Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Begging Is the Hardest Job In The World

A few days ago I was getting into my car in a large parking lot. I was approached by a well dressed woman. “Excuse, me, sir,” she asked with apparent reluctance. “I’ve had a bit of trouble and I…”

My hand went up to stop the rest of her pitch. She was begging. I could see that every word was costing her great effort.

“Sure, no problem," I responded. "I have a couple bucks worth of change. I’ve been through hard times myself.”

She relaxed, her shoulders came down from around her ears. She wasn’t a funky street person holding a sign at a busy intersection. She looked like a soccer mom with two kids. This was my first encounter with a more upscale type of beggar.

Some traffic- light panhandlers have a dog. Some sit in wheelchairs. They’ve always been a fixture at certain busy intersections. They hold cardboard signs written in Magic Marker that say variations of the same message: “Anything will help.” “Please. Will work for food.” I hold no animus towards them. To feel contempt would be....contemptible. They stand for hours in a noisy place clogged with car fumes and endure a thousand humiliations.

I could tell that the well dressed woman in her early thirties was not used to panhandling. The look on her face was shattering. She was humiliated but she tried to appear as if this was just a momentary blip, like she had left her wallet at home and had run out of gas. She was going to beg just this once, it wasn’t a thing she would do tomorrow and the day after that. I saw her move on to the next person and the next. They recoiled, they refused. She kept on, walking softly up to people. “Excuse me, sir, I’m in a bit of trouble…Excuse me ma’am”.

I could see the immense effort it cost ; her body was wrapped around itself as if she was very cold. I know the feeling. I’ve begged and panhandled. I sank to the bottom tier of society. The work of begging is very difficult.

Yesterday I was in another parking lot, just coming from Raley’s with two plastic bags of food. It was five-ish, getting dark. A woman approached me wearing a white down jacket and slacks. Her hair was well kept, her makeup was in place.
“Excuse me, sir” she began and again I held up my hand. “No problem,”
I said, “I have a couple bucks worth of change.”

As I dug through my bag, I asked her a question.

“How many hours a day do you do this?”

“All day. I’ve been here since eight this morning. My feet are killing me. I’m done in an hour. Eight to six,” she laughed bitterly, “it’s a full time job.”

“So..what are people like?” I wondered. “Do they help you?”

She leaned back against a car, taking the weight off her feet. The bright blue light of the mercury vapor lamps made it easy to see her face. She didn’t look like an addict. I'm not an expert on what an addict looks like, but, having been one, I can feel that particular hunger, I know the signs. She looked like a thirty five year old woman trapped in circumstances beyond her control. Maybe she’s divorced. Her ex-husband’s vanished, not paying child support. She’s three months behind on the rent. She was laid off from her job after twelve years of loyal service to the firm. Unemployment benefits are running out. Can’t find a job anywhere. She’s desperate and she wants her kids to continue having the things they’ve always had. Karate lessons. A music teacher. Little by little she’s losing the ability to provide, and pride leads her to some difficult choices.

So…panhandling in supermarket parking lots becomes an option, a desperate option that she takes with greatest reluctance.

“About one person in ten is nice.” she replied. “You can’t believe the abuse I get out here. ‘What’s the matter with you?’” she imitated a shrill pitiless voice, “‘Go get a job like a decent person. Shame on you!’ Women are the worst, especially the ones of a certain age, over forty five, fifty. I don’t bother with the twenty-somethings. They’re just overgrown high school kids, they tell me to go fuck myself. Excuse my language. And you know what? I stand up for myself. I tell them they don’t know what’s going on in my life, they’re not qualified to judge me.”

Her eyes shifted. A woman was loading groceries into a car just down the row. She needed to get back to work.

“Thank you,” she said with sincerity. “I have to make every minute count.”

“Go on,” I said, “Go back to work.”

She had to push herself away from the car. She was bone tired. She didn’t know whether her next approach would end in kindness or invective. Her eyes thanked me for treating her like a human being. She was half an inch from breaking into tears but she pulled herself together.

With each passing week I expect to see more of these parking lot beggars.

Begging is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Update on the Big Bang Theory

November 30, 2009

Scientists at the Space Science Institute have issued a revolutionary update of the Big Bang Theory. The explosion of the universe from an infinitely dense singularity and its subsequent expansion have now been drastically re-examined, following measurements of the velocity and distribution of so called Dark Matter. It has been experimentally proven that this matter, and other forms of matter such as Baryons, Gluons, Muons, and Schmoo-ons are actually being recycled, and that the known universe is a Big Bag, being filled by Bag Ladies from the Eleventh Dimension. These beings live in time and size scales incomprehensible to normal human thought. It is speculated that they use promordial galaxies and quasars as cast-off brassieres, bunny slippers and hair nets. These Bag Lady Beings have been referred to in Hindu Cosmology, somewhat romantically, as Devas, and in Christian theology as Archangels. But, in fact, the yiddish terms, Schlepper, or Shmatta, might in fact be more accurate.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Vision of Yanni

Last night I channel surfed past a PBS station in time to catch the entertainer Yanni playing with a sixty eight piece orchestra in some awesome place like the Pass of Thermopylae or The Gramd Canyon. He was standing between phalanxes of keyboards, four on his right, four on his left, and as the orchestra pumped out vigorous but empty musical calories, Yanni stretched his arms straight out to either side and played the keyboards. He threw his hair back, arched his body in a spasm of ersatz passion. He wore an all white costume with puffy sleeves; the shirt was unbottoned to show his hairy chest. He was gallantly crucifying himself, ascending in resurrected bliss on a cascade of idiot dramatic crap New Age muzak fit only for hair salons and supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not jealous of this man’s success. (Oh no.) He undoubtedly works very hard. But the insult of indulging in such silly and obvious showmanship only diminishes his besotted audience. Showmanship is a wonderful thing. Especially when it is connected to genuine talent or profound ideas. I recently saw a vintage film of the Count Basie Band. The drummer, Sonny Payne, twirled and juggled his sticks while executing a wildly complex solo. I watched him pass the sticks under his legs and around his back. He threw them into the air so they landed on the snare drum in perfect time and bounced back into his hands, and all the while he held and stomped on the beat until he cued the band back into a great bellowing riff that lead to the tune's head. THAT is showmanship. In Hell, Yanni will be a toothless bald man gesticulating wildly in front of a three piece band of Borscht Belt hacks who can barely wheeze in tune, let alone play music. He will repeat the same phrase over and over again, “Aren’t I wonderful?” and a thin, bored applause will leak up from a cigarette strewn linoleum dance floor that stretches to infinity.


