That One Mid-Morning in November, 1963

“I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”   Matthew 5:28

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I’d admittedly forgotten some vague dots over the years until a tiny ember (resembling my aging mother’s voice) leaped through my firewall. She read to me an obituary of one Ms.
Daisy Polé the sole daughter and heiress of the late Mr. Raleigh (Buck) Polé. Ms. Polé, an unmarried woman and Mr. Polé, a widower since 1941 moved to Gilroy in the Santa Clara Valley in 1964 and accepted administration of the family’s lucrative portfolio of land ownerships including the keystone of Santa Clara, the Sebastiani Vineyard among others. a-1sebastianiIn 1916 his parents, M. Benoît-Pierre Polé of La Rogue Gageac, France, and his fiancé Miss Caroline Agnew of Tippah County, Missouri, entered into a 99-year periodic tenancy of the 4,467 acre vineyard of Mr. Samuele Sebastiani. This agreement allowed Mr. Sebastiani and his heirs to farm the land autonomously for a share of each yield. In a statement issued by family attorneys: “In the margin of the original will Ms. Pole noted in her own handwriting which was witnessed that “Upon my death and by freea-1daisy4 choice, it is my wish that all landownership be dissolved immediately and set free; all the land returned to heirs of Samuele Sebastiani (as well as Banshee, R. Strong, Paradise, and Truett-Hurst).” According to the Santa Clara County Recorder of Deeds Office, Ms. Polé’s gesture is the largest periodic tenant return in Santa Clara County, and is reportedly valued at $110 million.

It was back in 1963, one of a dozen sunny and bitterly cold Mid-November mornings. It was that particular mid-November day in 1963 that Mr. R. Polé and Miss D. Polé, and Mr. B. Bleddstone were exiled from my memory. That was the day my Mother (then a deeply discounted, cash only housekeeper) exploded. Her honesty while certainly noxious was also injurious and fatal to the futures of three adults and one child.

When I was five my single-parent Mother whose career as a deeply discounted, cash only personal 0-momnmewinter.jpgHousekeeper was forced to dress me, pack her lunch, pack my lunch, check our bus fare, and one last-minute cross-check of her self supplied and professionally preferred cleaning products deftly loaded into her briefcase (a doubled National Foods, brown paper shopping bag) and haul us to her four daily housekeeping a1-housekeeperandsonjobs. And though she never said it, my waving-hand-hello’s which greeted the Mrs. of the House always – except today elicited the friendliest responses in the form of an angelic smile, pat on the head, brief tickling episode, or my favorite, an invitation to (one of my Mother’s strictly forbidden breakfasts) sandwich cookies and milk!

We never suspected the degree of turmoil Mrs. Daisy Bleddstone had deflected on a weekly basis for my Mother’s tardiness. On this intense and nippy Mid-November morning,  I stood shivering and whispered under my breath, “C’mon, it’s just a ring of keys in a car coat! Jeez!” I paced as I grew impatiently colder watching my Mother plunder her car coat like a determined cop ransacked a suspects coat for contraband. At wits end, she threw the coat to the ground, a-1momstimexchecked her Timex and proclaimed, “Holy Jesus, it’s a quarter past!” then dropped to her knees and began twisting and tearing and rifling through her proudly self-purchased woolen car coat which eventually puddled, ruined and lifeless, before her. Then my Mother in a strained, ironic voice peppered with diabolic laughter quietly confessed, “They’re on the kitchen counter!” (Again we were rushed, determined to avoid another condescending explanation of the value of her employer’s time, which is, by the way, priceless!)  “And fifteen lousy minutes to someone with all the time in the world cost me the only coat I’ve bought for myself in six years.” And as we knelt there staring at the woolen carcass, the immense front door (resembling the Wizard of Oz’s deterring, massive and inadmissible portico) opened and Mrs. Bleddstone stood there like an over starched shirt. She said in hushed tones,a-1thief her voice quivering unnaturally, as though a crook was poking her ribs with a cold snub-nosed .38 ordering, “Get rid of them or I will for permanent!”

