Car Disasters of 2016 or Bad Fortune Cookies


            I was driving sixty miles an hour on Southbound 101 when the car abruptly died.  It was my nightmare fantasy come true.  My heretofore trusty ’98 Jeep just  stopped.  The radio went off, all the gauges slid to zero and I realized that I was coasting to a halt in a busy freeway lane.  I tried to restart the car.  I had no lights, no nothing.  I couldn’t even put on the emergency blinkers. 

            I was terrified.  Vehicles were hurtling towards me at sixty and seventy miles per hour and they had no clue that I was dead in the right lane.  All it would take would be one dreamy driver to plow into me and I would be both cause and outcome of a multi-car  possibly fatal accident.  Should I get out and run for it?  Should I wait here?  I didn’t know.  It seemed more honorable to stay with the car, to go down with the ship.

            A Highway Patrol car materialized behind me, its lights flashing.  I was pleased, for the first time in my life, to see Law Enforcement flashing its lights at me. The officer walked briskly to my front window.  He gestured to me to roll down the window. 

            Problem is, I can’t roll down the window.  The Jeep’s driver’s side window doesn’t work.  I had to pop open the door to hear the man’s voice.  Embarassing?  And maybe illegal?

            “Put it in Neutral, sir.  I’m going to push you to the shoulder.”

            Thank god thank god the gear shift works.  It works kind of funny, like there’s only one gear.  The lever slides up and down without stopping.  Oh god I hope this Jeep is not stuck in gear.  The CHP officer squares off behind me and bumps my fender with his big front pusher bar.  The car moves!  Oh! 

            There’s another CHP car about two hundred yards upstream from us, slowing traffic by weaving across the freeway.  I get to the shoulder and the officer appears again.  He shouts at the closed widow.  He thinks I’m a moron. “Have you got Triple A, sir?”

            “I do.  I do. I do.” I feel like I’m getting married.  “I do I do”, I stutter, my nerves shattered, my forehead bathed in perspiration. 

            “Call ’em right now.  What’s wrong with your vehicle, sir?”

            “I don’t know, it’s been running fine and then, suddenly, whammo! Dead.  D-

            “If this vehicle is still here in two hours it will be impounded.  Do NOT exit the vehicle unless supervised by your tow driver.  Stay in your vehicle!  You’re lucky I don’t write you a ticket for reckless driving.  I’m feeling benevolent today. Today’s my lecture day.  If this was tomorrow I’d write you up for twenty different violations.”  I’m listening to this through the open crack of my driver’s side door and the opened rear window, and all the other open windows except the one next to me that doesn’t open any more.  I’m praying the policeman doesn’t notice the passenger side front mirror, because it’s taped on with duct tape and is not glass but a piece of reflective plastic whose images are distorted  beyond recognition at any speed.

            I call Triple A and wait for the tow truck.  I get texts every few minutes relaying the progress of my rescuer.  “Recovery Vehicle has departed current location at.etc. etc……ETA 45 min.”  When the tow truck arrives it conveys me to Bowens Automotive Repair, a garage that I picked at random off the internet.  The mechanic does his tests and I absorb the diagnosis: My alternator is shot.  The car needs a new alternator.  Price tag: Five Hundred Dollars.

            I have no choice.  I call my partner to pick me up and drive me home in the other car.

            The Other Car.  The ’96 White Chevy Blazer.  It was once a luxury car.  Leather seats.  Key fob operated remote lock/unlock.  We haven’t driven it in four years because it doesn’t start.  I would presume its got a dead battery but I swapped another battery into the car and it still didn’t start.  So, maybe a blown starter motor?  Bad solenoid, frayed ground wire, failure to make contact somewhere within the fiendish complexities of its electrical jungle.

            The Jeep has always been our go-to car.  I haven’t had the money to repair the Blazer. But now I must buy a new battery.  If there’s something else wrong with the Blazer  I’m wasting my money but I follow this handy rule:  If the car doesn’t start, and the battery doesn’t charge, replace the battery.  Maybe the swapped battery was dead, too. 

