In The Now

In a voice reminiscent of Raymond Carver‘s minimalist realism, Charles Bukowski‘s raw journals of life’s underbelly and Alan Ginsberg‘s poet-political essays, Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized, short stories, poetry and prose are funny, insightful and heartbreaking, describing often in non-linear dreamscape narrative with the liquid lyricism of a poet; the love, loss, joy and angst of the fascinating and often mystifying connections of men and women in the intimacy of their daily lives. His writing style is both Anti-Novel and Imagist; fragmenting and distorting the experiences of characters, forcing the reader to build a reality to the story from a disordered narrative, stressing economy of language; writing free, with precision of imagery and clear, sharp language and clarity of expression with precise visual images in musical phrase. – Gino Rossi

Murph The Surf

“We got a thousand points of light; for the homeless man. We got a kinder, gentler, Machine gun hand”. – Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young

Mid July; the yearly Rodeo hits town coinciding with a parade down Main Street that draws vacationers from the tri-state area like we’re giving away sweet salt water taffy. The humid air takes on the consistency of wild mountain honey; still the multitudes descend; filling this playground Mecca with joy seeking madcap tourists to the brim. Until the pressure becomes really intense they normally never make a move; but now, like lemmings, they apply the pressure on themselves, to be seen having that good time, as if addicted to their own adrenaline; performing the paint by numbers recreation provided for their delectation with zeal so pronounced you’d think they were being paid. Now, the day after the nights before, this tiny Wisconsin town, the latest stop on my personal carousel; exhales like a smoker. It breathes in the tourists on Friday and blows them out every Sunday night, emptying after the Bacchanalia; the rat scramble to exodus Eden ensues.

News reports show an unlucky few have left hair, teeth and eyeballs scattered on the concrete highway intersections that at other times of the year would be laughable to argue call for a traffic light in a two traffic light town. Burgers were burnt on grills, flags waved ubiquitously and Nobel’s horrific invention caused the color bombs to burst in air. Now squealing no more the hordes lately laid prostrate for patriot days scream; arm-ageddon-outta-here. In the rush to get back to the rush some leave their skin and bones behind with their money.

To avoid the syrupy display of Americana Murph and I head over to Big Dick’s Saloon and antiquarian for some billiards and a few cold ones in the private back room that always seems reserved for us since no one else is ever there. Big Dick’s note-worthy claim to fame, most prominently proclaimed on hand carved wood placards, is the fact that J.F.K. once took a squirt in the men’s room. At noon on a Thursday the bar is sprinkled with tattered people who look like they spend every weekend prowling the demolition derby circuit; the well-worn gaggle of female barflies must have been ordered up from central casting; interchangeable with any other gin mill in the world; they sport pock-marked downs syndrome faces with all life force extinguished, sucked out like from a vacuum cleaner hose, quaffing draft beer in dainty sips; mainlining misery at mid-morning on a weekday.

Murph the Surf, martial artist, motorcycle rider, country gentleman, father to giant offspring and my back woods Paul Bunyan brother in arms, having this place clocked for decades, became my consigliere when I arrived and sympathetically shepherded me down the right corridors when I showed up lost in this dull waste land wilderness. He is as imperturbable as a whale, as hard as Chinese arithmetic and all heart. During our weekly pool and bull shooting sessions in our pleasure bunker; our weekly quixotic Salon; he burns with the intellect of a poet scholar. Today he’s particularly enlightened; pontificating around the fascination of women and the differences between the sexes.

