If You Like What You Read

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I have to love you, but I don't have to like you.

That particular thought popped into my head while thinking about a friend's wife. I like most people, but some people, you just can't be around. You feel like you're standing on eggs, always having to watch your back lest they stick a two-foot kitchen knife in it. In short, you can't trust them to act rationally. At least most of the time. Or enough of the time that creates a satisfactory comfort level. We all do irrational shit every now and then, but for the most part, you know how someone you trust is going to act. It's not a concern. Now maybe someone else can help the alleged individual get their shit together, but for whatever reason, you can't. So you avoid them for the most part. Not because you don't love them, you just don't like them.

We all give off what I like to call a "trust vibe". And if you're tuned into it, you know right away how much you can trust someone, and also how much farther you can push the "comfort level" of it once that trust is established. Some people you can trust with your life. Hopefully you have some of those people close around you, but if not, I assure you, they're out there. Just get your trust barometer dusted off and see what I mean. Just don't forget to point it at yourself though every now and then.

So, yeah, we can love someone and at the same time and still not want to be within a million miles of their presence. I actually think that's what God invented distance for. "You don't like your brother or sister? Well okay, here's an infinite universe, go play on the other side of it for a while until you two can stop fighting." Of course, the other side of it is compulsive behavior, stalkers, people who just can't possibly fathom there could be another way of seeing things other than the their own. ...Hopefully angels intercede for thee if so. Anyway...

I could trust McMullen. And he delivered the money when he said he would. The first hundred and twenty five-grand in the trunk of the car just before I fled the country, and the second, by believe it not, postal mail. I breathed a huge sign of relief when I opened the bread box-sized package from postman and found the wads of hundred dollar bills shoved into the empty packs of playing cards. I started gathering packs about a month before the escape, from the gymnasium in the jail. Java kept asking me why I needed so many decks of playing cards. I forget what I said and he didn't care anyway, as he was more concerned anyway with the weekly payments I was making on my ungodly mountain of gambling debt. It was his comfy job to drive to Atlantic City though once a month and pick up hundreds of old used playing decks of cards donated from the casinos for the inmates. A few dozen packs weren't going to be missed, as there were literal hundreds and hundreds stacked in the back closet of his old musty rec office. And like everything else in the jail, there was no official count or accurate inventory kept of them. Least not one that, like everything else, couldn't be manipulated or fudged to cover up any missing items in question. There's more stuff stolen in a jail than stolen on the street. If ain't nailed down in there, you better not expect to see it the next day you walk in looking for it, 'cause chances are it'll be gone faster than a duck fart in a hurricane.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Choose Not To Choose

It recently occurred to me one day at work - though like the amnesic goldfish who's seemingly surprised each time he swims around the same tiny castle in his little fish bowl as if it's the first time every time, I'd probably forgotten it and many other such things too many times to remember - that we can do whatever the hell it is we want. It doesn't matter if it's good, bad, right or wrong, if we want to do it, we can do it. If I wanted to hack off somebody's head from behind with a rusty chainsaw, I can march right out the front door right now and do it. No one or no thing is going to stop me from doing it. Just pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news and you'll see it's true. People are literally doing whatever the hell it is they want and no one or thing is stopping them. Kidnappings, rape, murder, pillage, theft in all their bizarre and varied forms happen every day. Each new, unbelievable sick story is sooner or later topped by some newer, even more unbelievable sick story. So yes, people can, and in fact do, do whatever it is the hell they want. That's kind of scary. Yeah, often the doer is put in jail after the vile deed, but that's a different story. They still went and did whatever the hell it is they wanted to do. Nothing prevented them from doing it. There is though, as they say, a catch. That "freedom" to do whatever the hell it is we want is limited to only two possible outcomes. That which will benefit us from doing so, and that which will not benefit us from doing so. Pare that idea down to the smallest act like just going for a walk and it still holds true. The problem is, too many times too many people don't understand what acts benefit them and what acts don't. Mostly because they start with the wrong premise about themselves and their particular situation and then get confused, thinking up is down and down is up and back is forward and forward is back. Either that or they're suicidal self-loathing maniacs.

Whether that realization above was ironic or just damn shameful for someone who'd worked in a jail for over fifteen years I just don't know, but I knew there where no other choices, no other possibilities. Everything we think, say and do either helps or hurts us. There simply are no other possibilities. Help or hurt. And don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I know or in any way, shape or form want to be the judge and jury of what any one does or doesn't do. I sure as hell don't that's for sure as hell. It's enough to manage one life let alone any others. Nonetheless, the number of possible outcomes does not change. That idea can paralyze you at first until you also realize, it's really not that big a deal if you're a reasonable person. If you're not though and you're stubborn, the type of person that always has to have their own way in everything... well, you're asking for trouble in MONSHO*. Fortunately I wasn't. And that's another reason I agreed to help McMullen escape jail. It actually was a reasonable request when you got right down to it. He didn't belong there, and neither did I. So why not help each other get the hell out of hell?

