Robert Fulghum, author Robert Fulghum's official web site
Journal Mender of Destinies Books Artshow Plays About the Author
JOURNAL

THE SECRET

Keeping Score - Keeping Track

J.J., The War Chief of Adobe Walls

The Hanged Man

Confession

Always and Forever

Advent - A time of anticipation . . .

Kindling for the Fire - a sampling

Getting Away

Random Reflections



Finally, the English Edition!
Third Wish
A NOVEL IN FIVE PARTS

Order from Amazon

click here for the details
Robert Fulghum Speaking Engagements: Contact http://BrightSightGroup.com
Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff -- complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?
February 06, 2016

Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
The first week of February, 2016
Clear and cold – zero degrees last night.

There’s such a contrast between the poetic metaphor of the red Valentine heart,
and the real human organ.
One simple and red, the other complex and fleshy.
If you’re reading this, you have a heart – about the size of your fist - electrically driven – beating between 60 and 80 times in the minute it takes you to read the following story – beating 100,000 times a day, 3 billion times in a lifetime.
And beating a little faster if you’re around someone you’re in love with around Valentine’s Day.

THE SECRET – a short love story. . . .

This past week I toured what I think of as the Museum of the Season.
The color scheme of the museum – for two weeks only – is red, white, and pink – with white lace trimmings. 
Inside of most of the items on display, the color is chocolate brown.

This museum is the double-wide seasonal-supplies aisle of Moab’s City Market.
Christmas, with its theme of red and green and silver and gold is over and gone.
Now comes Valentine’s Day with red and pink and hearts and candy.
A week from now the pastel greens and pinks and yellows of Easter will appear.
With chickies and duckies and bunnies and candy eggs.

Rationally, these commercial displays are a study in contemporary anthropology.
Neither the State nor the Church mandate the seasonal offerings.
It’s a primitive part of an unconscious pulsing of human emotional activity, driven by customs associated with myth and the interims of time and space.

Curiosity motivates me to stroll down the City Market Museum of the Season, as the displays morph from holiday to holiday.
I’m not shopping to buy – just looking and looking at other people looking and wondering at the power of these cultural markers.

(Sorry. I’m blowing intellectual smoke. In truth, I was standing in front of shelves holding the biggest boxes of assorted chocolates. Immobilized by inner conflict.

“Nobody’s ever given you the giant box of assorted chocolate – and it’s not going to happen again this year. Go ahead. Get one. Love thyself. Nobody will know.”

“No, no, no. It’s bad for you. You’ll get a sugar-shock, be sick, bring on diabetes.
You came for salad-makings and milk. Move it!”

“Look, there’s a big box of chocolate-covered cherries floating in creamy goo!”

“NO! This is the down-hill slide into indolence and a fat belly NO!”

“YES. Life is short.-
Why make it shorter?
I want the candy.
You can’t have it!”wink

So, there I stood, wrestling with irrational childish desire and adult good sense – the clamoring voices of my Inner Committee all shouting at once.

A little girl – eight years old, I later learned – dressed in a seasonally appropriate red snow suit, red knitted cap, and pink rubber boots - walked up to me as I was being mentally slammed around in chocolate crisis.
“Mister, would you help me?”
“Sure. What can I do?”
“Way up there on the top shelf are some little boxes of chocolate – the red ones, shaped like a heart – would you hand one to me?”

She wanted the smallest of all the Valentine gift boxes.
Smaller than a hamburger bun.

“Here,” I said, “is this what you want?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Who is it for?”
“Oh, that’s a secret,” she said, flashing me a gap-toothed grin.

Just then her mother came along, pushing a full grocery cart.
(Catching me, a stranger, giving candy to her little girl.)
“I hope you don’t mind, she asked me to get the box of candy for her.”
“Thank you – no problem - I thought this is what she was up to when she disappeared when we were over in the frozen food aisle.”

“I thought she wanted the candy for herself, but when I asked her who it was for, she said it was a secret.”

The mother smiled and looked at her little girl with affection, as the child wandered away, examining the displays of Valentine goods.

“Do you know who is going to get the little box of candy?” I asked.

“No. It’s a secret she won’t share. This happened last year, too, and I thought the candy was for me or her father or her grandmother or a teacher at school.
She even paid for it herself.
But I never found out. The candy was in her room on her pillow until Valentine’s Day, and then it disappeared.
Nobody in the family got it, and her teacher said she didn’t get it or know who did. A mystery. When I asked her a couple of days later, she just said it was a secret, and we never spoke of it again.”

“So a year later she wants another box and it’s still a secret?” I asked.

“Yes. My husband and I think she has a crush on a boy – she’s very interested in boys - but we just don’t which one is getting the candy.”

“How old is she?”

“Eight.”

“Isn’t that a little young to fall so far in love?”

The mother laughed. “You’ve obviously never been an eight year old girl.”

I laughed. “No, but I know about secret love.”

The mother laughed again.
“So do I. And that’s why I go along with my daughter’s Valentine mystery – I respect her secret – and if what she’s doing makes her happy, then I’ll mind my own business. Even if it’s puppy love, it’s serious love for her.”

“Did she get anything special for Valentine’s from the object of her affection?”

