Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Snakes and (corporate) ladders

“Reverend Jim, so good of you to see me today! I’ve been looking forward to meeting you and giving you a close look at what I’ve got. Your rectory is beautiful, by the way; did you decorate it yourself, or was it your wife?

Coffee is fine, thank you. Just give me a minute to set up my case, and we can get started. I’m simply thrilled to have the opportunity to present to the largest organization of your type in the state. I can’t tell you how much it means to our entire company that you agreed to give us a chance to help supply you with all your needs.

OK, all settled in? Great, let’s begin, shall we? First, please note that all our specimens receive the finest of care and conditioning, and should you ever be dissatisfied, for any reason, with any of our products, we will happily provide a replacement from a comparable line as soon as practicable.

Right, so here we have our first option. As you can see, this is one of the American Southwest’s finest. Please examine the exquisitely detailed back markings. Ahhhh, yes, listen to that! Such a distinctive warning sound! Imagine that echoing through your church on a Sunday morning!

But, perhaps you’d like something a little more exotic, eh? Well then, take a gander at this little beauty right here. She’s a bit shy, likes to keep under that rock there, but trust me, she’ll come around. Let me just get her with this stick… there!  Will you just look at those colors? The inky black, the vibrant yellow, the radiant red! I’ll tell you one thing: this baby would look great on camera. We also have the ‘scarlet king’ variety, for lesser cost. Well, I mean, not for you, of course! But perhaps for one of your younger pastors? You, know, kind of a training model? Just remember, ‘red touch yellow, you’re in trouble fellow..’

Anyway, as you can see, we have many other choices: there’s this copperhead here, the moccasin over there. In those cages I’ve set by the window are the various types of viper; very biblical. While I’m out of display models, we do also carry the ‘African two-step,’ and for that ‘Asian feel’ many krait varieties, as well as the aptly-named ‘Death Adder.’

Reverend, no! Apologies, but I must ask that you not touch the sheet over the cage by the door. That contains the King Cobra; I have an appointment this afternoon with a fakir down the road. Besides, just between you and me, those models spit.

Thank you Reverend. You are most kind. I am, in fact, the highest-grossing salesman for our company east of the Mississippi. I like to joke with my customers that I’m as Charismatic as they are! 

Please, take my card, and if I can ever be of service to you do not hesitate to contact me. Our warehouse will begin fulfillment of your order immediately. And again, thank you for being a valued customer of ‘Nice Asp, LLC.’”

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chaplin's Final Bit

His name was ‘Chaplin.’ Well, that was his given name, anyway. No one called him that. He was, to any and all who knew him, ‘Bitty Kitty,’ or just ‘Bitty.’ While I understand the nickname was given unironically when he was very small, by the time I met him, it was more like calling a fat man ‘slim.’ Bitty was big. When I came into his life, a decade ago, he shared the house with another cat, Jolson, and a German Shepard mix, Rowan. Jolson and Bitty, being cats, tolerated each other, and the dog. It helped that Jolson and Bitty had what I would call ‘complementary’ personalities at that time. Jolson was a prowler; an adventurer. It was not rare, when coming home late at night, to see Jolson dash from several houses away, or across the street, to meet the car. Bitty, on the other hand, while he would go outside, tended to stick close to the house; perhaps climbing the big oak tree and lying in the sun on the roof. More often he chose a spot inside, curling up on a soft surface, or a lap when it suited him.

Bitty also had another interesting feature; his fur. While short-haired, his fur was incredibly soft, and petting him was more like stroking a young rabbit than a cat. Also, while Jolson was around, Bitty was ‘the quiet one.’ He had the softest meow I had ever heard, in contrast to Jolson’s little lion’s roar. Bitty's purr, however, could be heard across a room.

We lost Jolson several years ago, his adventurousness being his undoing. A fortnight later, it seemed Bitty had grown into his voice. His meows became louder, more insistent. He outlived Rowan, and shared the house with another cat, Mo, for a short time, and outlived him. He lived to see the introduction of two puppies, Aurum and Lucy, and while I won’t say he was particularly thrilled to be sharing the space with them, he handled himself with equanimity. In fact, that’s how I will remember him; as a calm, constant presence, who could curl up with you for an hour, or greet you from his nest in the shrub bed under one of the windows. If Mo was irascible, and Jolson was swashbuckling, Bitty was solid, steady, and dependable.

