Mind Fields – Why I Started Smoking Again

Mind Fields

After seventeen years of tobacco-free life, I started smoking again.

(Long pause)

Goddammit!

I hate it when I do something SO stupid there’s no excuse for it, SO asinine that the only way to absolve myself is to take a spanking by bending over and backing up into a wall really really fast. 

In 2001 after huge exertion, I quit a three pack-a-day habit.  I am not a cold turkey type of person.  I’m more like a warmed over chicken type of person.  I have to do things in steps.

To quit smoking I used nicotine gum and the patch.  In two months I was down to half a pack a day.  I know, you’re not supposed to smoke and wear the patch.  Tough.  I did.  Then I made a big jump.  I went to a mere two cigarettes a day.  I managed my craving by hiding cigarettes in plastic bags on the side of the road.  I smoked them on my way to and from work.  On Monday morning I bought a pack and spilled sixteen cigarettes into the trash. As I drove the rural twisting road to work I smoked my first cigarette.  Then I paused at my secret stash place, took a baggie from my pocket and deposited the remaining three cigarettes under a bush.  On the way back from work I stopped again and smoked the second cigarette..  On the day following, I stopped at the bag in the morning, took out a cigarette, then stopped again in the evening.  Every other day I would buy a new pack and start the cycle again.  One day a motorist spotted me as I was putting my baggie under the bush.  He drove past, pretending not to see me.  I drove a bit further in the opposite direction and stopped.  I could see the man through the trees.  Sure enough, he was looking around for whatever I had put in the baggie.  I don’t know what he was expecting.  Was he hoping for an ounce of weed or a wad of hundreds wrapped with a rubber band?  He found my bag, and I saw his shoulders slump in disappointment.  The man was obviously a low character.

He lit the cigarette, tentatively at first, to test it.  Maybe there was something “special” about it.  Alas, there was not.  He finished the smoke, (the nerve of the guy!) crushed it underfoot and returned to his car.

 I understood at that moment that I had reached the height of the ridiculous.  It was time to end the farce.  No more cigarettes.  I was done.

It was lovely, being free of tobacco for twenty years.

What drove me back to smoking?  What could be so frustrating, so enraging to cause me to undo that effort, the dedication that I had given to ending my addiction?

I taught a class of rich tenth graders about the marvels of digital photography. 

I had been hired by a private school to teach one semester.  The money was good.  I taught three classes per week.  The head of the board of directors had read an article about my volunteer work with a low-income high school. I had done four years of mentoring.  Working with disadvantaged kids had given me deep satisfaction. They were respectful, hungry and grateful. At the holidays each student made a card for me using a personal photo project. Some of them were lovely. Some of them betrayed an appalling lack of literacy. The students’ basic reading and writing skills hardly existed. I got a photo card from a senior. It had a razor-sharp black and white shot of a street scene. The little girl jumping rope was in mid-air. The old guys loafing in chairs were laughing as clouds of beer-spit hovered before their lips, each globule perfectly stopped like a cluster of stars in space. Some were small white and foamy, some were clear and spherical, some were shaped like flying liquid bullets. This was a real talent in the making. The boy’s scrawled message read like this: “Thang yu m Rosh fore teeshng mu to shit photo”

Then came the offer to teach at “Country Day Academy”. I was thrilled to have a chance to be paid nearly five thousand dollars to teach a semester in a school where every student would have a laptop and a digital camera.

The school was a beautiful facility. It was set in the midst of parklands. There were benches under oak trees, little waterfalls, gentle rolling hills. I saw kids skateboarding along broad walkways, wearing torn jeans and hoodies. Most of the students seemed attached to a cell phone or an Ipod.

I had done my mentoring in a public school built like a prison. It was all fences, high walls and right angles. There was no greenery, no plant life. Trash blew along its paved quadrangles, empty Cheetos bags yawed in the wind. Every year there were a handful of murders among the student body. Memorial posters hung in the corridors:

“Jerry Rodrigues, 2003-2018. We’ll miss you.” 

The posters were enlarged class photos of self-conscious teenagers with bad skin and confused expressions. 

“Nguyen Van Pham, 2004-2019. So Much Promise.”

I felt no fear. Wherever I walked students greeted me.

“Hey Mr. Rosch, how ya doin?”

“Mistah Rosch, ‘wots happenin? Everything’s cool, it’s all good, you know?”

I carried four thousand dollars worth of gear in my photo bag. I never had any trouble at Naked Gun High School.

Now I was in a different environment, an affluent California suburb. I was confident I could ignite a love of photography in some of these kids at “Country Day Academy”.

On the first day of the semester, I arrived at my classroom half an hour early and set up my tools. I had a laptop and my camera gear. The school provided a digital projector so I could show images and procedures on my computer to the entire class. I would have loved a digital projector back at Flying Bullets High School.

Every student was to have a Mac laptop for my class at “Country Day Academy”. The latest and best photo editing software would be installed on each computer. 

There were four rows of long tables with chairs in the classroom. They formed a square that was open at the ends. In the room’s center I had a small table to hold the computer and projector while I spoke. I could stand outside the square and walk around the classroom to reach each student. I could see all twenty four of my students and they could see me.           

I had been told that I could use basic forms of verbal discipline.  There would be no shouting, no cursing and of course no corporal punishment.  To back up my discipline I had the option of sending a student to the principal’s office.  This was a feeble deterrent.  The principal, Mrs. Forster, was as frightening as a stick of cotton candy.  She used “therapy talk”.  “What are your feelings, Trish?.  Why are you acting out?  What can we do to resolve your issues?”

At one o’clock the bell rang to begin fourth-period class. Within five minutes, fifteen of my students had drifted in and taken a seat. They were talking among themselves. They gave me a cursory glance. The boys continued pushing one another and laughing.  Several were immersed in portable video games.  The girls were listening to their Ipods, talking about boys and squealing at supersonic pitch.

By ten after one, another four students had arrived. They took their seats casually and looked around the room.  They were either smirking or looking completely stricken and miserable. 

I still had five missing students. I started the class.

“Hi, I’m Mister Rosch, and this is a class in digital photography. Would each of you answer when I call your name?  I need a while to remember names, but I’ll know you guys soon enough.”

They looked at me as though a giraffe had suddenly materialized in the room, something completely out of place, exotic and impossible to ignore.

A girl wearing a soft white hoodie sat at the end of the rear table.  Her eyes were unfocused.  I knew she was listening to music.  It was so loud I could hear it.  I was amazed that her head didn’t turn to mush.

“Young lady, please take the hood down and turn off the Ipod.”

She didn’t hear me.  I met the eyes of the girl next to her and cocked my head to the right.  The girl poked her neighbor.  The hoodie girl emerged from her trance.  Her neighbor spoke with enough volume to be heard over the music.

“Off the hoodie!  No Ipod,” she yelled, poking her thumb in my direction to fix the blame where it belonged.  The girl’s face emerged from the shadow of the sweat-shirt’s hood.  She was lightly freckled, her hair short and black.  One of her cheeks was distorted by a huge wad of gum being masticated with large chomps of her teeth.  Her mouth opened and closed like that of a lamprey.

“Your name is?” I asked.  .

She removed the chunk of gum and put it into a tissue.  “Stephanie,” she answered.  She placed the gum and tissue in her backpack.

