George Carlin’s Spirit [Repost]

Prompt: Do you have a favourite quote that you return to again and again?

trap-and-rabbit1

Yes, I do have a favourite quote, Daily Prompts, thank you for asking. There are actually a number of quotes that I refer to, in my little computer notebook, that inspire and challenge me.

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
—Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century scientist and philosopher, but his words strike me as hugely relevant now. Maybe they will always be relevant, as people continue to twist the truth to suit their own personal, political, or religious agenda— and the rest of us value truth so little that we give such people power.


When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you, but because in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for.

I keep forgetting about this one, when I have an interesting or difficult choice to make. I think it illustrates very well that harrowing decisions are not so harrowing after all, if we are honest with ourselves. Since we find honesty so elusive, this is a nice little hack.


To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.
—Oscar Wilde

…Speaking of honesty. Oscar Wilde’s wit is so beloved because there is such truth in it.


Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communication.
—Charlie Kaufman

To the people in the world who overshare: This one’s for you!


Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
—Albert Einstein

There’s nothing wrong with getting from A to B. It’s a valuable, efficient, and often necessary path, and I speak as someone whose view of the path is sometimes obscured. Imagination will take you everywhere, and I know that because I’ve been there. It’s really nice.


“Why is it the greatest champions of the white race always turn out to be the worst examples of it?”
—Jesse Custer, addressing the KKK, in Preacher, by Garth Ennis

Perfection. But why is that true?


The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?
—Chuang Tzu

I like to ponder this one while standing in line at the supermarket.


Life’s a bitch, then you die.
—Unknown

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that life is difficult and painful. Yet think about us, you and me— I’m in a warm house with plenty of water. I have frozen lasagna defrosting in the fridge. My doctor’s office is five minutes away, and always available to me. No one will come and chop me up in the middle of the night. Children in my neighbourhood do not carry arms. Your situation is probably much the same as mine. So we are the 1% of the global population, while for the majority the above statement is often absolute truth.

There should be no 1%, not locally, nationally, or globally. There should be no 99% who live and die in suffering, while I complain about Netflix.


May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.
—George Carlin

I feel George Carlin’s spirit is protecting me from evil when I sleep.


Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove.
—Ashleigh Brilliant

Don’t you hate when that happens?


  • Original post: January 27, 2016.
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Hoops

Prompt: School


Hello Wednesday,

Do you find sometimes that the most valuable lessons you learned were in primary and elementary school? I mean actual academics, not lessons about sharing and communication, since I’m not sure I learned anything of great value about life in any stage of school.

But addition and multiplication tables— all that repetition mostly stuck. And cursive handwriting— once out of fashion but now sneaking back into curricula— and all the practices hoops and lines, page after page.  It comes in handy— it’s like a kind of speedwriting when compared to printing, and is simpler and more personal than keyboarding. I’m not forgetting spelling and reading, though I think it’s often true that we learn our love of reading despite early school lessons, unless the methods and resources have changed. Have they?

I honestly don’t remember early school as a series of life lessons. I was already familiar with bullies of all ages. Sure, I had to share during recess, but I’d already learned that at home with three brothers and sisters, though it’s also one of the earliest playground lessons, if you don’t want to get beat up. The conning of teachers was an early learned skill; I used to play the “cute” card a lot as a wee girl, while not even knowing what “manipulation” meant. One thing that was drilled into me was obedience to authority, and that was a lesson that did not serve me well as I matured. It allowed me to abandon responsibilities, turn away from injustice, and accept the unacceptable.

School was never, sadly, a bright glorious light for me, even though as a typical young child I professed to “love” school and adore my teachers. It was a more a part of an inescapable routine, frequently boring, sometimes enlightening, less frequently stimulating and challenging. And of course, it kept us off the street, where we might get up to thieving and pillaging.

I think in general schools have changed for the better (at least in where I live), but I would like to know more. I have teacher friends— I suppose it’s time I hauled them in for an interrogation. I never learned how to interrogate in school… but neither did they.

