Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fairy Tales

I've blogged about this before, but the subject came up with Mom again recently, and then I learned about a new book that intrigues me, to say the least.

Well, it goes like this: down through the years my mom has told me the story of a sunny day, when she was a child of eight or so, that she and her friend Winkie were on the front porch playing, and upon looking up they both saw and described a little man, dressed in red and green and wearing a hat with a pointed hat. The little man made eye contact with them and then ducked into a hole in the ground (that part of the city of Chattanooga, TN was quite rural at that time).

According to my mom, she asked Winkie, "did you see that?" Winkie described the same sight my mom had seen. (My mom swears, and always has, that she asked Winkie to describe what she saw before she blurted her assessment.)

No matter how often I have "grilled" Mom on the details, her story has never wavered. I wrote a post that suggested that perhaps she was so impressed by a childhood visit to a local tourist attraction, Lookout Mountain's Rock City perhaps it led to a fantasy. Rock City, besides being a lovely gardens and natural rock citadel, was a virtual fairyland of its creator, Frieda Carter (Carter was heavily interested in European folklore and troubled herself to import Gnome figurines from Germany to enhance Rock City's natural beauty).

My mother dismissed my theory as preposterous. I'm moved by that. My mother is not a liar (although I wouldn't rule out being a bit fantasy-prone). But who am I to tell her she didn't see what she and her friend allegedly saw?

Now I notice the recent publication of Seeing Fairies: From the Lost Archives of the Fairy Investigation Society, Authentic Reports of Fairies in Modern Times, by a member of the Fairy Investigation Society, the late Marjorie T. Johnson.

Johnson's book claims to present accounts of approximately four hundred fairy sightings from people all over the world, allegedly "the biggest single collection of fairy experiences ever amassed." A blurb at states:

THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN'S BOOK. Its accounts of fairy experiences, mostly from the twentieth century, have come from business men and women, housewives, journalists, clergymen, bus drivers, anglers, gypsies, school teachers, university professors, soldiers, artists, authors, poets, musicians, sculptors, actresses, and many others who have seen fairies of various types in houses, churches, and sheds; in gardens, fields, woods, country lanes, and public parks; on moors, hills, and mountains; and even on sewing machines, typewriters, and kitchen stoves.

Yes, and I've known it for some time, there really are people who claim to have seen fairies. And yes, I'm one of those who has actually read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's embarrassing The Coming Of The Fairies. Without question the eyes can play tricks on us, and those very inclined to believe can delude themselves. But I have to tell you, my mom sounds really convincing....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Burgers And Bullets

Some things I will just will never understand. For example, this story about a shooting instructor who was killed on the firing range while he was teaching a 9-year-old girl to shoot a Uzi submachine gun.

What the hell?

I'm not a big fan of gun, but at the same time, I realize they can be useful. But come on, a child with an Uzi?

This terrible accident took place in an Arizona facility called Last Stop (how appropriate!), which includes a bar and restaurant and an RV park, and also features a "Burgers and Bullets" program of lunch and a go on the shooting range.

But a 9-year-old with a submachine gun!!!

Now maybe it's selective attention on my part but it seems that for every story of a home owner defending their life by shooting an intruder, there are three or four more of people shooting and often killing someone by accident - and the majority of these being children or youths playing with guns.

Regardless of how one feels about guns and gun control, surely we all can agree they make very poor and very dangerous toys. And how any adult could abide with the idea that a submachine gun in the hands of a child is appropriate, I'll never know.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chest Pains

That was the original title of the last television show Redd Foxx starred in. It made it to the airways on September 18, 1991, only under the title The Royal Family. The show starred Redd's good friend Della Reese.

And it was on the set of that show, during rehearsals, when Foxx had the "chest pains" that would end in his death. In fact, because that was his shtick of his best known role - Fred G. Sanford on the popular Sanford and Son sitcom, where he would frequently clutch his chest and claim to be having "the big one" - no one took him seriously at first when he grabbed his chest and collapsed onto the floor.