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Suicide Hotline Boogie

Several years ago I got involved with suicide hotline counseling. I took a two month training course, and spent four hours a week answering a phone, knowing that utter despair might be on the other end of the line.
The training was terrifying. Two thirds of the initial class dropped out in the first month. I wasn’t dropping out of anything. I was training my character about the concept of commitment. All the volunteers had the same fear: what if we said the wrong thing and were RESPONSIBLE for a suicide?
The latter parts of our training were about role playing. We’d gather as a group and the trainer would ask someone to go first. I always offered to be first. I preferred to get my terror over with rather than sit and anticipate. The trainer and I would pretend to be on opposite ends of a phone conversation. The trainer would say “Ring Ring” and I would answer, “Suicide Hotline.” Then the trainer would act out a scenario and it was my job to respond to the situation as if it were real.
My heart started pounding, my throat went dry. The trainer would play an adolescent in crisis, or an elderly person sick, alone and without hope for the future. The trainer could be anyone at all. We didn’t know until we answered the “phone”.
In this way we got past certain inhibitions. It’s not only okay to ask if someone is thinking of doing harm to themselves. It’s mandatory.
“Are you thinking about committing suicide?”
Yes, we ask the question!
“Do you have a plan? Do you have the means to do it?”
“Have you attempted suicide before?”
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, if the caller has a history of attempts, and is holding a gun, a bottle of sleeping pills or a pack of razors, then it’s time to go into action. We try to find out the location of the caller. If the caller won’t give up this information, we have the ability to trace the call. We have a reverse phone book, addresses that yield phone numbers. We can call friends, relatives. We can call the police. We’re not helpless.
By sheer wonderful luck, this is the hotline associated with the Golden Gate Bridge. There are call boxes at regular intervals where would-be jumpers can get a direct line to a counselor. I never got a jumper. I got a lot of other things.
When the training was complete, I went as an intern to the switchboard. An experienced counselor was on hand to help out. We worked in teams. For a few sessions, the supervisor could listen on an extension to my calls. I got some calls, but they were mostly sad people wanting to hear another human voice. No serious threats.
On my third shift, it was time to go solo. There was another counselor there, but I was now officially on my own.
I was terrified when my first call came in. I picked up the phone and said the requisite, “Suicide Hotline” in a calm neutral tone. Then I waited, listening to hard breathing on the other end. After about fifteen seconds, a woman with a thick southern accent said the following:
“I have a loaded gun pointed at my head, and my finger is on the trigger.”
This is my first solo call! Okay, okay, be calm, work from the training.
“If you really wanted to die, you wouldn’t have called me.’
“Maybe I don’t want to die and maybe I do,” the caller responded. “Maybe I called to see if you could come up with a single good reason for me to keep living.”
“I can’t talk to you until you put the gun down. And I can’t give you reasons to live, you’ll have to do that for yourself.”
My supervisor had heard all this. She came and stood behind me. She took a pen and bent over to write on a piece of paper on my desk: “did you say gun?”
I shook my head yes.
The woman on the phone spoke in an acidly sarcastic manner. “You mean you’re not going to give me Jesus or Buddha or some crap like that?”
“I’m not here to promote religion,” I responded. “I’m here to listen to you.”
“Oh bullshit!” Now she was angry. “I’m going to pull the trigger!”
I braced myself for a blast. It didn’t come. There was just the sound of labored breathing from the telephone.
“Hello?” I spoke to the breath. After some seconds, the voice responded, with the same angry sarcasm.
“Yesss. What!”
“You didn’t pull the trigger.”
Then I heard a click click click.
“That’s the gun,” said the woman. “It’s not loaded. But I can load it, in a second.”
“You don’t want to do that.”
“How do you know?”
“Because you would have. I think you want to live, whether or not I give you a reason.” I was beginning to feel a little angry. I felt a sudden intense dislike of this person. I felt that she was bullshitting, that she had called just to mess wth my mind.
Again, the sound of three clicks. Mocking. I had a cigarette lighter in my pocket. I took it out, held it to the receiver and clicked it three times. My supervisor had been standing behind me. I saw her arm come over my shoulder with the pen. She wrote, “what the f…?”
I shrugged, then wrote, “B.S.”
I saw Leslie, my supervisor, nodding.
The woman with the southern accent said, “What’ve you got there, a thirty eight?”
“No,” I responded, “A Bic.”
She laughed in a witchy sounding cackle. “You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?”
“I know I’m smart, but that has nothing to do with what’s happening right now. Are you intending to hurt yourself, or anyone else?”
“I’m not gonna tell you, now. You’ll just have to live with not knowing.”
Click. She hung up. I sat there, half terrified and half enraged.
I pivoted my chair so that I could talk to Leslie.
“Doe she sound like this?” Leslie did a perfect imitation.
“That’s it.”
“Okay, well you just met Lynn Brogan. She calls four or five times a week, and if she gets a newbie, she does the gun routine.”
As I was letting the air out of my lungs, as my shoulders settled, the phone rang again and I nearly levitated from the chair.
“Suicide Hotline”, I said.
“You know, I have a pretty important job.” Same southern accent. It was Lynn Brogan.
I had to restrain my anger, restrain my urge to answer with sarcasm. After all, if this was how she spent her time, she was pretty unhappy. She was in a lot of pain.
“That’s good,” I said in a neutral tone. “What do you do?”
“I’m head of Research and Development.”
“With what company?”
“I can’t tell you that. It’s a VERY big company. Very important to the government. You’ll just have to take my word. I have thirty four hundred people working for me.”
The other phone line rang. Leslie moved into the next cubicle and took the call.
“Suicide Hotline,” she said.
Thus began my acquaintance with a list of characters who used the hotlilne as their primary social focus. They were hotline addicts. Kendra S. called fifty times a day until we cut her to a maximum of five. She started calling all the other Bay Area hotlines. San Francisco thirty times. Berkeley twenty five. Oakland fifteen. Each day. Her hoarse voice assaulted hapless volunteers with anger and self pity. She could not live without calling hotlines. As she got thrown off one, she migrated to another until she was calling hotlines in Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles.
One of our clients, named Gwen, had multiple chemical sensitivity and would go into a psychological meltdown if she thought she was exposed to a carpet that wasn’t detoxified or a whiff of someone else’s perfume. When she weakened and ate a piece of chocolate she entered a state of panic in which she believed her toxicity would be fatal. It wasn’t.
Bob R. had flown B-17’s during the war and couldn’t stop re-living his experiences, fifty years later.
Working the hotline was like that truism regarding war: hours of tedium punctuated by minutes of sheer panic.
Most of the time, my method worked. I kept at bay all the things with which I might lose my sense of equality with these people. Compassion can only operate on a field of equality. If I lost sight of the fact that I could BE one of these people with the tiniest slip of fate, then I was in trouble.
At one time I WAS one of these people. I could never forget that. I always felt a vulnerability, always felt as if the despair were as close as my skin. After five years, I reached the burnout point. The despair penetrated and I began to become my callers. That’s when I started leaking anger and judgment, impatience and contempt. It began to come out through the holes in my skin, through the membrane of invulnerability that I had worn in order to do this kind of work. The membrane was leaking pretty badly.
When I said to Kendra S., “For god’s sake Kendra there might be someone in real trouble trying to get through here….”
That’s when it was over.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Your breath has a shape
like a fingerprint
no two alike
in all the world.
Everything about you
is found in your breath
all your lives
and deaths,
all your thoughts.
Think of your body
as gone,
only breath remains
it has an in stop
and an out stop
and contains so much more
than air.
If we could know one another
by our breaths
if we could see the human crowd
as a throng of breaths,
nothing else,
hello jagged anxious breath
how are you
hello smooth relaxed breath
nice to see you
the human race is
a breath collective
today some will arrive
today some will depart
lungs are merely homes
like hands fill gloves
everything sacred, every dark secret
lives in the breath
and when it leaves your body
it is a system of information
like a letter full of you,
air mail, breath mail.
I would tell you more of this
if I knew any more
but this is as far as I’ve got
in learning the nature of breath.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Screw It! Or..."The I'm Sick Of Self Help Books" Self Help Book

If I am correctly reading the implications of all the self improvement books, here’s the paradox: I desperately need to change. At the same time, I desperately need to accept myself exactly as I am.
I woke up this morning, and I still had the same problems I had yesterday. I might be a compulsive eater, or a pill popper, or a seeker of awful relationships, or a gambler, or any number of things that I wish I weren’t. I’m desperate to change myself, to become a better person, more reliable, competent, responsible, creative, positive. I want to enjoy life, not suffer through it!
Where did this come from, this “ideal self”, this expectation that my life is going to be superb, transcendent, vigorous, fulfilling, that my dreams will come true if I’m REALLY persistent, that my wounds will be healed? Who gave me that idea? Oprah? Dr. Phil? A book? Television?

Where did this ‘self improvement’ model emerge and take over my life? This urge to get better and better, whatever that means, has become another addiction, and it’s making me even crazier. I can’t turn around without another book telling me what’s wrong with myself and how I should change it. At the same time, the guru is telling me to love myself as I am, that I can’t change until I’ve really given myself unconditional love. Is it any wonder that I feel crazy?