Like Jolson’s, Bitty’s life ended in, perhaps, an appropriate way. After a number of long months seeing his human mother through her battle with cancer, comforting her, it was determined he had been fighting his own battle, with a large tumor on his liver. It finally started affecting his appetite, and causing him pain and illness. He left us today at the vet’s office, with his mother at his side. I understand he went quietly, as any good silent film star should. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Philosophy and Jackson Brown

So, I've struggled a bit with writing this post. I've composed it in my head several times, edited and deleted, all in the space of my brain. Anyway, yesterday, I must have been in an even more philosophical mood than normal (hard to believe, I know.) On my way home, a lesser known Jackson Brown song came on the radio. It is titled "For a Dancer," and a few phrases of the verses struck me harder than usual. So, of course, in the spirit of the 21st century, I figured I'd share them with anyone who cared to read.

The song is really, thematically, anyway, about death. But the first verse that struck me was this:

      "Just do the steps that you've been shown
       By everyone you've ever known
       Until the dance becomes your very own"

This happened to dovetail precisely with what I happen to believe about life in general. That is, every interaction one has with another is a learning opportunity. Whether that experience is good or bad, we must, or at least we should, learn something from it. I'm not a dancer, but the steps I've learned in 43 years are varied and numerous. That includes steps to be taken, as well as steps to be avoided. I don't always do them correctly, but I try very hard to follow the basic rhythm.

I believe I was more or less impacted by this due to two situations. First, I just finished doing a show very different than most of what I've done in the recent past. It was a musical, and I had to sing, alone, on stage. It doesn't diminish the love I have for all the people I work with on stage or behind stage on a regular basis, but this was a different experience. These were folks with whom I couldn't just fall into the same old patterns. Getting to know them and love them was an example of how many steps there are left for me to learn. I thank you, one and all, for that.

Second, I just started a new "temp" gig, in an area in which I have no real experience. Although the job isn't particularly taxing, the terminology is that of "marketing," with which I am not in the least familiar. I am listening, however, and trying to learn. I don't pretend I'll ever love marketing, but I will take what I get from it, and, hopefully apply it in my life.

The other verse which resonated with me was the following:

 "Into a dancer you have grown
   From a seed somebody else has thrown
   Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
   And somewhere between the time you arrive
   And the time you go
   May lie a reason you were alive
   But you'll never know "

Which, I think, supplements the former thought. That is, not only do we learn, but we should try to teach. When it comes down to it, the only legacy we will leave in the world is who we touched, and what wisdom, if any, we passed on. So, I guess, I hope that some of the seeds that I have thrown find fertile soil, so I may give back at least some of what I have taken from the world. In the end, it seems that is all we can hope for.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thoughts on Robin Williams

So, Robin Williams is dead. That fact makes me sad. I watched Mork and Mindy as a child, I believe between the ages of 8 and 10. I've seen many of his movies and listened to his stand-up routines. By all accounts, he was a gentle, loving, and good-hearted person. He was also an addict. He apparently struggled with cocaine addiction during the 1980's and with alcohol addiction for most of his life. Early reports are that the cause of death was suicide.

I do wonder about the comments I've seen regarding his death, however. People in the public eye have expressed their shock and sadness, mostly in a socially acceptable way. I have also seen many comments by private individuals, in the comments section of various stories about his death. Many of these comments run along the lines of "if he only knew how other people saw him," or "if he could have realized how happy he made people..." These types of comments puzzle me. We tend to be taught to not worry about how others perceive us. We are often told to do what we think is right, regardless of what others might say. And yet, people apparently believe that Mr. Williams didn't know himself. That if he had realized how "great" he was, how talented, how loved he was, he would never have taken such a step.

I think this may be a disconnect in our collective consciousness. We assume that Robin Williams' perception of himself was wrong. We blame conditions, such as bi-polar disorder or more "run-of-the-mill" depression for his actions. But what if he realized all that about himself? What if he knew he was great at certain things, like acting and comedy? Many people dream of living the life he lived, so how are we to make sense of him voluntarily leaving such a charmed life? I think this may strike at the heart of one of human beings' most basic fears: What if being loved is not enough? What if success, either in career, or family, or any other endeavor, does not bring complete happiness? We are taught to pursue various goals, be they academic, or financial, or personal. We are told, or at least are led to believe, that if we have such success, we will be happy. And yet...

