Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Geezer Chronicles

A “Geezer,” according to the dictionary, is an “an odd or eccentric man.” It is my contention that a true “Geezer” is the sort of man that is a necessary component to modern society. When we say eccentric would it not also be acceptable to call it staunch in belief. When we say odd can it not be just as easily said that the individual looks at the world with wide open eyes. The combination gives us character, verve, resilience, fortitude, and a devil may care attitude which is easily recognizable by its defining axiom. “Leave me the fuck alone with your adolescent, dimwitted bullshit. I will do, think, or say whatever the shit I please.

In that spirit I write, as a self-proclaimed “Geezer” and will do as long as I inhale oxygen. The stories I write have foundations in the world I see about me. They might come from a dream the night before, or something heard on the latest Star Trek film or television episode. It might come from the word of the day I receive daily that catches my eye due to the unusual spelling or outrageous pronunciations. It might be alliterative in nature as that is my favorite transcribing tool. It may come from a guy I meet in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. It may come off the internet, although most of that is inept and ridiculous to say the least. Or it may be a story about a guy meeting the devil in a Walmart book section who tries to give him the universe in exchange for his soul.

I am at a temporary impasse as to the delivering of these stories. It would be nice to earn some scarolas in the process. I’ll post this on my blog and see if I get any suggestions. It is not a major project to undertake. I have a books worth of stories already looking for a home and probably another 30 or 40 in need of a concluding word, phrase, sentence, or even writing beyond a title. Can a Geezer get an “Amen?”

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Sesquipedalian

“Verbosity is the decimation of prose by talentless uncouth morons undeserving of consideration in the literary field.”

The intern, of the intern, of the intern to the secretary of an editor of a major New York publisher.

This single, rather verbose, sentence was all I received in a rejection letter for a book I have been working on since the tragedy on September 11, 2001 entitled “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” The author of this missive offered the perfunctory Closing Line “Sincerely” as well as the appropriate spacing to allow for a signature, and a title line. The autograph was a grand affair emboldened with large loops and scrawl between these loops. The title line simply stated that the letter had been written by the “Editorial” department.

This was the rejection that brought me into double digits. Eleven times I have had this book rejected and which might just be rejected eleven more times before success. Rejection is not the point but simply the avenue to publication with a mainstream publishing house. The point was being called an “talentless uncouth moron.” I admit to being an author of what a close friend has called “almost absurdist literature.” No real issue there. Those who know me can attest to the fact that I have a few screws loose, but I am in no way to be considered a butter knife in a draw full of 300 years old Katanas.

That being said, and my honor properly defended, I would like to talk about what sat me down at the keyboard this dreary cold day. I have been reading and relishing a book by a famous astrophysicist. It is written in a manner that would permit the everyday Joe to understand some of the more complex ideas and notions of the universe. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the book and it is a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read. I began this book by setting myself a little task; to see how far I could go until I had to look up a words definition. I made it to page 135 out of a possible 207 pages. I am somewhat proud of that especially given that is a most loquacious of words…sesquipedalian coming from the Latin sesquipedalis meaning, literally, a foot and a half long. Take that you intern, of the intern, of the intern to the secretary of an editor of a major New York publisher!

I openly admit to a love of words. The more obscure the better. Being a fan of authors such as Richard Brautigan (my favorite poet), Tom Robbins, Albert Camu, Spider Robinson (yes I have been drunk on Route 25A, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York), Stephen King, Robert Heinlein, and Daniel Quinn emboldens my obscurity and my Roman Catholic upbringing often sets the muse. In 1957 I was handed a comic book about a guy with superhero abilities who came from another planet as a baby and I was hooked. I remember wondering while sitting on the floor being told about the pictures and wondering what those squiggles insides those thought balloons were. Even before I knew what a thought balloon was.

As I grew older and began reading and ultimately writing, I became enamored with the placements of these things called words. I liked laughing, and crying depending on what the story was telling. I remember when I was ten years writing about a fat kid who did not like being fat, and I also liked writing a collection of short stories at 48 years old about how it is not okay to kill.

Thinking back to the intern, of the intern, of the intern to the secretary of an editor of a major New York publisher I decided to find out who this quite couth raconteur might be. Having a computer and a decent college education I tracked down my adversary. Turns out it was some guy working in a cubicle who answered submissions with the direction to find as much fault as he could. It is absolutely impossible for an editor at a major publishing company to read everything submitted. Not even the future recipient of some big writing award who got his start reading Superman comics. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Munificent Mortality

“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, --
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

It is a sad time indeed. A gentle and learned man named Father Harry Cook died a couple of days ago. He spent many years preaching as an Episcopalian priest, and a Christian journalist not timid in his beliefs. He was a social justice Giant and a down to earth man who spread the words of God while professing he no longer believed in a deity. He believed in people, and passion. He wrote from his heart, and never lied to make any point. He espoused the teaching in John 8:32 that the truth will definitely set us all free.