            The moment of battery replacement is fraught with tension.  Will it, won’t it…start?  I connect the new battery, turn the key in the ignition and….hallelujah!  It starts right away.  Oh, what a relief.

            I drive the Blazer to work the next day.  We’ve been using the Blazer as a storage bin.  Its rear is filled with linens, dishes, books, tools, all kinds of stuff  loaded up to the line of sight in the rear view mirror.  If we put any more stuff in there, I won’t be able to see what’s behind me.

            I drive to work.  I work.  I prepare to drive home.

            The driver’s side tire is flat.

            Shit!  Where’s the spare?  Is it underneath all that storage?

            No.  It’s under the chassis, riding beneath the rear wheels.  The problem is that the tools for jacking and removing lug nuts is underneath the dishes, the linens, the books.

            And there’s a trick to getting the spare to come free, a trick that I don’t know. I’ve been using a sledge hammer to whack at the wing nut that constrains the spare.  I whack it and the nut turns but it’s not un-threading.  It’s not coming free.

            I begin to unload the stored goods in the cargo compartment.  Maybe there’s a special tool, something to help me understand the spare tire conundrum.

            A motorist rolls up beside me in the parking lot.  He’s driving a Blazer.

            “Are you stumped by the spare tire riddle?” he asks.

            “Totally stumped.” I admit, raising my shoulders.  The back of my t-shirt and pants are black with asphalt and tar.  I don’t know this, yet.  I can’t see it.

            The Good Samaritan emerges, opens his rear hatch and pulls a variety of jack stuff from a compartment.

            “If you take this to a pro tire shop they won’t know what to do either.  It’s the great Blazer Spare Tire Riddle.”  It turns out there’s a hidden slot next to the license plate.  When my new friend inserts a blade-style tool into the magic slot it turns a cog and the spare tire DESCENDS on a cable until it hits the ground and I slip it off the wing nut.  There is no thread.  There is just this clever but now-obscure arrangement.

            Flat tire off; spare tire on.  Drive to the tire place.  Spend $120 to replace the spare.  Okay, the car runs.  As I drive, I see the one thing THAT I MOST DO NOT WANT TO SEE.   The dreaded SERVICE ENGINE SOON light comes on.

            I hate those lights!  Hate em!  They utterly destroy my peace of mind.  They are the manifestation of worry on the Material Plane.  As we all know, The Material Plane is dominated by concerns for automotive hygiene.  If you don’t got transpo,  you don’t got shit.

            I try driving the Jeep.  I’m too scared by the friggin’ SERVICE ENGINE SOON light on the Blazer.

            The Jeep takes me to work the following day.  I detour through Novato and prepare to drive to Petaluma.  I’m going “the back way” because north-bound 101 is a parking lot.  It’s always a parking lot from 3 to 7 P.M. five days a week.  What is this insane life we live?  Why do we spend four hours a day sitting in automobiles?

I’m heading for South Novato Boulevard when a giant cloud of steam erupts from under the hood.  GIANT CLOUD OF STEAM!  NOT GOOD.  NOT GOOD.

blowin steam

            I pull into the parking lot of the last shopping center before I embark on twenty miles of rural winding roads.  I buy a jug of coolant and I fill the Jeep’s reservoir with the gooey green stuff.  I wait twenty minutes and I attempt the drive home.  The Jeep runs, somewhat jerkily, and I spend the next forty minutes of back-road driving in a state of profound alarm. 

            I make it.  I’m home. 

            I know a little bit about cars.  That kind of volcanic eruption of steam can indicate a water pump has gone bad, or the thermostat has failed, or the radiator is toast.  Or all of the above.

            My neighbor, Mike, knows about cars.  “I’ll change your thermostat,” he says cheerfully.  Mike is attending AA meetings and has just got his thirty day chip.  That’s not an issue for me.  It just adds to the air of tension: Mike struggling to stay away from drink.  His wife has quit smoking and is on Day 27.  My neighbors are deeper in poverty than we are.  No wonder Mike eagerly volunteers to change my thermostat.  Mike is all over the place helping people. 

