Todd

Baby-spencer-icarly-o

The next challenge comes from the brilliantly skewed mind behind Mydangblog.  She’s an expert at turning the seemingly mundane into comedy gold, so why not have yourself a laugh?  Here’s where to find her: https://educationalmentorship.com/.  In response to the challenge, she wrote: “How true is the saying, ‘A daughter’s a daughter all of her life; a son’s a son ’til he gets a wife’”?

When Todd was a toddler, he toddled after his mother in pursuit of perpetual protection and praise.  His mother called him a “handful”, which was a maternally polite euphemism for “a 50 lb. anthropomorphic hemorrhoid”.  From binkies to baseball cards, she placated his every whim and this made him feel shiny and special.

When Todd was a teen, he thumbed his nose at his mother, ignored her advice, dropped the “my” from the “mom” and pronounced it “Bitch”.  Sometimes she sighed or rolled her eyes, but she kept him well-fed and gave him his space and this made him feel shiny and special.

When Todd met Molly, two m’s shy of his mommy, he thought, “close enough,” and put a ring on her finger.  His mother called him a man, so he tried to live up to the title by making Molly feel inferior.  Molly stood by him and fed him well, and at first, she seemed to enjoy her role.  So Todd stopped calling his mother and when he cried for his dinner, the onus now fell upon Molly, whose home cooking made him feel shiny and special.

Todd had a short attention span.  His mother always said this showed he was creative.  So while Molly served him to the best of her ability in an effort to sustain the illusion of marital bliss, Todd created temporary surrogate mothers all over town.  They made him feel shiny and special. He contracted herpes and generously shared them with Molly one night when he was too drunk to recall that she bored him.   These days, Anheuser-Busch supplied his binkies.

With free time on her hands, Molly struck out and sought sympathetic ears.  “You should leave him,” they said, “he’s just a 50 year old anthropomorphic hemorrhoid.”  So with the support of good friends and good wine, Molly did just that.  When Todd came home to an empty house, he swore and screamed and cried.  He picked up the phone and called his mother.  She tried to console him, but Todd was hysterical; too far gone.  He put his fist through a door, woke the neighbors next door, and was taken away to a quiet place where he could rest.

Rita the night nurse comes in at 8:00 p.m. sharp with her cart full of food and pills and goodies.  She fluffs Todd’s pillow and tells him he’s handsome, which makes him feel shiny and special.  Just as she exits his room each night, he rings the bell and summons her back.  “What is it, Todd?  Did I forget something?” she asks.  Todd smiles coyly and answers, “just making sure you can hear the bell.”  Rita smiles condescension at her ornery charge, then heads downstairs to the break room.  “Finished with your rounds, Rita?” a congenial nurse inquires.  “My shift never ends,” she replies.  “I’m stuck with a 50 year old anthropomorphic hemorrhoid that thinks I’m his mother.”

 

Get A Life

200

It’s a Sabado caliente here in ABQ, so I’m putting my 2 remaining Curmudgeon challenges on the backburner until tomorrow.  Thank you to everyone who gave me such interesting topics to tackle; you’ve made the challenge far more fun than I ever anticipated.

Does anyone remember the short-lived Chris Elliott sitcom Get A Life?  It aired on Fox in its earliest days and somehow managed to survive for 2 seasons.  The basic premise of what was undoubtedly the most bizarre sitcom ever conceived was that Chris is a 35 year old paper boy who lives with his parents, hilariously played by Chris’ real father, Bob of the comedy duo Bob & Ray, and Elinor Donahue, best known for her role as “Kitten” on Father Knows Best.  Chris’ parents were always shown sitting at the kitchen table in their bathrobes begrudgingly entertaining the latest moronic nonsense from their utter humiliation of a son.  Years before South Park gave us the perpetually regenerating Kenny, Chris usually died in some horribly violent way at the end of each episode, only to magically be alive and painfully stupid once again the following week.  The brilliance of this show was that it was so calculatedly retarded that to watch it actually caused physical discomfort.  As Get A Life remains an obscure nugget of 90s pop culture, here’s a short scene to either disgust you or turn you into a die hard fan.  The choice is yours.  This is Chris auditioning for a part in the local musical theater production of “Zoo Animals On Wheels”, the worst fake play ever televised:

 

The Guru Is A Fraud!

monkey

Okay, now we’re getting down to the real challenging challenges that were presented to me earlier in the week.  I know I indicated I was only going to pick 3 topics, but they were all so good and outside of my usual purview, that I have decided to try my hand at all of them. This one comes from The Modern Leper, an extraordinary writer whose current novel-in-installments, Utopia, deserves to win a Hugo Award and be available at all major booksellers in a future far less distant than that of the setting of his story.  Check it out, along with the rest of his excellent writing, here: https://themodernlepersblog.wordpress.com/.  For the challenge, The Modern Leper gave me the following: “Okay, how about this: what scares you? And I don’t mean like bears or the dark; I’m talking more in an existential sense. I’ve always found you write quite confidently, and you seem like a reasonably stable character (or at least stabler than the rest of us), so I want to know what (if anything) will break that wall. I want to know what challenges the deepest fibre of your being.”    

Thank you for stopping by.  I hope you don’t mind the incense smoke, I was just meditating in front of my shrine and the Nag Champa helps me to transcend mundane thoughts.  You probably came here in search of spiritual instruction or perhaps a koan to shock your mind into sudden enlightenment.  I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression.  Advertising is inherently dishonest, after all, even when all we’re selling is an image.

If you’re confused about what I just said, you might want to brace yourself for a shock: I am a mess.  A far more manageable mess than I once was, to be sure, but a pile of garbage is a pile of garbage no matter how many layers deep.  I’m afraid I may have inadvertently given the impression that I’ve risen above the types of fears and neuroses that plague the average person through a calculated regimen of spiritual practice and metaphysics.  The truth of the matter is that I am a skilled actor.  I act with my words, my mannerisms, my style of dress.  I act with my expressions, my slow calculated steps and the illustrious names I drop.  I perform with everything I’ve got because, you see, I’m not as concerned about the audience out there as I am about the audience of one that lives behind my eyes.  And I’ve nearly got him fooled.

The audience of one is, of course, my ego – or for those with an aversion to Freudian terms, whatever you choose to call the feeling that one is a distinct individual with a corresponding destiny.  Like all egos, mine is a pitiful, trembling thing, which is perfectly apt for something nonexistent that gets treated as though it is the most important thing in the world.  It follows me to the meditation cushion and injects sparks of panic into my quest for Samadhi.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me tell you how I came to embrace this self-conscious quest for enlightenment.

When I was a boy, an empty vessel, my parents filled my head with all kinds of horrors.  They told me that God was an all-powerful, highly judgmental patriarch in the sky whose appetite for adoration is insatiable.  As I grew older, other people I met corroborated that story.  They said that all but a select few who had turned their lives over to God would be promptly deposited into a pit of eternal torture the moment they shook off this mortal coil.  As I grew older still, I heard more and more of this, so I played the alchemist and transformed all that fear into rage.

The rage was a smokescreen, too.  I began drinking heavily in an effort to dull this repeated cycle of panic, terror, rage, panic, terror, rage, but in short order, the life of a drunk created social disasters and mental confusion that almost caused the whole works to overload.  I’ve peered over the precipice of death many times, never quite finding the courage to jump.  It seemed that despite it all, I still wanted to live this infuriatingly futile life of mine.

I tried to lose myself in romantic love; a fool’s game upon which I’m sure I needn’t elaborate.  A heavy cloud of depression kept my body supine but it never dulled the fear.  There is no comfort in fearful repose.  Finally, the bottom dropped out and the ravages of alcoholism brought me to a crossroads.  Would I live in a meaningful way or would I die?  There was no discernible third option.

So here I am, living proof of the choice I made on that fateful day.  Ironically, the siren call of the wisdom of the East that had beckoned me since my teenage years finally made itself resoundingly clear, so I set out absorbing every available resource I could find that would teach me how to think like the silent, noble lamas of my imagination.  But the lamas who wrote these words weren’t imaginary and what they taught me was that there was nothing at all fateful about that day because there is no such thing as fate.  Or destiny.  Or purpose.  And my Western mind initially found great comfort in that because it misinterpreted the Dharma as a very deep contradiction of the Judeo-Christian ethos.  I thought my adoption of these views would be a peaceful refutation of the myths of my culture. It wasn’t.  When one’s ego reads of its own insubstantiality, it simply grasps at that new idea for its continued nourishment.  It finds meaning in the meaninglessness.