Before I could effect a rescue of my prized cue stick Murph summoned forearms veined like surgical tubes and like a dancer tripping the light Balanchine fandango, turning cartwheels across the floor, balanced on the twinkle toes of a mountain goat dancing on a thin edge, crashed the ivory orb into the pack with the speed of an angry moonshiner with muscles straining as thick and sinewy as dock ropes, huge Mickey Rourke muscles that make his upper back fan out like manta ray wings. He slams the tip of my Balabushka into the ivory cue ball affecting a sledge-hammer break; pin-balling the spheres in causally connected harmonic waves; never slowing his rap … Women he says, being gatherers, were required to look closely at their work and so evolved into looking each other in the eyes when they converse. Further, he posits, men, 600,000 years ago, as we Pithecanthropus passed into the hand-axe culture, were genetically pre-disposed to look out and around, to survey our environs for the random saber-toothed tiger creeping up from behind or the manic charge of a wild-eyed mastodon, and so, conversely, men look away when we speak to each other.

Further, as the balls roll into the pockets… Men he says, dominate through physicality, and thus have mercy; where women do not. When it’s over for a woman, it’s over. You’re not getting an appeal. Yet we are similar in that both
have at least two faces, one mounted behind the other or in the case of deranged multiples, overlaid like an onion. The front one sculpted by what John Paul Sartre lamented; “hell is other people”, meaning the signal vibrations we send out as a result of being an ego encapsulated hominid are interpreted by others as our persona; who they think we are. They send those messages back to us and, in the infinite wisdom of human nature, the wish to assimilate and fit in; we receive the ping-pong message and unconsciously act out those wishes. Ergo hell is other people because they cause us to act the way they see us and thus prevent us from acting out our natural personas; being our true selves. The second face, the one we see when we look in the mirror and as we all know it’s the mirror that matters, is the one we use to try to bring about our own hopes while we struggle with the mean nature of a world that won’t sit still long enough to be seen clearly and allow us to make a connection.

I’m not actually getting much of this since by now, after a few trips to the bar, a few pulls on the whisky flask and a few hits on a Dobbin, I feel like I’ve imbibed a Vicodin the size of a hockey puck and that’s not altogether untrue. Murph has reached what Japanese Buddhists call Satori; sudden enlightenment and a state of consciousness attained by intuitive illumination representing the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism; in my case it’s simply the relief from emotional pressure that narcotics provide. I’m so lit by the time the quarters have run out and no more mead can be poured in and no more weed quaffed I become no longer interested in the answers; my obsessive compulsion has turned me into a Sarah Palin no nothings; not just not knowing the answers but no longer even understanding the questions.

I head for the bar where the TV burns in the background showing proof of life for the 50,000 children of the Americas lost in the wilderness of North America. Some manic crowd of frothing white people are babbling incoherently, waving poorly made signs and shouting what seem to be epitaphs at a large multi-wheeled monstrosity of a bus. As I absorb the cacophony from these right-wing fear machine zealots, the lynch mob bully minority portrayed on CNN as the caterwauling xenophobic’s they are, spewing brown boy’s go home tirades upon helpless, exhausted, scared children; I fear the rest of the world will interpret the ululating jingoistic hostility chants of U.S.A, U.S.A to mean, in their case, the United States of Ass-hats; hyena headed mongrels with no prepubescent girls to terrorize at the gates of abortion clinics since they’ve all been shuttered; portraying Americans to the world as selfish, narcissistic, greedy, cheap and in a word bullies. Proof, I fear, we’re not far removed from that early morning on November 22, 1963 when Jack turned to Jackie and said; “we’re headed into nut country”.

Why we care more for animals than people I never understood. Awwww’ing like modern-day Francis of Assisi, we spent $6.2 billion on grooming and treats for our pets in 2012. If only these kids fleeing extreme poverty and violence had four legs instead of two and were hairier, cuddlier and cuter. Jordan, a country the size of Indiana has taken in 2,070,973 registered Palestine refugees in ten camps, provided 173 schools, with 116,953 pupils, two vocational and technical training centers, 24 primary health centers, eight community rehabilitation centers and 12 women’s program centers and Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water resource availability, per capita, in the world.

