Thanksgiving Dinner (And Sweet Revenge).

It all started on Thanksgiving day, eight years ago. My parents had never before seen a wild turkey on their property and since their house is located in a suburban country club- wild turkeys are no ordinary sight. I had come home for Thanksgiving dinner and I remember eating cheese and drinking white wine before the main meal began. My father and I, along with other family and friends sat in the living room conversing while my mother and a hired cook slaved away in the kitchen. There was frivolity and talk about the new President that was about to replace President Clinton. I was mortified by the fact that most of my father’s friends, including my father were excited about George Bush taking office. Right when my father said, “Mr. Bush is going to bring this great American country the change it needs,” there was a scream in the kitchen followed by my mother yelling- “Tilden, come here…come here!!!’ My father said excuse me and I followed him into the kitchen. “What is it Fran,” he said to my mother walking at a frantic pace. My mother stood shaking above the turkey that had just come out of the oven. She pointed out the window and said “what is it?” We both looked, horrified by what we saw. I immediately knew what it was. “Holly shit,” my father said- “It’s a wild turkey.”


After throwing numerous rocks at the turkey to get it to go away- my family and company all sat down at the dinning room table and enjoyed a memorable Thanksgiving meal. We all ate and drank too much and the main conversation revolved around George Bush and where the fuck the wild turkey came from. I spent the night that evening, because I was to drunk to drive. I was awoken early by my father screaming, “go, scat, get the fuck out of here.” When I looked out my bedroom window I saw my father in his bathrobe and slippers throwing rocks at a large pack of turkeys. They were all over the place. In the trees, all around the pool and walking through my mothers flower garden. They made a terrible guffawing noise as my father scared them away with his brute force. That morning at breakfast we ate left over turkey and drank black coffee. My father did not say a word but simply stared out the window waiting for the turkeys to return.


My father worked hard for his wealth and his country club home. Years spent working day in and day out as a Podiatrist who was always embarrassed about what he did for a living- had paid off. Now he owned a golf cart, a live-in maid, two Mercedes and a large quiet house in the hills. Everything on my parents property was manicured and attended to on a daily basis by a slew of gardeners. When the wild turkeys began to invade my fathers home all of the security, comfort and beauty that my father had worked so hard to build was slowly being torn away. The turkeys would leave shit droppings all around the house that my father would step on every time he went outside. He became paranoid about contracting the avian flu virus and other bird disease. As the weeks passed the turkeys multiplied and one time, many weeks later when I was home, I could not believe what I saw. There were turkeys everywhere. They were on the roof, the driveway, in the trees…one was even sitting on a raft that drifted in my parents pool. My father was loosing his mind. There was nothing that the Country Club Residents Board was willing to do to help him and he was forbidden by law to buy a gun and shoot the wild turkey’s. So he waited.


Years passed and the turkeys multiplied. My father refused to celebrate Thanksgiving and he gave up eating turkey. His hair turned gray and he became a more vindictive and bitter man. After years and years of waking up every morning and throwing stones at wild turkeys and cursing God- he managed to burn a hole in his colon, which required major surgery and a colostomy bag to fix. My mother and I would try to talk my father into accepting change and being at peace with nature. “Fuck nature,” he would say- “I want my house back.” He did everything he could to commit various acts of genocide against the turkeys but nothing worked. They kept multiplying like the virus that my father feared. Year later when he finally realized that he was defenseless against the wild turkeys he received permission from the state to hire hunters to remove the turkeys from his property.


There was a period of a year that my parents home looked like a strange war zone. It was a rather surreal sight because along with the manicured lawns, flowers, stones, fountains and beautiful oak trees there was a horrendous amount of turkey shit and feathers along with numerous turkey cages that decorated the entire property. There were turkey cages on the roof, the lawn, in the hills, on the deck, by the pool- everywhere. And in these cages were screaming turkeys that had wondered aimlessly into the cage and had to sit in captivity and wait for the hunters to come and slaughter them. This went on for months. It got so bad that I refused to go home. I could not condone the brutal tactics that my father was using to get rid of the turkeys, however- after months of trapping them in cages- the wild turkeys did not come around so much.


It’s been a year since the assault on the wild turkeys began. As the turkeys diminished in numbers my fathers mood began to get better. He started to eat turkey again and going to Temple (he quit going to Temple for a while because he believed that if there was a God he did not want to believe in one that was allowing what was happening to him- to happen). Then, less than a month ago I received notice that my father wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner at his home. I was surprised by this but excited that my father had come out of his misery enough to see the light. It had been eight years since my whole family has been together for Thanksgiving dinner but I have one latent fear. The past months I have been home to my parents home a few times and seen the cages with turkeys in them. I met the hunters one day and asked them what they do with the turkeys after they remove them from the cage. They told me this was the best time of year to hunt wild turkeys because they were able to sell them to markets for Thanksgiving dinner. “People eat these?” I said in disgust. “Sure,” the hunter replied- “they are the best kind. Free range, wild and organic.”


