The Monsters of Charters Towers

Update:  Why so serious, CTers?  You won, remember?  You got your little park; you don’t get my blog too.  I barely have time to write for this thing, much less moderate your crying about how we dare have an opinion about you jumping the gun for no reason at the cost of all these pups’ lives.  I have to leave in a few to go take care of our bats.  You did something bad, and now you have to accept that a lot of people are angry.  That has nothing to do with anything written here, which won’t mean much in the end anyway, but with cause and effect.  What will mean something are the carers on the ground in CT who are taking pictures and video of all this, much of which I’ll be posting here or linking to sometime tonight.  So much for us awful foreigners not knowing what’s REALLY going on over there.  You may not know anyone outside of a two mile radius, but we do.

And just to be clear:  no, I’m sure not every last person in Charters Towers is a monster.  See:  hyperbole.  It’s a technique I use a lot here, because it amuses me.  I wrote this thinking that nobody but my grand total of three regular readers would see it; had I known it would reach all the way to CT, I would have worded it much differently.  

If you asked the “people” there, they’d say the monsters are the bats.  After today, if you asked the bats that will soon no longer live there and whose pups will die, they’ll say it’s the people.  I don’t really need to say what side I’m on.

Today, thanks to the kneejerk ignorance of Premier Campbell Newman, as well as the “Honorable” Andrew Powell’s complete lack of comprehension of his role as Environmental Minister, and lastly and mostly thanks to the ignorant, backwoods bloodthirst of this town of atavistic, knuckle-dragging stragglers of evolution, a black flying fox maternity colony in Lissner Park will be dispersed via smoke, sirens and water cannons.  Most, if not all of the pups will die.

They could wait another couple of weeks, and the babies would be able to take flight from these horrible beings alongside their mothers.  They won’t wait.  We bat advocates have thrown a shitstorm of noise and outrage and what must be easily a dozen petitions all signed by thousands of people.  Thousands of travelers have declared their intent to not only boycott Charters Towers, but Queensland as a whole.  We’ve vowed to make sure that those responsible will be seen within the same cruel lens as the baby seal clubbers in Canada and the laughably psychotic wolf killers here in the United States, as best we’re able.  Nothing has worked.  Their response varies depending on who it’s from, assuming you get one.  None of them contain anything approaching reason or discourse.

Newman and Powell will respond, via can, with some chest-thumping about how they’re not afraid to put human safety over animal safety in some sad attempt to seem like crusaders against Dracula, whom these idiots probably think masterminds the colony.  The people of Charters Towers must feel much safer knowing that their Premier has vowed to defend them against harmless mothers.  For such people any reassurance at all, from whatever front, must set their cowards’ hearts at ease a little.

The response from the people themselves is much more honest and up front, and whatever form it takes, it conveys an absolute and irrational hatred of these blameless animals.  Some are more measured, sure, and merely parrot the same incorrect bullshit about bats being dangerous that nobody in the 21st century has an excuse for believing.  You may choose to be stupid, but you don’t get to inflict it on us.  Others, however, outright exult in the imminent slow deaths of these bats.  You know these sorts of people.  These are the people who are awakened once at night by, say, a barking dog.  Rather than understand that dogs bark, that these things happen, even perhaps resolving to talk to the neighbor about it in the morning, their self-absorbed nature leads them to develop a poisonous hatred for that dog.  They never think of solutions, only retribution.  The most complex and nuanced of life’s problems invariably become a conflict in such minds, to the extent that these people can be said to actually have one.

This is the mentality of the Common Dumbshit.  It’s a mentality that I’m familiar with, and even struggle with myself, as it’s in my blood.  The Common Dumbshit takes personally things that aren’t personal in the least.  When confronted with, say, a colony of bats in their park, they don’t think “Oh neat, some bats have moved into the trees in our park”.  No, they take it as an invasion.  The noise, guano and whatever other byproducts of the colony are taken as a personal attack, because ultimately, as a materially, intellectually and emotionally impoverished and wretched creature, the Common Dumbshit is self-absorbed.  It is constantly aware of its many extensive shortcomings even as it strives to deny them.  This leads them to be not only prone to vice of all kinds to drown out the howling futility of their useless and often outright detrimental existences, but to oppose even the smallest nuisance as if it had personally assaulted their mother.  Life sucks enough, they reckon, without some shithead bats moving into the trees just to annoy me.

They don’t want to hear that the bats are just trying to live as they are.  Deep down, they know they are failing to live as they are, as well as what they imagine themselves to be.  Even a prosperous human, whom in this instance means basically anyone who has something that the Common Dumbshit doesn’t have, drives them mad with jealousy.  To see an animal being cared for by a loving and dedicated mother when their own was likely as fucked up as they are, to see the community that animals enter into so effortlessly when their own is so wracked by dysfunctional petty dramas, it makes them crazy.

And why wouldn’t it?  These people need to cling to whatever illusions of superiority still remain to them.  It’s why racism, homophobia and the like can be found among them in such abundance.  It’s why they’ll even cling to the notion that simply being human somehow makes them special, as if there weren’t six billion more of us running around.