“Stephanie…Stephanie what?”

“Oh..uh.. Stephanie Blarney,” she said, and there was a titter of quiet laughter from the class.

I looked at my roll list and found one Stephanie, last name Hubbard.

I asked the girl in the next seat.  “Is she Stephanie Hubbard?”

“Guess so,” the adjacent girl answered.  She looked to her left.  “Is that your name, Blarney?”

“Yeah,” Stephanie Hubbard grunted.  The white ear buttons of her Ipod dangled from her dainty hand like the eye stalks of an insect she had just squashed.

I was about to resume roll call when a thin young gentleman appeared.  His skin was conspicuously pimpled, his hair looked like a broom that had served as a target for shotgun practice.  His eyelids were at half mast.  Marijuana vapor rose from his clothing like mist from a rain forest.

As he took a seat I said, “Sir, you’re twenty minutes late.”

He looked up at me and said, “Huh?”

“Twenty minutes,” I said.

“Twenty minutes what?”

“You’re twenty minutes late,” I repeated.  I wasn’t going to get angry.  What would be the point?

“Oh well that’s cool,” he responded. 

“Just take a seat, please.”

The boy looked around for a place of comfort, for a friend, an acquaintance, a safe spot.  He stumbled to and fro until he found a seat that had no neighbor.  His spot was padded with two empties on one side, and an empty on the other. 

Some of the students were laughing at the boy.  Little snorts gusted from their noses.

I continued the roll.  Megan Ballantine.  Anthony Candoli.  Keith Eberhardt.

I had gotten that far when the door opened and a compact black student entered the room.  He was the only black student I had seen on the campus.  He walked with a combination droop and bounce, very loose in his knees.  His hands were held with each index finger pointed out while the other fingers curled into a fist.  His limbs moved with the swaying grooves of the hip hop gangsta.  His head was thrust forward, his elbows jogged, his arms kept criss-crossing his chest. 

He went directly to a seat at the table nearest the door, scooched himself between two friends.  There was a little rally of smacked hands, coded fingertwiddles and muttered incantations of “right on right on”.

When this was done the latter student squared himself to face forward and smiled at me with perfectly false sincerity and charm.  His eyes twinkled with benevolent mockery.

“S’up man?” he asked rhetorically.  “Everything ‘aight?”

I walked to the door and twisted the lock mechanism to the left, and then back to the right.  I did it three more times, loudly, conspicuously.

It was 1:25. 

“I want everyone to know that from now on this door is closed at three minutes after one.  Class begins at one.  You’ll have three minutes grace.  That’s it. I’m cutting you slack..  Don’t even bother coming through the door after that.  Go straight to the principal’s office.”

I repressed my desire to start a “when I was your age” speech.  No good, no good, utterly useless and stupid. 

I booted up the computer. The screen at the front of the room lit up to display its desktop.  I sat in the chair next to the computer and projector.  I moused onto the icon of Photoshop, so I could open the program. 

“There were supposed to be twenty four computers here,” I said to the class at large.  “Does anyone know where those computers might be?”

A hand shot up.  It belonged to a young man with a broad forehead and the faint beginnings of a moustache.  He wore glasses and was dressed neatly in a short -sleeved shirt and belted khaki pants. 

“Your name is?” I began.

“Damian,” he said.  “I think the computers are still being checked out by Jeff in the tech lab.  He’s supposed to bring them here when he’s done.”

There’s always a kid in class who wants to help the teacher.  Sometimes he’s the smart kid, the geek.  Sometimes he’s the kid with the worst grades.  He becomes a helper out of desperation.  I had a feeling that Damian was the-geek.  He spoke with a quick enthusiastic tone.  He knew everything, had all the answers.  I saw several sets of eyes roll upward.  This was the familiar Damian known to the student body.

Damian nudged the boy next to him.  “Bock,” he said confidently, “Why don’t you go down to tech lab and get those laptops, or find out why Jeff hasn’t brought them up ?”

Bock was a chubby frazzle haired person whose shirt buttons weren’t properly aligned.

The division of labor had already been apportioned.  I had one of each, the geek and the helper with the low grade point average.

Without referring to me or looking in my direction, Bock rose from his chair and loped out the door.

“He’ll take care of it, Mr. Rosch,” said Damian with calm familiarity.  “Jeff is notoriously slow.” He pantomimed the act of inhaling marijuana.  The air hissed through his lips.  “He gets the job done but he loses track of time.”

First day problems, I thought.  At least the projector was there, and it worked.

“I’d like to finish calling the roll, so at least I can put some names to faces,” I requested.  I tried to keep my tone calm.

Then a pert little girl wearing denim overalls and a plaid Pendleton raised her hand and waved it like a semaphore.

“Okay,” I said fatalistically.  “What’s your name?”

“Um…I’m Kate…and…um…I need to go to the bathroom.”

“Kate,” I answered, looking conspicuously towards the wall clock. It said 1:30.  “This class is over in twenty minutes.  Can you possibly wait until then?”

“I …um….well…it’s you know…girl problems, a real emergency.” 

What was I going to say?  No, you can’t replace the leaky tampon in your snooch?  I didn’t entirely believe her but I couldn’t be sure.  I made the worst tactical error of the entire semester.

“Kate, just go,” I shook my thumb as if it had a mild burn.  “Please come back here immediately. Don’t dawdle in the hall.”

Kate vanished in a whiff of pleasant soapy odor.  I didn’t see her until the next class, two days later.

Immediately another girl waved her hand in the air.  I held my silence for a couple of minutes.  The girl in her seat kept waving.   I held the silence until the room acquired an uncomfortable muttering edge.  There was a hole where a response should be and no one wanted the hole to continue existing.  Words began to spout from students’ mouths, random words, like “Man,” or “Hey”, or “Jeez.  Finally the girl said, “Fuck, man, I gotta go too!”

I nodded.  Three other girls rose with her, and all of them fled the classroom as if a plague-carrying stink had arisen somewhere in the collective bio-mass.  They were fleeing this stinky death as if it would otherwise stalk them the rest of their short lives.

Vizz!  The door opened and closed.  The class was down to fifteen again.

No sooner had the three girls vanished than a handsome young lad with the look of James Dean entered the room.  The students were suddenly quiet.  This young man, keeping his back to the wall, slid the entire perimeter of the classroom until he found the seat closest to me, the seat at the very end of the table next to the windows.  He stuck out his hand and said, “Woodleigh.  Atherton Woodleigh.”  I shook his hand. 

“Most people call me Lee.  They tried calling me Woody but I cut them up a little and put a stop to that real fucking quick.”  This was delivered with clear sincerity and humility.  It wasn’t a boast.  It was a fact.

I found the name of the sociopath on the roll list and marked it with a check and the time:  1:36.

The conversational volume in the room now grew until it was a general melee.  Everyone was talking. 

I found a phone book under the teacher’s desk near the windows.  I raised it and slammed it down on the desk.

“Goddammit!” I shouted.  “Will you shut up?”

They shut up.  Now they were all watching me.