If I were to give myself unconditional love, I might turn into a puddle of ice cream that will slowly drip into the carpet until there’s nothing left of me but a sweet-smelling spot.
It’s said that changing one’ s self is the hardest job of all. No, there’s one job that’s harder: Loving yourself. I know it sounds hokey as hell, "loving yourself is hard" but it is! There are so many fears about letting go and just ‘being’, so many fears about not living up to some nutty competitive idea of how I should look, where I should live, what I should drive, what I should own. How am I supposed to love a creature this imperfect, this flawed and grotesque? How do I love a person who’s THIS BAD?

It would be irresponsible to love myself. That just wouldn’t do. I’d go soft. I’d sink into illusion and denial. I’d stop working on myself. I’d lose the benefit of fifteen years of therapy.

The Judgment Pressure Cooker

How many ways do I feel judged when I step out of my house to go to work? How much armor do I have to strap on to face the world? Everything is about appearance: there’s my weight, my clothes, my car, the whiteness of my teeth, whether or not I have hair. Is my skin unlined? Is my neck getting a wattle? Should I wear high collars and turtlenecks to hide it? Should I wear stripes to look thinner? How about a corset, a girdle, a tight belt, to hide the expanding waistline?

Aging is a disaster to be fended off as long as possible, by all means. That doctor on Oprah who tells you your so-called “REAL” age helped me do the calculation. I added up factors like my blood pressure, diet, number of remaining teeth and it turned out I was a hundred ten. I was already dead.
How much money do I make? If I’m not making enough money, I’m told that I must change the way I think so that I will “attract the right energies”.

What kind of job do I have? Am I a professional or just a working shlub?

What’s my house or apartment look like? Does it advertise success or is it a dump? Again, I’m not “attracting the right energies”. I feel very guilty about that. If I think and visualize correctly and stop sabotaging myself the “universe” will deposit everything I want, k’zam! right into my pocket. I know what it is: it’s my wallet. My wallet is not organized, it’s sending a signal to the universe that my thoughts about money are chaotic. Wow, I’m self-sabotaging, missing all these clues.

How long is it, two years, now, since I straightened out my wallet? Since I started visualizing all the things I want and chasing away negative thoughts? My mind became a well trained soldier in banishing doubts and hang-ups. It stayed in line, it repeated over and over again, “I can do anything I want I can do anything I want.” I followed the directions in the movie and the book, “The Secret Of All Secrets”, I was disciplined! I visualized my bank statement, an exact number, sixty five thousand two hundred eighteen dollars and thirty five cents. It’s a modest number because the bank is not the smartest place to keep money. I also visualized a safe full of gold ingots, saw myself riding the latest recumbent bicycle and using an eight thousand dollar camera. I have a fake check for three million dollars taped to my fridge. Hours and hours every day I did this visualization.

I had one teeny little lingering doubt about this program. Maybe that’s why it didn’t succeed. That doubt kept whispering in my ear, “Isn’t there something rather graceless about grabbing the universe by the throat and compelling it to give you everything you want?”

Even our spirituality is dominated by this drive for success. It’s sunk right into our hides as if a shotgun has blasted pellets of it to exactly the right depth. It’s impossible to extract. It’s so completely American, this self improvement mania,this urge to raise our station in life. This drive to succeed.

What’s sad about the way our social system is organized is the utter lack of compassion we have towards one another. The non-succeeders are treated as though they have a disease. They’re marginalized.
I’m not doing really great right now, I feel as though I’ve been pushed to the periphery of things until I barely take part in the workings of American culture. {sic} It’s too complex! There is so much paperwork, so many rules, I’m sinking under the weight of mere self maintenance.

It’s TOUGH to go out the front door and take on the world, day by day. Look at the junk that’s endlessly thrown in our faces.

I have an announcement to make: If you are here, you’re a survivor. You’re immensely heroic. To be a participant in the process of the Earth Plane in any form whatsoever is an act of supreme courage and achievement. Let’s put it in perspective, please. This is no cheap ticket, this life. This is Earth. Or, as I prefer to pronounce it, with a deep Brooklyn accent, Oyt. Dat’s where we are, Oyt. Dis ain’t no picnic, dis Oyt. Dis is a hell of a mess and a tough woild. Okay, okay. I’ll just stick with Oyt but blow the accent.

Oyt is a special place. It’s a material manifestation of God’s imagination. It’s a place where learning is done. To own a body, a human body, is a very extraordinary fate. The body is going to suffer many processes, and, eventually, it will decay and die. If you examine that reality with an unflinching gaze, you begin to realize that it takes some guts to continue, day by day. Give yourself some credit.

The alternative, to NOT exist in a body, means one of two things: you are either a ghost, without the courage to incarnate, or you are a Master, who is finished incarnating. In the middle, right here, is life in a body. On Oyt.

Your life, the experience you are having, however difficult or painful, is a gift without parallel.

Sometimes I make lists. One of my favorite lists consists of ways to be stupid. You know, “Ten Of The Stupidest Things People Do”, something like that. At the top of the list always seems to be the same thing: To regard this world as the only world there is.

I know, I know, it’s very scientific and brave to eschew spiritual possibilities. To be rid of crutches. I know many fine people who proclaim that this is the only world that can be proven, therefore, it’s the only world they accept as real.

How unimaginatively sad. I require no proof at all. I need only examine the facts as they exist, to make a leap of faith and surmise that there MUST be a mighty plethora of worlds, dimensions, alternatives and ways to experience being conscious. Just because I don ‘t know what they are, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Therefore, I consider it to be unbearably stupid to deny that something great and mysterious is occurring, simultaneous with my little life and its problems. There are other worlds, and we’d better recognize the possibility that we survive death, in some form and take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Because there are consequences; we are held accountable.

That doesn’t mean we have to get crazy and turn ourselves into perfect little angels. Not at all. It just means we need to see things with an open mind.

Meanwhile I’m getting blasted with this message that there’s something wrong with me but if I truly live in the “moment” there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. Where is this moment? Oops, it’s gone. Here’s another one, grab hold…nope,
gone. Another one, gone…gone….

I understand that NOT living in the moment is to live in the past or the future, both of which are places in the mind, noisy places full of desire, plans, regrets, a tangled bedsheet from a sleepless night of the soul, mind mind mind mind.
Shut up, mind! Let the heart speak!

Can someone tell me what this wonderful “moment” is? Mr. Tolle? Deepak? I thought not. You counsel me to “be” in it but can’t tell me what it’s like. Here’s what I’ve observed.

First there is breathing. I’m breathing, in and out. My heart is beating, my blood is flowing, my skin registers the air temperature. And I wonder how I’m going to pay rent next month whoops! Lost the moment.

Let’s try again. Breathing check. Heartbeat check. Blood flows check. Air temperature check. Uhh. Sounds. There are sounds coming to my ears. Wind blowing through leaves? Ah lovely. I Probably wasted my time sweeping the patio…whoops!

Damn, this moment shit is hard. I get only so far and then start thinking of other things and wheee, I’m whisked away into speculation, worry, schemes. All games of the mind. So, what does it take?

Superhuman concentration. To be in the “now” requires superhuman concentration.


I’m really fucked.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Conversation With God

Lord, my whole life has been a conversation with you. It has been a pleading, praying, thanking, questioning, frustrating conversation. Though I am not answered in words, you answer me in every experience that occurs. There is no issue about my faith, about whether or not I accept your existence. It is not conditioned by what happens to me in my life. I don’t need good things and miracles to have faith. All I need do is look around at the world and I see an abundance of evidence. Without you and the great wind of your love, there would be, simply, Nothing. Instead, we have a great passionate world, a universe full of drama and strife, of burning stars, of miracles and mysteries. One thing I can see, Lord, is that you have made a universe that is not boring.
I thirst for truth, but truth is not an easy thing to grasp. I don’t want to be this way, the way I am: addicted, afflicted, incomplete, emptied out, wounded and afraid. I don’t want to be this way. But I am. These conditions go along with being human. Being alive and made of this material stuff is to be lost in a jungle, where spirit hides behind things and yet is out in the open for those with clear sight. My sight is not clear. It is obscured by my needs for so many things. I need comfort and enjoyment and every desire leads to a battleground, a wrestling with a thousand demons. I need truth, but I fear truth. I hold it at arm’s length lest it turn out to be monster with sharp teeth, about to rip my personality to shreds and throw me down into madness. I am afraid that I can’t handle things the way they are.

