More Power

Eleven thirty. I went out to my mailbox and found a small windfall. Quest Diagnostics refunded my payment of about twelve dollars. So I ended up paying zero dollars for the bloodwork. It raised my spirits for my walk to the store. They were doing a good business today because of Mother’s Day. I’m of a mind to call Polly, but she’s not my mother. Roger is out working on something in his driveway. Aesop is a bit happier than the other day. My rhododendrons are blooming in the front yard, pink and lavender. The air outside is perfumed with blossoming things. The feel and the smells remind me of past Mother’s Days, especially when I used to drink beer. I miss my family whenever there’s a holiday. Even if I had a limitless supply of money I would not buy alcohol again. Money is not our only lifeline.

One o five. Spring sunshine brings back a lot of things. When I was in seventh grade we studied The Red Pony and a novel about the Oregon Trail. The following year was The Call of the Wild. Then the next I read A Separate Peace and a lot of mindless books for pleasure, Tarzan and Doc Savage especially. I still can’t guess what I liked about these two Herculean superheroes who could do anything. Anything they willed was not only doable but done. Fantasies of strength and control gave me vicarious power. I don’t think it was homosexual necessarily, but rather compensation for weeny feelings. I wished I could BE Doc Savage and manage my life accordingly. If I had been Tarzan, my wishes would’ve been realized. No sooner thought than done. But I don’t remember what I wished for, and maybe at the time I didn’t know. I had a crush on a girl named Kathleen and never told her until years later.

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Im Sommerwind

Doing some associative writing as a kind of fortune hunt, for I truly don’t know what’s in my heart today. The act of writing serves me as a type of iron mole tunneling into the earth’s core, but with me aboard rather than David Innes and Abner Perry. My youth was misspent in nonsense reading. In 1979, a vast number of books by Burroughs were reissued with new covers, and these caught my eye in grocery store book stalls. My pubescent mind must’ve been in need of escape, for I spied A Princess of Mars at Oregon Foods and had to have it. Mom consented on the condition that it not be sexy. I was absolutely thrilled with the book, with cover illustration by Michael Whelan. After finishing it, I next found The Gods of Mars at Fred Meyer and The Warlord of Mars in Walden Bookstore. I read all three, plus Tarzan of the Apes, with cover by Neal Adams, in the luscious summer of 1979. Every morning I got up and read 14 or 21 pages of Tarzan or John Carter. Today I cannot fathom what was so enthralling about those Rice novels. Suffice it that I had an artist’s mind that hungered for visions of the human form, less in a psychological way than physical and aesthetic. The kindest thing I ever did for a young girl in seventh grade was draw a vigorous picture of Tarzan, inscribed to Paula S—, and give it to her. She looked upon this gift with wide dazzled eyes and put it away in her notebook. I actually drew it at her request, and like me when I first beheld the figure drawings of Burne Hogarth, she was amazed. It was as if the concreteness of the human form were enough for our youthful imaginations, without concern for moral abstraction. I remember how strong and fresh the impression of the summer sun was in the year 1979, the way it dappled the trees in the front yard outside my bedroom window. Every breath of summer wind was a caress to my open senses. It was one time in my life when nothing seemed to be wrong; when the experience of life was simple and as beautiful as the look in Paula’s big brown eyes.

The City of Gold

Two o’clock. I dreamed about the mystery of death. It was a secret kept at the end of the basement hallway, put there by the Programmer. Vaguely there was something about the Tarzan books I read during junior high school too. In the sixteenth book, the City of Gold, Tarzan was given a serum to make him physically immortal. He would be deathless until someone took him out. He would never age from that point. But however I may wish, I know I’m not like Tarzan. I see the evidence gathering around me, signs of implacable old mortality, the Grim Reaper in the autumn leaves. It always seems impossible to us that our turn is coming. Yet when we realize it, we start to think about what really counts before we go. How do we want to be remembered? For it’s inconceivable we should be utterly forgotten. Somewhere we’re leaving footprints, hopefully not in the sands of time but rather in indelible stone. Or maybe this is too much to ask. The most we can expect is a cease from the pain and suffering of mortal life. The kicker to the whole thing is how complex the human mind is, how well adapted to the universe by means of mathematics for some and imagination for others. Human beings are so amazing that it’s hard to believe our lives come to an end. Certainly we can cheat death and live forever? And be like Tarzan once again, invincible lord of the jungle. So what did the Programmer put in the basement of my mind? Consciously I can barely remember the plot of a single Tarzan novel, yet I know those stories are all there in the archives. I read the bulk of the series while a ninth grader. They kept me healthy and strong all that year. I wonder what the 15yo projected onto Tarzan, interfusing our fates? For after all, I was the Programmer…

