By way of word of mouth

The one obit to rule them all:

William “Freddie” McCullough

Obituary

William Freddie McCullough – BLOOMINGDALE – The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. William Freddie McCullough died on September 11, 2013. Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order. He was a master craftsman who single -handedly built his beautiful house from the ground up. Freddie was also great at growing fruit trees, grilling chicken and ribs, popping wheelies on his Harley at 50 mph, making everyone feel appreciated and hitting Coke bottles at thirty yards with his 45. When it came to floor covering, Freddie was one of the best in the business. And he loved doing it. Freddie loved to tell stories. And you could be sure 50% of every story was true. You just never knew which 50%. Marshall Matt Dillon, Ben Cartwright and Charlie Harper were his TV heroes. And he was the hero for his six children: Mark, Shain, Clint, Brandice, Ashley and Thomas. Freddie adored the ladies. And they adored him. There isn’t enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie’s past. There isn’t enough space in the Bloomingdale phone book. A few of the more colorful ones were Momma Margie, Crazy Pam, Big Tittie Wanda, Spacy Stacy and Sweet Melissa (he explained that nickname had nothing to do with her attitude). He attracted more women than a shoe sale at Macy’s. He got married when he was 18, but it didn’t last. Freddie was no quitter, however, so he gave it a shot two more times. It didn’t work out with any of the wives, but he managed to stay friends with them and their parents. In between his many adventures, Freddie appeared in several films including The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, A Time for Miracles, The Conspirator, Double Wide Blues and Pretty Fishes. When Freddie took off for that pool party in the sky, he left behind his sons Mark McCullough, Shain McCullough and his wife Amy, Clint McCullough and his wife Desiree, and Thomas McCullough and his wife Candice; and his daughters Brandice Chambers and her husband Michael, Ashley Cooler and her husband Justin; his brothers Jimmie and Eddie McCullough; and his girlfriend Lisa Hopkins; and seven delightful grandkids. Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories. Savannah Morning News September 14, 2013 Please sign our Obituary Guest Book at savannahnow.com/obituaries.

Published in Savannah Morning News on September 14, 2013
  • “Wow. I can’t believe Freddie’s dead…that’s what I said. …”
  • “Freddie, I never met ya, but I want to be ya! What an…”
    – The Priests
  • “ride on bro.”
    – kiven witmore
  • “Condolences to the McCullough family. Freddie lived a great…”
    – deputy tom
  • ” Freddie, you sir are a legend and may you continue what…”
    – George Mtonga

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Party on the patio, Jody in the backyard blitz

Karen sat down on the folding chair, pulling a pair of beige dance shoes out of a black bag.  “I love these shoes.  The heels are wide and they’re easy to slip on.”

Guin bent over to adjust her black shoe, the straps coming up from around her toes and crossing over the top of her foot, forming diamond patterns filled with black mesh.  “I like being able to adjust the straps on mine but this strap comes off too easily.”

“I’m going to stretch why you two finish the choreography.”  Karen stood up and walked over to the computer stand where Guin’s mobile phone was plugged into the dance studio’s sound system.

Lee shook his head from side-to-side while he stretched out his arms, lowering them behind his back to pop vertebrae into place.

He watched Guin work on the shoe strap, noticing for the first time the colour of her hair, a deep, dark brown that he mentally avoided associating with colours of wood, trying to get a sense of what colour meant to him without the use of labels such as adjectives.  He compared the colour of her hair to her toenails, which appeared to be painted white on the tips like the tips of an aeroplane propeller.

He thought about the backstory their choreographed routine was supposed to show, a steampunk tale, an alternate universe that appeared in this universe for a minute and thirty seconds or so.

He remembered Guin telling him about her divorce, that the California surf dude she had married in their partying years of late teens and early twenties could not handle the new Guin who emerged from a horrible car smashup.

He remembered the car smashup scenes and urban landscapes of J.G. Ballard.  How many people had inadvertentedly aligned their lives around the transportation fiction of a man who found a way to make a living by writing while raising children without a mother?

Guin took off the black shoes and put on a pair of Lindy Hop sneakers.

Karen yelled across the studio.  “Do you all want to try the routine from the top…with music?”

Lee looked at Guin and she nodded.  “Sure!”

Lee put the palm of his right hand in the small of Guin’s lower back, holding her right hand in his left hand, tapping his left foot on the floor in anticipation of the first beat of the music.

He needed to look at himself in the mirror to see his posture but didn’t want to, expecting Guin to describe how he looked.

“We need to work on your technique” told him everything he needed to know.

They danced through two-thirds of the routine before Lee lost track of the steps, unable to hear the beat of the music because a financial spreadsheet was filling his thoughts.

“I’m sorry.  I can’t get my thoughts straight.”

Guin shrugged.  “That’s all right.  Let’s try it again and see how far we can go before you have to stop.”

Karen pressed a few buttons to clear the screen on Guin’s iPhone and started the music again after Guin and Lee had run over to the side of the studio, back to their starting position.

Lee could feel a bead of sweat rolling down his back, running into his shirt which was pressed to his skin by Guin’s hand which, although they had danced dozens of times together, he had never noticed before, the heat of his back seeming to warm her cooler hand.

As they danced their steps, going into and out of Lindy circles, forming sugar pushes, tuck turns, man passes and swingouts, their eyes met, sometimes triggering automatic head nods and smiles.

Lee found himself still fascinated by Guin’s hair.  He wondered how the thickness of the strands of her hair compared to that of other similarly-coloured heads.  What about the number of hair follicles her square inch?

