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”.


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.”


“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!

State of the Blueinthislight, 1/27/13

Just to let you guys know I’m alive.  Due to blinding, constant pain in my jaw, long suspected to be this, there were moments where the alternative seemed kinder.  It drove me to the ER on Wednesday, in fact, as I was convinced my jaw was dislocated.  TMJ can do that, apparently.  And it is officially TMJ now, because a doctor said so.  I’d long suspected due to previous and much less severe flare-ups that it was, and now I know.

As it happened, my jaw wasn’t actually dislocated, it’s just that the muscles on the right side of my jaw were so strongly and unrelentingly contracted that it’s stretching my jaw out of alignment.  I mean, I knew the jaw muscles were really powerful, but goddamn.  They also have some kinda endurance, because they still are.  It lets off a tiny little bit each day.

If that sounds bad to you, let me just confirm that it is in fact as painful as you might imagine.  While that’s the worst part – it seriously, seriously hurts – there’s more, as you might expect when half of your face goes haywire on you.  Currently, it feels as though someone injected a bunch of foam rubber in there; it’s reminiscent of that novocaine feeling you get when a dentist sticks you up with that stuff, but a lot different.  The only reason it resembles injected rubber/novocaine rather than a baseball bat to the face is because of that Tylenol that has codeine in it.  Jaw will only open maybe an inch, and it doesn’t quite close right either.  Takes conscious effort to talk without chewing the inside of my right cheek, which is ironic considering that I am entirely unable to chew anything else, such as food.

It’s okay, I’m well-armed; aside from the happy Tylenols, I have cold compresses, chamomile (a decent muscle relaxant) and ER paperwork justifying potentially a fuckton of sick leave.  As well, the pain is mostly gone now; it gets sore toward the end of the day, but it’s mild, and I refuse to not talk.  There’s only so many concessions I am willing to make to an extremely unreasonable jaw.  Working against me is a horde of female relations who were already terrified for my nutritional well-being because I’m skinny, so you can imagine their reaction to the news that OMG I CAN’T EAT.  You cannot know how much chocolate pudding I have in my fridge right now.  And applesauce.  And Jello.  This sounds ungrateful, I know, but I’m not.  It’s only that under the circumstances, my profligate cynicism gets pretty much free reign until I consciously think to check it.  Plus, you have to admit that when you’re in severe pain and irrationally fearing that your jaw may be stuck like this forever, the last thing you need is to have people constantly asking how you’re doing, thereby reminding you of your sudden and painful deformity.  It is a deformity too:  if you look at my face very closely, you can see my jaw jutting off to my right very slightly.

It not only hurts like hell and takes away my ability to chew food, but it literally twists my beatific visage?  It’s like it’s tailor made to piss me off.

The ER trip scared me a bit.  I have what a Carter Blood-Taker vampire called White Coat Phobia (no seemingly relevant link on Wikipedia, sorry), so as they took me into the back to do the preliminary checking of blood pressure/pulse stuff, my heart rate was high.  The agony of my maw didn’t help much either.  She checked my blood pressure twice, resorted to taking my pulse on my wrist instead of using that finger thingie they have, and asked me if I normally have a fast heartbeat.  No, I don’t think so.  Then they take me back to a bed in a room full of beds, and judging from the way the others were moaning, I suddenly didn’t think my little jaw thing was all that bad.  Then she asks me to take off my shirt as she’s getting out wires for that heart monitor thingie that’s always flatlining in TV shows; you know what I mean.  This has me thinking fuck, how fast was my pulse anyway?  Nightmare scenarios about underlying problems, most of them cancer, begin to form in my mind.  Then she starts putting sticky pads on my chest and hooks me up.

Doctor shows up a little later, I tell him I think my jaw’s dislocated, tell him why, the history, etc.  He feels my jaw and, oddly, sticks his fingers in my ears while he tells me to open my mouth.  No idea.  I’d usually ask, but talking hurts.  He says he doesn’t think it’s dislocated and tells me about TMJ as if I didn’t know what it was.  I start nodding immediately so as to show my preexisting knowledge of said acronym/disorder, incredibly irrationally annoyed that he disagrees with my diagnosis.  I know it’s TMJ, duh.  He prescribes x-rays.  You’re goddamn right x-rays.  We’ll see who’s right, doctor.

They wheel me shirtless to the x-ray room; or, well, not shirtless exactly, but the gown I had kinda looked like how a little kid would make a toga, I mean what the fuck.  I overhear the woman taking my x-rays asking questions of another older woman standing in the background like some CIA handler or something.  So good, trainee taking my x-rays.  She also took my glasses off my face, which pisses me off so bad, but anyway.  Get wheeled back to the bed, doc comes in a few minutes later:  no dislocation.  Fucking asshole.

I have no idea why I wanted to be right about that so bad, but I do know that had it been a dislocation, they could have reset my jaw and the pain would have ended.  As is, there’s pretty much nothing they can do.  So it wasn’t entirely my absurd ego scoffing at the notion that a doctor knows more about medicine than me.  It also rendered the whole exercise pointless, as I only went to the ER because I thought they’d need to reset my jaw, and I know they have to use like muscle relaxers and general anesthetic for that, so I figured a general practitioner would just send me to the hospital anyway.  Ah well.

So, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder.  It fucking sucks.  In other news, I’m very behind on my writing, as horrific pain does make it difficult to concentrate.  Upcoming:  a Book Report on Moby Dick and an article on science and religion that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.  Sneak preview:  I enjoy various crucial aspects of both and consider that there is no conflict between the two.  Or actually, more like the conflict is manufactured by overly militant science nerds and religious fundamentalists, both acting as though they represent the whole of their respective sides.  I’m gonna try to make some peace.  I also have to catch up on the blogs I follow, particularly that kindly vegan woman’s and B-Dog’s.  Have not been capable of reading with attention for a while now.

It’s gonna be jawsome.

Yep, I went there.  I always go there.

Juggernauts versus Underdogs

I addressed this somewhat in my last post, so apologies if anyone finds it repetitive.  Still, the more I think about it, the more it needs saying.  There’s also been extremely recent developments that make it even more noteworthy.

In that last post, I mentioned that Bat World Sanctuary was doing extremely well, against all conventional reason and logic, in the Mozilla Firefox Challenge over on Crowdrise.  First place, in fact, and vying primarily against Jimmy Kimmel and the Ian Somerhalder Foundation without the benefit of celebrity.

I mention this again because it’s a big deal.  This is a world where labor unions are despised even by the people they purport to unite because they’ve been subverted by those they’re meant to oppose, and where the voice of a common voter only serves to have him or her pandered to when there’s an election going, after which they are promptly ignored.  This is a world where big corporate interests will move into a community and bring such destruction that even the earth under their feet is ruined, and for all their outrage and how righteous it is, those who live in that community can’t stop it.  If they stay legal, they are protesters, and they come off looking like strident crazies with some radical agenda just for protecting their home.  If they take direct action, they’re eco-terrorists.  Or maybe even just terrorists, probably akin to how these guys were viewed back in their day.

It needs mentioning again and again and again because for that tiny non-profit to be uplifted by its loyal, everyday supporters until it stood as tall as Jimmy Kimmel and Ian Somerhalder matters.  It flouts everything that our modern society is oriented around even as it embodies everything that our modern society was meant to orient around.  Not only that, but it was the perfect culmination of what Crowdrise set out to do, which was to empower people through unity, through numbers to become a force for change.  Jimmy and Ian both could buy Bat World and the whole town it resides in, but for a glorious little while that did not avail them.

In fact, when they both chucked good form out the window and chose to belittle Bat World Sanctuary, and by extension Amanda Lollar, who pretty much is Bat World, it didn’t avail them all that well then either, only serving to bump BWS down to third place.  They – we – won that and the $20,000 that came with it.  We didn’t have the platform that either Jimmy or Ian did with which to respond, nor did we have what appeared to be affluent lackeys to make huge last minute donations to break the spirit of the contest and unfairly put us ahead, but we resisted anyway.

Had we had blogs on Huffington Post like they do, we might have mentioned that while even on the list of competitors, one could see what Bat World Sanctuary was all about at a single glance, while all one could tell about the Ian Somerhalder Foundation was that it was Ian Somerhalder’s and that it was a foundation of some sort.  And Jimmy Kimmel:  his listing literally just said Jimmy Kimmel, with a picture of his potato face to go along with the picture of Ian looking pensive as he no doubt ponders the woes of this our planet Earth.  Or maybe it was just to brood for the fangirls, I can’t ever decide.  Had we had the benefit of a mass media feting us, we might have publically questioned just how much Ian cares about the animals in his sanctuary when he’s been sporting a bracelet made of leather, and how he feels about this tutorial video showing his fangirls how to fashion the skin of a dead animal.  We might have questioned why his mission statement says basically nothing.  We might have questioned why he named his foundation after himself rather than its purpose.  We might have questioned why Jimmy Kimmel just put his name and nothing more, and if in fact his being Jimmy Kimmel is the problem he’s collecting money to address.  Sure, you could click on it and get more information as to what his charity worked for, but that’s not the point.

The question we would have asked is why they didn’t make similar comments about each other.  We’d have asked if they were going to work the same sixteen to eighteen hour days as Amanda Lollar does.  We’d also ask if they were going to invest the entirety of their personal finances into their causes, again as Amanda has done, but we don’t really need to ask that question, do we?  These guys are happy to help so long as it doesn’t cut into their camera time and primarily costs someone else’s money.  It will never be their life’s work as it is for Amanda.  We know that.

