Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Phone Parking

I did not understand until just recently what these new stickers on the tables at Starbucks mean. 

Park Your Phone Here

I will admit, albeit sheepishly, that I thought at first sight one could place his cellphone on the indicated area and it would automatically connect or disconnect! Wow, I thought. What will they think of next? How very convenient! 

It didn't work, of course, but I thought that I was no doubt doing something wrong. In any case, it didn't really matter, because my phone connects and disconnects automatically as a product of its proximity to a wifi station. 

But no, several weeks later I learned, from an advertisement on Facebook, that these table decals are meant to encourage people to put their phones down and actually connect face-to-face to the people they are sitting with. How's that for a concept, right!

The only trouble is, no one ever sits with me. The chair on the opposite side of my table is generally perfectly pointless, aside from kind of producing a symmetrical appearance. If anyone does sit with me, it is either one of the baristas who work here and always sit with me at break time anyway, or someone who is trying to sell something--masquerading, at first, as just a friendly human being. Oh, they're interested in connecting, all right. With my bank account. 

Another thing I note is that people seem actually to avoid placing their hand phone on the picture of the hand phone, as if fearing that if they do so, they will be unable to check their latest social media chatter. Perhaps trash bins attached to each table would be more effective. 

Nonetheless, I will continue to wait patiently for someone to take advantage of the empty chair and of the phone parking spot in order to connect on a personal level--preferably a beautiful young woman with no ulterior motives.

Light Show

Had another of these weird but rather spectacular light shows in my eyes this morning. I was going about my usual routine, eating breakfast, getting dressed, and so on, when I noticed bright lights at the periphery of my eyes, most especially in the right eye. The lights had a golden hue this time, brilliant, lustrous, along with a smooth sort of motion, like a moving picture on a TV or computer screen. No headache, no pain, just the light. A friend has previously told me that this is a certain sort of a migraine, without discomfort other than the disturbing light. I don't know. Could be. I tend to connect weird shit like this to MS. In any case, there seems to be nothing one can do other than sit back and enjoy the show. So I delayed my plans, laid down for a while, closed my eyes, and watched the show. 

Other than this, my eyesight seems to have been becoming progressively worse of late. I find myself unable to read under any but optimum conditions--which seems to mean dim light. Otherwise, the characters just don't want to focus. For typing text, such as I am doing now, I rely on my many years of  practice as a typist, relying on my fingers to "see" what they are doing, rather than my eyes. All the years I spent typing while looking at a separate text seem to have paid off, in a marginal sense anyway. I have had my latest pair of spectacles for, I think, less than a year, and they are swiftly becoming next to useless. But hey, they look good, and they automatically darken in the sun, and they hide to some extent my cavernous eye sockets, and therefore continue to be useful. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Cecil Books

In the high Oregon Cascades, on the shore of a place called Olallie Lake, about halfway down the trail between Cabin 2 and the Resort Store, there is a roundish rock roughly the size of a garden table and the rock has been split at the center by a small, gnarled, leafless tree from a time no one can now remember. The name of the rock and of the tree together is Cecil Books. 

Cecil Books is a time machine, though only four or five boys are aware of this. They are the passengers, the time travelers. Aside from being a time machine, Cecil Books possesses in his stony memory banks all of the world's available knowledge, along with quite a bit that never was and never will be available. Cecil does not know the difference between facts and fables, but he knows the minds of boys. 

In order to travel in time, one must mount the machine and cling to the trunk of the central tree. Often enough, the ride is rough, for the currents of time are swift and sometimes stormy. Occasionally, Cecil runs out of gas, stranding the boys in the middle of an Indian war or a black hole, and Cecil must be refilled through a hollow root protruding from his base, and the dust of the earth is his fuel.

Cecil is not always by the lake. Cecil is everywhere. The lake, just there between Cabin 2 and the store, is more like his original home, his birthplace, the place where Cecil is most what he is. He is not an idea, not a concept. He is a rock and a tree, and a time machine. 

You can say to Cecil, "Take us to the year 5000 BC", and Cecil will take you there, and chances are that it will be far different than anyone thought it would be. You can say, "Take us to Dodge City", and he will do that, too. He conveys the boys not only through time, but through distance as well--for how else are boys going to get from the high cascades to Dodge City, Kansas in the space of the time they have on hand? 

Cecil Books goes anywhere and everywhere, from the far reaches of the world and time to the far reaches of outer space and beyond, and yet he never moves an inch without boys. And as far as anyone else can see, as far as adults can see, Cecil never moves at all. But that's just as far as they can see. They see the rock, they see the tree, they see the boys clinging to the tree, but they do not see the journey taking place. That's because it all happens in the wink of an eye. It all happens outside the confines of sight and time. 