In a few hours I am leaving for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents home. I have bought organic red wine and pumpkin pie for the occasion. All week I have been trying to ask my father where he is buying the turkey that we are going to eat on Thanksgiving night. He responds ambiguously to me and does not give any direct reply. I have talked to my mother about it as well but she says, “your father is in charge of the turkey this year……. just come hungry.” This morning I emailed my father and said, “please, just tell me where you are getting the turkey from!” He replied an hour ago and said, “son, I do not want to say where I am getting the turkey from. Just come hungry and trust me that it will be not only good but good for you. I will only say one more thing on this issue and then the discussion is closed. Period. This years Thanksgiving dinner is my sweet revenge.”

The Spain Diary, 8-10

randall8. Madrid, Spain.

I am in Spain. For what ever reason, this thought astounds me. For years and years I have refused to fly, to travel. I isolated myself in my house, bought birds (so I could watch them fly) and was convinced that if I stepped foot on an airplane I would die. Like so many others, I fell into paranoia and irrationalism and forced myself to believe that travel was a superfluous and futile way to waste time. If a person could just be content in their room, with a book- then why travel? Travel is for escapists who are miserable or discontent in their lives. This is what I would always say. Now I am traveling and realizing that the belief system I bought into was misguided. Being an alien, far from home where no one speaks your language is simply magnificent. I am love with this experience. I am in Madrid and tomorrow we leave here- for the ancient city of Cordoba, where Senegal was born.

Jen, Sadie, Hamlet and I just finished watching an Almodavar film. To be in Madrid and watch a film that takes place in Madrid was surreal. The ultimate cinematic experience. The experience was so exciting that I drank too much wine and had a spell of palpitations. Now I will try to get some sleep.

Today I am better. Almodavar put me in the mood for deep dreams. I feel healthier than yesterday and much more exuberant. We walked all over Madrid today and ate good food, drank lots of red wine and now I am hoping that I have another good nights sleep. From tomorrow onwards I swear that I will no longer drink coffee- only juice. The coffee in Spain is making my heart run marathons. In the other room I can hear Jen and Sadie laughing. I can smell the weed that they are smoking- while they ring out the wet laundry and hang it up to dry for the night.

(for a quick moment- I must confide in this journal. Please do not judge me but last evening I swore that I would never drink coffee again. This morning I entertained the thought of abstaining for about an hour but exhaustion quickly overcame me. I took a quick shower in the dank bathroom and then I quickly came down to this café where I am now enjoying a butter croissant and a café con leche. The wonderful life of a man of contradictions!! This is what I will call my memoir.)

9. Leaving Madrid.

Oh Cordoba, oh Cordoba!! Beautiful ancient city in the south where Jews, Christians and Muslims all cohabitated peacefully together in an enlightened community for centuries!! Cordoba, how I hope you will save me from this gloomy and monolithic Madrid. Rip the despair right out from me!!

Jen and I are leaving the largest city I have ever seen in all of my life. Madrid is a bustling ghetto, spread out with pathos running through all the citizens of the city like blood through arteries. It is a rather depressing, hopeless maze for all who traverse through its big belly. It is an overcrowded and polluted city with a sadness welling up in its gut. Madrid is a city I will never return to.

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An hour or so ago, Jen and I made a quick stop at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia where for the first and last time I was able to observe Picasso’s Guernica. Jen insisted that we see this enormous painting before we leave Madrid and I am glad that she did or else my miserable self would of gotten us both out of this city as soon as possible. Jen is getting frustrated with what she calls my “apathy” but she is handling me well. I have noticed that her drinking has significantly increased since being in Madrid. Before we went into view Guernica we both drank a bottle of port which made the visceral experience of standing in front of Guernica all the more intense.  Security guards surrounded the painting which hung on a large white wall. Jen and I stood arm in arm with a crowd of camera toting tourists with their ordinary mouths agape as we all stared in amazement at the painting that will forever haunt all of our dreams. What a work of genius! After ten minutes of staring, I told jen that if we did not leave we would miss our train and be stuck in this wretched city. On our way out I bought a t-shirt with a print of Guernica on the front.

We are now on the train, which is leaving Madrid. Slowly the train is pulling out and I am watching this gloomy city fade away in the clouds. Goodbye Hamlet, goodbye Sadie- so sorry to leave you behind. It just started to rain.

10. Cordoba, Spain.

The sky just opened up and there is sun! I am waiting for a hand to reach down through the clouds and wake me up from this dream. From the moment I stepped off the train I was engulfed in a clean, dry, Mediterranean heat. I could hear voices that sounded free from torpor and filled with life. Immediately I felt my spirits raised. After we checked into our beautiful hostile in the old section of Cordoba, Jen and I wondered around the cobble stone streets of the ancient city in amazement. We bought little trinkets from vendors and smoked a hookah in a tea house. Our skin slowly toasted brown from the warm mid afternoon sun and again Jen and I fell in love (I think we were slowly beginning to hate one another in Madrid).

