Category Archives: Storytelling

Elsewhere

I dislike beginning another blog with a chant about being absent for a while, but there it is.  I’ve not been here.  I’ve been elsewhere.

But where is “elsewhere?”

I kind of like that word.  In fact, if I ever incorporated a township, that’s what I’d name it – Elsewhere.  And everyone would be invited to go there and take a mental vacation.  And better yet, while you were there you could conjure up any type of reality you desired.  The only limits would be the boundaries of your imagination.

Actually, I think we are all in Elsewhere every day.

Continue reading Elsewhere

A Worthy Trade

We all misplace things from time-to-time.  Car keys, your cell phone, a pair of glasses, a pen.  Perhaps a favorite shirt.  Of course, there is also the void.   A vortex.  That place where a single sock or the lids to our plastic containers seem to just vanish.  To be swallowed up.  Leaving behind the sad, unmatched partner, only to be discarded at a future date.

Their usefulness now lost . . .

And sometimes I think the spirits are messing with me.  Because I search and search, retrace my steps, look in the same place multiple times, and there it is, my quarry, sitting in one of the same spots I’ve searched three times over.  Only now it’s so obvious I can’t miss it if I tried.

I wonder ???

Over the years, I’ve tried to keep a copy of everything I’ve had published.  It’s nice to have an electronic copy, but even better to have a hard copy.  Something tangible.  Something I can hold in my hands.  Feel the texture of the paper.  Smell the ink.  Visualize the word placement.  Hear the words as I read through them.

There’s something about the whole sensory experience that makes it more magical.

Continue reading A Worthy Trade

My Granddad’s Watch – Finis

My grandfather, who I was named after, was born in Indiana in 1896.  After fighting in the “Great War,” he returned to Indiana where he ran several businesses and raised his family.  Rumors were that he had two families.

The clan had its share of characters back in the day.

At some point along his journey he acquired a watch.  An Elgin pocket watch.  A railroad watch.  No one seems to know the exact story surrounding of how he came by this watch.  He could have bought it or he could have taken it in trade for some of the many cigars he sold in his “City Club.”

Although it was gold-filled, it wasn’t one of those fancy watches used to mark social status.  The ornate ones with jewels that weren’t part of the mechanism.  No special engraving.  No hand-painted or enamel designs.  No animated scenes or characters turning in coordination with the hands.

No, this watch was used to tell time.

When my dad graduated high school, granddad sat my father down and explained that dad had reached a point in his life where he earned some recognition.   He was now old enough and responsible enough to receive a precious gift.  A timepiece to mark a rite of passage.

And so the watch was passed on to its first successor guardian.

Continue reading My Granddad’s Watch – Finis

My Granddad’s Watch

It was a colder winter than usual in northern Arizona back in ‘78.  When my brother and I pulled into Flagstaff there was no way to make a left-hand turn.  Some three feet of snow had been plowed into the middle of the roads to be trucked away later.  A crystalline white bulwark separating the oncoming traffic.

We had a few more miles to go to find a campsite among the Ponderosa Pines.  Once there, I eased the ‘70 Plymouth Satellite off the park road where the snow was the lightest and drove deeper into the forest.  The snow being an incredible insulator, as soon as I shut the engine off it was dead quiet.

The beauty surrounding us was as breathtaking as the air was frigid.

In the distance, the towering San Francisco Peaks were covered in clouds.  It looked like they were tethered to the mountains with the surrounding sky perfectly clear and blue.  When those clouds cleared there would be an additional layer of snow on those holy Peaks.

Respect Mother Earth and the native traditions and you’ll live longer in this wilderness.

Continue reading My Granddad’s Watch

A Story – Chapter 8 – Freedom?

Dawn.

The sun was rising.  Casting a beautiful glow of orange across the sky, as twilight, the crack between the worlds, faded.

I had everything I owned packed into my 1970 Plymouth Satellite.  Ready to hit the road.  A friend had promised a job would be waiting in Houston.

Mike and I shook hands and nodded.  No words were necessary for this goodbye.  But suddenly he did speak.  A single question.

“Stearley, there’s been one thing I wanted to ask you all along.  I don’t remember you putting that lock box in the car that night, where did it really come from?”

“Well Mike, I imagine you were just too busy loading up that monster of a stereo to see what I was doing . . .”

***

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 8 – Freedom?

A Story – Chapter 7 – Legalities

“Not funny Mike,” I growled as we were being led across the street.

Our interrogations were over and we were reunited for the walk to the county jail for processing.

The city jail was on the third floor of the police station.  The county jail was across the street, and it occupied the north wing of the courthouse building.