“I asked her – she said, ‘Maybe, but that’s a secret, too.”

We laughed.

And I walked away thinking that there’s nothing more delicious than a secret love.
I suspect most people have had one .
I suspect many people have one even now, no matter how old they are.
A romantic feeling for someone – but not a feeling you want known by anyone .
And you wouldn’t want the consequences if the object of your affection knew.

It’s just enough for you to know – and to enjoy the special fluffy feeling you get when you are around the person who makes your heart beat a little faster.
Nothing heavy or serious – just light-hearted love.

I wonder about the other side of this story – about the little boy who has received the anonymous gift of a small heart-shaped box of candy two years in a row.
Does it please him to know he has a secret admirer?
It would certainly please me.
Especially if it involved a box of assorted chocolates.
Any size would do.

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 28, 2016

Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
The last week of January in 2016.
Full moon fading in the evening sky – five planets visible all-at-once before dawn.
And somewhere out there, an undiscovered planet may be orbiting the sun . . . .

KEEPING SCORE – KEEPING TRACK

First, here are two anecdotes too good to keep – but slightly off track from the main theme of the essay to follow – (or maybe not . . .)

Outside the City Market last week the local Animal Shelter Society set up a booth, with a sign proclaiming “DOG-ADOPTION DAY.”
Volunteers were standing by with their dog inventory.
Two middle-aged ladies stopped to consider the offerings.
One said, “I’ll go get my husband.”
The other lady asked, “Does Jack want a dog?”
“No, he’s the dog I have in mind. I’d like to put him up for adoption. I thought I’d donate him to the cause – tell them to neuter him while he’s there - he might make someone a good pet – he knows a lot of dog tricks already – how to shake hands, how to beg, and how to roll over and play dead.”

And as long as I’m talking about old dogs . . .

It’s breakfast time at the Moab Diner early on Monday morning in winter.
Four older guys in camouflage hunting clothes are in the next booth chowing down on eggs and sausage and hash-browns and toast, with black coffee on the side.
It’s not hunting season, but if you’re retired and hunting is your passion, you wear your camo year around so that other hunters will feel free to talk hunting with you.

Before I go on, you need to know that it’s “deer-dodging season” around Moab.
Herds of deer have been driven down into the valleys by the mountain snow.
Bored deer entertain themselves by standing around in the roadside bushes waiting for cars and trucks to come along so they can launch kamikaze attacks by bounding across the road in front of drivers.
It’s a bizarre sport - played by deranged deer on one side and anxious drivers on the other – with deadly results for both sometimes.
Every hunter has a deer-dodging story:

“Almost got my buck – an 8 pointer – just grazed his ass when he shot out in front of my car.”
“That’s nothing. Old Eddie actually hit two at one time with his dump truck up on the La Sal Mountain Road.”
“That’s nothing. The boys over at the Volunteer Fire Department claim they just about wiped out a whole herd on a 911 run up the valley – guess the siren sucked the brains out of the deer.”

I got up and walked around to their table and said:
“Well, that’s nothing. I got a deer with a baked potato.”
“No way!”
“Damn right – I carried a pan of hot foil-wrapped potatoes out onto the porch to cool off, and this big old doe marches right across in front of me and starts tearing the lid off the bin where I keep cracked corn in to feed to turkeys.
So I just grabbed a potato and hauled off and hit her broadside.”
“And then what happened?”

“She was so startled she tried to jump the retaining wall, lost her traction on the ice on the deck, and crashed into the wall.
BOOM – one deer down.”
“Did she break her neck – was she dead?”
“I thought so, but she lay there a while and then got up and staggered away .”
“Hell, we can’t top that . . .”

This is mostly a man thing, I guess.
Keeping score – playing “Can You Top This?” or “Mine is Better Than Yours.”
The same guys will talk miles-per-gallon of gas, blood pressure, weather, cholesterol numbers, how far it is to Salt Lake and how fast one can get there, team scores and standings, stock market numbers and on and on . . . .
It’s a data driven world.

(I don’t think I ever used the word “data” in the old days, except in a sentence like this: “I don’t wanna data girl who can’t dance.)

* * * *

(Now for the explanations of the photos on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)

Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the relentless digital data tsunami engulfing me that I shift to different sources of reference for time. I grow weary of keeping track of all the comparative bits of supposedly useful information that’s supposedly bring order and meaning to my life.
Enumeration does not equal contentment.

So I turn away from my smart phone and computer and clocks.
This week, for example, I’ve worn a Navajo Indian bracelet on my wrist – it’s a time piece – instead of a watch face, there’s a piece of turquoise that only reminds me of deep, long time – the formation of the stone over a gazillion years.

And worn alongside it is a compass – not an electronic GPS device – but a simple indication of direction driven by the magnetic forces of the Earth.
It reminds me that knowing what time it is doesn’t make much difference if you don’t know where you are or where you’re going or why.

* * * *

The collection of twigs gathered from the willows and apricot trees and cottonwoods along the road remind me that spring is already underway – the trees and bushes know – and they tell a time not subject to clocks.

* * * *

Likewise, the new growth on the orchid in my bathroom makes a statement about time. Orchids grow very slowly in their own good time. They teach me patience.

