The Moth

Moth

There are stories told around the world about a strange figure referred to as The Mothman.  These are compelling stories that are, it is claimed, substantiated by eye-witness accounts and news articles.  A Hollywood film was made about the Mothman, which starred Richard Gere.  It was a pretty good film.  Apparently, the figure of the (a) Mothman appears just prior to some kind of urban disaster.  It was chronicled that the thing, whatever it or he is, appeared before a major bridge collapse somewhere in the mid-south.  It’s visage has been reported in many locations.  Perhaps an Urban Legend?  Perhaps a Supernatural Event?  Anyway you look at it, it is a scary and slightly Apocalyptic event.

But, that’s not what this post is about.  If the Mothman interests you, Google it.  You won’t be disappointed.

No, the idea of this particular blog came to me as I sat, on this warm and partly cloudy afternoon, in our screened-in porch, staring at my next book project.  Some might say I was procrastinating.  Others, who know me better, will realize that I was lost in deep creative thought…the kind that has brought me such amazing financial success with my previous four books (all available on Amazon, by the way).

I let my mind drift for a nano-second from character arcs and chapter opening “hooks”.  That’s when I saw the Moth on the screen of our screened-in porch.  I don’t mention the screened-in porch simply to impress those of my readers that don’t have such a thing.  I mention it because it is an integral part of this post.

You see, I don’t like bugs very much.

I do understand that bugs (insects, if you wish) do play a really big part of life here in the North Country.  From the black flies, mosquitoes, gnats, spiders and house flies, the world of anyone living up here is ruled by these insects nine months out of the year.  They’re all part of the “Cycle of Life”, I get that.  I just don’t like them on my arm, neck or forehead.  Once we had lots of bats that kept the mosquito population down to a slightly manageable level.  Then the bats contracted something called “white nose disease” and the population spiked…downward.  You don’t have to be an entomologist to see that when that happens, the flying insect population rises.

Where did this “white nose disease” come from?  Well, anyone with half a brain and half an education can see that it’s part of the Global Warming Hoax perpetrated by NASA, NOAA, the Defense Department and Obama as part of a plan to take our guns away.  But that’s another blog.  Look for that story on my “other” blog site where I write under the pseudonym, “Skeeter”.

So, I’m here still staring at this moth, safely behind the screen.  You can see the screen if you look carefully at the photo.  Now, I know most species of moths are not venomous or leave infected welts the size of Canadian quarters on your shoulder…right where you can’t scratch it until it bleeds.

But it’s not just the moths.  I look against the screen of the kitchen window where a bright light is often burning until I retire an hour or two after midnight.  The things that cling to the outside of the screen defy description.  I have about four Peterson Field Guide To Insects Of The Northern Forest books.  I’ve tried to identify some of these “things” and I can’t find them in the book.  What are they?

Sometimes, late at night, I read by a LED lamp while in bed.  ALL the windows have screens in our house.  ALL the screens are tightly closed.  Yet, I find myself buzzed by strange bugs that resemble lightning bugs but they’re bigger…and they don’t blink.  I swat at them.  I flick at them.  Once one landed on the page I was reading.  I slammed the book shut and the next morning I found an unspeakable smudge, of a color I will not describe in mixed company, obliterating the word “destiny”.  At least that what I thought the word was.  I hadn’t even read that paragraph yet so I’m only guessing at what the word was.  I found you can’t use Windex to take bug residue off a printed page without making things worse.

But, it makes sense, doesn’t it?  It was the word “destiny”.  And this was Nature’s way of telling me what my future will be like if I stay in these North Woods.

It’s odd that we do everything to keep the crawling, biting, sucking and stinging creatures out of our home, but, when we go out into their home, the forest, they put their defenses as well.

I guess that one really has to love nature to be willing to spill your own blood over it.

Is This Really Happening?

JulyColorLeaves

It’s 5:01 pm on July 23.  Thirty-two days ago was the summer solstice.  It’s 64.9 F.

