Thursday, October 26, 2017
What's to - hang on. (Hey, what's today's date, is this the 26th? Hah? Technically, the 27th... Okay, great.)
Alright. Upon sunrise of the morrow, there will be scantily four days until Halloween, a popular holiday in America and around the world. The prospect of receiving free candy has, apparently, universal appeal.
By now, you know what this is about, so I won't bother beating you over the head with stories of Trick-or-Treat Past. I won't festoon cyberspace with tales of the price that must be paid to get that candy, the horrors that have to be endured.
It's too late for that. That was last year. And last year my sister's house was done up in the spirit of the Season of the Witch. Enough young socialists-in-training showed up to make it all worthwhile - the Jacks O'Lantern, the scary music, the blood-soaked ax buried in the block of wood, the anti-dental goodies...
It went over. Sure it did. Fright Night. But none of those young socialists-in-training was Charlie.
This year could be the same, if she felt like it, but four days out, not a sign of the holiday is evident. No knives or candles have invaded the pristine bodies of pumpkins, spilling their guts and carving crude faces out of their agony.
There are no clattering glow-in-the-dark plastic skeletons. No dangling rubber bats. No fake spiderwebs. No spooky music or creepy lights. All that stuff remains in the basement.
There isn't even any candy in the cupboards this week, and there normally is, year round.
Tomorrow will come and go, and nothing will get done about this, and then it will be three days away from Halloween. The house will be no closer to where it should be to properly honor the dark hours of the event.
But at least tomorrow will have come and gone.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Lucid Dreaming. Heard of it? It's the idea that one can control one's dreams if one can simply become aware (lucid) of the fact that one is in a dream state, and not bound by the laws of reality. This is how a mundane dream about digging potatoes can suddenly turn into a Flying Cowboy dream - and boy howdy, let me tell you, it doesn't get any better'n that.
The key to becoming lucid in a dream state, I have read, is not dissimilar to what Carlos Castaneda wrote about (except that his "dreams" were hallucinations brought on by the ingestion of psychedelic plant matter). Castaneda's moment of control came when he believed he had seen a monster out of the corner of his eye.
His first instinct was to flee, but he forced himself to focus on the monster, which turned out to be a shrub. He insisted to himself that he must stare at the thing, must ascertain its identity, must figure it out... And the shrub became as fascinating as the monster was terrifying.
Anyway, they (the supposed experts) say that one way to attain lucidity in a dream is to think about your hands as you are falling asleep. Hold them in front of your eyes as your lids slide closed, and say out loud to yourself, "Look at your hands... Look at your hands..." Kind of like counting sheep but with a way different purpose.
Then, if a particular dream becomes too vexing (like the one where I can't get a ride to someplace, so I start walking, and it starts raining but it isn't rain falling from the sky, only tiny lizards that wriggle and squirm into the gutters after bouncing rudely on the ground), you just... look at your hands. Once you have accomplished that monumental subconscious task, you become aware - Hey, I Did It! After that, like I said, Flying Cowboy.
Look at your hands. Look at your hands. Look at your hands.
Yeah, look at them. They're scarred, skinned, singed, scraped. Once described by my dear mother as "piano hands", they now look like undercooked pork chops with fingers. The knuckles have been calcified into cornices. Look at them. They've been crippled, crushed, crimped into crab claws. The calluses have no nerve endings under them anymore. Look at them. Look at what's left of them.
I used to tease Charlie about his soft, boneless hands (that's what I called them). I used to tell him they would someday find his body in the desert next to the jug of water that he was unable to open. He found a way to be indignant and still get a laugh out of it at the same time. The horrible fact is that my nephew never got the chance to turn his hands into anything like mine.
Look at them.
I've been using them while I still can, because life is not a dream; I still have to fix the car when it breaks. I still have to build shelving units to hold all the tools I use to build shelving units. Still have to get in a kitchen and work with them every night. Still have to type.
