Having It All, Having Nothing – from “Funny Music”

Having It All, Having Nothing

person with tattoo playing paper scissor and stone
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Maggie was waiting at home. I had to bring her car back soon. 
 
She’d accepted responsibility for driving me to the bus station, the dumpy, neglected art deco place that still lit its Greyhound sign over Main Street, awaiting the catastrophe of urban renewal and conversion to a police precinct. My emotions were conflicted — about my wife’s delivering me into exile, I mean — mainly because she seemed so upbeat about it, supportive, as we say these days, my ally.

Continue reading → Having It All, Having Nothing – from “Funny Music”

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The Teachings or Spiritual Selling of Abraham-Hicks Law of Attraction

The Teachings of Abraham

 
Excited by my first brush with Abraham-Hicks, pacing around that airport in Buffalo, waiting for my delayed flight, I searched for more when I was back in New York. I went to the website and found the skimpy biographies.

Continue reading → The Teachings or Spiritual Selling of Abraham-Hicks Law of Attraction

Sex & Civil Rights in a Small Town, 1966 – from Fusible Link

Sex and Civil Rights in a Small Town, 1966

couple love bedroom kissing
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“Well,” Bruce announced, “on Monday, we’ll have to go out to looking for jobs, but first, I’m going to show you how to have a good time. We’ll go over to Gentleman Joe’s to celebrate your first week of freedom.”

Continue reading → Sex & Civil Rights in a Small Town, 1966 – from Fusible Link

Things I Learned While Insane – from After Peter: Stories from the End of the World

Things I Learned While Insane

person couple love romantic
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I guess I’d better clarify where I was coming from and clear up the mystery of why it wasn’t necessarily insanity that made me start thinking about marriage again, this time to Charlie. It might have been, sure, but I repeat, not necessarily. 
 

Continue reading → Things I Learned While Insane – from After Peter: Stories from the End of the World

Rondo – from “The Messes I Made While You Were Waiting for Godot”

Rondo

This is a free chapter from The Messes I Made While You Were Waiting for Godot.

How to make a decent knot after more than a quarter-million words, some good jokes, wisecracks, stories, revelations and what we learned on the bus?



Lizzie’s gone. That’s one thing I should tell you. It’s the saddest news I need to share. Twenty years after we rode out to breakfast from the middle of a frigid winter night, Lizzie died, mother of one child — a daughter — and a wife, still young, fifty years old and a universe of awakening not realized. She never joined Facebook, tweeted or suffered the revolting Bush/Limbaugh years or the rot that followed in Washington. No one will ever convince me that life is fair, knowing Lizzie died so young while thugs like Kissinger and Cheney eat slops in their eighties and nineties, suffering no punishment and free from guilt.

Would things have been different if I’d stayed that morning and gone van shopping with Lizzie instead of driving back through the snowy countryside to Maggie and our disintegrating marriage? Different, sure. Better? Only a fool would try to make that call. Of course, I am a fool, as you’ve probably gathered by now. So, I will.

Lizzie and I were at our best that day. We’d been up all night, nursing our mutual addiction to talking, and had driven off before dawn to eat breakfast while an icy fog hovered in a valley below us. We lingered, drinking coffee and smoking, and it bothered Lizzie that strangers stared at us, assuming we’d spent the night in Cupid’s gym.

“They think I’m a slut,” she whispered, a little amused, a little uneasy.

“So, let ‘em have their fun,” I said. “Who gives a shit what they think? I think they’re corroded with envy. They want to be us, but they can’t be.”

For me, the situation was far worse. My wedding band hidden in my wallet, I was a married man in a masquerade, not honest enough to tell the truth to the woman I believed to be my surest friend and the love of my life. Even when we split, once for years, it was still the same with me. I loved Lizzie from the core. Sleeping next to Maggie, tickling Andy, smoking alone on that corner where Alex and I used to hang out, driving to the airport, pitching life insurance, I thought about Lizzie any time. A lot of it was curiosity. Why not just shake the Etch-A-Sketch and lose it? As much as I enjoyed replaying my life, I wasn’t hooked on the past. I never wanted to go back, but Lizzie was always there like an imprecise beacon, a thread weaving in and out, certain to return. Going with the flow was a transcendental mantra, but in that once only milieu, I couldn’t see my way clear to ignite the calamity certain to explode if I did.
“There’s too much snow to drive through in the dark. I barely got through this morning,” I’d told Maggie, hoping to get off the pay phone before she thought to ask me about what motel I was staying in.