A respectable part of my own view on what is just and correct I learned from his readings. I was introduced to him from a friend, another Episcopalian priest with a different demeanor from the norm, about ten or eleven years ago. I am not or at least do not consider myself, a wise man. I seek wisdom in order to make sense of the conflagration that the world is enduring where it come to how we treat out fellow man. The world certainly seems to be on fire and there are too few firemen.

Father Cook was one of the best.

I have not been reading his weekly essays for a while due to a busy writing schedule of my own. I have saved them and will get to put them into my daily prayer routine. Father Cook wondered about the efficacy of prayer but my belief was that his words were as powerful as prayers and my belief in them has yet to fail me. I believe Father Cook would not take umbrage with my belief in prayer, as long as I continued to love my fellow man, and maintain a “give your shirt and your coat” mentality in my heart and mind
I could go down the list of his readings and purport that I understand all, but that would not be honest. I could speak of things I have learned but it is probable that, given the reality of an age related poor memory, I would confuse it all with other learned men I follow. As I said, I myself am not wise. I am a guy that sometimes strings words together in a pleasing manner. Sometimes the collections of words I use are not so pleasant. I write from a need to communicate and to, perhaps someday, gain, and convey wisdom almost as well as Father Cook. I reiterate…almost. I resist the idea that I could ever fit into this giant’s shoes. The best I can do is extend you the last words he left us;

+ Love the English language and use it with respect and care. None of us is Shakespeare redivivus. Winston Churchill, H.L. Mencken and Graham Greene still stand alone with their Firsts in English composition. They should be our standard. 

+ A question -- and, indeed, its formulation -- is likely to be more rewarding than straining to produce a quick answer. Inquiry, research and hypotheses tend to invite more thorough thoughtfulness -- a supreme value in human relationships at any level. If you have never read the work of the late philosopher Richard Rorty and his take on what he termed "contingency," now would be as good a time as any to do so. 

+ Beware the politician who runs for office with an index finger pointed at those of an identifiable nationality or ethnic group whilst blaming the woes of the nation on them. Jews were long victims of such an evil, African Americans and Native Americans, as well. Mexicans and Muslims in recent times became targets of such calumny. Who needs a reprise of Nazism? 

+ Resist the claims of absolute truth made by those who march under various religious banners. No one can possibly know what any possible deity wants or wills. Likewise, no one can encompass the whole truth about anything. 

+ Conserve Earth, her atmosphere, her waterways and seas, her land, her creatures as good stewards would estates entrusted to their care and protection. One can lick away on an ice cream cone only so long before it disappears. 

+ Help society understand that punitive incarceration in and of itself is cruel and unusual punishment. Justice is not served by putting people behind bars in violent environments. In the same spirit, help society understand that capital punishment is legalized murder, collective vengeance under the guise of doing justice. 

Give all you can to encourage compassion for women who struggle to retain control of their own bodies where unwanted or dangerous pregnancies are concerned. Tell the anti-abortion zealots that, if they oppose the practice, they should take care not to submit to it. 

At least once a year, listen to all six of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerti (BWV 1046-1051) and overture to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492) as well as his Symphony No. 41, (K. 551), the Jupiter. Each one of them is guaranteed to bestow upon the listener both joy and profundity, mercifully tuning out the mindless cacophony that presses in on every side.

+ Above all, follow the wisdom offered by Hillel the Great more than two millennia ago: "What you hate, do not do to another." The great sage must have known that such behavior as a habit runs contrary to nature. Also he must have believed that humankind could outdo nature. William Faulkner in his speech accepting the 1949 Nobel Prize in literature appeared to have shared Hillel's optimism: I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. As a dear bishop friend was wont to say, "May it be so."

Harry T. Cook – Rest in Peace

Here is a link to his obituary:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Singular Sanctimony

 “Tim, I miss your philosophy, blogs, and intelligent words of wisdom. Please…remotivate/rejuvenate. Love you brother!”
Craig Smith, the REAL Mr. Science

The quote above was sent to me as a comment on something I posted on a well-known Social Media site. The author of the quote is a friend of mine, and proof of the ideal of shared experience is a definitive avenue toward friendship. We are “friends” on this site and became so as a result of working as school teachers at the same school. I was a neophyte in the wonderful calling that is school teaching, and he was a longtime veteran of the war that has mutated into what has been called the American Educational System. We are polar opposites in much of our lives, politically, socially (outside social media), pastimes, and life experience.

What we have in common, however, is the drive, love, and unerring dedication to what most teachers call “Our Kids.” We also share the sadness of not being allowed to teach. At least not so we could; “impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something” as the Oxford Dictionary states. Instead we were exiled into the nether region that is teaching to the test. This is a paradigm, also according to the Oxford dictionary, where we “teach students using methods intended primarily to improve their performance on an examination rather than to enhance their understanding of a subject.”

This, as my friend knows well, is the current accepted system with which to assess students. What this accomplishes is a society that believes competition is more important than knowledge. Where sports heroes, and hip hop artists are heroes and astronauts are not. Where working the cash register at a convenience store or a fast food restaurant requires the computerized register to tell them how to give change for a dollar. How asking a simple question of any sort elicits a universal “I don’t know” response. Even for queries as to what they wish to eat for dinner, or where the rest room is.