At that precise moment there was a clatter at the door and it pushed open as if by its own volition.  I saw a long double tiered metal cart forcing its way into the room.  The one called Bock slid past it and took its front end.  He pulled with his back towards the class.  Half his shirt tail hung over rumpled brown pants.  At the other end of the cart, facing me, was a tall man with a long pony tail.  He wore a black leather vest with a Hell’s Angel logo done in elaborate beadwork.

‘Here’s the Macs” Bock said triumphantly. Everyone began to rise from their chairs

“Sit down!” I commanded, and I was obeyed.  “Bock, will you hand out the computers, please?”

The Tech Man, Jeff, said, “Sorry about the lateness, man.  These lops are a little creaky from last semester.  The Essential Theater Arts class used ‘em and those guys don’t care about their gear at all, no way.  Had to reformat every one of ‘em.  Not the kids, I mean.  The computers. You know what a bitch that is?”

Each computer had a number taped to its bottom.  The first student to get a computer was a bulky boy with light curly hair.  He occupied the seat nearest the door.  He looked under the computer and said, “Uh uh, this computer’s bunk, number zero one three six, uh..uh..it crashes every two minutes.” 

He thrust the computer back onto the cart and reached for another.  Jeff slapped his hands away. 

“Ain’t no computer good enough for you, Rick, you do this every time I give you a lop, every fucking time.”

There followed a general rumble as students vied for computers with known reputations.  These laptops weren’t the latest, greatest Mac Powerbooks.  They had less RAM, smaller hard drives, and for two years they’d been in the hands of careless students.  Some had scratches and dings but they still made an impressive pile of laptops. 

I had been mentoring on the other side of the bay at Drawn Dagger High School.  There was one computer per fifteen students and that computer ran with Windows 95 and might crash every time it tried to digest a large photo file.  There were three printers in the photography room, ancient Hewlett Packards that printed only black and white.  By dint of my own efforts soliciting photographers I had attracted six good but obsolete digital cameras, four or five monitors and a very old copy of pirated Photoshop. The software wouldn’t install properly on half the computers.  I had gotten some refurbished Epson color printers but there wasn’t money for the ink. The teacher and I pooled our own funds and bought some ink. 

This wrangling at “Country Day Academy” over Mac Laptops was too much for me.  I felt as if someone had opened my chest and tied a square knot in my esophagus, then put it back inside me.  Now I was expected to swallow. 

I couldn’t swallow this.  I couldn’t.

Every day was like the first day.  Some were worse.  A few were better.  Mostly, they were like this: chaos, petty wrangling, disappearances to the bathroom without return, lateness accompanied by staggering indifference.  There were rolled eyes, concealed music players, giggling, fights, reading comic books, animal noises and farts.

I tried really hard but I couldn’t help feeling that I’d failed in some obvious way.  If I had been a better teacher I could have controlled these kids.  I had two students who cared.  One was mister geek, Damian.  He had it all down.  Technically he knew the subject better than I did.  He needed counsel in the creative side but at least he cared.  There was a girl named Lizzie.  She was a big country girl with long straight reddish hair.  She worked hard.  She didn’t know anything, but she wanted to know.  She worked, and she learned.  Her photography was dreadful!  Her photos looked like very poor snapshots.  How could a person who learned what she had learned, worked as she had worked, still be incapable of making good images?

Some people have it, and some don’t.

I had promised that the student who showed the most progress would win a nice digital camera.  It was a donation from other photographers.  Liz won the camera.  Damian didn’t need it.  He already had a good digital camera and would probably end up at Harvard in a couple of years.

I projected the material on the screen while the students sneaked around in the dimmed classroom, plotting ways to disrupt their own educations.  Their literacy was no better than that at Murder Incorporated High School.  There was a difference. The kids at Murder Inc were trying but lacked the opportunity.  The kids at “Country Day Academy” had the opportunity but were trying not to.

I assigned essays.  I spoke about the work of historic geniuses like Steichen and Halsman.  I showed presentations of images on the screen.  I assigned homework.  I asked the students to read up on Diane Arbus and Henri Cartier-Bresson.  The latter was a French photographer who shot witty and profound black and white photos.  He used a Leica, a small camera with which he could catch the spontaneity of Paris street scenes.  I asked the class to turn in essays on the great Frenchman.

This was the one that sent me to buy a pack of cigarettes.  This “essay” was scrawled on half of a torn piece of lined notebook paper in handwriting worthy of a four year old. My student had written the following: “Henry Carter Beast was a great photographer.  He was a genius.  He took a lot of pictures.  They were all in black and white.  They had some greys too I think.”

That was three years ago.  I haven’t been able to stop smoking.  I don’t buy tobacco.  I have a friend, a retired lawyer, who has some farm land in North Carolina.  He’s a tobacco connoisseur.  He loves to play with blends, tweaking this and that, walking through his curing sheds inhaling every fragrance.  I’m a member of his research team.  He sends me a pound bag every few weeks.  I make the cigarettes on a machine.  The tobacco is without additives or adulterants.  It’s a long way from Marlboros.  That doesn’t change the fact that I am, again, a tobacco addict.  I don’t smoke nearly as much as I did before.  A few cigs a day.  I stopped once.  I know I can stop again.

Goddammit!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

Visit Arthur’s blog, Write Out of My Head.

See Arthur’s Photography here: https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


“Mind Fields”- Suits

Mind Fields

I hate men’s suits. The only suit I would ever wear would be a Zoot Suit, a satire of a suit, with fifty pockets and a banana hanging out of every one, with four ties, one atop another, each with a picture of a naked woman or a flamboyant bird. I would wear a gigantic brimmed hat with a snakeskin band, and polished, pointed shoes with tassles. 

Suits are the uniform of businessmen. They are utilitarian, bland and full of pockets. Suits are the devolution of steel-plated armor, they are about protection and concealment. In these concealed pockets are contained handguns, business cards, appointment books, cell phones, credit cards, cash, condoms and keys.

Traditional Suit

Suits are the symbol of aggressive competition, but are actually disguises of said competition because their function is to be soothing and conformist.

There’s a lot of hogwash these days about reading ancient Samurai books or other pieces of oriental philosophy and applying them to the modern business world. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” or Miyamoto Musashi’s “The Five Rings.”  This equation between the ancient world of the warrior and the modern businessman is a bit of a stretch, spurious indeed. Sun Tzu and Musashi were men of subtlety. Their books are subtle works about archetypal activities, War and Competition. These activities are bred into the human psyche.  I have no problem with soldiers and their uniforms, ceremonies, codes of honor and elaborate etiquette. I have a problem with cunning masquerading as subtlety. Subtlety is never destructive. Cunning is frequently destructive. The men who wear suits have mistaken destructive cunning for philosophical depth, and are hoping to imbibe some of this depth by reading ancient books by men of deep intuition, learning and skill.

The utilitarian suit with its meaningless tie and its muted colors is a sad descendant of the flowing sleeves and pantaloons of ancient warriors, the lacy cravat, the jeweled scabbard and its adornments. 

Self expression, adornment, wildness and color are innate to the human soul. We’re in deep trouble when such natural outlets are discouraged. The hippies let adornment, eccentricity and flamboyance become a way of life. This trend can never be suppressed: it emerges in contemporary young people as tattooing, body piercing, hair coloring, all time-honored ways of adorning and decorating one’s own body as an expression of individualism. 


