Thursday, January 31, 2008

KO-OPerative (A Spy In The House Of Love)

Physics proves that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, ultimately, but it can be really fucked with. Altered beyond recognition. Ashed to ash, dusted to dust. Powdered and scattered to the elements. Where it might be reabsorbed into something new and different.

Admittedly, I have many times before in my life had the desire to set something on fire. Mostly as a way of constructive yard maintenance, however, and not in the obliterative and malicious sense.

Fire is an act of cleansing; it permanently "disappears" something. It consumes and then disintegrates its host. Completely. If done correctly... if not it still leaves an ugly mess.

It is also making a most powerful statement when fire is applied to something whether it be an inanimate object or a living, breathing thing.

Arson is most painfully demonstrative to this point.

Arson is the ultimate Dear John/Jane letter:

"Farewell, my Love, I will forever be gone missing from you and everything else in this life and on this planet. Permanently and for good."






KOOP 91.7 FM is a local community radio station based here in Austin, Texas.

KOOP is much like my old radio "alma mater" M.I.T.'s WMBR 88.1 FM in Cambridge, Massachusetts; a place that allowed complete strangers to wander in from the area and help grow a set of beliefs, enjoy great benefits of independent broadcasting and create and listen to outstanding music, commentary and news. It was a privilege to be a part of such an organization. We made it work ... for free. We were all volunteers. We did it for no financial gain whatsoever (or any expectations of such a payout - ever) but out of unadulterated, and often times unrequited, love.

It seems there was a spy in the house of love here at Austin's KOOP-FM back on January 5th, 2008.

Paul Webster Feinstein, a twenty-four year old station volunteer, became upset the night before.

Upset over something that might stun the average person. It went like this: The station "goes dark" after a certain hour and begins an automated playlist of music programming for its overnight internet "broadcast" services. This is a necessary function of most non-profit, understaffed community oriented radio operations.

Feinstein is a jazz lover. He produced a show out of KOOP called "Mellow Down Easy". A jazz show.

Not heavy metal. Not punk rock. Not rap. Jazz.










Duke, Benny & The Count.

All their own unique brands of gorgeous, smoky, contemplative, after hours rhythm and fire - the good kind. Lovers of the mystery and beauty of the soul.

Feinstein, the dubious jazz lover, apparently had his hands in the creation of the KOOP overnight playlist. Jazz music was his vision for the station at these hours: 'This is what should be played here off normal broadcast hours. You see? Trust me on this...'

Somebody else, probably the Program Director, didn't trust him enough on his decision making though or just thought better of it. The playlist was changed to another format as a result. So, let's move on then shall we?

But this infuriated Feinstein.

So inconsolably enraged was he that he poured an entire canister of gasoline over two of the control room mixing boards.

Then set fire to flames.

Up went scores of peoples' hard work. Peoples' passions. Peoples' dreams. An estimated $300,000 dollars worth of damage resulted to the station. KOOP had to relocate to another facility to continue its mission.

For the third time.

Yes, this was the third time in two years KOOP had caught fire... one caused by an electrical malfunction the other ruled "accidental".

But this third time ... this must have been the hardest hitting.

"I'd sooner catch fire than lose my desire."

-- Gino Vanelli,
Jehovah & All That Jazz

I no longer question a person's motives like I once did. I once thought all people could be reasoned with.

I have learned over the last half a dozen years alone (and a lifetime...) that human rationale is on vacation. Some folks are plainly just shutting down. They refuse to take in any more information (I gather) or responsibility for their behavior. All this stimuli, this media, this multitasking, this careerism, this scheduling of parenting in, this worldly weight, is becoming too overwhelming for our still too primitive, delicate bags of water selves to keep up with. The conscience mind seems to instead simply go blank with all the overload. Some now irrepressible part of us suddenly is taking over and uncontrollably rebels against our better judgment.

We set fire to flames without even raising an eyebrow.

This has made me cautious with many of my fellow species to the point of passivity in many circumstances. No, not being a "Wimp", per se, but now, more than previously, treading ever so carefully around the even slightly suspect acting John & Jane Doe's of the world. Remember the days when you settled a school yard argument with a bloody nose and a few tersely chosen words. Not now. Now we use Guns. Gasoline. Gargantuan acts of grossly gratuitous gumption. Preemptive retaliations for our oxy-moronic times!

Paranoia? Perhaps, but nothing in need of serious medicating (yet...) I assure you.

The following is one example (of maybe more than a few) that might help clarify my stance...

I have been the victim of unprovoked road rage before. I suppose, and blatantly working against my defense here, I must have been driving too slowly in the fast lane ... for the 110mph fastly approaching from behind lunatic in the Camaro one afternoon while on Route 128 near Dedham (Dead'em?), Mass.