And then the bells. A maddening sound of bells that woke Jen and I out of our mid afternoon wine, weed and sun induced nap. We could hear people cheering and clapping in the distance and down in the piazza of our hostile a man yelled up with a German accent, “ our new Pope, Joseph Ratzinger has just been elected!” I wanted to go back to sleep because I could care less about the new Pope who is too old to hold such a position. I feel as if we are living in a particular time of history where Christianity is the dominant ideology, and this makes me very uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable with any religious ideology that a mass of people follow. This only creates discord in the world. At a time where I am struggling to find the center of my own being, this dominant Christian ideology makes me nervous. I refuse to categorize “my being” as Jewish , Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other way- I am who I am and I assume that my life will be devoted to a long journey of trying to figure out what this “I” actually is. For now I just want the bells to stop their knocking so I can get back to sleep.

We must be out of this hostile by twelve noon. Last night Jen and I ate, drank and smoked too much and wondered around the dark narrow streets until early in the morning. We were so exhausted by the time we arrived back in our room that we fell right to sleep (now that I think of it Jen and I have not made love in quite some time). Now Jen is rushing to get all of her things together so that we can check out of this room (for each minute after noon we are charged a late fee). I am ready so I will wait and write. The sky is blue, the fucking bells are still ringing (they have not stopped since yesterday), cats hiss and tourists are everywhere! Cordoba is a tourist trap and yesterday I almost got into it with a gypsy who would not leave me alone. These gypsies come to this place because of the large amount of tourists that they can bum from. However- this is an endearing city with good tapas, beautiful architecture, and old bars that inspire a desire to drink and be philosophical. Jen is ready to go, a little grouchy because she had to rush and she feels hung over. We will grab a taxi cab, traverse through the narrow streets of Cordoba and go to the train station where we will travel for a few hours until we reach Seville, the city of Flamenco.

The Spain Diary, 6-7

me-and-randall

6. Madrid, Spain.

Two walking tourists. All around this ugly city we walked in silence for what felt like days. We walked among crowds of Madridians smoking cigarettes and swallowing the smoke. The locals depressed me with what felt like a Spanish kind of  unfriendly thanatos that they carry around in their attitudes. One older Madridian woman came up to me with a parakeet on her shoulder and kept asking me “why?” in English. I have seen her around our hostile all night sitting on a stump, in the dark and staring at a ninth story window. Palpitations are keeping me awake and outside I can see this gray city dangling from what seems to be the last tentacles of life. It’s two a.m and more windows seem to have lights in them than are dark. Don’t people who live in Madrid ever sleep? Do they all suffer from palpitations like me? Maybe its in the drinking water or the food. From now on I should only drink bottled water. Outside it is cold. Really cold and this fucking hostile has little heat. April in Madrid, what a strange place for me to be. At dinner I drank a bottle of Dominican red wine but I am not drunk nor am I hungry. I just want sleep. I should of known better. I am guilty of gluttony. The Spanish consume food in a way that I have not witnessed before. At one time tonight on our dinner table there was fried chicken, pork, rice, beans, Spanish beer and wine and something called Fritos. We ate at a Barrio Caribbean restaurant in one of the poorer sections of Madrid. It was cheap.

This morning Jen and I left that suffocating hostile. Now we are staying in a dank apartment with orange juice and hair stuck on the ceiling. The apartment is on the ninth floor of a very unbecoming utilitarian building. A friend of Jen’s lives here with a man she is fucking for rent. Jen tells me that she has expatriated herself from her drug and birth place in order to live in Spain, get clean and teach English. Language of the dominator. Her name is Sid and she is a lovely looking manic-depressive with a wounded heart who is struggling to piece herself back together and walk through the world some what intact. She is dating a twenty two year old boy (she is twenty five) from the Dominican Republic who goes by the name of Hamlet. Go figure. At first I really was skeptical but he knows not what significance (at least for me) stands behind his name. He does not even know of a man from Stratford, England who lamented the loss of a woman and wrote some of the greatest plays ever written by a man. I suppose I envy his ignorance.

In the other room Hamlet (who speaks very little English but supposedly has a huge penis) sits with Sid (who prefers to be called Sadie) and Jen. They are drinking rum and smoking hash and I can hear them talking about repressed anger. Fuck them. I want to sleep and be alone. They want to go out and drink and dance and engage in what they call “debauchery, Spanish style.” I feel like I am getting a cold and need to take it easy. I fell asleep for a few hours but I have been awoken by all their noise. So what else can I do but write and wait for sleep to overcome me again? Adjusting to this foreign culture is not as simple as I thought it would be. Maybe I should stop suffering on this mattress on the floor with dirty sheets and go drink some rum and smoke some hash. Why suffer?

