Monthly Archives: March 2014

Cancer Dream

I started coming down with a cold the other day. I gradually became sicker and sicker as the sun went down. I ended up taking two days off from work, but I remember the dream I had the night I first got sick.

I dreamt that I had been diagnosed with cancer and that I had to settle my final affairs. I had to select beneficiaries for my life insurance and make out a will for my house, car and possessions. At first everyone was cordial and felt sorry for me being sick, but after awhile, people started fighting over my things.

I was due to start chemotherapy in a week and the chemo would make it impossible to have children, something which I’ve always wanted. I talked to my female friends about the possibility of them having my baby and three of them came forward. I had sex with them.

My dream ended when I had just gotten out of chemo and I was trying to decide who would get the house when I got the announcements from all three women that they were pregnant. Then the doctor told me that he was optimistic that I could beat the cancer and that’s when I woke up.

The Clean Up

*I wrote a song in my head over lunch and now I can’t get it out. Its a James Brown style song called “The Clean Up.”
I’m totally going to sing this to my kids someday.*

Clean up -ah (Clean on up)
Clean up -ah (Clean on up)

Grab a dust pan and a broom
Gonna clean this house. Room-by-room.
On the carpet use a vacuum.
Gonna clean this house. Room-by room.
Fill a bucket with water hot.
Gotta clean it up. Ready or not!

Clean up -ah (Clean on up)
Clean up -ah (Clean on up)

You know who did it. Who made the mess.
Don’t blame nobody. Don’t need the stress.
You know who did it. So just confess.
Clean up -ah. Clean up the mess.

Get on the scene. You a cleanin’ machine!
You better get ready. That’s what’s up.
You better get ready for the big clean up.

HHHEEEEEEEEEYYYYY -YA!
Take it to the bridge!

Clean up -ah (Clean on up)
Clean up -ah (Clean on up)

I know you been dirty.
I know you been filthy.
Rub it!
Scrub it!
Shake that powder cleaner!
Shake that powder cleaner!

Are you ready? I said are you ready?
Take it to the chorus.

Clean up -ah (Clean on up)
Clean up -ah (Clean on up)

Hit me!
Its a nasty spot, so hit me!
Rub it.
Scrub it.

You better get ready. That’s what’s up.
You better get ready for the big clean up.

Pet Store Surprise

*The below is a speech I gave in a Toastmasters Tall Tales competition yesterday. I took second place.*

 

            Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and honored guests, by a show of hands, how many of you had at least one pet when growing up? Keep your hands up if you had two. Three? Who had five or more?

            I had a lot of pets as I was growing up. I had two dogs, a cat, several lizards and frogs, gerbils and snakes. My mom has a love of lizards and frogs. She grew up in the Brainard Lakes Area and her springs and summers were spent catching frogs. Often, she would bring her catch home for us as pets. As you can see, we had many pets in the house I grew up in.

            Guess whose responsibility it was to feed the animals? That’s right, it was me. There was a pet store by our house and I would walk to the store to get crickets for the frogs and lizards and mice for the snake. We would get dog and cat food whenever we went to the grocery store.

            The pet store I walked to as a kid was no ordinary pet store. This was an exotic pet store. Of course, they had your standard pet store animals: fish, bunnies, puppies and so on, but what really amazed me were some of the exotic animals for sale. There was a terrarium full of Indonesian Draco Volans. These are lizards that fly like dragons and I used to watch them fly around in their terrarium, dive bombing eachother and swooping up crickets to munch on.

           Another one of my favorites was the Madagascan Tamamoran. This animal is a cross between a koala bear and a lemur. It is so cute and fuzzy and small, that you could just cup it in your hands and nuzzle it for hours. One thing I will warn you about the Madagascan Tamamoran is that it has sharp teeth and tends to get bitey when angry or startled.

           Another great thing about this pet store was that it had a train set lining the ceiling of the store. The trolley would trundle along the tracks, dip into tunnels and roll down behind the register. I would spend a long time watching the train move around the store and, as I followed it, I would always find some new creature for a far away country. Why was there a train set at the pet store? I don’t know. I guess the store used to be a hobby store before it became a pet store and the new owners kept the train. Sometimes I was invited behind the counter to play with the train. Those were fun memories. 