The driver took it upon himself to pass me in a madly screaming, finger-raising huff, swerve wildly in front of my car and then slam on his brakes to, in all likelihood, speed-trial (and at that point premeditatedly) murder me.

Fuck up your ass hat mad dash joyride did I?

I am an excellent defensive driver, and it is for that reason alone I am now sitting here and writing about this episode.

Events like these make you view things very differently the moment after they happen.

One minute I am the average driver on his way home from work. The next moment I have discovered to my horror that an absolute stranger wants to make road kill out of me. Why, I had no idea that I had signed up for the Army Reserves during wartime! If that be the case, then why on earth are the guys on the supposed same team trying to frag me now, too!?

But this belies the point somewhat.

In a similar act of unthinking aggression Paul Feinstein premeditated a murder of sorts. By setting a radio station on fire, a community radio station, he set out to kill something. A place that is built by people who believe in an ideal and who love something, and are passionate for its representative free spirit. He, for whatever insipid reason, wanted to kill that off.

That was unwitting on his part I suspect, though, and is what I find so damned-ably frustrating (I'll get to this in a moment)!

He committed this act for a very stupid reason.

Dumbfounding and incredibly stupid.

In an act of revenge over a music playlist decision.

The number one rule (are you listening, Mr. Feinstein?), the number one lesson impressed upon me from my media classes all throughout college was this one simple notion: "Never fall in love with any one piece of audio tape, film footage, written word or story idea; it will most likely end up on the cutting room floor." The idea being: mourn briefly any loss, then move on even more quickly!

If you are genius enough to thwart this viewpoint ~ go for it!

Gasoline, my friend, is not genius... you are a shame to the industry.

Oddly, Feinstein had no prior criminal record nor had he registered any psychological trouble of any kind before this outburst. In fact, most of his peers, in both academic and social networks, spoke of him very highly.

What possibly could have happened to have him set fire to his flames?

A crime of passion..?

Although his punishment should fit the crime (fines & jail time, no doubt) I hope he also receives a type of counseling human society hasn't seemingly invented yet. A counseling that works itself around the premise that we have all been mysteriously traumatized somehow (for Americans, that bugaboo 9/11 again and its ilk perhaps? No, much deeper than that...this has been a long on-going affair I believe) and, as a result, become unthinking cows. A therapy that might, in theory, pick one's psyche apart, find its modern alien invader, excorcise it (cast it out!), then reconstruct the mind to a new stage of blissful enlightenment (any ideas on how to do this, class?).

My, my now.

Suggesting some 1950's era study in social engineering should ensue again are we? A smidge of brainwashing perhaps? A form of mental torture that's not really torture? I understand there's a position in the U.S. Department of Justice opening up shortly...

(ed. - we're now told that "waterboarding only feels like torture", by the way... Huh?!?).

Not quite.

Rather this uninvented therapy would merely tweak the knobs of our own mixed-up mixing boards. It would simply instill the same sense of passion we have for committing completely witless acts, into a sense of appreciating those same actions' for their far reaching consequences (does the concept of reciprocality mean anything to anyone?).

Not remorse for a past action, either, a foresight to undermine acting upon self centered, ideologically reactive behavior (not to suggest quashing any revolutionary mindset, mind you, but redirecting its ill-used, bastard-child energy form we frequently see on display).

Because when dear Mr. Paul Feinstein set fire to KOOP-FM earlier this month more than just a radio station went up in flames.

(Of course, I think I might be asking for too much...)


The following is the Associated Press report on the incident:

Man Sets Station on Fire Over Playlist

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Austin, Texas (AP) -- A volunteer at a community radio station set fire
to the station because he was upset that his song selections for an
overnight Internet broadcast were changed, police said.

Paul Webster Feinstein, 24, has been charged with second-degree
felony arson for the Jan. 5 fire that caused $300,000 damage to the
studios of 91.7 FM KOOP. He faces from two to 20 years in prison and
a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Feinstein told investigators that he was "very unhappy" about the
changes to his playlist, said Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief
Greg Nye. The songs were intended for an Internet broadcast that
occurs when the station is off the air.

"He had a dream of a career in radio and was very disappointed about
where it had led him," Nye said.

An attorney for Feinstein could not be reached for comment.

Station president Andrew Dickens said Feinstein had been in a dispute
with another volunteer about what kind of music should be put into a
digital library for the Internet program.

Feinstein was a jazz fan and his Internet program was called "Mellow
Down Easy," Dickens said.

"We knew there was a disagreement, but I would characterize it as a
little clash of personalities over types of music to be played and
not a big blowout," Dickens said.

Feinstein, who had volunteered at the station for about a year, quit
a week before the fire, saying he was going to do other things,
Dickens said.

"He seemed like somebody who was young, enthusiastic, had a life, was
a professional and was educated," Dickens said.

