Monday, January 23, 2012

A Day When Everything Went Wrong - 1/24/2012

This weeks prompt for the South Strand Writing Group was: "A Day When Everything Went Wrong." I decided to change things up and write a little poem.

I awoke in the small hours
To the acrid stench of smoke
Suffocating the darkness
And making me choke

I reached for my glasses
They flew out of sight
They would've been less than useless
In the opaque, dark, night

At that very moment
I regretted I stole
The smoke alarm batteries
For my remote control

I stopped, dropped and rolled
As I slid to the floor
Still wrapped in my sheets
I crawled towards the door

I knocked off a lamp
As I took my covers with me
It shattered and scattered
Leaving glass and debris

I policed up some of the ruins
With my palms and my face
As my eiderdown cocoon
Rolled all over the place

Racked with pain and with fear
The terror increased
Still enveloped in bedclothes
An 800 count beast

I scampered towards safety
Across the sleeping room floor
When my skull came in contact
With the wall or the door

Imbedded with glass
Now a knot on my head
I spun around wildly
And stubbed my toe on the bed

Wouldn't you know
That my knee jerk reaction
Would cause yet another
Head to wall attraction

The pounding my cranium
Was giving the wall
Caused a sconce and a painting
To detach and fall

If you think that they missed me
And fell harmlessly away
You are not following closely
The events of this day

May have been the concussion
Or the blood in my eyes
But I started to panic
And did something unwise

Not wishing to die
In a blazing pyre
I thought of the best way
To get out of the fire

I could see through the window
Just barely a glow
Perhaps from the fire
I couldn't know

I launched my human burrito
With all of my might
Towards that little
Beacon of light

I crashed through the window
To the nocturnal gloom
Ejecting myself
From a second floor room

I crashed through the glass
Collecting more shards
And landed on my back
In my neighbor's back yard

The bedclothes came off
Sometime during the flight
And I landed naked
On a warm summer's night

I might have been hurt
From my two story cannon ball
But the neighbor's koi pond
Helped break my fall

Where were the firemen
Where were the flames
And why was my neighbor
Calling me names

Emergency vehicles
Soon did respond
To pull me out
Of his God Damned koi pond

The injuries sustained
And the way that I sobbed
Made the police believe
I was beaten and robbed

Though it was hard to believe
And harder to explain
But a horrible nightmare
Had driven me insane

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rejection - 1/17/2012

The prompt for this week's writing group is: "An occasion when you experienced rejection." I could have just submitted my journal but that would have been cheating. A high school memory came immediately to mind:

It is the late 1960's. The scene is a spring high school dance held at the local union hall in a small mining town in northern Idaho. I had just performed all the compulsory moves for a maladroit 16 year old boy. I had enthusiastically shaken hands with my few friends as if I hadn't seen them in years, though we were all playing baseball together just a couple of hours prior. Sometime, during the course of the evening; I would shake hands with the same guys each time we came in contact, as if one of us was a returning POW. It was all we knew to do. I think eye contact without shaking hands would have been too awkward to bear. We would sometimes attempt to talk, but the band was playing "Gloria" so loud that communication was impossible.

Those of us without dates were then required by ritual to stand in front of the stage and watch the band (composed of some of my classmates), standing as close to the speakers as possible. This activity showed any girl that may have been looking in our direction that we possessed great musical knowledge and might be called upon at any time to sit in with the band, Though I, myself, possess slightly less musical skills than the wind-up monkey with cymbals and the closest I would come to joining the band was to fetch an errant drumstick.. A casual stance and the bopping of my head, though undoubtedly totally out of sync with the beat, was the closest I could come to looking cool. And, believe me, I was the polar opposite of cool. I am not certain, but I may have invented the "air guitar".

The drunker or more confident girls would dance with each other. No teenage boy would be caught dead dancing early in the evening. Well, except one guy who was a northern Idaho LSD pioneer. He danced in the halls at school. Even guys that came with dates would hang out in front of the stage with the rest of us handshaking, speaker hugging, losers, while their dates danced.

The dance floor was huge. Though it really only needed to be the size of a jail cell. For a self-conscious teen, like myself, walking across the room to where the eligible girls were compressed against the far wall was every bit as terrifying as crossing a minefield. Everyone in the place could see you crossing the room. There may as well have been a spotlight on you.

For most of us, no floor crossing would happen until "last dance." It was important (for other than the most hopeless dork) to pair up with a girl for the last dance. It was always a slow song, such as "Something" by the Beatles. Of course, I couldn't actually dance. My idea of dancing was to put my arms around the girls waist and lurch around in no particular pattern, trying unsuccessfully not to step on her feat. Since most of the girls were several inches shorter than me, there was an uncomfortable bend necessary that increased the degree of difficulty and made me look like a staggering scoliosis victim. The sole objective of "last dance" was to find a girl that I could give a ride "home".