“Mind Fields” – Weight Loss: Fact Or Fiction

Weight Loss: The Fiction of Being Skinny

Mind Fields

I estimate that each of my legs weighs sixty pounds. That leaves a hundred pounds for the rest of my body. My head probably weights twenty, which leaves eighty for the arms and torso. My belly, that piece of me that surprised me totally when it arrived in the years between forty and forty five, my belly must take up sixty pounds of that remaining eighty. It’s a classic middle-aged man’s belly. It is true, I eat too much and most of that eating is done in bed. Every night of my entire life I have munched or crunched something as I read myself to sleep.

Snack Foods

My theory is that I am seeking a substitute for breast milk. My early days on this planet were not a paradise of blissful bonding between  mother and child. My father tells me that I had night terrors. I tell him that if I was terrified of anything, it was my mother. 

During my futile attempts to rid myself of this belly, I’ve done ten kinds of abdominal exercises, hundreds of reps daily, for months and months on end. My belly didn’t get smaller. It got bigger. 

Why was I exercising my six-pack this way? What myth did I buy into? If I wanted to get rid of my belly, I should have done absolutely nothing. I should have, with the wisdom of hindsight, accepted the fact that this belly is here to stay, it’s a natural by product of aging. It just IS, and why is that so horrible? Why is everyone buying gizmos, electronic abdominal muscle stimulators? Why do they buy gimmicks with names like Abbacizers, Sixpackalongs, Abhancers? Why do people hang from bars and pull themselves up and back, up and back, or lay tilted on long boards, going up and back, up and back? There’s more than a little insanity in this vain pursuit. The obsession with the six pack is about vanity and its monster shadow, insecurity. Our culture pumps its toxic load of media venom into our collective psychic bloodstream, so that we feel inadequate if our bodies don’t adhere to some contemporary ideal of beauty. For the moment, that ideal has become horrifically thin; it forms the ironic counterpoint to the visible reality that Americans have gotten chronically fat.

We’re a culture with a lot of food. There’s never been a civilization in the history of the world with more food. It’s hardly surprising that everyone eats a lot, gets fat and the ideal of beauty is to have arms and legs so thin that you have to walk around storm drains lest you slip through the bars and get washed out to sea.

I wish we could weigh thoughts just as we weigh butter, or scrap metal. How much would my daily output of body-shame weigh? How many pounds, kilos, ounces, grams would every thought weigh, those thoughts that go, “Oh I wish this belly would flatten out, it makes me feel so unattractive, so grotesque?”

Beneath the veneer of our society a drumbeat of subliminal command roars like an underground subway train. It’s saying, rhythmically, “hate your body hate your body hate your body hate your body.” Chugga chugga chugga chugga.

People who are at war with their bodies spend money on ridiculous products. Teeth whiteners! When did this obsession come along? Who cares about teeth whiteners? People who use them look ridiculous. There’s a blinding beam of Cheshire Cat grin every time they open their mouths, a light so blatantly artificial that it obscures the rest of the face with its message: “I am insecure and hopelessly vain.  I use teeth whiteners.”

Recently I heard a radio spiel about a product that reduces shadows under the eyes. Oh my god, here we go again!  The script describes the grotesque anatomical process behind eye shadows: a horrific network of bloated capillaries spreads beneath your eyes until they burst forth to spill a dark disgusting goo of congealing blood, thus producing bruised tissue, thus producing embarrassing and unsightly morning-after shadows, hanging and spreading and sagging until they’re the size of wrinkled leather saddle bags beneath your optical sockets.

Eeeeeeww! How humiliating! Burst blood vessels, bruises, discoloration? Wrinkled leather saddle bags beneath my eyes? I can’t have that! 

This is how to create a market for a useless product. People will start fixating on their fatigue-shadows, examining the mirror for any hint of darkening skin. The stuff will sell like crazy, as another reason to hate one’s body darkens the horizon of the national psyche. This insanity is all about money. People who hate themselves spend more money, spend compulsively, to cover their unhappiness. It serves the interests of marketers to create a social condition in which self hatred becomes the paradigm.

I have to ask myself the question, “Which is worse, being overweight, or being guilty, stressed and ashamed of being overweight?” Which damages my health more? I think it’s the latter. I think that stressing and hating my body is more toxic than glugging down three milkshakes a day.

How many ridiculous weight-loss products bloat the bandwidth of the media empires? How many bogus concoctions feed on the fervent wish that one can lose pounds and become shapely without any effort?

I have invented my own product to add to this glut for gluttons: “Thindremeä!” Here’s the commercial, presented by a blandly attractive blonde woman in front of a red- white- blue studio set enhanced by computer graphics showing fat bodies and thin bodies arranged for before/after comparison.

“Do you dream of going to sleep fat and waking up thin? Now your dreams can come true! Two tablets of clinically proven Thindreme before bed will melt the pounds away as you sleep! The more you sleep the thinner you will get. This new miracle compound acts upon the metabolism of your slumbering body and converts fat cells using the principle of DCE, or Dynamic Caloric Extrapolation. It is a proven fact that Rapid Eye Movement sleep is an untapped source of caloric output. In other words, REM sleep is exercise! Thindreme has come along to utilize this remarkable opportunity. The more you dream, the more weight you lose! Within four to six weeks you can emerge a brand new person, thin, sexy, appealing, without any effort on your part! Forget about diet, exercise, lifestyle. You don’t need will power. Thindreme does it for you! Now you can be the man or woman of your dreams! If you order in the next ten minutes, Thindreme will double your order, and at no extra cost, will give you this free nose hair trimmer. And there’s more! We will also add to your order this stylish miniature folding piano! So pick up the phone, and order now! And remember, Thindreme is Clinically Proven.” *

(Now, the disclaimer is read quietly and quickly:)

*Thindreme (wackazone hydrochloride) can produce side effects in a significant minority of users, including blurred vision, stuttered speech, nausea, excess ear wax, demonic visions, spastic extremities, impotence, frigidity, memory loss, extreme body odor, blurted expletives, colorful flatulence, Fixed Eye Syndrome, increased hair growth on the lower back, muscle cramp, constipation, diarrhea, logorrhea, Recalcitrant Plebny, and black facial warts. If dreaming does not occur, possible weight gain is indicated.

            A Product of ExCon Industries”

          
I’ve given up trying to rid myself of this belly. I know that a group of cannibals would find me delicious. My bicycle thighs would be a Kentucky Fried delight, the most giant Crispy ever to appear in a cannibal’s bucket. 

When I compare my life to the living hell in which I see that most people exist, I feel grateful for the good life that I have. My relationship with my partner has its sick elements, to be sure, its ‘enablings’ and ‘codependencies’ (how I love this modern language of the heart’s twisted pathways). We don’t fight. If something starts to fester between us, it will come out in a talk, a gentle but firm confrontation where our fears are expressed and laid to rest.

This was supposed to be about my belly, but I can’t write about that part of my personal real estate without including all kinds of other things in my life. My belly doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it isn’t just floating around in space, a belly, without connection to the rest of the universe. My belly may be causing storms on Neptune, for as we have recently discovered, everything has a connection to everything else. It’s the Butterfly Effect. Or in this case, The Belly Effect.

