Just Like Old Times

The summer is 72 degrees with an occasional gust of wind. The air is perfect. I drive my 20-year-old pickup down the quiet streets in the middle of the day. Everybody is at work. My friend lives with his mother. I’ve been doing school and the career for 10 years. Somehow, my progress isn’t important. I listen to the hum of my engine as I slow down to park. He’s there. It’s been a year, but it seems like yesterday. Sometimes, we have to endure a grind, a horrible monotonous thing, to enjoy pure delight.

“Man, it’s been too long. We need to hang out more often.”

“Put your clubs in the back and let’s go.”

“What’s new with you?” I ask.

“Just workin out. You still in school?”

“Yeah.”

“When are you goin to stop?”

“When I finish my Doctorate.”

“Why?”

“I must go all the way. There might be something there, although I’m doubtful.”

“We need to play more golf.”

“No arguing with that.”

When the streets are empty, you can really breathe. You expect to be able to do this in wide-open spaces, but in the city, it takes you off guard. It’s like a fresh snow has fallen, but it’s sunshine instead and nobody wants you.

“What are your goals in 2019?” I ask.

“Just work out and stay healthy. No stress,” my friend says.

He’s smart, in his own way. People ignore him, just like they ignore me. It’s hard to be completely alone, but if you have one or two really good friends, you can beat the system. Friends are fickle; they compare and compete and pretty soon you don’t want to be around them. But some have an understanding and the time is better together.

We get to the pro shop and nobody is there.

“I guess the golf course is closed today.”

“Not for us,” my friend says. We play the fairways and get into our natural rhythm. Miracles happen without any witnesses. He holes out from 72 yards and I sink a 30-foot putt. The sun sinks in the sky and the air gets cooler.

“You want to get some food after this?”

“Yeah man; this is just like old times.”

If we don’t get richer

and we fail a thousand times

If women don’t want us

and this life walks away

If we can’t see the future

and time is misunderstood

We hope for the poet’s word

Strength

from some unknown, mystical source

after our muscles have left.

Laugh While You Can

It’s funny,

as time goes by, and I spend more time alone, sometimes I think I’m missing something.

But when I spend time with someone who says, “You’re missing something.” And I hear the shakiness in their voice and their lack of reassurance,

it gives me more confidence.

I guess we all think we have the truth.

When I accepted the world at face value, I was depressed and angry. I didn’t know what to think.

In time… I learned to trust myself,

in the same way, many trust in things,

but usually, the masses trust the external and neglect the internal.

The self is always changing if we are lucky.

It feels good to let it and maybe this is the greatest fault we have.

We tend to believe things that make us feel happy

and we avoid things that make us feel sad.

It can’t be helped.

The alternative is too terrible to imagine.

The End of the World

Young men in their 30s who think they are at the height of their independence discover they are overgrown boys when the crisis strikes. It is the prodigal son, returning home, but not to his father—always to his mother. The father is reading, left alone, while the mother hounds her son. She tells him what to do and what not to do. Any thoughts of love with his long-distance relationship flee from his mind when he falls under the auspices of his mother. He remembers what it was like to be controlled by a woman and thoughts of being a hermit, living in a car, living far away from comfort where women don’t go, abound in his head.

I went over to my best friend’s house. His mother was watching the news. “Andy, you aren’t supposed to be here!”

“What?” I said.

“I could have you arrested!”

“What?” I said.

Her eyes were bulging and in tears. “The governor told us to stay home. Don’t you watch the news?”

“No,” I said.

“Clayton, your friend is going to kill us all because he is ignorant!” My friend’s mother was shaking. It was getting uncomfortable. “Maybe I should leave?” I said. “I didn’t know.”

“Oh, she over-reacts to everything,” my friend laughed.

“Clayton, the governor told us to wear masks all the time! 90 percent of the population will get Corona.”

“That’s just made up hysteria,” my friend said.

Clayton’s sister walked in. “Oh, hi Andy.” She sat down in her chair and smirked at me.

“Joy, tell Andy he needs to go home.”

“Mom, stop being mean. Andy, how have you been?”

“Oh, just reading philosophy and contemplating the end of the world.”

I left shortly and went home to my mother.