Mission accomplished, I tore through the raw winter night for a hundred miles. Still spiffy in business attire, I broke into a smile when, after years, I saw Lizzie at the door, her wild, wavy hair falling past her shoulders.

“You look great,” she said.

Her mother entered the room as I released Lizzie from a hug.

“Liz said you were coming.”

 


“You remember me…?”


“The boy who was always kept my daughter on the phone for so long? Yes, I remember you. Lizzie says you’ve always stayed in touch, even if she wasn’t so good at it.”

“She was fine.”

I looked at Lizzie in a kind of disbelief, probably a more mellowed version of what hits people when they win the lottery. After all this time, often with so little hope, I looked “great” to her. And gossiping about me with her mother.

“Remember the last time I was here?”


“No…” Lizzie’s mom admitted.


“It was Christmas Eve in ’66. I came out in a
snowstorm. Lizzie and I went for a walk. We sat on a bank and watched the snow falling over the city…”

“I remember that,” Lizzie said.

Did she remember that she wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called the next day and all the letters, few of which she answered, after I left Binghamton for good?

But I stuck with it, even edging into provisional places, like where I lived now. Crazy shit I could not understand or evade. Maybe, right now, I was standing in an ideal place where the flow, the transcendental waters, eased straight through me, but I hadn’t gotten there fairly. In a situation that called for moral and emotional courage, I wasn’t able to find either. It occurs to me, decades later, I was out on a limb without enough trust in Lizzie to jump into space.

Promising to come back soon, the morning rising full of bright, cold light, I pushed my Volkswagon, now minus Lizzie, along the shortcut out through the rolling foothills to Buffalo. For a hundred and fifty miles, I kept to the bare roads that struck the trail between snow-covered farms and villages until Buffalo’s skyline, harsh under a winter sky, grew large. Regret mushed with resistance as I drove the last stretch up along the churning, ice-cluttered Niagara. “What the fuck are you doing here, you fucking coward?” screamed in my ear, but what was I going to do, suddenly become a truth-teller with Lizzie, awaken her to the fact I’d been lying to her for months, living, sleeping, eating, fucking with my wife while nurturing our love in a secret room? Where does trust go when you’ve burnt it yourself?

Untenable, I said to myself, is what the fuck we are.

Here was the best lesson I knew about dishonesty, although I didn’t quite get it all in place for a few more years. When we lie, we lie to ourselves as much as anyone else, maybe more, and we subvert the best in us. Lying is an admission that we‘re not now good enough in our own estimation. It’s not even evasion. It’s chicken shit. And how screwed up is your life if you have to lie to keep it inflated? 

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Cats in New York City / Arthur Avenue, Bronx

Arthur Avenue, The Bronx

This is a free chapter from Travels with George: New York, a story about the cats’ visit to New York’s real Little Italy, Arthur Avenue in The Bronx.

One day, they put Billy and me in our carriers in the back seat of the car.

“Sorry, boys,” the man said when he was getting out our carriers, “but there’s no good way to take you there on the subway.”

From Travels with George: New York
“There” was Arthur Avenue, what our people kept calling “the real Little Italy.”

Although I tried not to let Billy know, I was a little worried – “Bronx” sounded to me like a place full of dogs. Most dogs are okay, but in a big bunch, like at the shelter where I stayed before she brought me home, there was always at least one bad dog barking and jumping at the cats, and his friends always went along with him. It was about the only time I liked being inside a cage. The barking and growling dogs could not get in.

We don’t take rides in the car often. I can’t remember one other time when it wasn’t for taking us to the vet. I don’t like the car. We’re jailed in our carriers, not allowed to look around and check the new smells that come to us through the bars.

