My Moral Corruption

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“How you said what you said was simply enchanting,” were the first words he ever said to me.

“I was awake, I was always awake,” were the last words.

And between these two bookends were almost thirty years of an on-again/off-again relationship which redefined the term love affair, and which did very little to boost my self-confidence.  Instead this. . .entanglement. . .often followed a beachpalsdreadfully antagonistic and well-rehearsed sequence of deplorable behavior: Vanish, spot, affirm, invite, tempt, yield, pity, agony, masquerade, endure, discredit, and pluck.   And each incarnation ripped yet another piece of moral character from me until sometime in the early nineties I concluded that we were no more to each other than a dealer and an addict, and he was always, always willing to deal, not out of compassion for me, but to satisfy some dark hunger, a craving, maybe a need.

Like anonymous chunks of an ice shelf, we broke apart and drifted away from each boy-in-bushother.  I finding love and partnership and success in Chicago.  He and his art landed in New York.  It wasn’t his drawings they placed atop acrylic pedestals.  For dollar bills he ignored their probing fingers; for five’s he forgot their foraging.  We never discussed the activities associated with higher denominations but he emphasized they were few and far between (“even for someone that looks like me!”), a thinly veiled plea for adoration of which I ignored and which subsequently produced a stifling silence as though the bridge between us had been washed away by indifference.

He enjoyed a modicum of success with a small band of go-go-boys that played the voyeuristic circuit of Greenwich bars, and infrequently out-of-town gigs took them to South Beach, Atlanta and, of course, Chicago.  But by that time his mother had passed, his baby brother didn’t want to farm, and his father sold all three hundred acres, outbuildings, and the triple-generation farmhouse and moved into town,  So when he was in Chicago it was all business; most of it public, but private parties were viceprisonerhands down the most lucrative (and dangerous).  His last trip to Chicago was a bona fide performance, secretly cast by the Chicago Vice Squad who raided the place and arrested the lot and charged them with indecency (the cheek dividing string of his g-string was 0.25″ too narrow to entirely cover his anus).  I was called and took clothes and cash and bailed him out of jail.  As the sun started to peek above Lake Michigan we were driving north on Lake Shore Drive when he said, “You know, I think it’s time to hang up the g-string.”

“Really?” I asked in disbelief, knowing (from years of personal experience) that posing whether still or sparkling was his only talent.

Staring out the window he replied, “Yup!  Problem is. . .”  Here it comes, I thought.  “Problem is, the cops kept it as evidence!”

We Think Alike, Our Pets and Us

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I have reason to believe that dogs aren’t aware of their size relative to the rest of the world. From the smallest breed to the largest there’s an obvious contradiction: the smaller breeds are the yappyist as though their bark implies, “C’monr! I’ll take y’all on! Me against 5 of you’s . . .” and their turf protection reminds me of the bully on the block. The larger breeds behave like Conscientious Objectors: demonstrating their reaction to conflict by staging a lay-in or sit-in. But I’ve determined that if you take a dog, remove its fur or hair, its legs, and its torso, a dog, fundamentally, is simply, a nose.

During one of our early autumnal walks, way past midafternoon’s march of the mothers to the elementary school followed by the pupil parade, two waning hours before dusk clocks in, we hit the abandoned sidewalk for Jenni’s thirty minutes of pure dogdom; when she’s not a pet, not part of the family, and not dependent on us. It’s her time to be a dog.

Often during our late afternoon, early autumnal walks we’re victims of late summer breeze’s giving way to staggering gusts which shake the trees like a determined child rattles his piggy bank. Green canopies disperse the shock while weaker, lower limbs lose grip. Cracking like brittle bones, the weakest branches drop like boat anchors, littering the ground with a menagerie of dissimilar limbs. Those few afternoons are beyond compare to play a rousing game of Stick!

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Stick! is a close cousin to fetch with one caveat: When I say Stick! Jenni’s got to find a stick to bring back to me! It’s a marvelous game, especially since I never taught her about sticks. Either Jenni understands English or I’ve picked up a bit of canine vocabulary.

On a particularly gloomy, chilly, and misty afternoon Jenni wished to play Stick! But the pickings were sparse until I located the perfect size stick for Jenni. However, it had threaded itself around three wrought iron spindles of a formidable fence. I bent down to pull the stick free from the fence and it didn’t budge. The harder I pulled the tighter it lodged itself into the fence. I paused for a moment to check on Jenni’s whereabouts, only to see that she had bitten down on the other end of the stick, and matching my determination, pulled even stronger when I successfully gained an inch on my end.

