Poisonous Snakes Frozen in the Mountain

Last night, I had a dream where I was travelling with the Top Gear guys, excuse me “Grand Tour” guys: Jeremy, James and Richard. We were in a mountainous region and I think I was working as part of the camera crew, like a grip or something. I was holding reflectors and carrying battery packs while they were being filmed for various segments in the morning. We were either in the Alps or the Pyrenees. It was late spring and it was sunny and pleasant. By the afternoon, shooting had wrapped for the day and I was free to go for a walk along the mountainside.

I climbed one of the mountains up to the snowline. As I got closer to the snow line, I began to notice lots and lots of what I thought were dead snakes. I carefully stepped around them to get closer to the ice and snow of a melting glacier. I could hear the melting babble of a nearby brook as the glacier melted beneath the warm sun, the gorgeous blue sky and a couple of stray white whispy clouds.

The glacier was fascinating. Snakes were frozen inside of the ice. Lots of snakes. Big snakes and small snakes. As the glacier melted, tails and heads and various parts of snakes emerged from the ice, all seemingly dead.

As it happens, I like snakes. I looked around and I began to realize that most of these snakes were poisonous. Most were asps or rattlesnakes, but there were also a few coral snakes. I even saw an anaconda frozen in the glacier.

As I studied the snakes in the ice, I saw some stray movement out of the corner of my eye. First the tail of one snake, then another, started wriggling in the ice, trying to free themselves. I looked down the mountain and some of the snakes were slowly starting to move. It was time to get out of there. I carefully crept my way around the awakening poisonous snakes and, once clear, I started running down the mountain towards the chalet. Running down the mountain, I turned and to my horror, the snakes were chasing me!

I reached the chalet and climbed the stairs to the deck. A coral snake and a few asps were still behind me and climbing the stairs. On the deck there were 3 white poofy Maltese or Pomeranian dogs barking and jumping towards the snakes. I tried to open the sliding door to get in to the chalet, but it was stuck. The little dogs were going ballistic on the snakes and were holding them successfully at bay for a time. Little by little the sliding door was cracking open. That was when I got bit twice – once on my right ankle and once on my left knee. It was painful, but I was panicking to get in and hardly noticed.

I made it in, but I was struggling to the close the door. I was panting and my breath was short. I was starting to sweat. I collapsed on the floor and one of the asps got in. Someone from housekeeping noticed me, grabbed a broom and brushed the snake outside, but not before it bit me on the right shoulder. The person with the broom got the door shut. One of the dogs had made it back inside and started licking my face. I could hear the other dogs barking. My heart was pounding and I was struggling to breathe.

“Stay calm. I’m getting help,” the housekeeper guy said. I could feel my blood thickening and my heart struggling to pump the blood syrup though my body. My mind travelled back to the image of all those snakes in the ice, wriggling to get free and that’s when I woke up.

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The Revolution Will Be Built With Questions

These are ______ times. Some of my friends are filled with joy and optimism, while aggravated by the dire apocalyptic prophecy and protest of the majority of the rest of my friends. It is very polarizing with neutrality, consensus and dialogue being hard to come by.

 

I share in the belief that we are entering an apocalyptic period for mankind, where our environmental protections are dismantled, our ability to collectively work for the benefit of our families and community will be hampered, our education and economic power will be stripped from us by those entrenched in power, and everything we hope to accomplish and work hard towards will be dashed to pieces by great forces beyond our control, such as our government or the changing climate. For the first time since I was a toddler, we could have nuclear war. Woe upon us all.

I discovered my own powerlessness when I protested against the impending Iraq War back in 2003, knowing that the evidence for war was falsified and that the wool was being pulled over the eyes of the nation and that global sympathy for 9/11 was going to be squandered pointlessly for a personal vendetta in the middle east. A new generation is just now coming to this realization as the United States swings back the pendulum to, whatever this is. This is their Iraq War moment and they are just now coming to terms with their own powerlessness, whether it was the loss of Bernie Sanders or the election of Donald Trump as the leader of the world.

 

Powerless does not mean hopeless. Donald Trump won because he saw and understood things differently from how urban liberals do, myself included. The institutions that we established to understand and manage the world are disintegrating, the founding premises forgotten and challenged. Donald Trump is the wind that knocks down the sheds, scattering tools, debris and seed across the farm in the aftermath of a political tornado.

 

If protest doesn’t work and political engagement doesn’t work, what is left?

