much curiosity, maybe. I mulled it over when I was younger — don’t all teenagers at least mull it over at some point? — and dismissed it when it realized that what I _really_ wanted was to both be dead and somehow get to stick around and see just how put out by the whole thing everyone was.

That clearly is unfeasible.”

That’s when it came back to me. I was horribly suicidal for a long stretch of my young adulthood, but there was a point when I suddenly got it to stop. The stupidly simple epiphany that lead me out of that particular darkness, and I haven’t returned for 14 years.

That was when everything changed for me. A local evening radio show (back when they were still competing with Howard Stern’s all-day radio stuff) played a comedian with music in the background. He started off by stating all the really good reasons for killing yourself before shifting gears and listing everything you’d miss. “You know how the Beach Boys say ‘Two Girls for Every Boy?’ That means that there will be four for me. A job would open up. An Apartment. Yet, you won’t get to see what the next marshmallow for Lucky Charms would be.” His list went on and on until I was weeping with the need to see what was next.

I gave it up then. I realized that, if I was willing to make such a drastic change, a less drastic change was to simply change everything. I still made a lot of bad choices and felt a lot of pain, but goddamn it, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, because I was still alive. I packed a bag and walked out on life. I joined the carnival, of all things. Anything, just to get away from that life that nearly drove me to suicide. Sure, I still packed the biggest problem I had, which was me, but I learned to make peace with it.

You’re right. Curiosity is the perfect foil to suicide. Learning that depression is your psyche’s way of dealing with too many emotions at once is another.

I have spent 14 years searching the internet for that recording and I have never found it. I am starting to wonder if it even existed outside of my sad, dark little psychosis.”

The Professor has deep understanding. “Doesn’t matter. Clearly, it’s what you needed to hear at the time.

There have been times when I wished I could share it with someone else who needed it. It worked for me. I have become desperately, painfully alive, and I am going to live forever if I have anything to say about it.

… and that is one thing I can say is an “Absolute Truth.” I want to see where this thing goes. The world is full of awful and things seem at their absolute worst, but then something amazing happens, and you’ll want to be there for it.

From there, the best part is the sharing, as we spin the legends of our specific tribe. They grow in the telling as you realize that the listener is hooked so you had better make it good. Maybe I cannot make people laugh anymore, but I can still spin the lights of the universe and leave them in the dreams of children.

I had had a long dark winter that year. I had gone completely insane the year before, and I was having trouble putting that back together. I was writing goodbye letters and listening to the radio, every song a personal reminder of some failing. At the time, the evening show DJ’s were doing their best rip off of Howard Stern and played that piece I mentioned. The timing was perfect and I realized that I ran the risk of missing all the wonder that life promised.

I still lived a completely haywire life. I have been in fear for my life and have felt like the world was shitting on me and me alone. I have been the Atheist who prayed in the foxhole.  I have made awful decisions and left destruction in my wake as I burned bridges.

… but I never considered suicide again. When all is lost, suicide is a drastic change. It is less drastic to just drop everything and leave. If everything is lost, then everything can be changed.
robin rehab
What if Robin Williams had simply said, “Forget this,” and went to work at that Dairy Queen in Lindstrom, Minnesota? What do you think would have happened? I believe he would have been inundated with people who love him.  I can see people driving across the country just to meet him face to face. Shake his hand. Tell them how much he meant to them.

I would have been one of them. Without a father, I imprinted on Robin Williams, using him as the model for how I interacted with the world… and it worked. I did not find fame with it. I was not expected to always be the funny man, and did not alienate anyone when I couldn’t make them laugh anymore.

It was easier for me to walk away from who I was. I could find my way out of the darkness because there was no one demanding that I go back to retrieve any of it.

My wife is facing a second brain surgery for Geniculate Neuralgia, and my spinal bone spurs have to take a back seat until that is done. This leaves me in twisted pain as I try to find anything to make the pain stop. Sometimes I am left panting and weeping in misery, and I wonder if I am dying.

… but I can’t die yet. I have two daughters to give away if they decide to wed. Someone has to make sure to hold a shotgun and put the fear of the Godless into their Prom Dates. I have rediscovered old friends I had missed dearly and discovered new friends that fill my life with joy and love.

