Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Potato Theology: May the Tot of Gott of Be With You

Gott is tot is German for God is dead. It is not, as I previously thought, God is a tater tot. I would have been okay with that too. Who doesn’t enjoy a pile of warm, golden tots fresh out of the oven?  I think Jesus would have approved of tater tots.

If the Supreme Being were a tater tot or if the tot was, at least part of the Holy Trinity I would have enjoyed mass a whole lot more. Let’s say all things being equal that the tot was Jesus as the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity. We’d not want to equate it with the Holy Spirit. The Great Tot himself told his followers that mocking the Holy Spirit was the only sin that was unforgiveable.  Establishing the tot as the 3rd person of the trinity seems like mockery to me. The son of man was okay with a little good natured ribbing. The Holy Spirit is an invisible whiny bitch that runs home to tell daddy on you.

Now that this is settled we can extrapolate further that Jesus’ golden potato-ey goodness would have inspired this lapsed Catholic. Going to communion would truly be the high point of the liturgy, not just the magical, symbolic high point (please don’t get me started on the intellectual folly of transubstantiation).
“This is the crispy golden potato of Christ.”

“Ay-fucking-men Padre,” would be the response, “Pop that tasty tot in my mouth.”
I just texted a friend and asked her if she thought Jesus would have been a mayo or a ketchup man. Being a good Lutheran – also lapsed – from Middle America she prefers to keep her beliefs close to her chest so as to not offend.  I think Midwest Lutherans may have been what Jesus had in mind when he said that the meek shall inherit the earth. However, that was before they closed all the factories and sent jobs overseas.

“I think his preference would be mixed,” She said, “He’d not want to discriminate against any particular condiment.”

True methinks

“Jesus would also have no problem with same condiment marriage either,” I said.

“True.”

Well…I’m not sure where he’d fall on Thousand Islands. That dressing has higher carb content from sugar than many other dressings and it also looks a little like barf.

Yuck.

As a senior in high school I worked the grill at a local fast food restaurant named Herfy’s. We were the home of the Herfy’s Hefty Burger and no Hefty burger was complete without our patented secret Herfy Sauce. Yup…you guessed it. Our secret sauce was mostly Thousand Islands which our commissary shipped to us in 2 gallon tubs.  No wonder I found 3 dead flies legs up on a stack of frozen patties on one of my last shifts.

I tend to be a Charles Darwin man, but the existence of the potato, natures most perfect root (not my favorite root, however. Wink...wink), might sway me toward intelligent design. I don’t want to be controversial though. Let’s end with a benediction.

“May the Tot of Gott be with you.”

“And also with you.”

“Go forth in peace my children.”


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Notes on Sobriety: The Humility of Step

Step 7, humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings, used to feel like a twig in the eye. Being an agnostic atheist in recovery each time the word “God” or one of the ineffable pronouns, such as “Him” was used I stopped listening. It drove me absolutely bat shit crazy. More than once I found myself reevaluating why I was in such a theistic recovery program. Wasn’t there another way?

However, I love the people in my home group. I love the care and concern that I’ve been given by others in program. I’ve ultimately decided to stick with it and let my friends have their god or higher power and remember to keep the focus of my recovery on me and not on what someone else believes. This is the basis of a sound recovery program.

I don’t come to these rooms to debate beliefs or discuss theology and philosophy. I come to AA and to AL-Anon to learn how to heal from the disease of alcoholism and to help others do the same. I come to share, listen and learn. I come to bear witness to the pain and the joy of the family of my choosing. Hopefully, as I apply the principals of this program in all my affairs the improvements in my own life and character will also benefit my family of origin. If it doesn’t than I have my own wellbeing and that is enough.

These days whenever I encounter the word god or one of the many pronouns associated with deity I just use it as a reminder that I don’t have all the answers. No matter how smart I am or smart I think I am, the latter being the case really, I still have limits to my knowledge, my understanding and my abilities.  I still need help and I need the love and care of other people too. Additionally others need my love and support. This is how we help each other.

