November 29, 2020

One Door Closes and .....

Mildred Compass was lost again.  This street that she was walking on seemed familiar, still all the houses were very similar. She had been living here with her cousin since the day she had locked herself out of her apartment.  

One morning she had left the apartment to go to her place of work, the Door Company, a place she had been working at for many years. She was told to go home,  her services were no longer required.  As they say, one door closes and another....

She returned home. The front door of her apartment had a large lock on it, and a small sign that read Notice to End Tenancy for Unpaid Rent.  A small, oily man with thinning hair, what was his name again?  He had no redeeming qualities as her mother would have said. "Your possessions will be left on the street. Your rent has not been paid for 4 months.   We can only wait so long.  You understand it is nothing personal.  Decisions must be made.  You have no one to blame here but yourself."

Mildred was confused.  She could not move, but clearly, she had no choice but to leave.  She did not know where to go.  She had no job, and now,  apparently no home.  Everything that was hers was behind that door. 

She remembered her cat. It had died a few months earlier.  She did her best,  but the cat had been getting very skinny.  She was always making messes on the carpet, mewling all through the night, following her everywhere in the apartment, winding around her legs, always under her feet. 

Had she wiped the counter this morning before leaving for work?  Did she  turn off the coffee pot?  Maybe it shuts itself off.  For sure, the coffee would not be worth drinking.  

This neighborhood looked different than her neighborhood.  They call this a "manufactured home" community, her cousin said.  Mildred said, 'We used to call them mobile homes, but these homes weren't going anywhere.  They look like they have been parked here for some time."  

Each home looked the same,  as far as she could tell.   At one time, they had been various shades of white, with a complimentary stripe, either of blue, sea green or faded pink.  There was a small patch of grass next to the door.  The beige golf cart was parked next to the grass.  No one drove cars in the manufactured community. 

She had gone out for a short walk to clear her mind, and now, here she was.  One of the street signs said Shady Lane Parkway.  The cross street said Shady Wind Drive.    She sat down by the edge of the road, and waited.  Perhaps if she concentrated, it would come to her, where she was, how to get home.  

Come on Mildred, it's not that hard. Perhaps her cousin would find her.  She remembered her mother telling her 'if you ever get lost, just stay in one place. Stay put, and sooner or later, someone will find you.'   

Her mother lived in Florida on the other side of the country, so it might be some time before she found her.  Look what you have done now.  What a fine mess this is.  Oh well, you know what they say.  

When one door opens.... 

  


To Snake As A Verb

And everywhere he walked there were little puddles. Water, he presumed, although nothing was certain these days. All he knew for sure was that his fresh socks were now damp, and his feet, would they ever be warm again?

His toes were rubbing against the wool, as if to make fire. He had on several layers of clothes. To keep warm? Or were they simply disguises that he could shed as the day revealed itself?

Lately he had taken to growing a beard. Another layer. Another disguise. Soon he would no longer recognize himself, he thought. His thoughts were also layered, and damp, as if someone had spilled something and forgot to wipe it up.

The day had only recently started. There would be more of this, much more to come. One thought that would not go away was the phrase “to snake as a verb”. The noun was not real, but the verb vibrated with reptilian resonance.

November 1, 2020

THE TOASTED CINDY


The toasted Cindy 
was consumed on almost a daily basis in the late 70's when he worked at the Royal Bank at Oakridge Shopping Centre. The early morning routine was to come in, take the float from the locked safe, count it out carefully, making sure there were enough rolls of coin, recounting the float which had been counted the night before. Everything had to balance to the penny.  

After these tasks were complete, the gang would all take a 15 minute coffee break, which consisted up escaping through the rear entrance of the bank, into the private hallways that existed behind the stores in the shopping centre.  

At least that was the way it was back in the late 70's.   They would go to the employee's entrance to Kresge, which later became K-Mart.  Kresge had a small dining counter with swivel stools.  You could see the coffee dripping into the glass coffee carafes,  but when they filled your cup, it was always from the pot that had been brewing since when they opened their store.  It would be the coffee that had continued to cook, and by the time they would order up a cup, it was 'cowboy coffee.'  Bitter, strong and in need of cream and sugar if you went that way.   

Next up was a Toasted Cindy.   A Toasted Cindy was a very cheap cinnamon roll donut, which usually had a dollop of bad jam in the middle, sliced in half, and brushed generously with what was most likely margarine, then grilled on the flat iron.  It was served hot on a plate with a fork. Usually it was too hot to eat.   They would warn us that it was too hot to eat, but warnings were never taken seriously.  There was only 15 minutes of breaktime, so the toasted Cindy was shovelled down, hot sugar burning tongues,  tonsils and all the way down the throat.   This was followed by quick gulps of bad coffee, again inflaming the already burnt tongue, tonsils and throat, where the Toasted Cindy would combine in the esophagus with the surging acid reflux that the stomach had sent up as a warning.  So many warnings- so little time.  Mouths were wiped with cheap napkins, smearing icing sugar their facs.   In the 70's, if you were lucky (and hopefully male), you had a mustache, which captured this glaze.

Later in the morning, as the coffee/toasted cindy continued to percolate and process in our inflamed stomachs, the tongue would find the encrusted glazed sugar.   Is it any wonder that Mylanta was the favoured chaser?   

Are those breath mints?  No, Tums, did you want one?   

At lunch, they went to the White Spot and ordered up the Triple O Cheeseburger with fries, which also came with a small serving of coleslaw.  Coleslaw was another culinary treat in the late 70's.  Supposedly, there are ways to make a good coleslaw, but this knowledge was not known at that time.  Coleslaw consisted of limp cabbage, soggy sunflower kernels, and something that was less than a miracle whip, which separated before their eyes.   The separation was not noticed, as they were too busy getting in a few beers before it was time to head back to work.

People did that in those days.  Drinking at lunch.  They would finish about 4:30, then head on down to The Jolly Alderman at 12th and Cambie.  This fine establishment exists only as a dim memory of red terry cloth table tops.

Waitresses with faint mustaches, white shirts and black vests would bring  pitchers of Labatt's Blue or Molson Canadian, which was all that people drank in those days.  This was a time before craft beers, even before imports.  

As the end of day slowly turned into early evening, there was always the remote possibility of someone going home with a co-worker.   Later, it was learned that this not a good idea.  

Having sex with a co-worker should always be avoided. First, because those kinds of relationships rarely last.  Second, because the next day, you still had to work with them. Third, because after you quit "seeing" them, and another person in the office started up with them, well you can see how messy it could get.   

A few years later,  AIDS hit, and it was drilled into heads that every time you slept with someone, you were also sleeping with all the other people they had previously slept with.  

So when someone says, oh to be young again, think back to those days when you were actually young.  Remember all the dumb decisions you made back then.  Remember all the life lessons you gathered along the way.  Remember all the dumb things you ate, and drank, and the people you went home with. 

They say "Good judgement comes from experience.   

And experience comes from bad judgement."

Remember when all we wanted was a Toasted Cindy?   

October 31, 2020

HOW MANY AMERICANS DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHTBULB?


Are we there yet?  

Tonight marks the end of daylight savings time.

For this season, not forever.   We are committed to this arcane assault on our reality.

Tonight we are supposed to fall down and turn back the clock.

The end result is our days will begin in darkness. 

By the time our workday ends, we venture from our electric florescent light infested offices, and drive back home in the dark.   Did you know that Port Arthur, Ontario was the first city in the world to enact DST, on July 1, 1908. This was followed by Orillia, Ontario.   Damn Canadians!

Welcome to the dark days of November to March.   

Speaking of dark days, we are about 4 days away from the day when we get the answer to "How Many Americans Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?"

Make no mistake, Donald J. Trump has been an unintentional inspiration to democracy.  The reality of Donald Trump has inspired more Americans than ever to vote.  Vote early, by mail, by any means necessary.  All the while, working with his Repuglican cronies, he tossed raw meat to his homemade militias, and stacked the courts with his gerrymandering judges.  His army of darkness has tried their best to jerry-rig the suppression of the vote, forcing electors to stand in line for hours and hours.  

Is it funny or tragic that these same voters can vote on their smart phones for American Idol, they can authorize a credit card purchase online, but yet, they can't vote online?   

Trump has called this election a Fraud. He has refused to say if he would abide by the results, unless of course, the results are four more years of his vulgar, divisive, clown show.  Wouldn't you love to watch Melania, Jared and Ivanka, Bill Barr and all the other criminals climb back into that impossibly small clown car and drive out of the circus tent?  Imagine the roar of the crowd, and the smell of orange greasepaint smouldering.  

I can't wait for this circus to pack up and leave town.  And all that will be left behind is the elephant crap, and lion piss and spilled diet Cokes, hamberder wrappers, and cotton covfefe confetti littering the empty parking lot.

Relax.  Either way this play out, win or lose, the 24 hour clown show will continue.   

If Trump wins, the fascists win.  Germany wins the war, history is history, and the only certain thing is that the earth will burn.  This is the scorched earth endgame.  The Last Tailgate Party.  

If Biden wins, then Trump sets loose his Proud Boys and bakesale militias.  There is no doubt that Trump will refuse to leave, and the Courts will be forced to litigate the whole mess. 

Life as we know it hangs from a hanging chad.  

Or not.

If the vote is close or even if the vote is decisive, the aftermath will still be chaos.  Trump will not go quietly.  There is nothing "quiet" about the man.   He is a loud, vulgar bully, a buffoon that represents the personal views and inner voices of at least 30-40% of Americans.  This noise will not go away.  

It will find alternate channels, airwaves, chatrooms, reddit threads, and it will continue to fester.  Folks, someone left the cake out in the rain.  The infection has become gangrenous, and amputation is the only option left.   Say your goodbyes, and explore your spiritual options, as the cancer doctors say.

Even those who are tired of the Trump show, do you really believe that Joe Biden will be able to put the hillbilly genie back in the sourmash bottle? How will he disarm the homegrown civilian army?  We have seen white nazis, open displays of weaponry on the steps of the State Houses,  plots to kidnap Governors.  We have watched the children with assault rifles "helping" the police suppress protests.  

All of this insanity was brewing well before Trump.  But he nurtured this sick baby.  Lying from our governments has always happened, but Trump has made an Art of the Squeal.  His dark thumbs on his impossibly small hands have let loose a casual kudzu of misinformation that spreads faster than the virus.

Then there is the virus.   With sides firmly split, America is holding it's sides, unable to suppress a laugh, unable to hold their bad gas, unable to decide between those who believe and those who don't believe.

America believes what it wants to believe, because freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose.  America is a mixed up shook up girl.  America is spilling it's guts 24, 24 hours to go.  Spreading, spreading, super spreading the news.  

Start spreading the news.

So how many Americans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?   

Is there even a punchline?

Are we there yet?



October 25, 2020

Y2K.2.0

Remember the Y2K scare?  Computer programmers predicted computer systems would interpret the "00" of 2000 to mean 1900, and this misinterpretation would trigger worldwide collapse, as the seconds counted down to a new millennium. 

In 1958, the year of this author's birth, an early computer scientist named Bob Bemer discovered this glitch, as a result of his work on genealogical software. Bemer spent the next twenty years trying to make programmers, the government of the United States, IBM, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) aware of this problem with little result. 

Bemer's motto was "((((DO SOMETHING!) SMALL) USEFUL) NOW!)"

2020 is fast becoming the new Y2K, or Y2K 2.0, as I now call it.  The world is not ending, but it sure is whimpering.  Some people are calling for an end to the year, just pulling the plug on October 31, and advancing straight to 2021.

Unfortunately, cancelling the rest of 2020, would leave us with a bad trump taste in our collective mouth, as we would in effect, be cancelling the election on November 3.

Modern life is a combination of moving rapidly, both forwards and backwards.  Like running with scissors, with a blindfold, in a sensory deprivation tank.  Like running a tank into a crowded emergency room.  Like pissing on your motherboard, then wondering why the reboot is not working.  We are advised to unplug, wait 20 seconds ( might as well wash your hands at the same time), then plug back in, and hope for the best.

The modern equivalent of the town fool or the village idiot, Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, trade in rage and umbrage, reinforcing the desire to just go back to bed, hoping against hope that after a short nap, the results might be different when we get back out of bed.  

There is only magical thinking.  The news is all fake, even the fake news.  Recently, I was offered to "friend" an old family friend, the son of an actual friend of my father.  This young lad, who is now in his 50's, was the typical quiet type.  Respectable.  A church going kid, whose mother veered off the mild path of Episcopalian gossip and bake sales, to a full blown case of evangelical fervor, biblical fundamentalism, and purple sweaters.  Wow, I said to myself,  young Friend from my youth is on Facebook.  Let's see what he is up to in his life.  


Well, it appears that young Friend is now an older fellow who believes that European White Supremacy is in a Coal Miner Glove Match with the Forces of Diversity.  He sees a vision of a bloody end of life on earth, a fate we all deserve for our mistaken beliefs in equality among races, respect for all religions, equality of the sexes.  There seems to be a questioning of all modern advances since Leviticus.

Was I shocked?  Shock has been so overused that they don't even bother to take the wires off before letting us go back to the padded walls of the ward.  I see that a sibling of his is merely a Trump supporter and looks just like his father once did.  I couldn't find the other two siblings on social media.  Can we mark them as safe and sane, or just missing?  As I'm not a milk drinker, I may have missed the photos on the carton.  

My, how time passes when your bible gets dusty. 

I wrote a song many moons ago, called Blood Beach.  It was an apocalyptic song about the meltdown of the nuclear family.  

https://soundcloud.com/dense-milt/blood-beach-mp3?in=dense-milt/sets/rhythm-mission-1982-1989-1

Blood Beach

Red hot like a bible

Bleach Beach

Sand the color of bonemeal.

densemilt 1985 (c)



September 13, 2020

STAY CALM ( but don't breathe so much)



It is September, Fall is here, and Wildfire season is a bit late this year.  In our neck of the woods, Wildfire season usually starts after Spring, but August is often Wildfire month.  Last year was relatively good, but the two years previous were bad.  Air is full of particulate this year.  We have wildfires not coming from the Interior or Alberta, but from the south.  The west coast of the US is on fire, Washington, Oregon and California.  There is an incipient civil war, an incendiary President, and a pandemic featuring symptoms of loss of breath, with the feeling that your lungs are full of jello.   

A few months ago, George Floyd was murdered by 4 policemen in Minneapolis. One stood on his neck while he said he could not breathe.  George Floyd died because he could not breathe, because a murderous racist cop was standing on his neck, because other racist cops watched, and did nothing to stop his death.  

Breathing, and not breathing, are the real issue of this unsettled year.  Sure, we still live in fear.  Fear of contagion, virus, election results.  Businesses have shut down, some re-opened, and many remain closed for good.  Some people are working again, while others are still out of work.  Rents were frozen for some, but those rent-freezes are thawing out.  We are about to experience a flood of homelessness, hunger, increased addiction and never-ending unrest.

For the last few months, during all this upheaval, the sky was blue and birds were singing. The surreal duality has been messing with our minds, causing  increased mental health issues. An epidemic of loneliness is also in season. 

But now, we are deep in wildfire season. The air we breathe is almost unbreathable.   Air quality is two times worse than what worse is supposed to be.  Eyes burn, throats are raw, and I have had a headache for over 2 weeks now.  There is something in the air.

Life itself is breath.   

We are alive as long as we can breathe.  

When breathing stops, it becomes a question of time.  

If one stops breathing for more than 3 minutes, the result is brain injury.  

Over 5 minutes, and life itself stops.  

Many people have shortness of breath right now, and for some people, their breathing regularly stops every night as they "sleep".  I put "sleep" in quotation marks, as eyes may be shut, the room may be dark, it might be night, but often sleep, actual sleep is elusive.  

Certainly the quality of sleep suffers when one cannot breathe properly.  I suffer from sleep apnea, where I regularly stop breathing for periods of time while I sleep.  I remember sharing a room with my boss once in Seattle for a trade show.  He did not want to pay for two rooms, so I had to share a room, although thankfully, we had separate beds.  He was so parsimonious that the next morning when he saw the prices for a hotel breakfast, he suggested that we share an egg!   

He was a famous snorer, and would even fall asleep during meetings in the daytime.  Also while he was driving.  The night I shared a hotel room with him, his snoring was so loud, I started counting the seconds between when he breathed out, and then abruptly, made the snore sound that announced he had once again restarted breathing.  His breaths were about 45 seconds apart.  Counting seconds of a person "sleeping" is not similar to counting sheep; in fact, it is very hard to go back to sleep when another person is not breathing well in the bed next to you.

My own sleep apnea is worse when I have extra weight, or have been drinking.  My poor wife has suffered with me for over 40 years now.  I have tried CPAP machines, that regulate your breathing while you sleep, but the apparatus is so foreign to sleeping, that I always ended up quitting.  

Breathe-Right strips help a bit, but fall off during the night.   Nose breathing is apparently healthier, but breathing through your nose is not as natural as breathing through one's mouth. 

We breathe in , and we breathe out.  The lungs fill, and empty with a regularity, as our hearts keep the beat. One of the ways that I deal with stress is to sing.  All my life, I have gone for walks, made up songs, and sung them to myself.  Over 40 years ago, I started singing those songs for other people.

One cannot sing without breath, although God knows, I have tried.  When one runs out of breath, the words start to fail, the delivery falters, and the tone becomes impaired.

It may sound strange, but there are other ways to breathe, besides the old in/out. 

"Circular breathing is a technique used by players of some wind instruments to produce a continuous tone without interruption. It is accomplished by breathing in through the nose while simultaneously pushing air out through the mouth using air stored in the cheeks."1

The concept of circular breathing was made  popular by Frank Sinatra, but was practiced for thousands of years by didgeridoo players.   Sinatra adopted this technique from Tommy Dorsey, big band trombonist, to improve his tone, delivery and stamina.  

Angus McPherson describes this technique in an article he wrote for Cut Common Magazine, "An air of mystery surrounds circular breathing, as if it's a special club that only the worthy are allowed to enter."  2

Even though I have played music for over 40 years, I have always thought of myself as a non-musician. (Those who have heard me would probably agree. Pa-dump.)  Michael Blake, famous NY saxophonist once remarked, "Dennis doesn't play the sax, he owns a sax." 

Ouch!  

I guess I am a Marxist in that respect, a Groucho Marxist, as Groucho once said he would "refuse to join any club that would have him as a member."

I am no longer a member of the Musician's Union, I still can't do circular breathing, and I still own a sax.   

The sky is yellow.

Coffee is black.

I'm a bit blue.

_ _ _ _ _ _.


What should the last line be?  

I feel like a kitten in a sack....

Keeping it clean I'll just say fack....

Feeling like I want my money back....

Winter is coming.  ( I know it doesn't rhyme. )

I am reminded of wise words from the song Jack You Dead by the great Louis Jordan.  So I will give Mr. Jordan the last words:

"When all the breath has leaked out of you

bomp bomp bomp

Jack You Dead."  


1 Wikipedia

 https://www.cutcommonmag.com/the-seven-worst-things-about-circular-breathing/

September 5, 2020

Watch all passengers with a veiled wariness



"Everyone knows, from books or experience, that living out of sight of any shore does rich and powerfully strange things to humans.  Captains and stewards know it, and come after a few trips to watch all passengers with a veiled wariness."1

The week starts on a Monday.  For many years now, the week starts on a Monday.  Monday is the Day of the Dread, the day that comes prematurely. Monday cannot help itself.  It just gets excited.  All that resting on Sunday, and Monday is excited to get going, can't wait.  You can't sleep knowing that Monday is coming.  Have you ever heard anyone say Thank God It's Monday, except perhaps with their tongue firmly in your cheeks. dripping with irony. 

Is Monday a fresh sheet of paper, or do you feel Monday is like waking up in the middle of night, confused as to where you are for a moment, one foot in the dream, and one foot poking out of the warm, somnolent covers, the only limb left outside, unprotected, unloved, a cake in the rain?  

Monday comes first, with anxiety, filling you with a dread that however hellish Monday may turn out to be, it is just  the first day of what will be a whole week of days, each with their own name and personality.  During this pandemic, the days blur.  There is even a day of the week that we  call Blursday.   

It is always Happy Hour in Blursday.  Blursday is the day in which you forget just what day it really is.   Have you experienced Blursday yet?  I often have my Blursday moment on Whensday, as in when is this day?  Lately, When Is This Day is the day formerly known as Tuesday. Just wake me up when it is Thursday, or as I like to call it, False Friday.   

" They do things calmly that would be inconceivable with earth beneath them: they fall into bed and even into love with poignant desperate relish and complete disregard for the land-bound proprieties; they weep after one small beer, not knowing why; they sometimes jump overboard the night before making port.  And always drink with a kind of concentration which, according to their natures, can be gluttonous, inspired, or merely beneficent."1

We are all passengers on this manic pandemic cruise ship.  We are not officially lost at sea, but our movements are restricted. Still, we feel the need to make an effort to reach the shore.   Life on the HMS CORONA, is very confusing, as we can take a stroll on the poop deck, we look up at the enormous blue sky, the only view being sky and water for as far as we can see.  Will we ever find the land again?   Is the shore a real thing, or just a word we dimly remember, a distant dream, a foggy notion, an implanted memory in a soggy impaired brain?  

"Sometimes, if people make only one short voyage, or are unusually dull, they are not conscious of sea change, except as a feeling of puzzlement that comes over them when they are remembering something that happened, or almost happened, on board ship.  Then for a few seconds, they will look like children listening to an old dream."1

Dreams can take us on voyages that cannot happen in real life.  I have had a multitude of strange dreams. Do you remember the flying dreams you had as a child?  The dreams of climbing ladders in dark, dusty warehouses that lead to nowhere?  You can't get back down, and yet, you can go no further.  The dreams where people you love disappear, and you wake up crying, not sure if they are really gone.  Or the dreams where those who have really disappeared come back.  You are 17 in the back seat of the family car, except you are really 62, and why are these dead people driving the car?   

"Often, though, and with as little volition, people will become ship addicts, and perjure themselves with trumpery excuses for their trips.  I have watched many of them, men and women too, drifting in their drugged ways about the corridors of peacetime liners, their faces full of a contentment never to be found elsewhere."1

What does Donald Trump dream of?  Do we even care?  Surely, he dreams of himself.  He dreams of drowning in money, like Scrooge McDuck. He dreams of  glorious Russian pussy, showering on him so many gold coins like a winning slut machine.  

He dreams of winning the big jackpot, the biggest jackpot ever. 

See Little Donny sitting on his jackpot tweeting, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!

He calls out in the night, raging, screaming.  Did you see Daddy last night?  He came home late, and he was wearing a white wedding gown with a pointed hat. Not a Pope's hat, but a pointy hat like I get to wear at school.  Except, this pointy hat fits his pointed head so perfectly.  It was the pointiest of pointed hats.  

And Daddy was so mad at me, he was raging "All Lives Matter."  Bad Daddy woke Little Donny up, he slapped me, "wake up dummy, wake up, they are coming. "

Who is coming?  Are the Russians coming?  

"They are coming, and we have to be ready.  Grease the guns, grab the pussy, and support your local white police.  You can forget the generals and the troops- they are not worth your support, Little Donny.  They are just a bunch of losers, suckers, nobodies, wasting their lives in shit hole countries.  Who would do that?  What kind of dummy does that?  Just the thought of it makes my blood boil and my bone spurs hard."

He wakes up, feeling like he is drowning, and he is wet.  The sheets are wet.  His pillow is wet.  With tears? Soaked in blood?  No, just the acrid smell of Slavic urine.    


1. MFK Fisher - The Gastronomical Me 1943


August 30, 2020

The Courage of the Coward

I was punched in the gut the other day scrolling through Facebook. A friend made a post about Anthony  Bourdain, the chef and author, who took his life two years ago. 

Then I made the rookie mistake of reading the comments section.

It was there that a nasty comment jumped out, and shook me to the core. In these dark times, we are drowning in stupid comments , but this comment was one that was particularly stupid and heartless.


This guy, who I did not know, said something like this “ I loved all of his shows and read all his books, but man, he was a coward who took his own life. “ 

The implication was that Bourdain didn’t “man up.” He was "weak" for quitting. He was somehow less of a man, he was a COWARD. This was a comment that showed no sympathy for Bourdain's pain, nor any understanding that judgement is the last thing we need when discussing suicide or the vast reasons people choose to live or not to live. The comment was dripping with toxic masculinity. 

This concept of calling someone a coward, because they choose suicide is disgusting.  First of all, nobody knows why someone is compelled to make this very personal and fatal choice to live or die.  Is it cowardice to not want to continue living?  What if the person had terminal cancer? What if they had suffered untold pain, and felt they had no one who could help? Why is it that we accept poor health but not mental health as a factor in the decision?

Cowardice is supposed to be the opposite of courage. As a label, "cowardice" indicates a “failure of character in the face of a challenge. One who succumbs to cowardice is known as a coward.” A coward is a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.  What if the dangerous or unpleasant thing is life itself?

There is no question that suicide is hardest for those who are left behind, the loved ones who have to sort through the reasons and the wreckage, the ifs and whys, the blame, the shame, and in the end the thoughts that never end - ‘what could I have done to prevent this from happening?  

This is from a blog post that I wrote 6 years ago,  when Robin Williams died.

"Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain."    

"That's all it's about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn't even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. If I start piling weights on your shoulders, you will eventually collapse if I add enough weights... no matter how much you want to remain standing. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could. "

"Don't accept it if someone tells you, "That's not enough to be suicidal about." There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. Whether or not the pain is bearable may differ from person to person. What might be bearable to someone else, may not be bearable to you. The point at which the pain becomes unbearable depends on what kinds of coping resources you have. Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to withstand pain. "

"When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. Suicide is neither wrong nor right; it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources.

You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things:

(1) find a way to reduce your pain, or 

(2) find a way to increase your coping resources. 

Both are possible. "

http://www.metanoia.org/suicide

And I have had friends who ended their life.  When someone gets to my age, that is inevitable. I can rationally accept that this is a choice that people make in desperation.  And I am haunted by the loss.    But the use of the word coward seemed so callous, so unsympathetic, so dismissive of a decision that is deeply personal.  

So I was reminded of Vic Chesnutt, who committed suicide on Christmas Day in 2009. Earlier in 2009, Vic Chesnutt released his last record, At The Cut.  It featured the song I've Flirted With You All My Life, a song he described as a song about his relationship with death.  

But the album starts off with the song COWARD.  Vic starts on acoustic guitar and then we hear him say “The courage of the coward is greater than all others.”   

Coward

The courage of the coward

Is greater than all others

A scaredy-cat'll scratch 'im

If you back 'im in a corner

But I, I, I, I am a coward

I, I, I am a coward

Courage born of despair and impotence

Submissive dogs can

Lash out in fear and be

Very, very dangerous

But I, I, I, I am a coward

I, I, I am a coward.

    Vic Chesnutt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNJKL_6MwT0

Cowards are not normally thought of as courageous.  And yet, it takes great courage to live our lives. We have to understand that  people at the end of their ropes, may think that in the act of taking their own life, they are relieving others of the burden. I am not claiming that the act of suicide is an act of bravery, but that it is one of the unexplainable things in life that is so personal, we don't really get to have an opinion. Because even though the act affects us all so deeply, it is not about us.

Perhaps it is that feeling of impotence, lack of control that is hardest to come to terms with.

In his final interview, which aired on National Public Radio 24 days before his death, Chesnutt said that he had "attempted suicide three or four times [before].

It didn't take. "

Patti Smith said in a statement, “He possessed an unearthly energy and yet was humanistic with the common man in mind,” He was entirely present and entirely somewhere else. A mystical somewhere else. A child and an old guy as he called himself. Before he made an album he said he was a bum. Now he is in flight, bumming round beyond the little room. With his angel voice.”

After his death, his close friend, Kristin Hersh wrote a book titled Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt, which was published by University of Texas Press and released on October 1, 2015.

"The effect is extraordinarily powerful — it gives Hersh a way to express both the love and the anger that Chesnutt inspired in her. And anyone who's lost a close friend or family member knows what that mixture feels like. It's irrational and confusing, and Hersh captures it perfectly. "[Y]ou started with a broken heart and blamed everyone you met after that for breaking it," she writes. And then later, nearly broken under the weight of her grief: "Fallen, but not in free fall: in misery, but still singing. 'I am not a good ... man.' No, not always. But you were maybe a good angel."

Hersh writes, "Sometimes we wanna die. And sometimes we watch each other live through it. This is maybe all the saving anyone ever amounts to."

 


August 22, 2020

I Don't Believe in a Cure, but I Do Believe in Bacon, and that is Cured.

"The more sincerely he tried to explain things, the more a fog of insincerity came to hang over everything."  Haruki Murakami

I was speaking with a business colleague yesterday.  He lives in California.  He said Hello from Covid California.   We talked about how life had changed since the pandemic.  He said he wasn't too excited about getting a vaccine. He thought a treatment was what was needed. 

I said to him, you can wait forever, but a cure will never happen. The common cold is a coronavirus.  Have "THEY" cured that?  HIV is a virus- have we cured that?  Cancer is not a virus, but we have been raising money to find the cure for many, many years.  Are the treatments better, do people live longer, or are we still shouting Fuck Cancer?   

The entire medical establishment and big pharma are not programmed for cures.  They are programmed for treatments.   The money is not in a cure.  The money is always tied to the prolonging.  

I started wondering about the word "cure" and how the origin might differ than the word secure.  We seem to be obsessed with the ideas of cures and security.  Kind of like Hopes (cure) and Fears (security).  The word "cure" was in usage before "secure" by a couple hundred years.  We had the cure before we were secure.  We had hopes before fears.   We had Obama, whose brand was hope, and now have Trump, whose brand is fear.  

The word Cure comes from the Latin word cura,  meaning "care, concern, trouble." Later, it came to mean "means of healing" and even later as " successful remedial treatment of a disease."  

Let's not forget church and state. Cure is also related to the word Curate from the Latin curatus, past participle of curare, meaning " to take care of".  Sure, that is what the church does.  Churches or religions, offer hope as their drug of choice.  But if the hope isn't selling, advertisers never fail to use good old fashioned fear as their motivator.   Hell was not invented for fallen angels.  Hell is the repository of our fears, the sweet home Alabama for our Mammons and Data.   

Around 1743, the word cure also came to be associated with preparing for preservation by drying, salting etc.  This is widely used in relation to fish, pork, etc.  The fish and pork were not healed, they were preserved.   They were not safe and secure, nor were they very hopeful, as they were already dead.

But they were given a new life, a second chance to please, preserved from the dangers of rotting, preserved for another time, blessed with an extended shelf life.  We did not "cure" them, but improved their Best Before date.   

Is there evidence of preserving humans with salt or brine?  Many of us are working on a home pickling project, but there is little proof that a pickled man lasts any longer than a non-pickled man.  In fact, pickling in that context, rarely leads to longer life.   Neither does smoking, although many people smoke fish and meat for preservation purposes.  

Please note that there is very little ancient connection of the word "cure" to the word "physician." More typically cure was connected to "conjurer."   So is a cure more of a magic trick of smoke and mirrors? Call the doctor or the Witchdoctor?  Which is witch?   Are you a good witch or a bad witch?  

Is this the demon seed of the rampant disbelief in science?  Or is that more rooted in the old mama/daddy authority issues?  

Did you know that the word "ill" is a contracted form of "evil"?  

Johnny: Mother, I am feeling  ill.  

Mother: No Johnny, you are feeling evil.  Learn the difference.  

Is the virus evil, or is evil the virus?  Which is witch?  Is the cure worse than the disease?   The word disease literally derives from dis- and ease, or the absence of ease. Perhaps we just need some more elbow room.   Being quarantined in a small apartment can cause some dis-ease.  We define Elbow Room as the adequate space to move or work in. (e.g. "the car has elbow room for four adults." )  Please cars were bigger at one time.  In today's cars, 4 adults is not a good example of social distancing.

Somewhere in my memories of useless old aphorisms, is this: When you find yourself living in a shoe, move to a boot where you got more room.  

There is an old country song written by Sara Carter of The Carter Family called 50 Miles of Elbow Room, that expresses the yearning for heaven, or to update it -  perhaps just a bigger apartment. After all, times are tough, so we have to lower our expectations in 2020.  "There'll be room to spare when we enter there. On the right hand,  on the left hand, 50 miles of Elbow Room." Here is a nice version from Helen Carter, daughter of Maybelle Carter. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm8rt5EqiV0

The word "secure" comes from before my time, or more exactly the 1530's. Secure means "without care, dreading no evil", from the Latin securus. Se cura, from se (free from) and cura (care) - see cure."   Of persons, free from care, quiet easy", also in a bad sense, "careless, reckless."   

Free from dis-ease. Full of ease.  Soaking in ease.  Easy Street.  In regard to all things material girl in nature, secure  means "tranquil; free from danger, safe, easy."  Easy Breezy Beautiful Cover Girl.  Bada-bing-bada-boom.

Security!! Security!!  We must secure the perimeter!  Are we free from the cure?  Quick! Remove the mask, she can't breathe.

I  believe security will be called.  I don't believe they will discover a cure.  There is too much money to be made in not finding a cure.  We are happier being secure ( free from cure).  We are looking for treatments.  (from the word treat and mint, a minty treat)   I remember my five year old daughter instructing me on the difference between a treat and a snack.  

All is not lost, as I still have a strong belief system.  I still believe in Bacon, and that is cured, although bacon can become an addiction, and that is hard to cure.

"By this time, I had read the same line in my book a couple hundred times."  Haruki Murakami

August 15, 2020

THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE, THE ORBIT OF YOUR SOUL


The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?  Oscar Wilde De Profundis

It's only rock'n'roll, but we like it. Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones

Truth. The final frontier. dense milt

When someone dies, we write what we call an obituary. But when that someone is still alive, if they write about themselves, we call it autobiographical, or memoir. Memoir is from the French memoire- meaning memory. Memoirs are thought to be factual, although James Frey challenged that notion with his "memoir," A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah Book Club pick which was revealed to contain some content that was invented, or made up, to create a more salacious and profitable read. In other words, he lied, but he didn't get away with it.

At densemilt.com, we state our motto at the very top: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." We do not play the ball where it lies around here. If we need to kick that ball onto the green, well, we kick the ball. Not in an obvious way, of course, more of a side step, or a sidekick, which is more than the monkey to the grinder. But you know what they say- no monkey- no money.

Creative non-fiction like it's cousin, the autobiographical novel, offers a more transparent form of augmented memory. But since the whole world is on drugs, and almost everybody is subject to some kind of false memory, or especially memory loss, what is "truth" anyway?

It is said that we are living in a post-truth world. We play it safe, we play around with the facts, we know what we like, we eat what we want, we just get 'er done, and we are not afraid to lie to get where it counts.

I am calling this game what it is, and it is a game. It is a performance, sometimes well rehearsed, and sometimes, improvised. Improvisation is making do with what you have on hand, creative reinvention. It is resetting the tables that have turned, it is making it up as you go. Is it as Conway Twitty once said, 'only make believe? ' Are we all just marathon dancers in the make believe ballroom? What is the truth anymore? Is our very existence now nothing more than a travesty of truth? Is this is the orbituary of the soul, the run-around the rosie, the new truth of how we get around, how we are sharpening our survival skills, how we circumvent our venting, how we deny, deflect, and ultimately use the dodge to get out of Dodge?

So here I sit typing away on a cynical sunny Saturday, my chores half done, messing around with words, when I should be out soaking in the sun. Oscar Wilde wrote De Profundis, the words at the top, when he was sent to prison for the crime of loving another man. Laika was sent out in space by the Russians to prove the superiority of the Soviet system; poor Laika had no choice in the assignment.

Mick Jagger is closing in on 80, proving rock n roll is no longer a young man's game. Past his prime, he was Best Before. They forget to refrigerate after opening. While it is easy to make fun of the old guys, they still rock. They still roll. I see you rolling your eyes. "Oh, I didn't know that, but then again, there's only one I've met. An' he just smoked my eyelids An' punched my cigarette."

We are all looking for meaning, especially during this pandemic, when all the old rules are replaced with the new rules. The new rules aren't much different than rules they suggested back in 1917-18, during the Spanish Flu, which truth be told wasn't Spanish after all. Apparently it came from Kansas City. Kansas City Flu did not fit the narrative, so a sidestep. A shuffling of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Now the bricks lay on Grand Street where the neon madmen climb. They all fall there so perfectly; it all seems so well timed.  And here I sit so patiently waiting to find out what price you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice. Bob Dylan.





August 9, 2020

Are You Still Counting To 20?


"As cognitive scientists who study the human mind, we suggest that this tendency to see human features everywhere is an innate human characteristic, one that automatically alerts you to signs of other people- and helps you make sense of a confusing world. "

From The conversation.com- \humanizing the coronavirus


Back in the late 90's I became the Manager of a bakery called Uprising Breads.  It was a Worker's Cooperative governed with a democratic management structure, which meant that the workers were the true owners; I was hired from within.  I was hired as a baker, worked the counter, did dishes, disastrously drove the bread van one day, took on the role of expanding the wholesale business, and finally, was hired by the collective to manage them.  This was a role of leadership, with limited authority bestowed upon me by the workers whom I managed.   

As such, it was a role that required all the diplomacy I had acquired growing up as the number five  son in a family of seven kids.  I served at their discretion. As the governed were the true owners, all decisions needed to be somewhat transparent, and negotiated.   Truthfully, the role became very similar to that of an elected official.  My authority was consent based; consent was not implicit, but had to be gained through discussion. I was responsible with preparing a better vision that the group would accept.


Let me back up and say that I had no formal training for this position; I am a high school graduate, who had taken acting classes for 8 months.  (Much later I took some courses in copywriting, sales, marketing and purchasing, but my knowledge has always been self taught to some degree.)  


It is said that good judgment comes from experience.  And experience comes from bad judgement.   Another favourite aphorism of mine is "It is the early bird that gets the worm, but it is the second mouse that gets the cheese."  Being an innovator is not always the easiest path; often it is better to come after, and learn from other's mistakes, rather than making them yourself.


Regrets, I've had a few.  Drinks as well, I've had a few.  It is funny at age 62 to ponder the concept of a career.  My job life has always been the means to an end, something I fell into, like hanging with the wrong crowd.  When  I managed the bakery, it was the early 90's.  I managed it for seven years, until the workers had to bring in private investors because the capital needs of one of the businesses had grown beyond the comfort level of investment the workers were prepared to make..  The investor said at one point that the bakery was not "core" to his acquisition strategy, so he offered it to me  for sale.   For many reasons, I chose not to buy the bakery, and it was sold to one of the workers whom I had been managing.  

Now the workers were very confused.  I was still the Manager, and the new owner was one of them, but he had a different vision of how the bakery would run.   I stayed on for another 6 months, until he called me into his office one day ( my co-worker in the office left early that day, and she never left early), and gave me a letter.   In the letter was his offer for me to go away, with compensation, as I was being terminated without cause.  I said thank you, I would consult with my lawyer.   This statement took him aback a bit, but we soon came to an agreement.  And I stayed for another two months and then left.  

I fondly remember this experience and have many memories.  The neighbourhood was working class and left leaning.  As a near original punk, I was familiar with concepts of anarchy, and one of my favourite buttons was QUESTION AUTHORITY.  That was almost a mantra.   Another button said "We don't want the crumbs, we want the whole damn bakery."  


One afternoon, I was having a work meeting with one of the teams on the lawn across from the bakery.  I was trying to make some new policies clear, and gaining approval ( in my mind).   One of the workers disagreed with my idea of starting their shift earlier, and called me a fascist.  I said no, I was far from being a fascist, as real fascists actually killed people. I was just proposing a new work schedule.  Later, we would laugh about the conversation.  


We had a suggestion box for customers to let us know their thoughts.   One customer wrote an angry diatribe against us. We had named a multigrain bun, rolled in sunflower seeds a Hedgehog roll.   He felt that this anthropomorphism of naming a bun after an animal, was indicative of a larger evil.   Such were the daily challenges of running a hippie bakery in a post-punk time.  


For some reason, this trip down memory lane was sparked by the quote at the top in regards to how we try to humanize this virus, COVID 19.   The President called it our Invisible Enemy, and perhaps for a change, he is right.   Since 9/11, and War on Terror,  the US has been chasing phantoms, fears and invisible enemies.  Since fear is such a great motivator, it is important to always have something or someone to fear.  This new enemy is kind of perfect, in that it is invisible.  So the battle against it has become a war of words, a war of ways of life, a war of public health vs. warped concepts of freedom and liberty.  A war of facts, of who one chooses to believe, with various "news sources" competing for ratings, and pushing their own agendas of fear. Now anonymous YouTube videos are being held up as authority to believe in.    


I am reminded of the concept of "when everything is a priority, then nothing becomes the priority."  More importantly, nothing gets done if everyone is staking out positions, with no agreement even on what constitutes reality anymore.   No wonder we are all starting to feel like we are losing our minds.

In a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci was speaking about the anger and death threats he and his family are experiencing, and said "One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are - for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable - they just don't believe science and they don't believe authority."


I think Fauci is on to something here.  There are so many people who deny the reality of climate change, even though the vast majority of scientists believe this threat to be real and credible.  More and more, we are seeing alt-this and alt-that, conspiracies galore.  

Three years ago, I wrote a song satirizing these conspiracy theorists called ICEWALL.   The lyrics are almost tame now with the current level of crazy going on.  I wanted to write a love song from the point of view of a conspiracy theorist.  My daughter had introduced me to the concept of the Icewall, which flat earthers believe surrounds the flat earth, keeping all the oceans from falling off the edge.  


My lyrics:


ICEWALL


Let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love

I will hold you like the icewall holds the sea and stars above

And I know you believe me

Unless you’re part of this vast conspiracy

So let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love.


Remember 911 was an inside job

That’s what I learned from my Uncle Bob

He should know it’s true, he was there that day

When the CIA shot JFK

And careful, chemtrails make you gay

But liberal women like their men that way

And sex with animals, that’s ok

When they look at you that certain way.


Remember Jimmy Hoffa, he was never found

And DB Cooper never hit the ground

A tree falls in the forest- no sound

And some fools say the world is round

Round here we don’t take vaccines

Don’t want to wind up like Avril Lavigne

What Chad Kroeger did to her was so mean

When he made her his lizard queen.


The world ends and what happens next

You were my world til you sent that text

Said you don’t love me and please don’t call

Don’t want to hear about my damned Icewall.

I hear Donald Trump has aides

Who make him swastika pancakes

And sex with Nazis, that’s ok

When they look at you that certain way.


Let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love

I will hold you like the icewall holds the sea and stars above

And I know you believe me

Unless you’re part of this vast conspiracy

So let me take you to the icewall, and fall in love.

Dennis Mills all rights reserved.  2017.(c)


Early on in this pandemic, we were told by Public Health officials to wash our hands for 20 seconds, and maintain social distancing.  These officials are scientists, with training in epidemiology, viruses, and prevention.   
Should we question their authority?   
Does some angry guy on YouTube really know more than someone who has been studying and practicing this type of thing for decades?   
Are you still counting to 20 when you wash your hands?