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There's Still Life in the Old Dog Yet
Back to the Old Home Place
Tastes Like Chicken
Evil Heart
Yeah, I'm Still Here, He Yells As He Flies By...
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Egg, Part 2

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Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.

- A Wounded Heart, Who Can Bear?
- Drowning Under a Tidal Wave
- Clawing My Way to the Sunlight
- Yes, Santa Claus, There Is a Virginia
- Fugu
- Touching the Spirit
- A Hole in the Universe
- Riding on the Dreams of Others
- Turning Into a Shark
 - A Heart, Ripped Asunder
- Surrendering to the Roller Coaster
- Hunting in the Jade Forest
- Dodging the Shark
- Dancing With Invisible Partners
- The Captain and the Harliquin
- Courting the Devils
- The Captain Makes His Mark
- Mad Dog to the Rescue
- Innocent in the Big City
- Dropping the Ball Briefcase
- Scrambling Brains
- Cheating the Reaper, Again
- What If the Man Behind the Curtain Is No Wizard After All?
- All of Us Have a Soundtrack
- Working With Broken Machines
- Happy Anniversary, Baby
- Standing on Stars
- Running the Film Backwards
- Identity Crisis ("Who am I?")
- Can We Ever Really Admit the Desires of Our Heart?
- Forgiveness is a Rare Thing
- Having Your Heart Caressed By the Creator
- Working With Broken Machines
- A New Leg to Stand On
- The Real Spirit of Christmas
- Chatting With Infinity
- Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
- We All Have a Great Capacity for Loss
- Brushed Lightly By Might Have Beens
- We See the World Through Our Own Looking Glass
- Every Storm Passes Eventually
- Accidents Can Introduce Destiny Into Our Lives
- Freedom Depends on the Walls Around Us
- Pulling Aside the Velvet Curtain
- Riding the Razor's Edge
- Dying With Strangers
- In Your Face
- Between the Lines
- The Bobcat
- Angel With a Coffeecup
- Innocent in the Big City
- Chains of Gossamer
- Playing With Knives
- Stumbling Through Memories (Ooops)
- Picture This
- Running the Film Backwards
- Playing the Score, Tasting the Music
- Coins and Corals and Carved Coconuts
- My God, I Confess
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 1, Speechless)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 2, Taxi)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 3, The Pan American)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 4, Guano)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 5, The Andes Express)

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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

Walt Whitman (1819-92)

"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."

Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)

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Sunday, April 24, 2005


Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Latin deridEre, from de- + ridEre to laugh
1 : to laugh at contemptuously
2 : to subject to usually bitter or contemptuous ridicule
3 : what you don't want people pointing at you doing

Sometimes, laughter is very painful indeed.

In the summer of 1981, I graduated college and returned home. But home was far from what I remembered.

Through the last four years, my parents marriage had steadily disintegrated. Being away at school and other places, I never saw it coming. By the time I came home, things were critical.

My mother was spending most of her days watching soap operas on TV. As this was her primary social experience day in and day out, she began acting like the characters, speaking like the characters. You know that "in your face" remark that always preceeds a commercial break, dripping with meaning and double entendre that just strikes everyone dumb with mouths hanging open? She became a master of that remark.

Problem was, life doesn't have commercial breaks. In real life, those remarks just inflame whoever you say them to.

At the same time, my father had begun drinking very heavily. It kind of slowly developed, starting with beer and progressing to harder stuff. When I got out of college, he was drinking nothing but scotch with a splash of water and a bit of ice. And he was drinking lots of it.

I went to work in his insurance agency. I got my licenses and he sent me to run the North Myrtle Beach office.

I think the only reason that office had been opened was to give a reason for my dad and a friend of his (who had left the agency at that time) to go to the beach frequently. Sure, there's money at the beach, lots of it. But not for property casualty insurance agents.

You see, not many people actually live there. The area where we were must have had over a half a million people at any time suring the season, but only maybe 15,000 actually lived there. That's not much of a market.

We didn't sell much. Most of the time the secretary just spent her time doing her nails and answering the rare phone call.

Our office was only a few yards from the front row, right on the main drag of Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina. Across the street was a store that sold almost everything, called Coastal Mart. But what I remember the most about the store wasn't what they sold as much as this one cashier.