It doesn’t.  Moreover, they can’t simply be honest with themselves or with us.  They keep trotting out the same old hysterical bat fearmongering that’s been soundly debunked as a reason why they “must” do this, but in the end it comes down to “bats freak stupid people out and they make noise sometimes”.

Small, weak-willed people who feel beset by life, who imagine the rest of us gallivanting about without a care in the world are everywhere and take many forms.  They hate us for our supposed lack of troubles.  In fact, they pretty much hate everything except for the things that distract them from their own failure.  These are the people who say things like “Life’s a bitch, and then you die,” yet against their own logic fail to kill themselves.  These are the people who can find themselves gifted with a resident flying fox colony and think of nothing else but to kill them.  They are common, cheap, everywhere.

Hear me now, Australia:  you guys don’t get to go ‘Murica anymore with the rest of the internet.  Why?  Austin, Texas.  That’s why.  They too found themselves hosting a massive bat population, only they didn’t resort to violence.  Rather, they opted for mercy.  They outfitted the Congress Avenue Bridge with shelters all along its underside, and as bats are intelligent and communal creatures, the Mexican free tails found it.  Eventually, nearly every bat in the city resided under that bridge, forming one tremendously huge colony.  What noise they make is drowned out by traffic; all the guano is in one place.  Further, those bats are now a big draw for tourism; I myself saw them as a kid on a family trip in which we went out of our way to see them emerge at dusk.  It’s one of the most vivid and breathtaking memories from my childhood.

You could have had that too, Charters Arms.  You could have had a town that was special.  Granted, microbats are not flying foxes, although what Austin’s microbats lack in size, they more than make up for in sheer numbers.  And perhaps such a thing might be initially expensive, but there was no shortage of experts who might have helped you, and who could have called upon a huge amount of charitable income.  Forbearance and kindness now could have paid off later.

But no, you’re just garden variety miserable, joyless people who blame everyone but yourself, and now it’s the bats’ turn.  You honestly believe this cull is going to make everything peachy, but you’ll just find something perhaps less visible and decide that it has become the bane of your existence.  Probably us bat people, actually.  “Oh, now everyone hates us just because we killed a bunch of babies, it’s all those bat freaks’ fault!!!”  You’ll celebrate that you made some noise and scared some bats, as if that validates you in some way, but all that makes you is a bunch of yokels who made some noise and scared some bats, killing god knows how many pups in the process.  And that’s not so much.  You weren’t much before, and you’ll be in the negative after today.  You are nothing if not predictable.  Given the choice between progression and destruction, dumbshits never choose wisely.

You will never find joy this way, you will never be at peace and you will die confused and angry, having understood nothing of what happened to you.

So congratulations, I guess.  Now you’re famous.

Rather than: Blue talks with “Bloo”

This is a transcript of an email conversation between myself and Betunada that rapidly sprawled into a bunch of metaphysical speculation of the sort that we find interesting.  We agreed to both post it up, and true to form, it took me forever to do it.  I can’t vouch for the validity of the ideas that we discuss, but then that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it?  It’s just always made sense to me on some deeper level that’s very difficult to articulate.  Still, we tried, and here it is.  Hopefully you’ll find it interesting too.

Then again, we’re both writers; we think everything we say is interesting.  It’s why we’re writers!

Rather than: Blue talks with “Bloo”.

Happy Halloween Rescueversary!

I, uh, totally dressed up this year.  As a Bat World volunteer/cyclist with ripped up jeans.  Also, I’m three days late posting this.

Just do me a favor and pretend that’s like a Zen koan or something.  And that it’s not three days late; to help, I’m going to backdate this to October 31st if I can, because I’m a cheating bastard.  Anyway, a Jamaican fruit bat peed on my hand today and Peekaboo, the most famous bat in the world, love-bit me a bit too hard, so the bats already punished me for my lack of celebration.  And my tardiness.

On the other hand, that means I got to hold Fabio the Jamaican fruit bat and play with Peekaboo, so it was a good day by any measure.  If I just had to complain about something – and this is the internet, so I think I actually am required to – it was the wind on the bike ride to and from “work”.  The problem was straightforward this morning, as in it was straight forward right in my face the entire trip.  The return pedaling had the wind gusting in from the side so hard I could feel the bike skidding to the left.  It was in seventh gear, I was going fast.  Not good.

Ichabod himself, before he shuffled my life like a deck of cards.

Ichabod himself, before he shuffled my life like a deck of cards.

Anyway, it was a year ago today that I had a fateful encounter with an injured bat named Ichabod.  I executed a less-than-smooth rescue of the little bat, and apparently took until fucking December to get the article posted; Amanda found my first email to her the other day asking if the Ichabod on Bat World’s Facebook page was the bat I’d rescued.

December.  It just fills me with self-loathing.  Two months.