I am like a fairy tale creature following a trail of crumbs through the forest. Somewhere in this darkness there is a home in a clearing, a warm place to feed and rest and abide. I wait for the appearance of that abiding place, though it may not appear until after I die. If that is what is decreed, that I wander through the years of my life in a constant search for truth that is never satisfied, so be it.
My faith does not diminish. Nor does my fear. Faith and fear seem strange bedfellows. Both seem constant to my condition. Both conceal the same transcendant animal, hidden amid the trees and vines. Both counsel me to leave hope at the entrance to the forest, and proceed in spite of the hopelessness of the cause.

Such is a true conversation with you, God.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Twenty One Varieties of Stupidity

Twenty One Varieties of Stupidity

1. Thinking this is the only world that is.
2. Thinking you’re the most important person in this, the only world.
3. Thinking you are the same thing as your body.
4. Letting someone else think for you because it’s easy.
5. Hoping someone or something outside yourself will make you happy.
6. Punishing someone or something when your’re not happy.
7. Making your children live the life you didn’t.
8. Solving problems with force instead of intelligence and wisdom
9. All attempts to make permanent that which is not.
10. Mistaking symbols for reality.
11. Mistaking moods for permanent states of being.
12. Any activity that requires the wearing of large visored hats.
13. Embracing an ideology to dispel fear and doubt as to the nature of reality.

Subsets of the first varieties of stupidity

1. Failing to make the attempt to discover reality.
2. Not seeing through the shallowness of one’s attempts to discover reality.
3. Not anticipating the fragility of the body.
4. Philosophical puniness.
5. Greed for complex means of escape.
6. All complex means of escape.
7. Avoidance of change, lack of inner agility.
8. Mistaking merit badges for actual merit.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ordinary Consciousness

There is no ordinary consciousness.
There is something we do every day,
get in our cars, go to work,
get food, pay the credit cards,
raise our families.
Billions of people
do it, thinking it is ordinary.
That is consciousness,
and nothing about consciousness
is ever ordinary.
Sometimes I long for visions
of sudden grace,
in the middle of the ordinary day,
oh how I wish I could be taken
to a visionary understanding, right now,
and know what is real, what it’s all about.
I should be careful what I wish for.
If I were to be taken to that magic land
I would also be held accountable
for my mistakes. Paradise
has a price for admission.
Paradise is Truth; in Paradise
there is no lingering trail of lies and crimes.
In Paradise, all bills have been paid.
I am grateful for ordinary consciousness;
I'm still behind on some of my accounts,
and consciousness knows exactly what I owe,
and to whom.
That is not so ordinary after all.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being An Unpublished Author is Hard Work!

Being an unpublished author is hard work. I wonder if it isn’t harder work than being a published author.
I have three as-yet unpublished books that are complete. Each one is different. There is CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN. This is a loosely autobiographical novel about growing up with a violent mother and a kind but workaholic father who lacked the time and resources to understand that his home had the ambience of a concentration camp. This book is honest, compelling, funny, very hip and possibly healing. I hope so, I hope the book helps readers deal with their own problems and understand that they’re not alone. We share our common humanity.
The next book is a science fiction epic, GODS OF THE GIFT. This is a wild journey into another kind of universe. It has a moral center, a point of view about matters of power and the abuse of power. It’s very cinematic, i.e. people who’ve read it tell me it seems like they’re in a movie.
I have a non-fiction travel memoir called MIRACLE HIGHWAY. It tells the story of how my lady and I changed from living in a nice house up in the hills to becoming full time residents in a 38 foot motor coach.
In order to deal professionally with literary agents, each book must have several items pertaining to its ultimate sales potential. I need a short query letter for each book, no more than four paragraphs. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Right. The query letter is the most important sales tool in the entire process. Paragraph one has to grab the agent and convince him/her that this book MUST be read. Paragraph two outlines the important plot points. Maybe that can go to a third paragraph. Paragraph four is a short biography and resume, citing publishing credits (if there are any) and a bit about one’s self.
I must write one of these letters for each book. The number of attempts, false starts, revisions and corrections boggles the mind. The query letter must be PERFECT! I’ve written fifteen or twenty queries for each book; and I’m still going.
Every book needs a Table Of Contents, or a TOC. This gives chapter numbers and/or names and a brief description of each chapter. As I work on the revisions of each book the chapters change, page numbers change, everything changes. So the TOC changes.
Each book needs a synopsis. This is a three or four page outline of the plot architecture. It must be magnetic, hypnotic, somehow distilling all the book’s magic into a couple of pages. Try it, Sancho Panza. It ain’t easy.
For non fiction books, like MIRACLE HIGHWAY, a Book Proposal needs to be written. This is a formal document answering such questions as: What genre is the book? Who is the target audience? How is it different from its nearest competitors? What books does it resemble? There must be the obligatory TOC and often a sample chapter or two.
This, my amigos, is writing that is done OUTSIDE the creative writing of my current “work in progress”, my WIP, a book called THE SHADOW STORM. It’s an historical novel with the twist that it’s not Earth’s history, but a planet called Freeth. The time is much like Earth, circa 1914.
Let’s take a look at the last several responses from agents to whom I have
emailed this material.

Thank you for your recent e-mail. I regret to say that I don’t feel that I’m the most appropriate agent for your work. However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation

thank you for your query. Unfortunately, your manuscript doesn't sound like something that’s right for us. We wish you the best of success in placing your work elsewhere.

Thank you for submitting your query to The -------- Agency. While your proposal shows merit, I'm afraid it's not right for us. As I'm sure you know, this is a very subjective business, and no doubt another agent will feel differently. Best of luck in your writing career.

We decided to pass on requesting part of your work because we have a full client list and can only occasionally review and take on new projects. All the best, good luck, and thanks for thinking of our agency.

I have hundreds of these. Hundreds.
I have a job. I still need to make money to survive. I work at a very humble position, the kind of job that is synonymous with “failure”. I don’t feel like a failure. I’ve succeeded in learning how to write good prose. That is no small achievement. I estimate it takes a minimum of twenty years of obsessive application. Now all that remains is to convince the rest of the world that my writing is brilliant.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Blood Is In Every Word

Ten years ago I bought a digital keyboard. I was embarking on a studio venture, making a CD of my songs. I grew up as a drummer but took to the piano as a means of composing material. The day I brought the keyboard home I had injured my hand. As I explored my new instrument I began to bleed on the keys. This is appropriate, I t hought, I'm anointing my instrument with my own blood. It makes a nice metaphor regarding my writing passion. I've been writing since I was fifteen, when I penned my firsst e.e. cummings-style poem to please a girlfriend. I was born to be a writer. Here I am, not a youngster any more, engaged in the ridiculously grim and absurd business of finding an agent for two novels and a travel/adventure non fiction book. "Not right for us", "not quite what we're looking for", "good luck in your writing career", etc. You've heard them all. Will I stop querying? No! Will I stop writing? Of course not. I've gotten more pleasure from the process of writing than almost anything I can think of besides my family relationships.
I love my books as if they are my children. I'm proud of them. I think they're great! I want them to do well. Does it break my heart that they are continually rejected? Of course it does. Music broke my heart, too. My last gig was a killer. After spending weeks in promotion, pinning up posters, getting promises from friends who would ABSOLUTELY be there, I dragged my heavy equipment into the place, set it up, went through the usual stage fright and waited for the audience to appear. I had learned to calculate my audience in negative numbers. I count the people who are there when I arrive. I add the people who show up during the performance. I tally all those who showed up and I subtract the people who walked out, those who were already there eating, drinking, whatever...I also subtract the number of friends who promised to be there but weren't. At this particular gig there were five people already at the bar when I arrived. Not one of my fourteen promised friends showed up. All five people at the bar left as soon as I began playing. BTW, in all modesty I'm a good performer, very entertaining. No one else came. My total audience was
minus nineteen. That was my last musical gig. I came near to tears but managed to
keep them back until I was in my car driving home. Okay, so what? Creating art is
a thankless task. It doesn't matter whether one is great or a mediocrity. The effort and dedication are the same. All of us writers work our tails off. I won't stop, I can't stop and I will never give up. The music ended because I was physically unable to continue without some kind of payoff. It cost money to produce, I was aging and developing a chronic pain in my feet. Carrying a seventy pound keyboard or two hundred pounds of drums had become unsustainable. Writing is a good solitary occupation that requires a different form of stamina. I will be writing until what's left of my mind disintegrates or they put me in my grave clutching the keyboard that they could not take out of my determined fingers.