My lack of dancing prowess was moot if I failed to cull a consort from the bouquet of wallflowers. I had been covertly scouring the line-up all evening for a possible candidate. My strategy was to never approach "A"-listers. It was improbable that a girl who would not acknowledge my existence in the classroom would want to be seen with me, let alone experience my haphazard embrace. "A"-list girls liked good-looking, popular guys. I had the facial features of a young Gandhi. "A"-list girls liked star athletes. I played baseball. Our high school didn't even have a baseball team. Soccer hadn't been introduced yet. If it had been, my studliness factor would have been somewhere between a soccer player and the guy that played the clarinet in the pep band. "A"-list girls liked guys that drove cool cars. In the parking lot was my dad's ten year-old pick-up. The one we drove to the dump.

So I focused on the "B"-team, who were still out of my league, but it was possible that one of them may have drastically lowered her standards by that time of the night, so that an invite from me would be marginally less objectionable to slow-dancing with one of her girlfriends. There was the added barrier in that the "B"-team believed themselves to be "A"-listers due to the stampede of supplicants they could expect at "last dance". This significantly increased the probability of a rebuff.

The truth was that I would go as far down the alphabet as necessary. Bee-lining to a less desirable girl would not only increase the chances of acceptance but also the probability that I was the only guy that would be looking into her lazy eye that evening.

The band had announced that after "Satisfaction" would be the "last dance". I joined the other oddballs on the Bataan Death March to rejection.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Star Trek- The Episode You Never Saw - 1/9/2012

The prompt this week for our writing group is "an account of a visit to a fictional place." The first thing that came to mind was a Star Trek episode I had seen years ago. I think it was called "Spectre of the Gun". The Enterprise was transported back to the old west. I remember really enjoying that particular circumstance. I decided to write a piece based loosely on that premise. I have taken some liberties with Roddenberry's Star Trek, so don't be too critical.

Captain's Log Stardate 3842.4: After experiencing a temporal distortion, we have been transported through a space and time portal. The Enterprise sustained minor damage but no casualties. We are orbiting a small, class M, terrestrial planet. Mr. Spock is analyzing the planets composition, atmosphere, and life forms.

Mr. Spock: "Captain, it appears we are in a geocentric orbit around the planet earth in the mid 19th century. As the current technology is primitive, we will be undetected by the population.

Capt. Kirk: "Interesting. Isn't that the time period of the fabled North American old west? Gunfighters and gold rushes?"

Mr. Spock: "Yes, Captain, it was a time of lawlessness and acquisition."

Capt. Kirk: "I have a romantic fascination with that time period. Find us a location in the American west that will provide us the opportunity to observe without violating the prime directive. Let's go down and take a look, purely for scientific purposes. Get Dr. McCoy and a some obscure red shirt and meet me in the transporter room. Mr.Sulu, you come too. Mr. Chekov, you have the console."
Mr. Chekov: "Aye, sir."

Captain's Log Stardate 3842.4: We have transported to the surface of Earth, on a ranch near Virginia City, Nevada, in the year 1859. The detail consists of myself, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Sulu. The red-shirt crewmember (Ensign, I have no idea of his name) of our landing party transported directly onto a bed of serpents that Mr. Spock has since identified as Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Since that genus has been extinct for several hundred years, Dr. McCoy has no antidote. The crewman's body has been transported back to the Enterprise. Do you know how much Star Fleet paperwork that creates for me? Sorry, Captain's Log, that was rhetorical.

Mr. Spock: "This ranch is called the Ponderosa."

Dr. McCoy: "How the hell did you know that, Spock?"

Mr. Spock: "I am of superior intellect. And there is a sign over the gate. It seems to be some sort of breeding ground for a species of bovine creatures."

Dr. McCoy: "Like your mamma?"

Capt. Kirk (chuckling): "No, these are a food source. I had real beef as a youngster in Iowa. Wonderful. Though you would not appreciate it Spock, being vegetarian."

Mr. Spock: "Eating other creatures is illogical."

Dr. McCoy: "So is only mating every 7 years."

Mr. Spock (ignoring McCoy): "The ranch is inhabited by five men. I detect no female presence."

Dr. McCoy: "Crap, we have landed in Suluville."

Mr. Sulu: "That is a myopic view."

Mr. Spock: "The residents appear to be a man and his three adult sons."

Dr. McCoy: "Curiouser and curiouser."

Capt. Kirk: "You said FIVE men."

Mr. Spock: "They appear to also possess a slave, who performs all the traditional female functions of this time period. He has a similar racial and genetic makeup to Mr. Sulu."

Dr. McCoy: "These jokes just write themselves."

Mr. Spock (ignoring McCoy): Slavery was an accepted practice in this time period. Illogical, considering the rallying cry of that society was freedom and liberty.

Dr. McCoy: "Well that explains their lack of use for women here in Suluville."