7. Madrid, Spain.

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Jen and I walked all over Madrid today. My feet are flooded by a terrible ache. In the metro we were like two sinners stuffed into boxcars that were descending into the inferno. I could not get the question out of my head- “what am I doing here?” I felt like I was on Carrion’s boat crossing the river Styx. The metro was dark, crowded and stuffy. Everyone spoke a language I can not understand. For a moment I thought I felt a pick pocket dangling his hands in my shirt. We went to the Prado Museum where I met eye to eye with Goya’s suffering, Hieronymus Bosch’s renditions of hell on earth and Caravaggio’s madness. So much art portraying various kinds of people seduced by greed, madness and a fear of death. While in the Prado I also realized that no matter where you go in the world the rich dress terribly. Now Jen and I are lying on the mattress on the floor. It is night again- Jen is getting the hash ready, which I am about to smoke and then hopefully we will both be able to fall off to sleep.

I just met a woman in a very strange dream who cries compulsively when her flowers die.

The Spain Diary, 1-5

Inspired by a comment from Paul Squires I will be posting sections from a work in progress: The Spain Diary. I will be posting the dairy in installments (as they are typed up and edited). Feed back would be appreciated, but more importantly I want you to come along, and indulge in this mysterious and unusual journey that I took in 2004. ‘sta luego.


randall

1. Oakland, California

I have a terrible time letting go. Tomorrow my girlfriend and I leave for Spain. Our current compact one bedroom apartment is littered with restless garments and various idiosyncratic condiments that are waiting to make their way into my suitcase. Our indoor black cat, who prefers t

o be called Monk, sits forlornly in one of the suitcases. I assume that he is wanting to come with us rather than being placed into the foster care of my psycho-analytic sister who will tend to his numerous needs during the next three weeks of our absence. I have successfully avoided stepping foot on an airplane for almost eleven years now, but with my current girlfriend this seems to be an impossible crusade to carry on. She refuses to stay with me if I do not travel, and I am left in a predicament where I either loose the woman I love or get over my horrible fear. Surprisingly on this night, my fear is relatively absent- despite a tight jaw and my occasional ruminations upon death from a terrible loss of engine power that sends our lovely little airplane into a nose dive towards mother earth. I shake momentarily with subtle horror when these thoughts come into my consciousness, but then I take a small shot of whiskey that helps me to let these irascible thoughts go.

At this point in my thirty fourth year of existence, my greatest goal is to break out from the servitude of my self imposed existence of pre-fabricated comfort zones. I have a tendency to spend most of my time within a ten mile radius of my home. Outside of work, I keep myself locked up in a wall to wall carpeted one bedroom apartment with my cat on my lap and a book in my hand. Every man or woman reaches a point in his or her life, where it is time. And this is my time. It is my time to let go and travel despite how much I am dreading it. The past few afternoons I have spent more time staring at the sky, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible thought that I am going to be “up there” in the sky- where only the birds should fly. The thought bends my mind and sends little shots of adrenaline rushing to my heart. This is the stuff of science fiction- but tomorrow I am going to Spain and there is not a dam thing I can do about it.

(by the way, this journal that I am currently writing in and taking with me to Spain- I stole it today.)


2. Airport

I want to imbed this concept into my fear ridden mind:  “First of all you need to understand that no objective reality exists but that which is created by consciousness. Consciousness always creates form, and not the other way around. So my environment is a reality of existence created by myself and others like me, and it represents the manifestation of our development.” I also want to remember: “Identity is not dependent on form.” The more I imbed these concepts into my mind the more I must realize that life is but a dream, that my thoughts create my reality and that the flesh I carry around is imaginary and so is the airplane that I will be floating in- so what the hell do I have to fear???


3. Airplane.

Am I just going to sit here in my own hell? I know hell is eternal- and a living hell has the luxury of being brief. But I want you to see this from my perspective. You see, it is my belief that as long as a person is living through hell in the moment, this hell IS eternal and forever. It is pointless telling someone who is in hell that “everything will be okay” and that their “suffering will end soon.” This is like telling someone who is under the influence of anesthesia to “wake up!” But my girlfriend looks calm while currently I am a man in hell. I am too nervous to even continue writing in this journal. I am being subjected to the torment of turbulence at around 30,000 feet above ground. I am a six foot six man who has been shoved into the working class section of this gigantic airplane (how does this fucking thing stay in the air, and who the hell are these people who get to sit in first class???) and my discomfort is showing by the sweat that is pouring from my forehead and my hand which is grasping onto my girlfriends hand. I am being tortured…with ten hours to go. Fuck.


4. Madrid, Spain

Survived. How I do not know. But I know I am still alive because I can perceive form. Unless there is form in the spirit world. But I am almost positive that I am still alive. I am in a hostel in downtown Madrid and outside my window taxi cabs and pollution make their way through the large city like bacteria in blood. This morning I went for an exhausted walk which filled me with a strange mixture of elation and anxiety. I was elated because I was no longer in a country that I despised. Freed from the turpitude of American civilization, each step I was taking was on foreign ground!! I was anxious because I was beginning to suffer the strange and beguiling symptoms of jet lag.