After they reached a point in the routine where Lee forget what a pecking maneuver was, they broke into light laughter and stopped dancing.

Karen fumbled with the iPhone screen again because Guin had set the screen to lock into password mode quicker than the length of the song.  She finally stopped the music.

Meanwhile, Guin walked Lee through the pecking.  “We start the first half of a Lindy circle.  Remember?”

Lee nodded.

“Five, six, seven, eight.  Step, step, triple-step.  Step, step, triple-step.  Now step, step, stop.  Wait a beat.  Step forward.  Good!  You remember.”  She smiled encouragingly.

“Yes.”

They walked through the rest of the routine without music.

Karen sat down in a chair and leaned her head back against the wall.  She was tired and enjoyed the precious seconds of rest before Guin would get far enough with the routine to call Karen onto the floor to dance the steps with her husband.

After nailing down another 20 seconds of the routine, Guin did get Karen’s attention and had them dance the routine with music.

They repeated this several times over the next hour.

Finally, Lee felt he was getting no farther, his thoughts filled with numbers and dance steps for the day.  “That’s it!  I think I’m done.”

Guin looked at the dance routine spreadsheet on the computer screen.  “Well, that’s good because we’re at the place where I want to work on the choreography a little better.  The camel move doesn’t fit here, I don’t think.  I’m thinking maybe a corkscrew.”

She lowered herself to the floor, had Lee hold her hands and then showed him how to spin her up off the floor.

He smiled.  “I like that.”

Karen nodded her head.  “Yeah, it fits with your steampunk theme.”

“Thanks.  Well, if you guys are finished, Eoj should be getting here soon.  We’ve got ten days to put together our routine.”  She walked back toward the row of chairs at the entrance to the changing room, Lee walking beside her.

“No kidding?” Lee jokingly put his hand in his mouth, pretending to chew his nails.

Karen pointed toward the bathroom.  “I’ll be right back.”

Guin sat down to change her shoes.  “Yeah.  And you know what, Kirby said to me last night that he never gets to see his wife anymore.  He works third shift and he knows I work first shift.  It’s not like anything has changed with what I do.”

“You’ve always been busy at night teaching dance lessons.”

“It gets worse.  He’s home during the day so our neighbours see him but not me.  They asked him yesterday if I had moved out or something so he told me, ‘Look, our neighbours don’t believe I have a wife anymore.  I never see you!’  I think it’s because he’s getting over his brother’s death.  He’s starting to blame me for every little thing.”

“Uh-huh.  Karen was the same way with me.  She accused me of stuff I hadn’t done, let alone thought of.”

Karen returned from the bathroom and Lee spoke to her.  “Do you remember being on my case all the time after your brother died?”

“Yeah.”  Karen spoke to Guin.  “It takes a while to realise the effect you have on other people while you’re grieving.  I’m sure Kirby’s going through the same thing.”

Guin laughed.  “Kirby?  Yeah, he’s going through a lot and so am I.  I’m going out of town on business, on top of everything else.”

Lee looked at Guin, unable to read her face.  She bent over to change shoes and Lee looked at Guin’s hair again, noticing it was pulled back into a small ponytail.

He noticed her grimace slightly as she stood up.  “Your foot alright?”

She scrunched her face in a smile of pain.  “Yeah.  It locks up, though.”

They looked at the steampunk outfit that Lee had brought, including a vest Karen had made for him when he dressed as Not-So-Serious Black for the local midnight premiere of the last Harry Potter film.

They talked about matching their outfits when Guin laughed unexpectedly.

“You know John, the big guy that comes to the dance club every now and then?”

Lee nodded.

“Well, the other day he joked that he thought his man boobs were bigger than mine so I went to the restroom, took off my bra and had him try it on.  Sure enough, his were larger!”

Lee and Karen laughed.  Lee turned from Guin to Karen, a knowing look shared between them before Lee spoke.  “Should I tell her about Donald?”  Karen nodded as Guin, seeing she was left out of the loop on an inside joke, stood up and walked to the computer stand, hearing her phone ring, the ring tone a theme song from the original Super Mario Brothers videogame.

“That’s Eoj.  He better not ditch our dance practice again tonight!”

Lee and Karen followed.

Karen shut down the computer while Lee listened to Guin’s half of the phone conversation, entertaining Lee as she described back to Eoj how she understood that he cut himself accidentally at work and was unable to dance until tomorrow.

Lee mentally counted off on his fingers the multiple perceptions that he shared with, about and of Guin, his joy of writing helping him organise his thoughts for later recording, his love of self and his ability to fall in love with everyone he meets his joy and his curse.

It wasn’t his best dance practice night, distracted as he was by an undertone of sexual objectification that had put a layer between him and Guin but didn’t let him stop from learning more about his relation to the universe, wondering why there was part of him on any other night that could synch up with Guin without thinking, sharing their differences as if they were similarities, how people around Lee wanted to tell him their views of Guin without his asking so that he got more insights into people than he wanted, placing himself at odds with himself as the objective reporter in order for him to become a more descriptive author caught in the middle of the story in progress.

What about Guin’s hair, her makeup-free face and his wife’s willingness to strain their financial budget to the breaking point?

He had a robot construction kit to work on, didn’t he, a Kickstarter campaign that wasn’t going to create itself.

Lee wanted to stay and talk with Guin and Karen about life but knew his nervousness from earlier in the day was blocking him from seeing Guin as a friend rather than a sex object.

As he led Karen out of the dance studio, calling out a goodbye to Guin, the memory of the first words he had shared with Guin when he walked in floated into view.