I would like to see Cecil again someday, and I think I will find him, still, on the shore of that lake. I would like to lay my palm to his adamant flank and touch the barky skin of his mast and gaze from atop the fissured deck to the shore of the water and the blue of the distant deep and the rising of the trees to the crowns of the hills all falling into the sky beyond and beyond. Time is short, and the distance is great, but Cecil, knowing time better than anyone, is always patient. Cecil always waits. Not here. Not there. Everywhere.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tears Without Triggers

I think I've mentioned pseudobulbar effect before, but I think I'll mention it again, as it seems sufficiently interesting, as well as sufficiently weird, to warrant further consideration. 
The website,, summarizes this peculiar symptom as follows: 
Multiple sclerosis (MS) damages the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. The nervous system sends messages, or signals, between the brain and body to control bodily functions. Damage to this system can disrupt these signals.
Damage to the central nervous system by MS affects movement, feeling, vision, and even emotions.
Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a condition in which you suddenly start to laugh or cry (or have other emotional outbursts) without being triggered by anything in particular.
Normally, your cerebral cortex (at the front of your brain) communicates with your cerebellum (at the back of your brain) to control your emotional responses to situations. However, sometimes the cerebellum becomes damaged by lesions or nerve problems. This can disrupt communication between these two areas. PBA is thought to result from this miscommunication. Your brain “short circuits,” and you can no longer control your emotional response, which is called disinhibition.
So, as I dressed this morning, I decided to listen to some music. My mind was on nothing in particular, other than getting dressed. It had been  a normal morning thus far--getting up, preparing a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, checking out the news on the internet, taking a shower, and then getting dressed. For music, I chose a song by the country acapella group, Home Free. I don't remember the name of the song, and I experienced no particular response other than an appreciation of the harmony, the expertise of the singers. Next up was a Disney Medley. And that's when I suddenly burst into tears. The songs in the medley reminded me of nothing in particular, the words possessed no special meaning for me, I had not even seen, as far as I recall, the movies from which the songs were taken ... So, why was I crying? If the cause was anything in the medley itself, it would seem to have been merely the exuberance in the voices, the clarity, the rising and falling of the pitch.

Of course, many of us will react to music emotionally. That, after all, is the job of music as far as the listener is concerned. There are few, I think who would not shed, or at least nearly shed, at least one tear to Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. But this is different, isn't it, than helplessly weeping throughout a medley of songs from Disney cartoons?

Up next was another song by Home Free--Try Everything--and more weeping. The tears are rolling down my face and my nose is running and my eyes are red, and I will need to stop my activities and compose myself before going out into public. I'm not sad, I'm not hurt, I'm not heartbroken, I'm not angry or upset or stressed--I just want to get my morning Starbucks!  Why am I wasting my time blubbering? 

For one thing, I've never been big on crying to begin with. My father taught me early on that men don't cry, and boys don't cry either. If anything, I had tended toward the unemotional side. I did not cry at movies. I did not cry after reading Love Story, despite the book jacket guarantee that I would. I did not cry at weddings or funerals or when my favorite team lost a football game--though these would have been reasonable triggers for weeping. But even when crying would have been reasonable, I tended not to do so.

I guess this is what pseudobulbar effect is all about. It needs no trigger, per se. It requires no event, no reason. It just happens. Or rather, something has happened deep within the system, in the brain, in the spinal cord, in the wiring that regulates everything that our bodies do. Just as neurologic damage is causing the pain n my shoulder and back, wherein I have sustained no other physical injury, so is it interfering with normal neurologic processes involved in emotion. 

Which leads me to say, in concluding, one additional thing about crying, which is that it is certainly preferable to the physical pain; for there is some pleasure to be had both in tears and in laughter, even when neither can name a trigger--an engagement in emotion ultimately resulting in release, whereas pain is just simply and only pain.  

Talk (Con)Fusion

I was chatting recently with a representative of Talk Fusion, a pyramid scheme ... uh, excuse me, a multilevel marketing venture involving an internet/email platform that will change the lives of those who participate, making them, in a brief time, rich and successful.

"It's a pyramid scheme," I said.

"Oh, no, no, it's not!" the woman answered. 'Here, let me show you."

She proceeded to draw for me a picture of ... well, of a pyramid composed of little boxes.

"See, this is me (box #1). Now, this is my son (a box below her box and to the left) and this is my daughter (a box below and to the right). These are my cousins (boxes below to right and left). You see?"

"I do."

"Now, if you join under me ..." She gives me a box. "You see?"

"Yes. It's a pyramid."



"But here there is no top, no pyramid. Anyone can be at the top. That's because the government is not involved. If the government were involved, you could not rise. But here anyone can be at the top."

"What about those boxes already at the top?"

