Sunday, August 22, 2010

Decision on a Sunday

Decisions. Corona Extra or a Bloody Mary? I think there might be prescription-strength pain killers on the property somewhere as well, but there’s no gratification in that. Honestly, I don’t understand people who become addicted to those things. One can’t sit in a bar swilling a speckled egg, leering at people or criticizing their choice of hair/wig/clothing/personal hygiene. You swallow and then you’re done, and you probably did that in the bathroom pretending that this was not, in fact, your 4th today. A Corona is good, it lasts for more than 3 seconds (in my case, anyway) and even if I’m sitting at home alone with it I at least pretend that I’m sitting in a public space holding it at face level, elbow bent, while I leer at people and/or criticize their choice of hair/wig… etc. I feel that I’m safe from the threat of alcoholism because even if I’m drinking alone I do so wishing that I were with other people. Plus the fact that I can’t usually drink more than a couple and after a few days even that gets old.

But, why drink at all? Some people don’t need to ask that question. I ask why? They ask, why not? I have recently been accused of being like a 5-year-old with all my questions. I know the answer, though, because it’s my question. (Don’t try to make sense of that sentence.) I drink because today is Sunday and Sundays suck. Other Christians might call that blasphemy, saying such a thing about the Sabbath. I say that Saturday was the original Sabbath so get over it. Why do Sundays suck? (Again with the questions!) Let’s take today as an example.

I woke up at about the time I would normally get to work, a little earlier. I have slept late so therefore I feel like crap. Sleeping late does not make me feel good. Naps do, but that comes later. This morning I got up and did my morning routine, fed my screaming princess of a cat and gave the dog his morning treat (a Bar-S brand wiener). Then I went to breakfast with my roommate – who has asked that I not use his name, for whatever reason. After that I went into town. Living in Elgin makes you say things like “I went into town”. One problem was, though, that I had previously thrown my schedule off. Last Friday I was feeling rather drained so I stopped at Barnes & Noble on my way home and I picked up a book that I had ordered. They had called me and threatened to return it, which could only mean that they had my email address incorrect because I never received an email letting me know that it had arrived. I’m used to this. It’s not a difficult email address; it is my name run all together then arroba1 then “”. The lady who helped me noticed right away that the email they had used wasn’t correct and she noticed right away why. It’s a common mistake, really, but one that I don’t understand. People are okay writing the name Ernie, but I spell it with an ‘a’, so they have to write Earnie. Some part of that confuses them and they write Earine. Even when I spell it 3 letters at a time they get flustered right after the ‘r’. I can usually tell by the look on their face that they’ve typed my name incorrectly, but this time it slipped past me. I don’t have much problem with the Painter part of it. When somebody asks my last name I say Painter and they ask me to spell it (because it sounds so tricky) and I say "Painter, like one who paints" and I usually don’t have to spell it. Earnie is too tricky, though.

So, I bought my book, sat down in the café and had a cup of coffee.

That’s the problem; I bought my book on Friday. I’m supposed to buy my book on Saturday or Sunday. I don’t think that I’m really obsessive. I tend to think that most people who label themselves as obsessive/compulsive are just trying to call attention to themselves. I can leave the house with a burner on the stove set on high and not think anything of it. I don’t go back three times and check every possible problem. I push the button at the crosswalk three times, but I strongly feel that everybody does this. However, weekends are delicate and this caused a disturbance. I should have gone to a freestanding Starbucks and bought my coffee, but I was afraid B&N would send my book back, even though they clearly stated in the voice mail that they would hold it for another week. Actually, I think I was just trying to reassure myself that I’m not obsessive and that I should kill 2 birds with one stone on a Friday evening while I was already in town; drink coffee and pick up the book. But, that meant that on Saturday morning I didn’t have anything to do. I usually go to work on Saturdays, but I’ve decided not to do that for a while. Oh sure, there’s loads of housework to do, but if I’m not at work then I’m supposed to go to Barnes and Noble and buy a mystery novel that I read that weekend.