There is also my wife, who I first stood in the cold November rain for three hours with, just talking. She’s the cohort I always wished for, and the co-conspirator in so many good memories. We know each other’s humor and share each other’s dreams. I met her four years after I was going to kill myself. If I hadn’t heard that recording that night, we would have never made the connection that saved us both. We’ve broken each other’s hearts, and thought that all was lost, but as soon as we are together again, the bonfires blaze and we can’t stand to be away from each other, even for an hour, our heads bowed together as we snicker at the world that we hide from together.

I think Robin Williams felt that he had drifted away from too many of the people that he shared that with. In 2009, we heard that he was trying to reconnect with his first child from his first marriage. His failed TV show recently repaired him with Pam Dawber from the original series that launched his career. He was newly remarried, but so much of his life was behind a wall of pain and constant apology that he felt was impenetrable.

Why didn’t you just run off and have a crazy religious experience somewhere, Robin? Grow your beard out and become a rapper or wear a bag on your head and claim to be no one?

Just tell us that you quit, Robin. We would have preferred that to this.

So if this is some twisted version of the Celebrity-Protection-Program, when a star drops off of the map to hang out with Andy Kaufman, Tupac and Elvis, you win. My sappy farewell will be added to the clamoring and weeping that would make us all feel foolish if you poked your head up again to say, “Just Kidding,” but I deserve at least a post card one day, OK?

Otherwise, farewell Robin Williams. If there is more than this, I’ll look you up when I get there.
Robin_Williams_Canada

—–
To contribute to my wife’s second brain surgery, here is the link: http://www.gofundme.com/likeaholeinthehead

For The Sad Clown, part 1: https://grimmjest.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/the-sad-clown/

The Sad Clown

Mork calling Orson.... Come in Orson...

Mork calling Orson…. Come in Orson…

Robin Williams death hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. The trigger, of all things, was the local radio station playing Aerosmith’s ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady.’ I went from remembering Mrs. Doubtfire to weeping in my car.

It is an argument against sheltering your child.

Robin Williams was always quite open about his sheltered childhood. His parents were rich and doting, and kept him hidden from the world. When you get out of such a situation, everything you discover is “What else were they hiding from me?” It also can become scary and unknown.

The common thread can be seen in nearly every character he has ever played. He began as extraordinary but out of sync. He is mistaken for other than what he is, and he’s able to use this to ease people into realizing what he was, though the whole situation is doomed to spin out of control. You are given the reassurance, though, that there will be daily accountability.

In ‘Mork & Mindy,’ Mindy first mistakes Mork for a priest. Hijinks ensue, people laugh, until it ends up with them raising Johnathan Winters as a child. You are always promised an interesting ride before it inevitably goes off of the rails. He took this insanity on the road and it made him a star.

Now people are watching and you have to be ‘on’ all the time. Robin found that intoxicants could help him be ‘on’ longer. Quicker than you think, it becomes the ‘on’ before, inevitably, not being enough. Then, you’re in the dark again, alone and afraid.

Alone and in the dark, Mork is held accountable to Orson.

From pure insanity, Robin’s career began to try to explain him. The child who never grew up, forced into adulthood. He was crazy, but he meant well. There was always something different about him, slightly off. It was as if he were always hinting at the idea that he was some kind of fraud.

All that seemed to be lacking was the accountability.

Mrs. Doubtfire seemed to be the start of his apology phase. He had been a lousy father but he really does love his kids and would do anything for them. He went on to mad genius, winning awards until ‘What Dreams May Come.’ Sober and contrite, his popularity waned as he delved into more serious roles. His theme became revealing the darkness beneath.

Eventually, his dark introspective phase ended and he wanted us to invest in him one more time. He promised us he could be funny again, if we gave him one more chance.

Instead, his show, “The Crazy Ones,’ was cancelled after one season.

Being able to make people laugh is a powerful feeling. Your own heart bursts with joy and it feels like young love. It is a hard superpower to lose.

When my father left when I was four, I lead a sheltered life as my mother always feared that he would return to steal me away. I imprinted on this strange man as there is a slight family resemblance. I have been stopped on the street, all over the country, just to be told that I looked like him. As a child, I learned his routines to make the other kids laugh, so that there was some reason to like me when I never ran around the neighborhood with them or came over their houses.

Solitude can be a great peace to some, but to live in constant apology is another. The all-seeing eye of Orson is always there, waiting to see where you went wrong, reminding you of faults. There is not time in that empty place, and no hurt has healed with time. Time goes backwards there, and you feel the greatest regret for the safety of childhood, when all mistakes seemed so minor and the cares fewer.