Colin Kelly

Midnight. Had a dream of intrigue about a girl I remember from junior high school named Cindy. Her surname was Germanic. She once was the girlfriend of a certain Bret. But the dream in waking context makes little sense. She was identified in a news article under a pseudonym, as if to remember her had been dangerous. I associate her with a boy named Tim, who in the cafeteria said that Flowers for Algernon was kind of dirty. One time during PE he mistook Cindy for another girl named Kathleen, on whom I had a desperate crush. Maybe being reminded of her was the danger, the intrigue, the cause for the cloak and dagger. I protected myself from the heartache of forty years ago, only to decipher the censorship upon waking up. Just a missed opportunity when I was young and too involved in my Burroughs books, which also are mostly destroyed in the fire. Ninth grade was also the year I read A Separate Peace in the springtime. And again I note that I must make my mission west on N Park to pay my respects to my old school steeped in history. The memories will doubtless be painful— and pleasant. So many regrets for things done and not done. I loved my experience at Kelly. The staff had so much warmth and compassion for us boys and girls, though they ruled us with an iron fist. We were hard to contain. A band of us met in a little glen across N Park before school and smoked pot. When passing them on the right side on my walk to class, I silently judged them for being unserious students. And yet I was the rock and roll drummer guy, sort of caught between academics and music. I survived school by cultivating the image of musician, which my illicit peers understood and respected. It was their language, really, which I parroted on drum kit. The kids thought I was going to be a star, and with my intelligence maybe they were right. But it wasn’t the life I wanted, and I should’ve been more assertive about it then. All I wished for was to be average and in the grayness between black and white. Just to get by and live to tell the tale…

Coming to Grips

Quarter of four. I guess I’m a shallow person for being so egoistic. I always preferred my Edgar Rice Burroughs novels for the same reason. The so called heroes were in life for themselves, to conquer the world and conquer happiness their way. They were in service to no one but themselves, and whatever infrastructures they came upon they could master and eventually dominate. John Carter becomes the Warlord of Mars after three short volumes. I reckon what makes Burroughs less worthy than Tolkien is the difference in motive for writing. The former is a control freak, the latter a great altruist. Both write about the phenomenon of power, but one hoards it while the other throws it away. Tolkien is about service to higher ideals than oneself, and that’s where Burroughs falls short. I grew up on Edgar Rice, just by natural affinity and attraction, but all along I knew the story of LOTR in the background. Now I’m in a position to come to grips with both storytellers and judge their merits in light of morality. I’m going to find that Tarzan and John Carter are far inferior to Frodo.

An Odyssey

I just thought of Jude the Obscure for some reason: perhaps a man with schizophrenia in a low social position is destined to remain low. Would that be the desire of nature? Or is that really justice? Do I have a say in the matter? Life is not a Thomas Hardy novel, thank goodness. If it were, then the booze would’ve killed me already. As it is, I feel stranded in a parallel universe outside of my old shoes, a sort of limbo, or better, on top of Mt Olympus for the gods to judge my fate. It’s as though there’d been an intervention on the part of Pallas Athena, spiriting me up to the court of the gods for a decision. The old natural me has been left behind like an empty shell— the same way as John Carter when he was teleported to Mars in the 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. Now I begin to detect a plan in all my actions since starting my blog three years ago. The disembodied spirit that is me awaits the verdict of the powers that be, and from there, who knows what might happen? Not a Thomas Hardy novel: the story is mine, and I also am the protagonist. As author and hero both, I write my own destiny, not on Mars, but here and now on earth…