Quotes that Say Something

"Please, dad, get down and look. I think there's some kind of monster under my bed."

Life when seen in close-up often seems tragic, but in wide-angle it often seems comic. -- Charlie Chaplin

"And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear, you shout, but no one's there to hear. And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." -- Roger Waters, "Brain Damage"

Jan 27, 2011

Don't Blast Me -- I'm Just the Messenger

Here's An Easy Question and Answer
This little test should be a snap. What do e-mail, e-messaging, instant chat online, cell phones  – like Epics, Evos, and Blackberries -- Apps and Androids, Skype, twittering and tweeting, blogging, and “Facebooking” all have in common?
There are a couple of ways to answer. How you answer may hinge on how old you are. Or simply how tech savvy you have become, no matter how long you’ve lived. Or, better yet,  how ‘wired’ you are – though none of those things actually need wires to work.
I’d answer very simply, if I were you. They are forms of  social media. They are tools that help people – of all ages, all over the Earth – to communicate.

Social media tend to be intense. As in immediate, like here and now. Media such as texting, tweeting on Twitter, and blogging make the connectivity (that is, the messaging back and forth) between individuals  more ‘real time,’ easily-conversational, casual, up in your grill. This is now. This is the future too, folks. Welcome aboard. Connecting with others 24/7 through social media has docked in our port ‘o call. Mobile communications rule. ‘Web-based’ is here to stay. Digital has taken the day.
Yahoo, Hotmail, and America Online Are So 20th Century
Want to be considered nowadays for bigtime lame-ness or premature geezer-hood?
Easy enough. Watch movies on a VCR. Listen to your Walkman or to vinyl records (though that is seen to be a very cool activity by a small percentage of hip music buffs and collectors). Capture cute pictures on film, instead of your phone. And – ooh, here it comes! – brag about how you really blaze your way, digitally, with G-Mail, Yahoo, or other e-mail.
Emerging trends in social media have raced so fast, during recent years, that even some young adult, 20-somethings at times feel a little lost, sadly old-school, out of touch.

Clearly, e-mail is not totally yesterday. It still works in many business situations. It’s useful when shopping online. And when you need to send information via file attachments. It’s also usually a good thing to scan (at least now and then) since teachers, businesses (like banks and airlines), bosses, older friends, and parents tend to make steady use of this modern tool.
In a December article for the New York Times, a journalist named Matt Richtel wrote about ‘the problem with e-mail’ among young kids today. He says, “It involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line, and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours. And (it uses) sign-offs like sincerely — Seriously?”
Texting, instant-messaging -- called “m-ing” -- plus Skype-ing are experienced more as here, now, immediate, real. Time-eating steps -- as many used-to-be Yahoo and G-Mailers believe -- simply cuts off ‘users from what they crave: instant conversation.’

Richtel comments on the social media habits of youth like the totally e-savvy Lena Jenny – a high school senior from Cupertino, California. Lena notes that texting is so quick (and that means very good) that “I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone. E-mail is so lame.”

The monster-sized social network known as Facebook  is working to stay on top with the Lenas -- and Leonardos -- of today.  Facebook plans to soon bring the world a “revamped messaging service that is intended to feel less like e-mail and more like texting,” according to Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at the company.
Broken English – Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
Things speed quickly. The beautiful and the artistic can get lost in a 4G texting universe – courtesy of Sprint, Verizon, and other communication companies

In that New York Times article by Matt Richtel, we learn about a 23 year-old accounting technician who works in New York. All day, this young guy, Adam, uses e-mail and traditional phone calls while doing his job. When he slips away from work, Adam communicates almost completely by texting via his cell phone. He’s pretty skilled at it.

But, to tell you the truthm -- his little brothers, at 12 and 19, are way better.  Awesome at it. Their messages (“txts”) are short, fast, pointed. The brothers leave Adam behind sometimes. “When they text me, it comes across in broken English. (Sometimes) I have no idea what they’re saying,” he notes. “I may not text in full sentences, but at least there’s punctuation to get my point across. I guess I’m old school.”
Yes. Only 23 years old and already feeling . . . out of it.

But – in all -- this is not just a story about the death of phone calls, written letters, e-mail, or the like. According to Dr. James Katz, the director for the Center for Mobile Communications Studies, at Rutgers University, “It’s more of a downgrade of these things, thanks to greater choice and nuance among communications tools.”

About young kids, with their e-mail accounts, and their Samsung phones , Katz claims . “It’s painful for them. It doesn’t suit their social intensity.”

Some people don’t like to hear this. Like one who writes books and blogs about social media, Judith Kallos. “We’re going down a (bad) road where we’re losing our skills to communicate with the written word,” she says. Sloppy structure, bad spelling, and upsetting grammar are the results.