            I purchase a thermostat.  Mike replaces the old one in about ninety minutes.  He doesn’t want to charge me.  I give him fifty dollars.  The new thermostat works, the Jeep stays cool.

            I didn’t want to mention this before but it just happens that the Blazer’s registration is due in a week and I know, for a fact, that SERVICE ENGINE SOON means that it will not pass the smog check.


            Nonetheless, I feel safer driving the Blazer and I take it to work the next day.

As I’m coming home on North Petaluma Boulevard I hear a sound like a very large and joltingly loud motorcycle cruising up on my driver’s side.  Wow!  That’s loud!  I look to my left and I see no motorcycle.  There’s no traffic at all.  But the Blazer is crunching and flubbling.  It sounds like a propellor blade being demolished by a potato masher.  The Blazer is behaving as if it has the hiccups.  No question: another tire is flat.

            I get over on the shoulder to inspect the damage.  Holy Shit!  The tire is literally shredded, it’s nothing but four inch strips of rubber hanging from a punctured black matrix of nameless stuff.

            Call Triple A.  Second time in three days.  An hour later the big yellow truck pulls up.   A toothless rail-thin old guy gets out, grinning happily, and tells me that my tires are sun-damaged.  They’ve been sitting for too long and the heat has soaked the oils out of the rubber. They’re all about to blow at any second. I need to instruct the tow truck man how to get the tricky spare out from under the Blazer.  Once the tire is changed I drive straight to the tire place and get four more new tires.  That is, after I’ve cued the guys at American Tire Co. about the Great Blazer Spare Tire Riddle.

            There are days when nothing goes right.  When to touch a machine is to wreck it.  Or when one makes an error due to a lapse of attention that causes a ten foot fall off someone’s deck into a bed of blackberry bushes.  I’m having one of those days.  I put on the coffee.  It’s a stove-top espresso maker.  I wait for the boil, wait and wait.  I smell something burning.  Uh oh!  I take a pot holder and lift the coffee maker.  Oh man!  Oh man oh man! I forgot to put water in the bottom part of the Vigano stove top coffee maker.  Now the rubber gasket has melted and scorched the threads and the coffee maker is a casualty of Morning Mind Mush.  In spite of the damage, my partner is greatly reassured.  My error is comforting to her.  She thinks she’s “losing it”.  Now she knows she’s not the only one who’s “losing it”.

            I must locate a smog shop, a Star Certified Service Center, one of those in cahoots with the smog-fighting money-sucking bureaucracy of the DMV.  I pay for the smog test.  The Blazer fails.  How much, I ask, will it cost to fix it so that it passes the rigorous standards of our state’s air-quality guardians?

            The Blazer needs a tune-up, a forward oxygen sensor, a rearward oxygen sensor and a catalytic converter.”That would be about nine hundred and fifty dollars,” answers the mechanic, whose name, Kelvin, is stitched onto his dark blue jump suit.  Kelvin’s wife/receptionist is named Tran.  They’re Vietnamese.  

            How many times have I said “shit” or “fuck” in the last three days?

            “Kelvin,” I ask, “is there some kind of discount for the poor and the elderly?”  I have been poor my whole life.  The ‘elderly’ part occurred while I wasn’t watching, about three years ago, when my left hip began to feel as if a strong man was applying pressure to it with a vice grip.

            There is, in fact, a program for the poor and the elderly to pay $500 towards smog repair.  I get the papers downloaded and send in the application.  A week later the grant arrives.  Five hundred of that nine hundred fifty dollars will be paid for.  Hell yeah!

            The smog repair takes two days.  I wait eagerly for Kelvin’s call.  At last the phone rings.  “You passed your smog test,” says Kelvin.  I’m so happy!  I’m thrilled.

I had needed a victory, any victory, a small victory, whatever, I’ll take it.

            “But there is a problem, I’m afraid,” says Kelvin, and my heart takes up residence at the ends of my toes.  I can feel my pulse down there, bumpity bump, pulsing up through my toenails.