Nye said Feinstein acknowledged making a copy of the station key and
then waiting for the station to clear out on the night of Jan. 5.
Feinstein poured gasoline on the control panels in two studios to
start the fire, Nye said.

The fire department's trained dog smelled gasoline at the scene,
tipping investigators to the arson, Nye said.

Nye said Feinstein had no previous criminal record.

The fire was the third the station has dealt with in the past two
years. The first was ruled accidental. The second was caused by a
malfunction in a heating and air-conditioning unit of a nearby
business and forced the station to move.

This month's fire knocked the station off the air for 19 days. It
resumed broadcasting last week in donated space.

"We are kind of worried that people will look at us like a bunch of
idiots," Dickens said. "This is really just one of those out-of-the-
blue situations. Who the hell would have thought somebody would have snapped?"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Please amuse yourselves with the following link while I decide what my next (overly-obsessive!) topic of blogging might evolve into (if you put your face REEEEAAAAL close to the screen you may even feel its gentle, loving laps):

Have a nice day...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Best Seat In The House

There's an expression that goes:

"If you want the best seat in the house ...

... move the cats!"

Here's to the "Best Seat In The House"!

~ Happy Birthday, Heather ~

From All of Us!

p.s. - You only missed being a Capricorn by this much! ;^)

(You can visit the Best Seat In The House and wish her a Happy Birthday here)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time Travails

Grateful for having survived yet another year of time travel...

...never as easy as it seems.

"Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life."

--Daniel Francois Esprit Auber (1782-1871) Long Lived Composer

(Happy Birthday, Eleanor Marx!)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Strangers To Kindness

I run at night because the night is quiet.


Minds in a restless day-state are more-or-less fast asleep dreaming of their stresses for the next day's foray into being a
careerist. I run at night because my own day-state sometimes leaves me frantic and unable to make much for 'following one's breath' either. I am no better than the rest. I do not claim to be. But I am unique in that I seem to be the only one who runs at night. Late night anyway.

My routine begins with warding either Anubis or Marley, our black feline companions, away from the front door as I exit. Marley occasionally makes a mad
-dash for freedom if the doorway is left open for too long, but doesn't get much past the first garden twig; she gets caught up submissively in a world of so many new and wondrous scents it renders her inept of all movement. Nostrils flaring, eyes eclipsed-full moons, heaving happy chest. An easy catch.

Anubis, on the other hand, is so daft a light breeze confuses her. I never worry about her doing anything too brash. Brashness requires at least a smidge of intellect. She does, however, jump up-and-down at the window after I leave, just like a little dog, feigning curiosity: "Where'd Ee go!? Where'd Ee go!? Where's Ee go!? (pant-pant-pant!)" Sometimes her little buck teeth hit the floor if she loses her balance in mid-acrobatic leap. Doink!

When all is clear I firmly seal the door behind me and begin to stretch out using the front yard walkway area and fence gate.

Right leg up and bend. Hold. And down.

Left Leg up and bend. Hold. And down.

Legs akimbo. Elbows touch the cement. Hold here. And up.

Hands and legs in 'arrest me' position. Hold. Deep breaths follow.

A few more variations of these then it's off towards a newly invigorated sense of physical well being... in theory.

Duval Street is a perfect two mile ribbon down to the University. And back ... that makes four. On a night like tonight, the air is crisp, the stars are more bright than they deserve to be (given that we live in a semi-major metropolitan area), and it is dry out like late winter leaves. These and pecan husks crumple under my feet as I run. No one would ever mistake me for an assassin or a sniper; nature's detritus betrays me every time.


I am running at a faster clip now-a-days and that gives me slightly less time to think.

Just past 51st Street I'm passing Flightpath Coffeehouse and already anticipating tomorrow mornings espresso fix. By 45th Street, and if the light is green, I have a steady rhythm and the days events begin to unfold.

...What did I do well, what could I have done more efficiently, how can I make this project come together fluidly, who do I need to contact by no later than mid-afternoon the next day, what files can I throw out or recycle for use later...

... hmmm, did I take the recycling out, damnit, tomorrow's recycling day ...

... oh, crap!

... the light is yellow, run faster ...

... made it, now where was I ...?


The college-aged man in brown pants and white indie-rock 'T' shirt jumps back off of the sidewalk as I'm about to bowl him over. He's been talking to someone kneeling on the cement path. A woman. Maybe in her early twenty-somethings. A friend? His date? Someone who's hurt herself?

No. Judging by the non-verbal language...

...a stranger.

She has two large, weather-worn plastic bags next to her. This is where she has decided on spending the night.

"No, no! It's okay. My fault." I urge. The man jumps back onto the walkway as I make a wide detour onto the grass.

There's a party going on at one of the houses close by. A half dozen or so people are milling about, conversing, drinking... doing what normal people do late at night when they're not sleeping.