On the topic of “school”, may I now present a few of my favourite cartoons loosely related?

cartoon summer vacation

cartoon math blackboard

cartoon teacher money


Peace, fuzz, and uniform hoops,

~~FP

Showtime

Prompt: Mirror


Dear Wednesday,

Novelists often have their protagonists gaze into a mirror and assess their sorry lives as a way to develop character and interest the reader. I don’t know anyone who actually lingers staring at themselves while pondering their existence— there’s too much else to consider: That hair, what happened? Is that a pore or a crater? When did my left eye shift so far down my cheek? Is that nose mine? Why does my smile look painful? …We might have a moment of sharp mortality when we see wrinkles canyoning across the face, but that is the most reflection I indulge in while reflecting on my reflection.

The purpose of a mirror is to paint a fine stroke of eyeliner or tame a shock of hair. We are too much inside our heads at other times to bruise our egos with life assessment and judgement.

And in the right hands, mirrors are the source of fun and pleasure, and so may I present a few of my favourite cartoons related to today’s prompt, “mirror”?

cool cat

bad dog

showtime


Peach and lug,

~~FP

Paint-by-Number

doberman hydrangea-Edit

“That looks like a paint-by-number my grandmother did,” said a man in a hat. He wore a grey raincoat and could be cast as a subway flasher, Envy thought, as he seemed the tiniest bit shifty.

“I can see how you might get that impression,” she said. She looked around for the server with the tray of white wine. Exhibit openings always attracted fresh new art aficionados, or at least those who could tolerate modern art and who liked free wine, which was ok with Envy as long as she got her fair share.

“This one is $670 though,” said the man, not taking his eyes off the small painting, which was a representation of two doberman pinschers in front of a blue hydrangea shrub.

“Framed,” said Envy.

“Does the frame cost $665?” asked the man.

Envy wondered where the featured artist, Francesco Brown, had wandered off to. He was a thoughtful and precise man, and could likely engage the man in the hat in a startling and enlightening conversation.

The pianist had started playing ragtime, which Envy detested at that particular moment as it clashed with her mood and, she felt, with the paintings on display. She signalled to Meghan, her assistant, who didn’t notice, as she was swiping at a blob of cream cheese which had dropped from a canapé onto her blouse.

“Francesco Brown,” said Envy to the man, who had turned his head to stare at her when she hadn’t responded, “paints in a somewhat primitive, two-dimensional style as a way of connecting with past sensibilities and in response to the current trend of what he calls multi-media ‘meddling’.”

“He does, does he?” said the man. He took his hands out of his pockets and Envy, in momentary panic, feared he would suddenly expose himself.

“He can explain his aesthetic better than I can. Why don’t I find him for you?” She looked around again for the tray of wine.

“Not necessary,” the man said quickly. “I’ll take it.”

“Take it?”

“I’ll buy it. This one. The dogs. It reminds me of my grandmother. She was the only one who never asked me why I collected sticks. Plus, it has a nice frame.”

Envy insisted the man in the hat meet the artist, who was charming and drew out from the man that his name was Edward, he lived in the neighbourhood, he had a dog named Cleo, he didn’t drink, and he preferred to pay by cash rather than a credit card, which made it awkward for Envy, who didn’t want to put the “sold” sticker on the picture until the money was safely in hand.

Edward didn’t seem to notice, or care, that there was no “sold” sticker on the painting of the Dobermans with Hydrangea. He said he would drop by the next morning with the cash and seemed confident the picture would be wrapped and ready to go.

But he did insist on a cup of coffee at the Starbucks next door after the event ended at nine pm. Envy agreed, and a coffee with a client was a good excuse to duck out and leave the closing up to Meghan, who hadn’t been much help at the exhibit otherwise.

They chatted briefly about the obvious topics: the exhibit (well-received), the artist (not as flaky as expected), the attendance (solid, including at least one arts writer from a small local paper), and the sales (satisfactory).

