Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Death of a Sweet and Grumpy Bird

I have not been posting for quite some time because I feel a need to be quiet and not broadcast thoughts through the computer, for various personal reasons.

But a long era in my life ended yesterday and I find myself standing at the beginning of a new chapter. One without Sloopy.

Sloopy came to me from a parrot rescue organization in 2007. She had a large tumor sticking out of her chest. She was not expected to live, and the pet store owner had put her in a back room, away from the other birds. She was a lonely budgie who was so unsocialized that she didn't know how to chirp. All she could do was say "ur, ur."

I brought her home as a companion for Bob the Bird, who was lonely himself. Bob had been brought home to be a companion for a sick and dying bird, Spanky, who was my first budgie in adult life, and the first bird to teach me that birds are every bit as sentient and spiritual as dogs (or other animals). Spanky had died after a long illness; Bob was a wonderful nurse to him. So he behaved as a nurse and a partner to Sloopy, who thrived with his attention. As the years went by, she learned to chirp, and even sing a little. The tumor grew smaller and she pushed it back under her wing
where it was not as visible. She had deformed feet along with a few other physical abnormalities, but she was a mostly-white bird with very pale grey, blue and lavender markings. She was beautiful in every way.

She was not a cheery singing bird, though. She was grumpy, and selective about who she spent her time with. She bonded strongly with Bob and would get upset if he went away from her for even a few minutes. She would give me kisses, though. Little tiny kisses. As long as I turned around so that the other birds could not see us, she would give me a little tiny kiss if I asked for it. A really grudging, minimal kiss. The tiniest kiss in the world, as a matter of fact. Sometimes these kisses were so small that I wasn't even sure she had kissed me. At these times I would demand a better kiss. And she would usually give it. But she was very shy about doling out this affection.

There was something very special about getting a kiss from Sloopy. As time went on she became less shy about giving kisses and would not need to do it in private. And, if I told her someone was worth kissing, she would oblige me. So I could hold her up to a total stranger, and, if I asked her to give him or her a little kiss, she would do it.

Today I am blaming myself for not properly managing my little flock of three. Sloopy died a terrible and violent death, and I should have seen it coming. There were warnings. But there were contradictory things that made me think the situation was evolving in a more peaceful direction. This was not the case.

I found Sloopy last night when I got home from work, and the world has not been the same since that moment. If I write about what happened to her, I won't be able to do my work properly while I am on the job today. I need to concentrate and perform. But Sloopy deserves to be written about, and what happened to her is a major lesson and wakeup call for me. A reminder that pets are not "pets." They are not subjects. They are spirit guides to whom we owe the deepest consideration and comfort, to whom we owe our very best. My flock has not had the best of me for some time; I have been too distracted and distant. They need me, and I need to find my way back closer to them. Sloopy's partner, Boss, cried all morning for her today, but I could not comfort him. I was too devastated myself. Tomorrow I will do right by him, and be there for him as much as I can. In the meantime, one foot in front of the other, in a world without Sloopy.

Never take anyone for granted. Never.

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

Max Ehrmann, "Desiderata"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Germans Attacked U.S. On Our Shores, Killed Thousands During World War Two

Using Internet discussions to find books has proved to be an effective way of learning the history lessons my teachers neglected to offer. It's amazing how much they didn't teach in the schools--and I went to some excellent schools, including Klein High School in Houston, Texas, where the kids were wealthy, brilliant and much so that it was intimidating to even walk in the doors. Needless to say, I didn't fit in very well. They did at least allow me to draw cartoons for the school newspaper and sing in the choir and built sets for plays. I also was a "manager" (student assistant at football games and after school) to the Bearkadettes, the drill team (which I couldn't make it onto, since I'm a super klutz). So I did have plenty to do there. I flunked out of Honors English (and, for some reason, managed to stay in honors math all the way through. Go figure).

Anyway, an online discussion turned me on to The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews. Being interested in Nazi Germany, I wasted no time in clicking over to Amazon and buying the book. And what do you know? A history lesson we never got.

...I connected to Google and typed in German U-boats in Gulf of Mexico. Less than a second later, I was staring wide-eyed at the results of the search. There were 1,940 hits on the topic I'd requested. I couldn't believe it.