* * * *

The late night hooting of a Great Horned Owl from a tree down by the creek says he knows it’s time to mate again. The lady owls don’t hoot back – but they know where he is and what his message means: Come and Get It. The owl doesn’t wear a wrist watch, but something inside him tells him what time it is.

It’s a great year for owls, by the way – an explosion of the bunny rabbit population. But not a great year if you’re a bunny rabbit, I suppose.

* * * *

The nautilus shell points at another notion of time – the slow accretion of size and shape over time – like the compartments in my mind – and I often wonder if the nautilus knows it’s an existential reference to elegance and beauty – obeying the laws of complex geometry and the rule of the Golden Mean.

* * * *

The stone engraved with the words “Hati-Hati” on it is another time piece –
marking the long, slow process of stone formation, and then the long slow process of the stone being rolled and shaped. “Hati-Hati” is a word I brought back from Bali, where I saw it everywhere that something was under construction – meaning “Slowly-Slowly” – advice to take notice, take time, and be careful in one’s Way.

* * * *

Journal notes to myself about Time:

According to experimental psychologists, “the present moment” lasts about three seconds in most people’s minds.

Now never holds still. It is a moving point.

Time doesn’t pass – we do.
Time stays where it is – we move on.

Minutes were invented by the Babylonians.

There are 86,400 seconds in a day – 31,536, 000 seconds in a year – and, in an average life span 2.5x10 to the 9th power seconds.

There are no clocks on Zen Buddhist temples.
Just on Christian churches.

Enchanted time:
A year and a day . . .
Once upon a time . . .

How long is “Just a moment?”

If a cafe offers “Breakfast Any Time” – try ordering French Toast during the time of Napoleon.

“In the wink of an eye” is 300/1,000 of a second.

There’s a distinction between being In Time, On Time, and having Good Timing.

Some say I’m ahead of my time – maybe – about half an hour at most.

I get up every morning wanting time to change the world and wanting to have a hell of a good time. At times this makes planning my day complicated.

Time has the last word.

People don’t wear watches any more – they consult their cell phones or computers.
Watches have become bling – jewelry, but not tools.

What time do you have?
What time has you?

When told the reason for Daylight Saving time the old Indian said, “Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket." 

Phrases I notice myself frequently using:
Time and again . . .
In the meantime . . .
Time after time . . .
Time flies . . .
Time stood still . . .
Have a good time . . .

Can I really save Time?
Can I really spend Time?
Can I really waste Time?

Who know where the time goes?

How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on. ~Zall’s Second Law

The words to a song:
“A kiss is just a kiss – a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by . . .”

Enough.
That’s all the time I have . . . I’ve run out of time for this for Now.

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 19, 2016

JPack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
The third week of January in 2016
The weather cycle continues – cold, snow, clear, sun by day, stars by night, and then another round of cold and snow. Winter, for sure. I like it.

Here’s a brief response to interest and questions generated by last week’s reference to my novel, “If You Love Me Still, Will You Love Me Moving?”:
The sub-title is “Tales from the Century Ballroom.”

The Century exists and thrives – look it up on the web – (https://goo.gl/9AUcqz)
Even better, you could visit or even dance there any night of the week.
The novel is fiction, of course - a series of interactive stories with a cast of unique characters based on people I’ve actually met in the dance world. They also exist.

Though the framework of the novel is dance, its central theme concerns one’s desire to push through fear of change into realizing a dream, whatever it is.
It’s about the human desire to live a flourishing life – to try opening doors that are not locked, just closed in our minds.
“The Hanged Man” Tarot card is its talisman.

The novel has been successfully published in the Czech language, and a successful musical has been created from it – with an ongoing four-year run..
American publishers declined the novel. Not enough violence or terminal anguish.
Worse, the novel contains humor and several happy endings. Who wants that?
But laughter and a positive outcome are often features of real life, right?

You can download the whole novel – including the marvelous illustrative paintings of Willow Bader, or you can just open the file and read a while to see if the narrative and the characters draw you in. Look left and down and click in.
Come to the dance . . .

* * *

J.J., THE WAR CHIEF OF ADOBE WALLS

This is a story – containing far more truth than fiction.
It’s set in World Famous Woody’s Tavern in Moab, Utah.
A very real place – (https://goo.gl/8j0mdV)
The tavern opened 54 years ago, in 1962, during the uranium boom days.
It was described as a “hard-ass joint for hard-drinking men.”.
Miners, truckers, loggers, cowboys, mechanics, and mill workers.
“Hair on the walls , teeth in the toilets, booze at the bar, and drunks on the dance floor.” More of a classic western saloon than a roadhouse.

A toxic mix of testosterone and alcohol.
Lots of fights broke out inside the bar, and continued outside in the parking lot.
At least one murder, maybe more?
Not a place for nice people – many Moabites have never been inside Woody’s.
Even the cops wouldn’t venture in alone in the old days.

But that was then – and this is now.
Woody’s attracts a much younger crowd these days – popular with river runners, back packers, mountain climbers, bikers, and tourists looking for local color.
It’s got pool tables, weekend music for dancing, and sports television.
There’s even an ATM machine inside and Wi-Fi service for your phone.
It’s crowded in spring and summer and fall – inside, and out on the terrace.