Currently, I am sick and trembling. The coffee here is strong enough to kill an elephant and the orange juice I drank for breakfast is acidic enough to burn a hole in a copper coin. Last night when we arrived in Madrid I was like a wild bird set free from its cage. My girlfriend and I checked into our hostile and then roamed the new found foreign streets of Madrid. We went from bar to bar like two time travelers, mystified by the new world in which they found themselves. I indulged myself in cup after cup of Spanish red wine and smoked a pack of cigarettes. I was celebrating the fact that I had discovered a new world.

Jen, my girlfriend, is telling me that I am sneezing a lot. The city is dirty but beautiful. The shower is to small for my six foot six body, but I managed to squeeze myself in and rinse. We are not staying in the most luxurious of accommodations. The room is green, the bed is bent, the balcony looks out onto a white wall and the bathroom is the size of a shoebox. But who cares, at this moment despite the fact that I am sick and about to vomit- I feel like this is a small price to pay for being the luckiest man alive.


5. Room Without A View. Madrid, Spain.

And then it hits me with the force of gravity. Jen and I have no choice but to remain in bed for the day. Jen is dizzy and I am also spinning. The room we are staying in is a surreal mystery theatre that I can not figure out. The bookshelves and the coat rack keep moving. So does the archaic chandelier that hangs from the ceiling. Who am I again? Symptoms: chest tightness, vertigo, lethargy, shortness of breath, anxiety and fear of sudden death. I think it is afternoon in Madrid. Sirens sound in my head. The white sheets that I have been lying on all day smell like bleach. Am I Kurt Cobain? The smell of rotten fish wafts through the open windows. It must be past lunchtime? I can not move from this bed. The floor is like little waves of water. Jen calls our current affliction a homogenization of jet lag, time change, too much red wine last night and being displaced which are all creating a feeling that is equivalent to being a fish in a fishbowl. I am not ready to die yet Jen! I still want to marry you! So I take a multivitamin and some liquid trace minerals with a lot of water. The maid is vacuuming the hallways and I think there is a bird loose some where in our room. Jennifer can not hear me when I talk. A dog barks and more motorbikes, horns make their way down my wall. I am surprised that they have dogs in Spain.

Jen is asleep. She is sprawled out on her stomach like she has just fallen from a great height and landed on this miserable bed. Her beautifully seraphic hair is displayed gracefully all over her youth filled back. I love her more than I thought I would and at some point I would like to ask her if we can make babies. But not now, not yet. First I have to survive this house of mirrors. The white stucco walls are still breathing. Good. The lithe white drapes are gently swaying with each slight Spanish breeze. A siren, the maid is shouting in Spanish and I think I am going to be sick.

Blogger Block

I have been coming up empty. Drained or strained- unable to write anything that I feel is of much interest to me. In the year that I have been maintaining this blog I have not run up against this quagmire. Ideas for blog posts flooded my mental capacities and I could not keep my fingers away from the key board. But now I have grown uninterested and discontent. I’d rather meditate than write and I am more entertained watching my birds than I am creating blog posts. I wonder if I am growing tired of the self deprecating, victimized revelations that I indulge in my writings. There have been times that I feel as if I am revealing too much and should maybe with hold some personal information from the blogosphere. But the more dominant half of me has always believed that good writing is about honesty and if I am incapable of being honest in my writing, why write?

So I have abstained from writing. I have created a few short stories that lack the ardor, tenacity and wit that I would like to cultivate in my prose- but they are tolerable. Maybe I have grown bored with the tales of terror, anxiety, perversion, marital woe, sexual frustration and absurdity that I have spent the past year religiously telling or maybe I just need a break. Ideas for stories to write are still often coming into my head, as if a hand of some ethereal muse refuses to let me alone, but the moment I transform the idea into prose I grow bored before I have even gotten past the first paragraph. I spell word after word wrong and can not find the words to describe a thought. I often wonder if this blog is simply a ridiculous waste of my time but then I am reminded of how much I enjoy certain comments when they come maybe once a week. Or is this a lie I tell myself to manipulate my way around the task of writing the novel I have dreamed of creating ever since I came out of my fathers womb (this is another story I still have to tell). Even now as I write this blog entry I want to delete it. This is a ridiculous rant of a jaded mind that has become frozen in it’s own lack of spontaneity. Whatever the case may be- I believe that I may be suffering from my first case of blogger’s block.

A writing teacher of mine told me the other day to just keep writing. “Even if what you have to say is crap, put it up on your blog for all the world to see. You are writing for you and nothing more, so what have you got to hide?” What my writing teacher does not realize is that I am not writing just for me. I failed to admit to him that I am writing for fame, immortality, financial security and the privilege of accepting literary awards that will free me from my day job and afford me the title “novelist” when I have to tell people what I do. It is a grand dream that may never be attained, but deep down I feel as if this absurd digital diary is a small step along the blistering way. And after all, it is the journey and not the destination, that matters most, right? So I’ll keep writing, or at least I will try to keep writing- and maybe way out there, somewhere- one person will keep on reading.