I clicked on the first Web site and read the first sentence. It said, "During the years 1942 and 1943, a fleet of over twenty German U-boats cruised the Gulf of Mexico seeking to disrupt the vital flow of oil carried by tankers from U.S. ports."

I swallowed hard and read the next sentence. "The U-boats succeeded in sending fifty-six vessels to the bottom; thirty-nine of these are in the state waters of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida."

Furiously I clicked on site after site, each adding to or confirming the information of the last. In fact, the only discrepancy I could find was the number of merchant ships the U-boats sank. I was convinced, however, that the true number, depending upon which source I believed, was between fifty-six and sixty-two. And remember, those were only in the Gulf of Mexico.

Reading more, I was astounded to learn that when the Atlantic coast was included, only a handful of U-boats had sunk 397 ships--and that was in the first six months of 1942 alone!! Eventually, before Hitler called them back, the U-boats destroyed more than 800 vessels in American waters. Unbelievably, many of those were within sight of people on the beach.

Cape Hatteras in North Carolina became known as "Torpedo Junction" as bodies and cargo began to float in. On May 4, 1942, sunbathers in Boca Raton, Florida, watched in horror as the U-564 surfaced and torpedoed the tanker Eclipse in broad daylight and in full view of the beach. The German submarine then turned and blasted the freighter Delisle and her cargo of camouflage paint. The subsequent explosions and shock waves rumbled over the panicked tourists on the beach with a deafening roar.

Explosions and burning wrecks, all along the eastern seaboard and Gulf coast, were regularly seen at night. Dead men, debris, and oil began to wash ashore, and, still, America did not institute the blackouts that were in effect along the coasts of England and Germany. Even when the merchant ships turned out their own lights, the U-boats had only to surface and use the background of the U.S. coastline---whose lights could be seen for more than twenty-five miles--to target the huge vessels.

What was the cost in lives? I wondered. The answer was easily found. During less than a two-year period, more than 1,300 navy men, 201 Coast Guard personnel, and exactly 5,682 merchant marines lost their lives due to U-boat attacks in American waters!

Thanks for nothing, history teachers of America.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don't Look Over There At Bradley Manning...

Source: Reader Supported News

Glenn Greenwald is reacting, and reacting, and reacting, to the massive thuggery and nonsense being doled out by officials in the UK who want to 'send a message' to journalists who dare to challenge The Man. It's a real freak show, complete with harassment, intimidation, and men with axes physically destroying computers at The Guardian.

And I feel bad for him. I do. I think he does great work. I do.

But I also think he's been managed all to hell with this Snowden thing.

And god bless Ed Snowden, OK? But the thing about Snowden is: ever since the media embraced the Snowden story, Bradley Manning has been effectively marginalized and forgotten. And Greenwald was one of the very few high-profile journalists who covered Manning properly.

Once Snowden hit the scene, Manning was forgotten.

And I mean, in the piece I linked above, there is not a single mention of Manning, who was sentenced today to 35 years behind bars--an insulting, disgusting, and pathetic insult to all Americans who deserve to know what is being done in their name, with their tax money, what is being exported in the name of the U.S. of A. in the form of death and destruction overseas.

Nobody likes the comment I left on Greenwald's story. Seven thumbs-down so far. And you know what? I don't really care. I'm not trolling. I admire Greenwald. But he abandoned Manning for the Snowden story, as far as I'm concerned. And as far as I can tell, that's exactly what the Establishment wanted him to do.

And I can't help thinking that the timing of the Snowden revelations is just awfully convenient as Manning's court martial was under way. Manning's case is THE story of what's being done to Journalism, real journalism with a capital J. Real, actual journalism. How can Greenwald go on and on about journalism and not reference Manning? Why did he stop writing about Manning?

Reader Supported News types might think it's more important to only send supportive comments to Greenwald, but shouldn't someone say "Hey--WHAT ABOUT BRAD MANNING for god's sake"???????

"Fuck Hope"

This is an excerpt from In the City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer.

Which is one of those books that make it clear that every day living is absolutely magical. No matter how ordinary and old and tired it may seem.

I never tried cocaine. Hardest drug I ever did was acid....and those were the college days. But I like this entry.

Daniel made eight lines, longer than his gold American Express card and thicker this time.

Yes, I said, I have.

Really? Daniel said. Where'd you do cocaine?

Just about everywhere, I said. Jackson Hole, Boise, Missoula, Ketchum, Coeur d'Alene, Hope.