Mrs. Bleddstone, in a breathy, desperate whisper said, “Buddy’s looking for his shirts!” “Oh Holy Jesus,” my Mother blurted flying past Mrs. Bleddstone and beelining it for the kitchen. saying over her shoulder to the Mrs.,, “They’re in the fridge staying cold and damp ready for me to iron them.” When my Mother finally emptied the Fridgedaire, the door slammed shut unexpectantly and barely missed my Mother. On the other side of the door stood Mr. Bleddstone, dressed for work except for a shirt. Mr. Bleddstone chortled, “Do you expect me to wear a wet shirt to work?” Then he buddys take-offbegan to mumble, inaudibly at first, then tightly restrained; a “can’t two damned women figure out how to iron . . . someone’s to blame and she’s going to pay, Christ! She’s going to  “Daisy,” Buddy asked casually (while he studied, carefully recalling this whole fucking debacle: ‘Which one’s really to blame? Which of the two bitches made a patsy of me? And in front of the god-damn kid!), “At what time do we begin paying our laundress and her little thimble?” “Eight o’clock Buddy, but . . . today’s an exception . . .” My Mother, hopeful that after watching eighteen months of Daisy’s acceptance of denigrating sexism and impolitic adultery, Daisy would finally go chin to chin with him.

Then Wham! Down came his fist like a butcher’s cleaver!

And again; Wham! But this time the noise and crushing impact caused Daisy to retreat to the nook next to the broom closet; as though she’d learned to protect some of her body. a1-buddy angryBuddy, without breaking his stare at Daisy, whipped his hand to within inches of my Mother’s face; yet she didn’t flinch (having been a “Daisy” years before). Buddy yelled at Daisy, “Those folk don’t get exceptions, they are exceptions! Damaged, cracked, and “hopeful’s” waiting on a dusty shelf, propped between bookends; on one side alimony and child support and on the other side a line of suitors waiting their turn . . . that is until they spot her little anchor. The kid is competition for privacy, intimacy, and affection. He’s a nuisance; one more rain-check, yet another rain-delay; stood-up because of a kid’s runny nose. Finally he gets it: Every suitor is enchanted by the promises of a lonesome blonde with ripe, plump strawberry lips. Eventually every suitor becomes disenchanted by ignored or forgotten promises of afa-1soldiersfection and boundless hours of sex. Every suitor was embarrassed that a few well-placed promises led to her mockery of the suitors understanding, forgiveness, and patience. Eventually it became clear that her primary attention and affection was toward the kid and every suitor had the leftovers. This was her way of giving the kid a daddy ’cause she knew nobody wanted to be daddy to some little bastard!”

I heard it but never saw it. The sound resembled a bat cracked during a ballgame on the a1-woman slapsmanradio. And Buddy stood there stupefied by the burning sting of a Housekeeper’s hand (a fucking Housekeeper’s hand) which hung, opening and closing quickly like the mouths of caught fish. Slowly Buddy shook off the shock, steadied himself off the ropes, his chest began to swell signaling an apoplectic eruption.

But before Buddy had the chance, my Mother, with years of staggering physical abuse; years of self-denial, of crushed hope, of denigration, of inhumanity, and the pestilence of rotting promises; finally, Catholicism’s orthodoxy of eternal damnation if she divorced a cruel and punishing bigot; and her character decaying as she endured (out of fear) the self-important icy hands (also fists) which stripped then roughly rummaged  beneath  her clothing. My Mother, her eyes locked on Buddy said, “Well, a damp shirt is more dignified than one streaked with cheap lipstick. It’s so cheap in fact, that one day one of us “Housekeepers,” will climb the basement stairs where we’ve been scrubbing lipstick longer and with more determination than I scrub the grass stains from my boy’s dungarees. All that effort so your wife (and all the other wives that I’ve worked for) won’t face the humiliation of infidelity and worse, your cruel and bemused recklessness knowing she’ll notice it, deny it, admit it just as the last drop of dignity rolls down her cheek. Daisy’s fear of life alone and the weight of the word divorcee keeps you here to be beaten like a farmyard dog; beaten when it’s convenient for him!