 My belly is a dominating presence in my life. I, who spent my youth being thin and sinewy, looking like a Hindu holy man from the hippie trail in Nepal, am now somewhat imprisoned by this entity who sits astride the center of my body. It goes everywhere with me. My vanity is not the main actor in this dismay. My vanity went out about the same time as my hair. Well, that’s not exactly true. I am concerned with how I appear to other people. The problem is, I know that the one person least qualified to judge how I appear to other people is myself. And that is a universal law. You, who think you look thus and thus to the outside world, are completely deluded. When you look in the mirror, the information you receive is so utterly tainted by your needs and dreams that you might as well be looking at a stranger. I wish people would understand this.

            YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. YOU NEVER WILL.

There are so many ingredients that go into an appearance that are invisible to the owner of a human body, that said owner should just give up. Photographs lie for many reasons. Photos capture one two hundredth of a second, and in that two hundredth of a second, an expression may be crossing your face that is otherwise invisible, so quickly do the facial muscles change with the passing of emotion. That’s why we often look odd in pictures. Videotape is in some ways even worse. I don’t know a single soul who doesn’t cringe when viewing his or herself on video. Its distortions are insidious but nonetheless real.

I say this to my fellow humans: do your best to be hygienic, wear clothes that are comfortable and that please you, and let your nature emerge, because that’s what happens anyway. Your appearance is determined by your nature. The way you look is about energy, not physical features.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosh.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields: My Eating Disorders

Mind Fields

The first time I grasped that I was deeply crazy was when I began to eat huge amounts of food. I indulged especially in sweets. If I were to make a pie chart of my life (and refrain from eating it), I’m sure it would show huge chunks of time in the bulimia/anorexia’ zone. The worst of my food disorders followed me through adolescence; years seventeen through twenty two. I was a “student” out in the world, trying to maneuver by being on college campuses.

I had a sneaky way of being anorexic. I deluded myself into thinking that this was a spiritual discipline. Macrobiotics.  It would get me high, exalt me spiritually. By eating small portions of brown rice and onions, chickpeas in barley, I was the paragon of yogic discipline. This was who I wanted myself to be. I got skinny. I weighed 125. On top of this I was taking LSD, DMT and smoking weed. I was deep into my purpose, my destiny of becoming a musician of salvation and a figure of reverence. I hope you can hear the self mockery in my tone.

Then I came to a breaking point. After a year of eating a strict Macrobiotic diet I had such a craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I bought the ingredients and took them back to my hidey hole. “What are you doing?” I asked myself. “This is a self betrayal, this is the opposite of Macrobiotic discipline. You asshole, what a failure you are!” So I ate it. Then I ate something else sweet and gooey. Then I couldn’t stop eating every kind of junk food on the planet. I had been like a coiled spring ready to bounce. Boing!

I was so ashamed of myself. This was 1967, before eating disorders had been invented. I was a pioneer. My bulimia wasn’t the pukey kind. It was the Exercise Freakishly type of bulimia, the one where on alternate days I would purge with sweat and effort, then follow with a day of relentless eating: an entire apple pie, backed up by a half gallon of ice cream. After that came the cookies, and so forth. One day exercising. One day binge eating. Back and forth, one followed the other, for more than a year. It was insane and I knew it. I got so unhealthy that I could pull out hands full of my own hair! I looked for help. I went to the college shrink. I was desperate. He said, “I don’t know what’s happening to you and I can’t help you.”

Ironically, I lost weight. My waist was a twenty nine or thirty. I was not a registered student any more, I had dropped out. I was living in a vacant student’s quarter, avoiding the security guys and bedding down with a pad and sleeping bag. I got money from my dad. I worked as a stable boy at a local horse ranch. I had my drums stashed at the university’s music building in a practice room. I practiced there for hours every day, getting high by all means and experimenting with the limits of my technique. That was the point of not attending classes. I let my dad pay for semesters at Western Reserve and then I would slip down to Antioch College in Yellow Springs from Cleveland and hang out with people who talked to trees. I practiced with relentless vigor, working through the famous “Stick Control” book and listening to Coltrane records. 

Wait a minute. I’m conflating two different periods of time. It doesn’t matter. That’s the way memory works. It’s all narrative but sometimes the pages are out of order. I find myself more objective about my life as I get older. My life has been so bizarre that it qualifies as the stuff of novels. That poor guy (that is, myself) didn’t know what lay ahead.  He thought that if he took enough acid, did yoga and meditation, ate rice and played the drums then he would launch himself into nirvana. It’s not a bad plan, really. The problem was that I was fractured psychologically, harboring behaviors that would shame me again and again. They would almost kill me.

These were adolescent ordeals, but they were precursors to my future. In 1967 my eighteen year old self dreamed of cosmic unity while the biggest thing that lay ahead of me was heroin addiction. I interrogated my psyche by reading Jung and Freud. After that came years of therapy. I was determined to save myself. 

It took a long time, but none of it can be repudiated. I am lucky to be alive and well.

I’m still slightly food disordered. I control, compensate, manage. Mostly I exercise and pray.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, “Confessions Of An Honest Man” won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosh.com

Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields – Driverless Car Traffic Jam

Mind Fields

Traffic Jam Of Driverless Cars

January 31, 2026

It was unprecedented, the gridlock on 101 at the San Rafael cloverleaf. Driverless cars are everywhere and drivers are now texting, talking and watching videos. Their indifference is striking. The vehicles no longer require attention to drive down the road. In effect,  automobiles have become alternate living rooms, dens, dining rooms, even bedrooms. 

The Law Of Unforeseen Consequences has won the day. No one anticipated the social impact of driverless cars. Americans don’t like them. Americans enjoy driving, in spite of their endless complaints about drive time, gridlock and Highway Patrol robocycle stops. Americans miss the power they felt at the wheels of their four ton pickup trucks. 

Interviewed at the site of the traffic jam, Ernesto “Corker” Levine said this: “Driverless cars suck!” A chorus of whistles, cheers, and high fives erupted from the crowd that had gathered as drivers left their cars running and milled around on the pavement of Northbound 101. “Suck suck suck” they chanted. Many exchanged business cards and personal porn videos. This kind of traffic jam has replaced tinder as the sex market of the twenty first century.

The jam finally broke up as drivers began to smell burnt wiring. Exploding batteries accelerated the resolution of the epic backup. The farcical dummy cops were instrumental in sorting out the mess with their Skyhooks… Robotic Highway Patrolmen lifted Chevys, Oppenheimers and Teslas and deposited them helter skelter on the margins of the freeway. Owners had difficulty identifying their cars but at least traffic was moving between San Francisco and Santa Rosa. The record-breaking traffic jam extended for thirty miles in both directions. The event was covered by journalists from as far afield as Indonesia and Japan. Some have begun calling it “The Second Woodstock”. Spontaneous appearances by Blue Detergent and Jimi’s Homunculus added luster to the event.

Lead singer Denzel Spurlock testified later at the inquest for “The 101 Incident”. He said, “I know people died, but Man, the whole jam was a gas. We should do it again, soon!”