The Reluctant Ornithologist, Part 1

1. “Where Two or More Are Gathered In My Name, There Will I Be Also.”

I had been buying a lot of birds. Not just one- but three. Their verbal flourishes dominated my every preoccupation. My heart became a sonogram of bird calls. Every thought I had hovered around birds. Che-wee-wee-ooo (which is the song that one of my bird sang), chip-chip-chip-chip (which is the sound of another) and tissy-che-wee-ooo (the sound of the third) all rang through my ears day and night. It was as if my head had been converted into and aviary. From where this sudden fascination with birds initially came from, I am with only one idea. It must of happened while I was in a hysterical state of anxiety, trying to calm myself on my back porch. For whatever reason, my ears clasped onto a seraphic song that sounded like this:

Chee chew chee chew chee
Chew-cheer cheer cheer
Chew chew chew chee
-up cheer up cheer up
tweet tweet tweet tweet jug jug jug.

I looked around to find the sound and noticed what looked like a nightingale singing in an apple tree. When I got up to have a closer look the bird was gone- and so was my anxiety. The bird’s song was the most salient sound I had ever heard before. After that memorable day I began to listen to bird songs. When I went on walks or sat outside I opened the aviary gates with my ears. The more I listened the more each note seemed sweeter than before. It was as if I was drinking the sound. My heart began to settle into a gentle hum rather than its previous frightening variations of tones and rhythms. I knew that the English romantics were blown away by the beauty of bird strophes and meters, which threw them into despair, awe and raw inspiration. However, something not terribly different was happening to me. The more I tuned into the songs of birds the more I could relate to that most American of bards, Walt Whitman, who was always singing about the joy of being alive.

Such joy is aberrant and unusual to me. I have often thought that I was condemned to a life in the mental bush. My mood swings have always been irregular and my feeling of hopelessness and despair less than melodious. My songs were never that of a mockingbird who is able to mimic many tongues at once, but rather that of madman unable to reconcile what he himself needs in order to live in peace. After taking the time to concentrate upon bird song- I began to feel like the meaning that I have always been seeking lies in the rhythms of the real world. And then one day, completely unexpected- I happened upon a poem:

Could they be birds that sung so well?
I thought, and maybe more than I,
That music’s self had left the sky
To cheer me with its magic strain,
And then I hummed the words again
Til fancy pictured standing by
My hearts companion flies in the sky.

I took this as a sign, an omen- not to be ignored. After work that day I heeded the call and spent three hundred dollars on my first bird.

Despite the fact that Keats and Coleridge wrote so much about the melancholy bird, I myself wanted to buy a nightingale. Keats referred to this bird’s song as “a love chant that disburthen his full soul of all its music,” and I wanted to own this sound in my house. However, the two bird stores that I went to did not carry the nightingale, whose melodies are said to burst with love, so I settled upon the next best thing- a thrasher. The man who sold it to me said “her sounds will make you laugh,” which I did when I heard the bird sing ShuckitShuckitSowit-PloughitPloughitHoeit! I knew she was the bird for me when the clerk said, “If you search for a single parameter to define this bird’s song, you will be barking up the wrong tree. This bird is an absurdist.” When I brought the little red thrasher home my wife was overtly surprised by my purchase. I had not told her about my bird revelations and not until I brought the bird home did we talk about it.

As the days passed my wife and I wanted another bird in the house. We both loved the natural sound of the bird songs that deeply involved our minds in the world of birds and drew us into a unique music that made us more aware of the immediacy of the natural world. The bird songs cancelled out the synthetic urban sounds of cars, stereo’s, aircraft and sirens that surrounded our abode. One Sunday I took my wife to a small pet store where we picked out our second bird- whose songs, my wife said, reminded her of Bach. The sparrow was not cheap but when the bird seller told us that the bird had 24 different song motifs- we decided to take it. We bought separate food for the sparrow and as we were walking out to the car, the bird which was in a box sung a song that reminded me of Verdi’s Rigoletto: Wertz, wertz, wertz, weet-weet-weet-weet-weet-spee-ge-wee-ge-dee. I was both amazed and inspired and while driving back to what would soon become our insane aviary/house- my wife looked at me and said “I love this bird.”

Having two birds in the house created a new vernacular between my wife and I. We were using more words like “beauty,” “joy,” and “love” rather than our previous lexicon of “bug,” “mean,” “frustrated,” and “jerk.” A new sense of well being came over our home and I was experiencing a remission from the anxiety that had been tormenting me for so long. We woke up in the morning to chip chip chee yer zig zig zig zig; chee chee chiddle hair terpee terpee terpee and tee tee tee eeeyer huffum huffum huffum. We named the sparrow Miro and the thrasher Dali. My ears filled with moments of excitement and exaltation as I listened to my bird’s songs. I finally understood what Aldous Huxley meant when he said, “bird song is simply an outlet, the most pleasurable one.” I began to whistle more and brood less. In the walkway of our small home my wife and I hung a sign that said “The birds sing blissfully until the joy is so great as to be unbearable: this joy cannot be heard from afar, but if you come near it, you will succumb.”