But Katz adds that texting with one’s Smartphone, and using things like Facebook, tend to mirror how people really talk to each other in person. Brief phrases, abbreviations, “creative” spelling, and oddball words get used all the time. Prediction? Katz thinks that, soon enough, e-mail blasts will give way to “faster-twitch formats,” even among older people.
Three (Maybe Four) Ways to Think This Through
First. Watch the award-worthy film The Social Network. It’s about the invention of Facebook  – and all the drama that went into it. Talk with a friend, or friends, about what the movie says. Then, discuss how social media, web-based tech stuff, and digital dreams are changing our lives and culture.

Second. Look into some stats. Research says that social media usage is spreading world-wide, fast, and will continue to do so. Talk with friends about what these facts have to say:
n  Social networking now accounts for about 25% of all time spent online in the United States;
n  By late 2009, over 240 million people, age 13 and older, in the USA, had the use of mobile-comm tools like ordinary cell phones, Blackberries, Kindles, Tablets, etc.;

n  Twitter processed more than one billion “tweets” during in December 2009; it now averages about 40 million tweets per day;
n  One of four internet page-views in the United States occurred at one of the top social networking sites (such as Facebook) by early 2010 -- up from only 14 % a year before;
n  Social media users, age 65+, grew 100% throughout 2010. About 25% of senior citizens  now belong to Facebook, MySpace, or the like.

Third. On January 24, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement from the Vatican on social media today. He spoke about the proper use of social media by individual Christians, the church, and the world. The statement has a long title. It is called “Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the 45th World Communications Day: Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.”

Find it online here:

Take some time to read, think, and discuss this article. Compare Benedict’s points with the social media commentators and experts who are named, above.

Fourth. Well, this step is up to you. Go digital. So, my peeps, farewell, and . . .

Gud luk. Txt or m me when ur dun. TTYS. B real & c u l8er! 8-)

Jan 6, 2011

Story Fragment: Shadows in the Margins (Chilean Mining Accident)

This is a story fragment. And a not very good one at that. This is often how fictional stories are birthed. Trial and error. Organic evolution. Someday, I might just have a really great short story about the Chilena mining acident of August 2010. We'll see, I suppose.

And when you lose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown.
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows, and turns to stone.
And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around.
So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone -- Dragged down by the stone.

                                                                                       Pink Floyd,  "Dogs"

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

                                                                                   Paul of Tarsus, Galatians 6: 9

One Day at Copiapo: Not So Long Ago

"People like us, who believe in physics, know that the borders between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." This highly enigmatic saying, which by all accounts is from the work of one Doctor Albert Einstein, came to my thoughts -- like a sharply painful brain-freeze, from a long drink-in of ice cold water -- when the accident first cropped up in all the news media. That is, of course, digitally, breathlessly, by many means and media, all around the known world.

Los 33 -- the thirty-three, en Espanol (which is such a beautiful and mythical tongue to which to listen) -- is how it, the jaw-dropping incident in rural Chile, El Copiapo, the rumored cave in a deep, deep down in a human-bored mountain mine, so extraordinary and perilous accident came to be labeled. But to those with true insight recognize that it was not an accident, as the event, was labeled, at all. A cave in? On the los 33? No, not in reality. But it was a spectacular if pain-inducing illusion, was it not, generated with such seeming ease by those mysterious outsiders who provide illusions and tricks of the mind and heart, in the margins of our personal and communal limited frames of reference, that are, well, spectacular and, in the end, wondrously compelling.

It all began like the sum total of human experience, in wide-angle. One sunrise and sunset cycle, that flows toward another, Day, night, then the hints of sun-up again. Yet every once in a while thihngs grind down to a halt. Someone, somewhere, fiddling with the undoubted process.

Karma Comes for a Visit

Some moments are experienced, some things seem readily to have occurred, but some -- the most compelling ones -- are at best sensed as they unfold, through intuition, and known barely, darkly, or sometimes starkly, in the aftermath and fallout deep in a person's heart.

  One long Sunday not so long ago, around 4:00, when the sun at last had emerged -- a glimmering ray at a time -- from behind seven, mystery-bearing days of unfettered, ominous, gray cloud banks, like a sliding-by umbrella sweep of wrinkled slate, I began to feel anxious and dizzy, as if I were angling down, down, toward some limbo beyond my ability to comprehend. The monotony of a light but persistent rainfall, tedious hours and hours of it, had ended, like a curtain swishing closed from east and west. Momentarily, I believed that I discerned (wrong, that was) that I was sliding beneath, without clues of bodily discomfort -- but with a rising tide of nerves -- toward some subterranean, yawning-open zone, so far unexplored by me, of desperately seductive drowsiness.

As so often happens, I had been sitting, with some apparent ease in the untrained eyes of casual observers, in the room, in this dank apartment, that most people would refer to as the family room -- but, you see, there is no family to speak about. Not any more. They are all gone. As in vanished, certain observers say. Someday, I may join them. But, for now, it's just me, I tell everyone. One of the last things that I could remember hearing (while dropping down) was a peal of hearty laughter, canned soundtrack style, from the show on my TV. It was a story about dogs, the house-pet kind. Then, there was a little buzzing sound from the TV monitor and I imagined that the picture went gray and blank.

What rose up into my sleep-surrendering mind, at that moment, was a flicker of memory: a callous, high-pitched teacher, a man hated by all students alike (or thereabouts) was lashing me verbally me, the student, for an erroneous answer in my Physics class, long ago, telling me that I was certainly no Einstein. And then I think I dimly beheld some thin and pointy arrows of sunlight pushing down through my slightly-parted velvet curtains, only to crash like sharpened pieces onto the carpet. There is this dream-like thing that I started, a fugue that had something to to do with past or the present. I remember clearly a mask of Medusa staring at me, it's snaky head winding around the doorframe, black as coal eyes, but improbably translucent.

. . . Which, adds up to: I never saw them this time. Though I briefly (felt) their presence as I sank down, right adown like melting fluid in front of the sunlight streaks. I had just laid aside a book I cherish, The Mutiny of the Elsinore. I had already unsteadily begun to prepare myself for a social call. The three had come back to me, for me. Short of stature, manifesting as stick-like ectomorphs, bony arms, slippery translucent body coatings, and hands that felt like hooks. Big cartoon eyes, lids up and lashes unblinking, were appliqued to their faces. -- And clipped little dog-like tails, twitching away like off-point metronomes of little Yorkshire pups. The threesome,barely sensed, just . . . materialized.. Such an honor, I dreamed smirkly. All this, for little me? I was ready to sluice into battle, hard. But I was caught hard on the shoulder, and felt paralyzed, by one their grappling hand hooks. Something metal and ugly, that I didn't even know was there, like a razor-honed bullet hard-stabbed me in the trapezius. A set of eyes stared back at me, then, skittered to the left and away-- disembodied, the animal from my doorway?, a Latino man . . .

Faux peals of mocking laughter, and as the trained dogs barked on the television like the on-call actors they were, and as I felt a flicker of fear as I was succumbing, losing all control as if paralyzed by stingrays, without strength, into that deep morpheous trance, they had slipped through an short dark seam, a foamy little invisible crack between here and there that had formed in the dusty but sun-brightened air.

If you had been there, well, here present actually, you would have seen me in a chair, and you would have seen the television monitor blot out to gray, and you might have sensed the sunlight streaks coming in through some curtains, but no body would have strode through the door. As has happened at previous times, they had come on the scene -- materialized in a moment -- standing there and staring my way . . . Well, standing here. And, as I recall, the trio, with their non-muzzled and hungry demeanors, like gray shadows emerging -- materializing --silently from the darkness of the margins, was not in a pleasant or sunny Sunday mood. Havoc, cry havoc now, was the silent scream that boomed in my head. Then, all was blankness, a paralyzing flat line.

Sliding into the Future Tense


'Cry havoc. And let slip the dogs of war!  -- Wm. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

One of his wizened old uncles once told him, suddenly, after back-to-back-to-back shots of Old Crow whiskey, that dreams sometimes behave like your impudent family members. Like the unwanted and uninvited, like the drunk and disorderly, they have a manner of showing up when least wanted and saying more than they should, and often in an uncomely manner at that.

Einstein's theorem is what he had been considering all day. That would be Einstein the scientist, not one of the bagel-making brothers. He had marveled how things -- the theory -- must have suddenly jelled in Einstein's fertile mind: even at the subparticulate stratum of the slightest sunbeam, everything is always in bustling, perpetual motion. Always. But relative. A stunning insight that could not be denied -- like Medusa's terrifying yet beautiful visage. A horror show. As kids are given to say today, it must have rocked his, Einstein's, orb.

To Be Continued 


The first in-dream sensation, as far as I can recall, was a pang of reluctance. I stood, hesitantly. I was outside, unwittingly, of a large, shuttered and sharply gabled building in an outlying metro area  -- like Washington D.C., home turf of political illusions and landscape of perverse paranoid dreams. It would, I sensed, take some heavy knocks on the main door to get some attention. That is, if I knocked at all.

My first knocks on the imposing door were, I confess, rather timid. Taps might describe them better. No reply. Knock, knock, . . . knock (more firmly this time). Nothing. Now, I'm getting flushed. Mad. "Come on," I yell, pounding a fist on the imposing door. I am certain that I am expected. And, more, that it's expected by some authority -- I know somehow -- that I will get into this mystery house of sharp gables

Then, my heartbeat quickens. I focus on a gaping black entryway. The door was open. I looked into a deep dark hallway. Then I looked back. There was no one behind me. The door had opened wide. Just like that.

Jan 2, 2011

Yellow Light Means Prepare to Stop

The grouping of sounds . . . said something comforting to Inman about the rule of creation. What the music said was that there is a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not always be just a tangle and drift but have a shape, an aim. It was a powerful argument against the notion that things just happen.
                                                                                 -- Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain

Hello, hello, baby -- You called? I can't hear a thing. I have got no service in the club, you see see. What, what did you say? Oh, you're breaking up on me! Sorry, I cannot hear you, 'cuz I'm kinda busy. Kinda busy. Kinda busy. Sorry, I cannot hear you, 'cuz I'm kinda busy.

                                                                                  -- Lady Gaga, "Telephone"

Because I try to maintain a sensible equilibrium during difficult times, I have been re-reading Charles Frazier's book called Cold Mountain. It's about the chaos of battle, panic and loss, perseverance, and ultimately the hope for redemption in the old South during those bleak, defeating days after the Confederacy fell to the Union. Inman is the protagonist of the book. Yes, that's right, Inman.

Climbing back up the slopes of Cold Mountain seemed the right thing to do since lately I have experienced (in my troubled mind), unwillingly and incessantly, patterns of four -- thoughts, phantoms, memories, fears, questions, or some combination thereof -- that collide and become jumbled up in that hidden but conscious part of myself that I call Me. Each package of four always I experience as a mysterious and discordant nexus. I know what I imagine is not real. But yesterday I believe I saw four jagged and stony pieces of meteorites, aimed at me like brutal, fleeing convicts scarily blowing in from the four corners of our minimum security galaxy, borne on perpendicular shafts of gray interstellar winds. Like the raw ingredients of an unholy zia, the four racing rocks seemed to have emanated from a secretive otherworldly desert. As yesterday gave way to nightfall, my thoughts became fixed on a collection of daring, logo-covered stock cars -- each was coming relentlessly toward me from north, south, east, west -- grill toward grill, bright and flashy headlights merging into a blazing white and blinding spotlight, as if a chicken at the crossroads battle had been green-flagged by an unseen and evil-minded mastermind. Goofy. Troubling. Unstoppable. As each of these episodes recedes in my imagination, with the postmodern and symbolic ambiguity of a David Lynch movie, I hear this song, Into the Great Wide Open, as unseen credits roll,

     They moved into a place they both could afford,
     He found a night club he could work at the door,
     She had a guitar and she taught him some chords,
     The sky was the limit --
Into the great wide open,
     Under them skies of blue. Out in the great wide open.

     Rebels without a clue.

So what will this day bring? I have a premonition that it might be my last. But that's probably just my paranoia at work. Why do I say so? Because here in the darkness before dawn . .  .

I am staring transfixed, sensing a hotness in me, at a strangely alluring piece of photo-art. It is a stylish picture made with a classy Nikon camera on a sizzling desert day near the Four Corners of the Southwest. It decorates the front panel of a CD jewel-case by a local rock 'n roll band. The group is called Dark-Eyed Juncos -- desert-dusty, sharp billed, and relentless scavenger birds of prey. They (the musicians) remind me of hardened, blue collar power trios like Cream, Rush, the James Gang, and other music legends.

This stylish picture's hues are primarily black, white, gray, and a color that makes me whisper (to myself) fuchsia, a lush pinkish hue. It depicts my friend -- and current stylist at a place called Dream in Color -- named June (who plays a dedicated-to-rock bass guitar for the Juncos in local clubs) and her two middle-aged male bandmates. She is perched in the middle. These men have crept close to her and appear to be whispering secrets into her left ear and the right. ('Here we go again. I feel the chemicals kickin' in. It's getting heavy and I wanna run. I wanna run and hide. -- So, what are you waitin' for? Take a bite of my heart tonight!) One man is dressed in a spotless and glimmering white linen suit, topped by a tilted white fedora. The other is clothed in a diabolical black frock coat, with a pirate-style do-rag (all black with white diamonds) tied over his skull and an equally black gentleman's stylish top hat over it all. 

June wears a stylish, but reasonably modest, gray dress, an enveloping shawl with long strands of fringe, and high cut gray-leather boots sharply decorated by straps and buckles. She sits outdoors whimsically (reminiscent of the mythical Alice, in a granny rocker, anxiously making her way back from Wonderland) on a fiery hot, improbably overstuffed easy chair of fuchsia out in the  burning Mesa Arts Center park. June has a 'curious girl' -- or is it perplexed and frustrated? -- maybe surprised but heart-aching -- expression on her face. Her finely etched eyebrows are arched high. For the moment, she seems pinned tight to her perch, like an avian corpse stuck on the board of a science experiment. The entire photo backdrop is a mysterious blend of pink and gray, like an airborne cloud tinted by a flaring sunset. In the middle, at the top of the photo, is a prominent number 928 (which seems harmless enough) on a plain black panel. Ambiguity and ambivalence drip like liquid drugs from this CD cover. What secretive temptations, what salacious thoughts, which indecent proposals, what hurtful assertions are being whispered into June's ears? What does she hear? (Does she hear anything?) Will that linen white or distrusting black one turn her head? I begin to imagine that June is, what now?, what?, shaking, rattling like an angry desert snake's tail, now coming apart while lurching back and forth hard -- a desert bird, a junco, ensnared, pinned, pulled, then ripped by the wings while anxiously attempting to take flight. -- I blink and everything goes white. In my thoughts, I fear that I have gotten lost somehow, not knowing where, on a vast and sunny expanse of Death Valley desert . .

But somehow and for some clouded reason I suddenly stand erect and gaze blankly, feeling alone -- there is no searing heat, no numbing cold, no physical sensations at all -- outside the glass door of the cramped little hair salon of Cheri Casio (a stylist of mine from another lifetime -- but not that long ago . . . ), which I visited almost monthly for twenty years. I am looking through the wide pane of glass that holds the swinging door-frame and spreads out to effectively form most of Cheryl's storefront wall. It is a sultry and cloudy afternoon during the month of June. It is the year 2006. Forgettable days. Summer in the South is really coming on. A sense of irony wells up in me. The building that holds Cheri's cramped quarters is growing steadily warmer because the Louisiana humidity (a phenomenon constant and oppressive in the old South during deep Summer months) is beginning to build up like a radioactive cloud. Many of the little hair and fingernail shops surrounding Cheri's are dark and abandoned, haunted by the irrevocable loss of their lease-holders who fled the tornadic violence of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, then the horrific flooding aftermaths those troublemaking ladies brought to town.

I notice that my in-glass reflection looks forlorn, I am shaggy and unkempt, dark half-moon circles of depression underline my eyes, my shirt is wrinkled. I read the name of Cheri's business painted in green and gold just above eye-level -- A Cutting Remark -- on the illuminated pane. I hesitate. I can't bring myself to push inside just like old times. I am leaving. Soon. It's going to come too soon! Is this the last time? "Probably," I whisper wistfully, to myself and gaze down. No one overhears.

Cheri has been a kind and loyal (but lonely and husband-hungry) friend, over month after month, over year after year (for almost 20 years, over 200 trips in, I told you). -- She's a Catholic girl raised on a Mississippi riverbank across from New Orleans. She exhibits great pride, precision and perfectionism in her work. Once a thriving business, she has now lost much of her clientele to the powerful storms that have come and gone. Cheri would invariably ask for my Dear Abby opinions, as we waited for her hair-dyes to seep into my roots and before she would go swinging her scissors around my head, about her recurring troubles with men both single and married.

That forlorn aspect I see in my reflection is beginning to feel like an anvil of guilt pulling down on my neck. Okay, I will not tell her that this is the last time before I leave. No farewell. No 'thanks a lot,' my dear. I have decided. Sorrow will rule the day. (Sadly I know this is the wrong thing to do.) I hold a tattered, paperback copy of the novel Cold Mountain, which I thought I was going to re-read as we waited in uncomfortable chairs for the hair color to take effect. -- Why? . . . Seven long months have passed in this damaged and reeling area, as it struggles back toward wholeness from being hurled into a barely civilized, medieval state by ferocious winds and deluges, still reeking with the acrid and messy smells of hurricane floods rising up from the bayou turfs. Each stressful day (all through 2006) devolved slowly into a long wake in an unsanitary civic funeral parlor, yes, a wake that refused to end at sunset, like a nightmare and unfunny parody the film Groundhog Day.  I tell  myself:  Not one more painful utterance of  'So-long, pal. Thank you and goodbye. You've been great.' No more daylong wakes. Not one more clingy handshake. No more awkward hugs and teary endings. So I turn my back wordlessly, regretfully, to A Cutting Remark. I feel sad beyond words. Walking toward my car, head down, like a preoccupied pall-bearer carrying a corpse toward a gaping hole that's already been dug. I know this is wrong, an immoral choice, a sorry turn of the screw. Perspiration drops trace from my neck down my guilty spine. I wonder if Cheri will forgive me for my disappearing act. I will try whisper an emotional 'I'm sorry,' ever the con at work, into her ear someday.

Stop thinking this, I command. Then my imagination heats up, working hard, and I let slip to the ground the worn paperback of Cold Mountain -- as if I am stroke victim gone horrifically numb on the left side -- but I am not standing in the raggedy parking lot anymore. No, I standing upright again in a place far (perhaps very far?) away, inexplicably, that I have never encountered before . . .

but . . . a strong feeling of disbelief overwhelms me. I feel dizzy and claustrophobic. I have been been lurking motionless -- on a hard, gray industrial carpet -- in the dim and poorly finished-basement hallway of an indistinct office building. The walls need to be washed, having turned iron-gray mixed with urine yellow, an unattractive and cloudy tableau. I sense anger and disbelief. This basement smells like an ancient library. Well, in fact, it is an old library I notice. A high-tech office telephone with a complicated panel of buttons and lights sits archly on a thin white shelf by my side, a waist-high protrusion on the bottom half of an old dutch door. The message-waiting light on the phone flashes red brightly. -- On (red). Off. On (red). Off. On (red). Flash. Flash. Red. Flash. Off. Red (on) . . . Persistent. Unflagging. You've got mail are the disembodied words that echo through the hallway. Tirelessly the blinking continues. Eight voice messages have been captured in the terminus. Eight lights a flashin' . . . Seven calls a waitin' . . . Six words unheeded, I hum spontaneously, stupidly, to myself. The phone flashing red, off, red, off, red, off has been ignored for six months, perhaps more. This I somehow know. I judge it to be an evil sign.

Anger swells anew in my heart. This phone extension apparently belongs to any staff member. A catchy song -- Hello, hello baby. You called? I can't hear a thing! -- about telephoning pops into my head. Then, a nameless, faceless aged co-worker stands with me, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this situation is all wrong. Callous inattention and disrespect are words that preoccupy me.

I ask her, why did these calls come in? What did the callers want? Does anyone care?

In a hushed tone, the old woman worker tells me, ' . . . Well, you see, sir, the secret password was not retained. No one has it. Can't do anything about it. Not now.' 

Then, she shrugs. I feel like bursting because I am so mad. Liquid and toxic disdain floods my body and soul.

And who's gonna fix this? Who's gonna this mess clean up?, I demand to know, like a charging bull in small pen. Get I.T. pronto. No excuses. Fix it. -- Who's in charge here?

I look to myself like the hollow shell of a court-martialed officer, clothed disgracefully in a tattered uniform, a failed leader with no conscripts, bereft of his battalion of Misfit Toys, sent back to an empty barrack. Big winds issue from empty caves, I remember, as an old saying goes.

The bland co-worker replies like a dispassionate junior officer, 'Why, you are, sir. You're in charge."

I blanch, my hands fly up, and I lean back quickly as if shocked by an electrical current. Here it comes again. I sense a tingle in my neck, then  rush of vertigo and quickly I am feel turned upside down,

Then rapidly, incongruously, I go slip-sliding down a steep metal chute straight into the driver's seat of my frigid car, hitting hard on my butt but seated upright, at the chute's bottom. I hear a bone-crunching sound. My tailbone area crackles in pain. After a single nervous breath, immersed in the green glow of my illuminated dashboard, a strange fantasy swirls to life --

I am driving my car to the New Orleans airport, block by block in the famed Garden District. It is a wickedly frigid and incredibly dark winter morning of 2006. The neighborhood is enveloped by a deep and pure blackness. Silence reigns. Houses are dark inside and out. Many are abandoned, boarded up, water-scarred; some are tagged with painted-on graffiti, courtesy of post-Katrina search and rescue squads. Many tags are shaped like a cross (with a variety cryptic symbols around it -- these denote clues like 'empty house' or 'abandoned animal on these grounds)' There are still bodies of people and animals lying, decomposing, in some of these places. But search teams have gone home and must be sleeping now in warm encampments of their own. A great many street signs are utterly useless. They lay face down, their poles flat on the easements by the sidewalks or wedged in messy gutters, toppled by the ravaging winds and floods those big, hurricane girls brought by.

My headlights shine like the eyes of a wild beast in this deep, unnatural darkness. On the deadly day of August 29, 2005, thousands of streetlights all over the city of New Orleans malfunctioned catastrophically. Their cycle of lights -- red-green-yellow-red -- disappeared. Traffic lights began to blink  either yellow or red incessantly as the Hurricane Katrina headwinds at last relented. The maddening and incessant flashing for months upon months, most of the lights in the Garden District were yellow, lacked clarity and finality, hurled caution into the wind. It symbolized a taunting message from the inscrutable gods: 'Heads-up, trouble abounds. There be no safe passage during this life.' The taunting, like trash talk on the basketball court, went on month after month unremitting throughout the city streets. 'Fragile is life, vulnerable is humanity, we hold your fate in our hands, so vulnerable are you! At times the taunt went: 'Make your own rules. No more black and white, no more red and green. Nothing clear. Or make a break for it. Dare you, loser.'

At a very slow speed under the morning darkness, worried about who or what might be approaching, I roll the car carefully to the storied intersection of Broadway and Freret, near historic but hurricane-ravaged Tulane University. On Broadway I am heading toward the airport. A shiny dark red Suburban emerges oversized,  from darkness, to my right. It comes toward Broadway on Freret Street. It is on a right angle to me. Its brakes whine as it halts for the yellow light. I look over. The whole scene goes bright yellow, then dark, then . . . on each of the four street corners sheets of cold mists -- like an amber cloud of airborne illness -- settle down and seem to spread like paint over all.
I think I see Cheri sitting the Suburan's driver-seat, a thick black coat with a high collar is pulled up around her neck and dark hair. Her stare is red-eyed, menacing, ungodly. I am very alarmed. The woman looks right toward me and through me. Her lips are closed tight but I hear her angry sentiment "Get away!"  She shakes her head back and forth, violently, to emphasize her bitter indictment. I spy an animal in there with her. Dark-tempered, black, and furry -- a big dog?, a gorilla?, a black wolf?, a different kind of predator from an untamed wilderness? The beast stalks around the interior of her SUV with menace, its full furry tail swishing madly. Momentarily I think of piney, Tennessee forests swaying in stiff winds in the story of Cold Mountain. A horrific sense of resignation wells up in me. I sigh -- but the whiny sound of my cold breath redounds to me, from the green glow dashboard, doleful and stale. The cold pinpricks my face like a spray of ice pellets. Heartbreak takes me. I feel lost. Alone in the dark. Freezing and lost.

A song springs up on my car radio -- "Animal"

(Admittedly, I fall into a confused state. In reality, this cannot be! The properties of time, sound, and place are bending right before me. This record will not be heard by anyone anywhere on any radio until early 2010. -- Yet, here it plays on this winter morning, an up-tempo departure anthem, way too uptempo for this deep, misty cold, and soulful pre-dawn --

     Here we go again, I feel the chemicals kickin' in
     It's getting heavy, And I wanna run
     And hide -- I wanna run and hide,
     I do it every time, You're killin' me now
     And I won't be denied by you
     The animal inside of you. Oh oh,
     I want some more. Oh oh
     What are you waiting for? 
     Say goodbye to my heart tonight.

I grunt, Ugh. --I whisper lyrics I have just heard: 'Hush, hush. It's us that's made this mess. What are we gonna do?')

The unbidden song ends with an eerie fade, not a cold and definitive endstop. No music follows. Radio static buzzes around my ears as if the station has suddenly signed off the air. I reach for the FM buttons. Oh right, I remind myself, the radio in my vehicle no longer works.

The scratch of static dies away. Silence prevails. The illuminating yellow lights keep blinking. Momentarily, (like a fool) I worry needlessly that a runaway Amtrak train, it's exhausted conductor catnapping at the controls, might come crashing through this scene to mash me senseless, just as Cheri's fiery Suburban runs into me. A four-corner, four-direction disaster is what I imagine, I gasp and look away. I wish it would . . . Nope . . . I don't, I don't, I won't. Moments of inaction slip by. No other cars or trucks come by. Silence reigns. This stupid shit is just never going to end, I shrug. Dejection. S.S.D.D., I tell myself -- same stuff, different day. 

(Time brings about a difference .Months later, after my mind has cleared somewhat, I wake in a crowded lecture hall and see an authoritative and reliable professor standing behind a podium. I sit on the left hand margin of a hushed audience. She begins in a measured way to pose intellectual insights and deep questions to ponder about post-traumatic stress disorder, as if it were a clinical disease. With her smooth and trained voice, she posits a thesis. PTSD is a condition wherein someone victimized by a real life experience, which often proves lastingly painful and horrific, is burdened, perhaps in an unalterable manner, by . . . Huh? What? My mind must be wandering through the jargon . . . .

But wait. Wait. -- I wonder if I have indeed heard the expert at the podium correctly. What was that that she just said? The professor skims hastily over her text toward a poignant conclusion. She seems to be suddenly short on time. But I am still back on her previous point. In my limited brain matter I piece together an image of a Netflix movie that unreels time after time deep in someone's unlucky cortex, an emotional tsunami masquerading as a technicolor, Dolby surround sound show either On-Demand or Pay-Per-View lasered into a fated person's head. It is typically triggered by the pulse of a hidden command button.

The lecturer says for them all to listen up, this is her last key point..

She reads through half moon eyeglasses with shiny black rims, a very academic look. She holds note pages steadily. 'Often an innocuous moment of sensation can be the tripwire, that hidden command, that reignites the painful experience one has had. Post-traumatic and disordered I have posited about what one has suffered. It could come from the smoky odor from a house fire that's turned a family's life into cinders and fear, or a seemingly innocent pinewood smell or a piece of clothing with moth balls on a hanger that waits like a lingering marauder deep in a backroom closet. Or, as you all have no doubt heard, for many survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in this region, it could be the hurricane-soaked reek -- just a whiff or two of this most putrid smell -- in a flooded home or a lowly Toyota's previously flooded trunk now cluttered with salvaged junk from the storm. Finally, perhaps it could come from the head-turning odor, or the sorry sight, that rises from sidewalk piles of tragically ruined and discarded personal items: personal photos, kids' toys, broken knick knacks, decimated X-Box an PC units, musical collections and stained  castoff clothing, all on a torn up easement in front of an abandoned dwelling during the heat of a day,' the professor contends.

The professor closes her notebook. She looks pale, grim, fretful. She stares at the floor of the lecture hall briefly. Silently she tucks the notebook under an arm and strides out of the room with looking back. I notice one phrase -- author unknown -- scrawled onto the a erase board. It reads: 'Let us learn from The Great Deluge.We've come too far to turn back now.'

I sit, in a dead-stop, at the nexus of Freret and Broadway, a crossroads, a zia some would contend. It seems like time to fly. Gotta go, bro, I tell myself. Delta is ready when you are! 'We love to fly, and it shows!' Elvis must leave the building -- The amber street lights caution against rash action; they flash without sentiment: Go. Don't! Go. Don't! Go? Don't! . . . . Sick stuff. Survival. Just doing their job. It's all too confusing. Prepare to stop, or prepare to fly?

Like in a poorly plotted horror movie, the false image of Cheri with the red eyes fades into the deep black mist. On all 4 streets, the nexus, the absurd yellow blinking will go on for months more. Can't anybody or even a computer in this effing town repair anything? Can't anybody tell me clearly what I should do? 'How many more repeats . . . .?'

Suddenly, I flinch. My muted cellphone vibrates somewhere deep inside an interior pocket in my hefty overcoat. A phone call? A text message?

      Hello, hello, baby. You called? I can't hear a thing.
     What, what did you say? Oh no, you're breaking up on me,
     So sorry I cannot hear you, I'm kinda busy . . . --

A message at 4 in the morning? No. Impossible. It can't be . . . My heart thuds. My stomach rolls. I get that dizzying feel of vertigo again. I am spooked because I sense who's trying to reach me. In fact, I'm sure of it. Here in the everlasting dark with my Sprint phone at my service, this cannot end well.

Towerless and powerless, like it is after a hurricane's stiff winds have blown through the scene, I can't linger anymore. In my mind I hear the nervous trill of the future song again:

     Here it comes again
     I feel the chemicals kicking in
     and I wanna run and hide
     I wanna run and hide:
     say goodbye to my heart to-night 

And without warning, once more I find that I have been placed transfixed, a hotness rising like a cloud in me, at a strangely-alluring piece of photo-art on a CD cover. The number 829 looms at the top of a black-slate panel, as do the ominous words A Dreamer's Remarks. I recall that this scene at one time seemed harmless enough. But now, with its few alterations, it may foretell a cruel coincidence. Is this a secret code?, I ponder. Is this supposed to be funny, some kind of joke? I feel anger and resentment. But I smile in resignation because reality can be stone cold, and unforgiving. In my mind I hear the tinny echo of a Tom Petty tune about the great wide open spark to life, in a cavernous room, perhaps far far away.
In the entrancing photo (the one which I am studying), there is an oddly appealing scene of three people, obviously a trio of rock 'n roll band mates. One man is in spotless linen white, with a spotless white fedora; one man is cloaked in a black frock coat with a black do-rag (covered with white diamonds) tied over the top of his head, and the last figure, a pretty female, dead-centered in the picture, a Summer girl it seems, wears big silver hoops for earrings and stylish gray clothing and boots. She appears to be tight-lipped, perhaps curious, perhaps alarmed, perhaps grateful as she heeds the words of one of the male musicians being whispered in an ear. I gather that she is piecing together a deep, dark secret that has not yet been disclosed . . . .


Soundtrack.  Click here to listen to:

"Animal," by Neon