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.


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.

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.

How Eating a Little Bit of Paper Made My Previous Post Possible

Let’s pretend you read my previous post, for the dual purposes of boosting my ego and because making that assumption will make for a cleaner essay.  You know you didn’t; I know you didn’t.  Let’s just pretend.  Let’s also get out of the way that hoary old American social tradition known as a disclaimer:  I’m not advocating that anybody do a fucking thing here.  If you’re so unfathomably lazy that you’d use information on a blog post without verifying it elsewhere, you are destined for hard lessons, and LSD has the potential to mercilessly and irrevocably administer them straight to your brain.

As I combed through my previous post this morning days ago in order to ensure that it read like the humorous recounting of a string of mild bad luck that it was meant to be, it occurred to me that there was a point in my life many years ago when those very same events would have been documented in a very, very emo fashion.  Then, as if by kismet and as I was beginning to write an entirely different essay, Amarok played me some Hendrix.  Are You Experienced, to be specific.  It all brought to mind the catalyst that sparked my eventual emergence from the depression, self-loathing and crippling shyness that marked my childhood:  lysergic acid diethylamide.  LSD, if you’re not a nerd.

I know, I know, just hear me out.  Although if you’re one of those people who think it’s bad just because, then you may as well stop reading it now.  I could tell you that LSD, as well as basically any entheogen ever, are unabusable and impossible to become addicted to.  I could recount how my single experience with it was a defining moment and one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I could even mention that I’m not some psychonaut neo-hippie (unless you consider being somewhat leftist to qualify one as such; I have a left and a right wing, but I suppose you’d say I veer quite a bit to the left in flight) who’s trying to justify his bad habits, but rather simply a regular guy who had a chance to try it, did so, and legitimately benefited far more than anyone would expect.  There’s also the fact that psychiatrists have flirted with studying its ability to treat various mental problems for decades now, but have been discouraged by a preponderance of people who heard about this one guy, he took some one time, and then he like jumped off his dorm roof or some shit because he thought he could fly.  Lastly, I could question the wisdom behind allowing politicians to make decisions that would more properly fall into the domains of physicians and chemists.  You wouldn’t care about all that, though.

There’s a lot of misinformation on LSD, as opposed to something like methamphetamine, which if anything is actually worse than the public perceives it to be.  For one, the hallucinations are far milder at a reasonable dose than commonly presented; you won’t pet dead relatives, you won’t talk to fantastical animals, you won’t traverse alien worlds, none of that crazyness; you are far more likely to gleefully laugh at bad movies, be awestruck by sunrises and intensely love your fellow human beings, and I say this as a self-avowed and unrepentant amiable misanthrope.  Things do tend to “breathe”, and it’s common to see patterns overlaid across your field of vision, though.  There are hallucinogens that can have you being chased by extradimensional lizard aliens, but acid isn’t one of them.  Or maybe it is if you take a massive dose.  Mine was quite small, which is entirely incommensurate with the magnitude, longevity and positivity of the end result.  Massive doses might also bring on the infamous acid flashbacks too, because neither me nor a single one of the friends that took it too had any.  Judging from my research, a flashback isn’t really that bad in most cases anyway, but merely a recollection of how one felt during the trip.  One can also spontaneously and unwillingly recall how one’s first kiss made one feel too,  so I guess we better make kissing illegal as well.  They can be more severe, but again, it almost certainly involves much bigger doses, similar to how intaking too much oxygen can kill you, or drinking too much water.

Everything – every single thing that exists – will hurt you if indulged improperly or to excess.

Not that acid is without danger.  My young-man-emo-phase came with a good deal of self-loathing, as emo phases often do.  When you hate yourself, things such as a string of mildly bad luck similar to that depicted in my last post tend to validate that hatred; oh look, the world hates me too, I guess I’m right to feel the way I do.  Like a great deal of conscious and unconscious thought, it’s a loop that feeds back into itself, becoming stronger and stronger with each cycle.  This isn’t really a new concept: religions and spiritual traditions that emphasize the analysis of the human experience have documented the mind’s incessant tendency to run in circles for thousands of years, such as the Buddhist concept of vāsanā or, roughly, the Shaivist concept of the rāga tattva.  They also generally agree that these loops are incredibly difficult to entirely break, as they are all permutations of desire:  wanting, seeking, obtaining.  When a thing is obtained, another want surfaces.  The more often the loop cycles, the more it perpetuates itself, and it becomes harder and harder to break.

Brief aside before I continue:  before starting this essay I searched ‘lsd tolerance’ on Google to refresh my memory on whether or not it could become a habit.  The first result was a site called Above the Influence, a site which ironically immediately tries to influence you into taking up that tried and true American tradition of bashing shit without having tried it or indirectly experienced it in any way.  One thing of value that it does say is that LSD disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.  Hang onto that.