Then I impulsively bought the third bird- the one my wife and I would come to call Mozart The Terrible. It was a small green parakeet that sung astonishingly beautiful music. Her songs sounded like four instruments that weave in and out through unusual harmonies, rhythms derived from ancient India and Greek music, and impressionistic chords that rise up towards a sonic heaven. I stood there in awe as the bird seller told me that this parakeet was a truly innovative composer, a paragon of avian song. “The great thing about the songs of birds is that they are opposite of time. Only the sound of birds lasts longer than the greatest of composers,” she said to me as she packaged up my bird. I remembered what my grandfather told me about how in his darkest hours of gloom, when he suddenly became aware of his own futility- he would listen to Mozart. The sounds that came from the parakeet who waited in the box for me to pay the sixty dollars, sounded like an electronic alchemist, a hallucination of purity. I could hear a violin, a cello and a bass all in the birds single meticulous call. As I left the pet store, with my bird in a bag, I asked the pet seller again if she was sure it would okay to keep the parakeet in the same cage as the thrasher and the sparrow. “It will be like a beautiful musical composed by God,” she said as she held the door open for me with a smile I will never forget. Little did I know then that the supposed beautiful musical gathering of Mozart with the two other birds would become a blade to my inner ear, my marriage and what was left of my sanity.

The Lesson Of The Ring

2I am embarrassed to tell this story, but it is a story that must be told. As a Writer- I am obligated. Prior to wearing my wedding ring I lived a different kind of life. I lusted after women on an hourly basis, spent my days pent up in sordid strip clubs and drank in dank city bars until the early hours of the morning. I disdained the whole concept of domesticity and found brief moments of love and bliss in Asian massage parlors.  There was a period of time in my life where I worked to not only live but also to afford my weekly visits to these massage parlors where beautiful Asian masseuses, who spoke little English, walked on my bare back and rubbed baby oil into my knuckles, toes and testicles. I justified my vice by convincing myself of the health benefits of the activity. Romans and Greeks had engaged in such restorative health practices and for $150.00 a week I should be allowed to do the same.

After I got married I swore that I would stop visiting the massage parlors. I sought out help from a therapist and visited a sexual addiction group, however- I could not get my mind off of one massage parlor in-particular. It was called The Sun Spa and every time I had walked into its warm and tenderly embracing belly, I enjoyed the most relaxing and sensual of erotic experiences.  After I was married I used all my residual strength to stay away because before I got married I swore that I would not become a husband that covertly goes behind his wife’s back and visits prostitutes. But sometimes the pressure was to immense and I would travel to The Sun Spa where I would sit outside in my car and use every conceivable mental weapon I had to keep my body from wondering inside. I did this several times. Once, I sat in my car for three hours outside of The Sun Spa pleading with myself to not go in. I watched jealously as men went in and out and I was transfixed by the neon marquee, that flashed SUN SPA in bright yellow lights. After month of forceful abstention, one day after a long and stress filled day at work I drank two beers and decided I deserved a break. Once again I drove myself to The Sun Spa.

This time I went in. I paid my $50.00 to the Korean speaking sugar daddy behind that counter and then chose from a wide array of scantily dressed Asian women. It was like looking into a fruit bowl with freshly picked fruit just waiting to be eaten. I chose one that was especially sexy to me because of her wide eyes and the way her white lace g-string revealed the fine contours of her hips. When she grabbed my hand to escort me into a back room I felt a feeling of liberation overcome me- it was as if all of the distress caused by my many months of indecision and moral deliberation had been suddenly released. For a brief moment I was freed from my guilt and resistance and once again allowed to indulge in my favorite past-time.

Since I do not remember the sirens name who lead me astray down a hall way of lust and transgression- I will simply refer to her as Her. Her brought me into a darkened room, set up just how I had remembered it from my visit two years before. There were mirrors on the wall, a bar on the ceiling for the masseuses to hold onto as they walked all over their patients back. There was slow sweet music playing on the speakers, a red light that created a red light district quality to the room and a shower in the corner that Her was preparing for me. She told me to take a shower, get clean and then rest on the mattress that sat on the floor and was made up with freshly laundered sheets and white towels. I showered quickly and was sure to clean my testicles and anus so that nothing auspicious would be found there. My nervous shivers went away with the warm heat of the shower and after I was done- I wrapped myself in a towel and laid down on the mattress in anticipation of the pleasure that awaited me. I remember being in a state of complete relaxation as I laid there. There was no guilt, no shame- just peace and quiet. The feeling a person gets when they are doing for themselves what they need to do.