Then Edward said, sipping on his black coffee, “You are dying for a glass of wine.”

“Not drinking makes you an expert?” said Envy, a touch prickly.

“In a way, I guess so,” said Edward. “I always liked a drink after any kind of exhausting activity.”

“What kind of exhausting activity?”

“You know, like the end of a project, a speech, a big sale, lovemaking, anything emotional.”

“To be honest, I could murder one,” Envy admitted.

“I won’t keep you,” said Edward. “You just seemed interesting. Not like the women I usually meet.”

Envy stifled a yawn. That old line. She possibly got it more than most women, since she was, by any objective standard, not particularly attractive. She instinctively looked at her watch, then blushed at the inadvertent impoliteness.

“Sorry,” said Edward.

“No, I’m sorry,” said Envy. “I’m not bored, honest.” Not yet.

“Is that an engagement ring?” Edward asked, indicating the glittering tri-ruby ring on her left ring finger.

“It is,” said Envy with a sigh. “Though I don’t know if I am really engaged.”

“What’s the confusion?”

“I have the ring, but not sure if I want the marriage,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

“Because I’m safe, anonymous? I have a kind, trusting face?” suggested Edward.

For a flasher, thought Envy. But she found herself continuing, “We love each other, we do, we should get married.”

“But?”

“He thinks I’m not over my first marriage.”

“Oh. Are you?”

“Definitely, but not over the man,” Envy said. Yes, that was it. The worst combination of feelings for an engaged person ever: cynical about the institution of marriage and still clinging to the connection with the ex. Shit.

“Selfishly, I can’t help but think that puts me in third place at the very least.”

“Amazing, isn’t it, how someone who looks like me could have an interesting love life?” Envy said, much more harshly than she intended.

Edward gently set his coffee cup down and stood to his feet. “It’s been fun, Envy, but Cleo can’t walk herself, so I should run.”

Envy rigorously decided against being embarrassed or regretful, and held out her hand. “Thanks for the coffee, and see you tomorrow.”

“Right,” said Edward.

Whether he would show up at the gallery to pay for Dobermans with Hydrangea or hop the subway in his raincoat was anyone’s guess.

 

White Resigns

Prompt: Never

blue-choppermartineau

Dear Wednesday,

Smoke fills the air today as firefighters battle with a fire on the mountain side. At the moment they are concentrating on preventing the spread of the fire and letting the centre of it burn out— and that makes for billowing clouds of pale smoke that drifts and settles up and down the valley.

The roar of helicopter engines fills the air today as they dip down into lakes and then carry their cargo into the fog. I can’t help but feel this is putting out a bonfire with a teaspoon, but I trust they know what they are doing. The heat is scorching and the fire hops from perch to perch, jumping lines in its hunger for fuel.

Meanwhile we float on the lake, lazy spectators of a massive natural drama.

And I ponder today’s prompt, “never” by presenting a few of my favourite cartoons, which may or may not relate to the topic:

two-polar-bears

bigfoot

white resigns


Peace and love,

~~FP

Oasis

Romantic Couple at Sunset

Leep got himself a ferocious sunburn on his very first day at the resort, and subsequently had to wear thick lashings of sunscreen, a hat, and cover both his arms and legs to protect himself, even when he sought refuge in the shade under a tree or umbrella or beach canopy.

He regularly submerged himself in tub of cold water until his steaming skin warmed it to soup temperature, and took two extra-strength Advil every four hours as directed, to deal with the stinging pain of the burn. He lay in darkened rooms until the buoyant nausea subsided.

He watched the swimmers and boaters and fishers and wind-sailors with wistfulness and regret, even though he couldn’t swim and wouldn’t dream of paying $185 to frighten himself by wind sailing. And so he became an observer of others on vacation, not a vacationer himself.