Best to all writers!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Not Pursuing Happiness

On Not Pursuing Happiness

If happiness is your goal,
you have come to the wrong planet.
Go back to God and ask him
for a transfer. I’m sure
there are places where happiness
is a basic condition,
but it is not here.
It is good to fit the goals
to the environment.
When King Solomon asked for an understanding heart
he was thinking of the people he ruled,
the people he judged, day by day.
He did not ask for happiness.
This is not to say that there is no happiness
here on earth. There is. But it comes
unbidden, it cannot be striven for,
it is a byproduct of other quests.
Ask then for something that serves the spirit.
At the right time, happiness soothes the spirit.
At the wrong time, happiness deludes the spirit.
Wanting to be happy, expecting to be happy,
being disappointed when you are unhappy,
all these things are small change,
a leaf held against the sky during an eclipse,
a tiny sun-silhouette, nothing more.
I’m sounding like a sermon, I know.
I woke up this morning feeling terrible.
I am blessed. There is much happiness in my life.
Feeling terrible reminded me that feeling terrible
can open many doors.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wedding Night Plus One

This excerpt from my novel"Confessions Of An Honest Man"is a character study of one of the four children of the family about which I write.It's funny and it's nasty,because the character of Marilee is nasty.Be ready to laugh and writhe.

Wedding Night Plus One

         Irv Josephson tipped the bellboy with a twenty and shut the door to the suite.  “Jesus. I’m exhausted.”  He loosened his tie and kicked off his shoes..
           Marilee, sitting on the bed, managed to look both wilted and rigid simultaneously.  Her white skirt had wrinkles going at oblique angles against the line of the pleats.  Her hat, a little black thingie with a funny half-veil that never actually got below the hairline, hung crookedly, almost falling from her pinned-up hair.
          Pushing through a curtain of jet-lag, Marilee got up and walked to the glass doors that led out to the balcony. 
          “Why don’t you get some sleep?” she asked.  Irv heard that and registered the word “you,” singular, that is, he could take a nap by himself so there was no chance to take another crack at Marilee’s virginity.  She’ll come around in time, he told himself, dismissing his own inadequacy in a sweeping gesture of sheer unconsciousness. 
          Marilee tossed her wreath of Hawaiian leis onto a chair and opened the double glass doors that looked out onto the beach.  “Waikiki,” she breathed.  “It’s gorgeous.”  The vista gave her some energy, it was a costly vista, the suite was a costly suite.  On the beach, rich people swam and lay in the sun, and rich people’s boats gently rocked on the expensive waves. 
          Irv disentangled himself from his own batch of guest-plumage and tossed it atop Marilee’s discarded mess.  He joined her on the balcony, putting his arms around her wiry, petite body from behind, enclosing her in his embrace.  He was considerably broader of build than his new wife, though his youth prevented that plumpness from becoming fat.  There was still plenty of muscle tone on his body, tone that was beginning to forget itself now that Irv had passed the Bar and was in practice with his father.  He so resembled his father, it would be a couple of years before he assumed Manny’s pear shape.  There was little doubt that he would achieve even greater corpulence.  He had bigger appetites.  He liked food, he liked sex, he liked to drink.   He was bottom-heavy.  His neck was of average proportion, his shoulders were broad, and distinct male breasts poked through his white dress shirt. His stomach seemed to lurch forward horizontally, giving his upper body the shape of a ski slope.  His butt receded somewhat but the cheeks were of equal girth to his legs, which were extraordinarily large, wide and strong.  On his face there seemed always to be an expression of slight confusion, as if he had awakened from an incarnation where he was a great prince, and couldn’t understand how he got into this poky Jewish identity where everyone bossed him around.
          Marilee made an effort to lean back into her husband’s embrace.  It didn’t come easily to her, touching, intimacy, the necessary looseness for sex.  Irv’s penis, now that she had seen it, loomed in her imagination like some fleshy atomic bomb. “Fat Boy,” she called it, remembering photos of the Nagasaki bomb.  Her husband’s organ was not overly long, but it had girth, like the rest of him.
          Last night, after the reception and before today’s flight, they had booked into the Chase for a honeymoon night.  Marilee had been unable to get that thing into herself, and Irv had finally just made a mess on her thighs, a disgusting spectacle that had taken half a roll of paper towels to clean up.
          She breathed in some of the sunset sea air, praying it would relax her.  She had thought about the challenge of her wedded sex life at some length.  She knew she did not like sex, and that Irv did.  Of course, he was a man, they all like sex, that’s all they think about. 
          “I’m not sleepy,” Irv said, nuzzling her neck, just beneath her ear.  She could feel Fat Boy like an ingot trying to wedge itself between her ass cheeks.  “We can try again, honey.  I’m not so drunk, and you’re not so sober.  Maybe we can figure out the formula, whattayou say?”
          She forced herself to be nice, against all her insticts of revulsion.  “Give me a few minutes, baby, okay?”  She turned around within the warm cylinder of Irv’s embrace and pecked him on the nose with her lips.  Her hands were more or less pinned to her sides, albeit gently, and she was aware of the natural animal strength in the male body to which she was wedded.  Her right hand rubbed Irv’s atomic bomb, and he sighed, and in that sigh, Marilee felt her sexual power and that gave her some position, some strength and joy, and she might be able to use that feeling to go through with this act enough times now and in the future that she could keep this rich man until his money was available. 
          “You know,” she crooned, “you’re so… big!  I was surprised! My poor little Miss Peekaboo wasn’t ready for such a big visitor.”  Her voice had gone up two octaves, all googoo squeaky, a little Sandre Dee, a little Marilyn Monroe, and just a touch of Annette Funicello.  She knew her prey.  She knew what Irv liked. 
          She could feel Irv expand with gratification at her comment on his penis size.  Men are so primitive, she thought.  “Let’s have a drink together, sweetie, let’s get all comfy and we’ll try it, okay?”  It was a sacrifice she was prepared to make.   On the plane, she had taken 15 milligrams of Valium.  It was hitting her now, and with a little Vodka and tomato juice, she might be able to relax enough to let Fat Boy come into Miss Peekaboo in a fashion that would gratify her husband.  She knew she had to gratify her husband.  It wouldn’t do to have him sniffing around other women if he couldn’t get what he wanted at home.
          “You pour the drinks,” she instructed, her voice getting soft with the flush of the valium, “and I’ll go in here and slip into a nice nightie.  Why don’t you turn down the lights, honey?”
          She could almost see Irv pant like a puppy.  She had ‘saved herself for marriage’ and that had kept her power at a high level.  Now, she thought, I have to give him something, or I won’t keep my power over him.  I have to make him enjoy having sex with me. 
          She ruminated on the dozens of magazines she had read, giving her tips on ways to keep her man happy.  A tumbril of anxiety raced down the cobblestones of her stomach.  There was an inward lurch of pure terror, and she closed her fists tightly, applying her considerable discipline, aided by a strong pharmaceutical, to conquer her misgivings.  “I can do this,” she affirmed. “I can act all hot and sexy.  All I have to do is think about the Forbes 500 list, and Manny Josephson’s place on it, albeit at number four hundred and fifty six, and that will make me horny enough.”
          Irv went to the suite’s wet bar and began making drinks, clinking ice cubes into elegant glasses with a pair of tongs.  Marilee got her night case from the pile of luggage at the door, and went into the bathroom.  She took out a black nightie, selected for this occasion, slipped it over her head, and then flung a kimono over herself, tying it with a matching wide belt.  It was white silk with pink chrysanthemums embroidered into it, each stitch made with painstaking attention.
          Outside, night was falling rapidly, and Hawaiian luau music wafted up on the smoothly modulated winds, drifting through the newlywed’s suite at the Waikiki Hilton.