Ultimately, Step 7 is really about an ongoing character refinement that underpins my entire process of recovery – humility.  It doesn’t matter where the answers to my problem or the help I need comes from. It just matters that help comes.  Before this realization I was often like the man in the old joke that waited for god to save him from drowning in the flood. He ultimately died because he refused the help that came in the form of a log, canoe, row boat etc.  Qualifying what acceptable sources of help are may blind me to the generosity of others and the legitimate help that is being offered to me in the here and now. I can apply the slogan, “keep an open mind,” without succumbing to credulity – a fear that is often the basis of my intellectual arrogance.




Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Language as A Way of Life

I’m a “yes, but” kind of guy. No matter how great an idea is I will find the downside to it pretty quickly, especially if there is a good chance that I may possess a talent or some experience that would lend well to it.

Todd, have you ever thought of being a professional writer?

Yes, but my grammar and spelling leaves a little to be desired.

That’s what spell check, dictionaries, style manuals and editors are for. You can even take an adult education class at the local learning annex.
Yes, but It’s really hard to get a break and you need an agent to be really successful.

So, self publish

Yes, but while that is pretty easy you still have to promote it to get sales. What good is publishing if nobody wants to read it?

Well, how does anybody know they want to read it if you won’t publish it and try to put it out there?

And so on and so on.

When I’m honest with myself (and you) I’ll admit that I like writing…love it, actually. It’s hard work. My self-doubt, depression and anxiety get the better of me a lot. Then there is the matter of my toddler sized attention span. I get bored of my projects very quickly and move on to the next one so that all I have at the end of each year is several unfinished projects and no actual progress.

Well, why don’t you just pick one and focus on it? Set a goal to finish just one of those projects this year.

Yes, but you seem to be forgetting about my toddler sized attention span

I admit that I live in fear where my creativity is concerned. My risk taking threshold is not very high and putting my work “out there,” exposing my thoughts is scary. I strut about with my chest out pretending that I have a thick skin. I talk gruffly to those who disagree with me. I’m a tempestuous warrior man.

I wrestle bears and alligators. I fashion my clothes and boots from their skins. I am a post modern Ernest Hemingway, a hard drinking war correspondent who runs with the bulls and goes on safari when peace breaks out. I’m the only one who believes this façade, of course. My friends and family see me for who I am, a sensitive creative person who is afraid of criticism. Throw the first punch is my M.O.

A creative person’s work is an extension of themselves; their inner being brought out into the daylight. A rejection of our work can be mortal. It, at least, can feel that way. What we do is so subjective at times others don’t always understand it. That’s not their fault. My job as a writer is to use my word’s to communicate. Yet, the rejection wounds all the same. Maybe even more so because I know that I have failed.

However, do I edit and re-craft? No, not usually. That’s the difference between true writers and those of us who just use words. Real writers crawl back to their computers and their notebooks and craft and reshape their work. They experiment and play with it trying to see what they can eke out of the symbolic nature of language.  For the artist who writes it is the process that matters not the necessarily the opinions of critics and readers, although they love acclaim and adulation as much as the rest of us. However, it is their relationship to the language, both real time and archetypal that becomes their way of life.

  All I can do is remember the words of an English teacher who, after reading some immature poetry drafts, said, “The problem with your writing is that you have nothing to say.”

She offered no further encouragement or advice. I was crushed and heartbroken. 12 years later the sting of that criticism felt as real as a slap in the face that just happened. I hadn’t written a word except to make a grocery list or take down a message for my roommate. It would be another 10 years before I would buy a notebook and start keeping a journal.

As for Hemmingway,

Hemmingway was miserable; spent his life in depressed misery and eventually blew his brains out. So maybe this isn’t the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro I want to climb. According to a Zen Master, whose name escapes me, there are many ways to climb Mt. Fuji, but the view is the still the same from the summit. So maybe there is more than one way to enjoy what I love. That is, if put my self-doubt aside long enough to try it…maybe even tame my toddler sized attention span and complete one of my many works in progress. I just have to find my way up the mountain.

  So how do I go from being a hack that just uses words to being an artist of the written word?

I don’t know exactly.

One of the little bits of literary trivia that I have reminds me that Shaw didn’t begin writing until he was around the age of 40 (If I remember correctly). I’ll be 47 in 27 days. What if I pick up one of my works in progress and see what happens?