The man drove, and she turned back to wiggle her fingers inside the carriers. 

“We’ll be there soon,” she promised.

Not soon enough, I thought, but it was still better than staying alone at home. We still had this economy to thank for that.

“You get a ticket from the meter. I’ll find us a spot.”

We were finally in the The Bronx, and I hadn’t heard or smelled a single dog. 

“George, Billy, you guys can walk for a little while here, if you want. There might be some big feet around, so be careful. We’ll bring your bags. We can pick you up if it gets dangerous. 

I liked Arthur Avenue right away. The smells were richer, and all the cars and people were slower. I noticed that the buildings were smaller, and more sun leaked through the trees to shine on us. Along the sidewalks, there were tiny gardens with green plants that smelled like things the woman brought home in bags for the kitchen. 

Our people changed here too. They let Billy and me walk right into the tiny gardens and smell the dirt and plants. 

“Just don’t eat anything, Billy,” the man warned. “People won’t like you eating their herbs.”

“Gow,” Billy mewed, but for once, he did as he was told. 

“Next block, we’ll stop for lunch. They have a courtyard in back. It’s such a nice day, we can eat outside, and they won’t mind if we bring you with us. You can have something too, okay?”

She didn’t wait for an answer, but there was too much to consider anyway, especially not knowing what a “courtyard” was. Eating outside had been good so far, though.

On Arthur Avenue, we didn’t have to hide under a table by the sidewalk like we did when they ate Turkish food. Now, we went inside and through a dark passageway before they carried us out into a sunny place with walls all around and no traffic from cars, trucks or buses.

This must be a “courtyard.” It was quiet and sunny with lots of interesting shadows.

“Okay if we let the cats out under the table?”

“Okay with us, if it’s okay with them,” an unfamiliar voice said. “You brought your cats for lunch?”

“They don’t get out much,” our man said. “So, we decided to let them have a vacation, too.”

“Molto bene. Your menus.”

“That went pretty well,” the woman said. “I didn’t want to get stuck with takeout, not on Arthur Avenue.”

“Italians love cats,” the man said. “They were all over the place in Rome and Florence.”

“Everybody loves cats,” she corrected him.

She gave me a rub when she let me out.

“Stay under there now, you guys. No trouble.”

After we had some water, it was a perfect time to doze off. We were in the cool shade, but a nice slice of sunlight lit the floor beside me. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. 

When I woke up, I saw that Billy was already awake and sitting in the sun beside the table. His black fur was shiny and warm. No grass to eat in sight, he was happily absorbing the courtyard. Other groups of people without cats were eating. The shadows and light mixed with tasty aromas. It was easy to see what our people liked about being here. 

They walked us back out to the street. The sounds and smells of the city rushed back. I hesitated a little, to adjust. It was nicer and quieter than the places they took us on the subway where it was usually too dangerous to walk.

We went in and out of stores, and nobody seemed to mind. It was unusual too because the people, including ours, were too busy to make a fuss over cats. In one place that the woman called “a cheese shop,” we even saw another cat that nobody was bothering with. He was watching from the top of a counter, guarding his territory. He blinked at us.

He also seemed to be guarding some cheese, but he let our people have some. Billy and I both asked to share. It smelled so good. 

“We’ll save some for you,” the woman promised but they can’t let you eat here. We’d all get in

Travels with George: New York & Paris

trouble.”


The Arthur Avenue shop cat blinked at us as we left. He seemed nice. But we had to go and buy, “the best vegetables I’ve seen all year.”

The kept filling up bags at every stop. I was keeping track, trying to learn new things. After the vegetables, we got “pastries” and fresh bread. 

“Look at this fresh pasta,” the woman said. “We have to get some and have it tonight. It’ll be wonderful to eat at home, even if we’re on vacation.”


The fish store made me swoon. It was my favorite stop. There were so many smells filling and blending in the air, it felt like being in the water. Billy looked like he’d just swallowed a handful of catnip.