          Marilee examined herself in the full-length mirror.  She flung open the kimono, showing herself the effect it would have, as it revealed the black nightie.  Holding the kimono wide, she examined her hair, her body.  “Even after twelve hours of jet travel, I look good,” she assessed.  The Valium was smoothing away her fatigue.  She pawed through her night bag and got out a bottle of Percodan.  Taking two, she chased the pills with water.
          “That ought to do it,” she decided.  “ That and the Bloody Mary.  I have to stay married for ten years, have to keep Irv happy for ten years.  I’ll have one child, hopefully a boy so we can name him Manny.  Ten years, one child, and I’ll be set for life.  What else can a woman do in this day and age?  Work like a dog?  For what?  A schmatte house in a schmatte neighborhood with three or four bratty kids?  And then, she gets old, the husband leaves, she’s got no money, no looks.  Screw that.”
          She had refused several suitors, one of whom she liked a great deal, to be with Irv and bask in the reflection of the Josephson family fortune.
          Under the black silken garment, her body was taut from regular workouts at the gym, her breasts just big enough to appeal, not so big that they sagged.  She knew she had a great body, and the nose job she had wheedled out of her father took care of the one major flaw on her face.  She was a good looking woman, she decided.  A damn good looking woman.
          Taking a deep breath, she re-tied the kimono, feeling the air currents moving as she wrapped the garment’s great wings around herself.  A dangling piece of toilet paper rocked back and forth on its holder until the little self-generated wind subsided. Applying the final touch, the coup de grace, she unzipped a shoe bag.  It contained a pair of black stilleto heels. Languidly, she sat on a wicker stool and put the shoes on her shapely legs.  Then A squirt of perfume in her armpits and at her shoulderblades punctuated and defined her sexual design.
          Marilee opened the door and stepped out into the suite.  Irv had taken off his jacket and shirt, and stood at the bar in his slacks and T-shirt.  His mouth fell open.
          “God, Jesus…holy mazoley!” he erupted.  His face was filled with genuine awe. Marilee felt lifted by her husband’s sincere adoration. “You look…in..cred…ible.” These last words were drawled so that each syllable divided in two.  The words were sung more than spoken.
          He turned for a moment and put the drinks down on the dark mahogany bar.  In three steps he was at her, lifted her up, staggered five more steps to the couch, and threw her down. He was atop her with a graceless plunge, snugging at her face, neck, arms.
          “Whoa!  Whoa, King Kong!”  Marilee pushed him away firmly.  “Remember last night?  I can’t do this so fast.  I’m a lady, I’m not a side of beef, for god’s sake, Irv! Get a hold of yourself!”  Fat  Boy was pulsing in Irv’s pants and she did not want an unplanned ejaculation to ruin any of her clothing.
          Shame-faced, Irv sat up.  “Sorry honey, you just look good enough to eat…I mean… you’re not beef, y’know, but still, you’re pretty fuckin’ edible, yummy yummy yummy!” His cheeks were flushed vivid pink and little sweat beads gathered at his receeding hairline.
          “We have to do this like civilized and sophisticated people, “ Instructed Marilee. “Now brng me that Bloody Mary.”  Irv crossed the suite, stumbling slightly where a pair of steps divided the room with an S-curve into distinct segments:  the bar on one side and a dining table, then, up the steps to the plush couch, the television, a mahogany cabinet for hanging casual clothing, topped by a tall wicker-covered vase filled with Bird of Paradise flowers. Next to the sliding glass door was a desk.  The master bedroom was behind a three quarter length double door decorated with a wicker Tiki mask.  In the master bedroom another balcony jutted from their eighth floor promontory.  Reproductions of Gaugain’s paintings augmented the suite’s Polynesian motif.
          Marilee gathered herself together and went into the master bedroom, opened the sliding doors and stepped onto the balcony.  Irv followed her with two Bloody Marys.  There was a large wicker contraption on rockers, supplied amply with cushions so that two people could sit together and watch the ocean, sipping cocktails.  The newlyweds sat on this divan, Marilee facing forward with her drink, Irv sitting sideways to face Marilee, his right leg tucked under his rump, his left leg sprawled out so that his foot rested on the deck.  His body leaned towards Marilee’s as if she were a magnet, his head groping forward on inexorable waves of attractive energy. Though he could barely control his lust, Irv magnanimously raised his glass and said,  “Let us toast our long and happy marriage.”
          Marilee raised her glass, clinked it to Irv’s, and concurred.  “A toast.  May our marriage be long and happy.”  As she drank, she kept thinking, “Ten years with the schlub, ten years.”
          Quietly, each to his or her own thoughts, the couple sipped their vodka drinks and watched the twilight descend on a beach as perfect as any in the world.  Couples walked hand in hand, silhouetted against the bright sea.  The sound of the surf gathered and grew loud with its inward surge, then quieted as it left the sand damp, glistening and black as it withdrew into the sea.  Hypnotized, Marilee felt the Percodan enter her pharmacological mix with a warm rush and knew that it was going to be now or never.
          She finished her drink in a gulp, then took Irv’s drink away and set it down on the nearby table.
          “Come on, Jungle Man, I’m drunk enough and you’re sober enough.”  She took his hand and led him into the bedroom.  He stood with his back to the sea, and watched his new wife slowly unwrap her kimono, to show him the body beneath in its silky black container. Marilee found enjoyment in the expressions of Irv’s face as she performed a not very sinuous strip tease.  The drugs and booze had taken away most of her inhibitions.  She wasn’t expecting to love anyone, but the concept of being loved had a certain fascination.  No question, Irv loved her. He adored, worshipped her.  It wasn’t the first time she had elicited this response in a man but it was the first time it was going to be taken to a serious conclusion.  So she hoped.
          The sun dipped into the ocean and spilled its light through the windows of the bedroom.  Shadows from gossamer curtains undulated on the carpets.  Marilee lay on the bed and gestured to Irv with both hands, her palms facing inward in front of her face.  She waved her fingers from the pivot of her wrists, inviting her husband as seductively as she knew how.  In spite of the lovely cocktail coursing through her veins, she was still frightened.  “I’m in command of this situation,” she told herself.  “I call the shots.”
          Eagerly, Irv hopped out of his pants, one leg at a time.  He tore his shirt off, popping  buttons.  His atomic bomb stuck out from the opening in his boxer shorts, and Marilee averted her eyes from it.  The room was somewhat chilly, and she jumped up, pulled the blankets from her side of the bed and slipped under them.  Wearing his tank top t-shirt and one sock, Irv got halfway under the covers beside her.  He slipped one arm under her neck, kissed her hard, too hard, his tongue seeming like a glutinous creature invading her mouth.  Then he rolled over on her like a flopping fish.  Between his groping mouth and his weight, Marilee was nearly smothered. 
          “Irv, Irv!” she gasped. “Slow down!  Haven’t you ever heard of foreplay?” She pushed her husband away, forcing him onto his back.  She was strong enough to handle him.
          “Oh!” Irv said stupidly.  “Yeah.  Sorry babe, I’m just so hot for you.”
          “You might be hot for me, but Fatb….uh, Atomic Bomb won’t get inside Little Miss Peekaboo unless you’re gentle with her.  Come on, Irv.” She took his hand and put his index and second fingers on the lips of her vagina.  She had an immensely powerful urge to call Irv an idiot.
          God, she thought, you’re an imbecile!  Don’t you know anything?  She clamped down on the urge to say these words aloud.  Calling him names might shrink his manhood, and that wouldn’t do, not at all.  She had to exert self control.
          Irv gamely explored the hair around Marilee’s labia.  He had no concept of a clitoris, no idea of the complexities that lay at the heart of a woman’s mystery. He put a finger partway up her.  She was dry.  She wriggled and said, “Ow!  Easy! Here, let me show you.”  She spread her legs wider and guided his two fingers to her clitoris.  “Feel this thing?” she asked.
          “Uh, I think so.”