Which brings up another point: I read mystery novels. When I tell people that I don’t watch TV I get the feeling that they think I say that just to make myself feel superior. On the contrary, I would like to be able to enjoy TV. I listen to people at work talk about their favorite show that they all watched last night – except for the one person who dvr’d it so she has to walk away before she finds out what happened, except that she never walks away and if she hears what happened it’s her own fault. I envy how much they enjoy the shows and how much they enjoy talking about them the next day. It’s kind of like olives. I want to like olives. I have tried very hard to like them. I have been able to make myself like broccoli; it stands to reason that I should be able to make myself like olives. I sit there with my mind wide open, knowing that what I’m about to put in my mouth will be different but that I’m going to allow myself to enjoy it, regardless of my previous experience. Then, when it’s in my mouth I begin to gag and I have to spit it out. Along the same lines I have sat down in front of the television and began watching a show… but I can’t do it. I think it’s the commercials. I bought the first season of True Blood on dvd, and when I’ve intoxicated myself I am able to watch an episode of that here and there. Mystery novels don’t have commercials. Mysteries don’t make me feel like I’m a walking donkey’s petunia simply because I’m going bald and not doing anything about it. Agatha Christie never told me to tell my doctor what to prescribe me or made me feel uncool if I hadn’t purchase a new shirt in the last 30 minutes. I don’t like commercials, so I read. I read other things besides mysteries, but weekends are for taking it easy and who wants to work at thinking about a book. Weekends are for mystery novels, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Susan Wittig Albert. Life needs to end up with a happy ending without having to work too hard. I’m supposed to lie on my sofa and read while my cats sleep, contented just to have me in the room, even if the ungrateful hags don’t snuggle or let me pet them.

So, Saturday I was forced to help my roommate with something or other, I washed a load of laundry that’s still sitting in the laundry basked – as it should be – and then we went to dinner at Hyde Park Bar & Grill because Roommate was craving their fries. Not a lot of reading of mystery novels happened, though I couldn’t tell you exactly all that did happen. I thought about packing, but that didn’t take up much time being that I didn’t actually pack anything or even take the boxes out of my car. (I’m moving in a little over a month. A different story for a different time.) I did, however, think about buying sauce pans and pots for my kitchen, and silverware. I had decided that I could do that on Sunday morning, which is exactly what I did right after I left breakfast this morning. (I didn’t have coffee at breakfast, by the way.) I drove directly to Austin and checked a couple of department stores and discount stores, pricing pans. (They don’t sell sauce pans by themselves very much and when they do they’re, like, $30 or $40 apiece. WTH??) When I was in the second store, Target, I had the first breakdown. I started thinking of couples that I know and it made me very, very sad to be moving out all by myself. I’m adult enough to know that this was a coffee deficiency because I do not know a couple who lives in resplendent married bliss in which they go together to pick out cooking implements and flatware. Most people I know bicker about such things so I should feel lucky (and I do) to be able to make the decisions by myself. But, bickering is fun, too, if it’s done in the right way. And coming home to somebody who is glad to see you is fun… or it seems like it ought to be. I’m not certain that I’ve ever really experienced that.

So, crying bitter tears into my coffee (there’s a Starbucks inside of this Target) I considered calling my sister. I didn’t call because I knew that the caffeine would change my personality completely in a few minutes, which should be a glaring red light that there’s a problem, but I’ve ignored bigger problems than that. I got up and went to the kitchen department and priced sauce pans, which they didn’t sell separately. The flatware was basically the same as the previous store. I was feeling better (caffeine kicked in) so I took myself to Ross and looked for the same things. They had next to no flatware and while they sold sauce pans, the cheapest thing they had was $30.00. And that’s the Ross discount price. The original was probably twice that. What the hell, people? It’s just a sauce pan! It doesn’t have to be made out of the same material that we make rockets and space shuttles out of. From there I went to the pet store and bought Roommate’s cat a scratching block.

When I got back to Elgin I decided that I was probably going to need to cook dinner, so I stopped by the store. This is when the 2nd breakdown started. I’m not certain what triggered it. I was feeling groovy when I was picking out tomatillos, but somewhere around the tortillas I started to crash. It wasn’t as dramatic as before, and I already knew what the issue was. I needed a nap. So, I went straight home, plopped the grocery bags on the kitchen counter and walked, accompanied by the dog, outside to my room (did I mention that I’m moving? Do I need to explain why?) and laid down to read. I read 5 words and then closed my eyes. An hour later life was better.