There was the self-conscious newlywed couple, desperate to make romantic memories but curiously awkward and restrained; Felipe the activities director whose bright encouraging expressions dropped from his face in seconds when he turned his head away from the giddy group learning to line dance or build leis or use flippers. There was Alejandra, lean and muscular, who patrolled the pools and cafes and restaurants in a navy staff bikini and black pareo; the blonde sisters who took pains to befriend the staff and ignore the advances of other guests; the quiet man and woman who spent long days in the sun in silence and stillness, growing black; and the young family whose children were more dignified and well-mannered than their parents.

And Leep, anonymous in a wide rimmed straw hat, behind dark sunglasses, in long sleeves and grey cotton trousers that covered him to his ankles, distant and unapproachable.

Then, one day, he fell in love. He didn’t kid himself: love among the palms was a fantasy of Leep’s, at least it was since he researched and booked his ten days at a lushly landscaped all-inclusive tropical resort. There were photos online of couples laughing together in an azure pool, sipping exotic drinks in candlelit dining rooms, silhouetted by orange skies as they strolled hand in hand at twilight. He understood, of course he did, that these were marketing ploys, alluring and fantastical and unreal, but he fell under their spell nonetheless. The silhouette of the man could be Leep, why not? The woman could be a blonde sister, or Alejandra in a black pareo, or someone seated next to him at the fish and chip lunch, or someone he encountered not far from the resort, while sitting on a stool in deep cool shade, sipping Dos Equis and watching the beach vendors hawking their silver and leather.

Yes, there.

She was tall and too thin and wore a gauzy embroidered top cinched by a leather belt over jeans so faded as to be almost white in colour. Her leather sandals had loops that surrounded her big toes. She was dark, naturally, since she lived in constant sunshine, and her voice, though soft, betrayed too many years of smoking cigarettes.

“I quit in 1990,” she told Leep. “Cold turkey.” She spoke in short bursts like that, which Leep liked since they made his halting manner of speech seem almost normal.

“Another beer, Leep?” She took his empty glass and smiled at him with slightly raised eyebrows.

He’d already had his usual limit, two, but he smiled back, shrugged and nodded, and Lacey laughed and pulled another frosted green bottle from the little refrigerator with the glass doors.

Reggie was at the far end of the bar as he was every day, setting himself apart because the fragrant smoke from his pipe did not please everyone. He sat with his back to the beach, facing the tiny bar and the banyan tree behind that and the modest whitewashed hotel behind that. Soon Camille would roll out of bed and appear in her rumpled sundress and open weave cardigan sweater, ordering an orange juice, then and orange juice with vodka, then a vodka straight up.

Tourists strolling the beach might spot the small, shady, set-back oasis, but Leep knew it looked like a black hole from the sand, appealing only to someone like Leep, sweating under his hat and his shirt and with an eye for the black holes of the world.

Sometimes the curious would appear anyway, and perhaps have a drink with pineapple juice or slices of papaya which Lacey served up with a flourish, before setting off into the real world again. Reggie and Camille and Leep would fall silent for a while, as Lacey bantered with the fresh faces, and when they finally left Camille might pick up the story of her ex husband where she’d left off, or Leep would ask Lacey another question about her travels, or Reggie might say, “When did shoulder pads come back in style?”

Leep and Lacey, Reggie and Camille. They were a group. A gang. A comfortable clique. A casual club. An exclusive society of dark sitters, nectar sippers, easy idlers. Leep had never been a member of a group that welcomed him by choice, not ever. Among these people, Leep was a swaddled stranger, a mysterious man of few words, a kindred soul, a fellow traveller. He had never been happier in his life.

In the evenings, before bed, as he lingered in the tub of cold water he would dream about calling Mr Duffy and quitting his job, taking an inexpensive room at the whitewashed hotel, banging out his stories on a typewriter, sipping beer and sharing experiences with his group, his club. His friends. His woman.

Why not?

Days Like This [Repost]

Prompt: Switch

sheets-on-clothesline

Oh no.

Leep awoke slowly, but to the distinctive odor of his own body, warm sheets wrapped around him in knots, his head under the covers.

It was going to be one of those days.