Listen: I do see more clearly now through the illusions we all entertain.  A general calmness that had always eluded me before has become a fairly reliable companion.  This is good.  Yet, it solves nothing.  Though the severity and frequency of panic has abated, it still permeates the energy that moves me and ties me together.  As everything is cyclical, I often anticipate its reappearance with renewed strength; a storm gathering quietly in the background as I go about my arrogant business of playing the role of a suburban prophet.  The very thought causes me to panic.  Have you ever seen a self-professed guru attempting to sit serenely in the lotus position in the midst of a panic attack?  No?  Me, neither, but that’s only because I don’t have a mirror on my shrine.  I would guess that it’s a comically pathetic spectacle.  Perhaps I should ask my dog.

Some of the most skilled purveyors of the so-called wisdom upon which I base my worldview have died in nefarious ways.  Two of my chosen spiritual mentors drank themselves to death.  One has to wonder how confident they could possibly have been in what they were selling.

Are these really our only choices?  Nihilism or a dangerously selective eternalism?  The Buddha answered this question with a resounding NO, of course, but he’s been dead for over 2,500 years and his current self-appointed mouthpieces rarely deign to descend from their mountaintops and explain the elusive Middle Way thoroughly to the modern world.  I suspect they are mostly actors just like me, but far more adept.  Their inner audiences are so thoroughly entertained by the show in progress that they don’t even need an external audience.

I admit your visit caught me off guard.  I didn’t have time to don my robes and choose an appropriate sutra to elucidate, and for that I apologize.  So now you know.  I am a fraud.  My spontaneous and accidentally genuine words belie my wise reputation.  I have figured nothing out, nor have I conquered my fears.  I am afraid of living as much as I am afraid of dying.  I am afraid that I am far more transparent than I thought and that unmistakable beams of fearful ignorance shine through my eyes.  This temple may as well be a brothel for its lack of authenticity.

But then, who doesn’t enjoy visiting a good brothel every now and then?  Thanks for stopping by.  Come again soon.  Namaste.

Guilty Conscience

I was a tad harsh on my dad in my last post.  Not that anything I wrote was untrue, but it did have a one-sided focus on what I perceive as his faults at the exclusion of his many great qualities.  And let’s face it: as much as I find myself perplexed at how he lives and how he thinks, I’m sure he finds me equally mystifying, what with my fondness for punk rock music and aversion to haircuts and left-leaning politics and affinity for strange looking Far Eastern religious iconography, among other things.

So even though Dad’s distaste for the internet ensures that he will never read my somewhat disrespectful post, I will extend him an olive branch all the same with this classic Family Guy moment of father-son bonding:

 

The Weenie & The Beehive

far side

Today’s “Challenge The Curmudgeon” topic comes from Paul Green a/k/a Mindfump.  If you don’t follow his blog, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice.  This guy posts something virtually every day and I can’t recall a single one that didn’t leave me in absolute stitches.  But he’s more than a one-trick humor pony; he writes very honestly about depression, anxiety, death and other topics that sometimes make folks uncomfortable – but his hilarious take on all of it makes discomfort impossible.  But that’s enough out of me, just see for yourself: https://mindfump.com/.  Paul’s challenge comes at a very opportune time.  My parents will be driving out from New Jersey to see me on July 6 and staying for 3 weeks.  This is a mixed blessing, as you’ll soon see.  Paul asks: “Which parent took you to a schools sports event first and how did it change your view of the other parent?” 

My mother is 84 years old.  She is Italian and headstrong and obsessive-compulsive and anxiety-ridden and chronically depressed and belligerently Roman Catholic.  She has worn her hair in a B-52s style beehive since before I was born.  My father is 80 years old.  He is Irish and slightly effeminate and henpecked and boring and belligerently Roman Catholic.  Together, they look nearly identical to every human couple from Gary Larson’s The Far Side comics.  And obviously, they are far too old to understand the way people like me and my sister think and how we choose to live our lives.