          Marilee rotated his fingers just so, the way she would masturbate herself. She thought of Myron Goldstein, the man she liked the most and would have married, had he not been a plumber.  Myron had a cherub’s face and sweet puppy dog eyebrows.  Always, his blue eyes pleaded with her, oh love me as I love you, Marilee.  Love me, love me.  Myron was destroyed by Marilee’s rejection.  She felt badly ,but what would she do as a plumber’s wife?  Impossible.
          The room grew subtly darker.  Surrepetitiously, Marilee wet her own fingers and spread saliva around her opening.  Irv was impatient.  While he explored with his fingers, he was humping into her side, his penis bumping against her hip.  She’d better try to get him in her, before something happened. 
          “Come on, big boy, get on top.”  Eagerly, Irv obeyed.  He moved his legs and hips, groping for the right place.  He was near that place, but Marilee was small and dry, and even with her help, the entrance seemed impossible.  “Ow,” she cried again.  He had pushed at her with energy, and his penis rasped against her passage without going anywhere.
          Again, Marilee tried to guide him, but she was becoming frustrated with herself as well as with Irv.  This is a nightmare, she thought.  It isn’t working.  He’s just too big for me.  Down there, where their hands and genitals mingled, where hips worked and legs banged into each other, it was chaos. 
          “Okay okay!” Marilee gulped, moving away from Irv.  She intended to start over again.
          “Irv, sweetie, it would help a lot to get me going if you would try licking it, you know… using your mouth.”
          Irv’s usual look of surprise now mingled with a look of distaste.  “Wha…what? You mean……..down there?  Little Miss Peekaboo?”
          Marilee worked hard to suppress her impatience, because she knew from Irv’s expression what he was going to say.
          “Eeeewww,” he almost squealed.  “That would be, uh uh, gross!”
          “But you wouldn’t mind it one little bit if I, uh, paid a little attention to Mister Atomic Bomb, here, would you?”  She gestured with her chin at the now-flaccid organ.  As Irv indulged in the fantasy of a long-sought objective, the very possibility of it caused his penis to twitch and grow.
          “That’s different!” he said, almost happily.  He wasn’t stupid.  He knew that Marilee was about to attempt to point out the hypocrisy of his position, and he had already marshaled his arguments, as any good lawyer would.
          “My thing, my ‘Atomic Bomb’, it’s…well, it’s outside, it’s right here, it’s clean, it doesn’t smell or anything, it doesn’t have a period once a month.”  Raising himself to a full sitting position he looked down at his half-erect genitalia.  “It’s more hygienic!”
          Marilee considered.  Instead of attacking her moron of a husband, she needed to gratify him, and she considered the size of his penis, measuring its width against the capacity of her mouth.  Maybe with a little practice, a little trickery, she could fulfill Irv’s fantasy.  It was better than having him tear mindlessly at her vagina and spilling himself all over her expensive chemise.
          “Okay, you gorilla,” she forced herself to say.  She pushed him back down onto the bed with two fingers on his breastbone.  “Relax and enjoy yourself.”
          This would be her first attempt at oral sex.  She had talked to friends about it, and she had studied a little pamphlet from an organization called “The Houston Center for Sexological Research”.  It was all very respectable.  Photos of clean, middle class couples in various positions were accompanied by text written by doctors on the benefits of sexual education in furthering harmonious marriage.
          “Just relax and fantasize for a minute, Irvy sweetie,” Marilee oozed without sincerity. “let me prepare myself.  It’ll just take a second.”
          She scooted into the little second bathroom, where she shed her expensive black chemise and replaced it with a less expensive mid-length slip.  She grabbed a handful of paper towels from the dispenser. In half a minute she was astride Irv’s body.  She found that he was too big to enclose between her knees, so she shifted to one side and slid down the bed so that her head was near Irv’s ‘bomb’.
          He was already erect.  Experimentally, Marilee licked the thing.  It throbbed, and Irv groaned.  Marilee raised her head and began to insert Irv’s penis into her mouth.  It wasn’t impossible.  It made her jaw sore, and she managed to get about a third of the way down his length before she gagged. 
          “Oooh,” Irv sighed.  It hardly mattered how Marilee performed.  The fantasy had the ultimate power.  This was the third blow job of his life.  The first two were from prostitutes and they were memorable only in their context.  This was a blow job from the adorable and exquisite Marilee, his new wife.  This fantasy had been rolling around in his head for almost two years, and he could barely contain himself.  He did not hear Marilee’s gag.  He was trying to slow down the rising tide of thwarted lust that was boiling up from his loins. 
          Marilee made a second attempt to get Irv into her mouth, and she did a little better.
          “Oh oh!” Irv cried.  “I can’t hold it any longer, oh Jesus!”
          Shit! Marilee shuddered inwardly. She felt two powerful throbs from Irv’s penis and she moved her head away from him as quickly as possible.   Irv was spewing himself all over her slip.  Some of the sperm got on her lips, and she swiftly grabbed a paper towel and patted the stuff away.  Irv screamed and bucked a few times, then subsided with a long, long exhale of relief.
          She jumped from the bed and ran to the bathroom.
          “Im sorry, baby, I just couldn’t help it,” Irv called from the bed.  He was dabbing at himself with kleenex from the box on the bedside table.
          “Oh honey, that was great,” he added, “that was incredible.”
          “I’m glad you liked it,”  said Marilee, as she wet the paper towels and wiped drops of sperm from her Saks Fifth Avenue silk slip.  It cost seventy five dollars and she didn’t want to throw it away.  She feverishly hunted through her night case and found a small bottle of Listerine.  With this she rinsed her mouth, dabbed her lips, gargled repeatedly.  Between gargles she got herself into a clean slip.
          The ran the tap water in the batroom sink until it was hot.  There was a little squeeze bottle of soap in her  nightbag and she poured five or six drops into the water.  Then
she bundled her stained slip and submerged it in the sink, wringing it a few times.  It would have to do.  She left the slip in the soapy solution, hoping the slip could be saved.
          She returned to the master bedroom to find Irv snoring contentedly, lying on his stomach with his face turned in her direction..  His mouth hung open and a bead of spittle had formed at the corner of his lips.  His snore was an inhale with a high pitched buzz, followed by an exhale that was a whistle punctuated at the end by a little hiccup.
          Marilee snorted with contempt.  She felt agitated, hyped up.  Percodan acted paradoxically on her as a stimulant.  Blended with the valium and a little bit of alcohol, she had a fine buzz and was in no mood to waste it.  Irv would be out for hours.  She had no inclination to sit in the suite and watch Huntley and Brinkley . No indeed, she was in Hawaii at the Waikiki Hilton and dozens of excellent shops were no farther than the lobby.
          The bellboy had brought the large suitcase into the bedroom.  She opened it and hung some things in the closet, then organized a few drawers of the dresser with her underwear and cosmetics.  She made no attempt to be quiet.  Irv slept like a bear.  Tufts of  back hair showed over the top of  his t-shirt.   His arms were hairy.  The blanket covered the lower part of his body; the rest of him was a sprawl, left arm hanging off the side of the bed.  Marilee looked at her husband’s sleeping face for a moment, winced, then returned to her unpacking.
          Enough of this, she thought.  Let me see, what can I wear?  I have this cute little emerald pant suit from Nieman Marcus, a string of pearls, a pair of pumps by Ottolini.  Nice. She applied make up carefully to her face, chose a lipstick that went well with the pant suit.  She brushed and poofed her hair with some spray.  All dolled up, she cast one more look at Irv.  His pants were still on the floor, and she picked them up, found his wallet and checked inside.  In her own purse she had two credit cards with twenty thousand dollar limits.  She was angry with Irv, angry for his clumsy attempts to penetrate her. There were traveler’s checks in his wallet for five thousand dollars, and three or four thousand in cash.  She took a handful of hundred dollar bills, just for spite.  She walked from the room, and out the door.