I thought some more about packing, and I really should start that. I washed a few more clothes. I cleaned the kitchen, played with the new kitten, which Roommate assures me is not going to live in the house, and then I took myself outside to my bedroom again and finished my mystery novel. This was not the novel that I had purchased on Friday. I just happened to have an extra one so this was the weekend I was supposed to get back on track, except that I bought another book on Friday instead of Saturday or Sunday. If I had bought the book on an actual weekend day then things would have been better. I would have purchased a book on the weekend and I would have read a book on the weekend. The fact that it wasn’t the same book wasn’t as important as the fact that I had made the purchase on a weekend. I honestly considered taking the book back to Barnes & Noble and returning it, asking them to hold onto it for a week for me. I could have said that I was tight on money and couldn’t really afford the extra $6 during that particular biweekly time span. I wouldn’t have minded them thinking that I was strapped for money, but I didn’t take it back mostly because I didn’t want to get the look. You know the look. That look that says “Yes, we’ll do what you’re asking us to do but I’m not going to make eye contact with you ever again”. I don’t like getting the look. It makes an otherwise cheerful trip to the bookstore a little uncomfortable and that person doesn’t forget and the look continues for months. I used to work at a bookstore; I know. They don’t forget. I worked at a grocery store as well, and I thought that I had seen every facet of humanity, but there is something about a bookstore that attracts mentally unstable people. I mean, people who are literally institutionalized or who have to be on medication or they won’t realize that they’ve soiled their pants. People who don’t bathe for weeks and yet walk and talk as if they were Vanderbilts. I like to think that I’m not among these people because I recognize that my actions would make others uncomfortable and I refraine from them. Does thinking about killing somebody make a person a murderer? Not legally, anyway.

After I read my book I got up and made another tiny cup of a much milder coffee which I drank while I savored the book that I had just read. I savored the book and I savored the freedom I have to read it. I love reading a book on a weekend; it’s just perfect. But, soon the coffee was finished and it dawned on me that tomorrow is Monday and anxiety began to clutch my chest. I decided that I wasn’t going to cook dinner after all. I deboned the chicken and put the ingredients in the fridge and I’ll make the green enchiladas tomorrow. That made me feel a little better. I could fold laundry, I could build a box up and put some stuff into it, but that wouldn’t really fix the anxiety. From what I understand my sister used to curl up into a fetal position at about this time on Sundays and my brother used to have to medicate himself – maybe he still does.

This is why Sundays suck; I have far too many melt-downs. A friend at work feels that Sundays suck because she always needs a hair of the dog that bit her. In reality, Mondays aren’t generally that torturous for me. They used to be, but work has gotten much better in the last year. That’s a year of things not being crazy and work not being hell; it seems like I would settle down. And, the anxiety is not a conscious decision. Even if I don’t think about work the tightening of the chest is still there. Honestly, working on the weekend helps diminish it, but that’s not healthy at all. So, it’s back to my decision: Corona Extra or Bloody Mary.

I feel that a Corona Extra with a lime would be appropriate.

e A r n i e


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Monday, July 19, 2010

Faith and Friends

I am a Christian. To be specific I am Catholic. (There are people who would argue that Catholics aren’t Christians, but that’s an argument for another time… and another person as far as I’m concerned.) I don’t go to mass as often as I should, and I understand that I’m only cheating myself. I have friends at this church in Elgin, but I’m not as fond of it as I was of St. Ignatius, though even there I felt like I was alone quite a bit of the time. That’s what being single at the age of 40 does for a person. I could go with my roommate; he almost never misses. I do miss attending with people closer to my age, people I can relate to. But, I have never seen him arrive on time or sit anywhere but the very back row.

I have a friend who is Muslim. We were born the same year, and though we were born halfway around the world from each other we did notice some similarities. We were the same age and single; we were both rather lonely. We both seemed to be a little outcast, each in a different way.

I’m certain that he is more faithful to his religion than I am. We delivered pizzas together and I know that he kept a prayer rug in his car so that he could pull off the road at sundown and pray. I can’t vouch for his consistency, but he told me that he did it pretty much every day. Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day and I’m pretty sure that he kept that schedule. I look at him for inspiration of how to be a better Christian.

At the pizza place many of the kitchen staff talked about him, and not in a good way. Some of them were from Mexico and I spoke Spanish, so I got along with them. He is from Bangladesh, so it seems like he should have a lot in common with them as well – being an immigrant, not being a native speaker of English – but they didn’t seem to see that. They would accuse him of stealing breadsticks and pizzas. They would say he didn’t do his part of the work. This small group would find anything bad to say about him, though the only thing that really separated him from them was language. (He actually spoke English better than any of them.) I understand that there was a different religion as well, and I’m certain that his being Muslim made them uncomfortable. (The year was 2002, which didn’t help matters.) Except that I spoke Spanish, I don’t see any reason why I should have gotten along with them better than he. I’m gay; he’s straight. I’m American; they were all immigrants...

I won’t write his name because he might not want me to do so. I suppose I could call him Mohammed. I’m relatively certain that he has that in his name; he told me that every Muslim man does… though the spellings vary. I don’t want to offend anybody’s sensibility, though, so I’ll refrain from using that name.

At the restaurant he didn’t stand around talking as much as the others did. He talked some, to me at least. It seems to me that there used to be more camaraderie between him and others who, like him, had worked there for a while; I would periodically see photos and hear conversations that made me think they used to hang out together more.

