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Reader

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I’m not a reader.

Now let me explain.

I’m a damn good reader.  No disorders that I know of, comprehension through the roof, the ability to cold read, out loud, in public, strong as it gets.  I’ve been reading since I was a little over a year old, or so they said when I was growing up.

No, I’m just not a reader.

I grew up reading every day.  Prose, mostly, and that, contained in the sports section of the LA Times.  I never read comics, except for the papers on Sunday, and I was never encouraged to pick up a book during my childhood, except by command of teachers, and then, not until high school.  Along the way, I read some things, mostly by accident.  Some Peter Benchley… sharks fascinated me… and some pulp journalism style stuff you could find on the book rack at the grocery store while my mom stood in line to pay.  Besides that, the only two things I read like they meant something were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the World Book Encyclopedia, and the 1973 Baseball Encyclopedia.

But none of that is reading.

In the years that I should have been indulging my creative consciousness on everything from Swift to Burroughs and Dickens to Baum, I was memorizing batting averages, the etymology of 19th century English words, and the names the crew gave the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws.  I wasn’t reading, I was collecting… nonsense, mostly.  I read quickly.  I read to absorb, to obtain, and to satisfy curiosity, not for the love of the words themselves.

At least that’s the way reading was explained to me.  That it was a love affair with words, and with the stories that the words would unfold for me, if I would only let it be so.  As you might imagine, school was a nightmare for me.  I got by, barely.  Not by reading, but by listening.  I listened to every word the teachers said, and made copious notes.  Page after page of classroom notes, writing down every meaningless detail of these frustrated storytellers, never once looking inside the textbooks they ordered us to read.  Because of this, obviously, math was a killer.  English was hard because all the questions on tests were neatly tucked away inside the books I didn’t read.  History worked for me, because teachers of history fancy themselves “historians”, and would rather act out the full contents of the books themselves, than leave the interpretation of history to the transcribers of history.  I took notes, and answered the questions from them. 

That didn’t work out so well, in high school, or in college, after.

I gave reading one more shot in my 20s.

The girl I was seeing was a reader of book club selections, and I would read books over her shoulder, at night.  For a while, I became a reader like she was a reader.  Picking novels that sounded interesting based on my already-cultivated curiosities.  Bad sports stories, the occasional adventure, and spooky stuff.  Spooky stuff that would have caused childhood me to keep both hands and both feet inside the covers at night.  Blatty’s Exorcist.  King’s Stand.  A bunch of other crap I barely remember.

In this time, I realized that I read the way a cow eats, deliberately, and not in any hurry.  Not the way a predator hurriedly consumes its prey, but slowly, chewing on words and phrases, taking them all in, and then barfing them back up in the form of re-reading without actually finishing the book first.  It took me forever to read a book this way, but when I was done, I maybe knew the stories better than the authors.  

Then the girl became wife.  The wife stopped reading.  I stopped reading.

Because I’m not a reader.

At this point in this story, I’ll save you the exposition of the next 30-something years.  I’ll just tell you that, while I am not a reader, I am reading again.  I have to.  Something I discovered about the silence that only reading brings.  The silence that, I didn’t know until now, brings healing to a soul that fed on only noise, and a mind that, for most of a lifetime, knew only confusion and pain.  Words and stories that should bring healing, and a minimum of confusion and pain.  From Murakami to Bradbury, Goldman to Gibran.  I will read these, soon.

I’m not a reader, yet.

But I’m going to be.      

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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Asphalt Sky Asphalt

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December 22, 1975… A little before sunset.  I rode my bike, a green, Schwinn Ram’s Horn Fastback, to the Rexall to buy a roll of Scotch Tape to wrap Christmas presents with.  I took the back alley on the south side of Artesia to the light at Casimir Avenue, and saw that it was green for me to cross.  I sped through the intersection on a yellow, and as my light went red, I heard a sound… like metal, pounding into metal. 

That was the sound of the ’63 Studebaker hitting my bike as I crossed in front of it. 

I no longer knew where I was.  All I saw in the next moment was dark, then light, then dark again.  My mind picked up the story again with me wobbling to my feet about 20 yards away from the intersection where my bike now lay, twisted and useless.  Someone, I don’t remember who, led me to the curb to sit as I heard the police siren in the distance.  What felt like seconds must’ve been minutes.  Adults were everywhere.  A woman, the driver of the car that turned my bike into scrap, came over to where I was sitting.  Confused as I was, I could still tell she was scared shitless.  I mean, she did almost kill a kid, on a bike in a crosswalk, trying to beat a line of cars into traffic before her light turned green.  She could have tried to make a break for it, but westbound Artesia at 5 o’clock was bumper-to-bumper, even in 1975.