We heard back from the mercy flight service, and my wife is cleared to fly across the country for her second brain surgery. She’ll be making this trip without me, it appears. For the past week, my pain has lessened, getting my hopes up, though it spreads to other parts of my body now. At least it is out of my head. Then another storm rolls in and I am dumped into twisted pain again. I can hear a -ping- when I turn my neck, like running your thumbnail down the teeth of a comb, when I turn my head the wrong way.

I needed cheering up, so I went online. Something told me to check the news, something I haven’t done in a week or two. Despite checking, I heard about it 15 minutes afterwards, from a friend. Robin Williams: Dead by Apparent Suicide.

I immediately had the thought, “If I had a time machine…” I have never done that before. Suddenly all the emotions on the screen from various films flew through my head as I reconstructed the final scene. It didn’t seem real. I double checked to see if it was a hoax, as it was in 2012.

If I could have talked to him, what would I say? Should I have written him a letter? Should I have watched his show? Didn’t he know how important he was to me?

You taught me that redemption was always possible. Why didn’t you believe it yourself?

Farewell, Robin Williams. The world is a darker place without you.

Further reading: Childhood – http://www.freep.com/article/20140811/ENT07/308110195/1996-interview-Robin-Williams-movie-Jack

Apology- http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/sep/20/robin-williams-worlds-greatest-dad-alcohol-drugs

Chronic

skeleton
I am pretty sure I was dying today.

That is really the only way to describe it. Imagine you are experiencing the mother of all hangovers, and you’re pretty sure you fell down a few flights of concrete stairs. Also, you might have been lit on fire at some point.

Perhaps I have become the Narrator from ‘Fight Club’ and my body regularly goes around getting into bare knuckled boxing matches all over town.

I am Jack’s Concussion.

I often feel concussed. Either my head aches as my equilibrium lurches about, or it feels distinctly like someone has taken a hold of my spine through an incision in my neck and they are shaking me like a bad dog. My balance has always been pretty good, so I haven’t fallen or thrown up on myself yet.

When I say headache, though, there is no consistency. It’s a hammer strike suddenly on the side of my head, or it is elephant tusks rammed through the base of my skull, coming out above my eyebrows. Sometimes, one of my eyes is gouged out. Sometimes, all in a row, and sometimes all together. Sometimes, it won’t hurt, but that part of my brain is just gone. Answers are missing and speaking in complete sentences is almost impossible.

My spine likes to join in the fun, either aching between the shoulders or at the base. The VA intake nurse was the first medical professional in years to notice that this is affecting the strength in my right arm and my left leg. Sometimes my knees give out, but I can catch myself before I hit the ground.

None Dare Speak It’s name…

Scoliosis has been mentioned as it does appear in the family history. No one wants to say spinal damage, but there are bone spurs. Then, there was the car accident three years ago, and the fact that I am a disabled vet whose finally getting older. There was also working at any back-breaking job I could get to provide for my family.

‘This ole house is a-getting shaky, This ole house is a-getting old

So far, the answer has been to inject me with enough poison to kill every person in the city. Twice. Strangely, my body isn’t taking that well. The medication they insist on now literally leaves me drooling on myself. The one that was working stopped working when I quit smoking… You know, for my health. Without the smoking to raise my blood pressure, the medication would lower it to dangerous levels, like a toy whose battery was running out.

The FDA just put out a warning about epidurals the other day. Apparently, the tons of epidurals I have had recently could have killed me, and here, I didn’t jump ship on neurosurgery until they started talking about radiation. Silly me.

“Serious adverse events included death, spinal cord infarction, paraplegia, quadriplegia, cortical blindness, stroke, seizures, nerve injury, and brain edema,” the FDA said in announcing the warning.

“Many cases were temporally associated with the corticosteroid injections, with adverse events occurring within minutes to 48 hours after the corticosteroid injections. In some cases, diagnoses of neurologic adverse events were confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scan. Many patients did not recover from these reported adverse events.” (http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/BackPain/45394)

I was also stuck in a traction machine that made my migraines increase from twice a week to everyday, which is where they have stayed since. That is in fact, why I left the VA system, originally, and sought help elsewhere.

So, who really knows? It seems now, in retrospect, that I should have gone back to what I have done since I was first discharged 18 years ago: ‘Suck it up and drive on, Soldier.’