I’m standing on the back deck of our house at Rainbow Lake.  I’m chilled.  I have a thin blanket over my shoulders like a cheap superhero.  It’s one of those free “blanket” covers they give you on long distance flights.  (I didn’t take it without asking).  There is a cool breeze coming off the lake.  To my left, the leaves of the Aspen tree shake and flutter in the wind like each leaf is held to the branch by a gossamer thread, ready to break.

All around me I am seeing green.  I can see tiny slices of the lake water through the trees.  We’ve decided to not trim away the vegetation.  It’s cuts down on the view but is better for the ecology of the shoreline.

It’s July 23.

Seventy-two hours ago I was slowly walking down 5th Ave. in New York City.  The temperature was 95 F. and the humidity was at least 176%.  I couldn’t breathe.  I was just told I had a viral bronchitis thing going on.  Wrong place to be with a chest issue.  Ozone alerts were in the red.

My eye picks up something out of the ordinary in the mid-distance to the lake.  Something a mere four meters from where I stood on the deck.

I’m looking at a dozen or so maple leaves that have turned red.

Is this really happening?

I just put the snow shovel on a nail in the garage only several weeks ago.  I just swept away the spider webs from our kayaks and took them to the dock.  And yet, I’m looking at a harbinger of autumn.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love autumn.  I love the scarlets, yellows and reds…and the cool, bug free weather.  But…

It’s July 23.

I don’t even know where my swimming shorts are stored, but I never lost sight of my green fleece vest.  I’m not wearing it now.  It’s in the laundry after eleven months of constant wear.  I thought it was time for a wash.

Is this maple tree a genetic mutation?  Did lightning strike it while we were away?  Is someone playing sick joke on me?

I’m leaving the deck now and going back to my Rand McNally Atlas.  I’ll flip to Florida.  I’ll put my finger on Fort Meyer.  I’ll bet the maples haven’t begun to turn red there…yet.

After all, it’s July 23.

 

After The Party

MacysMorning1

I wasn’t that hungry to begin with.

Blame it on the oppressive heat and humidity in the city that evening.  Blame it on the seven block walk to our favorite Ramen place on 28th Street.  Or, best of all, blame it on the viral bronchial whatever I pick up in late June.  I just didn’t feel like eating, but we went anyway.  I coughed all the way to dinner and all the way back.  I coughed at night, all through the day and in the morning…especially in the morning.  I’m coughing as I write this.

I felt like I was burning up with a fever, but the thermometer kept reporting I was hovering around 98.2.  That’s a raging fever in my book, for me.  My “normal” body temperature is 97.7.

Funny thing, our thermometer.  I ordered it to reveal my real fever…I yelled and cursed the little plastic thing into telling the truth.

“Please,” I begged, “justify my misery.”

We walked back to our hotel after I forced half a bowl of Japanese Pork Fried Rice.  As we approached Herald Square, we encountered a thousand partiers filling the small wedge of a park in front of JCP and Macy’s.  We had to cross the street.  To me it seemed all the sweating young women and men were wearing some kind of green glowing headbands and waving radioactive plastic wands.

I thought I was having an LSD flashback, until I remembered that I never took LSD.

Mariam said: “Oh, so New York and so good to be young.”

I said: “I want to go home and lay down.”

[I just turned 68, you know.  All those “chicks” who bothered to glance my way probably had that nagging, guilty feeling that they should make that call to grandpa they’ve been putting off.]

I made a few moves on my ongoing Scrabble games and I tried to read the book I had hauled along.  Buy I couldn’t keep my eye lids open.  I took a hit from my bottle of Robitussin and fell immediately fell asleep.  Mariam had to turn my reading light off.

Then, for the second morning, I woke gagging and coughing.  I was coughing up phlegm that had the color of certain appetizers you get at most Mexican restaurants.  It alarmed me to think that something so vulgar could reside inside my body…especially so near my mouth.

It was 5:16 am.  I was determined that my hacking and gagging was not going to keep Mariam from sleeping in a little that morning.