Age Calls It “Creative” Writing For a Reason

Upon graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Playwriting, my mentor, Mr. Arthur Giron cozied up to me and asked the question heard around the world: “Well, what are you going to do for the next twenty years?”  Cocksure and filled to the brim with inflamed enthusiasm and a bulwark of self-confidence, I smugly replied, “Why, be famous of course!”  I had a produceable play under one arm, a New York literary agent under the other; copies of my scripts being eyed by regional theaters all over the country, and a handful of positive reviews of my recent MainStage production; not-to-mention the sheepskin from a meritorious and first-string school like Carnegie Mellon!  I mean really, really, what else did he think I would do?  Mr. Giron shook his head slowly while he stroked and fiddled with his moustache: “You’re like a new-make-scotch-whisky.  You’ve been recently poured into your used cask where you’ll age or mature (meaning you’ll absorb the character of the ageing oak casks heretofore used to ferment sherry); and just like new-whisky’s alcohol content diminishing year by year, so will the strangulating auspices of your of fame and fortune.  The end result is a smooth, complex, and enigmatic author with the depth of character fossilized by year after year of life’s experience bearing down on talent; similar to pressure applied to coal produces diamonds.  In other words, my dear boy, now you’ve got to live life to its fullest, absorb as much as you can.  It’s from there, your experience of life from which you’ll withdraw the dark, dense, and curiously smooth depth.”

They couldn’t have told me that before I signed the promissory note for fifty thousand dollars to pay for two years of post-graduate education?

Mr. Giron’s soothsaying was brutally honest and absolutely true!  For the next twenty years I was given the cold-shoulder by most of the legitimate theatres in America; my New York agent dropped me because I was a one-trick pony (I had only one produceable scripts so when directors asked: “What else have you got?” she had nothing to offer.)  And soon thereafter I rendered my writing as the needless folly of starry-eyed twenty-somethings  young men and turned my attention to the corporate world, leaving my writing to rot in a trunk in the attic.

Humphrey Tales: All Manor of Cat at Downy Birch (the Foreword)

The stories you’re about to read took place in a town very much like your own.  And the streets, and the gardens, and the two-footed, unusually tall, disturbingly loud, rambunctious then ravenous, warm-lapped for napping human‘s (as I’ve heard them called) are all, coincidently, similar to your’s in your town.  With one very distinct difference:  In Cricklade, a marvelous miracle occurred.  Humphrey was born.

Humphrey has an unusual talent, even beyond the mystical reputation of Jellicoe Cats (tuxedo or black-on-white Cats).  Humphrey has the blessing of serendipity, cousin to the enormously influential Providence, under whose influence Humphrey was born at the musty corner of a dank basement.

Borne into the Royal Order of One, Humphrey’s FemmeFeline (that is, his birth feline), was an orphan herself.  She’d been abandoned in a bus line repair shop, so that the nameless mother might survive that bitterly brutal winter.  Humphrey’s mother, just another anonymous female, it is rumored, had the kind of litter which occurs only once in every 62,835 litters brought into this village every decade: The litter came to be known simply as The One Litter.

This fortuity often delivered hope to all cats;  The One Litter brought one Tom Cat predestined to a higher standard, and the true spirit of feline friendship, duty, and allegiance to whomever discovers Tom Cat, The Litter of One.

The talent Humphrey possesses is the ability to communicate with whomever rescues him from oblivion after being orphaned by his nameless mother.  This human will give Tom Cat his true Jellicoe Name (as communicated to him by the kitten he just found).  And everyone that meets Humphrey will think it is the perfect name (which it is).

These are the adventures of Humphrey, the cat of Downy Birch Manor and his Great Purpose?  To dethrone the Mongrel Canine and the moniker “Man’s Best Friend,” thus returning to all felines the righteous mantel and distinctive title designated by a human clan: He’s-Part-of-The-Family and with that moniker comes the Fireside-Favorite-of-the-Four-Footed-Feline, in the case of Downy Birch, an age old Hearth Braided Rug.

 

Love Is Blind. Until Your Dumped.

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It is universally agreed by trainers and corner-men that the most crushing and heartbreaking punch to survive isn’t the surprise of a cross, or the speed of a combination, or the immensely powerful and liver-targeted straight-right; and it is definitely not the pit-a-pat punches like upper cuts, hooks, or haymakers.  The Go-To, KO-certified, and Sunday-punch promised blow to land is the suckerBOXING2 punch connecting to your exposed soft-spot: that irritated and aching bridge between your blindsided disbelief and your simmering pity turned rolling boil of anger and self-declared vengeance at A) Being dumped; B) Being dumped by him; and C) Being dumped by him in your family’s dining room next to his empty chair via text message while he is using your family’s first floor powder room!