It amazed me that after everything I had gone through, I could end up with a schoolboy crush, but that's exactly what happened. She was really pretty. Of course, now I wouldn't know her if she came up and socked me in the nose. But every day I would mark the time when she would leave the store and get into her car, and I would watch enraptured as she walked through the small parking lot.

Each day I would sit there before she got off, and try to talk myself into going over and asking her out. Each day I would lose the argument and she would go home as I helplessly watched.

Sometimes I would even manage to get enough courage to go in the store, but always ended up not looking her in the eye and leaving.

One evening, instead of seeing her leave in midafternoon as usual, I saw her arrive. She was working the night shift.

When I got home I was just consumed. I had to go to the store. No, I didn't dare. Yes, I had to. No, I couldn't, she would know. (Know? Know what? Would have been a good argument but I didn't think of it.)

After a bit, I convinced myself that I needed a magazine to read, so off I went.

The store wasn't busy at all, since it was only about an hour before closing. She was the only cashier on duty, and the magazine rack was just across from her register.

I headed over to the rack and for the next forty five minutes looked at every single magazine up there except for Bride and Cosmo. And I might have looked at Cosmo.

I had worked myself over to the hunting and fishing magazines, and had just picked up a particularly glossy and heavy one, and I heard her voice behind me.

"So, you gonna buy anything?"

At exactly that instant, a strong punguent odor hit me full in the face. From the magazine. Here I am in decision making mode, since I gotta say something, and I'm smelling something bad.

I turned towards her.

"This magazine....smells like..."

I flipped a couple more pages just to be sure, and it was unmistakeable.

"It smells like fish."

Well, it did smell like fish. Probably some idiots marketing gimmick...let's make the fishing magazine smell like fish! Of course, it also serves to make the young lovestruck college graduate insurance agent look like an idiot only seconds after making such a ridiculous statement.

She cocked her head and just looked at me, unsure of how to respond to "This magazine smells like fish."

I ended up so flustered that I didn't buy anything, and I fled the store shortly afterward.

I never even knew her name.

There was a club I went to almost every night. If you were a local, which I qualified as, you could get a membership that gave you all kinds of special treatment. The club was 2001 VIP and in 1981 it was the hottest thing on the beach.

I used to really relish walking up to the front of the line and getting waved in when everyone else had to wait, and not paying a cover when everyone else did. That felt cool. I went so often that all of the employees new me well, so I never had to even pull out my card. This would leave people in line wondering "Who was that??!?"

Fame. I'll take it, even if it's imaginary.

The place had two big nightclubs. One played mostly beach music, and the other was a gigantic disco like in Saturday Night Fever, lighted dance floor and all. The sound system was incredible too.

A couple of times a week the club would have a special event of some sort. For example, they would hand out nuts to the girls and bolts to the boys, and offer prizes if you could find someone that fit your fastener. You can imagine the joke, the one single joke, that all 2,000 customers came up with when handed these things.

Another night they had the incredibly bright idea of having a "ladies lockdown." They opened the big disco area to women only at 8:00pm. The ladies could have anything they wanted to drink, and as much of it as they liked.

The guys weren't allowed in until 11:00.

That's 1,000 girls, steadily drinking for three hours, waiting on guys.

I. Was. There.

Matter of fact, I was one of the first ones in the room when the doors opened.

I immediately realised that my best chance was going to be in the back of the room. The front was going to be mobbed. So I headed back.

I stopped on the far side of the dance floor, and walked up to two really pretty girls just sitting there nursing their drinks and watching all the commotion.

"Hi," I said. I smiled as big as I could. I hate "pickup" lines with a passion and never use them, so I just cut to the chase.

"My name is Cliff. Would you like to dance with me?"

Now, understand, this is in my younger and far more handsome days. Well, maybe not all the way back...

Especially since, when I held out my hand to escort the young lady to the dance floor, a gesture that I had never had refused before, things went differently.

She didn't stand up.

She looked at me vacantly.

Then she started smiling.

And then she pointed at me.

Then she laughed at me.

Maniacally even. And so did her friend.

So here I am, hand out graciously requesting the honor of a dance, and they are pointing at me and laughing.

It is hard to say that the moment wasn't nightmarish.

What had happened to me, I thought.

I didn't know it, but I was changed already. I was finally, after so many years, being yanked from the idiotically arrogant foolish path I was walking. I just couldn't see it yet.

Doubt whom you will, but never yourself.
--Christine Bovee

Permalink: 4/24/2005 02:56:00 PM |
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