Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Box Labeled: DO NOT KEEP

Before the night's blackness evaporated

My muse sat on my chest whispering.

Jaha's cadence tapped my drum.

I watched my words sing and hum.

Even with my eyes closed

Stories and visions began to unfold.

"Wake up, Wake up!"

The dawn kept calling

And when my eyes I finally opened

I grabbed the air for the stories and the visions

but they had gone to sleep

Somewhere far away down deep
in a box labeled, DO NOT KEEP.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Failed Redemption of Dirty Dog Dietrich is in process

Helping Spirit

Dirty Dog Dietrich leaned against the tailgate of his recently waxed black Toyota pickup truck. He chewed on a toothpick that he held with his calloused fingers of his right hand while staring intently at me as warm vapor came out of his mouth. He shivered in the cool dawn. “I ain’t saying this to be mean,” he said. “But I don’t know if I like the idea of my big sister being married to a short scrawny…” He pursed his lips, squinted and turned his head skyward. I waited, knowing that the words that he preferred would bubble up to his tongue and dive off soon enough. He spat the toothpick on the ground. “It don’t seem proper for my sister to be married a short scrawny Chinaman.”
“You know that I’m not Chinese,” I said as I rolled my eyes and let my shoulders drop.
His teeth glistened in the sunshine as his lips parted into a smile. “I know,” he said. “I just like seeing your face squish itself into exasperation. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile today.”
I shook my head, walked over to my chocolate colored 750 Honda motorcycle and sat on it, while I put my helmet on. I pulled my gloves out of my pocket and stared at Dirty Dog. As my fingers wiggled their way into my gloves, I yelled, “Get in your truck and follow me to Crystal Cove. I want to get on the freeway before traffic gets heavy.”
He nodded, shut his tailgate and got into his truck. I drove south on the 405 freeway, keeping an eye on my rearview mirror to make sure that he was behind me. My bike’s faring diverted the cold morning air around and behind me. The Lord of the Dawn kept busy erasing the bright orange and yellow clouds, leaving a brilliant blue sky with white puffy clouds in their place.  I moved out of the fast lane to the far right lane and took Highway 73 heading southeast. I looked in my rearview mirror and watched Dirty Dog’s black truck zoom across 4 lanes of traffic. I exited the freeway at the MacArthur Blvd exit and headed toward the coast. Dirty Dog drove up next to me on the right when I stopped at the traffic light on Bison Ave.
“You shoulda had a brighter blinker on your bike,” he yelled from his truck. “I didn’t see you turn off the 405 until it were almost too late. You shoulda seen that woman’s eyes when I cut in front of her.” He laughed and hit his steering wheel with his hands. “I bet she peed in her panties.”
I didn’t want to encourage his bad behavior by responding. “I’ll be turning left on PCH, that’s Pacific Coast Highway,” I said.
“I know. I ain’t stupid.” He took a drink from a white and green Starbucks cup. I’d like to assume that he was drinking coffee, but with Dirty Dog, it was unwise to assume anything. Just as the light turned green he yelled out, “Hey, I gotta find a bathroom. I gotta take a piss.”   He took off before I could say anything. I caught up to him and pointed up ahead. He followed me to PCH. The green light allowed us to proceed onto PCH down to Corona Del Mar. I pulled off the highway at Starbucks. He drove into the parking lot and ran into the Starbucks. I parked my bike and walked in. I saw the bathroom door open. Dirty Dog rushed in almost knocking over the old man coming out.
I got in line behind three people and scanned the menu. Dirty Dog walked up behind me by the time it was my turn, “Order me a plain coffee.” He pointed to the middle of the three tall metal coffee dispensers behind the cashier. “Get me that one, the Pike’s Place,” he said. “I don’t need none of your sissy latte’s an shit.” I placed an order for a Pike’s Place and a caramel macchiato latte.
I paid the cashier and then she handed Dirty Dog his coffee. We walked to the end of the counter and waited for my latte. Dirty Dog’s bottom lip pouted out. “Ya know, I’ve never done shit like what we’re gonna do. It sounds, well, kinda spooky. I ain’t saying I’m afraid. It’s just weird.”
“Do you want to continue having those weird feelings like you’re possessed?”
“Hell no.” He looked down and shuffled his left foot. “What if people see us? What are they gonna think?”
I put my hand on his shoulder, “You never care what anyone thinks,” I said.
“Yeah, but lying on the sand with all my clothes on and having you beating your drum over me is gonna look weird.”
The barista called out my name. I picked up my latte and sat down in a soft chair by the window. Dirty Dog sat in the adjacent chair. “I’ll create an energy field around us,” I said. “No one will come and ask us what we’re doing.”
Dirty Dog took a sip of his coffee and stared out the window. He turned to me, leaned forward and whispered, “What if I really am possessed and you can’t get rid of it? Am I gonna be screwed for the rest of my life?”
“You’re getting way ahead of yourself. I haven’t determined if you’re possessed or just off your rocker.”