I jump on this soap box as a result of an experience I recently endured. I met a young man at a coffee shop who was sitting with what one could assume was his girlfriend. They had books and laptops open and appeared to be studying. The girl suddenly, in a frustrated tone, asks how he could not know whatever they were studying. (Reference the “I don’t know” reply) The young lady stares intently at her companion and, shaking her head, demands her payment as their time was at an end. She was counting the money she received while admonishing the kid to refrain from calling until he “gave a shit.”

I chuckled at the situation and went back to my large pumpkin spiced latte. My coffee companion also smirked and, with a devilish look in his eyes, told the kid that I was a retired teacher and could probably help.

My current area of endeavor is, as you might guess, as a writer and my thoughts and feelings, personally and professionally, lean towards the creative. I frowned at the kid and decided to be generous with my talents (or lack thereof) and asked the young man what his problem was. He informed me that he had to take this remedial math course before he could take the real class that would give him the credit he needed to continue on at the junior college he was attending. I had been a Special Education teacher so this did not appear challenging. At least I hope it did not. I was as and am somewhat of a liberal arts aficionado.

He showed me his equation which appeared simple; X+3=5x4, solve for X. simple even on the simian level I dwell. I asked him what the problem might be. He replied that the x or the y always screwed him up. Letters weren’t numbers and don’t they really belong in words?

I launched into a short diatribe of the use of letters, called variables, in equations to make it easier to make and solve more complex equations. I was on shaky ground past that (I got c’s in most college math courses) but pressed on. I showed him several problems and how to solve them and why the answer came to be. I stopped short of quadratic equations which are and will always be perplexing and confounding. My coffee companion smirked and frowned at me letting me know that what I shared with the kid made a lot of sense. The kid sat there with a pair of eyes one might see in a morgue. Frustrated I turned sardonic by asking my soon not to be student what 1+1=.

He asked me if he could use his calculator and what were the multiple choices available to him.

I had no feeling in my extremities. I stared at him only to realize that he had been earnest in his request. He held what looked to be quite an expensive scientific calculator which, I was sure, he might not know where the on/off button might be. My companion told me that we needed to leave. I stammered for the kid to study the work we had done and good luck. As we were leaving my coffee buddy held up a napkin on which I had been doodling that showed the words “DON’T BE SARDONIC!” and asked me what sardonic meant.

This experience has stayed with me for about a month. I think the comment from my friend and mentor Mr. Science inspired and drove this discourse and for that I thank him. I remember he would, take his kids outside when the weather permitted and do science experiments. Every kid looked and acted engaged. I followed his lead and would take my kids outside and read them short stories of adventure, action, honor, and equality. Other folks at the school would ask me what I was doing and I would just smile and look over at my friend shooting potato guns and blowing things up with laundry detergent and glass beakers. I don’t know how much sitting outside helped my students, but if it was good enough for a 20+ year Teacher of the Year it might just be good enough for me.

Thank you Mr. Smith!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Meddlesome Malaise