Now back to the hybrid tornado/train wreck/feedback loop that is the human brain.  Psychological disorders such as the aforementioned depression, narcissistic personality disorder, etc. tend to act as a filter through which everything else is passed.  To put it another way, if your thoughts/desires/longings are the planets of our solar system, then depression is the sun around which they orbit, and which itself is spinning in the center.  This would mean that most all the functions of your brain are subservient to a central dysfunction of ever-increasing power.  It’s doesn’t take a great leap of logic to conclude that disrupting this “normal” functioning of the brain could be good for a person, does it?

There are a few caveats, though.  For one, you need to be on speaking terms with all of your demons.  That’s at the very least, and intimate familiarity would be ideal.  You feel on this stuff, and your mind revels in itself.  It will not respect boundaries.  With a meditative practice, you can go to those cordoned places in yourself as tentatively as you like; with a chemical, those places come to you as they will, and amplified just as your senses are.  If your self-control collapses when those demons make themselves known, they will outright traumatize you on this stuff.  Knowing yourself is a great thing in any circumstance, but here it’s mandatory.

For two, you need to know yourself.  You need to really know yourself.  Nobody ever thinks they’re repressing anything without some hellish introspection; that happens to be one of my specialties, so that well was dry long before I took anything.  I realize I already said this, but it bears saying a hundred more times.  Under no circumstance is it good to be a unknown and foreign country to yourself.

For three, it amplifies what’s already there.  If you’re in a good, calm mood, then your entire body will feel amazing and all of your usual stressors will seem the way those spiritual traditions I keep mentioning describe them:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  You’ll see your own complicity in the pain they cause you, and you’ll realize that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It’s like standing up and realizing you’ve been sitting your whole life letting things loom over you.  If you’re in a bad mood, invert everything I just said, imagine how incomprehensibly hard that would most likely suck, and learn the twin virtues of patience/not moping about shit.

So what’s the point of all this?  Who the fuck knows.  It could be that I vehemently believe that a unilateral and indiscriminate war on drugs is proof that we in the country are fucking incapable of learning the lessons of Prohibition and still govern via fear and ignorance, justifying it with some vague doom-mongering about social cost.  It certainly isn’t to encourage anyone to either abstain or indulge.  It’s illegal and potentially dangerous in a subtle, potent and possibly long term way.  Think, be honest with yourself and decide.  I guess it’s not to recount the acid-fueled all-nighter we pulled either.  I’d intended to, but this is way long as it is.  It’s among a number of things I’ve touched on that deserve their own essays, so some other time, hopefully.  Plus, honestly, calling it an “acid fueled all-nighter” makes it sound far more interesting a story than it actually is.  Suffice to say that I saw my stressors for what they really were:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  I saw my own complicity in the pain they cause me, and I realized that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It was a hell of a lot of fun too, lest all this spirituality I’m spouting make it sound like myself and my friend were playing monks for the evening.  It’s impossible to say if it was so much fun because I experienced the much-vaunted detachment that is the goal of any worthwhile spiritual practice or if it was just because I was on fucking awesome drugs.

I can say with certainty what the point isn’t:  to try to convince anyone that LSD will cure one’s mental ills.  To me, it’s fairly evident that I was “ready” to learn what my depression was trying to teach me, and “God”/the universe/dumb fucking luck used LSD as a catalyst to bring about that eureka! moment that invariably accompanies any true apprehension of the nature of any abstraction.

In fact, I think the sort of mentality that would seek out a figurative magic pill that would sort their brain out for them is exactly the sort of mentality that would fare very poorly on this stuff.  It’s just not how it works.  It’s not how anything works.  There’s been bad days in the years since I took it.  Some very bad ones, actually, and all flanked with good ones, as it’s always been.  It has to be that way, because it’s the bad days that define the good days.  Nobody wants to believe that, including myself; we all have some thing in our hopes and daydreams that we just know will come along and sweep away the drudgery of quotidian existence, and thereafter all the days will be happy ones.  We wait for true love, plan to have children, gun alongside coworkers for that promotion as if we all wouldn’t just end up adjusting our lifestyles until we were just as tight financially as we are now.  Gamblers wait for the big win.  Artists of all stripes await their big break, and it’s folly, all of it is, every single bit.  True achievement is finding the joy in that drudgery.  It’s there.

Even after my experience, I can’t always find it.  But I compared acid flashbacks to a kiss earlier, and it still applies here.  You can’t recall a kiss unless you’ve kissed someone.  Once you have, with a little time and space and just enough peace to imagine, it’ll come back to you.  The way your lips tentatively and hesitantly met comes back.  The moment when all tentativeness and hesitation fell away and you melted into each other comes back.  That feeling of blissful panic, that knowing that if she were somehow snatched away from you now that you’d just fucking die comes back.  What doesn’t come back is the nervousness itself, the uncertainty; there’s only the recollection that they were once there, which brings with it nothing but laughter at how silly and unnecessary they were.  Whatever else happens, whatever else is lost or stolen or destroyed, whatever godawful cataclysms and depredations shake your ground, rain down from the skies or kick in your door, you can always bring it back to you.  It’s true for wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and lovers, and it’s true for life itself too.  In fact, I coulda just said it was like kissing life itself and saved us all a lot of trouble.