No matter; I'm off again in no time thinking not much more of the encounter other than, "I think I've seen that woman somewhere before..."

And then quickly back to...

...was the proper session folder in the FTP transfer or not, it's going to take another seven hours to move all those files if I didn't remember to put the right session in there, and so on and so on...

By 38th Street I've just passed the sunflower yellow house that Heather and I have been aching to have a look inside of:

"3905 Duval Street.

For Sale.

Inquiries Please Call..."

Must remember to grab a flier on my way back...

Over a slight rise, down a respectable slope, onto the edge of campus in about a quarter mile, then, by using the Double Dave's Pizzaworks parking lot as my turn-around, I can start to head back again.

That "respectable slope" is now a full bore HILL!

To 38th. Then 3905. No flier bin. No fliers. No dice. Oh, well, we'll just have to schedule an appointment to see it on Friday evening.


41st Street. If I took a right turn here I'd be at the local H*E*B supermarket just 'round the bend a bit!

Here comes Mother's Cafe & Garden (it's all vegetarian fare and they recently built on a new dining addition after a fire last summer). La Dolce Vita & Hyde Park Grille on my left, Pronto Food Mart & Gas station on my right, the Lynx Apartments, the...

"Hey! Are you the runner? The running man?"


It's the kneeling woman. The stranger. Across the street now. I've made it this far back already ... and she's calling out to me.

"You're that runner from earlier, right?"

I am compelled by forces unknown to jog across the street to her. My mutinying legs assuming a conscious role now and coercing me to acknowledge, "Yes, I'm that "runner guy"."

(Ever tell your body to do one thing (as in continue heading in the direction you were already headed in!), and then it just suddenly refuses to cooperate? This was happening right then. But, as I'm not a coward, nor would I refuse help to anyone in need, it didn't quite irk me the way it might have back in 7th Grade like when one of those freakishly large football jocks would, point at you out of the cosmic lottery, and command,"Hey, Asshole! Get over here! Now!" And, irregardless of would.)

"What's up? Are you hurt?"

"No. I'm not hurt."

I can take all of her in now.

Where as before she was cast in shadows and merely some omit-able anonymity, some other being aided by a friendly companion; therefore, she was safe, I figured, so I could, in good conscience, move forward. In that afterwards she could be relegated to a plaything of the imagination. Not fully formed. Still a storyline with words to fill in the blanks at my leisure ... but certainly not yet flesh and blood.

But now?

Now ~ I'm committed.

She offers up a puzzle piece when I arrive,"Hi, thanks for coming over. I'm kind of stuck out here. But let me just say right off: I'm not homeless, but I am without a home right now ... but definitely not homeless. And I'm not a freak. You know how some people say they are not homeless but are and are, like, total freaks? I'm not one of those people. I'm not crazy."

"Ah," it dawned on me,"I thought I'd seen you before." I had. I had seen her walking around the neighborhood and recently, too. "Are you a student?"

Here she begins to remind me of the sum of many anybodies.

She has shoulder length billowing, brown hair like my old work colleague, Anna S., she has a straight, delicately curved nose, like my friend, Merry M., she has pleasantly smooth cheek bones like my pal, Jenn G. Her clothing, her manner of dress, are what some might describe as "granola": a white Mexican-weave hooded jacket and brown corduroy dress with the occasional tiny beige, or yellowish, flower randomly stitched into it.

She is your friend, your neighbor, your house-mate, your girlfriend, your everyday noticeable young thing without a care in the world.

Only this one has been wounded. Maybe, irreparably.

"No, I'm not a student, but I'm from Austin. I've lived here all my life. Then somebody came along... and he made me homeless."

The way she invokes this word "he" just breaks me,"My, God, what happened?"

(Who was her "he". Or, what was her "He"? What "he" just shows up and then inexplicably and monstrously makes somebody homeless?)

"It's a long story. Nevermind." She looks suddenly afraid and, emotionally, begins to fold up like a fan, her face a paint-by-numbers tell-all of fucked-up (don't make me recount all of those ghastly details!), horror-show memories.

"Do you need some money?" This was not the typically pithy and patronizing free-pass sort of a question that you might think it was; when I ask her this I am insinuating that it be enough cash for food, clothing, maybe even a night's stay somewhere. Not spare-change (I have nothing on me at the moment anyway; I don't normally run with my wallet or cash...).

Also, let it be clear, I am no "Do-Gooder" (someone who takes in every stray, that is) nor am I a push-over.

But something is resonating with me here...

"No, I don't want any money." Gently rebuffed, sincerely spoken in reply, "I don't need money."

"How can I help you then?"

"You see I just need a place to crash for one night. One night and then I'll go to P.S. 8 (ed. - Hope Lutheran School nearby, I assumed at the time, that must run a shelter...) in the morning. I just cannot go there at night."