I have discovered that amongst all my other ailments I suffer from yet another newly realized, and most wearisome malady. Styx Syndrome, AKA “Too Much Time on My Hands.” Being a gentleman of enforced leisure (medical retirement) who is ofttimes confined to my Sanctum Sanctorum due to my infirmities, my mind works in excess of necessity. There are so many things that occur to me, especially as a writer, which might fill the void I find it irksome not being able to ascertain what to next do. Having finished a story that took its own sweet time coming to me and my fingers I plunged into a period of reflective entropy. The query “what’s next” enveloped my being, as it always does between writing adventures, and I searched for the answer to that most bothersome query.  
Then the light bulb over my head popped on in all its 1000 watt brilliance…READ!
Being what I believe to be the preeminent state in which to exist in, a thinking man, I indulged my first love and delved into tomes with the loftiest paradigms. What is the meaning of life? In my six plus decades of verve this has always proven to be the most difficult of pursuits. The question has been taken up and discarded an equal amount of times along the way to this writing. There were times when I failed to answer it. There were times when the solution was crystal clear. Neither way held much solace for me. Interruptions in this quest have interfered from time to time. Wearisome items such as earning a living, paying the electricity bill, finding a new job, reading rejection letters of my self-acclaimed works of everlasting wisdom, the discovery of a new love, the grief of associated with the loss of a cherished loved one, and all the other mundane realities that probably answer way more eloquently than I what exactly is the meaning of life.
I began by reading a trio of books explaining our culture which described the ideal that the first time a human woke up and wished for more than was needed was the beginning of the extermination of all mankind. Certainly this offered a rather dismal generalization of our species and accurate but for the one thing that might help us to survive, which was also reported in these important works. We have the ability to change our circumstances.
Next, for no fathomable reason, I viewed a film entitled “The Man Who Knew Infinity” about a mathematician who was born during the “British Raj” period prior to Indian independence. Srinivasa Ramanujan was born into a poor Brahman family, and was a mostly self-taught prodigy who eventually became a Fellow of the Royal Society, as well as a Fellow of Trinity College at Cambridge University. His works are on display in the library there as well as the “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” by Sir Isaac Newton, the inventor of calculus and many of the foundations of modern physics. All this while suffering discrimination, poverty, and poor health.
I am currently delving into “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. Another choice with no recognizable foundation towards the question I probably do not truly wish the answer to. Admittedly, my personal research has been prejudiced by events in my life of both a positive and negative nature. The academic part of my persona is certainly piqued with the lofty writings of famous mathematicians and physicists. The cognitive side of me has recently taken up the task of maintaining my intellect due to an ever growing difficulty with memory retention. Then there is the ever troubling portion of me that looks into the night sky finding itself time and again mystified.
The Spiritual
Not wishing to drift off into yet another perplexing area, that being in the ideal of whether or not there is a God; I will make things, for today simple. I believe in God, and I believe in Science and mathematics. The rest of the claptrap about God’s existence is best left for another day, or a Nighttime Talk Show.
As I read and contemplated the significance of asking for the meaning of something that obviously already exists, I came up with the ideal of discovering what is of true import. That is the crux of searching for the meaning of life. Knowing it or not knowing it is not imperative in the face of having life and making it relevant. Great thinkers miss this, I believe. The real question is: What would you want life to be. Is it a meaning or an action? (Reference our ability to change our circumstances)
Somewhere along the way, the meaning of life got itself associated with the conundrum of an unanswerable question being whether science is the answer, or is God the answer? How did we get here? What came first, the chicken or the egg? What was there before the big bang? How did all this happen?
Science has theories to guide it. This means that some really smart people sit around (much like me) and think about things in order to answer the chicken thing, or the meaning of the Big Bang Theory.
Science has determined that the egg came first in a most baffling manner imaginable. The explanation requires an understanding of several disciplines; biology, zoology, genetics, and Marvel Comic books and movies. Neil deGrasse Tyson made it much simpler: "Which came first: the chicken or the egg? The egg – laid by a bird that was not a chicken." And we thus discover the issue with asking too many questions.
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the universe. In a user friendly definition thanks to Wikipedia, “The universe began very hot, small, and dense, with no stars, atoms, form, or structure (called a "singularity"). Then about 13.8 billion years ago, space expanded very quickly (thus the name "Big Bang"). This started the formation of atoms, which eventually led to the formation of stars and galaxies.” Scientists have thought and thought, and wrote and rewrote about this effect exhaustively, they have modeled and remodeled ad infinitum. The results of all this thinking, writing, and modeling/remodeling has culminated in the #1 comedic Sitcom in the world. All of the actors except one (Mayim Bialik, PhD in Neuroscience) have no expertise in science and admit to just reading lines from a script.  
The seeming antithesis of all this thinking, writing, modeling/remodeling would be God. Given that this is an undefinable issue from a fact based physically provable it might be time better spent in discussing the differences between science and God. Here are some facts/paradigms/space fillers to consider:
  1. Many learned people have rejected the existence of a God. Where did God come from? For an answer to that I will fall on my own spiritual beliefs which is Christian based;
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
  1. 6,120,000,000,000 people in the world believe in some form of deity. Would that not be enough of a mathematical prevalence to prove the existence of God?
  2. Actually, a great mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel derived a series of equations that prove the existence of God. These equations have been discovered valid by modern computer scientists.
  3. Some believe the Big Bang implies a creator, and some see its mention in their holy books, while others argue that Big Bang cosmology makes the notion of a creator superfluous. Herr Gödel illuminated further. '"An equation for me has no meaning," he once said, "unless it expresses a thought of God."
  The writing of this fellow intrigued me and I went off on a tangent for about a half a day into the proofs of the existence of God. I discovered many and read them all and came away from the exercise had begun to make me doubt my own belief in a God. I wondered how this course of inquiry could make me turn God, a present personality in my life, into “a God” as if it were something that could be disproved. Certainly cause for befuddlement for a believer since birth.
I then took a break and came back and reread all the proofs I researched and realized something. They were all confusing and meaningless to anyone wishing to live a simple life. Just check out Herr Gödel’s treatise:
Definition 1: x is God-like if and only if x has as essential properties those and only those properties which are positive
Definition 2: A is an essence of x if and only if for every property B, x has B necessarily if and only if A entails B
Definition 3: x necessarily exists if and only if every essence of x is necessarily exemplified
Axiom 1: If a property is positive, then its negation is not positive
Axiom 2: Any property entailed by—i.e., strictly implied by—a positive property is positive
Axiom 3: The property of being God-like is positive
Axiom 4: If a property is positive, then it is necessarily positive
Axiom 5: Necessary existence is positive
Axiom 6: For any property P, if P is positive, then being necessarily P is positive
Theorem 1: If a property is positive, then it is consistent, i.e., possibly exemplified
Corollary 1: The property of being God-like is consistent
Theorem 2: If something is God-like, then the property of being God-like is an essence of that thing
Theorem 3: Necessarily, the property of being God-like is exemplified
 What I came to is that there really no way to answer the God/Science question. Science has tried both ways to look at it and cannot seem to report on it that does not prove anything in simple terms. Even a well thought mathematical proof by a respected mathematician cannot explain in layman’s terms to this writer who got a “D” in statistics and had to repeat the course in order to graduate college. Is science the answer? Ask a scientist to give you one sentence answer if you ask them what was there before the universe was created by the Big Bang. Similarly, for the God folks, ask your pastor (in one short sentence) where did God come from?
 It might be easier if we all just went in search of the Philosophers Stone. You know that element the alchemist used to say was the substance that could turn a cheap base metal into gold. A great idea and possible panacea for those financially disabled. Of course all that meandering about in quest for pecuniary prosperity that might just complicate things even more given that Alchemists were proven charlatans and sometimes hunted as witches. The witch hunting reality in olden times could bring a tremendously disagreeable demise. Most of them changed into chemists that today are deemed legitimate. Although, they still can’t make gold out of lead. Just like we cannot truly know the answers to great questions like the “What is the meaning of life”
 I did find an answer to that bigger question, though. Well, perhaps not an answer as much as an end to the confusion. I had researched until my head hurt and my eyelids grew weary. (Especially after the half read “A Brief History of Time”) I turned on the Great Knower. The much maligned by Springsteen instrument of enlightenment sitting in all its High Definition glory in my living room. I found it on television. Even there it was hidden until I dove in to the depths that are called “Streaming. What I found was the great and wise philosopher, teacher, and possible Holy Man who did not so much answer the question than taught me what life is truly about. Not what to question but how to act. Not thinking someone else is wrong but accepting that the bastard might just be right. Not wondering what has happened but doing what was right. Not doubting but believing. Not reading or asking but doing what I am told:

“You do good things, and good things happen to you.
You do bad things, and bad things happen to you.”
Earl Hickey

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Campanologist


It had been snowing for most of his shift. He stood at the door of the large warehouse store next to the tripod with the red bucket hanging by a chain. In the past this position paid an hourly rate but it was now a volunteer position with no remuneration. It did put him in a good light at the homeless shelter that he had been staying at since his release from the state prison.


He had no family and nowhere to go when he was emancipated from government internment. That is how he labelled his time on the state’s Jefferson. He was sent there for the possession and distribution of materials that are now rapidly becoming legal. Hell, major tobacco companies were gearing up divisions within their corporate structure to oversee the exact same activity he had been incarcerated for a two decades earlier.


He shook with the cold and tried to pull his clothes closer to his body. The lined vinyl jacket they had issued him was too small to button and his regular clothes underneath were better served in the faraway temperate climate where he had been living prior to his emancipation. He had served the full Monty on his sentence due to the fact that he had no place to go if paroled. He was the sole surviving member of his family. He never had any close friends choosing to ply his herbal trade and avoid most contact with the public outside of his commercial duties.


He chose to return to the place where he was born in an attempt to change things in his life. He remembered living outside the medium sized town in the northeast of the country to seek a simple life. Much as his childhood had been. His father had worked at a lumber company in the shop that made cabinets which had allowed for a decent lifestyle for his family. They had owned their own home, always took vacations, always new clothes for the changing of the season, good food on the table, a dog and a cat, and two cars in the garage when the sun went down every day.


When he got off the bus after a three day journey from the southern environ, the town looked nothing like he remembered. The city was no longer medium sized having grown on what seemed like an exponential rate. At least it looked that way for the number of new buildings (among which were a disturbing number of skyscrapers), the traffic, hordes of people walking the streets, and most disappointing of all, no lumberyard with a cabinet shop.


He walked for quite a while and discovered the bus line that could take him to his childhood home which he was supposed to own after the last of his family members had passed away. When he got there he found the house which looked as if it was leaning on the garage. Most of the windows had been broken and the front door stood ajar. He stood for a long time watching in total doubt and disbelief. A woman pulled up in a minivan with a real estate company sign on the door. She asked him if there was a problem. He told her that he was the owner of the house due to being the sole surviving member of the family. She said that it was in the process of being auctioned for back taxes. She was inspecting it before putting in a bid.


She also told him that it was not a done deal and that he might be able to do something about it. She offered him a ride somewhere and he just looked at her blankly. She noticed the backpack and suitcase and offered him a ride to a homeless shelter. The homeless shelter initially rejected him because he had money. After the purchase of the bus ticket and the few clothes he bought there was only $89 left from the $200 they gave him when he went through the release process at the prison. The $89 disqualified him for free access. If he wanted a bed he would have to give his $89 to them. It had worked similarly in prison. He worked in the wood shop while there for a ridiculous hourly wage if about $0.11 an hour which barely had allowed him to pay for the necessities (hygiene, cigarettes, etc.) he had needed during his captivity. Now, being on the street with no money, He had no clue as to what to do. Hell, he did not even feel comfortable going to the restroom without asking permission first. How was he supposed to make it?