Well, I remember reading about that in the papers and thinking, "wow, what a coincidence."
I've always found coincidences fascinating. If someone had written a story or screenplay about a character such as Redd Foxx and ended it way it really ended, everyone would think "nah, no way."

So there it is. You either find these coincidences interesting or not. (Some folk lack a sense of the uncanny, I suppose).

A fun note to add is that the aforementioned Della Reese had a "death curse" surrounding her, as detailed in this funny article from the always interesting, if usually gruesome, Find A Death website.

One more coincidence worth mentioning. Whitman Mayo played a character on the prior Foxx vehicle, Sanford and Son. He played Fred's friend Grady. Now would you believe it if I told you that Mayo also died from a heart attack in, of a all places, Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital? I'm serious.

Strange, strange, strange.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"I Find No Fault In Him"

Nothing like a mother's love for her children. Nothing. That concept brought us the old saying, "(s)he has a face only a mother could love." It's not uncommon to see loving mothers proclaim their children's innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence of guilt in serious crimes.

Me, I hate pedestals and the whole idea that some of us are so heads and shoulders above everyone else they should enshrined upon them.

Yet my mother has placed on one. No matter how much I protest and tell her I, like every other human, have feet of clay, she just won't buy it. She just told me this morning that in her opinion I was the closest thing to perfection this side of Heaven ... to which I could only laugh and reiterate that she just doesn't know me as well as she thinks she does. I told her I think that is an unhealthy way of viewing not just me but any human.

It's sweet, to be sure. But, boy, the pressure of being human in her presence. I suggested she talk to some of the people who work for me, my bosses, my lady friend, my past lovers, for a broader perspective. But she wouldn't do that, and wouldn't believe what she heard if she did. ("There are none so blind as those who will not see," as the old proverb states.)

Mom loves me unconditionally, and that is nothing to sneeze at. She always has, always will. But somehow I can't help thinking we could better friends if she could get over the idea that I'm perfect, or nearly so.

No doubt that is hardly the worst problem I face, but it is annoying at times.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How To Really Be A Self-absorbed A**hole

[Note: I know lots of "defective" - at least in my opinion - human beings who always serve to raise my regard for the "lower" animals we share this planet with. This post was inspired by a couple of such pains in my ass who are acquaintances which circumstances force me to spend more time with than I really care to.]

1) Stop listening altogether to your fellow humans. (What the hell do they know, anyway?)
2) Stifle - and if possible, totally obliterate - your sense of empathy.
3) Recognize all your opinions as matters of fact.
4) Never bother with trivialities such as decorum and civility.
5) If possible, interrupt or talk-over anyone who even appears to be disagreeing with you.
6) Never waste time trying to expand your thinking or revise you ideas, because, after all, you have all the answer to begin with and an admission of being less than always totally correct is a sign of weakness.
7) Always find time to criticize someone - if possible, in the presence of a crowd.
8) Constantly work at improving your powers of insult and catalog of put-downs.
9) Smile a lot as you perform; it reinforces your lofty position above everyone else.
10) Commit yourself to forever going deeper with your narcissism.

There, that should serve as a start.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

At Rope's End

Really I'm not. I've been battling depression and anxiety quite a bit lately and that is one reason I haven't been able to get back into the groove here at my blog. But I haven't thought about offing myself.

Well, the Robin Williams suicide has people talking a lot about depression. He was around for so long and left such an extensive body of work that he deeply influenced most of us. On my job the past two days so many of my coworkers wondered how such a seemingly fun-loving and enormously successful (not to mention filthy rich) person could have problems severe enough to make him want to place a belt around his neck and take an early exit.

There is no way to plumb the depths of another's soul.

Now let me tell you all about this. The Saturday before this last one I called a very old friend because I needed someone to talk to, someone to listen and maybe help think through things perhaps a bit more clearly. I was really, really down, and told her I was deeply distraught.