“Just let go…”

When the pain is at its worst, I hear that. Not like voices in my head, but more like the realization of futility. I sit with my pain, all alone, sometimes. When I come to, I discover that I have been staring, mouth slightly open, as if in religious awe. Not to worry though, I know when these are coming because they climb up my neck, like a creeping doom, sometimes taking hours to fully blossom into a personal hell.

As always, I claw my way back for my wife and children. I so desperately, selfishly, want to grow old with them. My children are my joy. The only light I have in this darkness. My wife is the other half of my soul. The poor woman keeps dragging her own cross, and if she can keep going, then I have to keep up.

If this means that, sometimes, I am a shambling mess of pain, like some magically animated skeleton in a movie, then so be it. I do what I can.

Plus, I am afraid at this point that not enough people like me enough to carry my casket. I have to work on that, but it is hard to schedule a social life around this. Maybe the Stagehand’s Union would be willing to cut me a break on pall bearers….

Just to put this out there, I would like to try medical marijuana, as it is legal in my state, but I cannot afford to do the application even at a discounted rate. This is odd because I have had medical professionals recommend it, and it is available, but not to me, apparently.

There is no way it can be any worse for me than what has already been tried.

Plus, as a former ‘self-medicator,’ I cannot help but wonder if that is how I was able to keep this mess on the road as long as I did.

Something to think about, I suppose.

Here’s what else we’re dealing with now: https://grimmjest.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/sharp-stick-in-the-eye-or-a-hole-in-the-head/

… and here is a fundraiser for my wife: http://www.gofundme.com/likeaholeinthehead

With that, here’s Willy Nelson covering Stewart Hamblin’s ‘This Old House.’

Where you Goin’, City Boy? (Updated)

I wrote this about a month ago for a guest blog at ‘Back At The Ranch: Adventures in Holistic Living.’ (http://backattheranch.net/where-you-goin-city-boy/) They were kind enough to have me, and kind enough to forgive the doggerel I turned in as finished copy. The 550 word limit seemed daunting at first, but after I edited out all of the inflammatory religious statements, I almost got it.

As I am still struggling to function past the second round of Therapeutic Botox, I’ll share this with you until I can get running again.

____

Where you Goin’, City Boy?
A sardonic look at the homesteading craze.


I am still amazed when I can answer someone’s chicken question. For so long, my chicken madness was answered with, “Chicken? There is more than one type?”

Despite my deep family roots in the Amish Community, as a child, I visited the family farm exactly once. Farming was something that I knew people were doing, but as a child growing up in the Greater Cleveland area, it was an abstract concept at best. It was an odd disconnect, in a farming state in the Midwest, but I always said that Cleveland wasn’t really in Ohio. It is in its own State, somewhere between Confusion and Denial.

In 2010, we watched ‘Food Inc.’ and got the farming bug. Always having an interest in Ornithology, naturally I gravitated toward chickens. Impatient to begin, we crammed for the test, found a spot and got started.

Having been a theater carpenter with the Union, I was quite proud of my coop, ‘Hacienda del Chicken.’ Built of found materials, I understood well the mechanics of getting a wall to stand up on it’s own, even in a microburst, while artfully repurposed Ocotillo branches gave the whole thing a rustic feel.

Image

It was obvious that we had no idea what we were doing. So impatient and dismissive of what should be a simple task, we backed ourselves into a corner more and more as we jumped to correct for unforeseen events and circumstances.

Anyone who says they are raising chicks in the bathtub is headed to a dander nightmare of epic proportions.

”Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.” –Sam Elliot as ‘The Stranger,’ The Big Lembowski (1998)

You eventually have to realize your limitations and account for them. Years later, I still don’t know what I am doing, but I am always happy to answer questions. I was once asked by the city’s Botanical Garden to give a presentation to the society ladies about backyard chickens. I harped so hard on Biosecurity that no one in that room made plans for chickens. I had not meant to be gloom and doom, but to skip things like ‘buckets of poo’ is the disingenuity that results in a world where the Humane Society have added chickens to the adoption roster.

On the other end of the Greenhorn Spectrum is my cousin, and he really is my hero. Not only is he ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World,’ he also leads a life some would call charmed if they didn’t know the work he put into it. Despite his city-rearing handicap, his homestead in the mountains of California looks like the brochure for the coolest summer camp ever: lush gardens, towering trees, daily kayaking.