“Wash your dishes, Andy.”

I started to unload the dishwasher.

“Don’t unload the dishwasher.”

Jean Paul Sarte said it best. “Hell is other people.”

The Emptiness is Beautiful

What I find most striking about people is that we can look at something seemingly objective and see something completely different. It is the curse and blessing of the human race.

If a man spends enough time in thought, his mind is refined, like wine. Maybe that is the source of freedom—being able to see what you want. Maybe it’s not true. Maybe I don’t have people figured out. Maybe they are not as simple as I see them. Maybe I am the one who is petty or envious. It was explained to me yesterday that nobody thinks they are a racist. So, you can’t know yourself and you can’t know other people. You are a goldfish swimming in water and you don’t know you are a goldfish and you take the water for granted. You don’t even know what the liquid is.

People cast judgements from their frame of reference. The only solution is to become the outlaw, pirate of the roadways, man of means with no means.

There are different forces pulling and pushing a person. Philosophy is the means by which a man disconnects the force fields and moves at his own leisure. It is true; perhaps my words only carry significance for myself. My experience of people is that you can value something above everything, want to pass it on, and be shocked that nobody else wants it. You might be sharing your innermost ideas and think somebody finds them fascinating, but you find out that what they really want is to be listened to.

Maybe one of the rewards of death is not being around at the funeral when people stand up and talk about you. Being misunderstood in life is worse enough.

When I was 12, I had a best friend. Sometimes I think he was my best friend because my mom was best friends with his mom. But my mom didn’t feel valued by his mom and I didn’t feel valued by him. This became clearer, the older I got. Like when his mother gave him money for Dr. Pepper. We got a 12 pack. He gave me 2 cans and kept the rest. “The rest are mine,” he said. That happened 21 years ago. A defining moment. I reconnected with him 3 years ago. “What have you been up to the last 15 years?” He asked. I told him. Then he told me about having season tickets to the Seahawks, going to Las Vegas with his friends, being engaged to a blonde, and he asked me…

“What do you have?”

“I didn’t really say anything. He was better than me. But I might have said…

“Nothing, and the emptiness is beautiful.”

Aphorisms While Lying in Bed

The Fantasy of Who I am will Never be Caught by the Reality of Reason. -Intellectual Shaman

Friends Can Take You Higher than the Mountains You will Climb; Probably because they can lift you above the Summit so You can peak over the Horizon. -Intellectual Shaman

Investment in Your Mind is Worth more than Fake Numbers in a Bank Account. -Intellectual Shaman

Purity

Purity

is riding your bicycle

through the woods

under falling

maple leaves.

I struggle to hold onto it

even though

it’s easy

to hold on to.

It doesn’t make demands

or offer conditions

It’s always inviting,

wanting to be pursued.

You can start any time

at 2 or 92.

If you follow it

it will reward you.

Your best moments

are pure.

Love of the road

without a destination

Punching keys with delight and fire

Making independent decisions.

It’s funny

You will struggle to get what you want

in life

but other things

will come to you

effortlessly

offering different avenues

Why?

Because they were pure

You didn’t need to read that poem to anyone

or ask permission

You had no one else’s approval

but your own

These seemingly small random acts

become larger

until we control and constrain them

damming the river

to hell.

Here is one last bit of advice…

stick around in life

try new things

You will be surprised

when plans don’t work out

and spontaneity

offers something better

a light bulb

a cure

a passion

for purity.

Pushed Out

When people look at you with angry eyes

and they laugh to avoid listening

Reflection is your best recourse

Power needs attention to grow

So, you can’t fight it.

There is a tipping point

for all of us

When we fall off the side of the world

and descend into madness

or something else.

It takes great effort

to jump

and no effort

to fall.

When you do

you are free, in free fall

There is one game, with rules

Some people cheat and others don’t want to play

but most will tell you…

“You don’t have a choice.”

Society forces a relationship

An employer needs workers

A gas station fills cars

And teachers want students

to listen

but, it is better to be self-taught

Walk where you need to go

and live on every breath

away

from stifling conversations

and Closter phobic conforming

charlatans

Words can save you

and ideas will move you

You can defy gravity

those people who want to pull you down

So, if you get pushed out

realize what is happening

Opposing forces can’t occupy the same space

freedom floats

We fall around the world

breathing inspiration

We are the stars

gods

to the slaves of the game.