            “A…uh…problem?”  Fuck!  Shit!

            “I think your water pump is about gone.”

            “You think, you THINK.  Is it gone or isn’t it?”

            “I don’t know.  There was a pool of coolant under your car when I came in this morning.”

            How much does he want to repair the water pump?  Well, you see, one should also replace the thermostat when one replaces the water pump.

            HOW MUCH?

            Four hundred seventy eight dollars.

            Stop everything!  HOLD THE PRESSES!

            I’m not stupid.  I check online and a water pump plus a thermostat costs about sixty bucks.  My neighbor, my pal my buddy Mike will do any automotive task for fifty dollars, gladly.  The work boosts his self esteem and it keeps him out of his RV and away from his jonesing wife.

            The Material World is a challenging place.  Our current model, this 21st century science fiction hip-hop deodorant-peddling appearance-worshiping stage set is peculiarly complex, is like a cross-word puzzle without a solution.  No one wins in the Material World.  All endings are bad endings.  If I’m lucky I will die quickly and without indignity.  If I’m lucky.  Meanwhile, as I wait for the denouement of my life, I must endure and meet the challenges thrust into my face by the invisible spirits of Destiny.

            Is the cup half full, partially full, partially empty, or totally empty?  The Highway Patrol Cop did not write me up.  The guy in the Blazer showed up as if dropped from Heaven.  I got a five hundred dollar grant from the DMV. The battery in the Blazer started the car.  The Jeep still runs.

            The cup is the cup.  Whatever’s in it is what I’ve got.  I may as well accept that fact.  It’s all those things, partially full, partially empty.  Life is blessed and sublime and life can be unspeakably vile.

            While I’m at it, I should check my credit rating.  I might want to purchase a recent model used car.

Eleven Things An Unpublished Novelist Feels

Eleven Things An Unpublished Novelist Feels

Art Rosch
Copyright 2010
1.I am a genius unique in the annals of mankind.  Most of the reading audience is not advanced enough to perceive the layered depth of my work
2.If my books are published they will change lives.
3. I’m a committed artist.  My work transcends genre. This upsets agents, who are too conventional to see through the boundary-shattering nature of my work.
4.My life experience has been so unusual and difficult that I have a special credibility in writing about the human condition.
5.I’m getting older and all these rejection slips are coming from agents who are my kids’ age.
6.Who do they think they ARE!?
7.While I may not be published in my lifetime, my works will reach the world posthumously.  This is a good thing for the world but doesn’t do shit for me.
8.I frequently succumb to self-pity and apathy but I bounce back with increased defiance.
9.I know the odds against writing a best seller are astronomical.  A series of apparent coincidences will bring my writing before the world.
10.The seven hundred agents who rejected me without reading a single page will write to apologize and ask to represent future projects.
11. Ninety nine percent of the people in the world believe that they belong to the one percent that’s superior to the other ninety nine percent.  I am in the REAL one percent.

The Great Cholesterol Hoax of 2012

Shortly before the world was scheduled to end in December of 2012, there began to appear a spate of ads and articles about a new type of cholesterol. The big
Pharm wasn’t expecting the world to end. They began running a vigorous campaign for their new medications.

We had grown up believing that cholesterol was a silent killer. Thousands of commercials had depicted arteries slowly being clogged by big saucer shaped things. When the saucers filled the artery the patient would die, and be unable to purchase any further medications. No cholesterol medication, no blood pressure medication, no pain medication, no medication period.

It was a shock some years ago when we learned that there were two kinds of cholesterol:good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Dammit! We had to recalibrate our medications. Now we were taking pills that helped the good cholesterol and pills to fight the bad cholesterol. K-POW! These medicines kicked the butt of bad cholesterol, breaking up those life threatening clogs.

The good cholesterol cells had smiley faces and were shaped like bananas. They slid right through the blood platelet traffic jams like motorcyclists during the commute hours.

Soon we were contentedly taking pills to enhance our good cholesterol and inhibit our bad cholesterol. Few of us would die any time soon, unless, of course, the world ended.