He gave me a light punch to the arm. “Hurry and finish your damn sissy latte and let’s get this over with.” He gulped the last bit of coffee and stood up. “You shoulda come in my truck so you could finish drinking while I drive.” He turned and walked to the door. He held it open and yelled back to me, “Get you lazy ass off the chair and let’s go!”
We drove to Crystal Cove and parked our vehicles. Dirty Dog got out of his truck and stood with his knees together, scanning the surroundings. “Damn it, I gotta go piss again.” We walked to the restroom and then back to our vehicles. Dirty Dog climbed into the bed of his truck, opened the steel storage box and pulled out a blanket and two towels. He closed the lid sat cross legged on the storage box staring at the ocean. A young Asian woman with long black hair walked up from the beach carrying a green flower print beach bag. She opened her car’s trunk and tossed her beach bag into it. Dirty Dog watched her. When she came around to the driver’s side of her car, she smiled at him and remarked, “Isn’t that a beautiful view of the ocean?”
Dirty Dog smiled and nodded. He turned to me and whispered, “Not as beautiful as my truck.” He climbed down from truck’s bed with the blanket and towels under one arm. We walked down the bluff to the beach. At 7:00 AM we were nearly the only people on the beach. Off in the distance I saw two people running. I asked Dirty Dog to spread the blanket down next to the wet sand. “What if a wave gets us wet?” he asked as I removed my backpack and pulled out my drum.
“It’ll give you the bath that you need.”
He flipped me off and put the blanket down.
I put my backpack and drum on a corner of the blanket. “Take off your shoes,” I said. I got down on my knees and pulled a lighter and a small bundle of sage out of my backpack. I flick the lighter and put the flame under an edge of the sage. I blew out the small flame. “Thank you Sage Spirit,” I said. I wafted the smoke around Dirty Dog saying, “Sage Spirit please remove all fear and doubt and help Dirty Dog to be open and receptive for a healing.” After I had walked all around him, I put the sage bundle on the sand to let the embers burn out.
“Go stand in the water until I tell you to come back,” I said as I removed my shoes and stood on the sand facing east. Dirty Dog removed his shoes and placed them on a corner of the blanket. He bent down and the waist and rolled up his Levis. He looked up and down the beach before he walked and stood at the water’s edge. He had his back to me. He stared out at the ocean. I lifted my drum and closed my eyes. I breathed in the salt air and pulled energy into my body through my bare feet. I opened my eyes. I beat the drum slowly and gently. “Welcome Spirits of the east. Welcome to our day and to our awareness. Air spirit, bringer of the first breath and every breath of the day, welcome,”
Dirty Dog grabbed my forearm, preventing me from striking the drum. “Ya know, I was thinking that ya never really liked me much; and that ya might wanna let an evil spirit destroy me from the inside out.”
I lowered my drum and stared into Dirty Dog’s eyes. His tiny pupils were trying to hide in his greenish blue irises. I lifted my chin and pointed it toward the water. “Breathe with the rhythm of the ocean,” I said and relaxed the tension in my arm. “There is nothing to fear here.” 
“I know. I know,” he said. “I ain’t really afraid. Yer weird spirit stuff makes my stomach feels like grunion are flopping around in there. And besides, the water is making my feet cold.” He let go of my forearm and walked back to the water’s edge.
“I’m creating the energy field,” I said. “Face the ocean and breathe.” I waited until his feet were back in the water before I continued. I turned to the east and beat my drum rhythmically. “Air Spirit, thank you for your gifts. Come and surround us with protection.” I turned to the South, looking in Dirty Dog’s direction. He turned his head to look over his shoulder at me and gave me a thumbs up. I protruded my chin toward the ocean. He turned his head forward.
“Spirits of the south, spirits of all our relations, animal spirits, plant spirits and mineral spirits, thank you for your gifts. Please come and help us.” I turned to the west. “Water spirit and water creature spirits, thank you for your gifts. Please come and help us to be flexible in mind body and spirit.”
“Hey!” Dirty Dog yelled. “The water’s over here, where I’m standing in the south.”
I softened my drumming and turned my head to Dirty Dog. “I know. The water spirit’s home is in the west.”
“Oh. OK then.”
“Let me finish creating the energy field.” I turned to the north. “Fire Spirit and mountain spirits, thank you for your gifts. Please come and fill us with power and energy.” I turn to the south and ask Dirty Dog to come and lie down on the blanked with his head facing the ocean.
“Lookie here at my pants. They’re wet. That last wave got ‘em wet when you asked the water spirit to make us more flexible. What’s it doing? Trying my grease my joints with salt water?” He unrolled his pant legs and sat down on the blanket.
I gave him a toothy grin. “Yes, the Water Spirit is greasing your joints with salt water. You are mostly salt water. You know that, right?”