But in winter – like now – it’s a quieter, easy-going place to be.
And some of the old-timers feel comfortable just going in for a beer.

That’s how I met an old geezer called Big Water Bob.
Gray-whiskered face, grubby oil-stained overalls, cowboy boots.
His baseball hat had his name embroidered on it: BIG WATER BOB.

He was the only man at the bar when I went in.
I sat down close enough to suggest I was open to bar small-talk, but not close enough to invade his personal space.

“What are you drinking, Big Water Bob?” I asked.
“Tap beer – don’t know what it’s called, but it’s cheap.”

Just then the TV over the bar showed the latest news, featuring the militant takeover of the wildlife refuge in central Oregon by right-wing renegades.

“In my time, I’ve known some of them boys like that,” said Bob.
“Bet you’ve got some stories,” I said.
“Buy me another beer and I’ll tell you about J.J., the War Chief of Adobe Walls.”
“How about a pitcher – we’ll split it?”
“You’re my man,” he said.
And we were off and running into story-land.

“Well . . . see, there was this guy – a Bohunk – his people came over from Bohemia and settled in west Texas. His name was pure Bohunk– Jacob Jacobosky – and he grew up totally obsessed with cowboys and Indians – especially Indians – because his part of Texas had been the land of the Comanches – the fiercest Indians of all.”

I said, “I grew up in Texas, too, you know, and I heard all about the Comanches, especially their legendary war chief, Quannah Parker, who was the half-breed son of a captured white girl.”

“There you go,” he said, “I don’t have to lay it all out for you, then. I suppose you know about the big Battle of Adobe Walls – in June of 1874 – Indians against Anglo buffalo hunters?”

“Sure – the Indians wanted to stop the slaughter of buffalo and drive the white men away from the great plains where they had always hunted for their livelihood.
If I remember correctly, Adobe Walls was a trading post way out back of the beyond in the Texas panhandle. We learned that in Texas History class in school.”

“That’s the story. Adobe Walls was abandoned after the big battle – mostly because the buffalo hunters put themselves out of business by killing off the buffalo. There’s nothing left out there now but some crumbling walls and a whole hell of a lot of wide open empty space.”

“What’s J.J., the War Chief of Adobe Walls got to do with the place?”

“Buy me another pitcher and I’ll tell you.”
“Done.”

“Well, then . . . Jacob Jacobosky grew up to be an oil-patch roustabout and a self-appointed amateur historian. He was obsessed with the past. He got into the Mountain Man cult and joined up with all those nuts who like to carry out reenactments of battles. Jacob’s part in the show was to dress up like an Indian warrior – feathered head-dress, bow and arrow, buckskin, face paint – the works. Not a drop of real Indian blood in his veins, mind you, but in his head he believed he was the reincarnation of an Indian. Said he felt Indian, thought Indian, so he must have been Indian in a former life. A Comanche Indian, to be exact.”

“Well . . . one day he visited the site of the Battle of Adobe Walls and got it in his head that the place ought to be given back to the Indians and the area replanted with buffalo. He collected a bunch of Indian-wannabes, gathered up a lot of supplies and weapons, and they went out to take over Adobe Walls.”

“Scared the shit out of three tourists, an archeologist, and the tour guide from the Panhandle Museum of History who were there when the Indians arrived. But Jacobosky and his Indians settled in, and proclaimed the site as Indian Territory.”

“J. J. and his Indians had a hell of a wild time for a couple of weeks – war dances, lots of drumming, bow-and-arrow contests, fooling around with a few white squaws who were up for some action. Fire-water and wookie weed were in good supply. They were trying to recreate the way the Indians lived once upon a time. Whoopee! Ha! – Old J.J. just went haywire and took his Indians with him.”

“Nothing happened for a while – nobody knew the Indians were there or really gave a good god-damn if they were. And then came the day when some tourists from Oklahoma showed up in a couple of big RV’s. Jacobosky and his Indians promptly shot up their vans with arrows to drive them away.”

“Well, you know what was bound to happen. The tourists went to the county sheriff, and the local newspaper got wind of the story – and in no time there were cops and reporters and TV cameras and all the rest of the media circus surrounding Adobe Walls. It was the most exciting event in Hutchinson County since oil was discovered in the 1920’s.”

“A whole caravan of real Comanche Indians came over from the reservation near Lawton, Oklahoma just to see what the hell was going on. The Indians, of course, had no claim on Adobe Walls, and there wasn’t anything out there that they or anybody else wanted – just empty, wind-blown nothing – no water, no trees, no oil, and no place for buffalo. The real Indians had a good laugh, took some pictures, and went back to their reservation.”

“All this attention put Adobe Walls on the map – but not for long. Everybody lost interest and went away except for Jacobosky and his Indians – and they didn’t last when the winter winds blasted down across the plains with a Blue Norther and nearly froze them to death. They scattered.
And Jacobosky was arrested – I forget the actual charge – but they locked him in the local jail in Stinnet, the County seat, until he could appear before the local judge for trial.”