I said in a previous article that the concept of introducing competition to charity work made me uncomfortable, and this is why.  You might say it was a little harmless trash talk, but when Ian mentioned that his animal sanctuary would have all kinds of animals, bats included, and thus ridiculously implied that Bat World was somehow exclusionary, it crossed the line that people of his lofty ilk often seem unaware even exists.  When Jimmy plead to his fans to “not let the fruit bats beat us” and himself implied that fruit bats are a novelty that doesn’t matter, he crossed that same line.  How are you going to see those kids in Kenya fed without fruit, Jimmy?  Fruit bats pretty much pollinate all of it, and even you’re not actually handing them actual fruit, that big gaping hole in the food chain would make the rest of CTCs work very, very difficult as the resultant havoc is wrought upon the ecosystem.  Besides, Bat World is in North America, which is home primarily to insectivorous bats – that’s bats that eat insects, Jimmy – which even without West Nile Virus being around, is very important.  Biologists have predicted that if insectivorous bats were to go extinct, which is a possibility now with the advent of White Nose Syndrome, that insect populations would very, very rapidly reach alarming numbers.  Thanks to the money Bat World won despite your attempts to prevent it, they will soon commence construction of new facilities that will be able to house assurance colonies for species that are threatened with extinction.  Bat World does have fruit bats, but only those they’ve rescued from the exotic pet trade and zoos, where their 25 to 40 year lifespans are nearly inevitably cut down to less than one year.

And you, fey Ian:  so you’re just gonna throw all the animals together?  You have a private ocean at this sanctuary of yours?  A mountain range?  Marshlands?  Plans underway to airlift a chunk of the Serengeti to your sanctuary?  Really, it’s like something a little kid would say.  Besides, Bat World isn’t exclusionary.  You wouldn’t know this, but animal rescuers specialize because nobody can learn all the anatomical ins and outs of every single species, not because they only like one kind of animal.  Bats require even more specialization, because it’s not like any other mammal has an anatomy that even roughly resembles a bat’s.  Because of this, rescuers tend to work together.  Just yesterday Amanda helped someone who’d found a wounded owl locate someone who knew how to care for owls.  Owls eat bats.  She keeps eight rescued dogs at Bat World, feeds a stray cat that lives behind their building (a cat that is smart enough to know to bring injured bats to BWS without further hurting them herself) and even a frog that has learned to hang around for the bowl of mealworms it finds set out for it every day.  At the Bat Castle is a kiddie swimming pool in the summer for the local raccoons to help them endure the blistering Texas summer heat.  At the site where the new facilities are to be built, plans are being made to co-exist with the very often highly destructive wild pigs that occupy the land, which even a lot of other animal lovers are saying is impossible and that the pigs need to be moved.  So yes, Bat World does help animals other than bats, and they do it themselves rather than paying someone else to do it while they go off and brood and pretend to drink blood or whatever.

I don’t say this stuff because I’m angry that Bat World lost its first place spot; unlike the Ian Somerhalder Foundation’s vague mission statement about “world change”, Bat World’s clear goal was to raise the money to commence work on this new facility.  With the money they raised, the third place prize money and Amanda contributing all but the sentimental parts of her entire inheritance from her recently deceased father, they accomplished that.  Many people who hadn’t heard of Bat World Sanctuary before now know about them, and as best I can tell, things look bright.  So even though two celebrity juggernauts stepped on them, Bat World still came out okay.

It’s the stepping on them, the belittling comments and the eleventh hour $10k donations just so happening to come in to charities fronted by rich men with rich friends that I object to.  I also object to Crowdrise hiding my post saying so on their Facebook page.  To be specific, someone who actually knows how Facebook works (I do not) suspects that they marked my comment as spam, meaning that I can still see it, as can my friends, but nobody else can.  Didn’t think I’d see that, did you?  You did leave it alone when I reposted it and after other people had liked it, so, thanks I guess.  Harder to be sneaky when people are watching, I know.  And the sad thing is that I genuinely liked Crowdrise.  I didn’t blame them for what happened at all, but then they went and de facto condoned it.  My voice is already so faint compared to Jimmy’s and Ian’s, and they tried to stifle it further.  They are evidently not all that big on empowering the little guy in ways other than taking their money.  You can help express your disapproval by going here.  Or here.

Lastly, I would like to state that my criticisms are only for Jimmy and Ian themselves.  No doubt there are good people administering those non-profits that are knowledgeable in their fields, genuinely want to be of use and are grateful to Jimmy and Ian for empowering them to do so.  I did criticize the ISF’s mission statement, but in the end I only think they might benefit from making it more clear what they’re about, as again, I’m certain there are great people working hard to do some good.  And for whatever disagreements I may have with whomever watches over their Facebook account, Crowdrise is doing a hell of a lot of good for a hell of a lot of people.  I was sorry to see the spirit of their Challenge undermined the way it was,  just as I was proud of Bat World Sanctuary for backing them up against the wall.

I’m just saying that if Ian and Jimmy wanted that $50k for their charities so bad, they could have written that check themselves rather than talk down to a non-profit for whom $50k means the world.  Amanda would have written it, if she had their money.  It all comes down to how badly you want to help, and whether you would still help if it hurts to do so.

Happy 12/21/12!

As we all know, the world ends today – because clearly there’s not a more mundane, practical reason to the Mayan Long Count calendar ending, right? – and I’d just like to say it’s been a privilege to participate in the exchange of ideas here and to get to know some people here that are quite a ways outside the circles I normally move in.  It’s always good to broaden one’s horizons, to hear and to be heard, to bring disparate peoples together that might not otherwise meet.  Nothing but good can come of it, if done for its own sake.