He slapped his thigh and laughed. “I shouldda known that. That’s pretty damn smart.” He lay down. “You’re joshing me, ain’t ya?”
I lay next to Dirty Dog. “I just want you to relax and enjoy the salt air. I’m going to find your power animal, your helping spirit, and bring it back to you.”
“Ya better not bring me back any spiders. I hate spiders.”
“We’ve gone over this before,” I said. “Your helping spirit will take on an animal form that is geared to your life somehow. I don’t know what form it will take. But, if it makes you feel better, I won’t bring you a spider.”
He turned his head to face me. His eyes sparkled. “You can bring me a scorpion. I like to sting people so they don’t ever forget.”
“I’m not going to bring you a scorpion either.”
“Awk. Coward!” He closed his eyes. “If I could get one that was trainable, I’d have one as a pet. I’d train it to bite people I don’t like much.” He opened his eyes and looked at me. “Like little scrawny Asian dudes.”
I rolled my eyes and resumed beating the drum. I stopped after a few minutes and got up on my knees facing Dirty Dog. “I’m going to blow your power animal into your chest and then into the top of your head.”
He held out his hand to stop me. “You ain’t putting nothing in my until you tell me what it is first. I don’t want no spiders.”
“It’s not a spider. I told you I wouldn’t do that. It’s a slug.”
He sat up. “I don’t want to slimy slug. What the hell kind of power animal is that?”
“Really?” I shook my head. “I didn’t bring you a slug. I’m just kidding.” I hadn’t realized how tense I had become when he interrupted me with his worries about spiders. I let my shoulders relax. “Your helping spirit presented itself as a moose. And this moose is mighty and big.”
Dirty Dog grinned and nodded his head. “Yup. Moose are big. I think I like that. They’re big enough to stomp on your puny little head.”
I bent down and blew the moose into his chest and then I asked him to sit up. As I blew the moose into the top of his head he shivered. When I finished he shouted, “Holy shit! That’s one big moose!” His eyes were a big as moose’s eyes. I blinked and they returned to normal. “How did you do that?” he asked.
“I’m going to tell you my shamanic journey to find your power animal in the present tense as if it is happening right now.”  
He narrowed his eyes. “I ain’t illiterate. I know what present tense is. Remember, I made it to the tenth grade in high school, smarty pants.”
I closed my eyes hoping that he wouldn’t interrupt me. “I am drumming. I call my own power animal. She comes and stands next me. ‘Please take me to find a power animal for Dirty Dog. She takes my hand and lifts me out of my body. We walk into the ocean and swim underwater until we find a cave. We swim into the cave. It is lit with crystals imbedded in the cave walls and ceiling. A seal swims in front of us. We follow it as it swims into a deep and narrow hole. We go down. I see a light and we swim toward it. I find myself at a beach with the sun shining. My power animal and I walk out of the water and onto the beach. I call out, ‘I am looking for a power spirit for Dirty Dog.’ We walk into a forest that is along the shore. I hear rustling in the underbrush. I see a wild boar come toward us? ‘Are you Dirty Dogs’ power animal?’ It waddles by, ignoring my question. We continue walking in the forest. I feel a huge hoof land next to my left foot. I turn and see a brown furry leg that is taller than I am. I look up and see two enormous moose antlers and remind me of radar disks. They are at least ten feel above me. ‘Are you Dirty Dog’s power animal?” I ask. The moose walks around me and and turns showing me all four of its sides. It stands on its hind legs. My power animal tells me to hold my hands out together. The moose places his front hooves on my hands. Together they are about five feet wide. The moose shrinks and as it becomes half my size it jumps onto my hands with its back legs. He shrinks to the size of a mouse. I hold him close to my chest and we go back into the water and we swim back the same way we came. We walk onto the beach and I lay back into my body, still holding the Spirit Moose.”
“That’s a mighty nice story,” Dirty Dog said. “When you blew into my head, I saw the beast. Well, not really saw. It was more like I felt him. Like he was standing under. No, Like I was sorta sitting on him. But that ain’t quite right either. It’s hard to explain. But he is a big mutha.” His eyes looked out over the ocean. “What’s you gonna do now?”
“I’m going to ask your Spirit Moose to help me find out if you need an exorcism or some other healing.”
“Yeah! I bet my moose could stomp the bird turd shit outta any demon that’s inside of me.”
I asked Dirty Dog to lay back down and to imagine that he could breathe under water. “Go and find that underwater cave and look for your moose. When you find him you can ask him how he prefers that you call on him when you need him.”
“What’s his name?” he asked.
“You can ask him when you see him. Lie down. I’m going to beat my drum and go talk to your power animal.”
“You’re gonna talk to my moose? I’ll race ya to see who gets to him first. If I beat ya, you’ll have to wait your turn.”
I shook my head. “This is not a race. Close your eyes.” I drummed, left my body and went back into the ocean.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Painting a Verbal Picture of Sopaipillas