Guin had looked at him knowingly, a twinkle in her eye, “So, how was YOUR day, after what happened yesterday and last night?”

A dozen thoughts had jumped to the foreground, fighting against the sexual objectification he had brought with him into the room before he had looked at Guin, the tiniest moment of friendship between them clouded over by his turning her into an object of lust.

He wanted to ask Guin exactly what she meant but was afraid to ask.  What if what he thought she meant was what she meant?  Would it have mattered if Karen was in the room?

Did Guin think he was drunk last night at the dance club?  Did the quick private conversation between Lee and Bai’s French boyfriend about their separate relationship with Bai get back to Guin?  Had Guin talked with Bai about the blog entry he had written where he briefly spoke about holding Bai’s hand for so long yesterday as if they were longtime lovers no longer bothered by sexual tension?  Had Bai told Guin that Lee had texted her while she was driving to Little Rock, Arkansas, on the way to a weekend dance competition in Dallas, Texas?  Had Guin seen the Frenchman dance with Lee, showing Lee how to be a better leader?  Was Guin referring to the dance lesson she gave Lee and Karen at the dance club?

Lee thrived on the uncertainty between his fictional characters but it drove him crazy in real life.

Did the bartender at the dance club really tell him that her real name was not Jody but she called herself Jody anyway, until friends called her Jody in the backyard so she changed her real fake name to Jodi with an “i”?

Sobjectification

Sobjectification : (n) feeling sad that you feel bad about yourself for sexually objectifying people around you.

Lee’s body was shaking, his shoulders aching.  He woke up at 2:12 a.m., feeling aroused and disappointed.  Why had he objectified the women in his life yesterday, the old defense mechanism that almost went away but showed up again unannounced?

His body only shook like this when his set of states of energy were rattled severely — at the end of running a marathon on a 25 deg F day, the first time he kissed a woman and the first time he kissed a man, the first interview for a real desk job, the first time he made love to a married woman, standing in a funeral home parlour greeting friends and family of his dead brother in-law.

At his age, shaking could be the early signs of many neurological disorders, not just psychoemotional moments.

Lee’s chest felt like a tree trunk being struck by a hammer.  He needed something to calm his nerves.

He turned to the script to check where in the current round of world politics his thoughts were supposed to be aligned…

23 November 1957. Open Letter to Eisenhower and Khrushchev by Bertrand Russell,” published in the New Statesman, followed by a response from Nikita Khruschev on 21 December 1957, with a reply on Eisenhower’s behalf by John Foster Dulles, published on 8 February 1958.

Lee’s shudders got worse.  He wasn’t supposed to see he was stuck in an endless tape loop, the sound quality deteriorating playback by playback, his thoughts disintegrating into repetitious nonsense.

Shouldn’t he care where he stood on the alpha male hierarchy of his times?  “To know is to do” he was told by the advice of history.

If the universe was here for Lee’s entertainment, why wasn’t his body as entertained as his pondered theories of social engineering?

Why did he revert to objectifying women’s bodies just when he was making a breakthrough?

Why did he let his wife’s withholding of her body for sexual activity influence him in any way, make him feel unwanted, unused, unworthy of attention by the opposite sex?

Was his body’s uncontrolled shivering related merely to caffeine withdrawal?

Yesterday, Lee was sitting in a room with his wife and two people interested in closing a deal to manage Lee’s finances for the rest of his life, taking his hard-earned millions and returning to him an annual “salary,” pension or annuity as a monetary security blanket to hold until he died, depositing his funds in a bank that contains the wealth of others in the entertainment business, from Hollywood to Nashville.

Money had no meaning to Lee.  Never had, never will.  He only understood purchasing power.

Money never bought Lee happiness.  Lee was always happy in his pursuit of knowledge to aid his quest to reorder the words in his vocabulary, long ago knowing that something as mundane as the changing patterns of dust on a wall could entertain him for days.

Money bought Lee new knowledge — he could overwhelm his senses with knowledge or he could add to his knowledge base one coal pitch drop of tar at a time.

Nervousness had crept into Lee’s thoughts yesterday that he had shifted into the habit of sexual objectification to give himself the false impression he was above the petty feeling of being nervous, one of his passive-aggressive attitudes he wanted to change.

What if he had told the investors that he was nervous about his life’s fortune being managed by complete strangers and hadn’t turned to seeing one of the investors, who happened to be female, as sexually desirable at the very moment he needed to concentrate on third sigma distributions of financial risk management and Monte Carlo simulations?

What if he had told his dance partner, who complained of aching body parts, that he wanted to say he’d rub her foot if she’d rub his because his foot was really hurting but he was afraid admitting his foot hurt would sound like a weak excuse and worried, too, that the request to barter one foot rub for another due to his lack of cash fluidity would be mistaken as a sexual come-on because he couldn’t get the confusing sexual objectification out of the thoughts of the new Lee?

Self diagnosis of one’s thought patterns in the mental game of self therapy could or could not be as slow or fast as professional psychosocial therapy.

Lee was a cheapskate.  His visions of life were not grand enough to include hoarding vast sums of institutional level financial security.  He knew he had to depend on someone else’s financial expertise to keep him out of debtor’s prison but it didn’t mean he had to like the idea or be able to sleep fear-free at night.

How was Lee going to deprogram his sexual objectification when he was nervous?

He finished a mug of Earl Gray tea, never quite sure if the caffeine calmed his nerves, his writing calmed his nerves or if an unknown script writer gave the actor Patrick Stewart a character named Jean-Luc Picard who moved a lot of people to drink Earl Gray tea because they really believed that they themselves discovered it tasted better than other flavours of tea, coffee or sources with “natural” stimulants.

