The Real World

It’s another beautiful day in the Lakeside Area. The gas shortage appears to have stabilized. All of the gas stations have gasoline again and the long lines of vehicles clogging the roads waiting to get fuel have disappeared.

That’s a good thing.

I started my apprenticeship as a pool guy last week. The only thing I’m allowed to do is clean floating debris out of the pool with the long-handled net. I’ve been getting in a lots of clinical practice. It’s the dry season here, and the mature trees lining the fairway behind our house have been dropping leaves by the ton.

Todd, my lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend, will be arriving here tomorrow, provided he doesn’t encounter any weather delays at the airport. It’s been snowing like unto a bastard up in Pacific Northwest for the last few days, so we’re all praying for a break in the weather.

Todd has decided he’s going to move down here. Eventually. Todd is a cerebral guy. He likes to over think everything. Twice. The hardest part for him is over. He’s finally made up his mind.

Todd is going to be busy arranging as much of his future life as he can while he’s here, but when he has some free time we’re going to the National Chili Cook Off. Food, entertainment and shopping. It’s a lots of fun. And we’ll get in as much golf as we can.

Beyond that, there isn’t much of anything else going on down here.

* * * *

I was talking to my buddy, Brother Al, a few weeks ago. He mentioned that he doesn’t read many, if any, nonfiction novels. As he put it, he prefers reality.

I used to read a lots of fantasy/sci-fi/adventure novels. And the Bible, which contains all three of those genres. I’ve never been a big fan of reality. I mostly find it very confusing. I rarely need help to be confused. So much of what we deem to be reality may be nothing more than fantasy anyway, so I try not to split hairs over what’s really real and what isn’t.

About a year before I retired, one of my patients was a young man who thought he was being watched by the government.

“It’s not just you.” I told him. “The government is watching all of us. There are cameras on almost every street, and spy satellites everywhere.”

“Yeah, that’s what my dad says, too.”

“Listen to your dad. He’s probably smarter than you give him credit for.”

One of my colleagues overheard me, and suggested that my interaction might not have been the best thing I could’ve said in that circumstance.

“So, you think the government isn’t watching what we do?”

“I’m not saying that, but maybe you shouldn’t have fed into his paranoia…”

“Yeah, but if it’s really happening, it’s not paranoia, is it.”

* * * *

I rarely read anything anymore. If I didn’t have to write my blog posts, I probably wouldn’t even read them. I’m not sure what happened to me; why I developed an aversion to reading. I haven’t tried to analyze it until this precise moment. Most likely I lack the ability to make a long-term commitment to a novel right now. Another reason is the fantasy genre storylines are all essentially the same.

And then, along came Game of Thrones. Because of my current inability to read, I started watching it on TV last week. I was hooked in about five minutes.

Somewhat fortunately for me, TV and movies have jumped on the bandwagon and there’s a lots of fantasy/adventure shows out there for my viewing pleasure. I can’t say that I watch a lots of these shows, but I will l admit that I’ve kind of become addicted to the Marvel Universe. And Star Wars®.

Thanks to technological improvements in CGI, the cinematic versions of these stories are visual tours de force. Superheroes versus supervillains. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s Third Law of Motion is also Stan Lee’s and George Lucas’s First Law of Storytelling.

But it’s not just computer generated action scenes and explosions. The Marvel Universe movies, and the latest Star Wars® movies are very well written, and the dialogue actually makes you think.

Perhaps the biggest attraction for fans of the Fantasy/Sci-fi/Adventure genre is that we’re transported to a world vastly different from the world in which we live. It’s not necessarily a better world. I mean, there’s no WiFi in Middle Earth.

However, there’s plenty of ale. And pipeweed. Two things I once was very fond of.

These alien dimensions or worlds are populated with exotic alien races, plus Men, Elves and Dwarves. And mythological monsters, beasts and creatures. And dragons.

Dragons are without a doubt the coolest of all the mythical creatures. There are hundreds of legends and tales about dragons from dozens of races and cultures. Asia, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Europe and Mesoamerica all have dragon myths.

My personal favorite is Tiamat, a Babylonian goddess who took on the form of a massive sea dragon to wage war on her enemies.

And there’s always the Dark Entity of Ultimate Evil who wants to conquer and subjugate the entire world. I guess we have one of those here, though by Evil Dark Entity standards, Satan appears to be more of an underachiever than anything else.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12.

Angels. Demons. God only knows what else. There’s evidently a war going on all around us that we can’t see. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen an actual angel. I sincerely doubt that I’ve ever met a demon. But I have encountered more than a few evil human beings.

I don’t have a lots of faith in God. I don’t believe in the devil. But I do believe in Good and Evil. And who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…

I’m trying to remember a fantasy novel that doesn’t have a bad-ass bad guy, and I can’t. Probably because if there wasn’t an evil villain, there’d be no need for a hero to step up and save the day. That’s one thing you can always count on in fantasy adventures. Good always triumphs over evil.