Then what you might call a sequence of events ensued.  Or actually, if you want to trace it back to the real beginning, we’d have to go back to somewhere around junior high, when my class was presented a presentation by Amanda herself about bats and Bat World.  I don’t remember it all too well except that I was disappointed that we couldn’t pet the bats.  Or buy one.  Hey, kids are stupid.

Jump forward a few years and we have the Ichabod Incident.  Not so shortly (fucking December, jesus) thereafter, Dottie asked me to volunteer my time writing for Bat World.  Having been hoping to do exactly that, I said yes.  Then there was a personnel change at Bat World, and I was asked to come all the way into the fold and work with the bats directly.  Having been hoping to do exactly that, I said yes.  Again.

So I moved.  Gave up my car, although it was about to give me up anyway; she served well under an unreasonable and often neglectful owner, and those grateful pats on the dashboard and the thank yous for not being dead yet weren’t going to carry her much further.  RIP ’94 Honda Accord.  In her place, the brazen shining upstart, a Schwinn Errand.  It had no need of engines; it had no need of four wheels.  Moreover, it can handle the 100+ miles I put on it in a week.  Sure, I rode it too hard at first and was constantly getting flats – six in one week, at one point – but together we learned where to ride cautiously and where to stand up on the pedals and piston my legs like I’m trying to stamp through the Earth and get at China.

Really, the bicycle thing has been nothing short of revelatory for me.  I was an avid bicyclist as a kid, and then one day my bike was stolen and we never replaced it.  My next ride was twenty something years later, a trial by fire on my first day of work at Bat World, and riding eleven miles on a strange trail is a hell of a way to jump back in.  Setting off from my driveway and flying down the hill on High Point Road was something I’ll never forget.  It was like how have I not been doing this for two decades, this is amazing!  Then, later, I arrived for my first day of work half-dead, and the next day, on and on for two or three weeks.  Amanda immediately refused to let me ride back home and drove me and my bike every afternoon until the summer heat relented a little.  It was just that bad.

Still, now my legs feel like I could kick down a bank vault door with them, relative to their previous atrophied state, and my concaved pecs are just the wee-est bit convex, and abs are distinctly taking form underneath what’s left of my belly flab, even if they’re not yet visible.  That cycling would develop either one’s chest or one’s abs was news to me, and certainly not unwelcome.  Though I suppose when you think about the balancing, of course those muscles are involved.  Balance is a holistic thing, after all; it’s what balance is.

The path itself is great too.  It’s picturesque outside of town, and amusing in town.  People in a small Texas town just don’t know how to act when they encounter a bike on the road.  They’ll stop in the middle of the road, often suddenly, or slowly follow behind me even when I’ve gotten way over in a clear attempt to let them pass me, etc.  Really, it’s a bit insulting.  Take off the kid gloves and drive, motherfuckers!  No quarter!

No fucking quarter.

And the wildlife.  I regularly see cardinals, I run down spider webs – occasionally the spiders too, who I place back on the ground with much grumbling – a family of five deer that live near the quarry I pass by, and once, an otherwordly sighting of a huge crane-like bird ahead of me on the trail.  It was just standing there very very still, so out of place on a North Central Texas bike trail that I couldn’t even tell what it was for a moment, and then:  is that a fucking crane??  With the way they stand so still with such a serene air about them, it’s easy to understand the ancient Egyptian fascination with the ibis, and the attribution to it of wisdom.  It looks like they’re standing there because they’ve Figured It Out, and with this knowledge have staked out the exact spot at which their ultimate destiny will find them by whatever sequence of events, even those precipitated by a gawking idiot cyclist.  I didn’t want to disturb this one, but there was no going around it, and though I approached slowly and respectfully, its reverie was broken and it took lazily to the air to meet its destiny elsewhere.

Oh, and the spiders learned.  They no longer build those huge, trail-spanning webs frequently, and when they do they’re up too high for me to disturb.  Interesting.

At the center of it all, as always, is the bats.  I’ve been on a few rescue calls by now; they’re inevitably joyful or sad, but never routine.  One that I wrote about in detail at Inside Bat World was at a local craft shop, where we rescued three bats and successfully released them all to their brothers and sisters in the wild sanctuary, where I was struck speechless for the first time in my life at the sight and sound of fifty thousand bats in their “natural” habitat.  And I also recently rescued a bat that was rabid, which was horribly depressing.  That’s the big joke of the bat/rabies hysteria; the poor things are so agonized and debilitated that they’re effectively harmless.  Imagine it:  you’ve got what feels like a hundred cases of the flu at once, with a fever that’s more than enough to scramble your brain without the rabies virus itself attacking it too, your legs are locked in such perpetual spasm that they’re pressed tightly into your belly, and your arms move half in accord with your will, half on their own.  And on top of all this, you’re enraged, goddamned furious, and you don’t even know why.  Couple that with the confusion from the fever, and it must seem like some baffling, horrific nightmare.  And despite how awful they feel and the overwhelming social instinct that bats have (in solitary captivity, a bat that might live 25 years will often die in less than one), they’ll still ostracize themselves from the colony if they’re sick to control the spread.  That’s pretty selfless for an animal that often seems to actually die of loneliness.