My apologies for using the word quotidian; I am well aware that that sounds pretentious as all hell, thank you.  Apologies as well for taking so long between my last post and this one, should anyone actually care about the length of the interval.  Lastly, introspect.  A lot.  You can leave a strange place, quit a job you don’t understand and you can leave a lover rather than take the time to understand them, but if you are foreign to yourself, then you’ll be lost for every second of your life.


I swear I don’t do this often.

By “this”, I mean posting shit about myself that none of you could possibly care about.  I also probably mean whining too.  Cuz I’m not gonna lie, this could possibly be construed as whining.  To me, whining would be if I were to relate the events that I will shortly relate, and then assert that these events mean my life is shit and that the breaking of my coffee decanter plunged me headlong into blackest depression.  It’s not, and it didn’t:  there won’t be anything stronger than exasperation here.  Intense exasperation, in some cases, but still exasperation.  In fact, the only thing I’d say is remarkable about any of it is the rapid and seemingly daily occurrence of things that would exasperate one:  by Wednesday I was waiting for inanimate objects to defy my will.  It would be a bitterly short wait.

Monday:  Wake up 30 minutes before due at work.  Realize near-flat tire wasn’t aired up last night as intended.  Get up, dress, run out door, drive to thieving 50 cent convenience store air compressor down the street with only two quarters in pocket.  Pray near-flat tire isn’t being shredded.  Air up tire, be too groggy to appreciate that tire is still intact.  Drive to work and have rest of day be emblematic of morning.

Tuesday:  Bash knee really hard on door at work.  Force self to not limp until lunchtime, then lie and say it happened during lunch to avoid bureaucracy.  Arrive at home, rest, think to self my knee’s better than I thought it would be, that was lucky, then attempt to stand.  Howl wordlessly.  Limp for next two days.

Wednesday:  Wake up, stagger limp into kitchen, immediately knock coffee decanter to ground.  Stare in disbelief at razor sharp wreckage in bare feet.  Dismember black thingie that holds coffee filter, drip coffee directly into mug.  Leave broken glass cleanup for later, because FUCK.

Thursday:  Resolve to finally solve rare and week-long problem:  too many ideas to write about; all are intertwined.  Pick most tangled one, spend rest of night trying to not write eighteen essays at once.

Friday:  Awaken minutes before computer locks up with previously mentioned and actually good essay displayed, as if to mock me.  As if it wanted me to see my ideas die.  Resist urge to call in sick.

I think it’s all because I mocked the previous Friday, which was of course the 13th.  I even pointed out that 13 used to be a good number before superstitious idiots perfectly reasonable people who believe that numbers can hurt them slandered its reputation so callously.  Thank you, reality, for showing me that uninformed superstition triumphs over an ancient culture’s history, culture and spirituality.

That’s just fucking great isn’t it.

Do rhetorical questions get question marks?  I’m too busy looking up the number thirteen on Wikipedia.  See, back in the day, when some bad shit happened there were, like, thirteen things present.  Sometimes.  Still, groups of twelve people do bad shit all the time, so why not demonize twelve?  Better yet:  you know what number was somehow present for every bad thing that has ever happened ever?  One.  Yes, the loneliest number.  I WONDER WHY.

Thanks for reading.  Apologies for all this not being relevant to any other human being in any possible way.

Post-script!  A few minutes ago:  Click away from New Post screen by accident.  Hit back and find it blank.  Abort imminent blind rage/crying jag with crash course on WordPress draft functionality.

This used to say Hello World right here

I had to change it, because I’m not a programmer.  I don’t have near enough autism for it, sadly.  There is, however, one thing, one basic fundamental bond, one precious bit of common ground between programmers and I:  we both type shit.  The sticking point is comprehensibility.  They do it for machines, I do it for people.  I did try to learn to do it their way once, but I didn’t even get past Logic Design.  Tasteless jokes about mental disorders aside, my brain seriously does not work that way, and it’s hard not to respect people who can do things that I can’t do.  English appeals to me because it’s so malleable; there are a hundred ways to say the same thing, and it’s beautiful.  The rules bend as well.  Those are the only good kind of rules; they should all do that.

Quiet disquiets me, too much noise makes me cringe, and good music of whatever sort is just right.  Spirituality fascinates me just as much as science, politics dismays and saddens me and I generally like individuals but despise people.  Random fact:  literally every possible blog title containing the word misanthropy or one of its permutations is taken here on WordPress.  Please take the word of a random person on the internet that I tried them all.  It took a reeeeeeally long time.  It is my humble hope that my research ultimately benefits not only WordPress, but all of humanity.

Right now I’m hot (but I’m always hot ifyaknowwhatimean), tired from work and spending way too much time writing this.  In everyday life I walk as much as I can instead of drive, am in love, and if you were to do something for me, I would say thank you much – kinda like Elvis, but without the adverbiage – and entreat you to have a good one.

Take these informative yet obtuse facts here and derive from them what you will.  I also really like the word obtuse.  Really, really like it.  Hopefully subsequent writings appearing here interest you, although if I’m being completely honest, I would be baffled as to why they would.

Obtuse obtuse obtuse obtuse obtuse obtuse obtuse obtuse obtuse.