 

           One day, in the middle of winter, I had to walk to the pet store to get crickets. When I got there, I saw an animal control truck parked in front of the store. I walked into the store and I could see that the owner was upset. One of the animals had escaped! In fact, it was my favorite: The Madagascan Tamamoran! The monkey had escaped his cage and was somewhere in the building, but no one could find it. The animal control guy and the employees were rummaging all through the store, hoping to find the Tamamoran. At first I got the crickets and stood by the counter, but then I got bored and started playing with the train set.

           When I switched the train set on, there was a yelp from one of the tunnels and, wouldn’t you know, the Madagascan Tamamoran came out! The animal control guy tried to get him with his animal leash, but then the Tamamoran did something completely unexpected – it flew! I had never noticed it before, but apparently the Madagascan Tamamoran is a relative of the bat family. With its skin stretched between its toes and its arms, it flew back and forth across the store. Everyone was worried about this cute, flying monkey and his sharp teeth, but I just kept laughing.

           Eventually, the Tamamoran recognized me and saw that I was holding a bag of crickets. It swooped down right for my crickets, but I was ready with my jacket. I wrapped him up, handed him to the store owner, and back he went into his cage. I paid for my crickets, went home and told my mother all about my pet store surprise.

 

           Sadly, the pet store isn’t there anymore. The last I checked, it was just a vacant lot in south Minneapolis. I guess the city didn’t want a peddler of exotic animals and put my favorite store out of business. It is sad, but at least I have the memories of the animals, the store, the train set and the beautiful Madagascan Tamamoran. Mr. Toastmaster –

Taking Up Poetry – Rondeau

There was an event recently for my Toastmasters club where we were encouraged to read a poem. It was at that moment that I realized that I haven’t encountered poetry in years. I think I avoided it because of the strict rules placed upon poetry and because so much poetry is so bad. Nevertheless, I’ve decided I want to rediscover poetry and one of the first things I encountered is that there are far more poetry types than just iambic pentameter, limericks and haikus. In the spirit of play, I’m going to play around with one of these other types of poems.

 

Rondeau

 

A Rondeau is a French form, 15 lines long, consisting of three stanzas: a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet with a rhyme scheme as follows: aabba aabR aabbaR. Lines 9 and 15 are short – a refrain (R) consisting of a phrase taken from line one. The other lines are longer (but all of the same metrical length).

Here is my first attempt at this form:

 

My Workplace Desk

 

What stays respite around my workplace desk?
Is it my golf course shot, so picturesque?
Perhaps my pencil or pen collection
Leads me astray to self-recollection.
I finally have pause from my workplace stress.

 

My telephone is hushed upon my desk.
Loud post-it notes punctuate all the stress.
There sits uneaten dessert confection.
My workplace desk.

 

What morsel of info jostles my desk?
E-mail interruption! On whose request?
Furnish me not, your petty description
Which hinders all hope of any direction.
Your unwelcome e-mail I find grotesque.
My workplace desk.

 

 

I have to give myself credit for trying to cram to the form and attempted rhyme scheme, but I was certainly doomed from the word “desk.” Let’s try again –

 

Weather Forecast

 

The weather forecasts a blizzard of snow
With drifts as high as the heavens will go.
I fasten my seatbelt and start to drive
Despite warnings from the forecast to skive
I have things to do. Bring on blizzards blow!

 

The scenery was a Vincent Van Gogh.
Sitting at home, I would enjoy the show.
Instead I would risk my life on this drive
Weather Forecast.

 

I drive and drive, but the going is slow.
I curse and blaspheme the falling of snow.
The hour is late and I will not arrive.
People will question if I will survive.
I have lost some feeling in my big toe.
Weather Forecast.

 

I like this one a lot better. Its pretty funny.

The Chain Heresy

            My name is Judge Ebenezer Chain and this is my final testimony before I am sentenced to death for the crime of heresy against the state. People believe that I am a very unusual man because I am the oldest living person. I am nearly 400 years old. I am always asked, “What is my secret?” I honestly have no idea. I stay active, keep standard meals and I drink. None of these things are different from anyone else, except that everyone else lives until about the age of 80 and I have lived nearly five times as long.

 

            My crime is telling the truth. I am living history. I have been at the places people sing songs about and I have been alive during the times our textbooks speak about. For the past half century, our children have been fed a series of lies: that we are all born with certain inalienable rights, that everyone should be equal and that law is sacred, immutable and fixed. I made the law and let me tell you were your precious laws and rights come from.