Did anyone else have such days? He got out of bed, stripped off the sheets, took them to the back hallway and put them in the washer. He had only the one set of bedding at the moment, so he set the oven timer to remind him to transfer it to the dryer.

He had a quick shower: quick because the hot water was so pungent, minerally, and reeking of chemicals. Was it always like this?

The kitchen smelled of burnt bacon, lingering from two nights ago. Leep switched on the oven fan. There was a mechanical part loose inside the fan so it rattled ominously. He wouldn’t be able to tolerate coffee this morning, so he put the kettle on for tea. The kettle smelled salty, so he spent half an hour scrubbing hard water build-up before filling it with fresh water and plugging it in.

The fresh tomatoes were heaped in a cardboard flat on the counter. Their scent wafted over to where Leep hovered over the kettle and his teacup. Green and earthy, a pleasant smell, but combined with the burnt bacon, the hard water, the chicken skin in the kitchen garbage pail (he emptied it into the big garbage can out back), the smell in the kitchen was overwhelming.

Outside the air was sulphuric, so much so that Leep could almost see the yellowness of it. He held a cotton handkerchief over his mouth and nose and made his way to the car. He put the tomatoes in the back seat.

The sharp smell of evergreen assaulted Leep as he slid into the driver’s seat. There was a green cut-out fir tree dangling from the rear view mirror shaft, and Leep had no option but to yank it off and toss it out the window. He would clean it up later. Then there was the grease. Leep reached under the passenger seat and found an old hamburger wrapper. Sighing, he got out of the car, picked up the air freshener tree from the ground, and put them both in the garbage can before leaving for Beth’s house.

Leep got the flat of tomatoes from the back seat of his car and went around to the kitchen door of the house. He could see Beth, whom he called (to himself only) Lizzie, through the window, fiddling with something on the counter. He saw the shadow of someone leaving the kitchen. Her daughter, Deborah? He tapped on the door.

“Hello, Leep,” she said with a small smile, glancing behind her where the shadow had been.

“I was at Costco,” said Leep, setting the tomatoes down heavily on the kitchen table.

“Oh!” she said, with marginally more warmth. “What do I owe you?”

“No, no,” said Leep. And he suddenly noticed the smell in the room. It wasn’t Lizzie’s orange and gardenia perfume. It was a powerful scent that overrode anything else. The last time he breathed it in was late at night, on the street, with his gun drawn, hearing an insult so dire that his finger squeezed the trigger and someone crumpled to the ground. It was sweet and musky. To Leep it was a deeply unpleasant smell, but perhaps women liked it. Today, at this moment, it was overpowering.

Leep suppressed a shudder, but not enough to prevent him stammering. “I know you like, you know, tomatoes, you cook them, um—“

“Yes, thanks. I do freeze a lot of spaghetti sauce when tomatoes are in season.”

Which they weren’t, but at Costco Leep had put one of the tomatoes to his nose, and it smelled fresh and fruity. “These ones are ok, I think,” he said to Beth.

She looked to the back of the house again. “Yes, thank you, Leep.” Her breath smelled sour, of coffee. The pot she was making was not the first that Saturday morning.

“Who is he?” asked Leep, then immediately, “Sorry.” She waved her hand at him in dismissal, sending wafts of pear soap fumes.

Then, to Leep’s shock, she answered. “Just a friend from the cruise. Dropped by to say hello.”

“The cologne.” Leep said.

“I know,” said Beth.

He had to get outside. But when he stumbled out, the sulphur smell struck him again. He took his car to the 999 Car Wash. They scrubbed it inside and out. Then instead of evergreen and grease it smelled medicinal, which was intolerable too. Leep took the freshly laundered sheets out of the dryer and made up the bed. They smelled of linen, a blissfully neutral odor. He got a disposable surgical mask from the drawer in the bathroom, turned on the ceiling fan and the portable air purifier, and lay on the bed.

It might take a few hours, even until nightfall, but it had always gone away before. Did anyone else have days like this?