Category Archives: nonfiction

When Things Got Too Weird For Ripley (Believe It Or Not)

hiroshima & nagasaki survivor

When Things Got Too Weird For Ripley (Believe It Or Not)

Notwithstanding the fact that he still received more letters every year than anyone on earth, including Santa Claus (Believe It Or Not), his sinking fits of despair started to occur with frightening regularity, after the war. On his way to the far East, for the first time since Pearl Harbor Day, he stood on the naked, turkey-breast hull of the sunken battleship Arizona, looking down at his own well-shod feet as though the rolled steel were transparent. He could see the innocently disarrayed skeletons of the young men entombed inside (Believe It Or Not). His full, delicate lips, firmly closed, covering his distinctive, protruding teeth. He was speechless for the first time, in fifty-odd years.

Oddly, he couldn’t take his mind off his Tibetan skull-bowl, back home. He felt the hinged roof of the bowl under his cold fingers, he tasted warm, sacramental blood and wine, mixed in equal parts, sharp and bitter against the roof of his mouth like the blade of a rusty, iron sword. For the microphones, he read aloud the notes he had with him, but his voice wasn’t Ripley’s anymore, it was the gentle, quavery voice of an old, old man.

Since his first success, he had been a hard-working, hard-playing man, with the immodest tastes of an oriental emperor. He earned a million dollars a year, and knew how to spend it. On better days, he’d have six smart, well-dressed women under his roof, for energetic conversation, for private fun and games. Out on his secluded spit of land in the middle of Oyster Bay, they’d barbecue whole pigs, split sides of beef, and the flavor of the smoked flesh he tore into was marvelous, marvelous.

Later that day, continuing his flight from Hawaii to Japan, he lost track of where he was for a few moments, and through his puffy, heavy lids, the woman bending over him with the pitcher of pink lemonade looked exactly like the love of his life, dead ten years that month of cancer. Dear, sweet, Ola, he almost said, but caught himself. Though his temples sweated copiously, he refused to soil his handkerchief, letting his shirt become wet, stiff with his salt.

His live radio broadcast, next morning, from Hiroshima’s approximate ground zero, wasn’t easy, not with him sitting at a card table, fumbling with watches frozen at the moment of detonation, staring at a vaporized child’s wool-and-silk-ribbon slippers, retrieved intact from the dunes of sticky ash (Believe It Or Not); the only artifact to survive the blast for many thousands of square yards. He haggled over price and bought it for his newest museum, opening the next month in Las Vegas.

As long as he could remember, he’d been happily locked in an embrace with the whole odd, eclectic world, savoring each one-of-a-kind moment his physical bulk passed through. Here at Hiroshima, for the first time, that innocent enthusiasm which had brought him so very far from Riverside, California seemed to encircle his tired neck like one of the great unwieldy money-stones of New Zealand, giving little joy.

Upon reaching his final destination, Shanghai, he saw his dearest, most beloved city in a panic: everyone knew the Reds were marching down from the hills. It was only a matter of time before the soul of China became engorged and insensible with Mao’s revolution. Voracious appetite of old absent, he forced down a quart of sticky rice with Seven Delicacies for show, for form, so as not to upset his agent.

A week later, back in New York, for the second time he faltered while on the air, then passed out, slithering to the floor in his fine wool suit like a large scrubbed potato, hands scrabbling against the studio floor, grasping the taped microphone cords with a syncopated rhythm, his young female assistant staring at him like a ritual mask, her mouth a lipsticked slash of fear, babbling nonsense until they thought to turn the mike off: the perils of live broadcasting.

That very night, Rip called his next-door neighbors from the hospital; I’m getting out of here tomorrow morning, he said. I’m taking us on a long vacation, God knows we all deserve it. He hung up the black phone and leaned back, dead before his head touched the pillow. Years later, his dearest friends all said it was a blessing he didn’t live to see how the world changed. The world changed and made his collection of physical oddities seem, by comparison (Believe It Or Not) warm, safe, what we dream of when we dream of heaven, not one of us doubting for a minute, anymore, that fact is stranger than fiction.

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“The politics of 2016 breaks entirely along lines of identity: first race or ethnicity, followed by gender, level of education, urbanization and age.”

What Trump Exposed About the G.O.P. – The New York Times

https://apple.news/AocAVFxmuSpWor6IikXVhow

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Meet Nana Awere Damoah: The Ghanaian Voice of Objectivity and Reason

A great interview, an interesting dialogue, a thought provoking interviewer! Hallelujah!

Mum C writes

Nana Awere Damoah is my guest post for today. He is a man with brains and an objective voice. I can say he is the writer with the voice of reason in Ghana. His words “Ghanamonosyncratic nsempiisims” stuck with me from his book, I speak of Ghana where he presented all things as they seem in Ghana. I am very glad to have the honour of this interview with a true Ghanaian patriot.

NANA AWERE DAMOAH NANA AWERE DAMOAH

AMOAFOWAA:

Nana, please tell us about you, from birth to now in summary.

NANA:

Thanks for this opportunity, Mum C. I was born 39 years ago in a taxi on its way from Kotobabi to Korle-bu. My brother remembers the registration number of the taxi and says someone (I can’t remember who) won the lottery with the numbers the week after I was born! My family were staying in a compound house at Abavanna…

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Happy December!

illustration compassionThe root of compassion is this:  there, but for the grace of god, or the luck of the draw, go I.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated, were you to wake up one morning inside their life.  Let morning, and let hope, break inside your soul.

For a number of reasons, I have been called away from writing, and I have missed it terribly… and I have also missed so much here on WordPress, a truly valuable (and for me, essential)  community of dedicated writers and artists of every variety.  When I read the work of others, listen to the work of others, see the work of others in my creative “family,” I feel the reinvigoration of my own essential spark, that soul’s brightness which I cannot live without.  It is as important as air:  the eternal conversation between Minds… the desire to communicate and affect one another in a very human, very tangible, and very undefinable way.

Another writer told me once that the way you know you’re a writer is you HAVE to write!  You cannot NOT write.  You must write as you must breathe, or drink water, or eat, or sleep.  If you don’t, you become wretched, fearful, at squandering the opportunity being called into this life has given to you.  And we must not waste our time here.  There is no sin but the giving up of hope.  Without hope, we become desperate, suffering creatures indeed.

I am deeply worried about the world right now.  All of it.  All the people, all the creatures, all the natural beauty.  There is an albatross, named Wisdom, who at 64 years old is raising another chick.  We have lost 70% of our seabirds on this planet.  We risk losing Wisdom, and wisdom.  Children are suffering from endless war.  Climate change is disrupting what little stability we have managed to achieve as humans.  Violence, bombs, bullets, hatred, racism, sexism, greed… let this not be our most lasting legacy.

In December, Christians celebrate the birth of a man they believe came to save the world… if only it were that simple.  Whatever faith or philosophy or moral compass you hold within you, realize that the saving of the world begins with each one of us.  Spirit exists whether you think it’s permanent or not.  The spirit of a human life can be broken.  And yet, some people who have been through unimaginable horrors manage to go on and create, and experience, hope and happiness and human connections.

The root of compassion is this:  there, but for the grace of god, or the luck of the draw, go I.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated, were you to wake up one morning inside their life.  Let morning, and let hope, break inside your soul.

I love you all, without conditions.

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Dear Mary M. E., Class of 2016, a letter to my youngest daughter

boo and ab upside down nyc

Dear Mary M. E., Class of 2016:

How do I affirm who you are and tell you why I love you? What do I want to say to you as you go off to college next year? Why am I proud of you? What are my hopes, dreams, and prayers for you? What are my favorite memories?

Darling BooBoo, you came to me as a gift. A child I never expected to have, never even dreamed I would have — a gift from God. You helped me become a “real” mother, along with your big sister, just like the little boy helped his velveteen rabbit become “real”… you helped me become who I am today just as much as I nurtured you from birth till now. Your patience, your sociability, your love of other people, you enjoyed being the youngest in a big mob! You helped me learn, really learn the value of a strong will and a compassionate heart. The value of having a silly, infectious laugh, and a serious, contemplative side. You are a sensitive, delicate soul who deeply appreciates the joyous things in life yet is nonetheless strong enough to survive the tough times with grace.

Memories:

You were born pretty fast, and were tinted blue (now your favorite color) when you came out, because your umbilical cord had been wrapped around your neck, but the second the nurses got that untangled and rubbed you down, you turned pink and opened your eyes. You didn’t cry… just looked at everything with your eyes wide open, for an unusually long time, the nurses said.   And when your big sister, Abigail, came in to see you and reached out to touch you, you grabbed one of her fingers with your tiny hand, tightly, and you didn’t let go!

You didn’t want a pacifier, or a bottle, or to sleep anywhere but on my chest. So we slept like that for a while, barricaded with pillows so you couldn’t roll off the bed. Then you slept in the middle between your father and me for months. Eventually you were okay with the crib.

You wanted to hold your head up so much you insisted on being in a walker when you could barely manage it. You’d push yourself around, looking at everything. The minute you could crawl, you were done with the walker. You didn’t talk much, at first, but when you started it was in full sentences, and you talked a lot, about a lot of things, very curious and with a very big vocabulary… people would hear you talking and take me aside and whisper, “she’s very smart!”

You had the tiniest, cutest little feet! Your toes were like little pink peas. You were a bit of a mischievous rascal, playing peekaboo, hide and seek, chase, you name the game, you were ready. You even put on your big brother’s boxing gloves one time and wanted to play that game!

Something I wrote about you a long, long time ago:

November 5, 2001

What BooBoo said today, at Abigail’s school, where we were to drop off a bag of dressy clothes for A’s French presentation: the sky was gray & overcast, yet there was no rain, it was borderline gloomy but also very pretty in a way — she said “It’s a beautiful day today.” I agreed with her.

Later, I realized that just because the sun was behind a layer of gray, you could still tell it was there, you could still see the disc behind the gray, it still had light, and though you couldn’t see, exactly, the brightness, you knew it was there. As did my three-year-old. Faith is the key to all of this. Trust in this life, trust and god will bring you what you need.

I love you, my darling Mary M. E., and I am honored to be your mother.

Love,

Mommy

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Evolve Or Die, an opening manifesto…

illustration evolve or die

Evolve Or Die, an opening manifesto…

I was thinking about stuff, in my weird way, which I often do, because I’m basically weird, stuff like religion and politics and war and peace and men and women and money and love and power and all that kind of stuff, the giant, sometimes-incomprehensible stuff that most people don’t appear to think about all that much, except in a purely academic way, and only if they can get some money or some fame or some power out of it.  So why aren’t we all thinking about things which, logically, are very, very important and create so much human suffering, much of it perfectly avoidable with reasonable effort?

The whole situation we find ourselves in right now really bothers me because, if the average human is THINKING about these problems, problems which appear to have been with us for the entire course of human history, problems which seem as though they are perfectly amenable to being SOLVED, then those average humans should be TALKING about them a lot more, and trying to be part of the solution! Because people are really stupid to be fighting all these goddamned, fucking, idiotic wars, wars that kill people and destroy stuff and hurt children and scar children and make sure children grow up to pass that war meme, that war memory, that war “tradition” along to the next generation, and so on and so on ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Which makes my stomach hurt, sometimes BADLY.  And then I remember how people in the United States of America seem to have given up voting!  Talk about my stomach hurting!

And, all of my weird thinking seemed rather quietly and suddenly to coalesce, to interweave, to assemble itself into an idea bigger than me.  An inspired idea. An idea from the Muse; from the Universe; from God; from Spirit.  You know, that watcher, or presence, or soul, or place within yourself which is all-at-once creative… imaginative… passionate… compassionate… serene… silly… serious… sad… sublime… that place?  If you don’t know that place, at all, then I feel sad for you.  Not “sorry” for you – that word seems to me that it implies judgment and a consequent feeling of superiority or power which is unhealthy – but sad for you.  The simple sadness a two year old feels when seeing another two year old fall down, scrape a knee, and burst into tears.  That feeling.  Do you remember it?  If you cannot remember it, I feel sad for you again.  It is a feeling we should all remember.  It is the sadness you feel when your mother is ill; the sadness you feel when your dear pet is ill; when your child is ill; when you are ill; when the world is ill.

You know, history is important.  So is IMAGINATION.  Liberal/Conservative, Democrat/Republican, Progressive/Reactionary, Labor/Capital, Open-minded/Dogmatic… call the differences in human outlook whatever you like!  One side fears, or dislikes, or opposes change; the other side accepts, or likes, or promotes change.  That is the essence, the nut, the essential oil, which creates the varietal, sometimes minor, sometimes dangerous differences in our human culture/temperament/society/milieu.  We must start thinking as one planet, one species: not separated by physical characteristics… or wealth… or religion… or language… or country… or region… or clan… or tribe… or any of the myriad ways groups of human beings have managed to “quarantine” themselves from “infection” by other groups! We are not microbes!  We are not supposed to attack each other without mercy.  Survival of the fittest does not mean the survivors survive because they kill everything else; it means evolve, or die.

Human beings are on the doorstep of radical change.  No shit!  Look at our history: though an individual lifetime may, or may not, feel to that specific individual as being lived on the doorstep of radical change, remember, as a species, we have OFTEN been on the doorstep of radical change.  We are always living within – not at the end of – human history.  Which is why respecting the lessons of our past must ALWAYS go hand-in-hand with a thoughtful and imaginative look ahead, to our future!  We are in the process of evolving into another human species.  Don’t forget that!  We are on the continuous “ride” of evolution, of change, of metamorphosis into another species of “human being” – hopefully, this time, a more “humane” human being who is truly wiser than we are, who stops jeopardizing human survival by an unthinking disregard for physical, social, and cultural environments yet who remains flexible enough to survive the inexorable process of change in those environments!

How to evolve?  I’m not sure.  I can rattle off the first things I think of.  Read books.  A lot of them.  Spend some time outside, the more the better.  Spend some time thinking seriously about your life, and the life of every other human being.  Don’t hoard planetary resources which, by simple birthright, also belong to billions of other humans, your (admittedly distant, yet undeniably related) COUSINS through our common ancestors.  Relax, nobody’s asking you to give up the internet.  Simply treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Speak some encouraging words to those who need them.  Help some people in need.  Protect children from harm.  What do you think?  Feel free to edit the list!  We’re all in this TOGETHER.  But, for mercy’s sake… MAKE YOURSELF A LIST.

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