I never imagine myself as the hero in these stories. I’m the least heroic person I know. For one thing, deep inside of my chest beats the heart of a fucking coward. I’m not especially skilled at sword fighting, or any other type of fighting for that matter. I don’t have any magical powers. If I actually found myself in one of these stories, I’d probably be a red shirt guy in Star Trek.

In an epic battle between Good and Evil, there are going to be a few casualties of war. I’ve almost died to death a few times for significantly lesser causes.

Be that as it may, I’m sure part of the reason I originally wanted to be a prophet was I thought I’d end up with a whole lots of magical superpowers.

If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s this: Never read the Book of Revelation after you’ve dropped a few hits of acid.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife is a huge fan of the Crime/Mystery genre. Shortly after we got married, I jokingly told Lea the only reason she watched those shows was to figure out how to kill me and collect my life insurance.

“Oh, I figured that out a long time ago.” she replied, with a totally serious look on her face. I don’t think I slept well for a month.

Law and Order. The Closer. Major Crimes. CSI:, NCIS, and Inspector Gadget. We’ve watched those shows so many times we both know the dialogue of almost every episode. I would never want to be questioned by any of those spooky smart TV cops. I’d probably confess to the Kennedy assassination, even though I was only seven years old when it happened.

We started binge watching True Detective yesterday. Apparently you don’t have to travel to another dimension to find monsters…

* * * *

I used to watch a lots of TV. I loved The History Channel back when they used to air shows about, you know, history. Now their programming is a bunch pseudohistorical, quasi-reality-based crap.

People will always debate what caused the demise of modern day civilization, but for my money it all started with the creation of Reality TV.

Nowadays I mostly listen to the TV. There are very few things that I actually watch. To me, television is essentially radio, with occasional pictures. It’s mostly white noise to me. I use the TV to distract me from the ringing in my left ear. The medical term is tinnitus. I developed it after I was assaulted at work and my jaw was broken.

See? I told you I wasn’t any good at fighting.

The ringing in my ear might be lessening. More than likely I’ve just gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’ll never go away. It’s a reminder of how parts of me are broken and will never work the way that they used to.

Don’t get me wrong, most of me still works pretty good. Like me, the world is certainly less pristine than it once was. I’m concerned about the reality I perceive, and I’m not sure it’s going to change for the better.

But the last scene in Episode 8 of the first season of True Detective gave me a glimmer of hope.

Marty Hart and Rust Cohle have just closed the case on a crime they had started investigating seventeen years earlier. Their personal lives have been all but destroyed in the process of solving a heinous and horrific crime that turned out to be a series of heinous and horrific crimes. And they were both almost killed to death.

* * * *

Rust: “I tell you Marty I been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking, it’s just one story. The oldest.”

Marty: “What’s that?”

Rust: “Light versus dark.”

Marty: “Well, I know we ain’t in Alaska, but it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.”

Rust: “Yeah, you’re right about that…  You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing.”

Marty: “How’s that?”

Rust: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”

* * * *

I hope that’s true. The light is winning…

I can’t tell anymore.

Variations on a Theme

I’m going to give you advance warning. My thoughts are pretty scattered today. Hence, the photo. Case in point, the title. It’s the second title that popped into my head. I’ve rewritten this installment more after I posted it than anything I’ve written in the last year. My new title vaguely hints at what I’m about to write. And, it’s also the title of a musical arrangement…

I’m going to guess I have a specific something in mind that I want to say. I have at least one sentence I know I’m going to work into the story.

I’m just not sure how I’m going to get there yet.

* * * *

It’s a cloudy day here in the Lakeside Area. The weather app on my lovely supermodel wife’s phone says it’s supposed to rain on and off all day. But this is Mexico. Forget what I said in my last post about the weather being predictable. La clima no siempre sigue las reglas. The weather is about as predictable as a Mexican driver, unless you assume you have no idea what the other guy might do.

Then you’ll be correct every time.

It’s not just the rainy season in Mexico. It’s also the election season, for a few more weeks, I think. I know it’s a big election for a lots of high profile positions. President, governorships, stuff like that. There’s been a lots of campaigning in the Lakeside Area; rallies, informative lunches and brunches, billboards, TV and radio ads, and the megaphone mobiles.

The specially equipped, audio-enhanced vehicles drive around the village blasting political messages like unto the megaphone cop on TV telling the suspect to drop the gun, and come out of the house with your hands up. There’s no escape, you’re surrounded.

All of these messages are directed at the locals who will be voting in the elections. The candidates here all claim that they’re the only hope for a better Mexico, much like any other election in any other part of the world. Unlike other parts of the world, the politicians that actually are the only hope for a better Mexico have as good a chance of getting killed to death as they do of getting elected.