I am not a sports fan.  I don’t play sports, watch sports, peruse the sports page or even own Huey Lewis and The News’ yawnfest of an album named Sports.  But this wasn’t always the case.  From roughly 4th grade to my freshman year of high school (which in New Jersey was the final year of junior high school), I traveled the path from spectator sports enthusiast to insufferable jock.  Then I discovered weed and the whole thing evaporated into thin air, but that’s a subject for another day.

My sister and I theorize that my dad is gay but his religious fanaticism precludes even a secret mental acknowledgment of his true sexuality.  Thus, he is almost asexual. He is petrified of sex in general, refusing to discuss it in any way other than to remind people that its God-mandated purpose is solely procreation.  Linda and I think it’s quite possible that he and my mother have only had intercourse 4 times, resulting in a daughter, a son and two miscarriages.  So when I first expressed an interest in spectator sports, I think he felt it was his obligation to nurture my enthusiasm.  His biggest fear must have been the prospect of learning that either of his children was gay and in his mind, an interest in sports is an unmistakable sign of heterosexuality (I’m not sure what he made of Arthur Ashe, Martina Navritilova, Billie Jean King and Greg Louganis).

We didn’t play sports together.  I can only recall one occasion where we threw a baseball back and forth in the backyard and despite the fake smile plastered on his face, I got the distinct impression he would rather have been doing just about anything but throwing a baseball back and forth in the backyard.  So he concentrated mainly on the spectator sports angle, since he was a fairly big fan of the New York Knicks and Giants and sitting in front of the TV watching a game with your son isn’t nearly as uncomfortably interactive as a game of catch.

When the Nets franchise first moved to New Jersey, the Meadowlands Arena hadn’t been built yet, so they spent a season playing their home games at the Rutgers College gym in New Brunswick, NJ, about a 15 minute drive from our home.  The first sporting event my father took me to was a Nets game at this venue.  There were only two more occasions after this that I can remember: a 76ers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum and a NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.  The passage of time has caused all three of these outings to blend into each other in my memory, so what I recall here might have elements of each.  And here’s what I recall: not much.  We got some drinks at the concession stand, found our seats, sat in them and watched the action below.  I do remember that my dad, in typical fashion, was too embarrassed to cheer with gusto so while the rest of the fans were out of their seats losing their minds over some amazing play or horrible call, my dad kept to his seat, his knees touching and his hands in his lap like Jessica Beals in the famous Flashdance movie poster, proffering a politely inaudible golf clap.

This was my male role model growing up.  Thank Xenu that I’d soon discover Jello Biafra, Kurt Vonnegut, Johnny Rotten and Henry Rollins to counteract his influence.

But more to the point: these 3 seemingly uneventful outings to professional sporting events actually did have an effect on how I viewed my mother.  They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was the “man of the house”.  While my mother has never expressed an interest in sports, she was the only element of strength in the Loughman home.  She made every major decision, took care of disciplining the children, made the rules and enforced them.  She worked full time, cooked dinner, engaged in a maniacal form of housecleaning that made our home uncomfortably institutional and antiseptic, yelled, swore (in Italian), and took an attitude toward her husband that was almost condescendingly maternal.  Dad worked full time, ate dinner, did crossword puzzles, followed her around the house with the vacuum attachments, and fell asleep in front of the TV with a half-drunk Black Label beer bottle in front of him (on a coaster, of course).

So the upshot of the “male bonding” that occurred between me and my father was that I was left with a lifelong curiosity about his masculinity.  I sometimes entertain the idea of pretending that I’m gay and coming out to my dad, just for kicks.  But since he is 80 years old and has helped me out enormously throughout my life, I’ve decided to forego that potentially cruel gag.  After all, if his religious beliefs turn out to be true, he may find himself awkwardly coming out to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, and I think that’s punishment enough for having lived a life immersed in hypocritical homophobia.