I am going to paint you a picture of my favorite New Mexican treat. I am going to paint the picture with words. 
I love to eat sopaipillas. How is that pronounced? It is pronounced, so pie pee ya, with the accent on the third syllable, pee.Remember that a double L in Spanish makes a Y sound. 
What is a sopaipilla? In its simplest definition, it is deep fried flat bread. But there is so much more to it. 
Imagine yourself in a small town in New Mexico, in your grandmother’s kitchen. This New Mexican town is a mile high in elevation and therefore the sky is a brilliant blue bordering on turquoises. The warm dry summer day keeps you from sweating. A northern breeze teases your hair while allowing the cottonwood trees to cackle and clatter stories of the children who played under their branches. Off in the distance a dust devil dances across a vacant field, You can almost hearing it singing its dusty swushing song. I mentioned New Mexico because that is where the best sopaipillas are made.
Imagine your grandmother getting out a big ceramic bowl and pouring flour, baking soda and a few secret things that you saw her put in, but didn't know what they were. And you knew better than to interrupt your grandma when she was doing you a favor, that favor of making your favorite treat. 
Your grandmother kneaded the dough in the bowl and then she would grab a handfull and roll it into a flat ball, the size of a small doughnut. Your eyes would be fixed on her hands as she took a large wooden rolling pin to spread out the dough. It would look like a thick tortilla. 
She would take her knife and cut the flattened dough into triangles. Sometimes she would cut a Mickey Mouse shape for you. And then she’d put them into a tray and let them sit on the counter while she would into the backyard to start a fire on a portable stove. She placed a large steel pot that was half full of lard over the top of the fire. When the lard became so hot that it started to smoke, She would ask you to go into the kitchen and bring the dough triangles. 
She would take a few of the triangles and place them into the smoking lard. The triangles would puff up like a little pillows and  float on the surface of the lard. Your grandmother would use tongs to turn the sopaipilla over to make sure that it was golden brown. When both sides were golden brown she took them out and place them in a bowl. 
When my grandmother make sopaipillas the temptation for me to steal one was almost too much to bear. OK. I admit it. I would steal one every once in a while.
Imaging taking the bowl of hot sopaipillas back in to the kitchen, placing them on the table and then eating one. You would eat sopaipillas in place of bread at dinner, After dinner you would eat sopaipillas for desert with honey or sprinkled  sugar and cinnamon.
I'm starting to crave a sopaipilla. I wonder if I could talk Denise into making some. She won't use lard, though. She'll use canola oil.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Wanting To Hurt My Boss