“Now comes the screwball part: While this idiot was in jail, he filed a petition to have his name changed to Jacob Jacobosky Adobe Walls and insisted on being called that at his trial.”

“The judge had a sense of humor but no tolerance for fools. He offered to change Jacob’s name to Jackass Jerkoff Jacobosky, fined him $500, and banned him from ever setting foot on the Adobe Walls site again.”

“But old Jacobosky didn’t give up easy. He’s been calling himself J. J. Adobe Walls ever since. Me? I think the judge was on the money, and J. J. stands for Jackass Jerkoff. He was crazy – fun, but crazy.
He came out here to Moab for the uranium boom. Worked at the mill. He was actually in Woody’s a few times. Don’t know what became of him. You know they used to say that ‘the only good Indian is a dead Indian’ – and that could be written on J. J.’ tombstone.”

“How do you know about all this?”

“Ha - I was one of J.J.’s Indians – Chief Big Water. And if you want to know why, it’s because I piss like a horse.”

At that, he got up and headed for the men’s room down the hall.

While he was gone, the bartender asked if I had been told the Adobe Walls story.
“Yes, why?”
“The old bastard is lying through his false teeth, but that tall tale keeps people like you buying him beer. He’s been working that scam for years.”

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 14, 2016

Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
The second week of January in 2016
Still quite cold – down to zero on clear nights - with 18 inches of accumulated white stuff on the ground and more predicted tomorrow.
Alas, my snowman project failed – Utah mountain snow is just too dry.

THE HANGED MAN

You may have no interest in the Occult or psychic practices.
But I do, though I pride myself on trying to be a rational man.
It’s not that I believe in the paranormal, but because I find the ideas
provocative and instructive – as much as poetry and music often are.

The card called “The Hanged Man” recently turned up as the power card in three separate Tarot readings by three different psychics.
The card is misnamed, because the title suggests capital punishment, death, and crucifixion – but that’s really not the case..
It might better be named “Seeing the World Turned Upside Down.”

If you look carefully at the card you will see that the man is not hanging on a cross, but on a T-shaped structure made of living wood, with leaves sprouting from it.
He’s not hung by his neck, but suspended by one foot – like an acrobat.
He is not trapped by his position – he might easily get down on his own.
He is not in pain, but in a pose of ease.
He is smiling.
The halo does not mean divinity, but that his mind is intensely stimulated.
His quest for meaning is happening within him, not outside him.
He is seeing the world and himself from a radically different perspective.
The card, in the context of others in most readings, portrays life in suspension while it is being reconsidered.
As is my state of being as this New Year gets underway.

In Tarot this is a card of paradox – suggesting that the man must see everything in a new way – often opposite to what seemed to make sense when he was right-side-up.

“The Hanged Man” is at least a poetic sign pointing to new possibilities.

There is a chapter in my novel “If You Love Me Still, Will You Love me Moving?” describing an encounter between the main character and a psychic Tarot card reader.
The chapter contains more truth than fiction because it is an account of my own experience with Tarot card readers in Buenos Aires and Seattle.
In the story that follows, I’ve also incorporated my recent experiences with Tarot card readers in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.
The chapter from my novel best explains my relationship to Tarot.
Edited for brevity and focus, here it is:

* * *

The Context:
Aristos Joyce, an attorney, and a literal-minded skeptic, reluctantly goes to see a psychic reader at the insistence of a trusted friend. Aristos also possesses an open-minded curiosity, and is inclined to suspend judgment
until his rational mind and experience coincide.
The psychic reader begins the encounter:

“Yes, I do have an earned doctorate in psychology – University of Chicago – and yes, I have training and certification as a Jungian analyst. My continuation down that path led me to becoming a practicing psychic.”

“Well, I was just wondering . . .”

“Wondering is appropriate – always a good idea.
I’ll begin by asking a question. Your answer will give me a deeper sense of your presence and where we might go together.”

Aristos moved forward in his chair, alert and defensive.
As an attorney, he was accustomed to taking depositions – gathering information from participants in a law suit before trial - outside of the courtroom – as a way of discovering information pertaining to the case.
It was a one-way, adversarial process.
He was the inquirer – the investigator.
The objective was factual truth.
Now he found himself on the other side of the situation.
Is she going to depose me?
And is truth her objective?


“You may relax. This is not an exam – whatever you feel like answering will be acceptable and useful – to both me and you. I’m not your therapist, analyst or adversary.
I’m on your side.
I can be your guide into places you may have never traveled.
The journey really depends on you, not me.”

Oh, well, then, thought Aristos, as he sat back in his chair.

“Before I ask, perhaps I should tell you that the realm of the psychic is an alternative frame of reference for reality – a language of access.
No doubt you’re familiar, perhaps even comfortable, with dreams, coincidences, music, mathematics, languages other than English, poetry, quantum physics, theater, dance and religion. All are metaphors – each a finger pointing at the center of being human and alive.”

“Yes, of course.”

“So, then, you are already know about and are familiar with a number of ways of accessing and describing the many facets of existence.
Perhaps you will become open to my way. One path is the use of Tarot cards. They can open a door into a world of the spirits for those who trust them, and at least provide a new set of metaphors for those who are skeptical. Do you understand?”