The two facilities shared space for stripping you down, performing the body search, outfitting you in jail garb, taking your mug shots, fingerprinting, and completing the associated paperwork.  County sheriffs were performing these tasks, and I was hoping that when they were done they’d take us back to the city jail.  I’d heard some pretty viscous tales about county lockup.

As we were being escorted, Mike had slipped his right hand out of his handcuffs, laughing and boasting about how clever he was.

The jailer wasn’t impressed either.

As he rearranged his cuffs, switching his hands from being held behind him to being in front of him, he very softly said, “Next time, I’ll just shoot you.  Say you were trying to escape.  And your friend here won’t contradict me, will you now?”

His steely eyes bore into me as he repositioned me in front of Mike, produced a third set of handcuffs and linked Mike’s and my cuffs together.  Me now marching in front, Mike attached behind and the jailer in step next to Mike.

Satisfied with this new arrangement, he sort of smiled.  “Just take one bullet now to take you both out.”

After processing, they threw us in the same holding cell while they figured out where we’d be going next.

I was staring at Mike, thinking about what I wanted to say . . .

***

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 7 – Legalities

A Story – Chapter 6 – It’s Fucking Over

My mind was racing back in time.

I first flashed back on a time when Mike and I were in high school.  We were at a friend’s house.  Jim was showing us his father’s rifle collection.  His father must have had fifteen or so rifles of all different varieties.  All lined up symmetrically on a homemade rifle rack in his basement.

Mike picked up a .30-06, Springfield, bolt action rifle and leveled it directly on my face.  His finger was on the trigger as he laughingly said, “Right between the eyes.  Stearley, I could blow your head clean off.”

I angrily slapped the barrel away and said, “Don’t you ever fucking do that again!”

“Ah, Stearley, calm the fuck down, it’s not loaded.”

Jim chimed in, “Yeah, my dad never keeps his weapons loaded.”

My gaze was bearing down on Mike and he felt the weight of it.

“Here, I’ll show you.”  Mike pulled back the bolt and a cartridge flew out of the chamber.  “Holy shit!  I’m sorry man!”

***

My mind jumped ahead a few years to a time when I was visiting my parents over spring break from college.  My brother Ray was still living with my parents and he had his girlfriend Carly over.  Ray and Carly had gotten into some argument.  I have no idea what it was about, but the yelling from the living room had woken me from a nap.  I came out of the upstairs bedroom and hollered down at them to knock it off.  I was trying to get a little peace.

Carly suddenly stormed up the stairs, ran into my brother’s room opposite of the bedroom I was in, and grabbed Ray’s .44 Mag deer rifle.  She was chambering a round as she brought the gun up and pointed it squarely at the center of my chest.   She was only a half dozen feet away and she was yelling at me, calling me a “perverted asshole.”

Ray hit the top of the stairs in a bound and aggressively disarmed her.

I was simply stunned as this reaction came out of nowhere.  Later Ray would tell me she was insane, had been locked up in the mental ward before, and that he only saw her because he liked the sex.

Jesus.

***

Back in the present.

This was the third time a loaded weapon in someone else’s hands was pointing at me.  This time at my back.  And I didn’t much like it . . .

***

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 6 – It’s Fucking Over

A Story – Chapter 5 – Rules Schmules

I was speeding toward the old part of town.  Turn-of-the-century Victorian houses.  The mansions that once separated the “good folks” from the people “on the other side of the tracks.”

There had been many battles fought at the Planning and Zoning Commission over whether to widen this road to four lanes.  It was the main artery flowing to the business district downtown.  But widening it meant cutting into the elongated front yards of the old castles.  Bringing the wealthy inching ever closer to the common people, and the old money in town would never let that happen.

So, there was a one-mile strip of road different from any other in town.  To appease those with the power to manipulate local government.

One battle the money-hoarders lost was over the replacement of the first stop light to hang in this old town.  It marked the entry into their miracle mile.  Out with the old relic having the character of a rustic chandelier and in with the new three-eyed monster.

The one I just barreled through at the strike of noon.

Frank, my friend who worked in HR, nervously looked over at me from the passenger seat.  “You realize you just ran that red light, don’t you?”

Frank was especially nervous because he knew what I was carrying.

I laughed wildly, “Don’t worry Frank, I’m making the rules today!”

***

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 5 – Rules Schmules

A Story – Chapter 4 – Burning The Candle

The buzzing of the alarm clock was piercing.

The noise was reverberating in my head, over and over again, throbbing, almost painful.

I slowly opened my eyes, rolled over, and switched off the alarm.  5:00 a.m.  I groaned.  I needed to be at the hospital for morning blood rounds at 6:00.

My hand went straight from the clock to the small, brown bottle sitting next to it.  I sat up, opened the bottle, scooped the miniature spoon into the white powder inside and rapidly inhaled a heap of magic white dust through each nostril.