In 1986, I had been hired as the Veterans Medical Center architect. I enjoyed my job. I designed the country’s largest sleep laboratory and many other specialized medical spaces. Things were going well. One of my coworkers asked me for a recommendation. He was applying for a promotion.  I started his recommendation letter by stating that I was his coworker and then I went on to describe his work ethic, this education, and his abilities as an architect.  I gave it to him and thought no more about out.
A week later, my boss showed me the letter and accused me of trying to take over his job. I was stunned. I showed him that I had clearly stated that I was a coworker. He didn’t care. From that day forward he put his plan to get me fired into motion. He assigned me projects that would take weeks to complete and then write me up because I had not completed them by the next day.  I couldn’t quit without repaying the cost for my move from New Mexico to California. I was trapped. I had no options. I had a family to support.  I apologized and settled for a downgrade in pay.

Before all this started, I had begun the Course in Miracles, a yearlong course on forgiveness.  Each day I would do the forgiveness exercise in the book, all the while discovering and feeling hate toward my boss. Hate is not in my nature. But that is what I felt whenever I came nearby the boss. I had day dreams of knocking him down the stairs. I wished that he would end up in a car accident. I even had thoughts of sabotaging his car so that he would crash. And I was horrified by this. This was not me. All the while I was doing the daily forgiveness exercises, working my way through the Course in Miracles. I was praying for a miracle. And I got one. My boss accepted a promotion to the other side of the country. 
I continued with the Course in Miracles and told myself that I had forgiven my boss. Things don’t always work just because you say they will. My boss returned for a “detail” assignment. My hair still bristled with great discomfort when I walked by my boss.
 Now I had to act on my forgiveness. This was going to be hard. I braced myself and went into his office. I asked him to come on a break with me. He agreed. We walked to the cafeteria, got some coffee and sat at a secluded table. I took a big breath. “I don’t know where all this craziness came from between you and me,” I said, “but I would ask that you forgive me for the trouble I caused you and I forgive you for what you did to me.”
He got quiet, looked down at the table and then back up at me. “That’s good. I can do that,” he said. I extended my hand and we shook on it. I felt an immediate lifting of a burden. It was palpable.
A few years later, after I had moved to Seattle, his secretary called me and told me that my former boss complimented me during his retirement party. He said that he in all his life he had only made one mistake in judging people. He told those at his party that I was far more intelligent and talented than he initially thought.   
Forgiveness is powerful.