Can you catch rabies from a bat?  Sure.  Can a flaming meteor bash you in the head?  Sure.  Are you walking around all the time with a helmet on?  Then stop being a goddamn baby about the bats, you big crybaby.

Mostly, though, it’s all about tending the resident bats, and that’s the part that’s good.  When you’re holding a sweet-natured big brown bat in one hand while it laps up its breakfast from the tiny food dish in your other hand, the problematic miscellany of life seems exactly what it is.  We have a bat, Poppy, who came from a zoo in India where she was forced for her entire life to perform for people, and in the daytime too when her circadian rhythm wants her sleeping.  It doesn’t sound so bad, but then you’re not a bat; it’s hard on them, and when I was still knew and she didn’t know me well, she had that same sad look in her eyes that any abused animal has, that look that says they’re wondering what you’re going to do to them.  She had a rep at this zoo as a biter, but she’s never even attempted to bite any of us, ever, not once.  In fact, she’s one of the gentlest bats we have, very very shy and wholly unsuited for a life in front of crowds.  No wonder she bit them.  Every time she lets us feed her a treat, or even lets us approach her without hiding her face, it’s a victory.  She hardly ever hides anymore, either.  Sometimes she’ll even let me scratch her behind the ears a little bit.  All we can’t offer her is another Indian flying fox as a companion, but that actually doesn’t seem to matter too much to bats.  Forget race; they don’t even make distinctions between actual differences in species when it comes to socializing.  It’s yet another way in which they’re superior to humans.  Poppy is a giant among the other fruit bats, and nobody cares, least of all her.  In their minds, they’re all just bats.

We also have the eternally skittish Egyptian fruit bats, with the notable exception of Peekaboo, who likes to land on people, the smaller leaf-nosed fruit bats and the tiny, tiny and mischievous Carollias.  Sometimes when we’re walking through the flight cage, the Carollias prank us.  They’ll either wait until you’re standing right under them and take off suddenly right in your face – I long ago lost count of how many times I’ve been wing-slapped – or they’ll fetch a toy when your back is turned and drop it on you, grinning that trickster Carollia grin the whole time.  As for the tending of this motley gang of bats, my next article on Inside Bat World will be about the daily routine undertaken by us volunteers.  You don’t know how hard it is to care for them, but you will if you read that.  Everyone back at my old warehouse job thought I was leaving for a “gravy job”.  No.

Then, of course, there’s Ichabod.  He’s well, spending his days getting quite chubby in a roosting pouch surrounded by friends.  His wing doesn’t close up completely, but it doesn’t slow him down a bit.  Physical therapy – yes, bat physical therapy exists, and moreover we know how to administer it – could fix it, but it wouldn’t restore his ability to fly, would consume immense amounts of volunteer time, put Ichabod through a great deal of pain and inconvenience, and all to correct a condition that doesn’t bother him in the slightest.  Sometimes the best thing you can give to a bat is leaving them alone.

I’m sure there’s more that I meant to say, but I can’t remember it now.  Gotta hold some material back anyway, right?  And I do need to credit my best friend Teresa for the idea to do this post; she said it’d be a good idea to take stock of the last year, which was easily the most eventful of my life, and it was exactly that.

So, uh, that’s it.

Stepping Off a Cliff

Amanda had asked me not to announce it until I was there and working, but as my grand total of two readers already know, I’m now a full time volunteer and Associate Writer for Bat World Sanctuary.

Looking back, it seems like it was inevitable with the way events unfolded so smoothly, as if it was intended, but at the time it just seemed like a dream job that I’d never be able to do.  Even now it’s still quite difficult.  I, at my core a creature of deep-set habit, am breaking my former eleven year daily routine, I no longer have a car and nothing I learned from my previous job carries over at all.  Not that I’m complaining; I would hate to look back twenty years from now, still a warehouse worker, and wonder what might have been if I hadn’t been afraid.  That’s not an unfamiliar position for me, and for once I didn’t back away, but just closed my eyes and stepped off the cliff.

Still, every morning now I actually look forward to the work ahead of me and undertake a seven mile bike ride to get there.  Or so I thought:  today I noticed that the mile markers on the trail indicate that it’s in the vicinity of eleven miles, if they can be trusted.  My first trip was the first time I’d written a bike in twenty-plus years, so you can imagine that I arrived drenched in sweat and my breath ranging far, far ahead of me.  Took a good ten minutes to firmly catch it again.  Thus far I’ve passed through that first exercise phase where your body adapts insanely fast to the new regimen and have now hit my first wall, but I’ll get there.  Almost every day my legs are a little less sore, my breath less frantic, and the day before yesterday I made the entire run with only a very brief break to drink a swallow or two of water.  Yesterday I only stopped for street crossings.  And yeah, I’m one of those cyclists who blows through stop signs if there’s no one there.  It’s my understanding that this annoys a significant segment of drivers, much as their complete lack of comprehension of how to behave when sharing the road with a bike annoys us.