They call these places "shelters".

When I'm considering her request I hesitate, because its complicated (those of one generation before me will damn me; those of my own will mostly accept as common sense).

When I was younger the option of taking in another person was de facto; it could just happen without consequence. And it did. Particularly while traveling in Europe when I had the option of freely paying for some down on their luck wayfarer's expenses. Or, happily taking them in when I had a place to offer. And there were many. Not just skint travelers but lost ones... but, now, you don't make decisions like this without your Partner. You have a pedigree of distrust built in after so many years, as well. You are the "Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty" crowd to boot: I have family matters, valuables (not just things, but projects I have worked on for years. The loss of those in any manner would be devastating...), and foresight enough to know that "one night" eventually turns into, "Listen. I think you really ought to leave now."

It's complicated.

It's difficult.

I'm still troubled by Life v4.0...

"OK. I understand. I'm on my way back to my place. It's about a mile down the road. I'll see what I can do." I promise her.


"Really. Hang in there, okay?"

"I'll try."

Once again nature's chorus strikes up along side me...



I am at a stage in my life that I think better of being duplicitous, or lying, to anyone anymore. If you say something ... simply mean it. Day light hours grow shorter.
Life becomes less of an excuse as you watch your peers, friends, colleagues begin to fade or just outright disappear.

I am not lying to this woman. I intend to make good on my promise; life is too short to do otherwise.

I am developing my plan in earnest as I cover this last mile back home: what do I have to help this person return her to at least a somewhat recognizable state of dignity? Most of us just want that, honestly, if you think about it. Throw me in prison for a lifetime and all I would ask for in return would be this one little shred of humanity: Dignity.

I have many things I can offer: clothing, blankets, foodstuffs, things that I no longer use or need but that would serve someone else quite well ... as if I were giving to Good Will - only to direct effect!

I begin to create an extensive mental list.

And as I approach 53rd Street (aka - home-base) ... it is getting late. As in: forget about it late.

But I convince myself to stay the course; it's the right thing to do, right?

At home.


Collecting self.



Heather is long asleep.

OK, enough thought ... Go!

First to raid the closets.

Gathering things. A red, white, and brown South American weave blanket. A brown, floppy-eared ski-hat. Blue knit gloves. A warm, maroon pullover. Warmth is good. It's cold out there despite it being the Southwest. Yes, winter in Texas is cold for the Uninitiated!

Now into the kitchen.

Empty bottle: fill it with fresh filtered water.

A deliciously fragrant, ripe Fuji Apple.

And the coup-de-grace: whipping up a crunchy, organic peanut butter and strawberry jam triple decker sandwich with Ezekial cinnamon & raison-style bread! All packed in resealable plastic bags with hefty napkins!


Let's do this!

I'm driving my runner's route back this time around. Passing 51st and again reliving thoughts of espresso tomorrow morning at Flightpath, halting only briefly at the 45th Street intersection for a now only blinking red-light at this hour, and finally cruising ever so slowly down the pavement so I don't miss ... so I don't miss?

What was her name?

I don't even know her name.

But there she is dutifully kneeling exactly where I had last left her. Head bowed. Defeated. Lost in whatever thoughts are conjured up in such a hapless state. Headlights illuminate the unplugged, electric ragdoll pose.

Pulling over,
windows automatically roll down from this heated, leather interior car. Privilege.

"Hey! It's me again."

"Who! What do you want?" she is startled.

"It's OK; it's me 'Runner Guy'."

"Wow. I didn't really expect you to come back. I thought you were just being nice ... thank you."

"No, why would I do something like that?" I am unloading the goods from the passenger side door now.

"Everyone else does." (I bet.)

"I'm not everyone else."

And I begin to present my offerings.

"Here." Bottled water at her side.

"Oh! Is that vodka!?" She says in disgust.

"No! My, God, no. It's filtered water." I correct.

"I'm sorry I can't take this. It will make me want to pee and I have no where to go."

"Are you sure?" I'm confused, "OK, here."

I begin to place the South American weave blanket by her place.

"Oh, my God! Where did you get that!?" Again an unexpected reaction: shock, dismay, anger, "That's exactly the same blanket that I had stolen from me at the shelter."

"It's all good. You can have this one to replace it then. It's just like the old one..."

"No, I can't take this. It's freaking me out!"

"All right...", head cocked, brows furrowed, my batting average is not going too well here, "I made you a sandwich."

"No. Uh-Uh. It probably has peanut butter in it." She wrinkles her nose in distaste.

"Huh? Right. You probably have a nut allergy. I should have thought about that." She is silent but keeps her face scrunched up like I've just offered her castor oil, or poisonous toxic sludge.

"What about this apple?"