Story by David Stone
Illustrations by Deborah Julian

Going Back / Free Chapter from Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness

Going Back

Going Back is a free chapter from Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click here)


There must once have been at least a jiffy of wholeness, a twinkle in the cohesion of seamless belonging. Every cell may contain residues of history in its universal library. Our desire to rejoin seasons every step, pushing against the gravity of reason. It’s a contest engaged in that fateful instant when cells snapped and began honing skills for precisely executing divisions.

We talk about methods for merging with God or a Godlike essence and not necessarily after death. Christianity has us locked in some place by a God that migrates across many identities, from savagely vindictive to all-loving, and New Age believers visualize rejoining an all- powerful “Source” (dodging the iffy divinity terminology) from which we emerge in physical form.

Forget the illogic of yearning like a wilting flower to be restored to a place we must have voluntarily departed… Few systems of belief depart from this framework for explaining reality. Everyone seems to agree we’ve separated from an idyllic space and are driven in the purest way to return.

Without arguing against the basic idea, maybe we can examine the urge itself, take a look at the father without contaminating him with the choices of his children. What makes us, in the midst of real abundance and evolutionary success, eager to get the hell out?

Keep in mind that time is a tool of reality without enough truth to get all the way down to the foundation. The claim of “nothing new under the sun” has real scientific arguments behind it.

Not to say reality hasn’t been re-imagined and structures built that are different. Recycled is new only to the unknowing. Nothing requires past or future. No trail has been laid behind us and none waits ahead.


We are here now, as we’ve always been, playing in the present, again and again and again, without going anywhere. We keep shuffling the deck for one more hand, the difference between reality and poker being that, in a card game, everything doesn’t happen at once.

Poker, then, is impossible without the invention of time.

Comfortable as we are in a real world of three dimensions yoked into illusions of sequence (time), it’s hard to imagine swimming in a pool instead of a stream. But, give it a try. There’s no risk. Give your imagination a chance to edge a little deeper into a truth set aside.

The universe is filled with something or other throughout its endless, interwoven fabric. Even empty space is filled. When we lower the temperature of matter to 0 degrees Kelvin – that is, the absolute removal of all heat – we find what scientists call “the zero point field” still charged with energy. Mysteries in the emptiness abound.

There are wispy realms of stuff hovering in a strange state between real and potential and there are huge gulfs of invisible or dark matter, but never a true void. The rule we were taught in science class hold: reality is always full. This rule had to be drilled into us because it put the lie to ideas we’d believed forever.

In what storage bin, then, do we park our constantly created histories? Where is the past kept? 

Because if there are expired seconds, minutes and hours – in other words, history – that storage area must be more massive than all of present reality by factors impossible to calculate.

Using our universe’s estimated existence as the lifespan, we’d need about fourteen billion years worth of jiffies and counting. The past has no tangible reality and is preserved only in memories in pitifully scant quantities. History is selectively, after some reconstruction, laid down in reengineered cells and enhanced by physical records. Even the memories selectively retained are known to be unreliable. The future, just like the past, is a child of imagination, not physical reality.

All we have finally is this. Try to get used to it. It’ll help you tell better stories, and it has more promise than you can imagine. Think about it. Beliefs about pasts and futures may be more barrier than opportunity.

What we’re craving through our religions and secular beliefs is, was and always will be right in front of us. We have everything we’ve ever wanted or will want already in our permanent sandbox. Here and now. We should be having more fun, but we have a very hard time seeing the truth. It seems impossible to pull off. Maybe it always will be.

Our five vaunted senses are far too limited to sort through the dense complexity of in- formation ceaselessly being fed to our brains. Some of it seems, to us, too preposterous to con- sider. We made up time in the same spirit as we made up shinguards and lampposts, tools that help us negotiate what would otherwise be darkness and danger. Now, like a houseguest with nowhere else to go, time refuses to back off and insists on misleading us.

It seems we have a hard time appreciating anything we don’t understand. Knowing always begins with belief and knocks it down on the road. Our success in nature has depended on our being smarter than anything else. Our challenge now is to become wise as well. We haven’t gotten far enough to justify all the facts we claim to have collected. Clearing them out, like centuries of pollution, will be a demanding exercise in exposing reality.

All the worthwhile arguments these days are about a single thing: what is the best way to talk about reality? What brings us closer to the truth? We need this conversation as a gimmick because, insult to our intellects that it might be, we don’t have the capacity or the interpretive skills to understand the foundation upon which we’ve built our mockup. Our mockup is sort of a toy, but we’ve begun to take it seriously, big boys that we are.

Reality is elusive. Reality is always in motion. Tides aren’t limited to what washes up and back in our oceans. Tides, currents, eddies invest everything with timelessness, refusing the requirement of a moment. We can’t say what we want to about reality because it changes before the words leave our lips. Hard core truth today is fluff tomorrow. No test can tell us what the future holds.

Life is full enough of surprises and scrambles to avoid monotony. Predictions based on what has already taken place help but don’t inevitably tell us what will be. Predictions, however, might tell us something about what we will think about it when we’re there. Narrow- mindedness goes steady with self-fulfilling prophecy. But if the art of predicting were really reliable, we could abolish anxiety and learn to be happy with the weather reports. Mountains will tumble into the sea and many of us will burn in the equivalent of hell, but hey, what’s to worry? We saw it coming!

God does not sit still. “Magic is alive. Magic is afoot” in Buffy St. Marie’s mantra-like lyric. She was talking about God’s vibrancy. “God is a verb, not a noun,” Buckminster Fuller is credited with saying, although it’s been repeated for ages, just not as cleverly. “God moves in mysterious ways” is a cliché, which says more about what we don’t understand or, maybe, what we resist than any mystery. God has always been the same. God has always been there. God has always been invested. 

We are always talking about God.

When I was young, I read someone’s claim that the best way to talk about God is with silence. We experience God best when words don’t get in the way. So, what then are words? Not God? There’s no such thing as “Not God.” God is the only thing without an opposite. God gave birth to all contrasts and all opposites.

The problem with words is their innate, choppy clumsiness in a place where motion is rarely choppy. Words insist on pauses, complete stops and a gathering of syntax when honey is more like what’s on the menu. Words want better lubricants, which is why we soak them in mu- sic. Maybe music has it better. Listening to Mozart’s G Minor Symphony, it’s easier to feel a seamless God embedded in the woven counterpoint. Multiple levels ebb and flow, producing an impression of precise beauty. Words could never be written for it. Which is where the insufficiency inherent in music and words is exposed. Completion must include whatever pedestrian stuff we represent about nature with words. When we extend music to fit the words, we crush an elegance that thrives in a “not words” environment.

No one thing so far, be it art or music or religion has what it takes to let us competently talk about reality. We’ve never been able to include enough layers in the conversation. The game ain’t over until it’s over, as we say in sports, here again reflecting some chunk of what we know to be true about reality in this moment. Looking closely, we start to see patches, cords of fabric, chords of understanding, holding together pants in need of a tailor.
We’re constantly longing for a lost wholeness we can’t fix with words. Words can’t cut it anyway. Music can’t either. Nor mathematics. Or meditating a way into the flow.

What do we know about this underlying wholeness?

We know it’s never been broken.

Our best strategy for understanding, so far, is the one we’ve always used. Democritus, over two-thousand years ago, made a case for atomic structure. His simple, elegant argument was that matter can be sliced into smaller and smaller pieces until it finally reaches an irreducible piece: the atom. This stood us up in pursuit for millennia. 

Trouble is, though, once we found those atoms that, tiny beyond imagination, still fit snugly in the physical structures we recognize, we soon discovered their even smaller quantum components: protons, neurons, electrons. Going down that trail with scientific rigor, it grew clear that other possible things in nature, so small we have little hope of ever seeing them, might underly atomic structures and, going on, might have even smaller stuff underneath. And at the bottom, maybe no bottom and nothing- ness, an infinity of matter. Things don’t have to end. They only have to change. Endings are hu- man conceits, forced on us by our marriage with time.

Nothing should be terribly unsettling about that. Building blocks, even those we can’t ever see, are still building blocks. However, what we’re seeming to find is that the smaller the structural component, the more unlike our assumed reality the things we discover are. The question must be asked: which is more bizarre, the quantum world of indecipherable actions and potentials or the manageable macro world our senses tell us is “real?”

The quantum world is home to such impossible events as quantum leaps and nonlocal connections. (Seem might be a better verb for this than “is” because we don’t really know if these things happen or if they’re illusions our brains scramble to put together as the best guess we’ve got.) Ultimately, is the wholeness we are groping for invisible to us because our minds never evolved to get it?

Evolution has hard to understand rewards, if it has any at all, for wisdom or insight into reality. Wisdom and insight might be only incidental byproducts of practical survival, like tailbones and vestigial wings, things meant to be discarded but stuck in a phase, like appendices. Maybe, nature never bothered to teach us a quantum language. It’s possible we’re grounded for- ever in a maze of unknowing.

That doesn’t, however, mean we have no choice but to be permanently lost. 

You’ve just read a chapter from: Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Travels with George: Paris / Free Chapter

Paris!

Paris is a sample chapter: Travels with George: Paris, an illustrated book told by a cat about smuggle his way to Paris and touring the sites.

Author: David Stone
Illustrations: Deborah Julian

“This is funny,” he says, flipping the pages of a book he has open in his lap.

Travels with George: Paris

Both of them have calmed down considerably.

“What’s funny?” she asks.

She is going from place to place in our little room, taking things out of bags, familiar things
that remind us all of home. She stopped to tickle Billy and me without looking at us and paused to scratch her head. She could use a stretch, I sense.

I am sitting on the bed behind the man, somewhat confident that he will not forget and lean back on me, but not confident enough to sleep, and Billy is wandering around, building a scent map– a big, big task in such a new place. I made a general one earlier, then decided I was not quite up to it yet. 

Those tasks could wait until things settled a little more.

After the shock wore off and they stopped saying, “I can’t believe it,” all the time, they got organized and, realizing we needed attention, went right at it.

“First of all, we’ll need to get some litter,” he announced. “That’s got to be pretty urgent.


A grand idea, I thought, instantly.

“I think they’ll use it as soon as we can get some in here.”

“Well, really, the first thing they need is fresh water, poor babies,” she corrects him. “You
must be so thirsty,” she adds in that special, musical voice we hear sometimes before we get special treats. “I can’t even find anything for them to drink out of.”

“Mow?” Billy says, agreeing with me, I believe, that water is an even better idea.

“We’ll get both for you, guys,” the man promises. “You’re so brave. And we’d better do it right now.”

“Okay,” she agrees. “Where’s the nearest pet store?”

“Very funny.”

He shakes his head and smiles.

“I’ll tell you what, let’s not ask for directions at the front desk. The question might make
them a little curious. We’re also going to have to figure out how to hide these guys for a week. We’ve got quite a little dilemma.”
He looks back at us from the door.

“Bye, little guys, we’ll be right back! Probably.”

“No ‘probably,’” she corrects him. “We’ll be right back with some stuff for you. Don’t scare
the boys.”

Hide them? Hide who? I glance at Billy, already beginning to panic as the door starts to
close. He could not mean us. Hide cats? Back home, when certain people came to see us, the visitors got hidden away behind closed doors where a cat was not permitted to visit, but I had never heard of hiding cats. Yet, who else could they have been talking about?

Too much mystery for me. Eventually, in my experience, these people things either explain themselves or they just go away. Everything does not have to have a reason with them. I decide to wait and see and not worry too much about it.

“Bye, sweeties!” she sings. “Don’t look so worried. We’ll be right back!”

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page
Deborah Julian’s artwork can be found in her Amazon shop.

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50 Trillion Versions of You – Or More

 Fifty-trillion… 

 
No matter how many times we hear that number, no matter how easily the words spin off our lips, it’s so big we can probably never grasp it in a practical way. But it’s a number we really should think about because it’s approximately the number cells we have at our command in the evolved contraption we know as our bodies. 

Continue reading → 50 Trillion Versions of You – Or More