I got dressed.  I was going over to Herald Square and find a bench and read (and cough) and not disturb my wife.  She was awake, of course, and begged me not to go because she said it was not a safe thing to do.  I pulled back the shade and looked down to Broadway.  People were moving about.  Getting Starbucks.  Buying the Times.  Going to work.

I told her I would leave my iPhone on and that I’d be “right down there”.  I was gone before she could say anymore.

When I got to Herald Square, I found the park where I planned to find the shade and quiet to read, was gated and locked for the night.  I walked over to the public space in front of Macy’s Main entrance.  Here is where the Rockettes kicked their legs on Thanksgiving.  This is where the parade ended.  This was where Matt Lauer sits and describes the floats of Mickey Mouse and Bart Simpson.  This is where the high school marching bands would do their last rendition of “New York, New York”.  This was the culmination of a year of fund-raising at Council Bluffs, Iowa.  These kids would never forget their day in the parade.

But, I digress.

All the partying Yuppies were gone.  They had left the streets littered with the leftovers of their fun and were now fast asleep in shared apartments in Chelsea, Astoria or Bay Ridge.

I found a small metal table and chair in the shade of the rising sun.  It was going to be as hot as hades that day.  I looked around and then opened my book.  I read a few lines.  I closed the book and looked around again.

My focus had changed.  I was not seeing empty cans on the pavement.  I was seeing the real leftovers of the night.  The place was littered with sleeping people.  The homeless had pulled the cheap metal chairs together and were sleeping the light sleep that requires you to be aware of any danger…

A woman was bent over a table.  Who was she?  There was a big guy taking up three chairs.  Was he a father?

I looked at a family of tourists strolling past Macy’s, the parent’s intent on keeping the children from seeing the sleeping homeless.  I thought of the glamour and styles and perfumes and jewelry that were just beyond the plate-glass window.

Soon, the crews would arrive to hose down the streets and make the place sparkle for the tourists.  The police have already poked at a few of the sleepers.  Where would they go?

I sat for two hours until I felt Mariam had rested before I walked back to the hotel.

I had an air-conditioned room and a clean bed to nap on.

The people I left behind had no place to relieve themselves.

When I watch the next Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade…I’ll be thankful, you can be sure of that.  The images of those lost and forgotten people will stay with me for a very long time.

MacysMorning2

 

 

Bryant Park On A July Afternoon

patrickjegan

LawnBryantPark

I remember a time, back in the 1970’s and ’80’s when Bryant Park was a certain kind of place for a certain kind of person.

I was not one of those people.

There was a public restroom…a small stone building on 42nd Street.  If you entered to use the urinal, in the day, in the afternoon and especially after dark, it could cost you your wallet, or worse.  Anywhere around the park, if you were so inclined, you could purchase a vial of crack, a needle, a joint, smack, coke or a woman.  All very affordable.

It was a creepy place and when I needed to get to nearby Grand Central Station to catch a late train back to Connecticut, I usually crossed the street.  But there were temptations there as well.  The girlie-peep shows weren’t limited to Times Square.  There were a few scattered along 42nd St. all the…

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Bryant Park On A July Afternoon

LawnBryantPark

I remember a time, back in the 1970’s and ’80’s when Bryant Park was a certain kind of place for a certain kind of person.

I was not one of those people.

There was a public restroom…a small stone building on 42nd Street.  If you entered to use the urinal, in the day, in the afternoon and especially after dark, it could cost you your wallet, or worse.  Anywhere around the park, if you were so inclined, you could purchase a vial of crack, a needle, a joint, smack, coke or a woman.  All very affordable.

It was a creepy place and when I needed to get to nearby Grand Central Station to catch a late train back to Connecticut, I usually crossed the street.  But there were temptations there as well.  The girlie-peep shows weren’t limited to Times Square.  There were a few scattered along 42nd St. all the way to the dismal dark and dangerous lower levels of the train station.

Things change.

