God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut
Well I have a head cold so it must be time for a new reprisalÖ
Once again I have procrastinated to no end, so I sit here at the end of the month at 11:47 trying to figure out something worthwhile to expound on.
This may be something of an exercise in free flow thinking. My apologies beforehand.
I find myself in a surprisingly good state of mind these days. It has been a good month. Played a show that Iím proud of, tooled around in a 1960-something Volkswagen Thing (Convertible no less) on a beautiful day, managed to get some pretty major things figured out, went to a couple of very good shows, and managed to finally meet someone that I have been dying to meet.
All and all a pretty good month Iíd say.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote a series of what I suppose you might call short stories in a mini book entitled "God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian". In it he tells of a philosophy where every day you find something that is worthy of saying, "If this isnít nice, what is". This is a philosophy I have adopted, and I have to say that when you start looking at things this way, you start to notice despite the fact that there is a hell of a lot of shit in the world today, there are also some pretty nice things.
From my roof, I recently watched a porcupine wander across the street into a natural area I live by. From the same roof I watched coyotes playing. I have been able to talk with people who have not only brightened my day, but who have also expanded the way I think. I have put some pretty major ghosts to rest. I have been able to play music that I love for people who appreciate it. I have realized that a great many things in my life are merely distractions, and should be treated as such. I have rediscovered the power of having a dream and chasing after it with everything that I possess.
I have friends who care for me and protect me. I have people who understand what I am trying to do, and who support me. I have been able to make people laugh and cry and feel and on the rare occasion open their eyes and feel.
And most importantly, I made the most amazing person I have ever met wear a smile.
If this isnít nice, what is?
Enough of that, letís get on with business shall we?
Sit Right Back And Iíll Tell You A TaleÖ
Eric sat in the hospital bed smiling. Having just survived one of the worst tropical storms in the history of the small island he was currently on, he figured that he had just cause to smile about a great many things.
Only a week prior, he had been sitting in front of a small work bench convinced that he would spend the rest of his life assembling small robotic childrens toys.
Eric was, only a week prior, an assembly line worker in a toy production plant in a normal city in a normal part of the country. Eric had worked as an assembly line worker for almost fifteen years. While the toys had changed and evolved over the years, Ericís position had not evolved at the same pace. He started working for the toy company as an assembly line worker, and in fifteen years, and through five major plant upgrades, his little spot on the factory floor had not moved more than fifteen feet.
Eric was a tester. He made certain that certain parts of certain toys functioned properly. He had done this job, testing toys faithfully for what seemed an eternity, ensuring that somewhere, some child would not be disappointed when he or she opened a birthday present or a reward for good grades.
Eric was not unsatisfied with his position in life. He was paid relatively well enough, he had benefits that ensured that he was in good health most of the time. But he wasnít completely satisfied either.
Not to hear him tell of it though.
In all honesty you wouldnít hear Eric tell of much. Sure he talked with the other plant workers, and he knew about their lives and he occasionally went to a barbecue hosted by some overzealous co-worker, but for the most part, he really kept to himself. He took the bus from his home in a reasonably affluent (but not too much so) neighborhood, and then he took the same bus home. He kept his head low on the bus and made sure never to look anyone in the eyes. He owned a Walkman, and he hid behind it as most of the other people on the bus hid behind theirs.
Eric was careful to never reveal too much of himself to people.
It wasnít that Eric didnít like people. Quite the opposite in fact. It was more the fact the Eric had convinced himself that most people were essentially self serving and that while they might pretend to have an interest in the goings on of Ericís life, they were really only interested in filling time and silence.
Eric was something of a cynic you see.
Of course this was all before the universe, in itís grand and infinite wisdom, decided that perhaps it was time that Eric had the opportunity to make a choice.
Thatís what the universe does.
You probably hear people complain about having boring lives. Lots of people make these complaints, and more often than not, they have just cause to do so. However, this is by no means a fault of fate. People lead boring lives for three reasons. I will now list these reasons.
The most lethal of these is without a doubt, number three. This is for the simple reason that number three allows for all three possibilities to take form in one simple action. It is also the key reason why certain networks are capable of having Monica Lewinsky host a prime time series, and do so with reasonable ratings.
But I digress.
It started simply enough. Thatís the nature of these things. When the universe decides that itís high time that perhaps you are given an obvious choice, it never does so in an obvious manner. We as a species are generally incapable of handling such clarity. So the universe decides to ease us into it in such a way that we barely realize what ridiculous circumstances we are now a part of.
For Eric it was a scrap of paper blowing in the wind past his bus stop that started the whole series of events that would lead him to a tropical hospital only a few short days later.
You see, Eric was waiting for his bus when he noticed said piece of paper blowing past his stop. He was on he way to work, but for some reason he chose to pay attention to that particular piece of paper on that particular day. It caught his eye, as he would later say to his grandchildren.
And he chased it. For some reason, he wanted to know what it was. And in the chasing of this piece of paper, he ended up two and a half blocks away from his bus stop.
And so Eric missed his bus and the explosion at the toy factory.
People would later recall the explosion and speak of how they heard the low rumble and saw the smoke from miles away. People like to tell stories like that. It makes them feel like part of something that they really played no part in.
People like to feel close to tragedy, just as long as itís not too close.
As it was, Eric was over twelve kilometers away when the plant he had worked at was reduced to nothing more than a crater with the occasional piece of concrete or steel framing sticking out of the earth.
The official cause of the explosion was "Improper Storage Of Hazardous Materials". This was really nothing more than a creative way of saying that in the end no one had the vaguest idea of what caused the explosion. Truth be told, it was a simple matter of someone smoking beside a rather flammable chemical and tossing away a match they though was extinguished. But the severity of the explosion had safely removed all evidence of both said match and said smoker.
