The ‘AA’ From Another World

I do believe that I am the only person in the Western Hemisphere, if not the World who is haunted and terrified by an AA battery.

I must hurry to tell you this story, before they tell you that visiting hours are over and they bring my tray of medications.  Once I take these small multi-colored tablets, I tend to lose interest in telling people things.  I begin to lose interest in almost everything.  It’s then that I sleep.  I sleep deeply and that’s when certain dreams come, the dreams that are populated with batteries.

You see, it all began when my wife and I bought this house in the Adirondack Mountains.  At first we rented it out for most of the summer to help defray the costs of the renovations we were planning.  After several years, we grew tired of giving our home over to strangers, even at $1,200 a week.  Eventually, we retired from our jobs in New York City and moved to the house permanently.

But, it was back in 2000, when we purchased the home and property, that the troubles began.

I have always been interested in weather and it has been a hobby of mine to keep track of rainfall, dew points and temperature.  One of the first items I bought after we took ownership was to visit the nearest Radio Shack to buy an Indoor/Outdoor thermometer.  I found a place just above the kitchen sink where it fit snugly on the narrow sill.  I then ran the wire out to the rear deck and secured the sensor to a nice shady spot under the eaves.  I used a red push-pin that is still there…I think.

During the first year, I would glance and the reading and keep my wife up to date as to the outside temperature.  I never moved the small switch to “indoor”.  I was only curious of what the Adirondack seasons would be like.

The little unit became my friend and reliable source of the daily fluctuations of the micro-climate I had on my back deck.

After the second year, I began to think of having an AA spare ready for when the first one died.  AA’s seem to burn out like short birthday candles.  The ones in my little flashlights are always being changed.  My small AM/AM radio ate them like taco chips at a Mexican bar.

In the third year I pretty much forgot about the battery as I bustled around the house making minor repairs and painting railings.  The only time I had to deal with the thermometer was when I would clean the windows.  I recall being very careful about moving the sensor wire.

By the fourth year, I began to make brief comments to my wife about the battery that was still churning along, feeding me the daily readings.  I dug out the directions.  The unit scanned and updated the temperatures every five seconds, 24/7.

During the sixth year, I began to focus more attention on the little white unit and the AA inside.  How could it possibly be still running after six years?

It was during the seventh year that I began to have grave concerns as to what it was that was inside the unit.  Was this really a “normal” AA or something else entirely”.

When the battery continued to deliver for the eight year, I became convinced that it was no average battery as we know it.  I read an article in a UFO journal that described secret government energy sources that were being developed in top secret locations in the Arizona desert.  They were working on power storage units that would stayed charged for a century.  I also read that some of these experimental “power units” were smuggled out of the research facility and found their way into the marketplace.  Counterfeit “Energizer” labels were printed on them.  I knew this is what was sitting on my narrow window sill of my kitchen above the sink.

During the ninth year, I came down with a bad case of the “flu”.  Well, no matter what the so-called medical professionals were telling me, I absolutely knew that my sickness was caused by eminations from the weather units power source.  It was slowly poisoning me slowly but surely.  I began to understand items in the news more clearly now.  I now know that JFK didn’t really die in Parkland Hospital, he survived and was being kept alive in a now closed-off wing of that hospital.  The casket at Arlington was empty.  Secrets were being revealed to me for some reason.  I was chosen for something.

Half way through the tenth year, the little unit began to speak to me.  It started innocently at first.  I would be sitting at our breakfast bar and I would hear: “Forty-one degrees  Fahrenheit” it said to me, clearly but quietly.  Once it said “Sixteen degrees Celsius”.  I yelled back at it, saying I don’t understand metrics.  It never made that mistake again.  After that exchange, it would tell me things that were unrelated to weather.  “Put your money on George Clooney for the Best Actor”, it said to me one winter holiday when we were there.  Sure enough, Clooney walked away with the gold-plated statuette several months later.  “El Nino will be wicked this year,” it told me one evening.  So, I better not buy real estate in Florida, I answered. “Better not,” it replied.  Who do you like for the Series this year, the Yankees or Pittsburg?  It was then that I noticed my wife staring at me from the kitchen doorway.

In the eleventh year, it told me to keep my guns buried out by the stone wall.  President Obama is going to pass a law that will take all our guns away and then set up a police state.  Our children will be shipped off to re-education camps and turn them all into Socialists.  I learned when to hop over buried cables that carried messages to Washington from the Vatican.  I won’t even begin tell you what instructions I got from the little unit in case a gay couple move in next door.  Around that time, the buzzing in my head got worse and the voice was coming in with a lot of background static.  I solved that by fashioning an Aluminum helmet.  The reception got better when I, after months of experimentation, found that two pipe cleaners, mounted on my forehead and bent at right angles cleared up the signal strait away.  Two small balls of mylar taped to the end of the pipe cleaners made things even better.

By the twelfth year we had moved to the house full time.  Now I could listen and talk to the little unit all day and into the night.  Sometimes it didn’t speak any words, but the words came to me anyway.  I heard it’s voice in my dreams.  I began to have thoughts of taking a long vacation to the desert of Arizona.  I even spoke to my wife of a trip to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.  I knew all about Comet C/2011 L4 long before the popular press started running the story.  I started telling people what I had found out.  But no one believed me.  I think it was the clerk at the local Mobile station that made the first phone call.  My wife made the second.

Now, it’s the thirteenth year.  I know what I know and no one can take that away from me.  I am the holder of the Secrets.  The world will soon find out the truth…and I will then be worshipped as a genius and seer.

And, all this time the battery has never been replaced.  But only I know why.


Confessions of a Reluctant Portal

People either hate me or love me.  I wish they would decide and stop being so fickle.  People are so fickle.

I can’t help being what I am.

Well, maybe that isn’t totally true.  Perhaps I am paying for some long-forgotten sin or just ‘doing time’ while I wait for the cycle.  But, don’t think I haven’t entertained the idea, dare I say it, that I am actually being rewarded in this heaven for a good deed that no person on earth can recall?

People look at me and see a simple mail slot.  But, I am much more than that.

I can be a savior and allow a person’s day to be the happiest they’ve had in a year…or a decade.  Or, I can be bearer of the bleakest news.

As the savior, through me can pass the post card from a foreign land, a note from the girl (or guy) down the hall asking a favor…or a date, a tax return to help with the rent, an invitation to a party or a letter declaring everlasting love and forgiveness to the one who sits in a tatty chair and watches and waits for a signal from me that something is about to drop to the floor.

As the gate-keeper for sadder stuff, I can let slide a sympathy card, a Dear John letter, a post card from a missing child that says they will never come home again…”thanks, but no, I’m happy here in Mexico”, a notice of overdue rent, a summons, a shabby piece of junk mail, a phone bill, an electric bill or the newspaper that carries the obituary of one’s childhood sweetheart.

People fail to realize that I can see two worlds at once. On one side, I see the indifference of the letter-carriers as they amble down the hallway.  They might glance at the return address; holding up the hallway light, but only to smile, frown or simply shuffle through their fist-full of mail.  Looking inward, I can see the loneliness, grief, misery, the bottle and the gun on the table, and the chin of an unshaven man or the mascara stained cheeks of a bottle-blonde who put on too much lipstick on a Saturday night …again.  I may even be witness to a happy couple, she in a polka-dot dress and he in a stained white undershirt, playing a game of canasta on the kitchen table, two bottles of long-neck Pabst Blue Ribbon at their elbows.

I am also the revealer of dark secrets…as seen when a pencil pushes my lid up and a pair of wet panic stricken eyes peer through me to witness acts of betrayal and lust.

But always in the background is the faded gardenia wallpaper, a dresser with a yellowed doily and a vase of plastic flowers.  In the outside world of the hallway, a fresh coat of tan paint is added every year.  My door is slathered with a chocolate brown high gloss enamel. Someone, though, takes the time to apply gobs of Brasso to me and makes me shine, for awhile.  This inside room changes little over the year.  Same set, different cast.

So, what about my fate?  In another time I may have been fashioned into a knocker on a stately manor house, the brass knob of a bordello in Memphis, a germ-covered handle on a schoolroom full of frightened and sickly children.  This building will eventually fall or get razed and I’ll be recycled into something else entirely. A key maybe, or a tap-dancing cleat, or a hub nut on a New York City taxi.  One way or another I will exist indefinitely…unlike those whose lives play out on either side of me.

I just wish people would decide if they love me or hate me.

I’m just not used to swinging both ways.Image

I Never Met a Map I Didn’t Like

Maps, like wild and green-eyed Irish redheads, are irresistible. They have a magnetic ability to draw me closer to them…to look, to touch and to stand in awe at what they can reveal to you.  There are a zillion kinds of maps. This space and my time does not allow me to tally them for you.  Nautical charts with numbers and bearings scattered all over (along with the always beautiful compass rose), the odd spatial effect you get when you stare at a shaded topographic map and the artistry of a geologic maps color coded to the rocks age and stratum are just three humble examples that dwell in the world of maps.

I collect maps, maps of all kinds. I have city street guides of European cities, star charts, watershed maps…I could go on.  Mostly, though, I like topographic maps that describe the three dimensional land on a flat sheet of paper.  I venture into the wild areas for hiking and kayaking and without a topo I am lost, and not just metaphorically.  Anyone who wanders more than 200 yards away from their car in places like the Adirondack Mountains deserves to be given the bill for the helicopter search.

I love maps but lately I’ve been thinking that I love them too well and too much.  I have no more room to store them, rolled or folded. Every corner in my office has or will be the home for a map.  Maps and books are taking over my small creative space.  Like pods from the Mother Ship, they must reproduce when I’m not looking, because when I awake the next morning, more of them need to be filed away.  Maybe this is akin to some kind of addiction…there is the new map on my shelf but I don’t remember buying it.  

I get atlases so I can have many maps between two covers.  The trouble with that is that the new atlases are so large, so heavy, that if you fell asleep with one on your chest, it’s mass would cause you to cease breathing and you would die. I don’t want that to happen.  After all, how would it look in the obit page of the local daily: the ambulance crew found his body beneath a 72 pound copy of the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

So when I turn away from my maps, I pick up my Gibson guitar and strum “The Ballad of Gerardus Mercator.” And when my fretting fingers get sore, I’ll pick up my walking cane and wander around outside.  I might take that path I just noticed the other day.  

I just hope I don’t make a wrong turn because I left my map at home.