Lee mentally apologised to the women he saw yesterday, setting in motion his newly-minted curmudgeon self to tell the next woman he saw, “Look, I’m a bit nervous.  Either I can share with you what’s really going on in my thoughts right now, which are really not socially-kosher at this moment, or I can stare at your boobs and ass.  It’s your choice.”

Suddenly, an image of the J.K. Rowling character named Dobby riding a wrecking ball while nude and speaking Russian passed through Lee’s thoughts.

Lee smiled, the shaking subsided but not completely gone.

History may repeat itself but Lee was going to enjoy the ride, even if it meant he was going to throw up because he was dizzied by the scenery flashing so quickly through his thoughts.

Glass spherical atmospherical at most fear a gull

I don’t know what it is about the objects in this room but some of them have a life of their own.

The crystal ball, which is not really crystal but a thin layer of glass, hummed when I walked into the study this morning.

A 60-Hz hum, as if some unseen creature — a gnome, fairy, elf, dwarf or gremlin? — snuck in and plugged in the crystal ball’s AC power source.

Ah, yes.  The crystal ball has electronic junk in its trunk.

For centuries, the crystal ball had relied on the magnetic alignment of layers of rock deposited for millions of years onto Earth’s crust as the planet’s magnetic poles flip-flopped.

But I wanted more power.

I wanted to make the future a reality, not just some foggy image forming out of the inside of a ether-filled dome.

Sing it! “Ee-thur, eye-thur, nee-thur, neye-thur,” ether-aether, “let’s call the whole thing off”-kilter.

Anyway, the crystal ball’s powered profundity projects onto the book covers, picture frames, walls, ceiling, overhead light fixture and my eyeballs a future where we ask ourselves why income inequality has become a buzzword domestically, imagined internationally but not universally.

A spinoff of Virgin Galactic, under a new shell corporation not directly tied to Sir Richard Branson in order to avoid confusion about mission statements, offers a higher boost into suborbital space for the terminally ill, taking their money but not promising them a flight in time before they die, that gives the passengers a longer time in the weightlessness of space and then an incendiary cremation upon reentry, the painlessness of sedatives a personal option, their ashes spread into the upper atmosphere of the only planet they got to know, sparking a new travel industry nicknamed “Your Final Exit” after a book written in the 20th century.

Discovering energy conversion that has nothing to do with atomic structures opened up planetary exploration and galactic travel, completely and forever changing our image and opinions of ourselves as the center of the universe — it’s not the energy level that counts, it’s how you use the paradigm shift to reinvent the way we model our sets of states of energy in the cosmos.

Spending more time nurturing our species’ children during their formative years offset our longterm investment in the spook business that tried to compensate for the messed-up mindsets of adults turned against society, which changed the way we perceived ourselves as [un]fairly-treated cogs in the wheels of the politicoeconomic conditions we used to define our place in society, including the reformation of the public/private education system that used to depend on a mix of caring/sadistic [un]tenured teaching staff and [non]motivated students.

Mapping the new global culture on top of centuries-old subcultures was as fluid as the ocean tidal currents, tide charts predictable but local tidal basins fluctuating minute-by-minute.  Protesting the advent of global branding missed the natural evolution of a species in transition from multilocal to a global set of traits.  Embracing the concept of optimising profits made the antiglobal movement an effective tool in strengthening our longterm economic sustainability — every person was encouraged to realise we are individually a laboratory of new ideas, making conformity, normality and mimicry as quaint as synergistic symmetry.

The crystal ball hummed louder and louder until I realised that the wallwart was overheating.  Time to get a new transformer before the house burns down!

Windbreak Shadow

They stood hand-in-hand, the same height, facing each other.

Her shoulders were broad, her hips turned to one side like a pitcher winding up, her grip strong.

He held her hand firmly but let his arm stay loose.  “I promise I won’t drop you.”

She smiled.  “Uh-huh.”

“But I might drop you.”

“Uh-huh.”  Her smile widened.  “You know, you oughta take a look around the room.”

His back to the rest of the dance floor, Lee cocked his head over his shoulder, nodding.  “Yeah?”

“Can’t you see I’m the biggest woman in this room?  You do know my brother played college football, don’t you?”

He shook his head.  “Where is he now?”

“He’s a retired police officer.  When he interviewed to become a DEA agent, they asked him how come he was so tough.  He told ’em he had me as a sister, who could beat him up.  I put stitches in his face.”

Lee nodded.  “I don’t promise I won’t drop you.  I might just try to drop you on purpose.”

“Yeah, you do that.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Or you can try.”

The dance instructor called out in his French accent.  “Five, six, seven, eight.  Sugar push…now the contra move…stop on three!”

Lee held his partner out from him.  “I could drop you right now.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might trip you, make it look like an accident.”

“A tango move that went wrong?”

“I promise I’ll pick you up.  Or pretend I will.”

“Oh, don’t do that.  A friend would leave me on the floor…”

“I’ll definitely do that.”

“…and laugh.”

“I’ll make sure I’ll drop you, point, laugh and walk away.”

“Ooh.  You’re good.”

“What are friends for?”

The instructor called out again.  “Okay, dance leaders, rotate counter-clockwise.  We only have so many followers so we’ll rotate twice as faster so they can share themselves weef us.”

Lee looked at his partner.  “See you later.”

She laughed.  “You wish.”  She squeezed his hand harder.  “No.  I mean you’re a really good leader.”