 

            The world of my youth was vastly different from what it is today. There was no electricity, no plumbing, no telephones, television or internet. There were no doctors or health care. There weren’t even books. We were a warfaring, pastoral and farming people in those times. The average person sought protection from villians from a few bold noble lords who owned all the land and branded all the animals. Only the most greedy and ruthless lords held on to power. All was chaos and rebellion. In such an environment, there is no such thing as “rights.” There is only survival. If you wanted to exercise your rights, you had to raise your own army and fight away the lords that held the land you wanted. Many good people lived and died of that fashion.

 

            It was in just such an environment that I grew up. My mother died giving birth to me and my father humbly tilled the soil and stored the grain. I was lucky because the taskmaster liked me. I was his little pet. One day, the taskmaster invited me to the manor, which was a fantastic honor. Of course, the lord was away fighting another skirmish at his property line at the time of my visit. It was on this day, at the tender age of 7, that I first encountered the thing that would change the rest of my life: paper.

 

            Paper is a magical substance. It holds our words, our drawings, our very ideas and it stays unchanged until it is touched by human hands again. Of course, mold, animals and fire all play a part in damaging or destroying documents, but the idea that a document can survive a human life is a power one to carry. No longer are we bound by our own fragile memories or our own word of mouth. I could see a day were documents, bound in volumes, would hold the sum of all knowledge. Alas, that day has both come and gone.

 

            It was my fascination with paper that led eventually to my literacy. While the rest of my family sweated in the fields, I spent my time under the tutelage of the taskmaster, and later, the lord. Eventually, the time past when both my tutor and lord fell into their final convalescence, what is called “retirement” nowadays, but in those times was not so pleasant, accented as it was with terminal illness and fitful death. A new lord arose and I was appointed “Steward of the Manor” due to my education and organizational skill. Indeed, whilst my new lord fought to expand the realm, I organized the fields: the planting and the harvesting and the storing of the grain. I also settled minor disputes between the peasants in what many considered a fair and equitable manner. Indeed, I built a reputation outside of the manor for my prudent judgments.

 

            Instead of choosing sides amongst the peasants and being part of a clique or posse, I would hear the merits of the case brought before me. Because I was so studious in writing things down, I had a body of decisions to draw upon to guide my decision-making (what is known as “legal precedent” in these times). It came to the point where people could settle their own disputes without bringing their issues before me because they always knew what my decisions would be.

 

            I steadily advanced to middle age, whereupon I would cease to age physically. I watched as my father aged and eventually died. My wife continued to age along with my sons and daughters, yet I would not. The peasants became frightened and perceived my halt in age to be witchcraft, yet my lords were powerful and always gave me resounding support so that any conspiracies against my person were always laid to rest.

 

            After several decades on the bench, I advanced from Steward to Judge. Having become the oldest living person in memory, I held the trove of knowledge for the kingdom and became greatly respected.

 

            Alas, after 110 years of life, a dreadful calamity fell upon us all. The lineage of my lord was decimated in a rueful battle against a neighboring lord and during this war, my lord fell upon the battlefield. I was faced with the choice of a lifetime. I was issued an ultimatum by the enemy to surrender to his sword and die for the land. I placated him for some time while I did something unheard of – I offered portions of the kingdom to my neighboring lords in exchange for my title as Circuit Judge. Necessarily, they would have to continue the war with the enemy, but at least I would have personal protection within their realms. I have never been a warfaring person. My plan worked and the Congress of Lords defeated the enemy.

 

            As Circuit Judge, I never held title to any land, yet I would travel to each county seat and oversee their lands as they would continue to make war on their neighbors. Often I would be the one who settled squabbles amongst the Congress of Lords. I am no great leader, nor outstanding orator, yet when I produced the edicts and orders and decrees of the congress to each of the bound lords, they would comply. The power of paper became law and those of us bound by law were better organized and beloved by the people. Our organization had a way of settling disputes before rising to wars and something happened which had never happened before – peace.

 

            After some years, I contemplated retirement from my role as judge. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren had all grown up. Some were knights and vassals and others were judges like me. As a way to earn higher tax revenue, some of the lords issued charters. These charters became trading towns which would one day form into our great cities. Around the age of 140, I took a new wife and I decided to quietly settle with her in the country on the land of one of my great-grandchildren.