But my country, the greatest I’m continually told, won’t find room at the inn for our neighbors to the south. Sorry kids, instead of pausing for air our fury sniffing of those railroad track lines of your coke or taking the profit motive away from the drug cartels that have chased you away from home by legalizing it; we blew the bread that would have cost rearranging the sands of Arabia for the last ten years with the bombs supplied by Dick Cheney and friends. Besides, Israel is presently turning kids your age into bouillabaisse so we have to change the channel; sorry but the first rule of media is; if it bleeds; it leads.

Well, time surely to stagger across the street to the only gourmet restaurant within a hundred miles and intake some banana bread French toast made from scratch by the blessed and enlightened soul who open it after a stint in culinary school; Freud/Jung, Nature/nurture, crazed whack jobs in Technicolor, blood and guts; enough. Hey Murph; pass the maple surpel.

Xenophobes

“And they don’t quite seem to understand; the way the hammer shapes the hand” – Casino Nation – Jackson Browne

Immigration Nation

Barbecues crackle from grease bubbles that drop and crystallize; looking like broken glass. The heat wafting above makes waves in the air like over a radiator. The aroma of fricasseed flesh wafts sour weenie smoke up and down the lacing of the shore.

Suddenly the world outside my writer’s window erupts into electric splinters as the patriotic bombs explode in the cloudless sky, showering the trees with a million tiny neon bulbs; the preparatory whistling sounds imitate a mortar attack. Swooping strands of light rising, rising, rising until they merge with the stars and make a bridge right up to the heavens; Boom! Boom! Boom!

Anything with a spine has fled; hunkered down and shivering in the forest while the fireworks light the sky in psychedelic color movie joy. While my typer and me seek only the transcendental the tourist’s scurry madcap in howls of manic laughter across the sacred lake. They seek a red, white and blue somatic experience; weekend warriors begging sensual unfolding after the tightly wound city work a day weeks fall away. They are here for hurry up fun and love-making that intensifies the sensations.

Two years in I guess I’ll have to cop to being a local. I suppose I’m in good company. Hunter Thompson and Ken Kesey moved to the woods; Papa Hemingway pulled over to the shoulder as well; he quit the whole damn program for the island of Cuba; you can’t get more removed from the noise than an island. I’m ensconced in my own Walden Pond like a modern-day Henry David Thoreau, the transcendentalist who begged a cabin from Emerson, a couple of miles from town, for his reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. He said he wanted to sort out the wheat from the chaff and suck the marrow out of life; to escape the wages of fame, that industrial disease to creativity; that all-encompassing external experience that often excludes intimacy.

Meanwhile an ill wind blows foul and Gods flesh is crawling. If he could see and hear the antics of this cast of heretics in Marietta, Ca, American flag-waving protesters, lathered horses in the home stretch, forcing busloads of migrants to leave, on the fourth of July, a fear gripped gang of xenophobic’s descending on scared, hungry, tired children of the America’s; he’d never stop throwing up.

These are so-called Christians, sans the compassion and empathy, which is at the core of their cult teachings. They wave brightly colored over-sized American flags; symbols that ring like cymbals; “all foreigners go home”; accompanied by a hate filled chorus of U.S.A., U.S.A; a happy fourth welcome to North America for children of the Americas tougher than the violence and poverty they have escaped; asking only to be part of the American dream; dumbstruck with fear at the vicious reception at the barricades of heaven.

We have seen this film before; the placard carrier’s hands forced into clenched fists to pummel the weak. They pledge allegiance to what the flag use to mean. Now, its “English only” as the legislated official language rails the Nativist; telling us all how we “must” speak, how we “must” dress, then, next surely, how they “must” think. The thought police aren’t far behind. Hell, they’re here now, making everyone the same like some insidious virus. Where have we seen this kind of group think before? Sieg Heil. Shut up and sing. I pledge allegiance. My country right or wrong; I pledge allegiance; love it or leave it. I pledge allegiance; or the terrorists win.

A young man in Mexico, poor enough to live in a dirt floor hut, fiercely religious, speaks no English, crawls across an imaginary line in the desert in the dead of night; to OZ; to labor bent over in a strawberry field picking my food for sub-standard wages, no health care, no other kind of care, no safety codes, no rules that favor him. He pays taxes to an invisible hand every payday for which he receives nothing. He is reviled.