Hey, how do you think time zones will affect the imminent apocalypse?  For example, maybe the world might end here first, since I’m in roughly the same time zone that the Mayans might have been in, maybe, so maybe we here might blink out of existence or burst into flames or be swallowed up by the very earth itself first, and then it might spread out to the rest of the wor

Tell ‘Em, Ishmael

Just a quick quote from Moby Dick (which is fucking great, by the way).  We’ll leave it mostly at that, because there aren’t really words to express how much I like this excerpt anyway:

“Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death.  Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance.  Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.  Methinks my body is but the less of my better being.  In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.  And therefore three cheers for Nantucket; and come a stove boat and stove body when they will, for stave my soul, Jove himself cannot.”

Oh, and this, so you’re not going “WTF is a stove boat?” like I was (bolding is mine):

stave  (stv)


1. To break in or puncture the staves of.

2. To break or smash a hole in.

3. To crush or smash inward.


Oh, the verbduh.  So, stove in as by a whale.  A big, mean mythically huge white sperm whale.  If that should strike you as unrealistic, read this.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of writing that makes a novel immortal.  Book Report to (II) follow.

Bulls: They Don’t Care About The Children

So, apparently WordPress has these daily prompt things.  This guy I follow, a Buddhist guy who is doubtlessly far more disciplined in his meditation than I am, took the opportunity to relate an anecdote about a face to face encounter with a berry loving bear that made me recall a similar story from my own youth.

I wanted to make that into a pun so bad.  Also, it was the writing prompt from three days ago (fight or flight experiences), so I’m late.  But then I’m still writing up a story about the bat me and my coworkers rescued back on Halloween, so it could be much worse.

Imagine that I’m nine or ten or so; it’s easy, I’ve changed so little since then.  Myself, my brother and our friend are playing at said friend’s house in a cozy little semi-rural community with a pasture out back containing a few head of cattle.  Such sideline ranches were and are pretty common in such places.  We kinda weren’t supposed to be playing in said pasture, but we did all the time to no ill effect.  There was also a treehouse toward the back of the pasture, so there were mixed messages at play.

As we all also know, children have to urinate every thirty seconds, so I went inside, did so and came back out and found that my friends had moved on elsewhere while I was gone.  Slightly annoyed and figuring they were out in the pasture, I set about looking for them.

I crossed the cattle guardfor those who don’t know, it’s a shallow pit across the gate leading into a pasture with big thick tubing laid in parallel across it; people can walk across it, trucks can drive over it, but cattle won’t traverse it – looked across the pasture, still couldn’t see anyone.  There were a couple of storage sheds on the left a little ways down, but I didn’t figure they were in there.  We weren’t supposed to play in those either, only we actually didn’t, being that the very same implements that are proficient in doing farmey ranchey type things are also proficient in maiming children.  Also, they were locked.  Seeing as how I had a clear view of the entire pasture, and knowing they wouldn’t be in the storage sheds, I concluded that they had to be in the wide alley between them.

So off I went, calling out, and thus when I rounded the corner and entered the alley, the massive, angry bull at the end of it knew I was coming.  Worse, it was a dead-end alley, so I’d inadvertently cornered it.  You can’t really describe what this feels like; in fact, for a few eternal seconds it doesn’t really feel like anything.  My brain seemed to resist accepting that there was a bull looming there, as if it were a trick of the sunlight and it was really my two companions, one standing on the other’s shoulders, making little bull horns atop his head with his fingers.  The one thought I did have was little more than bemusement with the fact that antagonistic bulls really do lower their heads to point their horns at you and snort and stamp at the ground just like in the cartoons.

It stamped again, harder, and shifted its weight as if it were preparing to move, quickly, so my survival instincts decided this impromptu musing was unacceptable, locked me out of my own brain, and then I was running.  I just sort of went along, watching the grass pass behind me and marvelling at how automatic it all was.  Nothing I felt even casually resembled fear in the classical sense until I noticed first the tremors in the ground, then the rumbling behind me and realized it was chasing me.

That sounds bad, but consider:  I was like ten years old.  He obviously just wanted out of that alley when he saw his exit blocked, else I wouldn’t be here typing this.  Bulls can run up to twenty miles per hour, and adult humans tend to do about eight, and short, chubby ten year old legs must be considerably slower.  If not for the fight/flight override, maybe I would have heard it slow down or stop, or maybe I would have recalled that I was tiny and it was huge, and thus, as a threat, it probably didn’t really take me all that seriously.  As such, I’m forced to conclude that it merely wanted to terrify me senseless, a task at which it unquestionably succeeded.  Really, the way the ground shook when he ran was surreal, and I think it helped with the disconnect I experienced despite those tremors being easily the scariest thing about the whole experience.  Feeling that, there was no question how heavy and powerful that animal was.