HERE ARE EXAMPLES OF THE MOST INSENSITIVE DUMPING EXPERIENCES:

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  1. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City) got dumped by a hastily scribbled post-it note stuck crookedly on the front of her refrigerator.
  2. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City) got dumped by a no-show groom (Mr. Big) on her wedding day. (Ouch!)
  3. An acquaintance came home after a fourteen hour day, opened the door to their “Dwell-Inspired” upper-floor condo only to see that everything was gone.  Everything!  Except for a hand-inscribed letterpress envelope addressed using the unusually etymological distancing term “Mr.” followed by his “maiden surname” lying on the kitchen counter as if it had been tossed like a hasty afterthought and skidded across the marble, bumping into the backsplash which, six years later, remains unopened and near in approximation to where it ended his seventeen year. . .whatever it wasn’t.
  4. One of my high school classmates got dumped while watching ESPN.  Her long-term boyfriend was caught on camera and the Jumbo-Tron proposing to a very close friend of hers at halftime of a Charlotte Bobcat’s basketball game.
  5. A graduate school colleague was divorcing her husband over the holidays.  On a quiet and snowy Christmas Eve her spouse stormed through the front door, bee-lined to the eight-foot Frasier Fir Christmas tree, and halfxmastreewithout uttering a single word proceeded to produce a handsaw and cut the tree in half.  He lifted the top half from the bottom and dragged it through the Great Room, and the den/office, parlor, foyer, leaving a trail of shattered ornaments, strings of icicles, and the thirty-seven years old Trumpeting Angel Gabriel tree-topper (an extravagant purchase, yet heralding their first Christmas together) lay dismembered, his trumpet reduced to an unrecognizable piece of gilded tin, as though Paul Bunyan‘s very heel heavy with hate repeatedly stomped the delicate trumpet until all sentiment and recognition was extricated. As Maggie sat stunned staring at the mesa-shaped evergreen, his voice bellowed from beyond the threshold, “Half of everything is mine!  You hear?  And I’ll take it when I want it!”

6.  At the height of a very popular annual Beaux Arts Ball in which guests donned extravagant and capricious masquerades, one gay wallflower wore an astonishing and eccentric mask and headdress which concealed a disproportioned and blemish-scarred countenance.  To compensate for his displeasing features, he doggedly pursued his studies and created a personality which was very bright, articulate, quick-witted, and genuinely entertaining.  The analytical mathematics major drew immediate attention upon entering the ball and even, to our astonishment, charmed the ambrosial, rapturous and celestial Calvin (heavenly homosexual bar none) whom, it is rumored, delights in the cruel art of teasing amour’s with no intention of sharing his passion fruit.  And as bewitching as he was, he was equally malevolent and behaved abominably to any unsuitable wannabe ignoble to his bloodline by acting notoriously destructive and unabashedly callous in the public rejection of hapless paramour.  I turned to Dane and said this spectacle isn’t going to end on a happy note to which Dane replied that bitch Calvin is going dismantle Michael like boning a chicken!  Michael’s repartee was a well-rehearsed and exquisitely played obstacle like a moat or a citadel or an arm’s length, banning any intimacy from suspicious admirers.  Dane and I kept vigil from a distance should Michael require help.  But to our utter astonishment Calvin and Michael were seen leaving the ball, together, swallowed by the new moon’s saturating darkness.  How long before Calvin tires of Michael’s stonewalling and pulls it off Michael’s head, I asked. Dane replied quickly, Hopefully long enough for Michael to find the fuse box!  It was said a few weeks later that, indeed, Michael had been beheaddressed and Calvin kissed Michael softly, saying he’d wanted to kiss him all night (but ostrich feathers and rotting fruit cocktail kept him at bay).  It was also said that Michael did indeed get dumped, there wasn’t a public spectacle.  Instead Calvin admitted his Park and 96th Street breeding left him inflated and oblivious to most everyone, yet Michael’s charm and witty abandon caught Calvin by surprise.  And with that he kissed Michael’s cheek and trotted across the Common.  Michael never, ever, ever talked about his week in heaven.

And me?  I got dumped by a toe-headed, short, bronzed waif after two indulgent weeks for a cartoon character who, oddly enough, trailed us the entire afternoon (except when posing for pictures).  Who was he?

bugsbunnyBugs Bunny, of course!

  1. And boy, did I feel Goofy.

 

Unbearable Cruelty

2menWe were walking a block-and-a-half home tonight after watching a recently released movie.  About thirty minutes from the end of the movie I closed my eyes and withdrew the custom-fit Etymotic ear plugs I wear around my neck every day, and tried, really tried to isolate myself from the movie.  I knew that it was already too late to stave off the consequence of watching a film which included the graphic horror that the characters (humans) performed on one another.  I’d swum well past the breakwater and already found myself caught in a riptide of emotion that I prayed I could withhold until after we said goodnight.

And then it happened: starting from deep in my core, an ache, dull, almost quiet; but it sank, then caught fire and spread throughout my torso, finally exiting by way of heaving sobs and weeping.  I wretched as though vomiting; it had to come out like bad liquor; all at once I wailed, it was impossible to breathe; my partner grabbed ahold and hugged me; and I asked the same question I always ask when this happens: Why are people so cruel to each other?meanpeoplesuck

Whatever degree of resistance we’re born with or develop as a means of survival, when it comes to cruelty I find it absolutely unbearable and I must, in order to keep my wits, distance myself as quickly as possible, or shut my eyes which is partially effectual by eliminating the video portion.  An apparent afteraffect of my mental breakdown in 2008, one of my widely known characteristics disappeared.  This capacity was a basic tenet of survival in my career: an unusual and boundless tolerance of unwarranted and often gratuitous domination, insensitivity, and publicly verbal assaults by senior executives.  Post-breakdown I was no longer immune from feeling, really, really feeling the appalling and sorrowful inhumanity most humanity ignores, approves, pities, politely acknowledges while respecting civil decorum, or determined is very profitable as entertainment and implants it in scene after scene of recent motion pictures, or spends millions of dollars to create brutal, vulgar, savage, and murderous atrocities then market to our children as toys, or a sympathetic and comfortable populace helplessly citing the excuse approved by concerned yet tolerant bourgeoisie and the proletarians alike, “I mean really, what can I do?  I’m just one guy?”

TRY EMPATHY AND INTOLERANCE AND ACTION against any expression of cruelty by a human being!

And if that doesn’t inspire you to get involved, how about when you witness any expression of cruelty by a human being?dalaikindquote

But if neither works for you, place yourself in an environment where one human being (them) has dominion over another human being (you), and experience how it feels to take both barrels of cruelty.  And not just once.  Any time. Any where.  And fighting back gets you fired, sued, incarcerated, or killed.

We’ve got groups throwing blood on fur donning women; hordes marching on behalf of the inhumane treatment of animals for experiments; prohibition of foie gras in Chicago due to the mistreatment of the goose.

Really?  I mean, really?

Our cruelty to each other must take precedent: It’s intolerable, inhumane, unjust, and in no uncertain terms has it ever been, or will it ever be fodder for entertainment or a toy for a child.

Allen Ludden, Help Me Please!?!?

Had I known, the moment after initially accessing the internet via winsock or an equally cryptic amalgamation of geeky gobbledygook, that membership to the exclusive clubs (known as websites) would require not just one ridiculously preposterous secret knock-knock (login) followed by an incomprehensible, ludicrous, wacky, loony, cockeyed, screwy, and off the wall cavalcade of letters, numbers, symbols, and smoke signals resembling hieroglyphics or purposefully enigmatic code which 99% of average humans can’t create much less reproduce, I’d have hung up my telephone receiver/modem and exclaimed, “let those living in a foreign country, speak a foreign language!  Here, here we speak English: literal English: whole, cream-at-the-top, decadently-indulgent, Nym-sister inspired (Homo, Syno, and Anto), dipthong-declared English!

My internet usage is appropriate to my demographic but I currently store 200+ logins and corresponding passwords!  Two Hundred!  My password manager is the electronic equivalent of my pop’s workbench: more than half the crap he’s kept, when asked, he’s got no clue what it does, where it goes, when he used it, or why he’s kept it.  Same with me – but don’t ever, ever delete any login/password combination – EVER – because that’s the one you’ll really need!  And where do you keep the login/password combination to your Password Manager program?

I’m currently enduring the arduous task of searching through four years of notebooks (like the guy that pitched the winning lottery ticket) for a login/password combination I cleverly disguised as a common American idiom of which I was certain I’d remember because it was part of our vernacular in 2009 like Aberzombie.  Remember Aberzombie?  Can’t you just picture yourself around the Starbuck’s counter catty hissing that the size 2 no-foam-easy-skim-extra-hot-cappucino is such an Aberzombie?  Like that: that’s like what I’m searching for: that’s not what I’m searching for.

To the internet community at-large (especially those responsible for the L-SAT level login/password combination requirements):  Why not invent an easier (and more pleasurable) method of identification?  I’d like to suggest a pair of lips closely resembling your husband/wife/lover; boyfriend/girlfriend; Clooney; Roberts; Jackman; Beyonce which, when kissed, captures your DNA and compares it to the DNA profile they’ve got stored.

Tongue however, locks you out.  That’s just freaky-deaky.