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The Dealer’s Place

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

The only interesting thing about the dealer’s place was the people who gathered there most evenings. The time I saw them, they had gathered to enjoy “Star Trek” together. I am uninterested in Star Trek, but I lingered to observe the group. I admit that in my case, I was there to buy some grass from the dealer. The dealer was a very nice, shy guy, about 6 feet tall, 30ish, and considerably overweight. His name was Gregory.

Greg also had a small travel agency, where he struggled to make a living. He didn’t like dealing grass, but the travel agency was barely getting by. I later learned that he’d been orphaned while in his teens, and had been making his way in life as well as he could. His disadvantage was that he was not cool… not smooth. Greg was awkward, and that was probably why his apartment was ground zero for a group of socially awkward people.

The most visible person was David. He was noticeable because he talked a lot, always  with unnecessary urgency. One could almost see him vibrating, so tense was he. I later learned that his mother was severely depressed, and drove him crazy. I’m thinking, he’s about 30, why is he with Mom? He expressed shame that he worked at selling ‘diamond futures’, knowing full well that it’s a worthless product and he’s bilking people. His weirdness kept him from getting a regular job, so telephone hustling is the best he could do.

There were two females, as different from each other as possible. They were not together in any way. Sitting on a black bean-bag chair was a very pretty girl in her 20s. She was dressed in Goth style, all black, some veils, thigh-high boots of black leather and a black shawl. She smoked a joint, did not pass it around, and shrunk back into an obscure corner at the back of the room.

Every person in the room was facing the television set. I sat on a straight chair to the side. On the sofa, Greg joined the two that were already there. Next to Greg was a young woman midget. She appeared to be tiny, seated by large Greg. On her other side was Nick, a rather good looking man in his twenties. He planned to be a rock star singer with a band. He was in the process of auditioning bands. Good luck with that.

Awkward people gathered together, perhaps for safety in numbers. The midget asked me to fetch her a coke. Why me, I thought? I rose and stepped toward the kitchen and turned at the apartment entrance hall and left the apartment.

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2 Books, 2 Authors, 2 Plum Trees

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Two books that I consider to be among the best are: A Confederacy of Dunces and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two more books that follow the life of Lisbeth Salander followed the latter. A Confederacy of Dunces stands alone. There will be no more books by Stieg Larsson, who wrote the Salander books, nor from John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Dunces book.

Both books met with immediate acclaim when they were published posthumously. They are, in fact, fabulous stories brilliantly told. Anyone who enjoys reading strong, earthy, beautifully written books must read these four – the three by Larsson and one by Toole.

Films were made of the Larsson trilogy, I’ve not heard of a worthy one for Toole’s book. The American versions of the Salander story, to me, are not worth the time of day. The Swedish versions, with subtitles, are brilliant. The casting, the acting, the script, every scrap of them is great.

Ignatius Jacques Reilly is the morbidly obese and endlessly pompous star of A Confederacy of Dunces. He is unique in literature, and is purely wonderful. The lead character in the Larsson books and films is Lisbeth Slander, the most fascinating and exciting hero you’ll ever read.

You might well wonder where the plum trees come into this story. I used to own a hobby farm in the mountains where I kept horses and sometimes pigs and cows. There’s an ancient apple orchard behind the house. It’s very picturesque, with the old, gnarled trunks and untrimmed limbs.

At far corners of the orchard, diagonal from each other were two, old, sterile plum trees. For years, while the apple trees were bursting with huge, antique apples, the plum trees appeared to be little more than four inch wide sticks in the ground.

Suddenly, one spring, the plum trees came to life. To super life, I want to say. Both trees burst forth with volumes of perfect, beautiful, Damson plums. Bushels of them. Sweet, firm Damson plums from trees that we thought were long dead. They produced a vast amount of wonderful nourishment, and then they died dead. Forever.

Similarly, both Stieg Larsson and John Kennedy Toole burst forth with brilliant books. They created stories and characters unparalleled in modern literature. They nourished readers’ minds with intrigue and excitement. Then they died.

Stieg Larsson died suddenly, of a heart attack at fifty. John Kennedy Toole took his own life at forty-four. I like to think that, like the plum trees, the effort to produce such a fine result was more than life could sustain. They gave their all, the plum trees and the authors. We have their books, and they are as much a blessing as were the plums.