That said, there was ample reason to assume it meant to trample me.  To those with little experience being around cattle, it’s hard to adequately explain how incredibly bad tempered bulls can be.  Consider that while all the other animals on the ranch are being fattened, milked, shorn, etc., the only thing the bulls are “asked” to do is literally be sex machines, and that’s not so much a question of asking as it is a you-really-don’t-want-to-try-to-dissuade-him sort of thing.  You don’t want to dissuade him because he weighs 2700 pounds on average, most of it muscle and arrogance, and is accustomed to every single entity he comes across being extremely deferent, even its owners.  They are just a soft, hornless little sticks to be broken in its eyes, make no mistake.  A friend of mine owns a bull with particular infamy among the bull riding crowd, and he has to sneak into his own pasture to feed the thing, because despite having owned this bull for years now, it will attempt to run him out if it sees him.  That guy’s an ex-bull rider himself, and you know why?  Because after he was bucked from his last ride, the bull, having successfully divested his rider and calmed himself down, idly stepped on my friend’s head and accidentally fractured his skull.  They are powerful, temperamental, territorial animals not trifled with even by those with much experience handling them.

If I’d had a cape with an anvil hidden behind it, things would have gone down very, very differently.

Not a bit of any of that passed through my head then; it was all running, and then sprinting, and whole bunch of ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod, so I had no idea what was going on back there.  Here’s how full of adrenalin I was:  I wasn’t fleeing quite in the direction of the cattle guard/gate, but more straight at the barbed wire fencing next to it, and yet there was no room in the reptile brain for course correction, so I could do nothing but sprint straight at it, climb it in like two seconds and leap as far off the other side and into safety as I could, without a single scratch.  If I tried that now as a quasi-athletic adult, I’m fairly sure I would accidentally decapitate myself three or four times.

That’s pretty much it.  I did keep running, all the way into my friend’s house, where his mother was soon quite perplexed upon finding me out of breath in her kitchen after having slammed her back door.  Again thinking quickly, if you can call it that, I only said that I couldn’t find my friends.  She didn’t press the issue any, only chided me gently for slamming the door.  She was nice.  Even now, more than one decade later, she still has no idea about any of this.  And to this day, barbed wire fences still look so fragile.

The moral of this story is obviously that being chased by a bull makes one awesome at parkour as well as temporarily capable of great social chicanery.

Or maybe it’s that when the normal conscious mind is bypassed and instinct takes over, we become hyper-competent superheroes in the vein of Batman, except it only happens in moments of pure terror, you can’t control it, and it only makes you run away, in which case the moral is that life is a cruel and excoriating mockery of our very dreams.

Yet contravening this is the fact that awesome stuff like literature and music and yoga exist, leaving only the possibility that the moral is that when your parents or their temporary proxies tell you not to play in the bull’s pasture, maybe you shouldn’t assume they just want to ruin your pastoral frolics.  Usually, there’s some good intent mixed with the resentment for how you ruined their lives.

And for that we should all be berry, beary grateful.

Book Report I: Indiscriminate, Empty Sex in the Time of Cholera

Spoilers abound y’all, both for Love in the Time of Cholera and Romeo and Juliet…although the latter is a four hundred year old play written by the most famous author of all time and whose main characters are synonymous for love itself.  Despite that, I did try to hold back on the endings for both.  Impossible to do entirely, of course, and do my argument justice, but I tried.

Love in the Time of Cholera is a very, very misunderstood novel.  Now despite the prominence of the ‘misanthropy’ tag in the word cloud to the right, I don’t want to condescend to anyone whose interpretations differ from mine; far from it.  People misunderstand Romeo and Juliet too, thinking it an epic and moving love story despite it’s being ridden with pathological obsession, willful ignorance, youthful recklessness and a love affair whose bloodiness is rendered even more remarkable by its incredibly short duration.  This misunderstanding of both stories is primarily a problem of convention in storytelling in that love stories are maybe THE basic story in the entire history of fiction, and thus readers have been somewhat trained, myself included, to not question its legitimacy.  Real life might play a role in this too, though.  Love is a very confusing thing, and its full scope defies easy definition.  People confuse infatuation, obsession, lust and a million other things with it every day, all day.  Thus, you get two characters, they declare that they love one another, and why shouldn’t we believe them?

Well, why should we?  I’m not saying the characters are willfully lying, but even if they’re telling the truth, it doesn’t mean they’re right.  Consider Romeo, who crashes a masquerade thrown by the Capulet family, who all want him dead, to see some girl he’s lovesick for as the play starts.  Previous to this, Romeo insisted to his friend that none of the other girls at this party would ever get his mind off of Rosaline, and yet Juliet, after about ten seconds, does so.  They only meet briefly, both of them are masked, and all they really say to each other is pretty much goddamn but I would really like to make out with you.  It’s love.  Then comes the famous balcony scene, where there’s already talk of marriageand Romeo expresses mild disappointment that Juliet will offer him no “satisfaction”.  It might be appropriate now to mention that after this, it’s revealed that Rosaline took a vow of chastity, contrasting with Juliet’s immediate desire to make out with a guy whose face she hasn’t even seen yet (it was a masquerade, remember), and suddenly we realize that when it comes to love, Romeo leads with his, you know, head, not his heart.