The cop who showed up a minute later drove me, and my green wreck, the few blocks from there, home, and waited with me… in the days before cell phones… for my dad to come home from work.  As I sat in our living room, it came to me what it was I saw right after the BOOM of the car and my bike. 

Dark, light, dark.

Asphalt, sky, asphalt.

A front somersault from the pedals of my bike, end over end, landing on my head more than 50 feet away.

Landing, and walking away, without a scratch on me.

Every time I watch the M. Night Shyamalan film, “Unbreakable”, and see the train wreck scene at the beginning of the movie… the one where Bruce Willis Is the only survivor, and walks away without a scratch on him, I remember that day.  Today, forty-two years to the day from when it happened to me, the movie was on TV.  And I watched.

Then I wrote this.

And after, in my journal, I wrote,

“…anyway, forty-two years ago today, I almost died.  And forty-two years later, it’s time for me to live.

Let’s close out the remains of ’17, and take ’18 like it’s a Giftwrapped Best Present EVER.  Tear the wrapping paper clean off, rip open the box, and GO!  Shouting all the way,

‘It’s exactly what I WANTED!!!’.”

2017 was a whole lot of dark, light, dark.  Asphalt, sky, asphalt.  And that makes 2018 a present. 

Giftwrapped. 

For me.

And it’s exactly what I wanted.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Please May I Have a Coma?

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“Please, may I have a coma?”

 I said that in a conversation with a friend the other day.  There was no correlation to any one thing I remember talking about.  It was just a stand-alone thought.  This sort of thing happens often with me, seeming, usually, completely disconnected from whatever train of thought or flow of conversation I’m having in that moment.  Most people, even those closest to me, miss it.  That instant when my consciousness gets invaded by my subconscious, and my Freudian Slip starts to show.

I used to miss it, too.

But a lot has happened over the last year so that, on this day, I didn’t miss it at all.

I, and most of my nearest and dearest, have had a hard year.  I can’t explain why.  Okay, maybe?  The same way people try and explain how a half-a-dozen women, in regular near-proximity to each other, seemingly sync their periods.  Or how, when you buy a make and model of car you never really gave much thought to, and then it seems like that same car is on every street, and in every parking lot, everywhere you go. 

The collective unconscious, manifested.

And no, I don’t believe for one minute that, like periods or late-model cars, any of my friends and I wanted our collective shits to happen, but maybe there’s something equally invisible going on that drew us all together before, so that we could be here for each other in the during, and rejoice with each other in the after.  Because that’s why human beings have friends. 

“Please, may I have a coma?”

Now that the end of another November is here, and with it, the end of another National Blog Posting Month, I think it’s time for a re-examination.  Priorities that held this priory together last month, last year, last life, no longer belong in my life.  Things that once felt important, no longer feel that way.  And I’m educated guessing that the same is being said by many of my friends.  But human beings are nothing if not creatures of habit.  One of those habits is holding onto to things we’ve outgrown, or that have outgrown us.  I don’t know what you’ve outgrown but, like a closet full of last decade’s fashion disasters and fat pants, for me, it’s time to make room for something new, or maybe for nothing new at all, but only for what’s most important. 

Because a closet full of winter coats does you no good if you live the rest of your life in the sunshine.

“Please, may I have a coma?”

Okay, but only for a little while.  It’s time to empty out my storage, give away what I won’t be needing, and decide where the sun shines brightest for me.  But don’t worry.  You’re ALL my friends.  And I’ll leave breadcrumbs on the trail, wherever it is I go. 

Thank you for reading my words these last 30 days.  And thank you for allowing me to spend it reading yours.

Till then. 

 

Always,

Bill

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

I’m Guessing

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This much I know. 

You’re not that into me. 

I think I’d know it if you were. 

Here’s what I don’t know. 

Why it is you keep me around. 

Maybe you’re just undecided. 

This is all brand new to me. 

And so are you. 

I’m a lousy guesser. 

I’m guessing you are too.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

When an Empath has no Empathy

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I undergo profound changes every November. 

Cataclysmic, visions-of-a-personal-apocalypse life changes.  It’s happened three Novembers in a row now.  Sure, it’s only a blog challenge, but I’m generally blog-challenged, being a poet and not really a blogger at all.  So when November rolls around, it seems like I’m just not allowed to ignore all the seismic emotional upheaval that something of this creative magnitude rips open for 30 days straight.