 

Let me take you back to a similar time – the 5th Century BCE in Athens. Athens was an amazing city and had successfully defeated the armies of Persia with the help of other Greek city states, such as Sparta. However, after the successful defense against Persia, Athens was defeated by Sparta, leading to significant political upheaval. Not to give away any spoilers for those of you who haven’t read Plato, but there is this guy named Socrates and he asks a lot of questions. Ultimately, in the end, Socrates starts a movement and ends up being brought on trial for “corrupting the city’s youth” with his teachings. He is condemned to death, which turns him into a martyr and modern philosophy, knowledge and, eventually, science is born. One could draw parallels between the Peloponnesian War and the cold war; the defeat of Athens by Sparta to the War on Terror.

 

Where am I going with this? My point is that the best challenge to our current period of facts, alternative facts and fake news is to ask questions. It is really easy to declare something wrong, whip up a bunch of emotion and move on, but the real trick isn’t convincing yourself or your disciples that you are right. You need to convince your opponent. In order to do that, you need to embark on the premise that your opponent believes what they say. Next, draw them out with questions. Break things down to smaller pieces or take the factoid on a journey and see if you arrive at similar conclusions. Ask the why, what, who and how.

In reading Plato, you discover that Socrates uses his question as a tool. He doesn’t just say, “You’re wrong,” but asks, “What do you mean by that? Is that like this other thing?” and so forth. You can guide your questions to a conclusion. Leading questions. Direct examination questions. Cross-examination questions. True or false questions. This forces all involved to look closer at what is going on and arrive at better knowledge. So spend more time asking questions once you get tired of protesting and advocating.

 

As an aside: When I first read Plato, I didn’t like Socrates. I thought he was a jerk. He just kept destroying people and they things they believed in. Nevertheless, Socrates definitely opened my eyes to the power of his tool – the question.

Enthusiasm and Confidenc

I made a personal discovery last night. Last night, I decided to play soccer after work with the Meetup group that I’m a part of. When I played last week, I did well. I even scored a goal. But last night, for the first half of play, I was bad. I didn’t warm up, I was sluggish, and my heart wasn’t in it. I lacked confidence. My play improved in the second half after I gained some confidence by completing passes and moving around better with the ball.

I like to analyze myself after soccer – think about what went well and what could be improved. This issue of confidence was something that turned itself over and over again in my mind until I struck upon the solution. I did not enter the field with the same level of enthusiasm as I have on previous occasions. All day long, I was on the fence as to whether or not I wanted to go or stay home. I’m glad I went.

 

I hate the word “confidence.” I hate it because people have talked to me about my confidence from time to time. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I have low confidence. I think that’s bullshit because I have very high self-esteem. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was all about self-esteem: practice, discipline, achievement. To be told that I lack confidence to achieve what I want makes me angry. I see confidence as something that people ascribe to you rather than something which you control. So to me, it becomes all about gaming the “confidence” concept, which I neither have neither the tolerance nor patience to deal with.

I’m trying to break “confidence” down to other skills, skills which you can practice. Things like boldness and talkativeness. After last night, I’m going to add enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you want to do it, you get excited about it, and when you’re excited for it, you get other people excited and they want to join. BOOM – Confidence.

 

It is 2017 and it has been a long time since I have been enthusiastic for anything. I can count on one hand the things I was excited for in 2016. I can probably say the same thing for 2015. 2013 and 2014 were exciting years. I need to build the enthusiasm and raise the energy level. I’ve been a passive observer, biding my time, for long enough. I’m not getting any younger. Time to get excited again!

2017 Resolution

One of my resolutions this year is to do more journaling. Specifically, I want to post more to WordPress and explore some of the other bloggers on this site.

 

In reflecting back on the past, I have discovered that the catalyst of my social success was blogging and commenting on other people’s sites. The voice I developed online translated to a voice I spoke in real life. Sadly, I’ve noticed in recent years that I do not say much anymore. I mistakenly thought that it was because I had nothing valuable to say. I kept thinking of one of Dave Walker’s “Dullest Blog In The World” entries from March 11, 2003 –

 

“Not Saying Anything

I was at a meeting and became aware that I had nothing of any interest to add to the discussion. So I said nothing, and the discussion continued.”

 

My life was gradually becoming more and more passive, imperceptible at first, like gaining weight, but then one day you wake up and realize, for better or worse, this is who you are. If you want to change it, you need to take steps to change it. Start with small changes and watch the small changes grow.

 

Thus, I’m returning to blogging so that I can exercise my voice, set a place for my opinions, and receive feedback from strangers. Personally, I happen to enjoy hearing what other people have to say, positive or not. We are our own worst critics, so I doubt internet words can hurt me (a very conceited and self-centered viewpoint, but this is my blog and what did you expect?).