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at Write Out of My Head

Photos at Art’s Digiphotos

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields – My Pandemic Peace

Mind Fields

I am a janitor. I have worked at the same medium sized commercial property for thirty years. It is a job made in heaven! The pay is good, and I set my own hours. I never see my boss. We exchange emails and a check arrives monthly. The pandemic has done little to change my lifestyle. Properties tend to fall apart without the basic services supplied by cleaners and contractors. I work part time as a janitor and the other part time I stay home and practice the piano and write. My janitorial work includes maintaining two public restrooms. This requires a maximum of personal protection gear. Mask and gloves combined with frequent washing are keeping me (I hope) safe from infection. 

My spouse is disabled and spends most of her day in bed. I care for her and keep supplies flowing. She suffers from COPD and Rheumatoid Arthritis. My life is not much different from the time before Covid-19. I go out less and I buy at least a week’s supplies so that I don’t have to return to the store and its dangers of exposure. Judging by the basket loads being checked out by my fellow shoppers, we are feeling much the same.

The adaptations to Covid-19 quickly normalize. I see my therapist via Skype or Doxy.me.com.  I would rather see her in person, but seeing her on my computer screen offers a strange and intangible compensation. I can only call it “looseness”, i.e. I am more likely to say something awkward, which, as you may know, is the good stuff when it comes to psychotherapy.  I must speak the uncomfortable truth. In this way, Covid has presented a weird therapeutic gain.

I communicate via computer and attend my weekly Senior Peer Counseling groups via Zoom.  I don’t have to drive! No gasoline, no oil changes, no flat tires. No traffic! I acknowledge the vast suffering that attends this pandemic. I can’t allow my compassion to be blunted by my relative comfort. The plain truth is that Covid-19 has made my life easier.

I have been a Certified Senior Peer Counselor for three years. This effort offers support to those who are over 55 years of age. I now see my clients via all means possible, be they phone, computer, tablet, holograph, astral projection, quantum entanglement, ubiquitous electron transfer, psychic channeling or yelling out the window. Somehow, the process seems to be effective.

A couple of times a week I make my way up and down Highway 101. It’s a fifty mile round trip and sometimes the highways are virtually deserted. It’s kinda spooky! So far, my personal pandemic has been more of a windfall.

I’m 73 years old. Officially, that makes me a senior citizen. I’m active, creative, mobile, flexible, and in good health. If I tell you that this is due to my excellent personal hygiene, I would be gaslighting you with a heavy frosting of irony. I’ve been addicted to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and other bad behaviors. I am a paradox. I have faithfully practiced yoga since the age of eighteen. There have been times when I would inject myself with a speedball, smoke several cigarettes and do a sequence of yoga postures within the same hour. I’m not like that anymore. I’ve worn out my addictions through a steady incremental process, aided by psychotherapy. There was no sudden cure, no breakthrough, just years of steady work. I AM, at last, closer to where I want to be. All I have to do is avoid suddenly dropping dead. 

Count to three. I haven’t dropped dead. This means that I have a responsibility to continue writing. My mentor, the incredible KL Booth, urges me to supply essays, poems, and other material to the ongoing work of the web platform Writing To Be Read. This site is a forum for writers and provides essential exposure for those of us who don’t have the proper connections to achieve big time literary fame. 

There is truth to the maxim that “You have to know someone.” There was a time when I did indeed know someone. I knew the fiction editor at Playboy Magazine. Her name was Vicki Chung. I got to know her through a series of flukes that led to my winning Playboy’s award for Best Story Of The Year. After winning that award, I was invited to Playboy’s 25th anniversary banquet in New York City, all expenses paid. A room at the Waldorf was booked for me. The banquet guest list was loaded with influential writers, editors, agents and publishers. I had gone to Nirvana. They had a wall-sized poster illustration of my award winning short story. I was courted by everyone. I returned from New York City with my pockets full of business cards. “Call me when your manuscript is ready.” They all said that. 

A few months later there was a plane crash near Chicago’s Ohare airport. Most of Playboy Magazine’s literary staff was on that plane. My friend Vicki was gone. My connections were gone.

Later that year my manuscript was stolen. It was the only copy because I was making corrections. At the time I was devastated, but I now know that it was a shit novel, that it was juvenile, pretentious and hopeless. The thief saved me from gruesome embarrassment.

Pandemic? Are we in a pandemic? I think it’s more like a correction, the way the theft of my manuscript was a correction. That sounds cold, but nature doesn’t consider the will of individuals as it operates our planet. Nature does what is best for itself. Covid-19 may be nature’s response to massive overpopulation and utterly depraved management of this stately orb. 

That’s my theory, anyway.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Mind Fields – My Suicide Note

December 15, 2020

I was a mess. I could smile, say hello, pretend to be okay. I wasn’t okay. I was being squeezed by a depression so ferocious that I seriously began to consider ending my life. However… I had a problem. Every time I tried to compose a suicide note I ran into a wall when I asked myself: What if my suicide note sucks?

This is a daunting challenge for a writer. First I have to ask the question: why the note? Why are suicide notes such an institution? They seem de rigeur in the traditions of suicide. Gotta have a note. You can’t leave people wondering what happened to you. This colossal egotism is rampant: we all think we’re so important. The truth is that hardly anyone cares what happens to you. I suppose the note is for loved ones; but often enough in the case of suicide, there ARE no loved ones. Or there are loved ones who didn’t behave in the desired way.

We get attached to our lives. They’re like the suits in which we live and sometimes they get threadbare. Still, they’re OUR lives. It’s no easy thing to toss aside an entire life, the whole story of how you got to this point. A note is the least one can do to summarize the effort of living for X number of years. Of surviving. It takes toughness to survive. Clearly I wasn’t tough enough to make the grade. So, it’s goodbye to friends and relatives. Such as they are.

The effort of being conscious can be arduous. The problem is that Consciousness is hard to escape.  The suicide is taking an awful chance. What if things don’t end with the bang of a gun or the sting of a razor? There might be something else in the market/bazaar of consciousness waiting on the other side of that decision. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

I spend many hours each day in a state of oblivion called sleep. Isn’t death much like sleep? Isn’t it just….oblivion? I have a hard time believing in oblivion as a paradigm. It is clearly not one of the dominant features of the universe. And, if it IS: who knows or cares? That was a sly joke. I hope someone gets it. Consciousness, on the other hand, is bound to pop up again. I will experience “I-ness” or “selfness” or some form of individual awareness. I might be reborn as a sea slug. Who knows what sea slugs think and feel? It would be boorish to dismiss them as unthinking automata. Life isn’t really like that. Consciousness is all over the place. This is why I refrained from killing myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll pop up somewhere else.

The note satisfied an urge to continue being myself in spite of the intention to stop being myself. I was so depressed that I thought I couldn’t endure it. Deep down, I didn’t believe I was capable of going through with suicide. I have too much ingrained optimism. I’ve always felt that problems might have solutions, if I just wait long enough.

Every time I began to write a note in my head I would say to myself, “You’re writing a suicide note in your head. Stop it!” I would stop. The urge would arise again during the day, and again, I would tell myself to stop. I had a problem, i.e. every suicide note that I authored was utterly terrible as literature. My notes were awful! They were filled with self pity, which I have never found to be attractive. Instead of murdering myself I decided to try an anti-depressant, Lexapro. Within a week my depression had lifted. It was amazing! The horrors simply vanished. Quickly. 