“Thanks.”

Group dance lessons are like speed dating.  You partner up quickly as you rotate leaders or followers, establishing a relationship which is always instantly based on first impressions.  However, should you speed date often, you may find yourself with the same partner again, having broken the ice or pointing the way to the icebreaker, ready to experiment a little more with or without the first impression the second time around.

Some fun is worth waiting for.

A windbreak between corn fields takes years to reach the right height but never so tall as to completely block out the sunlight or a heavy thunderstorm.

Our sets of states of energy may build up defenses but sometimes the cocoons around our personality are melted by the simplest of smiles.

Or, as they say, there’s a time and place for everything, patience has its virtue, and laughter is the best medicine.

Lee promised himself he’d let her slip the next time, catching her unawares in his arms, seeing if he could avoid the stitches her brother couldn’t.

We all love a good challenge!

Valley Girl

Guin and Bai stood on a small rise, waiting for Eoj to join them.

Guin hefted a small boulder in her hand.

“How far do you think I can throw this?”

Bai picked up a small rock and threw it twenty or thirty meters with no effort.

Eoj walked up behind Guin.  “Hey, guys.  What’s up?”

Bai nodded at Guin’s arm.  “She’s got a crazy idea.”

“Oh yeah?  What’s that?”

Guin tossed the boulder in the air.  “You know, I used to throw shotput, discus and javelin.”

Eoj laughed.  “In this century?”

Guin smiled.  “Who’s counting?”

Eoj looked at Bai.  “What hasn’t this woman done?”

“I also competed at the pole vault and long relay.  Very occasionally they would throw me in a short relay.”

Eoj snorted.  “And here I am, sucking in my breath after running a few kilometers to catch up with you guys.”

Guin kicked small rocks out from a small circle.  She made a few test turns, seeing if she still had her perfect throwing moves in her memory.  “Throwing and polevaulting — there are serious ramifications if you move your body the wrong way.”

Eoj laughed again.  “Bai, I think you and I ought to throw a few rocks ourselves.  If we can dance as well as Guin, we can do whatever else she does just as well, right?”

Bai looked from Guin to Eoj and back.  “He’s never seen you throw, has he?”

Guin shook her head.  “No, but you’ve never seen him throw me in the air, either.”

Guin motioned Bai and and Eoj back a few paces.

She steadied her breathing, set her feet and took three steps, launching the boulder from her body’s core, through her shoulder and out of her hand like a hydraulic jack hammer punching the air.

The boulder’s arc was like a low altitude sounding rocket’s path, an ideal unimpeded trajectory in the thin atmosphere.

Several seconds later, a puff of Martian dust, then another and another indicated a few thousand meters away the boulder bouncing on the other side of the valley.

Guin smacked her hands together as if she was cleaning them of dust.  “Not bad, if I say so myself!”

Bai looked at Eoj.  “You think you can throw her that far?”

Guin snapped her head around.  “Now, wait a minute!”

Eoj grabbed Guin around the waist.  “Hey, it’s worth a try.”  He tossed her ten meters in the air and caught her.

He set her down and they laughed together.  “Ready?”

They started a slow jog, pacing themselves for a run down the valley and back around to the lab.

Eoj had the afternoon off before he had to return to the tourists and wanted to warm up with Guin and Bai before they put in some dance practice for the finale performance the last night of the tourists’ stay on the Red Planet.

Kickstarter Update #3

As promised, here’s the latest update from our Kickstarter Xceed Xpectations project tentatively named “All Sols Day.”

Today, let’s take a look at a couple of the early prototype bumper stickers the Creative Arts department crafted to get their imaginations going…

BUMPER STICKER - MARS OR BUST

BUMPER STICKER - Greetings from Mars

We can’t wait to get this party started.  As soon as the next batch of art is ready, we’ll post it here for your perusal.

 

Have a peaceful sol!

Jhgf

Lee stood in the middle of the nature preserve, his crosstraining shoes upon the concrete path of the city greenway, and looked up through light pollution at the dim outlined threads of the Milky Way galaxy.

The ends of his toes were calloused from running inside shoes a half-size too small, Lee unable to afford a new pair, his three-dollar pair of running shorts and twenty-year old T-shirt a reminder that the life of a middle-aged ascète led him to austerity years before austerity was cool all over again for the very next time.

He felt a pain on the left side of his neck that throbbed through the back of his shoulder, down into his left shoulder blade like a thick rubber band freezing up.

He was tired, a deep-seated nervousness gripping him like an invisible creature digging its claws into his upper back, its body hovering over him, hunching him over like a crooked old man.

Recent phrases echoed in his head, repeatedly refreshing themselves in volume before decaying into icy pain in his neck.  “It’s not about what’s in your pants,” which translated into “You’re not attractive as a man.”  “You’re one of my weird friends,” which translated into “You’re lucky I consider you a friend because otherwise you wouldn’t have any.”  “He’s very passive-aggressive with his wife,” which translated into “Every time I see you, I talk about another person being passive-aggressive to hint to you about your own passive-aggressive issues.”

Lee took a deep breath.

He knew that writing stories was his way of dealing with a world he didn’t understand, his coping mechanism, his stress relief, his private conversation with himself as his own best friend because he trusted no one else to listen to him without judgement or reinterpretation.

His arms and hands drooped by his side.

Lee felt small, like the iridescent insects that hunkered down in the grass next to the greenway, their eyes or wing shells reflecting the light of the LED headlamp he wore while running after dark.