Chapter 3 Boat Bum Philosopher

The man, if it indeed was a man, lounged in a lawn chair on a boat that looked like it had been to the bottom a couple times and been resalvaged. Barnacles and green slime grew on the outside. The man wasn’t that different. His beard was a good six months of unkempt growth, cigarette ashes and Dorito crumbs. A faded baseball cap was perched on his stringy blonde hair that grew past his shoulders.

“Ahoy,” he grinned. His teeth were yellow. He held a smoldering cigarette in his left hand while shifting his beer belly to exit his lawn chair. He moved towards Gregson like a wounded slug.

“Folks on the water call me Fred.”

“My name’s Gregson.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing around here, do yah?”

“You’re pretty observant. The city told me to take a week off.”

“You a cop?”

“Private Investigator.”

“Really? I always wanted to serve and protect, but my old man thinks I’m a bum. He tells me every week when I call him from the harbor pay phone.”

His Tie Dye shirt was making Gregson nauseous. “Would you like a beer?” Fred asked.

“Sure,” Gregson said. He was having creative problems, so maybe the alcohol would help.

“This place doesn’t get many new people. Most of these boats belong to retirees in nursing homes. Nobody deals with their estates and the harbor continues to rot on the water. I’m sorry, I’m being too negative.”

“No. It’s quite all right.”

“I’d like to know what it feels like to collar some criminals and do some good, for a change. It seems like the older I get; the slower time goes.”

“How old are you? Aren’t you like, 30?” Gregson asked.

“33.”

“Well, you’re too young to be talking like that.”

“Maybe, but nothing changes around here. It’s just beer, and cigarettes, and trying to make sense of eternity. That’s why I hang around the ocean.”

“Maybe you’d like to help me on a case?” Gregson suggested.

Really? No foolin? I’d love that.”

“Well… I’m supposed to be laying low for a while, but next week we’ll go catch some criminals.”

Evening sank and the stars came out. Gregson noticed his neighbor puffing cigarettes until the air got too cold. Then it was dark and all he could hear was the regular lapping of waves. That was until footsteps, lots of footsteps, echoed on the gangplank.

Chapter 2 In the Wrong Place at the Right Time

After a shoot-out, the air carries with it a lingering tension; gun smoke, broken glass, and the smell of iron, a great big hole where a plate-glass window used to be. Heat and sweat and wax figures take-in the aftermath, trying to calculate the chaos. It is real and unreal; slow and fast; order and disorder.

“What happened here?” The commissioner asked.

Sally stood there with her white-blonde hair, pink apron, and fiftyish face. “Gregson,” she said.

“I might’ve known. Does chaos follow you around like a stalker or do you court it?”

“Maybe I’m just in the wrong place at the right time,” Gregson said.

“The medics will save these boys. Thank God you’re not associated with the police force anymore. They’re all wounded and know who you are, which means you have to lay low for a while before the trial. I’ll need to take your gun—retirement present, wasn’t it?

“That’s right.”

“Gregson, when are you going to retire? I’ve been following your exploits for a year and since then, disaster shadows you like a clingy woman.”

“She has a sense of humor, I guess. My memoirs still have to get done, so perhaps, crime comes to me like inspiration.”

“Take a break from violence and write them, please.”

“Okay, commissioner. You’re right. A vacation has been calling to me for some time.”

“Just be sure it’s a vacation.”

Gregson smiled. He found himself on a medium-sized sail boat in a harbor that looked more like a graveyard for long-forgotten retirement dreams.  “I guess the rich folks who own these boats plan to sail, but never do,” he said. He unwrapped his typewriter and threaded a crisp blank page into the machine. A gust blew sea-spray onto the page. The sun was tricky and magical, shining with blinding light as the clouds flew by. He poured a glass of champagne and toasted his retirement. Gregson lit his cigar with a match and breathed in and breathed out. He started to type and lost track of time. Then he noticed he was being watched. Across the way, the only other harbor inhabitant was eyeing him.