One day men with American flags festooned on their drab military style uniforms approach; they call out “Criminal”. He looks around to see who they speak of as their well fed white knuckles grip his arm. He is going home. Migrants in Mexico who risk the road to Xanadu are folk heroes to those they leave behind. They are urban mythologies. Those that hire them, the Patrons, rich and powerful when weighed against their brown Mexican sweat, are the beneficiaries.

Closed borders did not make America. Borders open to young men and women everywhere did. Is it a crime to cross that line; to feed hungry children or wives or mothers or only to hope to improve one’s life? Shame on the heretics of the American dream and legacy; an American is not defined by which side of a line he is on.

In Martin Scorsese’s historical epic film “Gangs of New York”, the war in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen for cultural dominance was fought between the Nativist, “born right” (in America) and the foreign hoards (immigrants). The present day debate on the “illegal”, an unfortunate term, smells like the stench that reeked in the five corners section of New York City at the dawn of America.

Take to the streets. Strike! Tear down the fences. Build bridges instead.

“Inscription on the Statue of Liberty”
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

 

Emotions

Excerpted from: The Politics of Ecstasy by Timothy Leary, P.H.D.

“The aw-full truth –  just say Know”- Timothy Leary

So where do we find the scientific answer to the emotional question? Can you really bear to know?

Emotions are the lowest form of consciousness. Emotional actions are the most contracted, narrowing, dangerous form of behavior. The romantic poetry and fiction of the last 200 years has quite blinded us to the fact that emotions are an active and harmful form of stupor. Any peasant can tell you that. Beware of emotions. Any child can tell you that. Watch out for the emotional person. He is a lurching lunatic.

Emotions are caused by biochemical secretions in the body to serve during the state of acute emergency. An emotional person is a blind, crazed maniac. Emotions are addictive and narcotic and stupefacient. Do not trust anyone who comes on emotional.

What are the emotions? In a book entitled Diagnosis of Personality written when I was a psychologist, I presented clarifications of emotions and detailed descriptions of their moderate and extreme manifestations. Emotions are all based on fear. Like an alcoholic or a junkie, the frightened person reaches for his favorite escape into action; commanding, competing, punishing, aggressing, rebelling, complaining, abasing, submitting, placating, agreeing, fawning, flattering, giving.

The emotional person can not think; he cannot perform any effective game action (except in acts of physical aggression and strength). The emotional person is turned off sensually. His body is a churning robot; he has lost all connection with cellular wisdom or atomic revelation. The person in an emotional state is an inflexible robot gone berserk.

What psychologists call love is emotional greed and self-enhancing gluttony based on fear.

The Psychedelic Correlate

The only state in which we can learn, harmonize, grow, merge, join and/or understand is the absence of emotion. This is called bliss or ecstasy, attained through centering the emotions. Moods such as sorrow and joy accompany emotions. Like a junkie who has just scored or an alcoholic with a bottle in hand, the emotional person feels good when he has scored emotionally, i.e., beaten someone up or been beaten up; won a competitive victory; gorged himself on person grabbing.

Conscious love is not an emotion; it is serene merging with your-self, with other people, with other forms of energy. Love cannot exist in an emotional state. Only the person who has been psychotic or had a deep psychedelic trip can understand what emotions do to the human being. The great kick of the mystic experience, the exultant, ecstatic hit, is the sudden relief from emotional pressure.

Did you imagine that there could be emotions in heaven? Emotions are closely tied to ego games. Check your emotions at the door to paradise.

Why, then, are emotions built into the human repertoire if they are so painful, demanding and blinding? There is a basic survival purpose. Emotions are the emergency alarms. The organism at the point of death terror goes into a paroxysm of frantic activity. Like a fish flipping blindly out of water. Like a crazed cornered animal.