He had always been uncomfortable in his body, hearing kids make fun of his clumsiness, overhearing his father tell other fathers it’s not always what a kid can’t do on the ballfield that counts, his father bragging about Lee’s academic study habits and keen interest in both science and sports.

Lee put his hands on his hips, watching puffs of his breath rise up through the light beam pointing off his forehead.

He had only pretended to be interested in science and sports to keep his father’s anger directed away from Lee.

Lee knew at an early age that it was not his own interests that kept peace in the family, it was ensuring that his father’s anger was kept under control.

Thus, Lee had learned it was not what he liked that mattered.

He walked the world in fear.  He developed a survivor’s mentality.  He could easily tick off on his fingers what he didn’t like but had no idea what he liked for himself.

Writing was therapy, a purifying source of anti-joy that propped him up.

His thought patterns started splitting themselves into what made his father leave him alone, what made school bullies leave him alone and whatever else kept controversy and the fear of physical/mental abuse to a minimum.

After an automobile smashup in his teens, a lot of his thought patterns were reshuffled, his fears realigned, the noise in his thoughts, a kind of screaming pain with no source, making him wish every day that he was dead if the pain of the discordant thoughts would just go away and leave him alone in peace.

Years of self therapy ensued.

He depended upon the kindness of strangers to see his body in their own image, awarding him a four-year university scholarship based more on imagery than cold, hard facts.  The facade quickly crumbled when Lee arrived at university, with no study skills, no motivation and little in the way of a support network for Lee himself rather than a system that was geared to keep him going down the road toward an officer’s commission in the U.S. Navy.

He spent hours in the Georgia Tech library looking at diagrams of early personal computers, dreaming of building his own, back in his parents’ basement when he was in high school playing with hand-assembled CPU systems that did little more than accept octal code in memory and display it back, Lee unable to understand how to go any further, his brain lacking logic circuitry to convert opcodes into useful subroutines and programs that weren’t spelled out in a programmer’s cookbook.

He walked the streets of Atlanta by himself, fearful of local gangs looking to protect their turf by beating a white kid in nominally black neighbourhoods.

He let his charm and innocent, nonthreatening personality protect him, which they did.

He never cared about his grades.  He barely studied for the freshman calculus and chemistry classes that felt like his father’s threats all over again, leaving him no escape this time, finally showing his father the falsehood, failure and disappointment that Lee had felt he had been to his father, who had based his pride on a son simply hoping to survive childhood, if not die by a random mugging in some dark downtown Atlanta alleyway.

Those nine months in Atlanta taught Lee he had no friends.  He had people who wanted to be friends with him until Lee shared his odd thought patterns with them, breaking the iconic imagery he represented in their thoughts, quickly walking away, watching them shake their heads as they wondered who he was.

Years of loneliness followed as Lee wandered from one person’s pretend image of him to the next.

He kept his thoughts to himself, burying them deeper.

He believed he was a gentle soul who just wanted to live in a cabin in the woods, freed from the cycle of first impressing and then unimpressing people, tired of one disappointment after another.

The girl from his summer camp days, with whom he had exchanged handwritten letters in the mail, seemed to be the only one who never saw Lee as strange or disappointing.

He loved her and hated her for accepting him as he was because by loving him she accepted him as a product of his father whom he feared which meant that Lee feared her, too.

Lee’s thoughts drifted, returning to the present.

How long had he stood by himself under the stars on a concrete path surrounded by woodland wrapped by suburban tracts filled with thousands of people?

He held the contemplative thoughts in as close a sequence as possible for writing down later on.

His thoughts were the only thing that mattered to him, worth more than gold.

He had once been a person who negotiated multimillion-dollar international contracts, flying across the globe for meetings, wondering when he was going to fulfill his dream of an ascète, withdrawing from the world his only hope for quieting the painful noise in his thoughts that never went away except when he was drunk or asleep, constantly on alert to cocoon himself from his business colleagues so they wouldn’t see his brain was crisscrossed with insane thought patterns.

The numbed ends of his toes and the needlepoint pains in his hips woke him from his daydream.

He shuffle-jogged over the concrete pathway, knowing he had forty-five more minutes with himself on the trail and roadside to add to his thoughts that he’d write down after he returned home, kissed his wife, petted the cats and showered.

The life of the frugal millionaire was coming back to him again, as close to happiness as a hunched-over simple man could ask for before he died, as entertained by a caterpillar munching on a redbud leaf outside the window as by the behaviour of his species in its desire to develop and maintain weapons of mass destruction as a form of godlike deterrent against the use of our worst hatred toward people unlike us.

Lee had learned to manage his fear.  What about the other seven-plus billion of us?

For adults only [NSFW]

This blog entry is a very personal record of my life that delves into subjects that may or may not be safe to read in the presence of fellow workers, students, and/or family members.  Read at your own discretion.

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My newfound friends have inspired me to talk about my thoughts in this online diary that somehow is found by people who’ve bothered to read my blog/journal/diary entries and responded to them, reacted to them and told me they read them.

I used to write this blog with one eye toward whether I could offend or have offended others.

What I’ve discovered lately is that I no longer have time in my life to worry about others’ opinions, thoughts or lives — they have to live their lives in accordance with their own beliefs, not mine — I struggle enough just keeping up with myself.  Friends my age are dying more frequently, telling me I may not have several more decades to wait to write as a curmudgeon.

Let this blog entry begin…

I don’t remember the first time I discovered that there was a sensation in the general area of my genitals that caused an excitement I hadn’t experienced before.