They say smoking kills. On that day it did. 52 people.
But Eric was not among them.
Eric was, at the time of the explosion, cursing his silliness for chasing a piece of paper that was nothing more than a poorly drawn up flyer for a new laser tag arena. The only thing he had gotten out of his little chase was a 2 for 1 coupon that was slightly covered in motor oil.
That and not being vaporized. But he didnít know that at the time.
Eric caught the next bus, but before he could get anywhere near the factory, he found himself re-directed to a mall as transit had understandably been shut down at that point. He went home, watched the news updates, and found out from a blonde, reasonably brainless anchorwoman that he was now unemployed.
So Eric did what he was going to do later that day. He went out to buy a loaf of bread.
And on his walk to the corner store he saw the poster. It was a simple picture advertising a vacation package to Florida. Eric had never been to Florida. Truth be told, Eric had never left the confines of his province save for the one family vacation to Nova Scotia. But, he was only eight at the time, so it hardly counts.
Eric realized at that moment that he had never been to a sunny paradise, so on that particular shopping trip he returned home with a loaf of bread and a return ticket to Florida that departed in only two days. He didnít tell anyone that he was going on vacation, primarily because most of those that he would have told had been reduced to ash with most of the toy factory.
He couldnít have known about the coming drama of his trip.
He packed all the things he felt necessary for his upcoming adventure. Sun screen, T-shirts, Bermuda shorts, and in those two days he did an amazing number of sit-ups in an attempt to rid himself of 15 years of lethargy.
For what it was worth, all he ended up with was a difficulty getting out of bed on the day of his departure. And a suitcase full of clothing that had been deemed out of fashion years earlier.
Eric took a taxi to the airport, boarded the flight, and waited patiently for the plane to take off.
Which it did, as it was scheduled.
What was not scheduled was the sudden hostile takeover of the plane by three ex patriots of a certain tropical island that I mentioned earlier. While both a movie and a meal resembling some sort of chicken product were on the schedule, a hostile take over was not.
Funny thing about thatÖ
Some time ago, airlines decided to ensure that they would only fuel a plane with just slightly enough fuel to reach their given destination. Had the individuals who had taken over the plane done their research, they would have known this fact.
They had not done their research.
So in the middle of the south pacific, the plane carrying Eric and some 150 something other passengers went smack down into the ocean.
As a rule, before hijacking an airplane, do your research.
Luckily, Eric had listened closely to the pre flight preamble and had managed to use his seat cushion along with 4 other members of the passenger list. They floated for two days, discussing their survival and the state of world affairs before being come upon by a passing cargo ship from England.
And it was on this cargo ship that Eric met Mel (short for Melody).
Mel was an Australian who had joined the ships crew as a means by which to travel the world and see exotic sites. Little did she know that the particular crew that she had joined was primarily responsible for transporting beef from South America to North America, and then returning to repeat the same journey. For all of her hopes of exotic travel, she ended up merely seeing a whole lot of Seattle.
But once again, the universe has a funny way of stepping in.
It was in the middle of the run of the mill voyage that her ship happened to pick up Eric. She served him fish and chips in the galley, and not too long after, the aforementioned tropical storm began to brew.
To make a long story short, 450 head of cattle, and 27 crew died in the sinking of that fateful ship. The only two survivors were Eric and Mel. Eric was still clinging to his airplane seat. After his plane had crashed, he had decided that his seat was his good luck charm, and he never let it go.
It was only this barely floatable seat that saved Eric and Mel. They clung to it and managed to stay alive until well after the storm had passed, they washed upon the beaches of a tropical paradise, somewhat dehydrated and malnourished, but alive nonetheless.
During the course of their ordeal, Eric and Mel had come to bond in the way that only abnormal circumstances allow. Thereís honesty required when one must pass the time with only one person and the fear of an ending is looming on the horizon. Eric and Mel shared that honesty.
You can get to know someone very well when you have nothing left to lose, and both Eric and Mel did so. When there is the sense that there is no point in hiding from all the things that were and are, you can possess an ability to be honest with someone and them with you, that frees you from the confines of rhetoric and imagined responsibility. And when a person sees that you are being nothing more than real and honest about who you are, because after all, you may very likely be dead in hours, they respond in kind.
And then they washed up upon the beach that they had spent so many hours dreaming of in their separate yet similar dreams.
The Universe is funny like that.
And so it came to pass that Eric was sitting in a hospital bed, smiling and recovering. The reason he was smiling and blessing his fortune was simple. It had nothing to do with insight. It had nothing to do with any Cosmopolitan defined version of reality.
It was nothing more than the simple fact that in the bed across from him was a woman that he had come to know.
Whether or not the two of them made anything of their bonding I will leave up to you, dear reader. After all, the best happy endings are not those that are written for us, but those that are written by ourselves.
Well itís pretty simple really. I hate it when authors leave you to answer questions without having the luxury of knowing how they would answer them. Personal challenge is one thing, but knowing how the person who poses those questions would answer them is a nice thing I think.
Sunsets and smiles. Nothing but sunsets and smiles.
A New BeginningÖ
I was recently told that I am angry. I think I am. At a great many things. However, being angry does not mean that I cannot appreciate the things that are good. I can be angry. I can hate all the things that hold people back, and I can hate all the lies that we are told. I can hate all the lies that we tell ourselves to make things feign something like comfort.
But at the same time, I can take a deep breath and find peace in the things that are peaceful. Be it a smile from someone special, or the simple knowledge that we may have made a difference for someone that we care about.
Itís all about balance. Itís all about finding that middle ground where you can take a stance for what you believe, sacrifice the pawns that you must, and still be able to sleep at night.
For the first time in a while, I am sleeping wellÖ
And still, you know where to find meÖNate@natepike.com