PRO-TIP:  If I’m stopped at a stop sign waiting for you to pass by, please just treat me like you would a car.  I appreciate your willingness to be kind and stop to let me go first, but it’s not necessary.  My top speed is much lower than yours, but from a dead stop I can cross a street faster than you, I’d wager.  Assuming you don’t just jam on the gas pedal really hard.

Really, as if being immersed in the sparsely populated world of bat care and rehabilitation wasn’t enough, I’ve discovered a love of bicycling too.  If you go slow, it’s nice and leisurely.  If you go fast, it’s exhilarating.  And no matter the speed, it just seems rebellious by its very nature.  The thing only has two wheels.  If you put up the kickstand, it falls right over, and yet I’m foolhardily riding the thing down hills until the rush of the air is all I can hear.  Oh sure, physics dictates that a vehicle with two inline wheels such as a bike “wants” to be upright when it’s moving, but as that’s fairly counter-intuitive, it sure feels like one is partaking in an exciting and dangerous activity, relying only on one’s wits and reflexes to keep from falling and skinning up the entire left side of your body.

And the trail is just beautiful.  Until it hits town, it’s flanked on all sides by shady trees and unkempt vegetation.  The best kind, wild and thick and untamed.  As you near town, you notice that the trail is almost a metaphor for how crappy this town is, as it not only becomes a very slightly uphill ride once you’re close to the outskirts, but the trail itself degrades more and more until it’s nigh-unrideable as you approach Burger King from behind.  It’s kind of like how when you delete a file Windows will ask you if you’re sure.  The trail asks too, only it’s asking if you’re sure you want to actually go into this barren place, and instead of clicking yes, you pedal harder and are thankful for the front fork and saddle suspension as you go over the rocks.

Speaking of the town, it’s always been a hope of mine to someday leave it.  And while I’m literally like a minute outside of it now, I am outside of it.  Weatherford!

a very pretty Schwinn

Not my particular bike, but it looks just like this.

Then there’s my bike.  A hardcore cyclist would scoff, perhaps, but I fucking love it.  It’s a Schwinn Errand, a hybrid bike, meaning it’s designed  for both off-road and paved surfaces.  It also means it probably doesn’t do either as well as a specialized bike, but it holds its own and is ideal, as just after the above-mentioned Burger King deathtrap, the trail becomes paved, I become happy and suddenly it’s not a marathon, but a speed run.  Never before has a thing purchased from Walmart brought me such joy.  And leg pain.  And endorphins.  B-Dog’s run some marathons, I know he knows what I mean when I say it’s a good pain, one that signifies nothing more than hard work and progress.

You might think that sounds tough, but at least after that I get to play with bats all day and have it easy, right?  It’s kind of what I thought before my first weekend volunteering, but providing even an adequate home for bats is a full-time and hectic chore.  I won’t get into the details here, either because you may not care or because they can be found at the blog I operate now for Bat World, Inside Bat World.  In it, I detail the joys and the chores of operating the only accredited bat sanctuary in the United States.  As I am being bombarded with knowledge from all fronts – I am learning to tend the insect bats at the moment, and yesterday went on my first rescue call with my co-conspirator Angela, returning with four bats that were later released, healthy and happy, to their brethren in the wild sanctuary just hours ago – far more material is accumulating than time to write it.  Two posts are up currently, with another coming this weekend about my first rescue call:  four juveniles who got lost in a particularly problematic building for bats in the downtown area and who were just yesterday successfully released in the wild sanctuary.

And what a sight the wild sanctuary was.  Fifty thousand bats, and you know before you even truly set foot in it that you’re walking into a world that isn’t controlled by humans like the one with which you’re familiar.  I have never been so awestruck in my entire life.  And I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but that’s not hyperbole.  It is indescribable.  It was only when we focused on the juvies’ homecoming that I could articulate anything at all.

But all of it is a whole new world for me.  These animals are not only extremely reclusive, but nocturnal.  Everything about them makes them unlikely to cross paths with us in ways other than mutually frightening accidents.  There may be a large body of knowledge gathered over the years, but critical portions of that body of knowledge are very flawed.  For instance, the bat = instant rabies chestnut is almost entirely mythological.  They are, like tons of animals, susceptible to it and are capable of spreading it, but unlike animals such as raccoons that can be carry the disease without symptoms, bats are nearly universally badly debilitated by it.  Flying is almost always out of the question, their limbs are often either paralyzed or uncontrolled, and they lose control of the jaws, making the dreaded bat bite nearly impossible to administer.  But aside from that, to the extent that it’s possible when the disease takes hold, an infected bat will actually segregate itself from its colony to control the spread.

That’s no small thing.  Healthy bats who might live up to twenty-five years in normal circumstances have died in less than a year when kept alone but were otherwise well-cared for.  Their social structure is vital to the innermost core of their well-being, and this is doubly true when Amanda has observed time and again bats providing emotional support to each other, draping wings over distressed bats or simply huddling next to one who’s been injured and stranded.  They do not go into solitude lightly, yet they will embrace their most profound form of misery to protect their roostmates.