I don’t take the internet seriously at all. I’m rarely online, and when I am, I’m bored easily. I’ll scroll down the feed on Facebook for a total of 3 swipes, eliminate the notifications I get, and give up. I’ll check my dating apps to force myself to send a message or 2 and give up. It is all so blasé. I miss the dynamism I once had for the internet, the thrill of getting a new comment or response, and I think blogging will rekindle that.

 

So that’s my resolution for 2017 – More Blogging.

I Was Lost

This story is based upon several writing prompts from the Midtown Writer’s Group that came together to form the story. The prompts are in italics.

 

I thought I was on the correct floor, but I was lost. The car park was identical for as far as my mind could grasp. I was a child who lost his mommy and it didn’t help that my car was a rental. If I searched my mind hard, I might remember what my car looked like.

I hit the panic button on my key fob as I walked the corridors of P3. I got no response from my car, but at another car there was a knock on the door. It was the tail of a dog beating against the glass. The cocker spaniel didn’t bark. Instead it just smiled, panted and wagged its tail. I walked on: P3? Or was it P4?

 

My phone vibrated due to a text message. “Well, why don’t you come on home?” the message said. I texted back, “But I’m lost – lost in the parking ramp. I’ve been here for hours. No lie.”

Maybe my car was stolen? But how would I know that? I know! The rental company has GPS in all the cars. I could call customer service and they could find my car.

I called customer service. I was on hold for 10 minutes before they told me they needed me to put the key in the ignition to activate the GPS. That doesn’t help me. There have been better days.

I continued pacing around P3 and returned to the dog, still knocking the door window with his tail. I could tell we both wanted out. I opened the car door to let out the dog. When I did that, I set off the car alarm. Like most car alarms, nobody cared. The cocker spaniel took off across the car park, darting under and around cars, blissfully barking with joy.

The din sounded like an urban choir, between the barking and the car alarm. I just stood there with the door open. It was the smell that got my attention. The dog must’ve eaten cheese, because the car reeked. I shut the door and continued searching for my car, this time on a different level. I had already caused enough trouble on P3. Now to try P2.

 

It was almost time for dinner and I still had not found my car. After hours of desperate search, and a dead key fob battery, I had not found my rental car. In the great maze of concrete and motor vehicles, the cocker spaniel found me and chased after me, jumping and barking all the way. The dog stopped, panting. Then it raised its leg and began to pee on the lot sign. I was in Orange Lot East. Didn’t I park in Purple Lot West? Shit. Which way was west?

I started walking towards the daylight that I saw in the distant concrete horizon. As I walked, I heard sobs echo off the concrete pillars. I couldn’t quite make out the cries in the distance, but it sounded like a woman. I went down the ramp to P1, hoping to find level, natural, earth-based ground, instead of this disorienting concrete prison. Sometimes the echoes faded and got louder. I didn’t care. I was almost free and so was the dog.

Finally I heard the screech of the owner, “Pebbles! PEH-bbles!” spoken with a heaving sob, followed by a, “Here boy! Oh Pebbles, where are you?”

It was all a game to this dog. He let out one low and quiet bark, and charged off towards more parked cars.

I got another text. It read, “I’m coming to pick you up. Where are you?” I texted back, “Haven’t you been listening? I. Don’t. Know!”

The dog owner pulled alongside me just as I was putting away my phone. Her make up was running all down her face and her red hair was as frantic and frizzy as she was. “Excuse me, sir? Have you seen my dog? He’s a little cocker spaniel.”

I looked up, past the woman, past her car. In the distance of my 1,000 yard stare, I saw the curly hair of the puckish pet curled up in his hiding spot behind a tire many aisles away. I looked at the woman. I looked at the dog. Did I want to get involved? If I helped her, and she offered to help me, did I really want to sit in the rotten, foul-smelling car of spaniel butt-cheese? Wouldn’t it be better to just walk to Purple Lot West? But where is that?

The crying woman drove away, “Why can’t anyone help me?! PEH-bbles!”

 

I finally reached the edge of the car park, but a biting wind rose up and hit me in the face. To my right was an enclosed land bridge connecting the neighboring lot, an elevator bank, and a map. I went in from the cold and looked at the map. I sent a text, “I found a map. I’m in between Orange Lot East and Red Lot North.”

“I’m sorry. Something’s come up. I can’t help you. Call a cab,” was the responding text message.