Though I have been trying for years to get the man on the Food Network, he is satisfied to be ‘just’ a Master Chef. He once made whiskey sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, and I still like to recall them fondly five years later.

Despite this expertise, mishaps will happen. While cooking at home, there was a fire. With reactions honed in years of professional kitchens, my cousin sprang into action with the nearest fire extinguisher and sprayed it liberally until the fire was out.

(* Note to Manufacturers: Bear Mace looks a lot like a Fire Extinguisher, and doesn’t put out a fire very well unless you use the whole can.)

Image

(Update!) He’s a good-natured guy and took my ribbing in stride. I can only dream about doing as well as he does, but I didn’t tell him that I was immortalizing his moment of humanity in digital form. He now has three of these, which I imagine will still work better on a bear than bear mace works on a fire.
not bear macemostinteresting

 

 

The Pace of Life

“They say you can’t live forever, but with my luck, I probably will,” mused the Pee-Wee Herman Marionette.

It was a completely random encounter at a ‘Grave’ (If they didn’t call Gothic Raves that, they should have) in Cleveland sometime in the late 90’s. Despite the fact that I was wearing a stretch velvet gown and leather armor, I felt that the gentleman was dressed strangely in a suit and bow tie and had perhaps wandered in by mistake. The rictus grin on his pale wooden face suggested a heart attack or a panic attack, and I figured that I would check in on him to make sure that he was OK.

(Women in vinyl catsuits have that effect.)

He turned out to be quite friendly. Though his delivery reminded me, distinctly, of some far off, chipmunk-like cartoon character, his words were a 15 minute cry-for-help routine that I am ashamed to say had me in stitches. He pontificated on the ineffectiveness of Xanax and other medications to treat his long term depression through humorous Sci Fi references, and as an angsty teenage disabled veteran attending something called a ‘Grave’ for fun, I could completely, laughingly relate.

His closing line has always stuck with me: the misfortune of eternity.

Whenever I hear about another centenarian, I always look up their birth year to see what the world was like. It was sobering, at the time, to find out that they had been born to a world before electricity and indoor plumbing. The learning curve of that learning curve seems absurd to me. To be born into a world where horses ruled the streets and the trains ran on steam, raise a family during the Industrialization of two world wars, grand-kids on the Moon and the promise of the Atomic Future, only to be dumped unceremoniously into our dingy little world.

At that time, though, I still considered myself technologically relevant. As a poor man’s Graphic Designer, or Pre-Press Department, in a Print Shop, I have handled all of the layouts for every piece of personalized stationary for national accounts, participated in the late night run of Adam & Eve mailers, and even did some printing for Bob Ross. We lived in a world of denial, holding fervently to the belief that dot-matrix printing would never catch up to computer output.

We were right. It was Laser Printers that destroyed the industry. That, and cheaper printing in Canada, China and Kinko’s.

compugraphic typesetter
The very first graphics machine I learned on was the Compugraphic Typesetter. This room-sized graphics machine had a custom keyboard, oblong screen and, with the help of a coffin-sized processor loaded with individual font cartridges, would output a long strip of your requested typefaced words which had to be developed and was light-sensitive. The resulting string had to be waxed, cut into pieces and manually applied to your layout.

It was the pinnacle of 1984 technology, and I was learning it in 1992. I suppose that the warning signs were there.

When the Printing Industry died, my technological savvy died as well. Being branded obsolete, I became a repository of useless knowledge. For example: Thermographic powder added to newly pressed ink bumps up when heated, and that is why you can feel the type on a business card. I have had to jump quickly as the business cards came out of the unit on fire, and I have also worked with the copperplate embossing that it is intended to mimic. Each card was pressed against a specially made copper plate to raise the letters of your choice. They didn’t catch fire, but you did have to wait for them to dry. Only very specific card stocks could take the process, and your etched copperplate had to be aligned perfectly with the print on the card, leading to inevitable, expensive waste. It was a holdover from an old status quo when Cleveland had been ruled by Self-Made Kings, and a business card had to tell someone who you are. (Eat your heart out, Jason Bateman.)