I’m glad I didn’t commit suicide. Life has greatly improved. I dabble with the idea of stopping the Lexapro. But….  I don’t think so. I don’t EVER want to be visited by such black depression. I’m not naïve. These thoughts and feelings are still inside me, somewhere. There is TRUTH in depression.  Living is complex and the world we are given is often intolerable. It’s possible that when I hide from things, they wind up at the top of my emotional in-basket. Do I need to test the limits of my courage? I’m not brave. I shrink from the worst case. I will let these sleeping dogs stay asleep.

In spite of my Inner Wuss I have survived and even come to thrive, lo, these many years. I’m just beginning to have fun. It’s about time. If my depression is like a hibernating bear I will squirt it with some drugs to keep it asleep.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Fish Store

Mind Fields

Trevor Joyce made sure that the two hundred foot extension cord was securely fastened too the outlet in his garage. Carefully he measured out the length to the swimming pool. He walked with the plastic reel, paying out the line, around his Ferrari, past his Bentley, and when he came to the last of his car collection, the Silver Ghost Rolls Royce, he kicked the cord firmly under its rear tire so that it wedged there. Backing up the driveway, he tugged at the line, ensuring that it was firmly seated under the tire and would not come loose. 

The driveway angled steeply upward under a line of cypress trees. From the top, Trevor could see the ocean and a big chunk of Malibu Canyon with its winding roads and private gated houses. He stopped and scratched at one of the tattoos on his right arm: it was the band tattoo, the famous one-eyed cat that rock fans instantly associate with the heavy metal group, Fish Store.

For eighteen years, Trevor had been the lead guitarist with Fish Store. As of last week, some snaggly little kid named Keewee Bonior was the lead guitarist with Fish Store. One by one, the old members were being squeezed out. Trevor had seen it coming; first it was the keyboard player, Pierce Holling. Okay, Pierce had lost  three fingers in a car crash. But that was just a bullshit pretext for booting him out of the band. Pierce didn’t need ten fingers to play rock and roll. It was really the paunch and the wrinkles, that’s what  it was all about.  He just wasn’t fucking cute anymore.

The extension cord reached all the way to the hedge at the far end of the pool. Plenty of length for Trevor’s purposes. He wound it in long loops between his thumb and his elbow and returned to the garage, laying the cord carefully on the trunk of the Rolls Royce. 

He went upstairs and got his favorite guitar and his little amplifier, the Boogie, the one he used for rehearsals, “the little screamer”, as he called it. The guitar was the pearl-inlaid Flying Vee, once owned by the late guitar legend Claxton Wanko. It had played many immortal rock hits in Claxton’s band. It had played “Eat My Heart Out”,  “Work Me To The Bone”, it had played “Tough Love Tonight” and “Willng Pussy”.  Trevor had bought it at auction for six thousand dollars in nineteen eighty five. 

He gave it a little wipe with a polishing chamois, flipped it around on its strap button, inspected it from the top tuning peg to the green serial number etched into its bifurcated body. He hefted the guitar in one hand, the amp in the other, and returned to the garage. Trevor placed the guitar and amp carefully on the work bench that ran the length of the left hand side of the cavernous chamber. He returned to the interior of the house, walked up the soft purple carpet, past the billiard room and the theatre room to the master bedroom.

He went into Lynda’s bathroom; Lynda had been gone for weeks. She wasn’t coming back. There was nothing to indicate her eight years of residence in the house, but a hairbrush with a few wisps of blonde hair, a chunk of glycerine soap and a bottle of Jack Daniels, half empty. Trevor took a swig from the bottle, wiped his lips, then looked at his reflection in the mirror.

“The fuck,”  he said, mumbling to himself. He splayed his fingers and ran them through his long, lanky, thinning black hair. “Kick me out of my own band ‘cause I’m going bald. I’m not going bald.” He could not, of course, see the round circle of flesh at the very top of his head, like a monk’s tonsure, from which his flowing locks seemed to emerge as if they were rivers running off some invisible glacial lake. 

He took another swig from the bottle of whiskey and went across the bedroom to his own bathroom on the other side. He opened the medicine cabinet and took out a little sealed glass bottle shaped like a bell.  Morphine Sulfate, Two Hundred Milligrams.

“That should do it,” he said, tapping the bottle with his fingernail. From one of the drawers he withdrew a rubber tourniquet and a twenty two gauge insulin syringe. He took these items back into the garage, and set them carefully next to his guitar and amp.  He then got the end of the extension cord from atop the trunk  of the Rolls and unwound enough of it to reach the work bench.

From the far corner of the double-doored garage, he pulled a blue plastic tarpaulin off his gleaming Harley Custom. The motorcycle stood there like a science fiction insect about to ingest some screaming prey. Its headlight was like the eye of a cyclops. Purple swirling paint swept in flames down to the One Eyed Cat logo painted on each side of the silver gas tank. 

Trevor pushed it off its stand and wheeled it around his cars to the tool bench. There, he put it back on its stand and straddled its bulk. He reached for a roll of duct tape and pried a few inches from the fat cylinder and hung  the sticky part from the bar of the motorcycle. Then he placed the amplifier in his lap, settling it as comfortably as possible, dividing its weight between the bike’s saddle and  his thighs. Methodically, he began taping the amplifier to his chest. Holding it with his left arm, he wound the tape around the amp, then switched off to his right hand and continued winding around  his back, over and over again, until he had the electronic device reasonably secured to his torso. 

He picked up the guitar and used a patch cord to connect it to the amp. Cumbersome, he decided, but certainly do-able. He put on his shades. He tied a bandana around his head. He was already dressed in leather pants and a sleeveless leather vest that showed all his obscene tattoos.

He plugged the amp’s power cord into the long extension cord. He turned on the amp. The light glowed green.  Clumsily, he strummed a C Chord. Thwong! It echoed hugely in the garage.

“Yeahhh,” Trevor drawled. “Ready ready ready.”

He kicked the motorcyle into life. Its engine roared and he throttled it so the noise of the bike and the noise of the amp blended into a single savagely gleeful thunder.

Then he took the vial of morphine and filled the syringe with its contents. He had forgotten to tie off with the rubber tourniquet, so he used the guitar’s patch cord to raise one of his few remaining useful veins. He had collapsed the big one inside his elbow and the big one that ran down the side of his arm, and most of the medium sized veins, lower down near his wrist. But there was still the inch-long minor vein about two inches down from his elbow;  he had been getting hits there for the last couple weeks, he knew he could hit it, even with all this stuff strapped around him. It took a few jabs, a few misses, but finally he found the blood and mainlined that huge hit of pharmaceutical dope right into his bloodstream. It took only a few seconds to feel its soft blanket spreading from his innards to the periphery of the nerve endings at his fingertips.

“This is it,” he thought. “The perfect rock and roll suicide!”

He gunned the motorcyle. He turned the amplifier all the way up and thwanged a huge chord. He was going to accelerate into the swimming pool, electrocute, overdose and drown himself all at the same time. Someone would find his corpse in the next couple weeks, sitting there at the bottom of the pool on his Harley, with his Claxton Wanko guitar strapped around his shoulder, his Boogie Amp short-circuited, his blood full of dope.

“Yeehaaaa!”  he yelled, strumming the guitar. He managed to roll the bike out of the garage, extension cord trailing behind him. He went to the very bottom of the sloped driveway, just inside the swinging metal gate, gunned the engine, twanged the guitar, turned the motorcyle around and roared up the drive towards the swimming pool. 