Basic Sanity

knit

Today’s “Challenge The Curmudgeon” topic comes from one of the greatest and most unique writers around.  Notice I didn’t say one of the greatest “bloggers” or one of the greatest writers I know personally.  I said “one of the greatest writers around” — full stop.  I know her name but part of the mystique of the initial exposure to her work is the sense that it comes straight out of the ether.  So I will call her Orchid’s Lantern and strongly encourage you to become as big a fan as I have: https://orchidslantern.wordpress.com/.  She asked me to rise to the following challenge: “I’d like to see a post on what you think it means to be sane.” Sanity is subjective, of course, but that’s a flimsy excuse for backing out of a challenge.  Therefore, I shall attempt to illustrate my notion of sanity with a parable. 

“Do you believe this shit, Irma?”

“What shit is that, Dear?”

“If you paid attention to the news instead of wasting your time knitting another afghan that nobody needs, you’d know.  These crazy Muslims, got nothing better to do than blow stuff up.  Must be something in the water out there.  Every single one of these Arabs is goddamn loco.”

“Hmm.  Well, they did invent afghans.  I think that was a lovely thing for them to have done.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Afghans.  Like the one I’m knitting.  Invented by Arabs.  From Afghanistan.”

“I think you’re getting senile, Irma.  All you can think about is blankets while the whole world is going to hell because it’s overrun by Muslims.  Get me a glass of water with lemon.”

“Yes, Dear.”

Irma placed her knitting needles on the arm of the recliner and shuffled into the kitchen.  She took a glass from the dish rack and filled it from the tap, mesmerized by the overflow of water circling the drain like the entrance to a subterranean vortex.

“Do you want ice, Henry?”

“Irma, for the last 42 years, I have always wanted ice in my drink.  When I have a glass of water, I like it to be cold.  Can you grasp that concept?  Cold water?  What’s 365 times 42, Irma?  That’s how many times you’ve asked me if I want ice.  Have I yet responded in the negative?”

“No, Dear, you haven’t.  You always like ice in your beverage.”

Irma picked a lemon wedge from the yellow bowl on the counter and hooked its flesh into the lip of the glass.  The bowl was yellow because lemons are yellow, so that’s where they kept the lemon wedges.  She opened the freezer and popped three ice cubes from the tray, then placed them one by one into the glass.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Irma!  Have you seen this Gay Pride Parade nonsense?  Have you ever seen anything more insane than this?  Goddamn men in dresses and women in I don’t know what – it’s complete madness!  People don’t even know what they got in their trousers anymore.  If they were my kids, I’d have ‘em all committed until they figured out what God gave ‘em.  This whole generation – out of their goddamn minds.”

As Irma was making her way back to the living room with Henry’s water, she was struck with an epiphany.  She turned around and reentered the kitchen.

“Holy crap on a cracker, Irma!  I asked for a glass of water, not a damn Mojito!”

“Just a second, Henry.  I got distracted looking at the birds in the feeder outside the window.  They really seem to enjoy it.”

“Of course they enjoy it, Irma.  It’s filled with food and they’re birds.  While you’re in there practicing to join the Audubon Society, I’m in here dying of thirst.  Stop being a flake and bring me my drink, please.”

Irma opened the cabinet where they kept the silverware and felt around in the back until her hand grasped the tiny pill bottle she had stashed there.  It didn’t contain any pills, though it was still adorned by Henry’s blood pressure prescription label.  Last month, Irma had happened upon a machine shop on her way to the pharmacist with Henry’s empty pill bottle.  She poked her head into the open door and noticed that all of the machines were unattended, the workers on break.  Tiptoeing over to a table next to a big noisy metal contraption, she unscrewed the bottle of benzene sitting there and poured about a dram of it into the pill bottle.  Strolling nonchalantly back out to the sidewalk, she continued to the pharmacy where she told the man behind the counter that Henry had lost the bottle from his last refill.

“Irma, are you alright in there?”

“Yes, Dear.”

“What the hell is taking you so long?”

Unscrewing the pill bottle, Irma spilled its contents into the glass of water and put the empty bottle into the pocket of her bathrobe.  She returned to the living room and placed the glass on the TV tray in front of Henry.

“Irma, now I know you’re going batty.  Do you see the coaster right here on the table?  That’s where the glass goes, Irma.  This is why we have all these rings on the furniture.  I swear, you’re like a child.   You’re regressing.  Staring at birds, ignoring coasters, knitting enough blankets to supply an orphanage – what’s gotten into you?  Are you crazy?”