Then there’s the fact that Romeo is just a very selfish person.  After the above, he gets his buddy Mercutio killed in a duel when he refuses to fight, murders his would-be opponent Tybalt to avenge Mercutio, gets himself exiled, drags his confidante Friar Laurence into this mess by asking him to help Juliet escape town and an impending arranged marriage so she can marry Romeo instead, and murders for no real reason at all his rival suitor Count Paris after the clusterfuck of misunderstanding and suicide that ensues.  Oh, and in the original source that Shakespeare used for the play, Friar Laurence is hanged, what with the hiding of Romeo’s defiance of his exile and plotting to steal away a daughter of the powerful Capulet family and all.  Yes, that Romeo’s a peach.

And on the re-read of the play that I’m currently doing, I’m finding the evidence for my interpretation to be even more obvious than I’d remembered:  the play is full of what must have been incredibly dirty puns for its time (and hell, ours too), and Romeo’s intentions are directly questioned by more than one of the characters, including Juliet herself.  In fact, upon Friar Laurence learning of his affection for Juliet, he tells Romeo:

Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? young men’s love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.

You don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Romeo.  And the good Friar was a supreme bullshitter; he tricked Romeo into suicide.  Accidentally.

So, it’s easy to summarize the mistaking of lust for love in Romeo and Juliet, and it’s fairly easy too to explain how lust gets mistaken for love in the first place:  lust is “bad”, while love is good, and the line between the two is far finer than most people will admit.  The difference, to me, can be summed up in another of Shakespeare’s lines: love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.  By Shakespeare’s own definition, Romeo never loved Rosaline, because he altered right damn quick when meeting Juliet, which I can’t help but think had to do with that vow of chastity business.  Also, the characters are teenagers.  For them, lust is an autocrat, and it rules with an iron and oft lubricated fist.  Mistaking it for love, thereby applying extreme devotion to such a capricious and already overwhelming urge, is very volatile.  But don’t take my word for it.  Recall how often and with what fervor you took care of yourself at that age.  Now imagine swearing undying fidelity and devotion to your own hand…the lack of conversation, the two wedding rings, always wondering if the sex is just to humor you.  Hey, at least you wouldn’t be getting anyone killed.

Ultimately, you need only ask the question:  What about Juliet caused Romeo to fall in love with her?  You can’t answer it.

Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, the protagonists of Love in the Time of Cholera, are harder to sniff out.  Take the basic gist of Romeo and Juliet, make it epic in a literary sense, and you have everything in place to make women the world over swoon over a nerdy, homely, philandering pedophilic piece of shit, as well as to make men not really understand Florentino’s whole deal with Fermina.  But while the virulence of their “love” is far more subtle, it runs much deeper:  the lies span decades, the chaos aroused reaches much further, and the flimsy basis upon which their eventual elderly dalliance is predicated makes it seem downright pathetic.

Florentino’s first sighting of Fermina was textbook love at first sight.  Now I have no doubt that when Florentino first saw Fermina, he felt the earth quake beneath his feet, the blood rushed to his head – we know which one – and angels of the Lord sang their inevitable love to all the world, their heavenly faces far eclipsed by Fermina’s beauty.  He surely did.  It happens sometimes.  It’s not love, though.  The important thing to note here is that at first sight, for Florentino and for all of us, only one reaction is logically possible:  attraction.  Love of the sort Florentino professes for Fermina throughout the rest of the novel cannot have taken root at a glance, much less bloomed.

Not that I can absolutely rule out that there can’t be a higher form of connection, an automatic knowing that can enable true and full love at first sight.  I can’t rule it out entirely because there’s a certain someone in my life who fell for me in such a manner.  She looked at me, and she just knew somehow that I was for her.  Me being my normal thick-headed self, it took a little more time for me to realize why I was spending all day thinking about her, looking forward to talking to her, being so affected by her joys and sorrows that they became my own joys and sorrows, and quickly finding nobody else to be nearly as attractive as I found and still find her to be.  I’d just been left by another girl, and I swear I was so thick that I would even walk around asking myself why I couldn’t be in love with her instead of the ex, and of course I was.  For almost fifteen years I’ve seen everything she felt in that first moment pan out, so it’s hard to believe there isn’t some kind of mojo involved.  Yes, mojo.  Still, after the parallel paths of pain, betrayal and blood left in the wakes of Romeo and Florentino, I don’t think that’s what was being portrayed.  I also think it’s a testament to the skill of Shakespeare and Garcia Marquez that their tales bear up two such diametrically opposed interpretations.

Just a brief caveat there.  Onward.

What follows is a protracted flurry of letter exchanges, violin serenades and borderline stalking that is further definable by the near-entire lack of anything that would help them actually know one another, as emphasized in the book by the narration outright stating that Florentino ascribed all manner of improbable and lofty attributes onto Fermina, who served as a pretty blank slate that he was enamored with.  The content of the letters is never quoted directly, but it’s insinuated that Florentino plagiarized the purple sea of love poetry he read constantly, while Fermina reciprocated with mundane daily itineraries.  There was next to no actual contact between them:  in fact, when there is substantial contact between the two after a long absence (Fermina’s father Lorenzo discovers the pen pal affair, threatens to kill Florentino, and packs his daughter away to live with faraway relatives for a while), Fermina sees that he doesn’t resemble the ideal she loves, and brusquely ends it with a wave of her hand.  When it happens, you feel sorry for him, but not later.  Oh, not later.