          A couple in their forties were coming down the hall towards the elevator.  Marilee smiled distantly.  The woman had really let herself go.  No amount of hair spray and pancake makeup could compensate for the sagging cheeks, the slack belly.  I’ll never let myself get like that, Marilee smugly vowed.  It takes work, but it can be done.  Forty doesn’t scare me. Fifty doesn’t even scare me.  By that time I’ll have enough money for the best plastic surgeons.
          The elevator dinged and the three people got on.  Uncomfortable silence and avoided eyes marked the downward descent.  Marilee thought the woman was glancing at her jealously when she wasn’t looking, and the husband was studiously avoding letting his wife know that HE was looking. Let them steal a peek!  I’ve got it!
          In the huge lobby, a number of activities were in full swing.  Outside, in a little courtyard, a fire twirler spun his burning torches, while drums pounded.  Pretty young Polynesian girls were at the stations near the entrances, handing out leis and kisses on cheeks.
          Corridors of shops ran in two directions off the hotel’s mezzanine.  Lighting was provided by faux electric torches in wall sconces.  Wicker furniture and Tiki gods, effigies of Pele were on offer.  Marilee stopped at an antiques shop and looked through the window at price tags. Fifteen hundred dollars for a chair.  Thirty five hundred for a set of eighteenth century wrought iron fireplace tools. Marilee moved on.  Her antennae were set on clothing, her radars were tuned to the frequency of Italian shoes and handbags, Paris dresses, hats and scarves.  She looked down the corridor but her heightened senses were telling her that the clothing boutiques were in the other direction, so she backtracked, again passing through the lobby.
          At that moment, she saw a face approaching her, a man who looked oddly familiar.  She knew him.  The context was different and she couldn’t place him because he didn’t belong here, at the Waikiki Hilton.  When the man caught sight of her, his eyes grew in his face, his mouth opened, and suddenly she realized that it was Myron Goldstein.  Myron!  Her heartbroken suitor.  The puppydog eyebrows, the cherubic face with its blue eyes and sprinkling of freckles. There he was with the same pleading expression:  Love me, Marilee, love me as I love you!
          She stopped and her hands flew up to her cheeks, fingers spread taut with astonishment.  Myron ran towards her, his arms extended tentatively, as if he knew and acknowledged his rejection yet still held a desperate hope.
          He stopped a few paces away when Marilee’s hands came away from her face and went forward, blocking, blocking. “Myron!” she squeaked.  “What in God’s name are you doing here?”
          “Marilee, Marilee,” he tried to get through the blockade of her hands, and then found himself grabbed by the front of his shirt and thrust sideways into the lee of a large plant, a place of concealment.
          “Goddammit Myron, you’re following me on my honeymoon, you bastard!”
          The misery on his face was so abject it was almost cute.  “I can’t help myself, Marilee.  I have this compulsion, I don’t know what made me do it, I just can’t believe that you married that…that….fat lawyer for his money.  You want to marry me, don’t you?”  His voice rose in pitch as he repeated, “Don’t you?”
          Marilee’s eyes turned in all directions to see if anyone was looking at them.  No one was paying attention.  The hotel bustled with its business, the drums beat, torches whirled, the strolling singers serenaded.  Bellboys rushed here and there with dollies full of luggage.
          Returning her gaze to Myron’s face, she said, “No I don’t want to marry you, Myron. You’re a plumber.  Don’t you understand?  I like you….I almost love you if I could love anybody, which I can’t, of course.  Love isn’t in me, it isn’t in my soul.  Im just like my mother, I’m completely heartless.  I love you the only way I can.”
          “I know that, Marilee.  I don’t care.  I love you anyway, I love you the way you are.  I think deep down you’re good and you’re searching for goodness.”
          Marilee laughed a brittle laugh, each note like someone crushing a box full of tin foil. “No, Myron.  No goodness.  I’m not really so bad, either, Im just out for myself, that’s all. You’re too good, you don’t deserve the hell I would put you through.”
          Tears were streaming down Myron’s face.  “I don’t know what I’ll do, Marilee.  I don’t know how to erase the image of you inside my heart.  I came here just to see you from a distance, to protect you if you looked unhappy…I don’t know…I really don’t know why I came here….”
          Something in those boyish blue eyes affected Marilee, and her hands changed positions and she pulled him towards her body until man and woman joined in a sweet soft kiss.  Suddenly, Marilee’s dry female parts filled with warmth, a surge between her thighs almost crumpled her to the floor.  She reached to stroke Myron’s powerful shoulders, ran her hands down his arms. He was wearing a Missouri University T-shirt and his muscular biceps filled its sleeves, his sinewy forearms gripped Marilee’s hands.  He’s so handsome, she thought, Jesus he’s a good looking guy, and he’s sweet.  What am I doing?  What the hell is gong on here?  Oh fuck it, I don’t care.
          “Myron, where are you staying?  Are you here at the Hilton?”
          “I..I…are you kidding?  I have a motel room down the road a couple of miles.”
          “Then take me there.  Did you rent a car?”
          Myron nodded yes.
           “Don’t ask me any questions, don’t demand anything of me, don’t make plans, don’t fool yourself about the future. Don’t don’t don’t don’t.  You understand? Just take me to your motel room for a while.”
          His eyes betrayed confusion, hope, lust and a barely perceptible sunrise of promised satiation of a long, long obsession, the gratification of a desire delayed almost to infinity.
          “There’s an exit down this way, and the parking lot’s right out there.”  Myron took Marilee’s arm and propelled her along the corridor.  The hubbub of the hotel’s lobby faded away.  Panting, Myron and Marilee made their escape.
          All the way to the motel, Myron and Marilee were stroking one another.  She reached inside his pants, and he had his hand gently rubbing her everywhere, fondling her nipples, reaching down her waistband, stroking her neck.  They reached their destination and tumbled into Myron’s room.  Marilee’s drugs had worn off, and she didn’t care, she was glad, she felt more sensitive, more alive and that’s what she needed to feel.
          Myron’s kisses were sweet and he put her on the bed and knelt on the floor so he could put his head between her thighs.  Marilee pulled at his hair and moaned. Myron slithered his way up her body and entered her effortlessly.  They rocked their way to a staggering climax that was heard up and down the motel’s corridors.
          Myron drove her home.  He was quiet, sad, happy, forlorn, confused.
“Will this happen again, Marilee?”
          “No,” she said firmly.  “No. NO. NO NO NO!”  Each syllable was a brick and each brick built a wall.  “I’m married, Myron, and I have to stay married.”
          As she said this, she felt a chink in the wall, a little hole where the bricks weren’t quite cured solid, where her resolution felt a little crumbly.  This kind of pleasure would never come from Irv Josephson.  She took her hand from Myron’s hand and put it in her lap, determined.  Myron put his hand over hers, and she did not push it away.
          When she returned to the hotel suite, Irv was still sleeping, exactly as she had left him.  She began to put the money she had taken back in his wallet, because Irv was an obsessive counter, he would know to the dime exactly how much cash was in his pocket.  She reconsidered.  “What the hell is he going to do with me?  We better get this kind of stuff straight, right now.  Your pocketbook is open to me, Irv Josephson, full time.”
          She put the bills back into her own wallet and clipped it shut, decisively.  Then she showered, washed her thick black hair, put it up in a towel, and wrapped a towel around her body. As she emerged from the bathroom, Irv was standing bleary eyed in the middle of the room.
          “Jeez,” he said, “I needed that nap.”  His eyes cleared a little bit as he beheld Marilee. “You look good, you look really beautiful.  You want to try again?  You want to stay a virgin your whole life?”
          Marilee dropped the towel and let her husband see her nudity.  “No, honey, I don’t. Let’s try again.  I think this time things might go a little better.”
          To Irv, Marilee’s expression looked soft and inviting.  Marilee, however, was feeling only a steely determination to see her task through, and get what she wanted out of life.

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