I find woodworking to be beneficial - not to my hands but to my mind, which is far more fitful in its waking state than it could ever be in the respite of REM sleep. Building things is a good way to kill the time when you'd much rather be killing something else.
When the project is complete, I have transformed a few bucks' worth of lumber into a table, or a shelf, or a nightstand, or a ladder. Something I can use, that I can trust, that I can rely on, because I know how it was made, what materials went into it. I don't have to feel too terrible about the working conditions of the poor guy who had to perform all that labor. And that which occupies my hands also occupies my mind (math, mostly).
That which I cannot grasp with my hands or my mind rests none too lightly on my shoulders. But I can't make a dream better by saying, "Look at your shoulders." They are broad and strong, the basis of many a bill of lading. They are tired and sore from the weight of angels and devils sitting on them. Angels and devils, saying, "Look at your hands."
Look at them.
Trying to pick up the thing they dropped, one priceless, shattered piece at a time.
Bleeding as the shards sink into the skin.
Breaking as the weight becomes too heavy to carry anymore.
Feeling along the floorboards hoping to find anything that might help.
Pushing back against my eyes as if to keep the pressure from bursting out through them.
Balling into stony fists as I lose control of, not a dream, but my nightmare, the one I go to sleep to get away from every night. Go on...
Look at them.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
See, the thing about Charlie is that he can never be made to fit the profile of a "teenager". He was only a couple of months into his 12th year. His choice of games, downloads and videos that he made himself were evidence enough of that... He was still just a little guy.
Even (or especially) his handwriting bore that out. He never learned cursive, let's just leave it at that. His Mom just came across a pile of Charlie's missives. Among them were his persistent and devoted free advertisements for (as in, on behalf of) Jimmy John's Subs.
There is a location within walking distance of the house, so it was kind of something he grew up with, and even the interiors of his Mom's car were plastered with their stickers: Subs So Fast You'll Freak. And there among the sheaf of papers she found were several of his own offerings to the world of restaurant marketing, in his pencil-printed child's scribe:
Subs So Fast You'll Freak.
Subs So Fast, You'll Freak.
Subs So Fast You Will Freak.
He wanted everyone to know. And to Charlie, the only thing better than walking down to Jimmy John's, or driving through at Jimmy John's, was having Jimmy John's delivered. My sister and her son would spend more than a fair amount of time in front of the computer screen, surveying the menu, deciding what to order. They would then place The Call.
Once the preliminary task was completed, they would start counting the minutes.
Considering the fact that a vehicle with no coolant in its system could motor up to her house (and back) with no problem, it never took the driver longer than maybe seven or eight minutes to make the trip. Charlie was always duly impressed, and he was happy to know that the driver got to keep the tip money that he got for being so freaking fast.
On one occasion, I was in the back part of the house, and heard them going through the ordering process, crafting it, in accordance with the menu and money aspects that they had already figured out beforehand. As I heard his Mom concluding the purchase order, I quietly exited through the back door.
I snuck down the walkway between the house and the garage, keeping the window air conditioner in between me and their view of the outside world - but they were watching the clock. For all they knew, I was still in the kitchen. It was a mild, pleasant afternoon, and the AC was not running, so I could hear what they were saying inside.
I heard Charlie, barely a minute after the phone call had concluded: "I wonder how long it will take them to get here?" That's when I stepped right up to the front door and knocked on it loudly.
The door opened, and Charlie's face went through a three-part morph, each expression more pronounced than the one before it. Frame One: He really thinks it's freaking Jimmy John's. Frame Two: It's only Uncle Paul, who clearly thinks this is funny. Frame Three... It's not funny.
Except that it was. That was the kind of thing that Charlie really liked. Goofy stuff. Silly stuff. Playful stuff. Kid stuff.
He was still a puppy.
Well, puppies don't always make it. They get hit in the road sometimes, or they get sick, or a bigger dog gets to them, or... And it's always sad. But that doesn't mean they didn't enjoy their run, the entirety of it. Oh, they did. Bounding along, never knowing, every day, through life.
Life so fast, you'll freak.