 

            A generation later, something unexpected happened. There was a revolution. The lords had levied such extensive taxes, that the people felt they could decide for themselves who would hold power over their lives and defend them. The towns which had grown from the charters had produced literate, thoughtful and inventive men and now they wanted their freedom. There was a Declaration of Independence, an overthrow of government and a Republic established. I was recalled from retirement to serve as the first Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic. I demurred, claiming that my wife was in frail health and I was too old for such nonsense, despite having never physically aged past 50. Alas, at the age of 206, my wife died and I was pressed into service for the state.

 

            One of the first orders of business was diplomacy. The new representative congress wanted someone to address the neighboring nations to assure them that we were a stable republic, lest our greedy neighbors conquer us and bring the young nation to ruin. I was originally chosen, but I have no great skill as a diplomat, for I am soft-spoken and my frame is fragile and small. I don’t travel well and I am not fluent in foreign languages. I stood aside. One of the generals who led the revolution was chosen as Speaker. Every four years, an election would be held (I never voted lest the judiciary be corrupted) and a new Speaker was appointed by congress.

 

            As the years progressed, the speaker’s powers grew to such an extent that he nearly became, in essence, what the lords once were. However, congressional delegates were strong then, having once been the immediate descendants of noblemen and scholars, and they passed a series of laws retaining power for congress and the judiciary such that, either by congressional action or by court order, the speaker’s powers would be checked. With such stability, peace returned.

 

            I sat on the bench another 30 years before I began to yearn for my retirement cottage. New notions of property, such as patents and copyrights and company rights came before my bench over and over again. The nature of my casework had less to do with direct human suffering and more to do abstract ideas which I could hardly grasp, so I allowed the lawman with the best procedural work to win most cases. The law became increasingly tedious and, although I had enjoyed and taken pride in the system which I created, I began to feel the limits of what knowledge I could contemplate, so I stuck to what I knew best – minutiae.

 

            At 249, I had grown sick of it and I returned to my home and left the Supreme Court to younger and more capable men of that generation. The world was changing. Where once you would have to make everything on you own, now you could buy something with currency. Credit was available to those who could not afford. Crises had more to do with money now rather than an enemy knight riding the countryside and chopping heads off or barbarians burning crops. I have little use for money, as I can still tend my own land, mend my own clothes and hunt my own game. Technology is a confusing waste of time and energy to me.

 

            Yet technology came. First it was plumbing and, I have to admit, running water, flushing toilets and sewage treatment are all grand luxuries and are most welcome in my house. Then came electricity and lighting at night. Personally, I prefer sleep and a good fire over these electric lights. All of a sudden, in the span of a generation, all kinds of gadgets and contraptions started coming for which I found absolutely no use whatsoever. Who needs the novelty of speaking to someone far away over a speaker? Why do I need to stare at a box with its parade of images when there is an outdoor world with which I can delight in? And where did all the books go? Once, books and libraries were a gleam in my eye, but they are disappearing now and being replaced with these electric doo-dads filled with internet. Give me my hearth and library any day!

 

            As if technology were not changing the world enough, the state developed schooling. At heart, I admire education, but within the past half century, I have become appalled at what I am hearing our young people believe. Inalienable rights? Entitlement? Equality? These are not things which are given! I have watched my entire life as our nation has grown from the plot of land of my first lord to this Republic of Glory which you have today. History does not start with your “Declaration of Independence.” It doesn’t even begin with my birth, and yet you teach your children that there is no history before independence. You teach that law is unchangeable, except by the richest, most powerful congressmen and that companies and businesses are people too.

 

You are throwing away your books of history, mulching them up to pulp and burning away your souls. You hide behind your cloaks of “environmentalism” and “progress” to take our books away while you make available to us only the information found on your internet search engines and your television sets. I refuse to give up my library!

 

You call me a heretic and a bumpkin and a relic, yet you do not see that you are robbing yourselves of your very essence! Alas, I am afraid that my once powerful and respected words are falling upon deaf ears. This truth, my heresy, the story of where we came from is what you have judged unfit for existence. I just want you all to know and to take to heart before it is silenced forever – the law is a contrivance of men. The law is not something handed down to us from on high. It is not fixed. The law is something to which we submit, but that is only until we discover better law. The law is how we organize ourselves and our world. It should be respected insofar as it gives us the clarity and stability to lead our lives. With these words, I submit to my execution.