There are rare times when emotions are appropriate and relevant. The reflex biochemical spurt. Flight or Fight.  There are times when emotional bluffs, like the hair-raising on a dog’s neck, are appropriate. But the sensible animal avoids situations which elicit fear and the accompanying emotion. Your wise animal prefers to relax or to play – using his senses, tuned into his delicious body-organ music, closing his eyes to drift back in cellular memory. Dogs and cats are high all the time – except when bad luck demands emotional measures.

The emotional human being is an evolutionary drug addict continuously and recklessly shooting himself up with adrenaline and other dark ferments. The way to turn off the emotions is to turn on the senses, turn on to your body, turn on to your cellular reincarnation circus, turn on to the electric glow within and engage only in turn-on ego games.

Genie-us

“You are all a lost generation” – Gertrude Stein in conversation and epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

I wipe at the hot showers fog of soapy mist on the mirror of the medicine cabinet in the steamed bathroom that’s made my reflection almost invisible. It’s the same each morning; after having cleared that miasma vapor away it reveals my ripening. My skins as white as a cuttlefish bone from an epic long winter. The lack of sun has made my image nearly translucent. The medical term is seasonal affective disorder or SAD and maybe that’s the source of the depression that has the sink holding me up.

The tip of my index finger depresses the plastic nozzle atop the cylindrical can of Aramis; releasing a mist that doses my moist flesh; masking the pheromones that will later escape when my secreted fluids diffuse and mingle with whoever it might be tonight; coating our slippery tangled bodies locked in the frenzied obsession of a passionate lovers embrace.

I thought but didn’t much care that the toxic torrent unleashed, according to the latest scientific peer-reviewed report on global climate change, planetary warming that both arctic systems and coral reefs were already experiencing, the irreversible regime shifts from among other things, the atomizer’s chlorofluorocarbons propelling the liquid that covered my scent; or that my thoughtless gesture would, with a hundred other modern conveniences, be responsible for worldwide ecological collapse, famine, flooding and pestilence. I sent a silent apology to the remaining polar bears.

I gave the day away; dressed to attract and met the milky sky. Firing up my chariot I headed for the Kaffeeklatsch, downed a stab and kill and sped to the gym for an angry workout. I stopped off at the library to absorb a few more chapters of the manic rants and musings of Hunter Thompson’s canon and then uploaded some sustenance from the days blue plate special at the diner. The pool room closed at midnight. I was folding up my winnings when I realized the sips of Crown Royal from my secreted flask and the many rounds of Guinness had done their job.

Escaping the cool breath of wind from the street I passed into the local meat market; a hothouse of pheromones, testosterone and estrogen. Feeling the beast inside coiling as I pushed through the door of the roadhouse; floating as high as a monkey in a tree and content as a hog on ice; feeling holy. Stepping over the threshold breach gave way to an invisible curtain between two worlds; the outside, a Netherlands of normalcy with flocks of work-a-day sheep and herders bustling about; the inside a Fellini circus atmosphere that captivated my senses. The air reeked lust.

I felt that weird kind of adrenaline instinct that feeds on tension and high pressure as I clocked the strum and drang of the environs. I don’t know any of these actors so the image they are projecting back to me must be their favorite. The men fell about the place seemingly coördinated with the din of sound that passed for music; impersonating jokers, thieves, minstrels and madmen; their voices more brass than iron; a testosterone physicality overlaying the fervent messages they were broadcasting. The women wafted a scent with undertones of desperation, loneliness, uncertainly and mostly want, desire sharp enough to cut falling silk like a samurai sword. They were covered like an M&M in a thin candy coating of hope and optimism.

I sensed a desperate last call pre-dawn chaos enveloping the inhabitants; every soul recklessly humping the American dream as the jute box howled a bad noise mating call; the drugs kicked in. The Stones blasted Sympathy for the Devil with a fiendish intensity and the lights gave off a strange glow and vibration, the smell of stale beer provided the buzz kill. I was searching for the Holy Grail, a woman to share the secrets of my shattered soul, held together by scars and truth, to help me through the night and beat the devil in my head with a prosaic everlasting kiss.