It seemed for a moment as if the earth shook when announcement of a new factor in the cholesterol recipe reached popular awareness. This was called Entropic Cholestrol, or EDL. There were four combinations: Entropic High Density Lipoprotein (or EHDL) and Non Entropic High Density Lipoprotein (that is, NHDL). Of course there were its nemeses in the other corner, the Entropic Low Density Lipoproteins and the Non Entropic Low Density Lipoproteins.

It had been difficult enough memorizing the two types we’d had before. The good cholesterol was HDL or High Density Lipoprotein, and the bad cholesterol was LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein. Now I had more terms to memorize. I had been using a simple mnemonic. I taught myself to think of something good to associate with good cholesterol, or HDL. Simple. Think of HDTV! High Definition Television is a good thing, especially when watching football games. With HDTV I can see the beads of sweat flying off a wide receiver’s dreadlocks when he gets hit by the opposing free safety. So…HDTV good equals HDL good. This simplified matters, as I had only to memorize one concept, HDTV. I wed that concept to Good Cholesterol and I had it made. I could just as easily have created a mnemonic for bad cholesterol. I needed a catchy concept using the L letter for LDL I could have used something like, oh, liver sandwich or Lucifer’s crotch, but these mnemonics didn’t have the same spring-to-mind quality as did HDTV. After all, we are reminded of HDTV every day because it’s all over the place!

You can imagine how disturbed I was when yet another sort of cholesterol pair was revealed, called Entropic Cholesterol and Non-entropic cholesterol.

I am again confused by the new terminology. How can I interpret my blood test results now that I’m burdened with Entropic and Non-entropic cholesterols? I’ve already forgotten; which was the good one? Oh yes, the Entropic High Density Lipoproteins. That’s simple: I can add the word Extra! when I think of High Definition Television because surely that’s coming, Extra High Definition Television. Or is it here already? Anyway, by thinking of EXTRA high def television, I can read my blood tests and translate the Entropic High Density Lipoprotein (EHDL) as the good one, and, uh…wait a minute…Entropic equals good, right? Yeah, that’s right! And HDTV is my good cholesterol. So if I have Extra High Density Lipoproteins on the home theatre screen, I should be safe from sudden heart attack.

The pharmaceutical companies began to manufacture medications to raise the levels of Entropic High Density Lipotelevision, and the other kind, the medication to lower levels of Non-Entropic Low Density Liposuction. Of course I had to continue my regime of the earlier medicatioins because the pharms had yet to manufacture an all-in-one cholesterol pill. I had to take the Low Density Lipoprotein boosters along with the HighDensity Liposuction inhibitors, or…wait a minute, I think I got that backwards. It’s, wait a minute….Extra High Definition TV is the good stuff, the Entropic High Density Surround Sound Home theatre, that is the good cholesterol, or, since it’s the latest medical breakthrough in understanding cholesterol, I should call it the Good Good Cholestrol Booster, and there’s the Bad Good Cholestrol inhibitor. No, that’s not right. The Bad Good Cholesterol, the Non Entropic High Density Lipoprotein needs to be regulated at a level of less than 100 miligrams per mililitre, while the Bad Bad Cholestrol should be held at less than seventy milligrams per mililitre, and…..oh, wait a minute….let me see, there’s the good good cholesterol, the bad good cholesterol, the good bad cholesterol and the bad bad cholesterol…so there’s EHDTL, NEHDL, LNEHTV `1““““`…uh NELDL…wait…I’m getting really confused. I got the pills today, let me look in my bag. Here they are. They have their cute pharm names. Theres’s Propera, generic name Hispec, which is the good bad Cholestrol stuff, and the Watchitnex, which doesn’t have a generic form yet, which is the bad bad cholesterol medicine. And here’s the Yankiyudai or its generic form Lysargon, which I forget but I know I have to take four a day, and then there’s the Clapsaigon, generic name Usohorni, which is, I, wait a minute, that’s the one for my erections.