Friday, August 02, 2013

Leave My Brown Bag Lunch Alone

I’ve been a card carrying, bleeding heart liberal for almost 30 years and Washington state politics sometimes embarrasses me.  Today, I’m specifically referring to a memo from the City of Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights that is seeking to ban the use of words/terms such as citizen and brown bag. This follows on the heels from the state level where words such as penmanship can’t be used anymore.  Note: Manhole is still allowed (Yes, this is a true story).

I also support the ACLU because civil rights violations are serious business to me. But, is this really the best use of tax payer time and money? I believe that a degree of civility and respect in the way we communicate is valuable and frankly necessary of all reasonable people. Unfortunately, this is PC gone retarded. Although, retarded is on the list of socially unacceptable words now too...AS IT SHOULD BE, I would add.

Speaking of the “R” word: will the non-profit organization ARC (Association of Retarded Citizens) need to change its name? It uses two banned words, retarded and citizen. As for the lunch bags in my pantry they don’t seem to be particularly offended by a reference to their bag color or ethnicity. Although, the hunter green lunch bags are concerned they may offend yuppies named Hunter. But, their parents should have thought of that before naming their child something ridiculous such as Hunter.

Leave my brown bag lunches out of it. They never did anything to you. Perhaps, the term “brown bag” has an ignoble beginning once used to express hostility to the ethnicity of certain people as one official interviewed suggested, but it doesn’t mean that anymore.  Language does change. Frankly, brown bag seems more of a slam to working class Joes versus the white collar executives who dined out at lunch. Wait a minute…now I’m offended. A pay raise will be more than enough to make me forgive this slight. Make it quick so we can avoid an expensive and unnecessary lawsuit.

Political correctness has always bothered me. It seems more liberal dogmatism, a government overreach into the personal lives of the public or public employees (I almost used the word citizen here) than a beneficial way to foster mutual respect and decency among the citizenry (aww, fuck it). I would never condone the use of racial slurs and other vulgarities uttered against people in public or our media and never from our elected officials.  However, I do think we can take things too far.

The problem with efforts to eliminate all potentially offensive words from our language is that you also potentially create a tangle of civil rights issues. The very least it does is add additional angry voices to the already angry conservatives who despise liberals to begin with. Not that I care that conservatives hate me on principle for being liberal.

Where does my civil liberty regarding speech end in deference to a greater public good? Vulgar, offensive language and even hate speech doesn’t seem a crime to me. If criminal actions follow, then the person committing the crimes should be held accountable for their crimes, but not the language. Civil liberty and democracies are not for pansies.

Reasonable people don’t use offensive words when talking to other people. When they do, they do the reasonable thing which is, apologize and find a better way to communicate. The unreasonable people…well…hater’s gonna hate. You can’t legislate and regulate their hate away. Hate simmers like an unattended pot. Eventually, you get a hardened, charred mess stuck to the bottom or much worse, a fire. Acrimony doesn’t go away simply because your sensitive ears are protected from hearing it.

The power behind offensive language is never centered on the person or persons using it. The power rests solely on how those who hear it respond. As I said above, it is never right to use terms that malign a person’s ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. Referring to citizenship or calling a person a citizen is a legal designation and if you find not being a citizen or being called a citizen offensive, you may not have enough important matters to occupy your time. Frankly, eliminating citizen seems a tactic to center much needed immigration reform on issues of ethnicity rather than on what is reasonable or just. Go get a haircut and a job you damn hippies.

Finally, as a private citizen of the United States I’m going to continue eating my brown bag lunches, watch out for open manhole covers when walking down the street and work on improving my dismal penmanship. Additionally, I will go on attempting to be kind and respectful to my fellow human beings regardless of the color of their skin, sexual orientation or their citizenship status. I don’t need a lexicon of approved language to do this.  I’m a human being and am always working to improve myself.

Years ago when I was at loose ends my dad encouraged me to seek employment in civil service. Thank god I ignored that suggestion…those poor bastards.BTW – Your blue jeans called. They would like you to stop describing them as blue, because they aren’t really depressed more than the average pants.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

First There is No Mountain

First there’s reality. Then there’s my experience of reality. Finally, I have the stories I tell myself about my experience of reality.  My stories may or may not have anything to do with reality as it is. However, they are what I base my life on. All I have is my stories. I eventually become my stories and reality conforms to it.