The woman left and came back a few days later to check on him. She had told her husband about him and he had promised to look into his situation. He was a lawyer and thought he might be able to help him in some way. At the very least he could see if the land deal had actually been proper. She also asked him if he might like a job. The shelter allowed residents to stay for an extended time and work if they agreed to pay a percentage of their wages in rent. The rate was sort of high but it did allow him to move forward in some manner that might help him. It was a manual labor position for the facilities division of her company. It was mostly cleaning up, maintaining properties, building wood signs, and some light repairs. Most of it was outside work and would probably shut down once the winter hit.


Winter hit and he was once more unemployed. He had saved some money hoping he could somehow rescue the house. The lawyer told him that he still could pay the tax bill and keep the house. It was quite bit of money but they would take a down payment and they would work with him on the rest in a payment plan. He had most of the down payment saved when the winter hit and he got laid off. He tried to give them what he had but the arrangement was a hard and fast must. They gave him an extension to the first of the year and wished him luck.


He agreed to work the donation bucket until he found another job. The shelter told him that he could stay to the first of the year before having to resume rent payments. This was in a city where freezing snowy weather would probably last until March or April. It looked like a dim future but he just kept on going. The real cold weather hit around the middle of December and he had not found a job. Actually, he rang the bell all day which gave him no time to look for a position that paid.


His location was only about three blocks from the shelter so they made him walk both ways. He was given a bank bag to put the donations in which he must turn in to whatever supervisor was on shift. The only reprieve he got was about noon when the van transporting folks to other locations pulled up and gave him a sandwich and a cup of lukewarm hot chocolate.


He worked his post without complaining. Complaining in prison had severe consequences and he did not desire to find out if the shelter was similar in its practices. At the end of each day he emptied the bucket and walked back to the shelter. About the end of the first week he noticed a small girl, extremely pregnant, standing at the entrance to the parking lot holding up a sign asking for help. She looked to be a teenager, and always smiled at him. He asked her why she was out there and discovered that her parents had told her to leave because she had gotten pregnant and was not sure who the father was.


She shared that she had a small savings account she had hid from her parents for emergencies. She told them at a family picnic in front of the whole family and relatives thinking that they would not flip out and toss her out. This proved to be a mistaken perception on her part. They told her to pack what clothes she could fit into her backpack and leave. The entire room sat silent while she left the house in tears. She rented a room at a boarding house but her money had run out and she was on the streets.


He looked at the sky spewing snow and the frost breath they both exhaled and told her he would try to get her in the shelter if she wanted. Surely they would not turn away a homeless pregnant teenager in winter. Back at the lodge there was a line formed outside and it was quite long. He walked in and tried to speak with the supervisor and was told that she had to get in line and wait. He escorted her outside to the back of the line and gave her the jacket he was wearing. He went in and got a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate and brought it to her. The supervisor complained to him and told him he was walking a thin line trying to help some teenager he had knocked up. He attempted to explain that he was not the father but the supervisor raised his arm in a talk-to-the-hand gesture and walked away.


He went in to get warm for a while and think. He sat on his bed and drifted off sleep for a while. The supervisor came and kicked his bed and told him to get up and do something with his little lovebird, she probably was not going to get a bed. Jogging to the front he found her in line waiting much closer to the door. Just as she reached the door it was locked and a sign put in the window stating that the shelter was full to capacity.


He walked around the back to the kitchen door and found the supervisor and implored him to have a heart. He met resistance and he finally offered to let her have his bed. This, for some reason angered the guy and he told him to pack his stuff and get out. They would not take his crap anymore. He begged him to let the girl stay and was threatened with the police if he didn’t take himself and his little mistake the hell out of there.


He packed his stuff and the guy in the next bunk gave him a plastic trash bag holding a coat that fit him and a pair of blankets. He tried to say thank you and got another hand in the air. This time instead of a scowl he left was sent packing with a wink and a smile.


He found the girl and told her that they needed to find another place to stay. He had the money he saved to pay there down payment on his house and decided to use it to get out of the weather. They tried the rooming house but they were turned away because the manager thought they were a couple. The man had looked and him and her recognizing the age difference and told them to leave. They tried a couple of motels but got refused for the same reason as the boarding house. They ran into a guy in the parking lot and got offered a room if the girl was willing to service men in exchange for rent.


Finally, he got them both on a bus and rode out to his old neighborhood. Arriving at his soon-to-be sold house he jumped the chained gate and went into the garage. He came back with a hammer and crowbar and made a hole in the fence big enough for her to get through. He guided her to the garage and settled he down. He explored the house and found some chairs and a foldout couch. After much struggle he moved it into the garage. He found some old Coleman lanterns and fuel and got them going. There was an electric heater which was useless until he found several extension cords and made a covert journey to the house next door. Finding an outside plug he sneaked some power and got the heater going. He would go over in the morning and offer some snow shoveling or other labor service to pay for it. Making another sojourn into the night he came back with some food things and water from some store. It seemed as if they had won the day.