See, here’s the thing, because you knew there’d be a thing, right?  The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Did you ever see the movie “Species”?  The original, where the government assembled a team of previous strangers with varied skill-sets to capture and/or kill the Escaped Sexy Female Alien Hybrid, on the loose and looking to mate?  Then you remember the soft-spoken empath, played by Academy Award™ winning actor Forest Whitaker.  This version of the B-movie empath wasn’t a psychic, or in touch with the spirit world, or whatever other way B-movies portray the empath.  This version could simply feel what others around him were feeling, and tell you what those feeling meant

I liked that interpretation. 

Because at the roots, it’s the closet I’ve ever come to being introduced to mine. 

And then there’s the downside. 

The thing is, I’m kind of an empath.  Not the ‘I shake your hand and know where you’ve buried the bodies’ kind of empath.  Just the ‘I feel things deeper than most people’ kind. 

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

Which in the past, I could ignore for my own sanity’s sake.  But last November, after writing a super-concentrated month’s-worth of feelings, I lost the ability to bury mine.  No more clearly-marked boxes for emotions.  No more handy compartments for feelings to go.  No more mindless default ways to ignore them.  They were, for the first time, all on the same great big plate like a 64-box of crayons melted together in a microwave oven, and it was a fucking mess. 

My fucking mess. 

And I had to choose my path before it killed me.

The title of this post is, “When an Empath has no Empathy”.  It comes from a random thought that popped into my empath head a couple of days ago, about someone from my past, equally gifted with the ability to ‘feel all the feels’ like I do.  A random thought that goes, “What if you were an empath with no empathy?  Wouldn’t that just make you a sociopath?” 

And after reading everything… okay, a few things on Reddit… my non-clinical, non-scientific answer is, “Yeah… I think it would.”

But is that how I want to live the rest of my life?  Just surviving like a spiritual grifter, living off the feelings of others instead of feeling all the feels and helping those who need whatever it is I can do with all the messed up feelings.

My feelings. 

Your feelings. 

Friends’ feelings. 

Strangers’ feelings.

Hell, I even feel your dog’s feelings.

Especially my feelings.

So this November, I was left with a choice.  Do I want to spend the rest of my life finding new ways to shut off all the feelings and face the consequences of knowing and not caring?  Or do I stay on the path, as I suppose was originally intended, and learn how to be who I am?  Feeling, and dealing with my choices.

Like I said, I undergo profound changes every November.

And I can’t wait until December.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Even If I’m out of Time

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This is a throw-away post. 

It was bound to happen sometime this month.  I just didn’t expect it to happen like this.  To be brief, my computer and my phone are working.  I still have the internet, and I’ve been good physically.  I haven’t run out of ideas, and I haven’t run out of words, either.

What I’m out of is money.

And because I’m out of money, I am also out of time.  I’m out of time to sit and contemplate what to write over the last week-and-change of National Blog Posting Month.  I’ve been busy chasing the money necessary to keep the creditors at arm’s length while I complete my comeback from the work-related depression that forced me to quit my job last June.  Yesterday, I sold my pickup truck to the highest retail bidder.  Sold it for a couple grand less than it was worth, just to get the cash.  The cash that won’t be in my hands until after some bills go to collection. 

I’m not bitching about life.  On the whole, life has been pretty good to me.  For now, just not THIS part of life.  I’ve been told, repeatedly, that life… God, the Universe, whatever floats your philosophical boat… takes care of me.  But today, I can’t say I know that.  Because today, I’m writing a post saying that I could be living in a twenty-year-old Dodge in a couple of weeks.

And the downside to all of this distraction is, I’ve got no time to sit and contemplate what to write.  Not what to write for myself, because I do that every day, but what to write for you.  Because some of you read me every day. 

And I don’t want to let you down.

So for the rest of National Blog Posting Month, I’ll keep trying and meet you here, every day.

Even if I’m out of time.     

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Long Beach my Long Beach

A post, in pictures, of my adopted home.

Long Beach, California.

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PALM TREES HOLDING UP CLOUDS… Pacific Coast Highway near 2nd Street.

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HALLOWEEN MOON… Redondo Avenue near 20th Street.

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CITY LIGHTS – LONG BEACH TO DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES… Signal Hill.

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BACK ALLEY… 4th Street near Cherry Avenue.

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THE PHOTOGRAPHER… Home.

 

 All photographs © Copyright 2017 William S. Friday 

 

Like Someone in a Mirror

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BILL is standing behind a podium at the front of a large meeting room.  Before him is a roomful of folding chairs, all of them reserved for the bloggers of Nano Poblano 2017.

Bill is about to call the meeting to order.