You know, maybe I should get back to you later on this.

The OJ Simpson Crime Anniversary Coffee Mug



This exquisite limited edition mug, fired and glazed at the Franklin Ceramics Works in a run of only two thousand, is guaranteed to become a collector’s classic. Valued today at $400, it has every chance of increasing its value each year. Like the CRASH OF THE LOCKERBIE FLIGHT DINNER PLATE , the OJ SIMPSON CRIME COMMEMORATIVE COFFEE MUG is an excellent investment, as well as being an esthetic delight!
On one side is an OJ Football Star picture, painted by distinguished artist Mellarina Flinger. On the other side, utilizing new holographic technology, is the Dorian Grey-style picture of OJ’s soul as it deteriorates into a disgusting caricature of the heroic and lovable OJ!

Order Now! When these mugs are gone, they are gone! Don’t miss the oppportunity to add this wonderful piece to your collection. THE JON BENET RAMSEY TEACUP AND SAUCER SET is now valued at well over $1000, and the PRINCESS DI CRASH CAR PLATTER is considered priceless!


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Update on the Big Bang Theory

November 30, 2009

Scientists at the Space Science Institute have issued a revolutionary update of the Big Bang Theory. The explosion of the universe from an infinitely dense singularity and its subsequent expansion have now been drastically re-examined, following measurements of the velocity and distribution of so called Dark Matter. It has been experimentally proven that this matter, and other forms of matter such as Baryons, Gluons, Muons, and Schmoo-ons are actually being recycled, and that the known universe is a Big Bag, being filled by Bag Ladies from the Eleventh Dimension. These beings live in time and size scales incomprehensible to normal human thought. It is speculated that they use promordial galaxies and quasars as cast-off brassieres, bunny slippers and hair nets. These Bag Lady Beings have been referred to in Hindu Cosmology, somewhat romantically, as Devas, and in Christian theology as Archangels. But, in fact, the yiddish terms, Schlepper, or Shmatta, might in fact be more accurate.

A Vision of Yanni

Last night I channel surfed past a PBS station in time to catch the entertainer Yanni playing with a sixty eight piece orchestra in some awesome place like the Pass of Thermopylae or The Gramd Canyon. He was standing between phalanxes of keyboards, four on his right, four on his left, and as the orchestra pumped out vigorous but empty musical calories, Yanni stretched his arms straight out to either side and played the keyboards. He threw his hair back, arched his body in a spasm of ersatz passion. He wore an all white costume with puffy sleeves; the shirt was unbottoned to show his hairy chest. He was gallantly crucifying himself, ascending in resurrected bliss on a cascade of idiot dramatic crap New Age muzak fit only for hair salons and supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not jealous of this man’s success. (Oh no.) He undoubtedly works very hard. But the insult of indulging in such silly and obvious showmanship only diminishes his besotted audience. Showmanship is a wonderful thing. Especially when it is connected to genuine talent or profound ideas. I recently saw a vintage film of the Count Basie Band. The drummer, Sonny Payne, twirled and juggled his sticks while executing a wildly complex solo. I watched him pass the sticks under his legs and around his back. He threw them into the air so they landed on the snare drum in perfect time and bounced back into his hands, and all the while he held and stomped on the beat until he cued the band back into a great bellowing riff that lead to the tune’s head. THAT is showmanship. In Hell, Yanni will be a toothless bald man gesticulating wildly in front of a three piece band of Borscht Belt hacks who can barely wheeze in tune, let alone play music. He will repeat the same phrase over and over again, “Aren’t I wonderful?” and a thin, bored applause will leak up from a cigarette strewn linoleum dance floor that stretches to infinity.