Come morning he went next door and talked to the elderly gentleman who came to the door. He explained what he was there for and the old guy asked him his name. Surprised, he gave it and luckily it turned out the man had been his neighbor when he was a kid. He pulled him into the house and sat him down to tell his story. He relayed the life he had led and the time in prison and explained his motivation for coming home. He resisted bringing up the subject of his houseguest and finally told him about the girl. The old man frowned and thought for a long time. He finally admitted that he and his wife were staunchly conservative religious folks. His beliefs told him that he should not help based on the reality of a grown man and a pregnant teenager living in sin next door. His wife, who was not there, would have insisted on calling the authorities. He fell silent for another long period of time. He shared that he was a retired police commander. An up through the ranks street cop who had seen much in his time that conflicted with what he heard in church on Sunday. He said that they could use all the electricity they needed. He offered them the use of some coolers to keep food in and packed them from his household pantry and freezer. He told him he did not want any conflict in the house at the holidays. He loved his wife and wanted to keep things that way. He admonished him to keep quiet and things probably would not be the worse for wear.


They settled in to their temporary abode. He went out every day and looked for work and another place to live. The answer was either that there were no open positions until after the first of the year, or an outright no. His funds were dwindling and there was not enough to pay for a place out of the weather. His appearance had grown scruffy and he spent the better part of an afternoon in the police precinct for vagrancy. The old man next door had shown up at the precinct with a can of Christmas cookies his wife had baked and found him being escorted to a holding cell. He intervened and they left and went back to the house. He figured, and the old man agreed, that it would be best not to tempt fate by going out. The next few days he stayed in coming out only to rummage around the house for things to use. A trip to the convenience store for milk wound up with him walking back into the garage finding the girl laying down and groaning in a wet bed. It was not because she peed.


Her contractions grew in intensity closer right away. It was evident that the baby was coming at any time. She had a book on being pregnant in her backpack which he used to help her deliver a little boy.


The old man knocked on the door wondering why there was screaming and hollering in the garage. He saw the baby and immediately wanted to call someone (police, ambulance, etc.) and would have if his wife had not walked in. she immediately took charge and got things cleaned up and arranged. She sent her husband to get pillows, blankets, and, cloth diapers from storage in their attic. Once settled in the old couple kneeled and prayed for them. They started to talk about getting her someplace to care for her and her baby and suggested a facility where she could find a suitable couple to adopt the baby. It was the morally right thing to do.


The girl looked at her rescuer and refused to move. This might not be the best place but it felt safe. She was not going to give up her baby, and that was that. The old couple, feeling the spirit of the season, did not insist. They were going to their son’s house for the holiday and would come talk to them when they got back. They left and came back a little while later with more supplies for them and the baby.


He was digging in the bags of supplies and found a bag of cat food. He looked around to find about a half dozen stray cats sitting or lying around the garage. They must have snuck in with all the opening and closing of the door.


Night came and it grew quite peaceful in the small car refuge. The scene, if filmed, would have been prefect in any film about this time of year. They heated up some food on a hotplate and toaster oven scavenged from the dilapidated house. For dessert it was hot cocoa all around. He went outside whenever she had to breastfeed, and a couple of the cats would accompany him. It was right at midnight when, standing outside he recognized that there seemed to be a lot of activity on the street. Several police cars rode by shining the small spotlights on the door as if they were looking for someone. He ducked back in the garage and decided that he best stay in for a while.


All of a sudden there was a huge bright light over the garage. Through the window, air vents and numerous holes normally not noticeable it seemed to be right over the building. It lit up the space brighter than even a fluorescent lite would. All of a sudden, the door flew open and three men came rushing in. one slammed the door and locked it. The three then started to stack things in front of the door, and garage door to stop anyone from getting in. they finished and turned to the current occupants.


They were gangbangers. Each of them had tattoos on their hands and necks. One of them took off his coat and it looked as if his whole body might have been covered with what the bell ringer knew was “prison ink.” They stared at each other for a long time. The smallest of them introduced him and his friends as “Paco, Flaco, and Juan Diego.” They explained that they were having some “judicial” issues with the po-po’s and needed to chill for a while. The girl asked them if they wanted hot cocoa.


The baby had been covered up during the introduction suddenly began to cry. She uncovered him and he stopped crying, giving his mother a big smile. The three hardened street criminals seem to melt all at the same time. They gathered around the bed and oohed and aahed the child. They made faces to make the infant smile. The smallest thug, Paco, asked if he could hold him and the girl relinquished him after being reassured that tattooed hooligan had seven younger brothers and sisters who he had cared for when they were born. Flaco and Juan Diego summarily wished to embrace the child. Each was quite careful and loving. They talked baby talk, albeit Spanish baby talk, until the baby fussed at all the attention. They asked what his name was and were shocked that he had none. Juan Diego declared that given the date, there was only one name possible.


The trio spent several hours visiting and peeking out the window before they decided their “judicial” problem was no longer as urgent as earlier. They each said goodbye to the newborn and wished the girl luck. They shook hands around and proceeded to leave. Flaco stopped them and they had a whispered conference before Paco pulled a piece of paper out of the pocket on the large backpack they had brought with them. After writing on it for a while they put it in the main part of the backpack and slipped out of the garage. Never to be seen again by either of them.