Having goals may be a good thing for some people. It may be an obstacle for others. I guess it just seems a bit arrogant to assume that a perfect stranger, who may have watched a person on screen, knows more about that person than he knows of himself. My guess is that Robin Williams was aware of his talent, and how many people loved his films and TV shows and stand-up. He likely was also cognizant of the love his wife and children had for him. But that didn't matter. After all, when everything else is stripped away, we all have to live with ourselves. Mr. Williams apparently no longer could; who are we to judge that decision?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

In MeMOriam

We’ve had a lot of Facebook posts recently about the new canine addition to our little family, which is great. Now, however, I would like to take a moment to tell part of the story of another member of the clan, a cat. This feline’s name was Geronimo, but to most who knew him, he was just “Mo.”  The way he came by his appellation is a story in itself, but one I will let others tell; I know it only third hand, and those who knew him at that time may wish to do so.

Mo was, at least in part, a “Maine Coon” type of cat, with long hair that fell around his face a bit like a lion’s mane, and tufts of hair between his toes. He also had one of the loudest voices I’ve heard in an animal of his size. He could, and would, come down to the bedroom, stand on the floor and meow loudly enough to wake us when he felt it was time to eat.

Those of you lucky enough to have lived with cats know that they each tend to have a different “personality,” for lack of a less human-centered word. The best way I would explain Mo’s personality is to use a cinematic metaphor.  Mo was, in my opinion, the blend of two classic movie characters; one an archetype, the other a specific character. If anyone is familiar with old films set in WWII, there is often the grizzled old sergeant who acts tough and gruff and berates the new soldiers constantly. He has been shot 43 times, but hasn’t died yet, and the young troops whisper about his immortality. Of course, there is invariably a scene when we discover that the sergeant has the proverbial “heart of gold,” and is tough on the men because he cares about them and wants them to survive. Usually, he gets killed saving his men the day before the war ends.

To me, this fits Mo completely. I only knew Mo in his older days, and he looked, and sounded, a bit like that crotchety old sergeant. Plus, for the longest time, he refused to die. He was thin as a rail, yet ate like a horse. He often moved like some furry automaton, stiffly, but with resolve. We are unsure of his exact age, but I am fairly certain his first job was guarding King Tut’s bedroom. There were multiple occasions on which we went on “Mo death watch,” figuring that, since he was acting a bit sick or listless one day, it was his time. Yet every time, after a day or so, he’d be back to his crusty old self, yowling for his food, and to be let out in the back yard for 5 minutes, before he tired of it and came in. He was often referred to in our house as “Miracle Mo.”

The second character of which Mo reminded me was “The Dude.” If you don’t know The Dude, Google “The Big Lebowski.” As gruff as Mo seemed, at least when I knew him, he pretty much let any chaos going on around him go unacknowledged. Parties, flooding, dogs, it didn’t matter. Mo was just Mo through it all, and I often found myself commenting, whenever something happened through which he remained stoic, that “The Mo abides…”

Mo came to live with us at a time when we had recently lost our faithful dog Rowan. We already had another cat, Bitty, whom we still love very much, but Mo brought to us a new challenge that helped us move on after Rowan’s death. He gave us a year and a half of his life that made ours immeasurably better. 
Last Friday, the gruff old sergeant finally succumbed to that Stygian fate at which he laughed for so long. He hadn’t been himself for a day or two prior, but, of course, we hoped he had one more miracle in him. Alas, this time, the metaphorical bullet found its mark. But, as I watched him slip away, I knew that for the rest of my life, in my heart, the Mo would abide.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chronological Conundrum.

Trifecta's weekend prompt: "This weekend, we want you to give us a 33-word time travel story.  We don't usually tell you what to title your piece, but we'd love it if you could title it with the year/date that you choose."

April 20, 1889.
Braunau, Austria-Hungary. I stand in front of an inn. Knowing what I know, horrors yet to be imagined, I must act. As I begin, my partner stops me with two words: “unintended consequences.”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

O.K. So, I've been neglectful of this blog and the Trifecta site long enough. Life, blah, blah, and all that. No excuses, just an answer to the weekend prompt, which is: "we are giving you three words and asking for you to give us back another thirty of your own, making a grand total of thirty-three words. Your words to work with are: ring, water, stage"

The planet’s ring glowed, splendiferous against the void. Shimmering surface water glittered. As the last stage of the rocket detached, no one checked the capsule’s telemetry, the stasis field warning light flashing red.