“Good luck, Daisy,” my mother said in whispered tones; “I hope that one day you’ll have the courage to stand-up to this cowardly bastard!”

a-1buddyyellingBuddy spun around as quickly as a toy top, his fists clenched tightly and stood inches from my Mother’s face. His fists shook and clenched tightly like a school boy’s first after school fight. Daisy reached out to Buddy’s shoulder hoping to detour his anger. Which it sure did! The interruption lit Buddy’s fuse and subsequent explosion! First was a painful back-handed slap which spun Daisy around; then bare-knuckled fists which accurately landed painfully and repeatedly at Daisy. It was then, right then as Buddy was preoccupied with torturing his wife that Buddy yelled, “you’re fired so get the fuck out of my house!

My Mother grabbed our coats and mittens and never looking back, led us quickly to the back door.  Upon opening the door my Mother and I ran smack-dab into Buck holding a plate of Danish. “Isn’t it a bit early for you and your boy to be leaving?” Buck asked. My Mother replied, “Today’s not a good day for us and it’s probably not a good day for you.” She practically ran down the sidewalk dragging me behind and didn’t slow until the Bleddstone house disappeared behind a wall of Junipers. She kneeled a-1anger and looked deeply into my eyes as though she wanted to bury something deep inside of me; something that I’d likely to forget, yet it would somehow be something that would shape my life: “Bruises aren’t tokens of love. And that first yellow and green and blue and nobility purple resemble badly applied make-up and doesn’t streak down your cheek with the tears. But, you realize, the bruise is deeper, a place that can’t be wiped away but is absorbed like the deep pile carpeting of your marriage. And as your shivering fingers deftly touch it you hear his voice, “Want one more? Another helping?” And the next morning you awaken early and study your portrait in the bathroom mirror: the accolades about your beauty just a few years ago: “Priceless, gorgeous, the face of perfection!” But this morning you realize the beauty is counterfeit. And while closing the bathroom door so he doesn’t stir, out they come sob after sob after sob after sob all fueled by unutterable recollections.

The moment Buck stepped threw the door he saw Buddy slap Daisy so hard that she’d spun, landing face down and splayed across the kitchen table. When the plate of Danish shattered as it struck the kitchen floor its sound broke through Buddy’s madness, leaving him out of breath and surprised by his degree of destruction. Buck calmly walked to Daisy, scooped her into his arms and began to walk out of the kitchen, when he suddenly turned to Buddy, “I assume you’ll be here after Daisy’s packed a few things and is sitting in my car. I think we’ve got a thing or two that requires immediate intervention. Don’t you?” Buddy stood motionless then began crying. “You know,” Buck said, “In twenty-eight years I never, not once, laid a hand on her.” Then Buck climbed the stairs with Daisy cradled in his arms.

“She wrote to you, didn’t she?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “Right after Buck passed away. She said they never talked about it. Not once for all those years.”

“Never?” I asked.

“Just once,” she said sadly, “When Buck knew time was running out.”

“So?” I asked quickly.

“She asked me not to discuss it with anyone, any-one, until she passed away,” my Mother answered.

“And?” my curiosity leaped ahead of my manners.

My Mother paused, then answered, “She mentioned only two things: She said that while sitting in Buck’s car she swore a wrecking ball was demolishing the kitchen.” Then my Mother paused and in that silence I knew she was fighting back very painful memories and the tears which soon follow. Continuing, she spoke quietly, “She said while sitting in Buck’s car and for the rest of her life, that she never found an answer to this question: ‘How can love as deep as mine look like this?”

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Conventional Wisdom is an Oxymoron!

The Truth of your Action often turns to shame which eventually turns to secret(s) which requires evasion and misrepresentations which causes perjury and self incrimination and arrest.

aaa-Conventional ArrestThe penance in 1928 for this path of omission would be swift, impudent, and ruinous to his sixteen year old daughter’s moral character according to Mr. Williams, the father to Miss Williams (confirmed to be with child). The father, H. Didrickson, eighteen, from Green Bay whose moral turpitude shamelessly corrupted his daughter’s moral character, and who would experience the wrath and fury of a politic and au fait Superintendent of a timber railway in Northern Wisconsin after Mr. Williams follows the advice of Conventional Wisdom to relocate his daughter to one of the neighboring counties and corruptly gains assurance of his family’s anonymity due to the handwritten misspelling of the birth father’s surname by the County Clerk. Conventional Wisdom was the modus operandi first employed in 1838 by the ruling class, and which were widely accepted as true explanations or actions by the proletariat even though they were unexamined and unproven. Simply put, Conventional Wisdom was high society’s “rule of thumb” when dealing with the ignorant, common rabble.

aaa-wisdom1It would appear that Conventional Wisdom adamantly insisted that: 1) any scandalous; 2) censurable; or 3) malevolent activity and its vicarious, foreseeable, or misbegotten side-effect i.e. bastard, crime, or hardship be: 1) blueprints; 2) engineered; and 3) dispatched clandestinely as to: 1) disquiet suspicion; 2) stave off defamation; and 3) avoid malice.  Conventional Wisdom’s golden era must’ve been a time when the world loomed large. An age when Europe would never be a destination. A time when the thoughtlessness of Conventional Wisdom empowered mandates set forth by the secretive, dodging, and manipulating rich, powerful, and self-appointed Grand Standers for irrational, ill-mannered, and bizarre vitriol; when men and women became lifetime politicians whose focus is their career not their conscience; and obscenely privately funded think tanks that thumb their noses at Liberty and bring our country to a dead stop simply by pouting and voting “No!”

A time of waywardness, of lost directions, of greed. An environment when citizens witness abject corruption which no longer scurries like insects or vermin, but are embolden and brazen, self-absorbed, and defying, criminals that remain free but those on whom they fed, those suffering their gluttony now face thirty penniless years of old age. A time when the dream to be President of the United States was ripped from the minds of the majority and entertained by those few able to conjure at least $1 billion. These are the times of Conventional Wisdom. Times of turning inward. Times of isolation. Times of blindness, and deafness, and silence. Times of cowardice, of intelligent ignorance: That is, being smart enough to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, and a silenced voice. Times of surrender. Times of apathy. Times of villainous denigration caused by rubbernecks, scandalmongers, and nosey parker’s. The time when Conventional Wisdom rose from arcane and obscure backwoods’ breeding to become the basis and keystone of our culture’s moral compass.

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The Final At Bat – Chucking His Things

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It took my brother 3 years after my mother passed away before he had the courage to go through her things, laugh a little, cry a lot and much like a funeral service, put articles of meaning to her in boxes and stowed them in a place surely to be forgotten in some hard-to-reach corner of the attic or dark corner of the basement.

After that one day when we finally removed the evidence of my mother, we have not, not even once, discussed those boxes or rummaged around to discover them.  It was as if, like herself, her belongings were put to rest.  But I know for certain that that Sunday afternoon was the most painful day of my brother’s life.

And now it’s my turn, with the exception that there’s nothing I want to keep.  I don’t want to remember him by furniture or china oraa-nothing artwork or clothes. Nothing, not trophies or photographs or clothes or christmas ornaments could possibly compare to the degree of intimacy and occupation I put into motion as part of a strategic plan to keep my brother solvent, without jeopardizing my life in Chicago.

I invaded the privacy of every nook and cranny of his life; I strong-armed him to go to an attorney to draw up the correct documents. I took over his finances. I questioned every single charge on physician statements. I carried a valise with copies of every important event that produced documentation at the ready, attorney drawn HIPPA forms which provided, without question, unfettered access to every health insurance plan and their schedule of benefits, physician bills, EOB, ridiculously high deductibles in lieu of capping monthly premiums, and finally negotiating Medicare physician costs (if they take Medicare), (non)compliance with orders to manage his chronic maladies gain access to all of his medical records back to 1985. There aa-occupationwasn’t a single part of his life that I legally did not have access to or was managing or that I would be denied access. In essence I represented my brother, except those requiring an actual body. And frankly, I think he harbored significant anger and to a large extent resentment. But if I and my partner were to first pull him out of his morass, I needed to take extreme measures and I needed the legal system as my wing man. And what evidence do I have to draw this conclusion?