He strummed as he ascended. B flat Chord, A flat Chord, F Chord, the famous intro to Fish Store’s biggest hit, “Slam Me, Ma’am”. He fought to keep his balance. He got to ten miles an hour, fifteen, twenty. He got to the very top of the drive and the extension chord snagged on a bit of outthrust pavement and whipped loose.  The sound of the guitar suddenly died. The lip of the drive acted as a ramp and Trevor flew over the pool like a stunt rider, landed in the hedge, passed through it, tore through his downhill neighbor’s fence and wound up on Malibu Drive, stoned out of his mind, but not dead, carrying his guitar and his amplifier on his Custom Harley. 

“Aw fuck,” he said aloud, as he swerved across the dividing line on the serpentine road.

A Mountain Springs water truck honked at him and managed not to squash him.

Unable to control the motorcycle any longer, he gunned the throttle, closed his eyes and simply let fate carry him. He hit a curb, went over some rocks, crashed through rhododenron bushes, flew into the air and finally landed with a gigantic splash in someone else’s swimming pool. 

He was still alive. Hands came to the bottom of the pool, pulled at the amp, pulled at his armpits,  hauled him from the pool. A dozen teenagers avidly surrounded his stunned form.

“That was fuckin’ great, dude!” One of the youngsters said. “Awesome! Did my mom set this up? Fucking great…..hey. Aren’t you Trevor Joyce? Aren’t you, like, Fish Store, dude?”

The kid did a naïve imitation of Trevor’s duck-walking stage style, mocking the chords to “Slam Me, Ma’am”, playing air guitar with his tongue hanging out.

Trevor handed the Claxton guitar to one of his young admirers. He took the bandana from his head and wrung it out. 

 Not today, he thought. Not today. I’ve still got fans.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


Curvature: An Essay On Discernment

Mind Fields

Curvature

Discernment is the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well. That’s from Webster’s dictionary. I bring it to your attention because if this nation is suffering from a widespread psychological disorder it is this: a lack of discernment. It is the inability to judge well from the information that’s available. There are millions of casualties to this disease which is more sinister than Covid 19. It is something that has no name. I call it The Plebny or Recalcitrant Flux. Any force, power or person who spreads this disease is committing crimes against our planet. In this turbulent time we NEED discernment to pick our way through the fields of ignorance and bad information.

Listen to me: bad information. There’s no such thing as bad information. I refer to distorted content, warped propaganda, mendacity in the service of ego and power. We’re afflicted by people in power who lie automatically, without internal scanning or external censorship. Damage is being done! Without discernment we are easily manipulated, like cattle being led by nose rings. 

Further, these people without discernment are unaware of their lack. It is impossible to engage in dialogue with people who can’t perceive with precision and conscience. I am willing to consider other points of view. I’m not stuck. It takes a little effort to discern things. It takes honesty, most of all. 

With whom are we honest? We must be honest with ourselves most of all because human beings have a tendency towards various mental impediments to honesty. These obstacles have names, like Denial, Shame, Depression, Grandiosity, Narcissism, Sociopathy, Psychopathy, Crushed Affect, Sleepwalkers Syndrome, Intentional Psychomyopathy and Heartbane. 

There are so many wacked out people in the world that the earth is saturated with their craziness. It is possible to ask, “What behavior is not crazy and how can I do it?” If you conjure an answer to that question, which is a deeply personal one, you’ve found the first gate to discernment.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.


“Mind Fields”: Am I Real?

Mind Fields

Am I Real?

October 15, 2020

Existence. It can be ordinary. It can be magical. It can be hell. Whatever it is for you, in this moment, there’s no getting away from it. YOU EXIST.

I find that there is an aura of strangeness to existence. Like, how did I get here? Why am I here? What are these gases that I breathe? Do I REALLY exist or is this some kind of dream, cast upon the waters of the void by some Being whose nature I can’t fathom? Still, it’s inescapable. Unless I kill myself this very moment, I am here and am likely to be here for a while. Even IF I kill myself, I’m messing with the odds. More than half the people on this planet believe in re-birth, i.e living over and over again in different bodies. I believe in reincarnation. I may be wrong, but that’s what I believe. A suicide has consequences. It carries a ton of karma. The concept of reincarnation answers many questions, but it also asks some important ones: like, what is the mechanism of continuity? Is it my “soul” that holds the threads together and maintains some mysterious seed of consciousness?Soul, spirit, whatever we want to call it, there is a suggestion of the reality of a non-material realm and of a path or route of progression TOWARDs something. Towards what? I call it Self Knowledge.

When I was a kid, seven or eight, I thought these same thoughts. I would walk up our street and step on the sidewalk cracks. Each time I did, I said aloud, “I am real, I am real.” Even then, I wasn’t sure. 

Reincarnation does a great job of explaining things. Why am I this way?  Why am I creative, musical, compulsive, sometimes greedy, sometimes cruel? Can all this complexity be explained by genetics and environment?Maybe in my last lives I had some of these attributes and I simply continued. I’ve always wanted to know the answers to these questions. I’ve read some of the craziest books and perused the world’s wisdom traditions. I have a curiosity that walks inside me like a second skin. I REALLY want to know. I don’t see much point in things if I don’t get to know….at least…SOMETHING.

I began a long string of poetry writing some forty years ago with a poem that ended with these lines: “I want to know I want to know echoes in the chambers of my heart until the lone spark in the abyss of infinity has become the desire to know.” As soon as I had written those lines a huge reservoir of poetry opened, and I wrote and haven’t stopped writing. I had identified a desire, an intention, that has dominated my life.

 I think…I…may know….a little bit of something. Just a bit. I’ve seen the tiny stitches on the lowest threads on the darkest panel of God’s robe. Just the tiny stitches. That fills me up sometimes. It helps me to relax, to stop fighting against the process of life.

Lately, existence hasn’t just been ordinary, magical or hellish..  Existence has been REALLY WEIRD. I mean weird weird. Like this isn’t the regular old bullshit hieroglyphics panel that we call Normal. The phrase has spread like lightning: The NEW NORMAL. The Old Normal will never return. The challenges of the 21st century are so numerous and disturbing that we must adapt or perish.

Adaptation is a question of flexibility. I’m reminded of the Zen concept of Beginner’s Mind. In Zen we are taught that whatever convictions might exist inside one’s self, it is wise to treat them as provisional rather than certain. NOTHING IS CERTAIN. In this realm nothing has been or ever will be certain other than the fact that everything born eventually dies. I would even treat THAT axiom is less than certain. Who knows what people have accomplished? If  by some weird and  persistent work I achieve immortality, do you think I will tell everyone about it? Are you kidding? I would either get taken away in the funny wagon or I’d be overwhelmed by requests to share my formula. And that’s the thing…everyone creates their own formula. If you want to have your eyes opened, to GET IT, you need to do some basic homework. This heavenly sizzle isn’t just there for the picking. It takes patience and character. I have so many defects, but let me stress that the THING, the Sizzle of wider consciousness, does not exclude the defects.

It encourages them. What, in your life, has taught you more than your dark aspects have taught you?

______________________________________________________________________________

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

______________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.