It’s not even the lack of face-t0-face contact that makes me skeptical; if I’d gotten the impression that the letters were written and read by two people baring their souls to one another to any extent at all, so that when they did meet it might feel like they knew each other, I’d feel differently, but as is it feels like Garcia Marquez specifically wanted them to seem pretty yet vapid on the one hand, and utterly banal on the other.

Up to this point it’s subtle; you get everything from Florentino’s desperately skewed perspective, though he’s not the actual narrator.  Once Fermina marries the improbably accomplished Dr. Urbino, whose parrot can recite the Latin Mass, and once Florentino gets wind of it, all subtlety goes out the window as Florentino Ariza embarks upon a decades long fuck spree, the likes of which would scandalize even Don Draper.  He chases widows, married women, random girls encountered in the street, the mistresses of his friends, anyone – anyone.  Those who view the novel as a true love story would no doubt argue that his pain at losing Fermina drove him to desperately flee his heartbreak via sex, but I’d argue that’s not the case at all.

It’s all about conquest for Florentino, that much is very clear.  He refers to his “lovers” as little birds, and himself as a falconer.  There’s little consideration for anything about them beyond sex, and cheap sex devoid of any emotional infrastructure at that, which he bafflingly confuses with love.  Tellingly, there’s also little consideration for Fermina herself throughout this part, which comprises the bulk of the novel, and when he does think about her, it’s most often in a she-can-never-know-I-am-such-a-fucking-manwhore context.  When he does deign to talk to any of them, rather than simply leave after the act, they basically talk about sex.  And lest you think this is a matter of interpretation, the simple fact is that with the sheer number of fuck-buddies he had during this period essentially makes it impossible chronologically for him to do anything more than fuck them and run.

Worse, he takes a very imperial mentality into his carnality.  As I said, he sees the mistress of his friend, causing said friend to have his crew steal everything in her house.  Florentino not only regards this with breathtaking insouciance, but afterward decides not to see her anymore.  That’s bad, but this is even worse: with one of his many married women, he takes some red paint and a brush and paints the words This pussy is mine on her belly.  At no point does he even begin to consider the ramifications of this with her husband, who of course finds Florentino’s frat boy masterwork and proceeds to slit his wife’s throat.  Naturally, Florentino’s first thought isn’t remorse – and it never was either – but merely that his throat would be slit next.  He does plant roses on her grave, but it’s just a pretty gesture that comes off empty as hell.  At best, he does it more for the romance of it than any sincere atonement.  At worst, it’s a way to brag about his conquest right out in public without having to expose himself.  To people other than his little birds, I mean.  Tellingly, again, the roses grow unchecked over the years, slowly taking over the cemetery, until its eventual caretaker has them ripped out.  This is not subtle symbolism.

The last affair, however, is truly repugnant even by his own standards:  Florentino by now is a prominent member of the city, running a riverboat freight business, and in this capacity he gains the trust of the parents of a 14 year old girl who is sent to the city to attend school, serving as the girl’s official guardian.  You don’t want to see where this is going, but you can’t really help it by this point.  Yes, he not only abuses the trust of the parents as well as the trust of the girl whose care was entrusted to him, but as she begins to realize she’s a sex toy to him despite his creepy, fatherly method of talking dirty to her, her grades fall victim to depression and she eventually commits suicide when news of Dr. Urbino’s death reaches Florentino, giving him his big second chance at Fermina.  He does at least cry over it – which is a first – but then he won’t even give Fermina time to reconcile herself to the loss of her husband before he shows up to declare his “love” again, so his tears are worth very little.

And this is really the crux of my argument:  decades later, when he does actually maneuver himself into a relationship with Fermina Daza, it feels more like a fuck buddy arrangement than love.  There is a legitimate fondness between them, as they do enjoy each others’ company even when they aren’t naked, but the fireworks that romance novel fans no doubt expected when they first made love must have been duds.  He goes after her like an overeager teenager and runs out of juice quick, while she just sort of takes it all, and the whole thing comes off very limp.  Still, after being pumped full of love for so long, their will stayed hard and firm, and they thrust themselves right back into it.  It’s typical of Florentino; they finally get around to knowing each other, and it’s only in the Biblical sense.