"No. I don't like fruit. I can't take this."



"Gloves, pull-over? It's cold out."

"No, no."

"Are you sure? I mean I don't mind if you take these from me. I'm giving them to you."


Deep breathe.



I'm becoming agitated but trying not to show it.

It's late.

The effort.

The downright rejection of everything so far.

In defeat I start to load the Good-Gone-Not-So-Good-Will back into the car.

I do not hold any ill feeling towards this woman as I am beginning to realize that something much, much more profound is going on here. A much deeper, critically overloaded psychology is at work.

I agree that I am a foreigner to her psyche's condition but by no means am I a stranger to mental illness.


New York City was host to my own Faith shattering falling down many years ago.

(Briefly in telling now, though...)

On a good day I was a simpering, exhausted, broken wreck of a young man. I would sleep all day if I could.

On a bad day...?

Bad days were simply unmentionable.

Depression forced me into my own private hell long before it was a la mode to be depressed. I had no idea what "Depression" was at the time, nor its causes or its effects and, therefore, had no recourse for fighting the good fight against it ... until many troubled months later.

Prozac was only just hitting the streets back then. The science out on the drug
at the time was nebulous (and negligible) and many of its users were killing themselves off in seeming droves. Bad press in general, but it did claim to aid in restoring brain normalcy. The medical and psychology communities could only agree to disagree over the entire mess.

I was skeptical, to say the least, and chose not to ride that train.

Instead, a tried-and-true tricyclic, Desapramine, was my selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor of choice. From a magical land called "The Foundation" on the Upper West Side.

Ironically, the drug had intensely frightening side effects.

A 20mg dosage made me dread daylight because my head would swim all day long as if I were looking through two one-gallon fish bowls in front of my face. I was useless at work and running out of dead aunts and uncles as excuses not to show up anymore.

I'll spare you the sordid details of one night (a restaurant dinner
birthday party for a close friend) when I mistakenly mixed alcohol with the supposed remedy... social disaster needless to say.

At night I had a downright fear of sleep all together; the nightmares were caustic, terrifying and unending. An anguished cerebral cinema-carnival-del-terrore occurred as soon as I shut my eyes. Unstoppable railway roof rides. Screaming witch heads erupting from swampy playgrounds. Laughing, chortling, beckoning deformities everywhere filled my dreamscape.

Depression was a mercilessly fierce companion that seemed hellbent on my complete psychic deconstruction. The mind in upheaval against itself. Uncanny. What calls for this response in an evolutionary sense? Are our danger receptors so worn and dulled from under utilization in this modern age that we no longer have instinct for a landscape gone all sally-up Shit's Creek? Broken impulses... muddied, oppressive malaise resultant.

Rock bottom was not far off.

Eventually, a little girl showed up.

At least a part of her did.

In the morning most of all.

She would greet me, her voice would, by saying in a best Minnie Mouse falsetto, "Helllloooo, Dennis!" or "Gooood-morning!"

Never anything more.

That is ... mercifully no "instructions" followed.

But a voice as clear as if someone had put headphones over my ears and spoke into a hidden off-site microphone. Madness.

Whatever benevolent Power That Be that might have once existed ... was surely dead now.

I had prior suspected that It ("He"?) just loathed us all anyway and went off in some cosmic, disgruntled huff. Now, though, an unquestionable late stage rigor mortis had set in. The universe was beginning to stink.

(n.b. - These disembodied voices are known as "auditory hallucinations" in Psychology parlance and the chemical in vivo in Desapramine had a marked history, unbeknownst to me at the time, for exactly these types of side effects... for a powerful read on depression/mental illness and its heartbreaking effects on people you may want to look into William Styron's (1925-2006) compelling novella, 'Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness')

Long story short.

I lived.

Survived it, really.

I showed up some time later out the ass-end of the whole ugly experience largely a little less for the wear but, dare I say, Enlightened as a result.

And here I was, in the present this late night evening, enlightened, standing over a tragic and depleted young soul who systematically turned down every offering of kindness I had brought back to her ...


... because it wasn't what she needed.

At all.

It wouldn't truly help her.

And, frankly, because she wasn't used to many random acts of altruism, I suspect, it made absolutely no sense to her.

The kindness of strangers writ so small that it was practically invisible to the naked eye.

"Wait. Can you just talk to me for a minute?"

"Yes, of course. Of course." It was the very least I could do at that point.

"I just need a place to stay. A couch to crash on. Just for one night. These people at the party? They said they would give me their porch but then they started to get all sexy with each other. I saw them through the window. They were getting sexy. Or something. I dunno. But they never came back out again."

And then the truth stumbled awkwardly out, "I'm sorry. I can't take you in. I have ... family. I would under different circumstances. You'll have to trust me on that..."


Oxygen, where did you go?