Screw It! Or…"The I’m Sick Of Self Help Books" Self Help Book

If I am correctly reading the implications of all the self improvement books, here’s the paradox: I desperately need to change. At the same time, I desperately need to accept myself exactly as I am.
I woke up this morning, and I still had the same problems I had yesterday. I might be a compulsive eater, or a pill popper, or a seeker of awful relationships, or a gambler, or any number of things that I wish I weren’t. I’m desperate to change myself, to become a better person, more reliable, competent, responsible, creative, positive. I want to enjoy life, not suffer through it!
Where did this come from, this “ideal self”, this expectation that my life is going to be superb, transcendent, vigorous, fulfilling, that my dreams will come true if I’m REALLY persistent, that my wounds will be healed? Who gave me that idea? Oprah? Dr. Phil? A book? Television?

Where did this ‘self improvement’ model emerge and take over my life? This urge to get better and better, whatever that means, has become another addiction, and it’s making me even crazier. I can’t turn around without another book telling me what’s wrong with myself and how I should change it. At the same time, the guru is telling me to love myself as I am, that I can’t change until I’ve really given myself unconditional love. Is it any wonder that I feel crazy?

If I were to give myself unconditional love, I might turn into a puddle of ice cream that will slowly drip into the carpet until there’s nothing left of me but a sweet-smelling spot.
It’s said that changing one’ s self is the hardest job of all. No, there’s one job that’s harder: Loving yourself. I know it sounds hokey as hell, “loving yourself is hard” but it is! There are so many fears about letting go and just ‘being’, so many fears about not living up to some nutty competitive idea of how I should look, where I should live, what I should drive, what I should own. How am I supposed to love a creature this imperfect, this flawed and grotesque? How do I love a person who’s THIS BAD?

It would be irresponsible to love myself. That just wouldn’t do. I’d go soft. I’d sink into illusion and denial. I’d stop working on myself. I’d lose the benefit of fifteen years of therapy.

The Judgment Pressure Cooker

How many ways do I feel judged when I step out of my house to go to work? How much armor do I have to strap on to face the world? Everything is about appearance: there’s my weight, my clothes, my car, the whiteness of my teeth, whether or not I have hair. Is my skin unlined? Is my neck getting a wattle? Should I wear high collars and turtlenecks to hide it? Should I wear stripes to look thinner? How about a corset, a girdle, a tight belt, to hide the expanding waistline?

Aging is a disaster to be fended off as long as possible, by all means. That doctor on Oprah who tells you your so-called “REAL” age helped me do the calculation. I added up factors like my blood pressure, diet, number of remaining teeth and it turned out I was a hundred ten. I was already dead.
How much money do I make? If I’m not making enough money, I’m told that I must change the way I think so that I will “attract the right energies”.

What kind of job do I have? Am I a professional or just a working shlub?

What’s my house or apartment look like? Does it advertise success or is it a dump? Again, I’m not “attracting the right energies”. I feel very guilty about that. If I think and visualize correctly and stop sabotaging myself the “universe” will deposit everything I want, k’zam! right into my pocket. I know what it is: it’s my wallet. My wallet is not organized, it’s sending a signal to the universe that my thoughts about money are chaotic. Wow, I’m self-sabotaging, missing all these clues.

How long is it, two years, now, since I straightened out my wallet? Since I started visualizing all the things I want and chasing away negative thoughts? My mind became a well trained soldier in banishing doubts and hang-ups. It stayed in line, it repeated over and over again, “I can do anything I want I can do anything I want.” I followed the directions in the movie and the book, “The Secret Of All Secrets”, I was disciplined! I visualized my bank statement, an exact number, sixty five thousand two hundred eighteen dollars and thirty five cents. It’s a modest number because the bank is not the smartest place to keep money. I also visualized a safe full of gold ingots, saw myself riding the latest recumbent bicycle and using an eight thousand dollar camera. I have a fake check for three million dollars taped to my fridge. Hours and hours every day I did this visualization.

I had one teeny little lingering doubt about this program. Maybe that’s why it didn’t succeed. That doubt kept whispering in my ear, “Isn’t there something rather graceless about grabbing the universe by the throat and compelling it to give you everything you want?”

Even our spirituality is dominated by this drive for success. It’s sunk right into our hides as if a shotgun has blasted pellets of it to exactly the right depth. It’s impossible to extract. It’s so completely American, this self improvement mania,this urge to raise our station in life. This drive to succeed.