The more I l learn about the mental phenomenon of perception and memory the more It seems that I am living in a virtual reality apart from what is really going on. Even worse, some of you seem to be sharing my delusions. If enough of us tell similar stories they become the “isms” and “ologys” that have embittered our society and seem in danger of ripping it apart from the seams of our imaginary fabrics.

At last the Zen koan, first there is a mountain…then there is no mountain…then there is, makes sense, peripherally, at least. The problem is I still see the mountain and not the mountain as it is. I’m trapped in a self-created history seemingly doomed to repeat parts of it while I struggle to learn from it.


Buddhist masters teach that all sentient beings are essentially buddhas, we just need to awaken to that fact, or reality as I’ve talking about. Buddha is our essential nature. When I stop telling myself the same old stories I began to clear the sand from eyes. At least that is the theory. Of course, it’s quite possible that old Prince Siddhartha was as delusional as any desert prophet shouting at us through scripture and their post modern mouthpieces standing above us in their Sunday morning pulpits.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Orientation Address of the Mary Magdalene University of Reality and Wellbeing (Uranus Campus)

You may call me Br. Ezra or Avatar66. I am the promised god-man of the age. Well, perhaps not THE god-man. There are many Avatars in every age. To each Avatar is given to him or a number of souls that will resonate with him or her. It is our job to elevate the “normals” to a higher vibration or plane of living. It is with the power granted to me by the Benevolent Space Brethren of Gamma Globule that I bid you Hello from Uranus. Let us begin.


I like to consider myself one of the original slackers of my generation. It’s probably not true and frankly, I’m not competitive enough to care. This lack of interest in competition is a hallmark of my personality. Some of you might think I’m lazy. However, I prefer to think of it as not wanting to spend what precious years I have available to me in life killing myself for the American dream.

I don’t need a big house, a fancy car or the best clothes. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what you might consider the finer things life has to offer. I do love a well tailored suit and believe that every man from farm hand to political candidate should have at least one in his closet. Yet, I’m not going to die if I never own one. I’d rather have the time to spend rather than wasting it to get the money to spend. If I have the basics I need and I’m in good health that is wonderful. Just give me a notebook to scratch and scribble in, a good book to read and a sidewalk café to spend afternoons musing and talking to interesting people. I call that living.

It’s this basic disinterest in competition that my therapist would say keeps me from getting ahead in life. She can’t really tell me what “getting ahead” means. This is something she claims I must define for myself. I believe I have. I’d rather be creating than trying to fit in and keep up appearances. The later has been to exhausting and I’ve burned through a lot of psycho-bucks trying.

“If I’m happy and taking care of my responsibilities then who is to say I’m not ‘getting ahead in life’?” I ask.

She just stares at me with her penetrating shrink eyes, which leads me to believe she is the last person I should be working my issues out with. Psychotherapists are often crazier and more neurotic than the people they treat. I have little regard for the profession despite having availed myself of its offerings from time to time. Sometimes I just paid an unbiased person to listen to me so I could work things out for myself. That has been beneficial and worth the expense.

Frankly, I’ve made more progress from participating in a 12-Step program with a sponsor, anti-depressants, meditation and occasional bouts of sexual intercourse. Sex may rarely be the answer, but its overall benefits to emotional and mental wellbeing makes it a necessity. There is even research attributing physical wellbeing in the way of cardiovascular health and longevity as a result of regular sexual activity. Play it safe with a consenting partner and enjoy its benefits is my motto. As I told my kids once, sex is like driving a car, its fun and liberating until you’re reckless. You can hurt someone so be responsible and be ethical.

So as I was saying….

My cultivated disdain for our post modern approach to life has me believing that there are better ways to get out of life what we need. This is what I intend to begin exploring here. If you want to get a business, law or medical degree and then pursue a more traditional path to success this isn’t for you. I’ll probably just end up appearing crazy to you. You’re right. I’m a fucking loon. Ask anyone who knows me. But, I submit the following for your consideration. Just because a person is barking mad, doesn’t mean they’re entirely wrong. Sometimes we get it right.