 

Bill: Before we begin… where IS everybody?

 

Two people sitting in the room look around at dozens of other people sitting in folding chairs.

 

Woman: You don’t know?

Man: How many people do you think we’re missing?

Bill: Count the empty chairs.

 

The two people look at each other, then slowly, at Bill.

 

Bill: Why are you looking at ME like that?

 

From the back of the room, a voice speaks.

 

Voice: Ummm… Bill…?

Bill (looking for the voice): Who’s that?

Voice: It’s ME, Bill.

Bill (under his breath): Shit.

Voice: Shit is right, Bill.

 

The person who is The Voice stands up, and begins walking to where Bill is standing at the front of the room.

 

Voice: Have you looked in a mirror lately, Bill?

Bill: Huh?  What does that even mean?

 

The Voice reaches the podium.  He stands in front of Bill, looking at him with a face of knowing expectation.

Voice: Don’t you see what everyone else sees?

Bill: I see what I see.

 

Bill looks out at a roomful of empty chairs.  Only the two people sitting in those chairs are the two from the beginning of the meeting.

 

Voice: Look again, Bill.

 

Bill looks at The Voice, then back at the room full of empty chairs.  Each chair has someone sitting in it.  Bill is looking at a roomful of people.

 

Bill (to The Voice): You look a lot like someone I know.

Voice: A lot like someone in a mirror?

Bill: I haven’t seen that guy in a long time.

Voice: Since the first of November?

Bill: About then.

Voice: He’ll be back.

Bill: You mean it?

Voice: Yeah, Bill.  You mean it, too.

 

And The Voice disappears.

The original two people look at each other, then back at Bill, then at each other again.  They seem confused, and a little bit like maybe they’ve seen a ghost.

 

Bill (to everyone in the room): Hello, Peppers.  I’m Bill. 

Peppers (in unison): HI, BILL!

Bill: Only ten days to go.  You all hangin’ in there?

 

Nano Poblano ends November 30th.  If you believe in ghosts, you might want to avoid mirrors until December 1st.  But hang in there.  Between you, me, and the voice in your head, everything’s going to be okay.

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

This is Really My Life

 

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Saturday 11/18/17

 

On the day someone takes my truck off my hands…

…some Pablo Neruda.
 

“That’s how I am,” I’ll say, leaving this pretext in writing: “This is really my life.”

-From “Those Lives”                                                     
 (Five Decades. P. 287)

 
Let’s get the best offer, by day’s end, and take it. In trucks for sale, as in everything else, this is existence.  Choices and choosing.  “Make me an offer, already!  I got shit to do, what with the living and the dying and all that.”

What with the living and the dying.

This is really my life.

#LG

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

Spanish Ladies

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“Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish Ladies.  Farewell and adieu you Ladies of Spain…”

Don’t be alarmed. 

This could be a good thing.

I might not be finishing Nano Poblano this year.

Today is Day 17.  I don’t know what that means to anyone else participating in NaBloPoMo and/or its happier-go-luckier sister with all the smiling Peppers, but for me, today, it means re-evaluation.  Not because of a date on the calendar, but because today I woke up before the sunrise and, in the dark, realized that writing to be read every day for one month out of the year just wasn’t on my top 10 list of things I need to do to get through Day 17.

It’s nothing personal.

I’ve noticed in the course of the last week or so, about the time my second granddaughter was being born, that a few… and then a few more… Peppers were missing from the daily call to post on Facebook.  Then a couple of days later, even more stopped showing up in my WordPress reader.  And then came this morning, and the realization that I might soon be among their number.

Today, in my newsfeed, reading media posts that my non-blogging friends shared, I read more than one thing on ‘self-care’ and ‘gratitude’.  And those got me thinking even more about what I woke up with on my mind, in the dark, before the larger-than-usual coffee and the 6 a.m. showing of Jaws on Showtime Extreme®.  Got me thinking that maybe this was my day to join the fallen.  I mean, nobody wants to go down like Quint.  We all want to be Brody, blowing up the shark and kicking into shore, still alive as the credits roll.

But this month has me feeling a lot like Quint, black smoke pouring out of an engine running on salt water and stripped gears, and the sound of “Spanish Ladies” playing in my head, telling me that I may be done. 

Then again, if this day ends with me blowing up the shark, I might spend the rest of the month kicking into shore on the last two yellow barrels, looking for a sequel to the story of what got us here in the first place.  Till then, 

“Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish Ladies.  Farewell and adieu you Ladies of Spain.  For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston, and so, nevermore, will we see you again.”

 

© Copyright 2017 William S. Friday

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