She sat at the bar with a panther’s grace; her legs like pins encased in skinny jeans that appeared sprayed on; they jackknife provocatively on the bar stool like swizzle sticks. Her face could not hide the need to be taken and it made me fantasize a roaring wood fire in a dark night on some black sand beach fronting a lush green forest in Borneo where I took her like a Viking. She carried the scars of ancient wounds and instead of projecting defenses, sat reposed, like she’d already given in, like a mortally wounded lion that draws a circle around itself with its own blood waiting for a pack of hyena to catch the scent.

She said her mother had quit the Valium, said it made her too normal, no longer crazed and somehow this robbed her of her power. That was a red flag to be sure but her suppressed sexuality made me sweat like a wheel of cheese. “I didn’t see you there at first” I said. “I’m incognito” she said. “Beautiful things don’t try to be noticed” I said. “Want to get outta here?”  The sky was white haze from the heavens to the lake that bordered the woods. The frozen moisture in the air sparkled like diamonds refracting and made dappled shadows flicker in the silvery half-light.

The all-night diner was right out of 1955 and like sex and pizza it’s hard to find a bad one; it had one of those open kitchen style layouts that hash joints of the era favored; designed for quick communication between the waitresses and the short-order cook. The chrome and neon sign flashed Open 24 Hours. The coffee cups were as thick as flowerpots and the waitress kept them filled to the brim with watery coffee from a plastic flip-top insulated pitcher she left on the table. A couple of hard eyed hooker’s were sprinkled in the drunken randy crowd; decompressing from a long and jangled night.

Maggie, our Moon faced hostess, shouted our orders to Peppy, the half-black half-Chinese madman with a spasmodic face twitch and a twirling metal spatula. “Adam and Eve on a raft for the lady; a cowboy with spurs for the gent” she yelled. For the uninitiated that’s poached eggs on toast for her and a western omelet with French fries for me. Pep nodded his approval and set to the task like he was made of mercury and had a black belt in jujitsu. His head spun about like a boat adrift from its moorings. He had the aggressive chemistry of a connoisseur of sharp knifed edge-work.

He held his hand aloft and towards me; opening it surreptitiously I spied a joint. He motioned me to the back and after excusing myself for a moment I met him at the dumpster that was as rancid smelling as a milk truck. Chatting him up as we passed the dubbin I discovered he was a triple Scorpio; a real character. He dressed like a crusty drifter recently stumbled out of a Hooverville hobo-jungle. “You’ve got the moves Pep” I said. “All energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet” he said.  Christ I thought, on top of everything else this man’s a mad poet.

He had long sinewy arms with a brawler jawbone and looked a burned out caricature of a Mexican Brando. His face had the scars of having been slashed and eyes like jellied fire with long blaze red hair as fine as corn silk. Just then some pals of Peppy roared up on Harley’s; a gang of Pit bull gladiators, muscle-bound weight lifters, cranked up drug enthusiasts that totally meshed with my karma. One humongous rat faced fellow had the look of having been left to snack on paint chips as a toddler; a lout of the first order having made lots of wrong turns and met many dead ends.

He gave me a sneer with angry eyes; a bête noire king hell speed freak as tightly wound as a spring inside the casing of a watch that made the adrenaline in my guts spin like a whirligig. The un-self aware un-self conscious type headed for a hellish descent into drugs, fugitive flight, prisoner status and finally dead man; jail, asylum, morgue; the usual.

Back at the table I found some preppy type vamping my girl who seemed in love with his own voice. He was working on a doctorate of some kind. “The age you are when you go to jail, fall in love or become famous is the age you remain” he said. “Sounds profound” I said. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom” He said. “Studying William Blake I see” I said.