"Well, they go higher. We all go higher. I'm going higher, and you can, too."

"You know who makes the money?" I said.


I put my finger on the top of the page (the page that has no top).

"Look," she said, producing a glossy magazine. This is Talk Fusion. This is what we do." She turned the pages, showing a man standing beside a red sports car, a man standing beside a private jetliner. "See this man? Twenty-nine years old! You want a car like this, right?"

"No. I don't like cars."


I shrugged. "Overall, I prefer my bike."

So she changed her tact.

"You know the reason I do this? I want to help people. It's not enough to just be comfortable for my own good. There are people in need, there are people I can help. People all over the world that I can help. But I need money to help them, right? How can I go to them and help them without any money? How can I do any good in the world without money?"

"Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure that money is the key. Take Jesus, for instance."


"Well, sure. He had no money."

"Exactly! He couldn't fly. He couldn't just go anywhere in the world to help."

Well, she got me there. I can't think of any story wherein Jesus flew. Although he did walk through walls. And walk on water, And, of course, rise from the dead.

"But how can this man's red sports car help?" I wondered.

"Because it shows people that they can do this!" she said. "They don't have to be stuck, and poor, and hungry, and slaves to the system."

"Well, I suppose he could give someone a ride."

"Yes! Yes! And so could you!"

"Yes, well ... I'm gonna think about it. Seriously (not). I'm going to study the business."

"Don't think too long," she warned. "Time is money."

I did study up a bit when I got home. Typing Talk Fusion into Google generates several results on the very first page. The results concern victims of Talk Fusion!

Korban, is the Indonesian word. Not good.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

As I lay Dying

I discovered a curious thing last night. Alcohol is more effective at cutting the neuropathic pain in my shoulder than Neurontin. Secondarily, I rediscovered that I am not able to drink alcohol anymore without immediately developing a splitting headache and a sense of profound exhaustion. And I'm not talking about a lot of alcohol. Just two beers. Clearly, the second case cancels out the benefit of the first--or rather, merely replaces one pain with another. So, I'm early to Starbucks this morning because the maid is clattering about in the house, and I'm nursing a residual headache, feeling a bit like a roll of cotton, watching Dharma eat packets of brown sugar.

Additionally, given that I had consumed the alcohol last night, I did not feel it would be wise to take my usual tablet of Xanax before bed, and therefore lay in a waking state for some considerable time, wondering what would happen to me, or rather, to my body, were I do suddenly pass away--an odd sort of entertainment as it seems now, yet somehow a pressing question last night. 

But, I mean, who would know? I am generally alone in the house, day and night, and generally I receive no calls on the telephone. True, someone might note, after several days, an absence of Facebook interaction, but would they conclude from this that I was dead? Probably not. 

So how long would my corpse lay without being discovered? Well, if Louis were outside of Bali, as she is now, it might be a month or more. Of course, the big fat brown dog will have come by, but will have been merely irritated by my unavailability, and will not likely have sounded any public alarms. It seems an awful long time for a corpse to lie untended. Of course, eventually the electricity will be cut off for nonpayment, as well as the water--but then, I will not have been missing these anyway, nor will anyone else have missed them. In fact, given that I am dead, I assume that I will be unconcerned one way or another, because unaware, regarding my death. 

Still ... it struck me last night as being distinctly lamentable, as well as inappropriate, for a corpse to lie around by its lonesome for weeks on end. One shudders to think of the deterioration, and the attraction of vermin, and the odor. 

Come to think of it ... hmmm ... No wonder I couldn't sleep! 

Friday, February 16, 2018


My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled. 
--Lamentations 2:11

I awoke this morning on the verge of tears. Was it a remnant of a dream? Was it a remnant of the day before, or of the year before? Life before. The sunlight was naked on the yard and on the branches of the impotent tree in the yard, and I made my coffee half in a dream, silently on the verge of tears. The sound of the water, and the slide of the drawer and the clinking sound of the spoon in the cup seemed insulting somehow. So careless were they. And I sat in the chair, the green plastic vaguely cold on my unclothed skin, and put the cup on the table and reached for a cigarette and began to weep, letting the tears roll down my cheek and fall on my breast. I put my head in my hands and wept. I saw dead children on a tile floor, I heard soundless shrieks of unspeakable bereavement, I considered how very kind cancer can be, for there was nothing we could have done about it  Weeping is not hard once you start. It goes to its knees, as if in prayer, acknowledging that nothing whatsoever can be undone. Weeping places shame at the feet of speech. Weeping honors all the good that was not done. It is what remains, at last, of love. 

Time it was,
And what a time it was
It was ...
A time of innocence 
A time of confidences

Long ago ... it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
There're all that's left you

--Old Friends, Simon and Garfunkle