Super-charged!  A lot more powerful than coffee.  Eyes wide.  Heart pounding.  I swung my legs over the side of the bed and was up and dressed in a flash . . .

***

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 4 – Burning The Candle

A Story – Chapter 3 – Occupational Hazards

My cowboy boots’ clomping echoed down the tiled hallway as I sped towards the elevators.  The docs had ordered some new blood work on a bipolar woman.  Time to check her Lithium level.

I swung my venipuncture tray side to side with my left arm as I sprinted out of the laboratory.  But I abruptly slowed as I passed the Dutch-style doors of the pharmacy.

My right arm lifted up while my roommate’s arm reached out of the open, top-half of the pharmacy door.  Hands clasped, or slapped.  A sort of modified low-five.  But as my hand withdrew it was now in a closed fist.

The exchange happened so fast that no one would have noticed anything odd.

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 3 – Occupational Hazards

A Story – Chapter 2 – Bad Chemistry

The explosion was thunderous, rattling the windows on the east side of the building.

The sound, deafening, drowning out the mix of screams of surprise and laughter.

A water spout shot some twenty feet into the air, emptying out the crater in the parking lot that had filled with rain water.

That center-lane, parking hazard had taken out a few oil pans because, once it filled with rain, you couldn’t tell how deep it was.  It could have swallowed a Volkswagen.  Students would slam through it on a dare for a momentary thrill but pay the price later, or their parents would.  The school had long ignored it.

But we had creatively drained it.  Uncovered its secrets.  Through science 🙂

Continue reading A Story – Chapter 2 – Bad Chemistry

A Story

*Disclaimer:  I won’t say if parts of this story are based in truth or fiction, or possibly a mixture of both.  Any similarity to any actual event or to any person may be totally coincidental.  Also, it’s easier to write myself into the story to tell it in both first and third person 🙂 Other parts to follow . . .

***

It was a February night in the Midwest.  That meant dark at 4 pm and cold to the bone.  The day was already gone when the police arrived.  Two, straight out of high school, strap on a badge and a gun, take an oath on a Bible, and pretend you’re a cop kind of guys.  Typical bullies in school, bullies in uniform as cops.  But they arrived at an awkward time.  To say the least.

Continue reading A Story

Contrasts – ምዕራፍ 7 – Molecular Hysteria

I paused for a few moments to take in the panorama.  Absolutely beautiful.

I was sitting on top of a mountain pass looking down through the outstretching valley below.  Mountain ridges rose parabolically, expanding outward and then opening up to a gorgeous vista.  More mountains in the distance shrouded in a light bluish haze.  The product of wind-blown dust and the sun’s rays bending around all of those tiny particles.  Photons bouncing through a prism, the colors and shadows changing constantly with Sol’s rotation.

The undulating hills bore the tracks of water courses, washes that were bone-dry now but would rapidly fill in the monsoon rains.  Rains that would carve.  The softness of water overpowering the hardness of basalt, granite, and rhyolite.  Like a sculptor of the landscape etching images that can best be scene from this bird’s-eye view.

Volcanic remains from a once violent explosion.  The center of the caldera sinking as millions of tons of smoke, ash, and debris filled the sky, blotting out the sun until the jet stream cleared the airways.  Once molten rock now overgrown with sagebrush, Mexican feather grass, manzanita, brittle brush, turpentine brush, prickly pears, mesquite, pinyon pine, alligator juniper, and scrub oak.

A light, warm wind blows as black hawks sore at dazzling heights – eye-level now that I’m at the peak.  I speak to them and offer thanks for their company.  A roadrunner scurries across the path in front of me carrying a freshly caught spiny lizard.  Life.  Predator and prey.  A continuous cycle.

There’s no other human soul around me and I’m basking in eternal peace.  Yet there is another battle silently raging in the recesses of my mind and body.  Ever pressing its way into the forefront of my consciousness.   An insidious illness that many doctors refuse to acknowledge even though some seven million Americans are afflicted.   Symptoms growing from minute exposures.  Triggering a cascade of molecular hysteria.  The body unable to compensate.

***

I found myself rapidly getting dizzy.  My brain was becoming foggy and then the headache came.  I noticed my heart beat was irregular, sometimes slowing down, and other times speeding up.  Skipping beats.  And there was the abdominal pain and nausea.   It was difficult to navigate to find a place to rest.  My voice cracked, became hoarse, it was difficult to speak.  There was short-term memory loss, the immediate short-term, making small instant decisions difficult.

You might think I had been poisoned.  Inhaled some insecticide by accident.  Perhaps a farmer spraying crops in the distance.