I crossed over to Red Lot North when there arose a familiar knock at the glass door. The dog was lying down right at the crease of the door, wagging his tail. I remembered from the map that similar skyways connected all of the parking ramps. I called the elevator and went up to P3 and got out.

When I got out, I saw a security officer riding in his security cart with the yellow light flashing. I stepped out to wave him down, but he drove right past me and drove down the ramp to P2. Why can’t anyone help me?

Walking, walking, walking. Walking vaguely westward, I think. Why are these parking ramps always so large? Am I lost again? They say that humans travel in large circles if they get lost. Gee, that car looks familiar. Why do so many cars look alike? Is that my car? No, the key doesn’t work. Great, I’ve set off another car alarm. I bet a person could go crazy in a situation like this.

After an eternity, I finally reached the other end of Red Lot North. Echoing in the wind, I could hear red-headed lady’s voice, “You let him get away! How could you let him get away?”

“I’m sorry ma’am. I’ve called for backup. Please remain calm.” The security officer’s deep voice was calming and provided a baseline of sanity to the treble of craziness I was responsible for and currently involved with.

I crossed the bridge to Purple Lot West, but for some reason, P3 crossed over to P2. Whoever designed this had no sympathy for people who get lost. I stopped in the shelter, closed my eyes, and tried to use my imagination to remember what my car looked like and where it could be. It was so long ago since I went in to the mall to return those clothes, that I think the value of the money in my pocket is worth less due to inflation.

I used my imagination to travel further back into time, back to when I first parked. Was I happy because I got a good parking spot or was I angry or sad because I had to park far away? No, I was neither. There were no feelings for the parking spot, only the annoyance of returning the clothes. I opened my eyes and started walking.

Once again lost in the concrete labyrinth, I heard a bark. “Oh no,” I thought. There was another bark followed by a heaving echo. The dog was throwing up. I turned the corner of a row of cars and there he sat, wagging his tale in front of pile of vomit several cars away. I approached the dog and he jumped up and down. I glanced over and Pebbles had puked right next to my rental car. I was in shock. My jaw dropped. I looked at the car and I looked at the dog. “Good dog,” I said, “Good boy, Pebbles.”

I instinctively tried the key fob, but the battery was dead, so I turned the key in the door and, like magic, the car alarm did not go off. I opened the door and the dog jumped into my car ahead of me. I got in, shut the door and pet the dog as it sat on the passenger side seat. For a brief moment, I thought of taking Pebbles home with me, but then he let out a big cheesy fart that destroyed the new car smell.

I pulled out of my parking spot and followed the exit signs out of the lot. After exiting Purple Lot West, I pulled alongside 3 security carts and the woman’s car. I rolled down my window and yelled, “Ma’am! Is this your dog?” pointing to the cocker spaniel in my seat.

“YES!!” she screamed, “Where was he? How did you catch him?”

I was tired and didn’t want to get into it. “It’s okay,” I said, “He’s happy to see you. Come on over and take him.” Pebbles went back to her owner and I went home. The lady even gave me her number, but I’m not sure what I would do with it. Maybe I have a friend who would like her?

Encountering A Fellow Traveler Dream

Last night I dreamt that I was travelling somewhere in North America. In my dream it was Wyoming, but now that I’m awake, that doesn’t make sense. It was probably Colorado of the not-too-distant future. I know this because there were mountains.

I was staying in a modern style townhome complex built into a mountain, full of stainless steel and glass, where part of the mountain extended into the living rooms and bedrooms. After I dropped off my stuff, I walked down the mountain a short ways to a tram or bus stop, caught the public transportation, and headed into town.

My goal was simply to walk around the pedestrian areas, visit some museums and perhaps see a movie. It felt like early- to mid-spring; chilly, but not unpleasant. While at an art museum, I went to the outdoor cafeteria. Walking along, I thought I recognized someone enjoying a coffee while sitting on a curb. I walked up to her and called her by her name and she responded. She was a Canadian friend of mine whom I’ve never met in real life. She is well travelled and I was very happy to run in to her.

For the rest of the dream (the entire day), we walked around town, talking about movies and politics and ideas. I remember walking by a movie theater that was playing a movie I wanted to see. I asked her opinion of the movie. She had already seen it and had no interest in seeing it again, thus we continued walking.

We caught the bus and trains together. We even caught the same tram together back up the side of the mountain at sunset. I was excited to show her the place I was staying in, but she decided it was time to turn in and we separated at my stop. The sun had already set behind the mountain, but I stood there watching the colors change in the sky. I was thinking about this wonderful day I had spent with Liz. That’s when I woke up.