Florentino was a hollow creature, and he stuffed his empty chest with plagiarized love poetry and passed it off as a heart to both Fermina and himself.  At one point he even divides humanity into two types,  paraphrasing: “those who screw, and those who do not”, and then insists that those “who do not” can’t be trusted, thereby projecting and legitimizing his own abject promiscuity by telling himself that everyone wants to do what he does, but are all in denial.  So you see, it’s not that he’s simply a cock with a man attached who puts on a front of romanticism so that he doesn’t have to even attempt to control his urges and can justify ignoring and not caring about the extensive damage his rampant fucking causes; it’s everyone else who are wrong!  In addition to keeping it from himself, he keeps from her the one thing that has defined him in the time that she’s been unavailable, the thing that drove him to use and discard a vulnerable young girl, to speak to her as a father while he was undressing her, to abuse the trust placed in him by both her and her parents, which was so reprehensible that even such a depraved, amoral creature as him was struck – though not near hard enough – by the sheer evil of it.  He was so dedicated to keeping it from her that he practiced the strictest secrecy with literally every other sexual liaison he ever had throughout his entire life with anyone but Fermina, and not for the sake and safety of either his “little birds” or himself, but so that Fermina would never know.  He spent decades plotting to lie to her.

Fermina, in turn, was an aloof, haughty creature who showed no warmth until she was reeling both from the loss of her long-held husband and the fact that he’d had an affair in the latter years of their marriage.  So while she’d late realized that she never truly had the eminent Dr. Juvenal Urbino, that nothing more than an exotic face coinciding with opportunity was able to lure him away, here was Florentino, returned from her childhood, her first love, who had never married, had opted to wait for her for decades, who loved her so that he didn’t want anyone if he couldn’t have her.  With the memory of her husband’s infidelity fresh in her mind, as well as his death, it’s no wonder that she, finally, would see Florentino to be exactly the thing to heal her, not realizing that he is infidelity incarnate.  She was the ultimate conquest for Florentino, nothing more to him, and by the time he wins her in the latter pages of the book, it turned my stomach.

Interpret it however you like, but one thing, I believe, is inarguable:  there was never any truth between the two, and without that, love as we conventionally idealize it and as Florentino and Fermina believed they had could not have been between them.  Less inarguable but to me just as convincing are the constant parallels between love and cholera itself, present even in the title.  Urbino “fights” Florentino’s “love” of Fermina for decades just as he fights to modernize the measures taken against cholera outbreak and prevention.  Just as Florentino mistakes his lust for love to the point of becoming lovesick, other maladies – including one of Florentino’s – are misdiagnosed as cholera. The ending, too, revolves entirely around it, with our two lovers trapped on the riverboat because of the yellow flag it flies, warning of a cholera outbreak on the boat.  No one will let them disembark to protect the public from it; if only Florentino’s little birds – and Fermina too – had taken similar measures, much misery would have been avoided.  Of course, there was no cholera aboard, just as there wasn’t any love; it was a lie concocted by Florentino to get himself alone with Fermina.  It’s really the only way it could have ended, all things considered.

Finally, consider the very beginning, in which Dr. Urbino, who for decades thwarted Florentino’s ADD riddled cock, tends to the suicide of a man named Jeremiah Saint-Amour.  That’s Saint, and then Amour.  Love dies – takes its own life, even – before we even meet either Ariza or Daza, and is laid to rest by the novel’s embodiment of rationality and logic, Dr. Urbino.  Further, in the course of seeing to the arrangements, he comes across Jeremiah’s secret lover, and finds to be unsavory both her complicity in Jeremiah’s suicide and her refusal to enter the mausoleum of formal widowhood.  Urbino saw it as evidence that their romance was cheap, while she, better understanding the true nature of love better than anyone else besides our dead Saint of Love, implicitly understood that because Jeremiah loved her, he wouldn’t want that for her.  Couple this with Garcia Marquez’ own warning to “not fall into my trap”, and really this whole post could have been much shorter.

So why do we all want to read this as a swoony epic love story?  Well, because it’s nice to believe in that kind of love, that outlasts most human lifespans, much less typical relationships; that drives its celebrants to any ends, to endure any heartache or suffer any interval of loneliness in the hope, however faint, of getting to be with us again.  Garcia Marquez is simply pointing out that there’s a fine line between that and obsession, and that it’s dangerous:  Fermina’s rejection of Florentino in their youth drove Florentino to walk a long, dark road paved with blood and semen in order to replace his flimsy self-respect with facile sexual conquest, and its awful cost was entirely paid by other people.  Garcia Marquez is pointing out that it takes a loving and selfless heart to love so absolutely as Florentino imagined he loved Fermina, yet for all his grandiloquent posturing, for all the poems, for all the violin serenades, he saw fit to only put forth the illusion of selflessness while he carnally, prolifically, selfishly indulged, committing the same wrong a thousandfold that had so grievously wounded Fermina when her husband once lost his struggle to avoid committing that same wrong.

In short:  Florentino was a motherfucker.  The end.


After-the-fact edit:  I hope it’s clear that I don’t attack Florentino from a prudish perspective; it’s not the sex that’s wrong, it’s the hypocrisy of it.  It’s not that he prefers multiple partners, it’s the addict-like abject desperateness with which he seeks them out.  It’s not that he doesn’t seek a deeper commitment with them, it’s that he manipulates and discards them, sometimes to bloody effect, all while claiming to be true to Fermina.  If Romeo was a capricious prick, then Florentino is, like, the cosmic essence of prickness distilled into a human shape.  Not everyone’s cut out for monogamy and being married with children, but nobody gets a pass on being dishonest, whatever their predilections may be, and particularly when their dishonesty is so damaging.