What’s sad about the way our social system is organized is the utter lack of compassion we have towards one another. The non-succeeders are treated as though they have a disease. They’re marginalized.
I’m not doing really great right now, I feel as though I’ve been pushed to the periphery of things until I barely take part in the workings of American culture. {sic} It’s too complex! There is so much paperwork, so many rules, I’m sinking under the weight of mere self maintenance.

It’s TOUGH to go out the front door and take on the world, day by day. Look at the junk that’s endlessly thrown in our faces.

I have an announcement to make: If you are here, you’re a survivor. You’re immensely heroic. To be a participant in the process of the Earth Plane in any form whatsoever is an act of supreme courage and achievement. Let’s put it in perspective, please. This is no cheap ticket, this life. This is Earth. Or, as I prefer to pronounce it, with a deep Brooklyn accent, Oyt. Dat’s where we are, Oyt. Dis ain’t no picnic, dis Oyt. Dis is a hell of a mess and a tough woild. Okay, okay. I’ll just stick with Oyt but blow the accent.

Oyt is a special place. It’s a material manifestation of God’s imagination. It’s a place where learning is done. To own a body, a human body, is a very extraordinary fate. The body is going to suffer many processes, and, eventually, it will decay and die. If you examine that reality with an unflinching gaze, you begin to realize that it takes some guts to continue, day by day. Give yourself some credit.

The alternative, to NOT exist in a body, means one of two things: you are either a ghost, without the courage to incarnate, or you are a Master, who is finished incarnating. In the middle, right here, is life in a body. On Oyt.

Your life, the experience you are having, however difficult or painful, is a gift without parallel.

Sometimes I make lists. One of my favorite lists consists of ways to be stupid. You know, “Ten Of The Stupidest Things People Do”, something like that. At the top of the list always seems to be the same thing: To regard this world as the only world there is.

I know, I know, it’s very scientific and brave to eschew spiritual possibilities. To be rid of crutches. I know many fine people who proclaim that this is the only world that can be proven, therefore, it’s the only world they accept as real.

How unimaginatively sad. I require no proof at all. I need only examine the facts as they exist, to make a leap of faith and surmise that there MUST be a mighty plethora of worlds, dimensions, alternatives and ways to experience being conscious. Just because I don ‘t know what they are, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Therefore, I consider it to be unbearably stupid to deny that something great and mysterious is occurring, simultaneous with my little life and its problems. There are other worlds, and we’d better recognize the possibility that we survive death, in some form and take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Because there are consequences; we are held accountable.

That doesn’t mean we have to get crazy and turn ourselves into perfect little angels. Not at all. It just means we need to see things with an open mind.

Meanwhile I’m getting blasted with this message that there’s something wrong with me but if I truly live in the “moment” there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. Where is this moment? Oops, it’s gone. Here’s another one, grab hold…nope,
gone. Another one, gone…gone….

I understand that NOT living in the moment is to live in the past or the future, both of which are places in the mind, noisy places full of desire, plans, regrets, a tangled bedsheet from a sleepless night of the soul, mind mind mind mind.
Shut up, mind! Let the heart speak!

Can someone tell me what this wonderful “moment” is? Mr. Tolle? Deepak? I thought not. You counsel me to “be” in it but can’t tell me what it’s like. Here’s what I’ve observed.

First there is breathing. I’m breathing, in and out. My heart is beating, my blood is flowing, my skin registers the air temperature. And I wonder how I’m going to pay rent next month whoops! Lost the moment.

Let’s try again. Breathing check. Heartbeat check. Blood flows check. Air temperature check. Uhh. Sounds. There are sounds coming to my ears. Wind blowing through leaves? Ah lovely. I Probably wasted my time sweeping the patio…whoops!

Damn, this moment shit is hard. I get only so far and then start thinking of other things and wheee, I’m whisked away into speculation, worry, schemes. All games of the mind. So, what does it take?

Superhuman concentration. To be in the “now” requires superhuman concentration.


I’m really fucked.