And there’s your bat lesson for today.

It’s a lot to remember, I’m working against a very deeply set routine that is no longer relevant and between the bike ride and the work itself, in many ways it’s actually more physically demanding than my old warehouse job.

As for everything else, I know I’m behind on posts and emails both, and I promise when things settle down, I will get caught up.  Still a bit of moving to finish up and some early hard pushing to get the blog up and standing on two or three feet.  Or posts.  Whatever you want to call them.

And I hope all this doesn’t come off as bragging at all.  In so many ways I feel inadequate to the tasks at hand; it’s less a look-at-me-and-the-cool-shit-I-get-to-do-now and more in-the-deep-end-atheistically-praying-that-I-can-swim.  Failure doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts bats, it hurts Bat World, and it hurts Amanda and Angela.  So I’m trying my best to learn with an absent mind and to put one foot in front of the other until I get there.

Or dice one banana before the other, rather.

Hope everyone has been well.  With writing coming to the forefront of my life as it has now, I hope to be here a lot more now.

Dharma, Upheaval and Uhaul Trucks

Howdy folks.  It’s been a while.

There’s a very very good reason for that.  And while I don’t want to say too much yet as things aren’t completely finalized, every aspect of my life is in upheaval now.  Good upheaval.  Great upheaval.

What I can say is that I’ve quit my job of eleven years – if my reader(s) hasn’t(haven’t) given up on me, you might recall that I worked in a warehouse – and am in the middle of a move.  And let me just say, the one redeeming feature of poverty is not having much stuff to move.  And it’s not just that moving sucks, but that my back is roughly the same diameter as those little sticks of lead that mechanical pencils use, so this is doubly important.

Seriously, on my last day of work, there was, coincidentally, a pizza party.  It really was a coincidence, as a merger had just gone through that placed the company in far better management, allowing me to leave feeling like the place was going to be okay.  At this party, no less than five people urged me to eat more pizza because I am too skinny.

This is, of course, exactly like urging an overweight person to, hey, lay off the pizza, it’s not like you couldn’t survive for six weeks on your reserves there, buddy.  Yet I still feel the need to defend myself and say that with my metabolism, working in a 110 degree warehouse for eight hours a day, five days a week is in itself one hell of a weight-loss regimen, however involuntary.  I really think that by next summer it would have become a health concern.  Plus, given the nature of this town, everybody probably thinks that I’m on methamphetamine.

I’m not.  I mean, I think we all know I’m not exactly DEA material here, but drugs are one thing and poison is quite another.

At any rate, I plan to return to regular posting once some sort of equilibrium is established.  Other details I can offer:  my car died.  For good this time.  She and I had a good long run, but all things come to an end.  I traded down for a bicycle, which is a pretty radical shift and helpful for cultivating that eco-green-hippie-hipster image that absolutely no one in Texas is so crazy about.  Hopefully that’s how you can know I’m sincere.  I’ve also done volunteer work for the first time.  Lastly, this place we’re moving to on Monday is a sweet one.  I’ll be back out in the country where the term neighbor only applies very loosely.  Not only that, but it’s like living in a Zen retreat; B-Dog knows what I mean, his place has that vibe too, judging from pictures.  Very, very much looking forward to that.

And as I’ve brought up the eco-hippie thing, check this out.  I believe we’re going to go this route once we’re out there.  And sorry to beat that dead horse, but having grown up in the land of Oil and Smoke, it’s a hell of a revelation.

Let me expand on that revelation part of it for a moment, though.  I mean that almost literally; I’m not religious at all, but I’m spiritual as hell, and all this upheaval feels good and right.  It’s a path of a sort, no different from those followed by monks in monasteries.  Every aspect of the transition, including the new job I’m about to start, has simply fallen into place, only requiring me to not be lazy and shiftless and reach out.  As I believe my posting patterns bear out, that’s a problem with me.  Still, I gave ample notice at work, ample notice to the apartment, planned everything out, budgeted the available monies in such a manner to carry it all off without a hitch.  To a normal person it’s business as usual; for me it’s nothing short of glorious triumph.

The universe, and I literally, honestly believe this, made a way for me, and it seemed to me nothing short of blasphemous to shirk the walking.  I know it sounds corny, and perhaps even narcissistic, but think back on your own life when you were pursuing something that you knew at the deepest core of your being was the Right Thing To Do, and see if you can remember the world opening up.  Not so much the things you had power over, but the things that you didn’t.  It’s when the outside forces align with you that you know you’re onto something.  Luck, sort of.  Roughly.

And given the job that I’ve accepted, that all this is for, literally a childhood dream job, it only strengthens my conviction that this is all in accordance with…something.  Will, Tao, Dharma, call it what you will.  It’s there for everyone, and I’m certainly not special in the least that it’s playing out for me, particularly in that what it’s leading me to is ultimately a humble, quiet thing.  The reason it doesn’t make me special because it’s actually inescapable, for all of us, and if life disrobing before you isn’t enough to get you aroused, life can and will progress, sometimes rapidly, to beating you upside the head and in the face in order to get your attention.