After a long and relaxing massage in which Her lathered my body with baby oil, cracked my stiffened knuckles, walked on my back, massaged my temples and stuck her finger gently up my anus she asked me to turn over. Of course my erection was as stiff as a redwood tree because Her had been giving me the massage in the nude and I had been watching her in the mirror as she massaged me. Her immediately grabbed onto my penis and asked me if I wanted to have more fun. I thought for a minute, while she tried to entice me with her hand that went up and down my penis like a gentle Yo-Yo. I finally asked her how much it would cost to get a hand job and then ejaculate on her breasts. She laughed, told me $100 and then asked for the money in cash. I took the twenty dollar bills from my wallet and placed them into her hand. “Okay now, we have fun,” Her said in broken English as she climbed on top of me and began to lick my ears.

After twenty minutes of erotic and relaxed bliss Her said to me “Your time almost up. You need cumm.” I did not want the minutes to end so I was unable to have an orgasm. When Her told me that extra time would be extra money I asked her if she would do me a final favor. I told her that I really liked it when she stuck her finger up my anus and I asked her if she would do it again. I assured her that this would make me cumm fast. Her giggled and said, “oh you like it up there?” “Yes, very much,” I replied and Her stuck her beautifully shaped breast into my mouth. I felt like I was being infantilized, held like an infant- for a moment, as I sucked on Her’s breast and felt her finger being inserted into my ass. “Good,” she said as I had to release my lips from her breast and moan. “So gooooood,” I replied as she forcefully thrusted her finger all the way up my butt.

And then I felt it. It was like a cold zap in the deepest parts of my stomach. It felt like what an iceberg quickly breaking away from a glacier might feel like. I jumped as I was about to cumm and Her suddenly pulled her finger out of my ass. “What was that?” I said as I felt something very uncomfortable and stiff inside me. I tried to walk around the room but could not move without an immense scratching sensation in my bumm. “Oh gosh!” I heard Her say as she sat cuddled up in a ball on the corner of the mattress. She held up her hand and stared at me with a look of complete distress. I did not understand what she was trying to communicate to me until I made out two muffled words that came from her mouth. “No ring,” she kept saying as she looked at the finger that not long ago was up my ass. I immediately freaked out. My horror turned to absolute desperation as I realized the severity of the situation. My lust and bliss quickly turned into fear as I thought about how I would explain this situation to my wife. In a panic I jumped into the shower and immediately tried to get hot water into my ass in the hope that I could flush it out. I tried to stick my fingers in and pull it out- but the pain was to immense. I cried, I stomped and I yelled “fuck,” several times. I practically lost control of myself in the shower and by the time I got out the same Asian in sugar daddy that took my $50.00 at the door was standing in the room with a long chopstick in his hand.

“No problem,” he said. “Happen before.” I was confused. “What happen before?” I thought. I did not realize that he was going to be able to help me. The thought of this strange looking Asian man sticking a chop stick up my butt mortified me. I started to put my pants on but when Her grabbed me and said “it’s okay, easy..better than hospital,” all I could think about was my wife in the hospital waiting room and what I would say to her. I had nothing to loose and everything to gain, so I decided to surrender to the moment and lyed down on the mattress. The experience was brief but immensely painful. I screamed loudly as the Asian man tried to pull the ring out of my anus just like he was going fishing. He whistled and Her kept saying “I so sorry, so sorry,” while the man said “you relax, calm.” I made a fist and grabbed onto the edge of the mattress as if I was holding on for dear life. I kept trying to practice something that I had learned in Yoga class, which was that pain is just a state of mind, an illusion. I took deep breaths that barely went half way into my lungs and I felt tears plowing down my humiliated face. I thought about my life, my wife and how I would willingly give myself over to domesticity if I could some how get out of this tragic situation. There I was- a grown, married man (deeply in love) who was also a respectable high school Teacher, lyed out flat in The Sun Spa with an over weight Asain man sticking a chop stick up my ass. What had I come to?

After ten minutes or so, I do not remember how long, the torment ended. I heard the ring fall onto the floor and immediately Her grabbed it and went to wash it off in the sink. I slowly got up and thanked the Asian man who told me “take shower, blood.” The pain of walking from the mattress to the shower was immense but there was something very gratifying in knowing that I was freed from the surgical procedures that I thought awaited me. Her warmed up the shower for me and sympathetically said “I get your clothes ready while you shower.” I do not know why, but I thanked her and asked if she would get me some tea. In the shower I slowly washed out my pain, my desire, my lust, my guilt and my ass with soap to disinfect whatever kind of germs had gotten inside me. I remember feeling like a fool, like someone who had been punished in the worst possible way. I remember thinking about a passage in Hermann Hesse’s “Demian” that said, “A man’s fate and his character are two names for the same concept.” As I showered I stared at my wedding ring and swore that the moment I got out of the massage parlor I would never, ever return.  To make a very long story short, I have not returned since that terrible day…nor will I……. I hope.