The next day the old couple came back and came over to the garage. They had not been able to get the three of them out of their heads. They were supposed to stay through the first of the year but came back early. The old woman explained that they were pretty set in their ways and had been given a real wakeup about the way they lived and thought. Things they accepted coming from a pulpit in a large wealthy church were not in harmony with what life might actually be. She apologized for herself and her husband’s behavior and invited them to come share their home until things were better for them. No questions asked or required behavior other than civility. The two evictees from a homeless shelter looked at each other and accepted the offer.


The two moved in and asked for separate bedrooms. Once settled the girl asked if he would watch the baby while she took a long hot bath. He sat in his room holding the baby until the older gent called and asked him to help him move a crib into the girl’s room. Securing the baby on the bed with a wall on one side and pillows too large for it to scale they moved the crib into the room. The wife came in and made it up from the baby things she had in the attic. Once bedded down, the child drifted off to sleep.


Sitting and watching the child his eyes fell on the backpack left by Paco, Flaco, and Juan Diego. He pulled it to him and opened it. He found the note and a bag full of rolls of hundred dollar bills. The note explained that the money was proceeds from the sale of items responsible for their “judicial” issues. It had been laundered and was completely legal. The three were using it to get out of town, but felt the baby could use it better them. Nobody was looking for it. Not even the po-po’s.


The old man came into the room and found his new housemate confused. He looked at his benefactor and held the note up for him to read. Reading the note slowly and looking into the bag, the old man stood there for quite a while. Finally, looking as if he had made a decision, he handed the note back and looked at the baby. The girl came back from her bath and was presented with the information. Wondering what to do they looked to their benefactor. Not having looked away from the baby, he said, “Well Emmanuel…it looks like it has turned out to be a really good Christmas.”


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Once upon a love lost time…

There was a girl who lived in Lindenhurst, NY who, for a summer, had my heart in her grasp and I never intended that it be released. It took place in the mid to late 1970’s in that faraway place that I remember thinking was simultaneously glory, joy, utter bliss, and extreme ecstasy. It is a location that must be where the Rapture takes you. All that is good and kind is everywhere, and your soul, no; your very being is complete. A place like no other that might only be found in a specific set of eyes.

I am not able to access her name from the rapidly deteriorating hard drive between my ears. I can, fortuitously, rescue a memory of opulence in the orbs with which she observed me in my foolishness. 

We met while we were gainfully employed as taxi drivers at a small cab stand at the Long Island Railroad station in Babylon, NY. The money was terrible and the hour’s even worse, but it sufficed to pay a weekly rent and allowed for enough to enable the noble search all young men required in their quest for female companionship and whatever mind altering, mood changing substance essential to the discovery of true love.

The particular advantage to my spirit that this unique lady offered is that there was no need to wander the pubs and beaches in the execution of the marvelous mission that is coital coupling. We got off at about 11:00 pm and the world was, literally, our oyster. Pub crawling was not necessary, and quite cumbersome to us as we crossed the threshold into the adventure of discerning if either of us might just be, THE ONE AND ONLY.

We would ride across the bridge spanning the Great South Bay parking out by the nearest beach. We would lie on the hood of her car while watching the sky and the surf. We would drink beer or wine and talk about grand ideals while listening to the FM station playing love songs. We would look deep into each other’s eyes before we embraced. We would skinny dip, but not get too close. We had promised to wait for the gift of intimacy until there was no doubt that we had, in fact, uncovered THE ONE AND ONLY.

This pausing in the exercise of release that most young people yearned for served as both a blessing, and a decided disadvantage. This was not something my Neanderthal mentality was properly adept at. I have visions of cavemen and the lack of romance required back in those glorious days prior to language or etiquette. I realize this is a racial memory, but in my misspent youth I was not the judicious and perceptive intellect you have all come to love and submit your time to. Today I can listen to “Here comes the Sun” by the Fab Four and reminisce of the women in my life I have loved. Back in the day, it was much more “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” by Meatloaf. So why agree to this absurd abstinence?

It was her eyes.

I would look in them and feel safe. I would wonder why the only thing I really wanted to do was see the shine in those sky blue near translucent orbs lit by the moonlight bouncing off the water, and hear her soft voice telling me things I had never heard before. I never found an answer to my speculation.

It seemed as if God had sent an angel to me. She would smile and tell me goodnight when she dropped me off closing the night with deep embraces. My heart would ache for the sight of her until I got to work the next day. Then, right at about 11:05, Shangri La would open and all else would evaporate in the face of the magnificent creature that God had allowed me to hang with.

The memory is still breathtaking, and it comes to me from time to time to, I believe, remind me that I am alive. There is much in life currently that is ugly, unpleasant, and foul. One thing that is not revolting is the memory of a love lost in time.

The reality of the time proved not as splendid as the memory. Summer turned into fall, and then winter. It became too cold to sit out by the beach unless we were extremely inebriated. An old boyfriend of hers moved back to town and wanted to rekindle old times. I picked up a decidedly exotic girl in my cab one night and discovered that adorable eyes existed in other woman. We drifted apart and marched on our individual ways. We never did discover the wonders of the flesh, but that was fine. Like I said…it was her eyes.