Don’t think life is into S&M?  Read up on yogic or otherwise mystic philosophy sometime.  The real stuff, the old school stuff.  Life is kinky as fuck.  They not only actually believe that existence is basically Divine Masturbation, but it kind of makes sense the way they explain it.

That latter (the beating about the head, not the Divine Masturbation, although that’s a beating about the head of another sort) has been how it’s had to play out with me in the past.  Let’s hope it’s different this time, because as essentially my entire life is changing, there’s a lot to lose.  When you’ve quit your job that you’ve had for a third of your life, given notice on the only place you’ve lived outside of your childhood home and let go of the concept of automobiles, it’s hard not to feel a bit apprehensive, however otherwise hopeful you might be.

Serious shit, y’all.  Can’t wait until I can tell the whole story.

How Does I Reblog Poem: Leaf

Concrete Poetry: Leaf.

I don’t normally reblog stuff, but this came up in my Reader (I do actually check it sometimes, I swear) and struck me several times in the face and head this morning.  In a really good way.

The author has another piece of concrete poetry that I stumbled across months ago, from which I learned that during my early poetry writing days I had been producing said concrete poetry without knowing it was a thing that had a name.  The other one is a fairly whimsical ode to the semicolon, which is a punctuation mark I’m very fond of.  All due respect to Cormac McCarthy – who hates semicolons and never uses them – is intended.

This one, though, is a lot deeper, entirely coherent, the leaf shape symbolizes the poem, the color scheme symbolizes where the poem goes, the poem itself is incredibly well written…you know, most poetry you’d stumble across online is pretty self-indulgent, and when it’s not that, it’s pretty self-important, and this is neither.  This is a meditation on the Big Cycle of Life and Death, but also the little cycles that comprise the bigger one, spiraling down and down it goes until you see that every infinitely divisibly minute unit of time is an Apocalypse and the Creation.  It’s a treatise on time and how we too often misuse it, and yet even misused it isn’t ever really wasted.  It’s a contrast between the tiny fleetingness of a leaf and the vast, all-encompassing birth-becoming-death that we all share in, animate sentience and inanimate existence alike.  It’s about the small everyday pleasures, the fear and pain of maturity and its freedom, and not a little about a writer exulting in language; the author’s affection for words as things in themselves rather than merely a mode of communication is more than evident.

Hey, if you don’t believe me, let me remind you that the previous poem was about a semicolon.  And it was great too.

Seriously, this should be the national anthem of, like, reality.  It is, though, in a way.

Madness and Stupidity

Gosh, that title sounds so dramatic, given the content of this post.  It’s just something that Tywin Lannister said in Game of Thrones (the show…not sure about the books, it’s been a little while) and I find it pops into my head whenever I’m confronted with…you know, madness and stupidity.  Here’s the madness part:

I’ve been in recluse mode for the last few weeks.  You could say it was a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder that kicked in late and was handled poorly by the afflicted; I prefer to think of it as a byproduct of my literary genius.  You know, like JD Salinger.  In that rye, catchin’ shit.

Really, winter is fucking awful.  It’s so fucking cold.  And there’s nothing you can do about it.  We invented civilization, quantum physics and the Internet, and we still can’t completely counter this threat that’s constantly and reliably dogged us ever since there was an us to be dogged.  Of all the works humankind has wrought in its attempt to cover its nakedness in new and interesting ways, not a single one avails in keeping that evil goddamned like literally damned by god northern wind from your skin.  It doesn’t even stop at your skin either, but penetrates down to your bones and your heart and leeching away both your body heat.  Your more figurative and intangible forms of warmth don’t fare so well either.

Not that that means you don’t have to bundle up; you absolutely do have to bundle up.  You have to put on and put on and put on to hang onto even an illusion of warmth, literal or otherwise.  Thus, your primary recourse against the cold is necessarily, partially an exercise in futility.  Even though it doesn’t work, you still have to shut yourself away from the world around you as well as its people.  Then, cold and alone as you are, cloistered away no matter who’s around you, you only end up dwelling on the lack of heat.  The way heat is a precursor to life and now there’s hardly any to be felt.  One only has to look around to see it.  The trees drop their leaves and steel themselves against it; the animals sleep, flee, struggle, or simply die.  With a little imagination, you can even convince yourself that you can feel the molecules comprising your world grinding to a halt as absolute zero gets closer.

The smoking gun – if only, given that actual smoke would mean heat of some sort – is stepping outside and being taken by that reasonless bleak feeling when you lay eyes on the ubiquitous overcast winter sky.  The one that looks like a dirty sheet of immensely thick ice, that even makes you feel as if you’re drowning underneath it in a roundabout sort of way.  Between it and the wind, nothing passes the season free of privation.