The first full memory was of me lying down on top of an afghan on the floor of our living room, my sister at a friend’s house, my parents out of the house for the evening, trusting me at home by myself, and I was watching television.

A movie was on the TV, one of those made-for-TV shockers that showed the life of a nice teenage girl who fell into the wrong crowd, got hooked on drugs, was infected by a venereal disease, eventually overdosed and died.

The character the actor portrayed was not old enough to drive at the beginning of the movie so she was supposed to be 15 but the actor was probably in her early 20s which meant the actor was more mature-looking at first until the character she played died at the age of 18 or 19.

I was 10 or 11 years old at the time.

When I was eight or nine, I had kissed a girl a couple of times only because the two of us wanted to know what her older sister got out of kissing a boy for hours at a time in the backseat of their parents’ car in the cold weather.  We laughed more than anything else at the “slobber” of our wet lips touching.

While I sat watching the movie on the tellie, I noticed my penis felt warm.  Not an erection but just a tingling feeling.

I talked with a couple of guys at school about it and they told me they had had their first erection already and it was no big deal.  One claimed he had a five-inch erection and the other one said his was six inches — they told me as soon as I got an erection I was supposed to measure it because that’s what their older brothers told them to do because their girlfriends who weren’t ready to see an erect penis were still interested in how big their boyfriends were.

My parents stressed to me the importance of schooling over the fleeting temporary feelings of sexual attraction, my father giving me a book called the Life Cycle Library to answer any questions I had, including a few briefs paragraphs on masturbation which I knew nothing about until I turned 15 years old and a guy at school asked a girl friend of mine who explained to both of us what she knew about playing with your genitals.

I knew my father kept copies of Playboy magazine in his clothes closet.  I had shown the copies to friends of mine who laughed about the airbrushed perfectly-posed photos of women in their college-age years, like no girls we knew so they were more like impossible fantasies not worth thinking about.

Therefore, from age 11 to age 16 I was able to concentrate on my academic studies and extracurricular activities much more than many guys at school who had one steady girlfriend after another occupying their hours during/between classes and afterschool.

[Not that I was all that good at studying.  Instead of studying for exams in the afternoon, I often read science fiction books or took walks in the local woods and wrote in my journal while seated on a log at the top of the hill behind our house.]

In that time period of my early teens, I accomplished a few goals.  I completed my requirements for Eagle Scout at age 13.  Of my five years of weekly piano and baritone horn lessons, I probably practiced about one-fifth as much time, if not less, than the time I spent with my teachers.

When I was 16, a girl one year younger than me finally got through to me sexually, helping both of us discover that our bodies were good for more than marching on the football field and sitting in student desks.  Our relationship lasted maybe three months before the pressure for us to have sex, especially by her mother who was interested in my getting her daughter pregnant, was too strong for my…well, I wanted to say stoic but more like monastic lifestyle.

After we broke up, I was left feeling that a sexual relationship with a girl my age was just like my parents said: a big investment for so little payback.  However, I still had sexual desires and finally turned to a weekly habit of masturbation to refocus my attention on academics and journal writing.

If I had kept good records, the cycle of masturbation would be a good indicator of the stresses in my life, going from months between sessions to days or weeks and back to months.

I have been a paramour once but otherwise my dating skills and fear of venereal diseases have limited the number of women with whom I’ve had an intimate relationship — counting my wife, maybe three or four?

So, why am I writing about the subject of sexual feelings today?

Well, it’s to record this observation: I have recently lost the desire to masturbate.

I don’t know whether my age — 51 — or the circumstances of my life has determined the change.

I still think about women’s bodies as sexually attractive but it’s like my body no longer has the motivation to act on the desire.

I can still get it up, as they say, but playing with myself has gradually taken backseat to my writing over the last few months as a means of clearing my thoughts and associated stresses.

Is it the exercise of dancing and running, perhaps?

It may be.  I don’t know for sure but I can say that the act of walking/jogging/sprinting calms my thinking.

Dancing at first was so much sexual tension for me that my desire for sex drove my wife crazy (“I’m too tired” became such a recurring echo that I finally imagined her response without trying anymore) until I gave up associating physical contact with women as any hint for future sexual activity.

In fact, last night, just thinking about having to look into the face of a dance partner for two or three minutes was enough of a turnoff not to ask a woman to dance.

All of these thoughts have led me to today, when my wife and I went to the dance studio to practice a routine for a showcase taking place in less than two weeks.

Until today, the thought of dancing with my wife was equivalent to getting my teeth pulled but better her when there’s at least a small chance of sexual activity than with someone else I know nothing is going to happen between us after the dance is over.

I think the last lesson I had each with Abi and Jenn set the mood for today — there was no longer any sexual desire on my part for them as members of the opposite sex — they had become once-and-for-all simply like my sister, releasing me from all the old fears of playing the dating game that haunt and taunt the nerdy guy inside my thoughts.

My wife has looked at our financial balance sheet and decided we can no longer afford for me to take dance lessons after the showcase this month.  We have overextended our frugal budget which has added out-of-town dance competition weekends to our already-stretched fall budget for college football weekends.

Abi and Jenn enjoy teaching and I have enjoyed taking dance lessons from them, their attention toward me making me feel like the man my wife has not.

For them, I owe a debt I cannot repay — they have restored a confidence in me which has opened up my thoughts and allowed me to speak my mind, letting the bad thoughts flow onto this page and put the real me here, the empty vessel which has layered itself over the years with lacquered images of sophistication that from a distance is interesting but from up close is what it is — a cardboard illusion has been revealed.