Mr. Spock: "They travel by equine. Though the weight of one of the riders grossly exceeds the load limits of that particular beast of burden."

Capt. Kirk: "Pretty fancy ten gallon hats."

Mr. Spock: "Captain, while they are undoubtedly excessively large hats, the function of which I cannot determine, their capacity is considerably less than ten gallons."

Capt. Kirk: "That is just a figure of speech, Spock. An exaggeration of the size of the hats."

Mr. Spock: "Hyperbole seems to be an essential part of your culture. For instance, when Dr. McCoy discusses his medical qualifications.

Dr. McCoy: "Pon Farr you, Spock."

Capt. Kirk: "The older, grey-haired, one reminds me of a Star Ship captain I met years ago."

Mr. Sulu: "The young one is quite handsome."

Dr. McCoy: "Keep your phaser holstered there cowgirl. What do you want to do, build a little house on the prairie?"

Mr. Spock (ignoring McCoy): Fascinating. There exists some vigilante code that gives these particular citizens carte blanche to randomly administer the death penalty to any fellow inhabitants that infringe on them in any way.

Capt. Kirk: "That is true. I have read about that. It is called frontier justice. It applies to the theft of any possessions: livestock, gold, horses, even women.

Dr. McCoy: "Safeguarding of women does not appear to be a priority here in Suluville."

Mr. Spock: "No trial? No due process?"

Capt. Kirk: "I guess the word justice is subjective."

Mr. Spock: "Barbaric."

Dr.McCoy: "Jim. Does that frontier justice apply to trespassing?"

Capt. Kirk: "Most certainly."

Dr. McCoy: "Then I suggest a hasty exit. Four riders heading this way, primitive weapons drawn. I don't know about you, but a dead Vulcan in Nevada, though satisfying, might violate the Prime Directive."

A bullet pings off a boulder very close to Dr. McCoy's foot.

Dr. McCoy: "Damn it Jim. I'm a doctor, not a gunfighter."

Capt. Kirk: "Kirk to Enterprise. Scotty, Four to beam up. Now!"

Scotty: "Aye, Captain."

Captain's Log Supplemental: A short visit to earth's surface revealed that mankind has not evolved significantly in 400 years. We just have better weaponry now. Instead of eliminating those that violate our canons one by one, we now have the capability to eradicate entire worlds. I, personally, would be very at home on the Ponderosa. Except for the lack of females. Jimmy Kirk likes the ladies.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Success and Failure - 1/2/2012

This week's writing group prompt was "a moment of success or failure." I intended on writing an uplifting personal piece chronicling one of my personal triumphs. I could relate the time I the moment that I.............hmmmm.

A flurry of painful failures and disappointments filled my head. Wow, this is going to be harder than I thought. Then it came to me that failure and success are very subjective:

For someone who has attempted suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, waking up in the morning is an epic fail. For the rest of us, it is a victory. And in my case, often a surprise.

A baseball player that fails miserably seven out of ten at bats is a candidate for the hall of fame. In most endeavors a 30 percent success rate is unacceptable. If a doctor lost 70 percent of his patients, his practice would probably suffer as a result.

A four minute mile is an achievement for a jogger. Not so much for a NASCAR driver.

Many women try for years to get pregnant and bear children. Others do it with a minimum of effort and intent. The latter is a success at procreation but a dismal failure at fertilization avoidance.

I think you can see where I am going with this. For instance, a two-year old, going poop on the potty is a cause for celebration, for a seventy year old........ OK, bad example.

Recently, on a television show called the X-Factor, a contestant was praised as a hero for going seven months without smoking crack. They raved about what an inspiration and role model he was. I have been crack free for nearly 60 years. I should get a parade, complete with Shriner clowns.

Success has many levels. A child takes his/her triumphant first step and nobody outside the immediate family gives a damn, but take one step on the moon........

I was at a Christmas Show at the Alabama Theatre and it was announced that a couple in the audience were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They attempted unsuccessfully to stand up when someone told them that their name had been called, but settled for a Royal Family type wave. There was applause and people whooped and cheered. There was probably some sad bastard or bastette in the crowd who had been married multiple times. Is that success or failure? I think anyone who finds four or five different people willing to cohabitate with them deserves some recognition. But today with same-sex marriage being in vogue, the matrimonial pool has doubled for many. Maybe it is not as difficult as it once was. And I would think that losing half your worldly goods every few years might tilt toward the failure side of the ledger.

Being elected to the office of The President of the United States seems to be a big deal. At least until after the inauguration, when the chosen one finds out what the job entails and how much bipartisan fellatio he will have to perform to get elected to a second term.

As a parent, success or failure is not immediately evident. As the child grows to adulthood, our parenting skills are revealed: Honor student - yay, professional athlete -yeah baby, champion of industry - hell yeah, serial killer - oops.

I guess my life has pretty much been absent of major highs and lows. That might not be such a bad thing.