Or maybe I could have spilled some rat poison or gasoline on my hands.  Drank some polluted water.  Walked through the thick smoke of a brush fire.  Breathed paint fumes in a freshly painted house or from a recently stain deck.  Or maybe it was formaldehyde or ethylene.  Gassing-off of furniture or from the upholstery and plastic dashboard of the car.

All of these factors, and more, can be triggers.  But all I had done was get dressed.

You see, clothing manufactures are spraying all types of noxious chemicals on clothes now.  To make them last longer, wear better, not catch on fire, and not smell when we sweat.  Or to kill bugs when they’re shipped.  No different than the farmer spraying the crops.

Then there are the chemical detergents the clothes were washed in.  Or the washing machine and dryer themselves.  Now contaminated with chemical residues from past loads.

Chemicals that are truly poisonous, but which most people, at least for the moment, can tolerate in small amounts.  Some of us aren’t so fortunate.  Our bodies have become overwhelmed by all the toxins and we can’t clear our systems of them any longer.  Smaller amounts begin producing bigger reactions all the time.  It’s called toxicant-induced loss of intolerance.

And there’s no escape.

It began with a reaction to chemicals used to tan and waterproof leather.  A new pair of hiking boots.  And then exploded to any clothing, soaps and detergents, sunscreens, shaving creams, etc.  Anything that may contain any type of rubber accelerator, biocidic agent, or chromate.   Foods, now saturated with pesticides and herbicides and preservatives, can trigger it.  Molds, that produce endotoxins that gas-off or are carried by their microscopic spores, once inhaled, can debilitate.

This condition goes by various names.  Multiple chemical sensitivity, environmental illness, sick building syndrome, idiopathic environmental intolerance, ecologic illness, total allergy syndrome, and the 20th Century disease.  In terms of our military veterans, this can manifest as Gulf War Syndrome or Agent Orange disability.

One of the hindrances for doctors accepting the existence of the disease is their disagreement on how to define and name it.  It also doesn’t quite fit the traditional allergen-antibody reaction.  Instead of having hives, or a runny nose, watering eyes and difficulty breathing, the reaction is nuerotoxic, like a poisoning.

Despite the AMA’s denial, there is so much information about this disease and its various manifestations that I won’t attempt to try to cover it all.  Treatment is extremely limited and primarily consists of avoidance and boosting the body’s natural ability to detoxify.  Kind of hard to avoid clothing 🙂

Some medications can lessen symptoms but there is no treatment to my knowledge that is getting to the root cause – an increasingly toxic planet caused by human occupation and alleged progress.

If you find this concept hard to wrap your mind around consider this, there are some 85,000 chemical compounds licensed by the FDA for commercial use in America.  And very few have been tested for safety.  The umbilical cord blood of infants in this country, just prior to their birth, before they have even taken their first breath, test positive for up to 287 industrial chemicals with an average of 200 per baby.  These chemicals include: polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furans, pesticides, flame retardants, industrial lubricants, plastics, consumer product ingredients, wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage, lead, mercury, methylmercury, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), to name but a few.

***

So, as I hike through this paradise of nature my mind grows cloudy and my body becomes weary.  A contrast of pristine beauty flooding my senses with intoxicating images, forms and scents.  A vision that is totally energizing and invigorating, while the body betrays and is overwhelmed with fatigue.  Predator and prey . . . the continuing cycle that none of us can escape.  But perhaps our predator has become ourselves.

***

Postscript: Sometimes I believe that the Source strips away many of the material distractions in our lives to get us to focus on spiritual development.  You are compelled to pay attention to those matters of soul growth.  Our mission in life is not to work and pay bills and engage in immediate sense gratification.  There is so much more about getting to and experiencing our true essence.  I believe that this is one of those times.

Photo: Sitting on top of a mountain in the southwestern desert, gazing though the valley formed by an old volcanic caldera.

Language for “Chapter 7” in the title:   I know you’ve all noticed that I’ve been using different languages in the titles of these chapters I’ve themed as “Contrasts.”  Today’s choice was Amharic the Semitic language descended from Ge’ez that is the official language of Ethiopia.  I enjoy marveling at different languages as I explained in my post “Like.”

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

Contrasts– 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Contrasts – Isahluko 6 – Southwest versus Midwest

Source Materials:

Case Definitions for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

A Report on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

How many toxins is your baby getting in the womb?

Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns: Detailed Findings

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Amputated Lives: Coping with Chemical Sensitivity by Alison Johnson Chapter 2 The Elusive Search for a Place to Live

Chemical Sensitivity Foundation Research Bibliography

Seminar explores multiple chemical sensitivities topic

Fragrance-Free Workplaces

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Link Rot: As always, I cannot predict how long a hyperlink on the Net will hang around.  They tend to disappear over time or be hijacked to other sites, but they were current at the time I referenced them.