Hope? Daniel said.

He inhaled four lines, fast, nothing left of the lines, not one particle of cocaine, when Daniel was finished. Daniel held his nostrils for a moment with his thumb and finger, then handed me the straw.

That's a place? Daniel said. Hope? Hope, Montana?

Hope, Idaho, I said.

You lived there? Daniel said.

For a while, I said.

Then: Not in Hope, I said, just outside. Beyond Hope, we called it.

Daniel's smile was not his restaurant smile, not polite, not sophisticated, just a big smile on Daniel's face.

Hey, John! Daniel yelled over. Did you hear that? Spud here used to live in a place called Beyond Hope!

John called over: What do you hope for in Idaho?

I did two more lines, my hand steady, not shaking at all. John brought the Hennessy bottle over, and a snifter for himself, put the bottle on the table, and sat down on the banquette too close to Daniel. Daniel handed John the straw.

For cocaine, I said. You hope for cocaine.

I thought Daniel was having a heart attack, but he was laughing. John had to stop snorting the line of cocaine because he was laughing too. I was surprised I was so funny. But when I did the next two lines, my hand was totally steady, and Daniel and John were still laughing and I was laughing, and I knew why I was so funny and I was laughing.

Hope no more, Spud! Daniel finally was able to say. You've come to the right place, Daniel said. In New York you don't have to hope. There's nothing to hope for. It's all right here. Fuck hope, Daniel said. You never have to stop and hope, all you have to do is reach out and take what you want.

Fuck hope! John said, and raised his Hennessy snifter.

Daniel raised his snifter. Fuck hope! Daniel said.

I raised my Hennessy snifter.

Fuck hope! We all toasted.

Fuck Hope and all the tiny little towns, one-horse towns, the one-stoplight towns, three-bars country-music jukebox-magic-parquet-towns, pressure-cooker-pot-roast frozen-peas bad-coffee married-heterosexual towns, crying-kids-in-the-Oldsmobile beat-your-kid-in-the-Thriftway-aisles towns, one-bank one-service-station Greyhound-Bus-stop-at-the-Pepsi-cafe towns, two-television towns, Miracle Mile towns, Viv's Double Wide Beauty Salon towns, schizophrenic-mother towns, buy-yourself-a-handgun towns, sister-suicide towns, only-good-Injun's-a-dead-Injun towns, Catholic-Protestant-Mormon-Baptist religious-right five-churches Republican-trickle-down-to-poverty family-values sexual-abuse pro-life creation-theory NRA towns, nervous-mother rodeo-clown-father those little-town-blues towns.

Daniel laid out three more lines and did his line first, then John, then me.

Fuck 'em.

Matching pickup and horse-trailer towns, superbowl Sunday towns, America-Love-It-Or-Leave-It Ronald Reagan towns, the heartland, l'Amerique profond apple-pie mashed-potatoes-and-gravy towns, grain-silos-by-the-train-tracks towns, county-sheriff-black-and-white-Chevy towns, Vietnam-vet-Native-Americans-buying-beer-in-the-open-24-hour-neon-by-the-freeway towns, Paul Harvey good-day towns.

John poured more Hennessy. I rolled cigarettes all around. Three more lines, one each.

Fuck 'em.

All you local yokels. Four-wheel-drive Silverado fucking dog murderers.

From the fuck-you town: Fuck you!

Fuck hope, Daniel and John and I all toasted.

And the horse you rode in on, I toasted. Fuck the scared stallion hope rides in on! I said.

Daniel took a quick look at John. John's smile made Daniel smile.

And the horse you rode in on! Daniel and John said.

Fuck it.

We toasted.

Friday, August 16, 2013

At The Laundromat

This is an excerpt from In The City of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer.

The protagonist has just moved to New York City.

...The heat inside was worse because of the dryers and the smell of detergent and that fresh-smell stuff you throw in the dryer with your clothes. The robin's-egg blue walls and beige linoleum, the tubes of fluorescent light, unrelenting from the acoustic-tile ceiling.

The line of chairs down the middle of the room was orange and curvy plastic. Everyone was smoking. The washing machines all going, the dryers. Three or four big black flies bouncing inside the windows.

All the washing machines were full except for three that were broken. The bulletin board next to the change machine had signs about a lost cat, Tai Chi classes, and an apartment sale; free Drake College Take Control of Your Life brochures; photographs of missing children.