These days I’ve mostly overcome the troubles I’ve had with depression in years past, but in the winter all my headway goes right out the window.  It’s astounding how rapid and complete the regression is, right down to being angered when I see everyone around me just putting on a coat and getting on with it.  It’s very familiar, as is the urge to withdraw, which gets stronger and stronger, and it’s not just to get away from all these smiling motherfuckers, but also to keep myself to myself while I’m in such a state.  Then, having withdrawn, the urge turns instead to escapism, by whatever means.  Likely there’s more chemicals involved in that than is strictly healthy.  And pizza.  What can I say, alcohol has a warming sensation to it, and when it comes to pizza I am an outright addict.

Anyway, winter.  It sucks.  Still, the counterpoint to all this is that I can enjoy the first days of spring in a way that almost defies description.  You’re miserable, you’re exhausted from being miserable, everyone you know and love is annoyed at you because you won’t hardly reply to emails or answer your phone, you’re feeling bad about not hardly replying to emails or answering your phone, you’re wondering how burnt the bridges are, whether you can rebuild them, if you even have a right to, and then one day it’s not cold.  Not only is it not cold, it’s WARM.  That pale, colorless, lifeless travesty that passes for the light of the winter sun suddenly has its heat back…you go outside and you can feel it on your skin again.  You can lose all those layers, you stop hiding from the world.  The animals come back; the squirrels are just there again one day, playing on the second story walkways, the lawn, the trees, chasing each other around, everywhere.

Their zeal for sitting on that tiny, tiny nest is truly remarkable.

Their zeal for sitting on that tiny, tiny nest is truly remarkable.

The doves return.  You gotta understand, ever since I moved into this apartment like four years ago, every spring those doves have built a nest in the tree branches not six feet from my door.  I’ve watched them inspect every single twig that goes into their nest, watched the mother and father switch shifts around 5:15 PM (not sure when they switch in the mornings), watched them work together to feed the hatchlings, watched them teach the baby birds to fly with a bizarre mix of joy, apprehension and sadness.  It’s comical, probably, how emotionally invested I am in those birds.  Basically, if you’ve ever seen the Sopranos, do you remember Tony and the ducks in his pool?  It’s like that, only with no extortion or panic attacks.

In the picture to the right, all I used was a little bit of zoom; I was holding the camera phone up against my chest to steady it.  It’s right there.  You could reach over the railing and stroke her feathers.  Not that I would, and in fact I always take to walking very quietly when I’m out there, but still.

Anyway, that’s, uh, it.  Just wanted to explain my absence – again – and maybe try to describe what SAD is like.  If, in fact, that’s what it is.  It’s not been diagnosed.  I probably sound like one of those cyberchondriac (thanks Nina and Tim!) attention whores that are always babbling loudly about the various deleterious acronyms with which they are thoroughly riddled.  One also has to consider, however, that I’m from Texas, the land of pridefully, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge medical conditions, but rather insisting that you’re healthy and stalwart no matter how high into the air that your blood happens to be spurting from that severed artery.  I’m fine, just give it a minute, it’ll stop.

In other news, I’m very busy; there’s a lot of time to make up for.  There’s so many ideas for new articles for the blog that even keeping track of them is tough.  One of them is about dark matter, inspired by the recent news that science is possibly very close to definitely confirming its existence.  It’s been hypothetical up to now, more of a placeholder to make the math work (if I’m not mistaken), and yet very soon it might be proven to exist.  It’s interesting stuff.  There’s also a couple things to be written for other people, and an early draft of a friend’s book to read through and take notes on.  Lastly, I jokingly suggested wooden Easter eggs to this vegan woman I know and am ridiculously fond of.  She in turn suggested that that would be fine and that I should go ahead and get started on making them for her, so I am actually making them; blueinthislight is not out-joked.  I actually have a little experience with woodworking, so they could possibly turn out of reasonably high quality, which would of course make it even funnier.  It goes without saying that I’m late with them.

Oh, and Game of Thrones tonight.  And the long awaited Mad Men too.  If you’d told me years ago that I’d be so eagerly looking forward to a show with dragons and another show about ad executives, I’d have laughed.  And don’t be telling me that Mad Men is a soap opera.  Just because it doesn’t have police, space aliens or cowboys in it doesn’t make it a soap opera.  It makes it a highly cerebral drama that relies solely on the strength of its character development and thematic elements rather than genre tropes.  As writing goes, working on something like that is akin to going to work naked:  if you have the backbone to do it and the goods to get away with it, your awesomeness is pretty much beyond reproach of any sort.  And Max Weiner deserves it.

Really, can you imagine trying to pitch that show?  “Well, it’s about ad executives.”

“And?”

“What do you mean ‘and’?”

“What’s the hook?  Is one of them like a secret army deserter or something?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, totally!  Wow, how did you guess that?”

Plus, I mean, the man’s name is Weiner.  Max Weiner.  It’s like one of those names they’d give some wimpy nerd character in some awful musical.  The kind you’d roll your eyes at every time a cast member said it, thinking to yourself that nobody could ever be named that.

Anyway.  Put on a jacket and get on with it, you smiling motherfuckers nice people!