"I understand your situation." she conceded finally, "One woman offered me a place up the road at her apartment. Maybe if you could just give me a ride up the street?"

That I could do.

"Sure. Sure, I can do that. How far up the road is it?"

She was silent as she waved "up yonder".

"Here, I'll clear off the front seat. Come on."

But she would not move.




Her instincts were shouting at her perhaps: 'Don't you dare get into that car with a stranger! Even a seemingly kind one. Just Don't Do It!'

Shutting her down, or in low power mode. Defense mechanism engaged. Files overwritten.

Then again maybe there was just nothing at all registering.

This, sadly, was becoming the classic 'going nowhere and fast' scenario. I had to design an exit strategy at that point. So, it went like this...

"Listen, I run this route every night (ed. - Truth!). This is my loop. When you see me, if you ever need anything, just ask...(ed. - Sincerity!)"

"OK, thanks. I understand your problems."

My problems? Do you? Well, you just might, I suppose...

Within another moment "tail lights fade", as the song goes.

I drove myself back Home.

Didn't even get her name...



With my sad-sack loot in a haphazard bundle on the floor.

I guess I could find use for this stuff again.

But isn't it so that once you have tried to give something away it has been somehow spiritually severed from you? Beneficially void? Decreed no longer worthwhile by its owner? Pity the poor unwanted, unused merchandise! What a waste. All this junk we collect. And never bothering to use it, but hold on to regardless! What is that!? Pack rats the lot of us. Haven't we learned our lesson yet about holding onto to so much value in all of those material goods? The notion of nostalgia, no doubt, playing tricks on our sensibilities!

But, otherwise...


It could all just disappear one day if "he" shows up...

Ah, but look there! The PB&J sandwich I made!

Unwrapping it at once like some unexpected and prize birthday gift. Drawing in all of its sugary, jammy, peanut buttery glory.

Just one bite and then I'll ... and then I'll devour the whole thing!

You're goddamn lucky, Mister, you know that? You're goddamn lucky...

Sure enough ... if that wasn't the best damn tasting Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich I had in a very long while.

Indeed, damn lucky.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Super Two's Day

On this "Super Tuesday" primary election day the American masses will begin their long, intrepid march (in earnest this time!) to deciding which presidential candidate, within the current 'two party system', will be better suited for running the country come January 2009. Here are the party choices:

Will it be this ass...?

Or this one...?

Godspeed, America, may the best ass win.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

How Green Was My Burial

"Well, there you go. Right there. A Baltimore Oriole."

Peter McHugh might remind you in looks of a modern day Saint Nicholas only with a much more controlled, and neatly trimmed beard. Today he's traded in any would-be red-suit for a greenish-gray chamois-shirt, and tough khaki woodsmen pants, though. Seated on a tall, sturdy stool in his Maine woods home kitchen he blows the smoke from a thin cigar up into a stove pipe chimney vent. Whoosh! up it goes sucked into the netherworld.

"See him there? In the branches near the shed?" He points.

Outside the near-invisible glass of a newly installed, sunny bay window addition stands three separate bird-feeders in the garden area. One for seed. One for suet. And one for ... more suet. It looks like a tiny house of worship complete with steeple, this last one. A church for God-fearing-birds. Only they get to eat a concoction of protein-rich, holy-lard for breakfast and lunch instead of some ordained wafers. Beating little hearts in this unforgivably frigid season. "More, more, more!" is their chirping chants, "or we'll freeze to death."

A winged, orange and black feathered visitor is taking advantage of the winter-time buffet.

But there's another matter at hand. A grave matter...

"Just last week we had another call," Says McHugh, recent Green Burial advocate and proprietor of Cedar Brook Burial Ground: A Green Cemetery in Limington, Maine, "Ten Muslim folks want to be buried side by side on our land. A Somali family. It's all very sacred to them. Keeping the family together."

"I see. So you have enough acreage to bury entire clans no matter the Faith do you?" I say with a wink.

"Sure, by God, whoever wants to sign up is welcomed here." He rejoinders. "We had a family from India who inquired about doing a funeral pyre before the burial. We're still checking with the Limington Fire Department on that one..."

Just then a fire-red cardinal lands on the snowy stonewall next to the "Church of Suet" to seemingly ingratiate the notion.

A giant human bonfire. Somewhere tucked away on 150 acres (2.1 acres, specifically, dedicated to the cemetery) of York County's pine forested land off of Boothby Road.

Boothby Road?

Not the Ganges River?

What gives here?

"Oh, yeah, as long as we have the bodies buried 413 Feet away from 'The Pond'," The Pond is a man-made pool excavated back in the early-1980's next to the McHugh homestead, "and off-set the same from the main road we'd have enough for about a thousand people. It's all G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) plotted. You'll be able to see all the burial spots on-line."