The Best Friend relationship which I had so cherished before I commandeered his life was, at once, extinguished. The day that Social Security deposited his first monthly benefit he furtively initiated a quitclaim of my occupation and immediately liberated his Self from my subjugation like a dog freed from its leash and running, really running, the odors and aromas of independence challenging his speed, agility, and actions of being, in the simplest of terms, a dog.

And I think that’s precisely what occurred when his income was deposited into his account and he didn’t wait for permission or evaluation or reconciliations. It takes a desperate man to abdicate the course of his life and a man aching with humiliation to admit he doesn’t possess the forbearance and seasoning required to navigate the craggy cliffs of reinventing oneself at fifty-eight.

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The moment we cleared danger however, he was resurrected in action not in speech and said, “Let go of the wheel boy, I’ll take her from here.”

“Help Is On The Way!” – Solving the 9-1-1 Dilemma

aaeavesdropping2Frankly I find the uproar monopolizing the nation’s attention in recent weeks over the NSA‘s eavesdropping on “once thought to be private” conversations ironic.  Another example of sub rosa by law enforcement agencies is the warrantless tracking of a citizen’s whereabouts via surveillance made available by privately owned mobile devices.

Several states have issued a Call to Arms by writing legislation requiring a warrant for law enforcement to track an individual’s location based on their cellphone, social media, and/or GPS devices so as to eliminate eavesdropping by the NSA. Several states are considering legislation that would require a warrant for law enforcement to track an individual’s location based on their aasatellitecellphone, social media and/or GPS devices, but Montana has officially become the first state in the country to enact such a law.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) a non-profit organization that, according to their website, “is leading the fight against the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance program,” highlights when, in 2005, Mark Klein (AT&T’s whistleblower) approached EFF with documents alleging AT&T’s involvement in NSA spying, That was one of the smoking guns which finally led to this years phenomenal increase in citizen interest and senior level governmental involvement in the NSA’s Mass Spying Program.  (If you’d like more information about EFF and their interest in the NSA’s Spy Program, go to: eff.org/nsa-spying).

aaa-mobI’ve seen this rundown before: Government proposes/does/denies/admits/punished and Citizen declines/won’t/alleges/vindicated/lynch mob. Our government remains buttoned-up and stonewalled and our citizens resemble the stereo-typical Mob-After-the-Monster complete with torches, hay rakes, and wooden pitchforks!

The citizen mob’s mantra: “The government should stay out of my business . . . that is, until you’ve been in a hurricane (the Jersey shore), a crazed gunman (Newtown), or personal emergency (Atlanta SWAT rescue five firefighters). It’s during these dreadful circumstances that we, as private citizens, beseech comfort and sustenance.  And to whom do we turn when catastrophe, that is, catastrophe of immense, annihilating proportion i.e., hurricanes affecting millions living in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States; or, tornadoes one-mile wide, “grounding” for thirty-nine minutes and  17 miles affecting 34,000 lives in the Central United States; or, obstructing dozens of terrorist plans aimed at U.S. buildings or landmarks i.e., impeding plans to bomb the Federal Reserve in New York City by installing informants recruited by terrorists.  We turn to the same over-sized, immune, and budget-busting behemoth, the U.S. Federal Government.aaa-cellfone

My penning of this post was plain: The solution to the short-reach of our 9-1-1 system was to manufacture telephones with a bright red button. When the button is pressed your location is identified by Geo Tracking and your call is routed to the nearest 9-1-1 call center.

But obviously, as you can tell by the first five paragraphs, no one would use it! If the government picked up the call and rescued you, you’d turn right around and say, “Why’d you rescue me? That’s a violation of my rights as a private citizen!”

 

Rich Didrickson (1955-2013)

“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.” — Herman Melville

It sent me back on my heels and against the ropes.

I was so surprised that time stopped.

It’s disappointment struck like a head-on collision.

When I answered I heard the life expectancybut I expected a little empathy;  not the credibly, relative destiny. 

It was a bombshell aimed dead-center to insure the greatest damage.

It was the end of one of several episodes.

It was the start of a new episode.

It was colorless. Soundless. Sightless.

It’s coldness remained near me, like walking out of a freezer.

It underestimated its infliction of cruelty.