Her place smelled of incense and scented candles; an angel on a ribbon hung from the armoires door and a fine porcelain Cupid with his feet crossed looked down on the swaying cherub. “I hate everyone who loves me” she said. “They seem to revel in showing me just how ugly they can be”.  I wondered if I’d come home with a rock star; some celebrity I was too old to know about. They say there’s no one cooler in the pocket than me but at that moment I felt like a man without skin.  The drugs were fading as I oriented myself to the moment.  Apparently I’d invited a demon into my belly. We waggled and dangled for hours and hours like we were digging up trees, grass and flowers; finally I rolled over with a moan and a cough and she coiled up next to me dozing off.

Her remembrances come back in the smallest things. This morning it was from the sense memory of how her arm brushed against my torpid remains, still glistening in our sweat as it brushed against the hairs on my chest when she reached for the glass of ice water on the nightstand after we’d become one again, making love in zero gravity for the third time in the wee hours. This afternoon it was her voice hanging in the air in front of me; how she said Ti Amo with that voice that had a bit of a dusty road and a timbre so lush and velvety I could almost rest my head on it. Imagining her in those moments, for now anyway, is my new favorite way of getting lost.

Inside A Rainbow

“Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobble stones; looking for fun and feeling groovy”. - The 59th Street Bridge Song - Simon and Garfunkel

Another Groundhog Day at the coffee clutch; the pretty young women are full of welcoming smiles and cheerful banter as we face off to perform our ritual kabuki dance. “Want your regular Nick? Getting pretty nice out there, eh: they say?”  I swipe a finger across my throat and fake a stab to my heart signaling my favorite drink; the Stab and Kill; two shots of espresso over dark roast; as I retort. “I haven’t been warm in six months and I’m snow blind from the constant sight of white on my ocular nerves. Once it gets forty-two degrees here, which I remind you is ten degrees above freezing, everybody pretends they’re in Cancun. But yea, compared to Antarctica; its swell”.

Bursting through the door as if on cue dances our resident carnival minstrel and Mr. Bojangles impersonator; Gandalf. I wave him over.  He examines the chair at my table like their might be snakes in it; then like an Indian performing a slow motion war dance; deposits his brittle bones and settles in. A flower child wilted; my new friend’s face spans the entirety of the sixties, from the optimism of the Kennedy years all the way through to the breaking of the counter-culture wave with Nixon’s election; the carnality, the violence, the insecurity and the anxiety all register in the deep crevices and wind dried folds of his ruddy cheeks.

He looks a rambling road-weary wreck ready to fold in on himself. I imagine that when he finally falls he’ll go down like six feet of chain. He speaks in allegory with a voice so damaged by a lifetime of frantic screams, weed and nicotine; that when he talks his whole being vibrates; what emerges sounds forced out of a sucking chest wound; made even more incoherent as he devours a brownie and guzzles a steaming cup of Joe.

The hell broth swimming inside the guts of his soul reflects out through eyeballs that glisten like a peeled hard-boiled egg. He is as ugly as a wart on a witch’s nose. He reveals in tones both hopeless and lamentable; of realizing he’d become more interested in the theater than the Play and society has finally caught up to him.

For most, as we age, we have the opportunity to accept who we are, instead of focusing on who we feel we need to become. We relax into being ourselves and our faces start to look like who we are. The world settles into more and more familiar patterns and that acceptance brings diminished anxiety and a higher degree of enjoyment. But for some the struggle never ends and the tension from a grip held more white knuckle firm every decade results in a psyche so pained the faces of those afflicted resemble a tightly woven spool of barbed wire.

And I think about this; as the caps of the lonely, undulating tree stands glow whimsical one after the other and the angled sun rises slowly on the northern horizon; bright rays are reflecting blindly off the snow as a dark cloud that had blotted the sun for a time, creating a wan grey light, evaporates and disappears; a silky white contrail from a jet plane, mimicking the cloud’s dark beast, like my infamous friend as he makes for the exit, meekly dissolves.

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