I changed my five-dollar bill into dollars and my dollars into quarters, and on the last dollar the change machine ripped me off for seventy-five cents.

It was noisy in the laundromat, plus the woman attendant didn't speak English, so I was shit out of luck.

A couple of times, when a washing machine went into the last cycle, I grabbed my duffel bag and started toward the machine, but---twice this happened--- just as I got there somebody stepped in front of me.

Finally I got to the machine in time. I turned around, leaned against the washing machine, held my arms out in front of it.

In all the world, I am standing in front of a beige washing machine in a robin's-egg blue room that's too hot, unrelenting fluorescence from above, sun through the dirty front windows squint-bright, Tide, Era, Downy Fabric Softener, cigarette smoke, sweaty bodies, orange curvy plastic chairs, flies buzzing.

Two men and two women --four people-- just trying to get their wash done like me, were standing right there, ready to pounce on the washing machine I held my hands in front of. Four people staring at me, white people, nice, probably good educations-- a philosophy major, maybe, physical therapist, movie extra, office temp --staring at my washing machine, ready with their laundry bags and detergents and fabric softeners, waiting for me to make my move.

The problem was, at the washing machine next to the one I was guarding, the guy was taking his wash out--so now there were two washing machines available that I was putting my body in front of, stretching my arms out over.

The problem was, I was pressed against the washing machines and my duffel bag was over on the orange wavy plastic chair, too far away to stretch to.

Hell of a fix. Up Shit Creek. In a world of hurt.

These are my beige washing machines and you can't have them, I said.

It's been over an hour, I said.

It was no use. I was the baby rabbit. They were the wolves.

My voice was loud and each word that came out of my mouth was a complete word, an uttered word, not stuttered.

You better watch your asses, I said, I'm a Crossover, I said, and whatever happens to me, happens because I'm afraid of it happening.

Then: To admit ignorance is the highest form of knowledge, I said. It is the necessary condition for all learning.

Then: Tony Orlando and Dawn, I said.

The two men went down first, back to their orange curvy plastic chairs. The women didn't advance but they didn't retreat either. The one woman looked over to the other woman.

Fools rush in where wise men never go, I said.

My mother never loved any of her children, I said.

Then: Famous potatoes, I said.

The two women went back to their orange plastic curvy chairs, sat down.

New York drop-dead fuck-you.

One step, two steps, three steps over to my duffel bag, dragged my duffel bag over to my washing machines.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Occupy Wall Street Flashback

I'm going to post this again because it shows Occupy Wall Street the way it should be shown, and not the way the TeeVee and Radio people chose to portray it.

I especially like the guy who starts speaking at 4:44 in.

Speed Me Towards Death -- Rob Dougan

I really like this record by Rob Dougan. It's an oldie but goodie---1990's era.

This particular song reminds me of daredevils I've known. One of them---my brother, back when he still talked to me-- told me how he wants to jump out of planes at thirty thousand feet.

Another is a mild-mannered guy I know through work who is a low-key, gentle person, a guy who's spent his life reporting on traffic wrecks, who knows full well what happens to motorcycles on the freeways. And yet, every day come 6:47 pm, he's out the door and roaring out of here on his Harley, bound for the 710 where he weaves through walls of big rigs, to get home.

It just about gives me a heart attack.

And I think, what makes men do this?
Well, not just men..women too?

The song sort of reminds me of this.

Speed me towards death
Cause I just can't wait for her
I want her to come
I want to embrace her
I've decided it's life
That I don't like - that I don't like.

Speed me towards death
Cause I think she'd go for me.
They say time is the killer
I can't wait, he's too slow for me.

I've tried all the rest.
How I want to try the best,
And I'd die for some company,
I'd die for some company

I don't want to die slowly
I don't want to decay
I want to be chosen,
I want to be made..
I don't want to die lonely and weary of life
I will not be earthbound
i'm gonna fly

So speed me towards death
Cause I want her to taste me
You know my senses are dead
I want her to awaken me.

I've realised that this world (at it's best)
Is just a prelude to the next
And it's not one I want to read,
It's not one I want to hear.

For life is a game, fit only for fools.
It's a horse that can't win.
In a race rigged to lose.

So speed me towards death.

Click here for a look at a beautiful place that looks pristine but is polluted at extremely dangerous levels.