Rick had the courage and nerve and right to refuse pain medications, food, and finally liquids. His pledge to himself guaranteed freedom from his hellish suffering that heroic measures caused, and found his real life patiently waiting at the gates of heaven on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at precisely 1:00 p.m.

It’s impossible for me to estimate the number of people who now have holes in their hearts where Rick used to be.

A Comment Worth Mentioning

aacommentDr. Culpepper writes in response to my recent post, “Thank You, Doctor.”

Dear Mr. Mulligan:

Medicine is a calling and I suspect that you would have served beautifully in this profession. A real physician does not have a job as a doctor, he or she becomes a doctor.

In the process of medical training, one takes on a new life… well, that’s the ideal. Much of the challenges of our healthcare quagmire result from medicine becoming instead a business.  It’s as if church and state combined into a disaster. So it is with healthcare becoming a business. No one begrudged a well paid physician, our community supports that concept. It is instead the focus on business: the margins, marketing, middlemen, and entrepreneurs (some of whom are doctors) that has poisoned this noble profession. Those physicians that are still true to the calling are swallowed up by the toxic agendas and often not seen except floating below the surface.

Please continue pointing to those brave souls. They need the attention and a lifeline.

Dear Dr. Culpepper:

it’s nearly impossible to practice a passionate profession be it medicine, applied sciences, mathematics, art, performing art, music or writing.. aacommentresponse While these passionate professions are often enjoyed by many, they fall far outside the gated community called business.

Your irresistible “calling” metaphor is the perfect rational as to why men and women pursue professions which require the volitional abdication of varying aspects of their human nature like sensibility, acceptance, support or reason. But it also provides a pathway to genuine propriety and inclusion in one of the most reverent and honored professions on a global scale. It is a profession which treats humanity not borders or anarchy or tyranny.

Physicians transcend the pettiness of our human condition to oversee the miracle of humanity. I myself have heard a calling; to ignore convention and weave together language inviting the curious to hear the harmony of words. To others blessed to hear their calling, I recommend you listen to its invitation; yet most discard it as folly. True Callings  never quiet; they continue to knock, disrupting whatever future you planned with doubt and obstacles.; then one day an example of the difference you could make persuades your abandonment of a false life to step off the canyon’s edge and begin your true life.

If it’s fear that stops you, consider your patient’s eyes filled with fear and the strength they see in yours; passionate eyes sparkling with compassion and the quiet strength of a truthful life.

The Short Reach of 9-1-1

What does fifteen minutes mean to you?   To me, it’s a short walk with Jenni or the edgy, flinching time I endure, while sharp picks and mirrors and a fistful of rubberized fingers examine my mouth.

To a heart attack it’s pay dirt; to a stroke it’s a killing; to an overdose it’s long enough; it’s 25% of your critical hour.

It was the way he answered the phone and repeated “nauseous”  that prompted my intervention and a feeble attempt at reassurance, “I’ll call 9-1-1,” which began a 15-minute byzantine pursuit through a labyrinth of indifference, ignorance, misinformation, unyielding tenacity, irrationality, and finally the grossly delayed ringing of the fire department serving my brother‘s address.

In this age of instantaneous access to millions and millions of useless and the occasional entertaining tidbit of useless information, we assume that a federal infrastructure would be installed and activated and by dialing three simple digits you would be transferred to the emergency department serving your father’s address.

But there isn’t.  Instead you’re passed along with great indifference until, smartphone in hand, you’re barely capable of performing search after search of increasingly familiar street names and coverage maps and administrative offices which you call in desperation and quickly evaporating hope.

Fifteen minutes while your brother or sister or father or mother follow your misguided instructions based on years of same-city-9-1-1-calls.  Who would ever think that soliciting an emergency service would be impossible.  Impossible?  Really?  Impossible, while your brother or sister or mother or father sits alone in their home slowly dying.

Without question, the federal government should appropriate whatever amount of money it will cost to rebuild a one-city call center into a network of transferable calls to the exact city where emergency help is needed.  Please, spend less of our money on bombs which kill scores of innocent people in faraway countries and use it here at home for emergency call-centers purposefully designed to assure the caller that first responders are on route to your brother or sister or mother or father’s house to save their lives.