Out here in the Desert, I met a man who started out on letterpress. That is what you see in Period movies where sticks of lead, each with an embossed letter of a specific style, was loaded into a tray to be mass pressed as a newspaper. He told me that he remembered when a street I always thought of as the center of town was way outside city limits. It made me look at this desert town differently. The strange little one bedroom bungalows around city center suddenly became vacation cabins ‘way out on the edge of town.’ There is a stone-built school right in what I think of as Downtown that, when open, was considered so far outside of town that the parents were worried that the Natives would come and take their children.

If you ask at the Police station, they’ll tell you that, in the capture of Dillinger, they had already been alerted by a radio store who had served some suspicious characters. They had been hoping to build a radio receiver to listen in on the cop’s radio transmissions, unaware that Tucson Police Department worked off of free standing call boxes until the 1960’s. The streets weren’t even paved until the 60’s (though if you have ever had to deal with Caliche, you’ll understand that this wasn’t a big deal.

The problem is that I cannot help but long for a time like that. I can see it through shaky amber filters, like a life unlived. This dusty town in the desert was a hub for cowboy movies, and John Wayne himself wandered the streets of Tucson, looking for something to do. Lee Marvin regularly drove a beat-up army jeep into town from his house in the desert to buy milk. It was a quiet little mining town until it became quite popular during the Cowboy Craze for having lenient divorce laws.

Trail Dust Town

I worked security for a cowboy town set up by a local steak producer called Trail Dust Town. Set up like a western town, with an eye on authenticity, they serve up the best Wild West Show I have ever seen as well as a steak so fresh, it was probably eating cactus that morning. My job was to wander the streets of this tiny cowboy movie all night, ensuring vandals stayed away, while Roy Rogers tunes played softly on the PA system.  It was easy to get lost in the moment, and realize that it was probably a fair creation of a mining town, a tiny collections of stores and saloons that clung to a central square, when law men usually grew up with the bad guys they had to deal with in Epic fashion. Then again, many came and went in a handful of years.

I found out later that this tiny town occupied the old location of the Tanque Verde Swap Meet, which had moved to a much larger location, far from Tanque Verde Road, while retaining the name some time in the 80’s. If you want to visit this tiny slice of cowboy life, it is near the life sized Tyrannosaurus Rex getting take out from McDonald’s.T Rex gets McDonald's
The State of Arizona has only been an official state since 1912. One hundred and two years ago. There might still be a centenarian who was born here before that.

Would I want to live forever?

Just the other day, I happened across a picture of my Middle School being torn down. Unbidden, a childhood memory popped into my head, and when I got to the part where I misspoke, I winced in psychic pain. I am nearly 40 years old, and the thought of a childhood regret from 1988 can still cause my soul grief.

I had never, originally, intended to live this long, truth be told. Life changed, decided to renew my contract, and here I still am, watching the days slip by quickly, like an old movie camera spewing celluloid. The life of chronic pain can color the days sharply, so that they spill away from you with an unreferenceable blob of Past. When you constantly feel like you are dying, you make your peace with death.

“It’s not the pace of life that concerns me. It’s the sudden stop at the end.” -Random ‘No Fear’ Caption.

An overbearing sense of duty is what keeps me stumbling along. As a Husband and Father, there are people who depend on me. As a Farmer, there are animals in my care. I shuffle along like an old man, left weak by procedures that proved unsuccessful for addressing the constant pain, I drag forward under the power of regrets for the things I have not done yet. My apologies are the staff I use to keep my balance.

I don’t fear the sudden stop at the end. The days slip by, until making replacement parts with a machine becomes a possibility. They are planning a colony on Mars, and Sci Fi finally becomes our reality. Before I can figure out how to keep up, I’ll probably be mostly robot parts and genetically grown youthful vitality, though they might not waste the effort on me. I still use a phone that folds and, though I successfully ran troubleshooting on most major Smartphones for a giant wireless carrier, if you handed me one, I probably would not even know how to turn it on.

I discovered that one of my favorite astronauts, William R. Pogue, the Astronaut who went on Strike in Space to get more time to look out the window, died at 84 this past March. The computer I learned in Middle School is a museum piece that they use now to startle small children. My childhood hero, Russell Johnson, has died. The silver in my hair and beard remind me that the Illusion of Time rules this place, and I have no choice but to comply. I feel like a man out of place in the Timeline, a refugee from another world. An anachronism lost and adrift in the World of the Future.

When you ask if I would want to live forever, I would have to ask you if I had not already.

___
Please, remember to donate: http://www.gofundme.com/likeaholeinthehead

What’s playing in my head?