Quite a few candidates want to make Mexico a better place, and the drug cartels are getting nervous. The best way to make Mexico a better place is to get rid of those sons of bitches.

So far, none of the presidential candidates have been killed to death, nor have any of them proposed rounding up all of the American ex-pats and locking us up in internment camps.

See? I told you most of the people here are very polite.

* * * *

We are still supporting half of Mexico’s hummingbird population with the three feeders in our backyard. Lea calls them her babies. It’s so cute! It’s kind of fun to watch one hundred million hummingbirds in action. They buzz all around our patio from early dawn to dusk.

I have a memory. It happened at least twenty years ago. Lea and I were driving to Ettrick, WI to see our in-laws, Bill and Leslie Pfaff. I can’t remember if Andy, their troubled teenage mutant miniature horse was still alive or not. I’ve written about him before. You can look him up in my archives if you’re interested.

I remember it was winter. It might have even been Christmas. At any rate, the road we were driving on tended to follow the Mississippi River. The river was mostly frozen over, but somewhere around Winona, MN there were several vast open spaces dotting the ice. And around these open water spaces, hundreds of bald eagles had congregated.

Some of the eagles were flying lazily/gracefully in the gray sky, circling the open water. Others were sitting on the ice, starkly outlined near the open water. More were perched in the leafless oak and maple trees lining either side of the road.

It was breathtakingly beautiful and cool.

Seeing one eagle, in my opinion, is an event. Seeing hundreds of eagles at once is like unto seeing a dragon. It’s one of my favorite best all time memories.

* * * *

My praying mantis, Ferngully, has gone missing. I knew I should have taken a picture of her! Now I won’t be able to make one of those Missing/Reward Offered posters…  I guess that’s one of the hazards of having an insect for a pet.

I’m pretty sure my mantis decided to leave our patio because of Victor. He’s our exterminator guy, and he sprayed the patio the other day. Actually, he sprayed the entire house and the front and backyard, too.

Victor uses a combination of garlic, cayenne pepper and vinegar solution to get rid of insects, and it certainly seems to have worked on them.

Oddly enough, it also worked on squirrels. There have been zero squirrels eating the plants on our patio since Victor was here. They would scamper across the stone wall in our backyard, but they wouldn’t come into the yard. It seems that squirrels hate cayenne pepper even more than I hate squirrels. You can buy cayenne pepper by the ton down here for next to nothing. I sprinkled that stuff on all of my plants, and on the top of the stone wall.

I have seen zero squirrels since.

However, if this interdict ever stops working, El Walmart merely moved their display case of air rifles. I found it the other day when we were shopping there. That made me smile.

Mischief managed, for now. And, Plan B is still an option, you know, just in cases.

* * * *

It’s only through hindsight that we’re able to see where most of the paths we’ve chosen in life have taken us. Maybe some of you are able to visualize this without hindsight. I never have. I’m not that intuitive. I’ve always needed time and perspective to understand these things.

I need to do that even with simple things, like movies. Therefore, it’s a good thing I didn’t become a film critic. It would take me thirty years to write a decent review. Who needs to read a movie review three decades after the fact?

Take, for instance, Star Wars®. I’ve written about at least one of the movies before, but I have a plot twist that you probably haven’t considered this time.

I’m a big fan of the franchise. There are a lots of us. Some of the superfans know all about the Star Wars® universe, and are able to see plot holes and continuity lapses as they occur. It has taken me forty years to figure out that The Force isn’t anywhere near as cool as it was originally portrayed.

See? I told you I wasn’t very intuitive.

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduced all of us to The Force this way: “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

Not only that, it was the source of power for the Jedi Knights, and all of the spooky stuff they could do. Move objects, influence thoughts and behavior…  You know, things that here in the real world only women can do when they use a certain tone of voice.

Yet for all of the vaunted power of The Force, the Jedi appeared to be unable to figure out who their real enemy was until they openly revealed themselves. Count Dooku. Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. They remained hidden from the sight of the Jedi until they chose not to be.

If The Force binds everything together, you’d think an adept Master trained in its use would have been able to discern another someone trying to, you know, un-bind everything with it.

Apparently not.

Nor was it true when Obi-Wan said this, “You can’t win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Obi-Wan got dead and essentially became a bodiless entity that occasionally reminded Luke to “…use The Force!” And that appears to be the extent of his lame-ass unimaginable power.

Finally, there was this: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Obi-Wan uses that Jedi mind trick on a couple of Imperial Stormtroopers to make them go away and then gives this explanation: “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

Big deal. You know what else can have a strong influence on the weak-minded?

EVERYTHING.

Seriously. Why else do we call stupid people stupid? Because they’ll believe fucking anything! Go ahead, try it. You’d be surprised how easy it works.

And that revelation led me to believe that Donald Trump must somehow be a twisted Jedi.

images

Darth Ignoramus. As kooky as it sounds, it’s the best explanation for his Presidency I’ve been able to come up with.