John Kennedy Toole

Stieg Larsson

Toole (top) – Larsson (bottom)

The Destructive Drive for Wealth

October 19, 2017 Leave a comment

When ‘maximized profits’ is the goal, someone or something is going to suffer. How can a marketer maximize profits, while it’s already doing everything possible? One can make the product more cheaply and charge more for it. When a corporation’s goal is to get rich no matter what, its staff, suppliers, and customers all lose out.

Companies fight to keep employees’ wages and benefits low so the company can flourish. At the same time, the employees are the energy that manufacture, deliver, and perhaps sell the product. Why would an employer not appreciate the employees? Because employees cost a lot of money, and companies don’t like to part with any money at all.

We ‘normal’ people might be unable to understand how a company can deny living wages to its employees while awarding huge bonuses to senior executives. Well, perhaps those greedy people have a weakness in their spirit that enables them to be selfish at all times.

Personally, I would reject the life of the wealthy, because it doesn’t suit me. I was raised in a wealthy family, and felt out of place. The quiet life among simple people suits me better. At the same time, I enjoy a great deal of intellectual stimulation on social media. The Internet is also a great creative stimulus that helps me to live comfortably.

My Second Wife

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

This one is really stupid. I don’t mean that Masha was stupid, I mean I was stupid. Well, she was maybe stupid, but certainly a sociopath. I was forty, and my first wife had grown cold and usually rejected me. I was out in the world, and was given reason to believe that some women found me attractive. It was confirmed at the annual Christmas party. One attractive female executive, one broadcast producer, and one very young receptionist all loosened up with drink and came to my office one at a time, and told me they wanted me.

It was shocking. I didn’t know that I was seen that way at the office. The broadcast producer said, “Do I have to beg? I will if I have to.” The lady executive just entered my office, closed the door behind her and leaned back on it. She just looked at me long and hard for about 20 seconds before she flung the door open and walked out. The 19 year old receptionist said, “Nobody has been able to give me a penetration orgasm, but I think you’re the one that can.”

I had never experienced such boldness, and I felt embarrassed. I loved the woman who rejected me, and other women wanted me. It was not right, and I was obviously at a life-altering crossroad. I have since come to regret I didn’t enjoy any of those three women, but at the time I was feeling insecure.

In the months following the office party, I noticed a shapely young woman in the stenographer pool. She had a face like a China doll, although she was not Asian. She had an irregular sway when she walked, and it attracted me. We chatted a few times, having met in the coffee room at the office. We were friendly.

I sensed that she was not a ‘normal’ office worker. I believed that she was probably promiscuous, although she was married. One day I saw her carrying a tray of coffee and donuts to a meeting room. I walked up behind her and circled her with my arms and cupped her breasts in my two hands. She giggled and feigned embarrassment, so I was assured my judgment was correct.

We eventually left our spouses and became a couple. We never officially married, but I consider her my second wife because we lived together as a married couple. My 12 year old son lived with us for part of the time.

She had told me that she was formerly a stripper, and now she said she’d like to quit the office work and return to stripping. I thought that was pretty exciting, so I went along with it. Eventually, I began to make tapes of her music for the strip joint that was called, “Le Strip”. I even designed and made a couple of costumes for her. It was fun.

Then she cheated. She was dancing in a bar when a popular television newsman came in to the place. She spent that night with him, and hurried to me in the morning to tell me about it. In that moment I decided I was done with her, and would disentangle myself after 4 years together. She then began to watch the guy on television. She had never watched news before, and she obviously didn’t care how it felt to me.  There were many other moments of that kind until I came to realize she was a sociopath and unable to feel. She even told me once, early in our relationship, that she didn’t know what love is.

I will have to write more about her in the future, because there’s too much to tell here and now. I split from her and enjoyed a really active social and sex life for a couple of years, while getting over the breakup. I acquired a good position in a distant city, and left my home town behind. The pleasures of bachelorhood continued in the new place.

Most People My Age Are Dead

October 5, 2017 Leave a comment

I plagiarized Gloria Steinem for this title. She’s about 82 now, and still attractive. I am finding old age quite fascinating. I’m my own research subject. Throughout my life, I never contemplated or even thought of myself as becoming elderly. Now that I’m here, with eight decades to look back at, it can be fun.