“Yes. But I don’t know anything about Tarot.”

“Good. The test is not in the vehicle employed for transportation but in the journey it takes you on and the destination you achieve.”

“That makes sense to me.”

“Good, then let’s continue.
I’ll begin with what is not really one question, but more a line of questioning. You may decide how to answer and how much to say.
First, what most concerns you now? What area of your life would you most like to know more about . . . and what would you most like the cards to guide you in doing?”

Aristos sat silently.
The hard part – how much should I say?

He spoke softly, as in a confessional with a trusted priest.

“Well . . . I’m trying to learn to dance tango . . . but I don’t know if represents a short-term interest or . . . a more important, long-term commitment . . . is it just a dance . . . or a new way of going about my life? I’m not very good at it, but I seem to be determined to continue . . . and . . .

(Silence.)

And . . . I’m beginning a new creative endeavor . . .  trying to write a play . . . and I want to know if I should continue. Is this a dilettante’s affectation . . . or part of a career change . . . will I be successful . . . or should I give it up?

(Silence.)

And . . . I’m lonely . . . I wish I had a companion . . . someone to go home with after dancing . . . even a true love, whatever that means . . . and I’m confused about the possibilities . . . and I guess . . . that’s enough . . ."

He smiled sheepishly, surprised at how forthcoming he had been.

“Good. That’s strong material. Let’s consult the tarot.”

From a drawer in the table the psychic produced a deck of cards.

“Without any un-necessary explanation I will begin in a very simple fashion, shuffling this deck of Tarot cards, asking you to cut the deck several times, spreading them out face down on the table, and asking you to choose any five cards – leaving them face down.”

When that was done, she collected the five cards, and placed them face up, one at a time, on the table with three cards down the middle and two cards on either side of the middle.
She studied the cards intently.

“This card in the center is called The Hanged Man. It refers to your present situation and is an auspicious card in this central position.
The card on its left is called the Ace of Wands – it refers to past influences.
This card on the right of the middle is called the Page of Cups – it refers to the future.
The card at the bottom is called The World and it refers to reason.
And the top card is called The Chariot, referring to potential.”

“My mind is already swimming,” said Aristo.

“That’s understandable. It’s not necessary that you know a great deal about Tarot or know the meaning of each card.
It’s enough for you to know that I do.
Tarot has a long, long history and there’s an extensive body of literature about it. It can consume a lifetime, but that’s not required.
You may find you have an affinity for Tarot and study it yourself – even learn to consult the cards on your own. But for now, in this first time together perhaps it’s best that I simply tell you what I see in the cards – how the spirits speak to me. And you will judge for yourself.”

“Agreed.”

The psychic studied the cards again, sat back in her chair, closed her eyes, and placed her face in her hands.

(Silence.)

She took a deep breath, opened her eyes - looked intently at Aristos.

“The cards speak of paradox.
The answers to your questions will be found both within you, and in the world outside you. Connecting the two is essential.
The questions you ask mask the deeper questions you conceal.”

“Which are?”

“You want to know if others will find you acceptable if you don’t become a master at your chosen dance. Will your own pleasure in the dance suffice? Or is the approval of others your real desire?
You want to know if you fail as a playwright that someone you care deeply about will still admire you for trying. You fear competing with someone you love and respect.

(Silence.)

And most of all . . . you want to know if you are lovable – if you will be judged lovable by someone you want to love. You are afraid that if someone deeply knows you they will not love you. Or even want to.

In sum, despite being a success in the eyes of the world for many reasons, you fear failure and rejection . . . and thus you’ve rarely allowed yourself to fail at something important or taken big risks in endeavors outside what you think of as your strengths and abilities.
This is the present – the way things are – but the future is promising.”

Aristos looked down at the cards.

She pointed at the middle card. “The Hanged Man is the most important card there. Notice that the man is not suffering or being punished, he is simply hanging upside down in a relaxed pose. He is considering the world from a radically different position, suggesting that the way he has always perceived things may be unproductive, if not wrong.
The spread and location and meaning of the cards say that you have permission to change your point of view, and if you do, you will have affirmative answers to your questions.”

“Can you be any more specific?”

(Silence.)

“Dancing will be your Way, and you will dance as well as you desire.
You will continue dancing.”

(Silence.)

“Your viewing the world as a playwright will give you a useful place in the larger theater of the world.
You will continue writing your part in the play of that theater in whose repertory you already have a place.”

(Silence.)

“And the answer to your question of being lovable is not yours to give. It will be given by the person who seeks to love you.”

“Who? Someone I already know or haven’t met yet?”

“Someone you already know but have not really considered.”

The psychic sat back in her chair as if exhausted from her efforts.

After a few minutes of silence, she smiled, and looked at Aristos with eyebrows lifted, as if asking, Well?

“Wow! Amazing. You’d have to know a lot about me to say all that.
But, then I suppose that you really do know who I am.
My friend must have told you a great deal about me.”

“No. I’ve not talked with anyone about you. And I never talk with anyone about my clients – before or after I spend time with them. That’s a professional standard no less firm than one’s personal attorney holds.
You understand?”

“How did you know I’m a lawyer?”

“Are you not?”
Aristos smiled sheepishly again.
“Yes, I’m a lawyer – and acting it.”

“Is it not the case that part of your training and professional skill lies in the ability to read a jury, a witness or a judge? Are not some of your colleagues so competent at this that they seem almost . . . clairvoyant?”

“It’s an acquired skill – from long experience.”

“Or perhaps . . . they, too, have the gift?”

“Maybe. I guess good teachers and physicians are like, that too. They too, have a gift. I see what you’re getting at. And that’s how . . . you . . .”

“May I observe that you are moving the conversation away from your response to what the cards have spoken. Shall we leave it at that for now, or would you care to talk about your response?”

“You’re really good. You’re right. I’m avoiding talking about what you said because . . . I’m afraid . . . that I’ll get all emotional . . .
Afraid – there’s that word . . .
So I shifted into lawyer mode. And you nailed me.
The truth is that what you told me really shook me up . . . made me anxious . . . and excited . . . and . . . even . . . happy.”

Tears welled up in Aristos’ eyes.
He sat very still without speaking.

“Yes? And . . . so? “

“What you’ve said – what the cards suggest – confirm my real desires.  I want to . . . no, I will keep on dancing . . .
I will keep writing a play – from inside the theater, not outside.

And I will try . . . no, I will open myself to the possibility of being . . . lovable . . . and take the risk of someone else being the judge of that.”

“Do you have someone in mind?”

“Yes, you must know that.”

“Perhaps. But I will only open a door. It is said that Spanish is romantic - the language of love. Do you speak Spanish? Do you know a woman who is?”

Aristos laughed. “You are good! I’ll work on my Spanish.
It may come in handy with someone I would like to know . . .”

(Silence.)

The psychic rose from her chair.
“This is an appropriate place to pause – I hope you will come again.”

“You must know if I will or won’t.”

“I don’t predict the future. If I did and was good at it, I would play the stock market and go to the horse races with more confidence than I do.
No, I only said I hope you will come again.
We’ve only really begun . . . life goes on . . . things change . . . the cards always have something to say. You might want to know you better.”

* * *

There – that’s what I know about “The Hanged Man” and Tarot.
Make of it what you will.
If you want to read the whole novel, and find out what happened to Aristos Joyce, you may download it for free using the link on the left hand side of this web-journal page. (The novel, by the way, is the basis for a musical still running onstage in Prague.) And the description of the person of Tanya, the Psychic, which I edited out of this dialogue, is a unique character in her own right. And she is based on a very real person.

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story




January 08, 2016

Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
The second week of January in 2016
Still cold – with 18 inches of accumulated snow on the ground – and still snowing as I write now, with more promised overnight and in the coming week.
Building a snowman is in order!

Caveat – Imagine a blinking yellow caution light here:
Some ideas and language in the following essay may be offensive to some readers.
If you do read on, keep the mind-set of a fifteen-year old kid handy.
You’ll know when to use it . . .

CONFESSION

“When in doubt about a story, start with a man coming through a door with a gun in his hand.”
That’s the advice of Raymond Chandler, the great detective mystery writer.
With an opening like that he knew the reader would be hooked.

It’s probably also true that if a writer begins a story entitled “CONFESSION” by warning that some aspects of the following essay may be offensive to some readers, the readers will likely read on just to find out what might offend them.
So.. .
Here you are, this far in.
And here’s the story:

It begins with a naked man coming into the door of his bathroom shower with a plastic bottle of Pert Plus in his hand. The green goo in the bottle is a 2-in-l shampoo and conditioner combo for his hair.
The man, of course, is me – must be, because I saw my face in the mirror in passing and it looked familiar.

I am in a state of stumbling stupefaction, having had a restless night.
Moreover, I cannot see very well without my glasses, and I am also literally somewhat in the dark, relying only on the soft light or early dawn reflected from the snow outside the bathroom.
My habit is to get under the shower, get wet, and begin my bathing ritual by brushing my teeth.

Alas, I have still have Pert Plus in my hand - instead of Crest Complete.
Mindlessly, I squeeze the green goo onto my toothbrush and shove it into my mouth and begin brushing.
Surprise!
Full-on alarm to the engine room of my mind – What!.

Bleach – what the hell! – but it’s not poison - won’t kill me – might be good for the bristles of the toothbrush – and I’ll still have clean teeth, with a non-oily sheen.
My teeth will be manageable.

(Note: One of my mantras is that every negative situation contains opportunities.)

Granted that the taste was nasty - the results were fine – and I washed out my mouth and toothbrush with extra care – without swallowing anything.
No harm done.
When I turned on the light and read the information on the bottle, I was dumfounded by the list of unpronounceable components of Pert Plus.
And I took special note of two lines: “Not tested on animals.” – that’s good - and “Questions or comments – call this number 1-800-487-7273.”
OK. I’ll call them later: “Do you know what this green goo tastes like?”

Turning off the light, I went back to finish my morning ablutions.
And at that point, the Wonky Fool that sits on the Committee of my Mind rose up out of the back row. His voice is the one that gets me into mischief. The kind that often leaves me thinking, “I can’t believe I did that.”
But the Wonky Fool is also good in times of vexation. Whenever I lose my glasses or car keys, the Wonky Fool says “Don’t look in any obvious place, dummy – check the stupidest places first.” Bingo!

But I digress.
After brushing my teeth with Pert Plus, the Wonky Fool has a bright idea:
“Wonder what would happen if you washed your hair with Crest Complete?”
Well . . . It is a cleaning agent - It does contain whitener – And I do have white hair - It prevents cavities – and I do have a few holes in my head - and it smells like peppermint – and I like peppermint . . . so . . ..
“Go for it - What harm?” shouted the voice of the Wonky Fool.
So I did that.
Worked fine.

Still in this state of mind, I dried off and reached up to get my 4711 cologne off the shelf – but picked up a bottle of concentrated pinion pine oil by mistake.
The Wonky Fool charged in again: “Why not smell like a tree for a change?”
And so I dabbed it liberally around on my face and shoulders.

Later on in the morning, a friend stopped by to visit.
While I was helping him out of his overcoat, he sniffed the ambient air around us.
My breath smelled like shampoo – my hair smelled like toothpaste – the rest of me smelled like a pine tree – along with the smoky odor of my smoldering pipe.

“Jeezus, Fulghum! What the hell is that smell? Did you just cut a fart?”

Before the Rational Man could reply, The Wonky Fool butted in to answer.
“Tell him Yes!”
And I did.

An awesome silence.

“Jeezus, Fulghum, what the hell have you been eating? Are you sick?”

Well . . . actually . . . you may not believe this, but it happened.
I confessed the truth of my morning to him, as I have confessed to you.
He would have accepted the fart explanation more readily.
But it was a true confession.

* * *

Speaking of confession, I went to an early mass in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assis while in Santa Fe during the Christmas season.
And stayed on after the service – watching people who were lined up to for confession – paying attention to them before they went into the confessional, and again when they came out.
Not polite to be an ecclesiastical voyeur, I suppose, but I was discrete.

I’m not Roman Catholic but any religion and its rituals interest me.
I’ve never made a confession to a priest – Protestants don’t do that.
But I understand why that can be meaningful and useful to one’s well-being.
And since God often seems so far away and unimaginable, having one of his human representatives hear one’s confession makes psychological sense.

And there are lots of kinds of confession – to sin, crime, love, wrong-headedness.
Good for mental health – the relief of anxiety and guilt.
But you have to believe in the efficacy of confession, and I’m not sure I do.

I do know the form – “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been ______
since my last confession.” And then process follows - contrition, disclosure, absolution and penance.
I could give it a try.
(No, No - bad idea.)

Watching believers come and go from confession, I speculated on what their sins might be – mortal, the serious sins of commission, or venial, the sins of attitude and behavior toward others.
When they came out, they seemed relieved to be forgiven.
I envied them - I’d like to be forgiven someday for all my transgressions.
I find it hard enough to forgive myself – but if I knew God forgave me, I’d like knowing that.

I wondered what it must be like to be a priest.
I wondered if priests also go to confession. (They do.)

The wicked, mischievous voice of the Wonky Fool in the Committee was all for my sampling the confessional experience:
“Just make up something wild and weird – something a priest might never have heard.”
Like what?
“Tell him you’re having an unrequited love affair with your stuffed orangutan, Louise – and take Louise with you into the confessional.”
(No! Another bad idea.)

“Or tell the priest you have a compulsion to tell raunchy jokes.”
Such as?
“Tell him the one about the old guy who goes into the confessional and says he’s very been sleeping with two young, blond, vivacious twins. They’re at home waiting for him. And the priest asks the man how old he is. And the man says 90. And the priests says, I know you – aren’t you Jewish – why are you telling me this story. And the man says, “Oy, I’m telling everybody.”
(No! I’ll get thrown out of the confessional.)

“Yes, the priest will laugh – and then you tell him the follow-up joke. The next day the priest sees the old man in the park sitting on a bench, crying. The priest says I thought you were happy because you had two blonds waiting for you at home. And the old guy says, it’s true, but I forget where I live.”
No, I don’t think I should do that.
“But why shouldn’t you confess the foolishness that gets you into trouble?
Foolishness is not a sin.
“Well, maybe not, but at least it’s a handicap. And besides, the priest will have something new to share with his compatriots in the cloister.”

* * *

Sometimes I think I have the wrong metaphor for what goes on in my head.
I am not the Chairman of a Committee, but the Ringmaster of a combination three-ring Circus and Sideshow.
I am charged with keeping order in a conglomeration of acrobats, trained animals, freaks, and clowns, accompanied by a marching band.
It’s all me.
If you think I seem a little strange from the outside view, you should try living with what goes on inside.

The serious side of me – the intelligent, rational, wise adult voice – says that, upon reviewing this day and this story, that I have made an ass of myself again.

Well, so what?
There is a succinct “Ass Theory of Life.”
I found it last week on a greeting card in a store in Durango, Colorado
A profound perspective on being an ass:

“Life is all about asses.
You’re either covering it,
laughing it off,
kicking it,
kissing it,
busting it,
trying to get a piece of it
or behaving like one.”

There, that summarizes my confession to you.
I don’t think a priest would want to hear it, do you?

https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum

link to this story