Now over the years I have always tried to be there for this person, have listened to countless anguished phone calls about her troubled life (very often the same problem over and over and over), have helped financially and bought groceries and did other things to help. I say that not in a boastful way at all, because, well, isn't that what friends are for?

But somehow, when the shoe was on the other foot and it was I in need of comfort (and I wasn't asking for anything other than that) somehow things went crazy and she hung up on me. In fairness, I perhaps did get a bit sharp after being repeatedly interrupted in relating what was troubling me by her tsk-tsk laugh over how I worry too much and, essentially, how I was making a mountain out of a molehill. (I might have taken that a little better had I been first permitted to finish explaining what was troubling me - but I suppose that's life.)
However, I think that was a textbook example of how not to deal with a friend in trouble. And thank Heaven, I wasn't contemplating doing myself in, because that brush-off might have been the stick that broke the camel's back. Even at that it still hurt me. Then, thinking perhaps we might have just lost connection (these damned cell phones!), I called back.
Even left a message asking her to call me back.


Another weekend came and went. 


No, it wasn't a lost connection. I suppose she was making a statement to me about how she doesn't take any shit off anyone, as in she probably didn't like my attempt to call her down and get her to listen. That's fine. Sure seemed emotionally immature to me, though. I hate being hung up on that way. In fact, I have never done that and would never do it without warning the person they were rankling me and that if they persisted I would do it (hang up that is).

Sure is a dumb way to end a twenty-plus year friendship, to my way of thinking. (Okay, do I really need this kind of self-centered "friend"?) It is a timely reminder to me why the really close friends I have can be numbered on the fingers of one hand with a finger or two to spare. Well, now, I guess it is with two or three fingers to spare.

I guess in a way she did inadvertently help me. Remember the old Skin Bracer commercials, where the person gets whacked in the face with a splash of Skin Bracer. "Thanks, I needed that." So, thanks old friend, I need that reminder. Note to self: the man in the mirror is my best friend and truest confidant.

So I did what I have done so many times in my life. I stepped back and thought my way through what was bugging me. I tried to lay out some plan of action that would get me through, and I will add that that situation is being addressed by me in a creative way.

The bigger problem of my lingering dark mood is something I am trying everyday to cope with. Looking back over my life I suspect I've always had a bit of a melancholy spirit. I think I come by it naturally - from both my parents (my father was once institutionalized after a nervous breakdown).

In retrospect, I suppose talking with someone you are close to about deeply troubling matters might not always be the best route to take. We humans do so much damned role playing that if someone close catches you without your "game face" on, it seems to put them out of sorts. (In this vein I remember once when I was very young man crying in the presence of my lover; she gave me the goofiest anguished looked and told me: "you can't fall apart ... you're my rock!" Well, pardon the hell out of me, I thought.)

Thankfully, I'm not the suicidal type - or I probably would have closed the book long ago. I think what really bothers is me that I feel should be happy. As I've written often on my blogs: I've had more than my share of good health and good luck. I may have come from very humble beginnings (read: extreme poverty), and I'm not that far on the other side of the tracks now, but I have learned to appreciate the simple things in life.

Yet through it all there is always just under the surface a feeling of dread and fear. Ah, fear, that feeling that somehow I will be exposed as insufficient to handle some aspect of life. That troubles me greatly, because somehow or other I always have. But it is there: maybe next time out I will stumble big time. I say I should be happy, yet I'm not - at least never for long.

Poor Robin Williams. I can't begin to imagine what was going on inside his head. I wouldn't dream of speculating on why he did what he did instead of turning to a friend or loved one. In his case, and in other's I've known, there seems to fine line between madness and genius. (In my own case I think I'm much closer to the former than the latter.)

But I've had a number of friends commit suicide over the years, and two close friends who tried but were unsuccessful. Each time it moved me deeply and compelled me to fight harder against my own dark demons. But I think I can say I understand how someone could reach the place of: Enough! And I never judge those who do reach it. But it saddens me anyway, with a sadness I can't express with words.