One thing that’s interesting is learning of the deaths of people one has known over the decades. Some of the people who have passed evoke feelings of sadness; sometimes regret sometimes happiness, sometimes satisfaction or even relief. Living an active, varied life for a long time teaches one many lessons through many adventures and more importantly, misadventures.

I’m not concerned at all about my inevitable death. Still, it interests me to know how many people pass away while I live on. My first wife died the other day. She was three years younger than I am. I’ve also learned that two of the nicest girls I dated in high school died several years ago. Also an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years died in ’03, I just learned. He owed me money. I guess that’s why I hadn’t seen him in years.

I realized I could look through obituaries and see who I’ve outlived. There was a new president brought in at a large, international company for which I worked. The new president was uncomfortable that a major client was deeply dependent upon me, and trusted my judgement completely. I guess he feared I’d take the client to another agency, so he set out to oust me. One by one, my clients where bled away from me until I was let go. The group head that had to tell me, thanked me for how I’d elevated his career.

I searched obits for those guys and a few others, and learned that I’ve outlived all of them. I even found out that a false friend that had back-stabbed me, died of a massive heart attack twelve years ago.

So on I go, gradually outliving friends and enemies along the way. It’s kind of cool.

Destruction By Complaint

August 17, 2017 Leave a comment

It’s a gorgeous day. As we roll along, the highway is lined on both sides with curtains of colour.Late September in Canada, and the raw forests of maple, poplar, and birch blast one’s eyes with a spectacular colours; elegant gold, loud yellow, and the dominant colour, blazing red.

We’re going to our country place for a weekend of riding our horses and playing in our swimming pool. Out of nowhere she says,

“I bet the sump pump has died. You’ll have to go down to the cellar to see if there’s flood damage.”

I have to tell you that’s ridiculous, we know the sump pump is in great shape. She had to inject a bummer into a splendid moment. It’s a need she has, to keep the atmosphere forever tenuous.

As we drove up the dirt road to our farmhouse, she continued her thoughts aloud.

“The roof might have to be replaced before winter,” she says, whining. I clenched my teeth and said nothing, although I knew that the nearly new metal roof was perfect.

“Don’t forget,” she said, “you have a dentist appointment on Wednesday.” I stifled the urge to tell her how stupid it was to magnify unpleasantness with unnecessary comments.

As you can imagine, such a woman is also frigid, and in her case, totally ignorant of the niceties of making love. A mature woman, she was awkward as a first time teen. I was shocked the first time. I wondered why she was so bland, when in all other ways she was bright and energetic – which attracted me.

We pulled into the broad driveway at last.

“You have to put a new lock on the front door,” she said, for no reason at all. At that moment, I asked myself a question I’d been avoiding. What am I doing here? She turned the happy, colourful weekend into a dreaded period of relentless whining.

She got out of the car and walked up the path to the front door. I got out from behind the wheel and walked over to the old Jeep I kept at the country place. She went into the farmhouse and I pulled out of the driveway.

I was thinking of how she had ground the lovely weekend into shit with her complaints. I was thinking of her overall coldness, and generally, nasty disposition. And I thought of the girl at the bank, who asked me out for coffee. I thought about the girl at the donut shop, who told me the time she got off work and asked me to meet her.

Fuck this, I thought. My life is being ground into crap by this woman who is supposed to love and care for me. To hell with her.

I returned to the city and drove to the donut shop. She was to be off work at nine. I met her outside the shop and took her to my place. We showered; we made love… good love, and listened to music while we cooked up a late snack. She asked if I was worried that his wife would walk in. I told her I hoped she would, because I’ve had it.

Rituals

July 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Rituals organize our lives. We ritualize our days, and have special rituals for some days. Monday to Friday, we do our morning ablutions, maybe eat something, and hurry off to the job. Throughout the day, on the job, a ritual of productivity proceeds. The journey to the job and the return to home at workday’s end are also rituals. Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday might be rituals unlike the workday rituals, but rituals all the same. Those of us that embrace religion have even more rituals. It matters not which religion one chooses to follow, rituals will be a big part of it.