Please do not misunderstand me here. We need doctors, lawyers, engineers and business people. We also need good teachers and accountants. We also need plumbers, electricians and waiters and, most importantly, baristas. Likewise we need writers, actors, dancers and artists. The crazy ones keep us from losing our souls and I believe our post modern culture is quickly becoming soulless. If you are one of the perceived normal people than please be normal, we need you. But, please understand you need us as well.

If I haven’t lost you yet I would like to start challenging the way you think about living life. We’re going to explore our attitudes about what it means to prosper, be successful and experience happiness. What you learn about yourself may surprise you. If you immediately associate any of the preceding vocabulary words with career paths, money and consumerism cast these notions aside. None of these things can make you happy or successful. There is nothing wrong with them, but if you are killing yourself trying to attain them or currently have them and are still anxious, depressed and bored…well…let’s talk, you might just be a student of The Mary Magdalene University of Reality and Wellbeing (Uranus Campus). I will be your professor.



Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Cafe Uranus - The Adventure Begins

Uranus Café was a greasy joint of ill repute. It was nestled in a creaky and extremely rundown section of the ex Soviet secret moon base Prada, on the dark side of the moon. Yes secret Russian moon bases exist….existed. Since the end of the Cold War they have been abandoned by the former Earth super power and have become galactic shanty towns inhabited by the marginalized and throwaways of the larger universe. Scary as the Uranus Café is – especially on a Tuesday – they make the best damn cheeseburgers in the Milky Way.


It’s here that my biography of Br. Ezra P. Miracle and the Chronicle of his quest to save the earth begins. It starts with - as many great stories do - nausea and disorientation. One moment I was sipping coffee in my Garfield underpants and a yellowing white tee shirt and the next moment I was retching in a zero gee toilet in the rankest, dirtiest men’s room I had ever been in. As a travel writer back on Earth I had attempted to relieve myself in some nasty gas station bathrooms. They were all clean and elegant compared to this. Given the numerous species sharing theses facilities and that urination and defecation is often a dissimilar process cross species this is to be expected.

After I was through barfing someone with green leathery skin and large black eyes tossed a tattered blue jumpsuit at me.

“Put this on,” he or it said. The voice was mechanical and coming from a small silver rectangle pressed against him or its throat via a choker. “It’s a universal translator. It allows me to choose the language I need to communicate in.”

My staring was apparently obvious.

“My name is Shedaisy,” she said, “I’m what you earth people would consider a female, although gender is rather variant with my species. We have the characteristics of both genders and individually I transform according to the needs of our species depending on the environment we are in. The dark side of the moon needs women right now.”

I now knew where I was even though I could scarcely believe it. Question one had been answered and oddly, question number two as well. Through the fog and confusion enveloping my mind I was trying to figure if this was “too much information.” I had just met my first alien and only moments ago was inclined to dismiss any notion that other intelligent species existed as crackpot as Lloyd Pye and his Star Child Skull. Nonetheless gender variance seemed a pretty good adaptation to evolution. It might even be fun sexually too.

Shedaisy reached out to steady me as I tried to stand up. I slipped on the old jumpsuit and looked at myself in the cracked, dirty mirror. Had I been drinking last night? My face blotched and my eyes red made me think so. I just didn’t remember, but that had to be the answer.

“No, you aren’t suffering a hangover or a psychotic break with reality,” said a human with a velvety baritone from behind me. “That’s just the after effects of astral displacement. It happens when you are ripped suddenly from one temporal location or reality to another. It’s a little easier to manage when you are expecting it. You’ll get the hang of it”

Get the hang of it?

It sounded like this might start to be something ongoing.

I didn’t like the sound of that at all.

I turned to face the source of that velvet fog.

“”I am Brother Ezra P. Miracle, “he said extending me his hand. “The P stands for Pound. I’m Earth’s ambassador to the Benevolent Space Brethren of Gamma Globulin.”

A group of rowdy aliens shaped like jelly filled bowling balls loudly pushed their way in crowding us. The men’s room went from being slightly cloying to terrifyingly claustrophobic.

“Let’s go grab a bite to eat. We’ve got a lot to talk about,” Ezra shouted over the din. He put his arm around me and guided me out of the lunar crapper and down a dimly lit corridor out a B movie scifi flick about an insane asylum on the moon. Shedaisy lumbered quietly behind us.

Yup…I wasn’t going to like this one bit.

Not one little bit.