So how do we know which way to go, what to choose? Decisions, decisions. Should I get up out of this chair right now, stop writing and go to bed? How do I know what to do at any given moment? Well, put quite simply, after many years of experimentation, I've come to the strange, yet cathartic conclusion, I don't. I don't know what to choose. I don't know what to do next. Thankfully though, that "I" that doesn't know, doesn't really exist. That "I", or ego, as some philosophical, religious or spiritual disciplines might refer to it as, is simply a hodgepodge concoction of erroneous beliefs and immature imaginings. In short, thinking. Thought. I think. Therefore I am. Confused. Fortunately though, I've discovered there's a "me" or an "I" beyond the thinking, beyond mere thought. And that "me" or "I" knows exactly what to do, and in fact, does it, and is doing it right now, all the time, automatically, without effort, regardless of what "I" (the other aforementioned one otherwise sometimes known as the ego) thinks or believes. It, the "real-I" I'll call it for the sake of calling it something, is always doing what it should be doing and I ignore it at my own peril. Not because it's mad at me for ignoring it and is going to punish me. No, I ignore it at my own peril because it's me. And even more than that, the source of me. It's only when I don't listen or pay attention to it that I end up doing the "wrong thing". Now before all you metaphysical experts, wizards and gurus jump down my throat and insist I'm still talking about the first alleged I, the ego-I, when I try and bring up the real-I, I realize there's only one "I", always has been and always will be (or no "I" if you like to take the zero-sum-game approach), but in attempting to describe the indescribable, I believe I'm getting closer to realizing that I can't, and as a consequence, ending these long seemingly unending attempts to put into mere words what for the most part, cannot be put into mere words... so just humor me for now.

So it's actually freedom from choice that we want. (Kudos to Devo for putting the idea so nicely into a song.) Or maybe just freedom from the wrong choice? But if we had that, would there be really any choices to made other than this good thing or that good thing? And is that really still choice as we currently know the word? Actually, what's so bad about that? Choice without fear. Choice only exists as long as we believe there's a choice to make. Something better to choose than what we already have or is already happening to us at any given moment. And obviously we do believe there is, because we keep having to make what we consider "important" choices all the time. Like not hacking off some stranger's head with a rusty chainsaw. Is that circular reasoning? I don't know. You choose. Or not. Choose not to choose. I don't think it really matters when you get right down to it.

(*my obviously-not-so-humble opinion)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Last Mistake

The plan was not working.

When I finally realized that, I was two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars in debt to my friendly neighborhood bookie. I mean, all the resolve, determination, research and hard work I put into trying to pick winners was not working. (Yes, I did say hard work.) [sigh] At least I realized it.

The "plan" was to supplement my income with my sports gambling winnings. And the reason I needed to supplement my income was that I was missing a lot of days at work. Unpaid days to the tune of about two-hundred fifty bucks a day. I thought if I could make that up by winning the money betting on sports everything would be hunky-dory and I wouldn't have to worry about missing days. To say I underestimated the difficulty of my task would be a huge understatement. Custer had better odds. The last two or three years at the jail were pure torture there though. I was beyond "burnt-out" stage and well into zombie-walking-dead stage. (Which incidentally is much better than the suffering-savior-dying-on-the-cross stage.) The gambling offered excitement in contrast to my boring, soul-crushing work days and a potential way out faster than time allowed me. Or at least a semi-way out. Anyway, as I was saying... What was I saying? Oh yeah, the plan. The plan was not working.

When a plan is not working, most people think you just come up with a new one. Well, that's true to an extent. But if you're not wiser-for-the-wear from the last one, your "new" plan ain't gonna be much better than the one you're ditching. Plans are tricky things I guess. Sometimes I think it's best not to make any, but then I get to thinking, well, they're something to do, something to follow. And if you go at them the right way, I suspect they can be quite fun. They're no fun to do alone though. I found that out the hard way. If you find yourself making plans with only yourself, well, you better take a good look around and see who your real friends and family are. Don't make any plans that don't at least try to include them. Chances are it'll be a good plan if you do. It may not work exactly how you figure, but at least your conscience will be clean.

So it was time for a new plan. Yes, and come the first of the new year, I was going to begin it. I'd help McMullen escape jail in the spring. What better time to escape jail than in the spring time? With all the flowers bloomin' and baseball season just starting up?! (That was something I was going to miss, baseball season in the states. But hell, I could still following the games on the internet and cable. Well, maybe not cable, as I'm sure some foreign countries don't carry the MLB package.) In the meantime, preparation for my "time abroad" would begin immediately when the clock struck twelve on January one. And the first order of business would be to begin paying off all my debts. Check that. The first order of business would be to stop creating them. And the number one way I created debt was to try and predict what twenty-two large men would do with an oblong, semi-round ball about the size of a good loaf of bread as they ran around crashing into each other while trying to move it across an arbitrary boundary line that lie at either end of a hundred yard-long by fifty yard-wide grass field.

Okay, truth is, I didn't actually quit my sport's gambling habit on New Year's Day. (Hey, there were bowl games on!) It was actually the last day before the Chinese new year that I made my last mistake on, and it was the first day the new year (Chinese) that I'd be free forever of worrying about the outcome of events I had absolutely no control over. The Chinese New Year is great for all you resolution makers out there that fail right after the regular new year starts. You get a second chance a few weeks later to try your resolution again. It's like a do-over. It's been some number of years now that I've even had a tiny urge to do something that stupid again with my money, and looking back on it all now, seems almost like a dream. A bad one at that for sure, but just a dream nonetheless. Harmless now, though at the time, seemingly so devastating. It's almost like it never happened though. Almost. Two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money though. At least where I came from it was. 'course now it doesn't seem like nearly as much, with the book and movie deal and all... Yeah, life is strange, that's for sure.