A young couple lived a neatly organized and busy life. They lived in a small bungalow with just two bedrooms. They planned to have a family after five years, when they could afford a larger home. The second bedroom was Richard Stern’s office, in which he worked on line for a large transportation company. Mona Stern, Richard’s young wife, was a tax consultant. She worked for a large accounting firm. She was a certified public accountant, and had risen to become supervisor over a staff of nine. It was one of several ‘cells’. The company found that ‘teams’ in separate cells were more productive.

Mona Stern enjoyed her rituals. She’d rise at six in the morning, go straight to the bathroom to relieve herself and to shower. She would wear the outfit she planned the previous evening. In the small kitchen, she would enjoy her orange juice, rye toast and coffee while watching the news and weather report on her tablet. After the weather predictions, the sports news came on. Mona turned off her tablet, put it into her handbag, and left for the walk to the office. It was five blocks to her place of business.

By eight o’clock, Mona Stern was striding happily along Acorn Road, observing the many small, neat bungalows similar to her own. Ancient Oak trees shaded the street until the next corner. The busy rush hour was under way on Charles Avenue as it was every morning. As on every weekday morning, Mona turned right and strode along the narrow sidewalk. Old industrial buildings encroached on the sidewalk. They were remnants of the industrial revolution and had stood empty for decades. Mona ignored the cars lined up at red lights. She enjoyed her walk every morning, and was comfortable in the familiar routine that she had been repeating every morning for five years.

In the next block, an old building that had been a garment factory was to be transformed into luxury apartments, with the high ceilings and huge windows as selling points. The fact that there was a change taking place along her route after five years was just a bit unsettling. It altered the routine walk to work.

There were pickup trucks along the curb. Rubber cones were guiding the heavy traffic into one lane, around the trucks. High up on the roof parapet, people were installing a heavy beam to project out from the building. It was needed to create an elevator of sorts, to carry up workers, equipment, and materials. Mona was annoyed at the traffic clamour, and hastened her pace, to escape the irregularities.

At that moment, the rooftop workers faltered in their job. The beam dropped, slowly rotating top to bottom. It did not hit the sidewalk lengthwise. End first, the beam struck the old concrete walkway, pierced it like a piecrust and buried itself two feet into the ground. It hit the spot where Mona Stern had been, a second before she hurried to get away from the cacophony of car horns and engine roars.

The blasting sounds of the beam demolishing the concrete right behind her startled Mona. She jumped and turned around to see dust and particles swirling around an eight-foot tall steel beam. A nearby worker asked if she was okay, but Mona didn’t answer, she just strode on her way to her office. She used a quicker pace than her usual, ritual stride.

Throughout the rest of her day, Mona Stern struggled to do her work on the Dominica and Bolivar account. She struggled to stay focused while she assigned her team to various parts of her employer’s largest and most profitable account. The dropped beam, and the vast repercussions that might have come had it hit her, invaded her mind. She sat at her desk and analysed the routine that she knew so well. She began to question the wisdom of so regular a routine. Perhaps a change of situation, rather than a predictable routine, would be safer and perhaps beneficial. Mona resolved not to follow her usual, routine stroll home.

The office closed at four-forty-five. Mona Stern took the time to leave her files in impeccable order, her desk clear and the tools of her profession alongside her computer keyboard. She left the building moments after her staff and coworkers departed. In her normal routine, she would turn left and stride the route home. On this occasion, Mona turned right out of the building and strode in the direction away from home, husband, and fallen beam.

With no preparation and little thought, the young woman strode as far as the train station and boarded a train because it was leaving soon. Mona Stern didn’t care where the train was going; she just needed it to be free of routine.

At the point where the train journey terminated, Mona left the train. She attained an apartment, a professional position, and a new life. She fell in love with a co-worker that fell in love with her. They moved in together. Meanwhile, the young husband back home was frantic with worry. It seemed the authorities could not find Mona because she changed her name to Rose Kroll.

Rose Kroll, formerly Mona Stern, lived with her new husband in a neat bungalow within walking distance of her office. Her new husband began to work from home designing furniture. Every morning Rose showered, enjoyed orange juice, rye toast and coffee while watching the news on her tablet. When the weather forecast ended and the sports news came on, Rose Kroll left the home to walk to her office.