I took an afternoon stroll through the park a week ago on a warm Saturday afternoon.  The atmosphere and the park had done a complete 180 degree turn.  The lawn was full of people soaking up the sun.  A nearby carousel, with twelve animals to ride.  It was tucked off to the side near 40th St.  The kids clung to their parents as the ride rotated to the music of an organ, up and down, sitting on such creatures as horses, a rabbit, and a rather creepy frog.

CarouselBryantFrog

A walk across the lawn was hot and very humid.  Thick grass puts out a great amount of moisture.  I rested at one of the plentiful small metal chairs.  I thought how much better the entire place seemed.  On Monday nights they show free movies on the lawn. (In the winter, the lawn is a skating rink).

I looked at the sycamore trees.  Strange trees with bark that was mottled and patchy.  The rows of planted trees seemed to all lean toward the lawn, toward the people, protective and guarding us from the riot of the city just outside the green boundaries.

Sitting in the middle (actually, off to one side where the shade was dense), I thought of how Bryant Park stood up against the other Manhattan parks.  Central Park is huge, complex and has as many micro-environments as small country.  Bryant was small, concise, intense, crowded and yet, still a haven.  Union Square Park had little grass, as did Madison Square.  Washington Square had fenced off mini-lawns that grew short grass just five feet above hundreds of decaying bodies that are still buried there…Yellow Fever victims…all wrapped in a particular colored shroud.  I forgot the color but I always think of the dead beneath the Great Arch.

From the 50th floor of the Grace Building on 42nd St., looking down at Bryant Park would be like examining a rare postage stamp.  At one end, on 5th Ave. was the bulk of the N. Y. Public Library where I can sometimes be found on rainy days, writing stuff like this or working on the Great American Novel.  It’s a great place to dream.  Behind the library is a comfortable place to have  cold glass of white wine or a chilled beer.

It all reminded me of the Garden of Luxemburg in Paris, only much smaller.  But the spirit was there.  Large vases of flowers and places to sit and write, read or think.

As I sat and sipped my drink, I looked across the park toward Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave.).

I sit and look at the people around me.  I can’t just sneak a photo and move on…it’s not my nature.  I have to know their life story, their pains and sorrows and reasons to laugh.  I need to invent a life for the human being I’m looking at.  I’m not invading their privacy.  All this happens in my mind only…and then shared in places like this post.  It’s fiction…probably.

I see a woman intently reading a book.  Is she reading Proust?  Grisham?  Me?  Perhaps she’s found a leaked copy of  “50 Shades”, Part XII.  It doesn’t matter.  Maybe its the Bible or the Book of Mormon?  It doesn’t matter.  She’s absorbed in someones world, maybe escaping her own.

WomanReadingBryantPark

Near me is an old woman knitting.  She’s bent and aged.  I imagine that her hand has the muscle memory to flick and work the needles without a thought of a knit or purl or a dropped stitch.  Is she thinking of her sister, back in the apartment, and is she wondering when the fever will break?  Is she think about dinner tonight?  Or, is she think about how she broke a heart in 1951?  Maybe her will to be happy left her after what happened in 1962?  Maybe she’s praying for the lost soul of her daughter? Granddaughter?  Is she still missing her father who never came home from a war?  She looks lonely among the crowds.  She seems oblivious to the crowds.

KnittingLadyBryant

I can create an entire life for any individual I find myself sitting next to.  But, I know that whatever worlds I build for a person, their own reality, their own life is infinitely more interesting.  Because it’s real.

I recalled a time when I sat at the far corner of Bryant Park with a high school friend of mine.  We were talking of the years gone by.  Then, without warning, she turned to me and told me that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I think she cried on my shoulder.

I was a man without words.  What do you do?  You say how sorry you are?  You hug?  You hope?

That was almost fifteen years ago.  She’s a survivor.

Aren’t we all survivors, to a point?  Don’t green spaces of all sizes refuel our needs?

I felt the urge to use the restroom.  This time, I had to edge my way past a large vase of fresh flowers as I made my way to the squeaky clean urinal.  Years ago, I would have tried to do the deed with one hand on my wallet.

This time, I just relieved myself to piped-in music coming from small speakers in the corners.

I think it was Vivaldi or maybe Scarlatti.

Things change.

 

It Was 28 Years Ago Today: Changing Views

BrianB&WwithNancy

I saw him when he was born.  I watched and began to wonder…even back then.  I thought about what I had seen.  I went to the Delivery Room window, looked out over the parking lot… and wept.

Taken in the long view of human life, I had just witnessed something most men have been kept from seeing…an actual birth.  But, there he was, wet and gooey.  When he could focus, it was on his mom’s face…her eyes…her expressions.  Soon he discovered there was another person in his field of view, his father.

He would look at me, straight into my eyes.

Then as he got older his view still was on his mother and me, but he was seeing other things, other people come and go into his field of vision.

I had already raised a daughter, Erin, and I was fully aware of the passage of time.  As an old song goes: “Turn around, and she one…turn around and she’s two…turn around and she a young woman going out of the door…”

I was determined to have these early memories of him cling to me like pollen in May, like sap on a pine.  I wanted to have it all just slow down or stop or encase it like an insect in Miocene amber.

But there are rules of nature you cannot alter: The flow of time is Rule #1 Nothing to be done here…just enjoy the moment as it is.  You can’t stop the flow of a river by pushing your hands against the current.  You can’t stop the rain by pushing back at the raindrops.

Soon the moments became months and then the years began to add up.  Rites of passage occurred…he turned eighteen and began driving.  He turned twenty-one without major mishaps. (That I know of).

He wasn’t running to his daddy with a broken tail reflector from his bike anymore.  He was discussing fine wines with his girlfriend, Kristin.

BrianKristen

His view points were changing, not about politics but about how he chose to spend time and places he travelled.  I found out he was in Jacksonville, Florida about a year ago when I first saw a photo of him dancing on a table at the local Hooters!

“Dad, can I go to Hooter’s and dance on the table?” never once left his lips.

So, a young man slowly turns from the comfortable and familiar and begins to find his way in the strange and unknown world.  I would have not have it any other way.  This is life.  This is growth.  This is maturity.  This is growing up.

He joins Mariam and I for a brief trip to Ireland.  It’s his first European stamp on his passport.  We’re driving the Burren, a place of desolate and austere limestone landscapes in the west country.  We pause to take some pictures.  He wanders toward the cliff edge.

I snap a photo of him gazing out over Galway Bay.  I don’t know what he’s thinking about.

But he’s looking away from me and into a future that belongs only to him.

I would have it no other way.  I hope as he grows older, he stands by uncountable cliffs over unnamed bays and thinks of life from the viewpoint of his own eyes and ears and imagination.

BrianGalwayBay

 

My Dreams Are Made Of Iron And Steel

GoyaNightmare

I don’t dream the way I did in past years.  I miss that because those nighttime adventures were something to behold.  The visions of H. P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker and Steven Spielberg were mere cartoons when compared to the places I would go in the hours beyond midnight…when REM sleep was most active.

Very rarely do I wake in the morning with the words, “Holy Crap” on my lips and the burning desire to tell my wife what just happened inside my brain.  But, I found I couldn’t put my dreams into words that could come close to describe the worlds I wandered in while my eyes were closed and reality didn’t exist..for those moments.

Some people claim they don’t dream, but scientists find that nearly everyone does…they just don’t remember anything.  I still remember, in vivid detail, the landscapes of the night that I found myself wandering in sixty years ago.

Some of those after images are a delight to recall…but many are places I never want to revisit.

When I was a little boy, I had a great deal of trouble falling asleep.  I still do.  But, my dreams as a child were not of lambs jumping fences or riding across the prairie, bareback, on “Old Paint”.  No, I had odd dreams of odd objects that would sometimes chase me or kill someone I loved.  We had a long hallway in our house.  I had this one frequent dream that a giant ball was rolling down the hallway and if I didn’t move, I would be crushed.

I always moved.

There was a dream (?) I had in my youth that went like this: My brother, Chris and I were walking through the woods of Beecher Hill when we pushed through the trees and found ourselves in Evergreen Cemetery.  I remember being terrified enough that Chris had to carry me like a baby until we made it through to the front gates.  The odd thing about this, is that I’m not totally sure it didn’t really happen.

As a teenager, I began to have dreams that were intensely erotic.  Most males (if not all) go through this.  As I moved into adulthood, the nature of the eroticism changed, but it still left me with sweat on my forehead in the morning.  The females in these dreams were people who I knew, sometimes.  But, more than once, these beings were goddesses, sirens and dreamy forms of feminine beauty.  Alas, these kinds of dreams rarely visit me.  Perhaps its my mind’s way of giving me a visual demonstration of my lowering hormone levels that come with aging.

Too bad, I had some good times with some naughty ladies of the night.

FairyOnCresentMoon

But often, too often, my night-time travels would take me to dark and desolate places where death sat in old wing-back chairs, layered in dust.  That image comes from a monumental dream I had in the 1970’s or ’80’s.  I found myself on the edge of a city.  I needed to pass through to the other side of town…but to do so, I had to walk through an immense cemetery…a necropolis…a stone city of mausoleums and crypts.  In these large houses, I would encounter the dead positioned in the manner of their lives.  I recall a table of gamblers, covered in cobwebs and dust.

I hesitate to describe what the rest of my trip to the far side of the city was like.  Just know it wasn’t pleasant, but it was memorable.

DarkSpookyWoods

When I went to live in England for a year in 1984, I knew I was only going to see my daughter at the Christmas holidays when she would fly over with my mother, brother and niece.  I had numerous dreams about her being in mortal danger.  Once, I was caught in a basement of a store in Owego, NY when tornadoes struck.  I looked out the windows and they appeared like black vipers, twisting and hissing and snapping at everything.  But my daughter was back at my home on Front Street.  I had to get to her and rescue her.  When I finally made it to the back door of our house I went into the kitchen and found her sitting on a stool crying.  Once, in an Owego that really wasn’t Owego, I stood and watched her being crushed by a flying Brontosaurus.

Now, that’s strange stuff, but the images are still with me.

When I moved away from New York City in 2011, I had frequent dreams of being lost in a Manhattan that didn’t look at all like the real place.  And I had these dreams over and over…so many times that I knew which subway I needed to take to get home…a home that wasn’t my home and in a city that existed only in my mind.

Well before I retired from teaching, I began to have the “teacher’s nightmare”.  It’s quite common.  I’ve spoken to a number of educators and they all say that when they dream about teaching, it’s always the same.  With me, I can’t find my class, I’m lost in the school, I’m on a field trip and something happens and I know I’m responsible for those kids.

It fills your school holidays with anxiety.  There’s no rest from a group of 5th graders.

But, the oddest thing about my dreams is that I rarely dream about the most important people in my life.  My wife shows up once in a while.  When my older brother Chris, died in 1995, I had only a few dreams about him…and in those dreams, he was almost always standing in the yard or in the room and not saying a word.  Silently, he watches.

I went through a period of intense nightmares…ones that would have me sit up in bed and scream.  Often, these involved someone or something coming toward me with a noose or a gun.  The threat was immediate.

RedonFace

Not at all like the one dream my brother, Denny, told me he had in the early 1960’s.  His nightmare was that he was being chased down Main Street in Owego, by Nikita Khrushchev who was shaking an axe at him.

No wonder he turned out to be a Republican.

But, I feel now that the nights of my truly fantastic, sometimes morbid dreams, of flying, falling toward the ocean or swimming with a mermaid are drawing to a close.

Maybe I’m all dreamed out.  Maybe the incredible visuals I experienced are spent.

Sleep, when it does come to me, is getting boring.

Ship&Moon

[Note: The title is a line from Bob Dylan’s Never Say Goodbye.  Appropriate.]