As I force myself to practice this next two weeks, practicing or studying is a habit I’ve never had, using a minimum of talent and latent skills to skate through society, I have the rest of my life to examine, while evaluating the changes to me over the past two years.

The breath of fresh air that flowed across me the day Jenn sat next to me at the pavilion on the banks of the Tennessee River two summers ago has been more than I can ask for.

The wealth of exotic adventures that just a few months ago stepped onto the dance floor the evening that Abi appeared at Kinesthetic Cue Dance Club has been so overwhelming I’m not sure who I am anymore.

It’s like I’ve been two different people, the old me and the new me, the old one trying to assert its old habits in some sort of protective shield against the assertion of the new one.

To encounter two polyamorous women who’ve been willing to dance with me freely and as paid dance instructors, becoming friends rather than hoped-for lovers at the same time I’m passing into the sixth decade of my life has been a bit confusing, on top of the loss of the desire to masturbate, has really flipped me for a loop.

I’m not sure where my life is going, except toward death, of course.

My wife and I are within a few years of being able to fully retire, our bodies aging toward quiet comfort on the sofa in front of a TV and a computing platform (PC/tablet/smartphone/???), our house a hoarder’s dream falling apart at the seams.

Between now and retirement, I don’t know what will happen to me.  Or us.

I really enjoyed dancing when there was still a thought in me that I could become the Casanova or Don Juan that I never was — having had many girlfriends at once in the past but none in a physically-intimate relationship — experimenting with the “vertical expression of a horizontal desire,” as they say.

Now that dancing has turned into a chore, a means to put me in a showcase so Abi and Jenn can fulfill their with to make me a stronger leading dance partner, I have joined many a person who lost interest in dancing, looking forward to life after the showcase and returning to the observe-and-report guy safely ensconced in his limited dictionary, typing up his view, one of billions, of the vastly-unknown universe in which we live, entertaining himself one day at a time until he’s dead.

I am almost burnt out and there are only 13 days left for me to perfect the moves that’ll make Abi and Jenn look good on the dance floor trying to make me look good as a leader.

In times past, I would construct a sexual fantasy to overcome the burned-out feeling or fear of upcoming event, creating in my thoughts an imaginary lover, someone who does not exist in real life, about whom I would masturbate, hoping that there would be somewhere out there in the not-so-distant future a real lover who might bring that fantasy to life, if only I just make it through the next few days.  [Writing that last sentence and leaving it here for posterity is one of the most difficult things I’ve done but about the easiest to write — I’m going to avoid putting those words in the thoughts of a thinly-disguised character like “Lee” just to force the old me to see where the new me is going, trying to rid myself of passive-aggressive tendencies.]

It’s not fair to my wife, Abi and Jenn that the recent confusion of my sexual feelings is intermixed with the changes in my friendships with them.  Unfortunately, my magnanimity is limited.  In my thoughts, the separation of them as great people who’ve seen parts of the world I have not, and accomplished goals I could never dream of, from them as sexually-attractive women has not been easy, through no fault of their own.

Luckily, I am not one to act on my libido.

Soon, the showcase will be over and my interactions with Abi and Jenn as dance instructors will possibly cease.

I’ll move into the new phase of my life, more frugal as I get older, a domesticated animal tethered to this planet, his chances of exploring the stars left to the generations to come.

The flicker of light that briefly gave me hope will soon die out, my love of dancing dying with it, lost with my love for academic studies, piano playing, mowing lawns and masturbating that became habits for habits’ sake, their original intents lost.

Who is the new one?

I’m not quite sure yet.

Like many an aging person before me, the closer I get to my natural death the more likely I am to speak my thoughts regardless of how insensitive they may be stated at inappropriate times, no longer concerned with being nice or considerate of others’ feelings, like a dog tied up in a backyard, contently sleeping in the sun until someone steps into my personal space and stirs my innate territorial sense into barking in this blog.

For a while, Jenn and Abi helped me believe I might be a better person than I am but slowly I have let them see me as I see myself, unable to perpetuate the elaborate masquerade pasted hastily over a faded facade of a lost youth and meager adulthood.

At the end of this weekend, I realise it’s okay to be who I am, quietly contented with my lazy flaws rather than working hard at perfecting new habits of someone else I would always struggle to be.

I want to feel sad about this admission I may have to say goodbye to them not only as instructors as also as friends leading complicatedly-appealing polyamorous and mentally-attractive technological lives, but the more I get to know Abi and Jenn, the more I see I was luckier to have had them in my life than the other way around.  They gave me more and had more to give than I could ever give of myself.  They are far and above more honest about the way they treat people around them than I am.

I get to know people in order to write an entertaining diary entry disguised sometimes as an extended story-turned-novel, a spider trapping prey to be sucked dry and tossed aside unceremoniously.  They get to know people because they care.  You can tell me which kind of person benefits our species better!

I post these blog entries solely in the hope that someone who might take the time to read these can see a similarly flawed personality trait in him/herself and still have the personal desire to become a more caring person than I am.

As I overheard a coworker once say about me, “Well, if nothing else, Rick serves one purpose — as an example to others what not to be.”  Beware the wish to know what people say, let alone think, about you!

Yep, that’s me…an example to others…aren’t we all?

At 51, I return to the life of the after-school teenage tinkerer with a miserly budget playing with electronic components in his pretend laboratory, breadboarding test designs, soldering together haphazardly-constructed playthings for personal edification, using the Internet as my lab notebook while people his age with better social skills are playing God with our species and the inner solar system.

The universe is benign.  For that, most of all, I am thankful.  Good night.