By the way, he has another side business that might seem an odd fit alongside this newly established one, as well...

"The Christmas Tree Farm will remain on the rest of the land away from the cemetery." He assures in his thick, salt-of-the-earth Maine accent.

McHugh's not alone in this novel venture in his native state, either, as another green burial cemetery is planned for Orrington, Maine several miles north of Limington (there are perhaps slightly over a dozen nationwide so far). Orrington's site is still in the planning stages, Cedar Brook is currently taking reservations.

So, what's the appeal here these "green burials"?

For starters about an $8,000 dollar price tag less than your average traditional funeral service for one!

You see, green burials are exactly as the name implies: Green.

Green as in good for the environment. And, that equates to sustainable practices for land use which, believe it or not, are far more sustainable on that green in the wallet, too.

Putting it in the plainest possible language: nothing is done to the body before burying it in green burial practices.

It is placed in a standard four-foot-deep (Six Feet Under is a mere myth...) by four-foot-wide by height-appropriate-foot-length plot site in its natural condition - unsullied, if you will - leaving it to naturally decompose on its own. That is, no embalming with those toxic formaldehyde fluids, nor any other expensive, harmful chemicals, necessary ... or permitted.

The beauty of the nitrogen-cycle in full, untampered with, effect!

In fact, use of any unnatural, non-organic substances (e.g. - dyes in burial clothing) on the corpse is downright discouraged all together; it's a totally green process remember? McHugh has been a long-time steward of the land around his property. He would not want any harm done to the plant-life, deer, pheasant, moose, bear or many other wildlife fauna frequently passing through his acreage so he prefers anything done here au natural.

As for other cost effective measures by going (going, gone...) green it also means many of the peripheral services normally attached to the more traditional funeral can be done away with completely, too.

Although a local funeral director is available (by referral through Cedar Brook), one is certainly not necessary, cutting out any associated costs right there. Relatives of the dead may arrange the actual funeral service to their liking, of course, but even the coffin isn't mandatory. An eco-friendly sheet, or wrap, will do just fine. But, nonetheless, a $30.00 pine-box model "coffin" is available if desired. That's right. You read the price correctly. Thirty dollars (U.S.) for a human-sized, pine-wood floored and cardboard-sided container. All 100% bio-degradable (pssst! it's the same thing they use for cremations basically)!

In fact, enviro-concern goes right down to the headstone; it's recommended that the memorial be a locally exhumed, surface level, engraved rock to serve each individual shrine.

Now for some potentially more morbid stuff to consider...

If there is one very sensitive, but major, cost-saving issue that needs to be seriously addressed in the funeral planning stages, however, it's this; if a family, or friend(s), decides to take on the transportation responsibilities of the remains - and, yes, it is completely legal to drive across the state, or state-lines, with a human cadaver! - they must make absolutely sure that the body is properly stored for whatever the calculated length of the travel time is. This is an imperative consideration ... and, quite frankly, is mostly thinking ahead in regards to the family's emotional comfort zone. Driving "Mittens" the cat to a resting place is one thing, hauling dearly departed Uncle Bob or Aunt Betty anywhere is entirely another concept...

(n.b. - For a far more detailed guide on green burials you may want to read up on author Mark Harris's informative book, 'Grave Matters: A Journey Through The Modern Funeral Industry To A Natural Way Of Burial', the resource Peter McHugh has referenced almost exclusively for his understanding of the green burial process).

Otherwise, once you've determined your plot location and made any other basic burial arrangements with Mr. McHugh your wish for how you would like to honor, mourn, and/or celebrate, the deceased's passing is absolutely up to you.

"One family of Harley (Davidson) motorcyclist enthusiasts called inquiring about the possibility of alcohol consumption and loud music involved at the service," recalls McHugh with a smile, "I laughed and said 'Sure, as long as I'm allowed to join in'."

He's kidding, of course, as McHugh mostly prefers not involving himself in any more funereal affairs than he's already taking on.

Bodies on the land: no problem.

Bodies in the house... not exactly his cup of tea.

Okay, so, perhaps having an entire pack of Harley riders roaring up on their smoky Hogs would not be such a green thing but, hey, when you consider that the departed is literally being laid out to pasture with no other added caustic frills it kind of makes up for the rest of it, don't you think?
Oh, and if you're at all wondering ...
Naturally, Peter and his life- partner,
Joyce, have already planned their green burial: alongside the Joshua Small Cemetery (a 19th century burial site long ago willed to the property and now historically preserved) lies a large, gray boulder with both his and her name already engraved on it's sides. This is their very own earth-delivered tombstone.

A clear, green conscience as a sort of fore thought for the after-life, eh? Indeed, how eternally peaceful is that.

For more information on Cedar Brook Burial Ground: A Green Cemetery visit Peter McHugh on-line at: