Understanding Predestination

Not all that burns is driftwood. It might be a bridge. Or oatmeal. I've heard it said that one man's trash is another man's treasure, but I don't believe everything I hear. In fact, one woman's trash is another man's treasure, which is how I came to be in possession of the Sacred Branch you see over there on the right. If you want to believe otherwise, that's fine with me; I'm certainly not going to stand here and argue with your dyslexic mind. What's important right now is the branch's multilayered, wooden personality, and how that might affect its position within the system of coordinates we use to find our way home.

Eight years ago I lived in a small mountain town. This isn't remarkable in and of itself, since there wouldn't have been a town if no one else lived there. What's remarkable is that I had been living right next door to the Sacred Branch, which, if you think about it, can only mean that I was predestined. The Sacred Branch was meant for me, and I for it, because otherwise it would have been tossed into the dumpster by my neighbor, who thought it was just a piece of driftwood she'd found on a beach somewhere in Texas.

But it wasn't, and I told her so as I wrestled it out of her grip. Her husband thought I was trying to poke out his wife's eye, and since he had been a Marine during his time in Viet Nam, I decided to leave town. That wasn't as easy as it might sound, because there's always a lot of stuff in the garage after you've lived in a place for years. Fortunately, their sonwho happened to be living in their garageoffered to take my refrigerator and most of my furniture, so I was able to get out of there more quickly than I might have otherwise.

We drifted from town to town after that, like tumbleweeds in the desert, or cactus, maybe, or some other kind of thing that drifts. I don't mean driftwood, of course. That wouldn't be very appropriate considering how annoyed I was when my neighbor called the Sacred Branch a piece of driftwood just because she didn't understand the concept of predestination. Predestination is just another way of drawing circles and lines on a map, which is what I was doing when it occurred to me that the Sacred Branch has now returned home, residing on my fireplace a mere .73009 miles from the very dumpster that threatened its career eight years ago.

At the time, the idea of calling this our destination would have been absurd, since we were, you know, just leaving. On the other hand, we were coming back; we just didn't know it yet. Therefore, this was our predestination all along, and anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't taken the time to read between the lines and circles that extend, like half-eaten spaghetti, from one point to the next on every map and napkin along the way.

As my great-uncle Herbst so eloquently put it, home is where the heart is, but you can't cook your oatmeal in a wooden skillet.


The Washer of Life

An out-of-balance spin cycle can leave you with wet, sudsy laundry, and no sense of accomplishment whatsoever. I could be wrong, but it seems I'm finally near the end of the longest job-interview process I've ever experienced in my life. Assuming Monday's launch date holds, it will have been exactly four weeks from initial interview to final clearance for takeoff. This may be an entirely normal timespan in the corporate world these daysit's been some time since I worked for a company of this sizeespecially in light of the extensive background checks that now seem to be commonplace for even the most rudimentary vocations.

As it turned out, the physical I foreshadowed last week wasn't really a physical at all, but a stress test designed to see if my heart might be made to explode under certain real-world conditions. Those would include activities such as lifting a metal milk crate containing lead weights onto a shelf above my head, climbing a stepladder three times in rapid succession, and pushing against a calibrated force-gauge designed to measure, I suppose, my relative level of pushiness. Evidently my heart didn't explode, because they handed me a piece of paper at the end of it all congratulating me for my successful participation, and wishing me luck in my new job.

I think that last part was intended as a joke, owing to the fact I didn't yet have a job. The following week brought a stress test of a different color, by which I mean white. Twentysomething pages of white paper to read, sign, or both, followed by a photocopying session involving various forms of identification proving my inalienable right to work in the country of my birth. I believe I was successful in that test, too, judging by the way my boss-to-be wiggled his eyebrows when he saw what I had done.

But as I mentioned before, I could be wrong. Somewhere, there's a cube farm that contains the person who will ultimately decide whether or not Monday's projected launch is a go, a no-go, or something in between. Not that I have any particular reason to doubt it; it's just that I, too, saw The Matrix, and we all know what can happen when certain phrases are typed on certain corporate keyboards by certain people whose last names may or may not be Smith.

Anyhow, that's the way things stand as of the time and date of this broadcast. For those who wonder, I might also add that the luxury of sleeping at night is returning as the current headache cycle begins to fade, heralding another opportunity to gaze into the washer of life as it spins, out of balance, toward the basement stairs. Is it not glorious?


Chips and a Drink

There's no use complaining beside spilled liquids of any kind. It doesn't have to be milk. Chips are different, though. You should always complain when you spill your chips. This week will see the final hurdle in my mission to find something useful to do in spite of these infernal headaches. It really isn't much of a physical, but then, the job in question isn't what most people would consider physically demanding. Mainly, I think they just want to know that I can (1) see, and (2) say howdy without spitting on the customer's forehead. In other words, I remain optimisticin a relative waythat the current spell of unemployment won't last more than another couple weeks, if that.

I'm less optimistic that the current headache cycle will have run its course by then, but unlike my previous vocation, this one won't require getting up before dawn has even had half a chance to crack. This will allow extra time for sleep, which isn't something I'm having a lot of luck with during the night. In reality, I believe I'm now near the peak of a second headache cycle, which came hard on the heels of the first, which began halfway through July. While this isn't a normal occurrence for me, any delusions of normalcy were long ago trounced, excommunicated, and made to live with the sponges in and about Mr. Jones' locker. As they say, there's no use complaining beside spilled milk, which I've never understood any better than I understand any of those weird folk-sayings, but I continue to quote them anyway because it makes me feel important.

So on the whole, today's prognosis is a bit more optimistic than yesterday's, and tomorrow's plan is to put one foot in front of the other and muddle on. That could change, of course. I no longer seem to be possessed of the same stubborn, combative will that's won every cluster-headache battle during the past 30 years, and the simple goal of making it to the next day no longer carries quite the same sense of urgency. If you, dear reader, share my particular make and model of brain pain and find yourself increasingly unsure of its value in your own life, I can only hope that you're a solitary bird.

Still, there's a certain feeling of freedom, and relief, that comes from knowing that the time for making promises has come and gone, and with it the impossible burden of responsibility for a future that's based on such a misshapen past. As Hansel's sister Poncho so often pointed out, it isn't necessary to order the number five combo if all you really need is a drink and a bag of chips.


Limbs and Other Forecasting Apparatus

No, this isn't a picture of your limbic system. Your limbic system is orange, not blue. Theoretically, I should have learned not to make predictions about stuff, but so much of my brain has been lost over the years that it's tough to remember that I should have learned not to make predictions about stuff. After all, so much of my brain has been lost over the years that it's tough to remember that I should have learned not to make predictions, especially when it comes to, you know, stuff.

Nevertheless, I'm going to go out on a limb herean arm, probablyand make a forecast about the outcome of the drug test I'll be taking tomorrow. Fortunately, I was strong enough to resist the temptation to use Psilocybin as a headache remedy, because I'm pretty sure that's one of the substances they'll be looking for, which might ruin my chances of landing the job I interviewed for yesterday. I used LSD instead.

Another prediction I shouldn't make is that the current cluster-headache cycle seems to have reached its peak, and is now sliding down the other side of the hill and into the ravine where people leave their unwanted cars and large household appliances. Last time I did that I nearly wound up in the emergency room, so no predictions about that, thank you very much.

While I'm at it, I may as well also thank you for not wishing me luck in this endeavor, because we all know what happens when people do that. Please don't send me any chocolate donuts, either.

But most of all, please don't tell me you love me.

Thank you.


Tripping the Dark Fantastic

That's beautiful, man.

If you had too much fun during the past week and need someone to help you cheer down, I'm your huckleberry.

Virginia's comments on my Unbearable Things monologue included the suggestion to Google "Harvard, cluster headache study" for links related to recent research on the subject. Because I haven't resorted, yet, to the LSD or Psilocybin remedies discussed in those articles, I must direct your attention to a video clip on the Clusterbusters site that everyone ought to watch at least once.

I say this because it's unlikely you've ever actually seen a cluster-headache attack in action, and no one should be deprived of that privilege. This is especially true if you happen to be one of those people who feel compelled to make flippant comments regarding the claimed severity of a cluster headache, its alleged effects on a person's life, or the so-called ineffectiveness of virtually every headache remedy available today.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must also tell you that my German lineage and upbringing would never allow me to behave in the manner of that simpering mama's-boy-pain-hating-punk in the video. Suck it up, dude. Aintcha never heard of aspirin?

Anyway, thanks, Virginia, for the illuminating information. Now what did I do with Mr. Leary's phone number . . .


In Dreams

Whose reality is this, anyway? In dreams, I use my hands to propel myself through the dense atmosphere. I am heavy; I am unable to move quickly in the viscosity of the place. I pull myself forward with my fingertips, but not along the ground. A tapestry of woven strands lies below me and stretches out in front. This is how I move.

In dreams, I negotiate a labyrinth. My mazes are open fields and dark interior spaces. They are inhabited, but no one is like me. They are obstacles and distractions, and I move past them on my way to freedom.

In dreams, I don't remember the dull slumber of my waking hours.