“I don’t think so, Henry.  It’s hard to say.”

“What kind of answer is that?  ‘It’s hard to say’?  It was a yes or no question, not a tongue-twister.  I’m calling Dr. Evans tomorrow to check you out.”

“That’s fine, Henry.  I like Dr. Evans.  He has good magazines in his waiting room.”

Ignoring that last bit of nonsense, Henry picked up the glass and put it to his lips.

“Why does this taste sweet, Irma?”

“Sweet?  I don’t know.  It must be the lemon.”

“Lemons are sour, Irma.  And at the moment, there’s only about a centimeter of it submerged in the water.”

“I’ll try to make you better water next time, Henry.”

Henry took several gulps of the water and placed the glass down on the coaster.  Irma watched as his eyes widened in terror and he wrapped his arms around his flabby paunch.  He began to shake and foam at the mouth as he looked at Irma pleadingly.  In less than a minute, he stopped struggling, fell back into his armchair and died.

Humming a happy tune from her childhood, Irma placed the freshly knitted afghan over Henry’s knees and took the empty glass back to the kitchen.  She went to the hall closet and grabbed a leftover party hat from their granddaughter’s fifth birthday party and placed it on Henry’s head, adjusting the rubber band beneath his chin.  Then she picked up the telephone and called an ambulance.  She asked the dispatcher to send a police officer, too.

When the emergency vehicles arrived, Irma was sitting on the front lawn sucking her thumb, mesmerized by the dancing lights and sirens.  An officer approached her.

“Ma’am, are you okay?”

“Oh my, yes,” Irma replied.  “I’m very fine, thank you.  A little while ago, I was crazy.  Batty, in fact, as Henry would put it.  Then I remembered that when I was a little girl, I could look at all the birds I wanted and jump and play and sing and nobody like Henry was around to call me crazy.  So I let Henry go.  It was the sanest thing I’ve ever done.  I thought of it last month, actually, but then I forgot and just sort of fell back into the habit of doing everything Henry asked of me and listening to him go on and on about how the world has gone crazy.  He always told me I was crazy for not seeing how crazy everything is, but I think it was just a matter of perspective.  Pointing at everything you see and saying ‘crazy’, ‘crazy’, ‘crazy’ – now that’s what I call crazy.  Yes, Officer, I’m okay.  Henry’s inside in his chair with a nice new afghan to keep him warm.  Can you hear the birds singing? It’s such a lovely day for an old lady to regain her sanity.”

Karma

Pablo Cuzco is one of my hands-down favorite poets. His image-laden haiku rouses a sense of nostalgia and adventure, but when one scratches the surface of his verse, he or she may find themselves in an entirely different space than they thought they were. I really can’t do it justice; just read for yourself: https://pcuzco.wordpress.com/. In response to Challenge The Curmudgeon, Pablo tendered several very interesting topics, each of which I will write about in the near future. For now, in response to his suggestion “How about something relating to Tibet?”, I’m re-posting a short story where half of the action takes place in the World’s Rooftop. This doesn’t count as an acceptance of a challenge, since it’s a preexisting piece, but I’ll get to Pablo’s real challenges later. Hope you enjoy this.

Two Voices In One Transmission

dungchen

From Lhasa, the deep lowing of the dungchens roused Tenzin Gampo Norbu from his slumber in an antechamber of Shechen Monastery.  The old monk struggled to his feet, grabbed his saffron robe from a hook on the wall, and moved silently down the corridor towards the shrine for his morning meditation.  As he approached the ornate altar and settled somewhat painfully into the lotus position, he chuckled to himself that once again he was the first to arrive for sunrise devotions, the new batch of novice monks under his tutelage not accustomed to waking at this hour.  He would give them a few more days before donning a disciplinarian persona.

The lama placed his palms together and began intoning mantras.  “Om gate gate paragate parasamgate Bodhi svaha…Om gate gate paragate parasamgate Bodhi svaha…Om gate –“

Suddenly, the monk’s meditative state was broken with a start as his mind processed what…

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