He invited me to watch prayer one Friday evening. It was beautiful. Everybody cleaned themselves ceremonially; a man stood in front and called the believers to prayer. They all prayed together, kneeling on their rugs, lifting their heads as they said their prayers. One person at the front led them. It didn’t seem to me to be like in our churches where a priest leads; my impression was that the person in front was more on the same level as the others.

He told me that right after 911 the police seemed to have started to try to harass them subtly. He said that suddenly everybody arrived at their cars after prayer with parking tickets on their cars. The mosque was downtown, but prayer was at sunset which is never before 5pm so there should not have been a meter person working.

Certain people tell me every time they get a chance that Christians and Muslims can’t live in the same world together, that one or the other will have to die. They say that it is written in the Quran that Muslims have to convince everybody to convert to Islam and kill the ones who refuse. From what I have read this is a vast over-simplification of what is in the Quran and a dangerous thing. One could say the same for our holiest of books, the Bible. The Old Testament is full of stories of killing non-Hebrew populations. But, our Bible and the Quran both agree that to hurt an innocent person is wrong. Jesus said that what we do to the least of people we do directly to him, be it good or bad. (Matthew 25) The Quran reads something similar; that if we kill an innocent person it is as if we kill all of mankind and vice versa; if we keep a person alive then we are keeping all of mankind alive. (Quran 5:32)

I actually witnessed my friend take pizza and breadsticks. I certainly wouldn’t call it stealing, though. He took an old pizza that hadn’t been picked up and put it halfway through the oven’s conveyor belt to heat it back up. We all got hungry and needed food throughout the evenings, but he was giving the pizza to a homeless man who offered to help by taking out the trash. The man would have eventually dug the same pizza out of the dumpster later on anyway, all my friend did was heat it up for him. The restaurant had no business trying to sell it again, considering how long it had sat there. Another time I saw him grab some breadsticks that had been sitting around for a few hours. Again, they weren’t usable; they were going to be thrown away. But, that didn’t keep people from murmuring about him stealing. I didn’t have to watch him to know that he was feeding a bird with a broken wing behind the restaurant. I tried a few times to let them know what he was doing, but they were intent on disliking him.

In a way I am a little ashamed for mentioning first that he is Muslim. To me he was first a friend. I haven’t seen him in a while and I very much regret that. I regret that I didn’t spend more time getting to know him. Not everybody in the restaurant disliked him, and I apologize for making it seem that way. The few who talked are the ones who stay in my memory; the friendships that he must have had – that I didn’t see – didn’t have a chance to make it there. In the time we did spend together he told me about his family and he seemed to think that his brother had a very successful career. I enjoyed talking with him about Islam, the Quran, about history and current events. There is a lot to be said for somebody coming to a foreign country and learning a new language, especially when the first language wasn’t Latin or German based. There couldn’t have been any similarities to build on. But, here he was, reading books faster than I’ll ever be able to do. I miss our talks.

We took a trip to Enchanted Rock one time. We got to the top of the 2nd largest rock at sunset. He had his prayer rug with him and he said his prayer at sunset while I looked on. There are few things in my life that have been that touching. At the time I was only just studying Catholicism. I had been baptized around age 19 (I might have been baptized much younger, but I couldn’t remember the church or much else about it, so we’ll stick with 19.) I was searching for spiritual help in a desperately lonely time. He was practicing his faith in what seemed to be a rather lonely time for him. But, here he was, praying faithfully. In times of loneliness I tend to crawl into bed and not come out, avoiding the things that could actually help me. He practiced not only his prayer regularly, but charity as well. The depth of his faith amazed me, and inspired me. It continues to inspire me.

Life has a way of separating people if one is not careful. I got a different job and moved to Elgin. I suppose he still works at the pizza place, though I wouldn’t know. I just let us fall out of touch. My brother stays in touch with friends of his who have moved to different states years ago; there’s really no excuse for my behavior. It’s rather selfish. I still think about him, especially when I’m in church or studying anything religious. I wouldn’t have been any better of a Muslim than I am a Christian I don’t think. But, when they talk about taking a collection for the St. Vincent de Paul society I think of him feeding the homeless. I have two cats, mostly because he convinced me that I needed a cat in my life. Hopefully my prayer will be answered one day and I’ll get back in touch with him. That’s probably selfishness on my part again, but there you are.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Books I Have Loved

I just got in contact, via Facebook, with an old friend from San Antonio and she reminded me of something about myself. I emailed her, “Sarah? Who introduced me to David Foster Wallace?” And she emailed me back, “Earnie? Who does everything fast?” People laugh at me because I talk fast, even though I was raised in the Panhandle of Texas where people talk with a very slow drawl. I tend to do a lot of things fast, or try to, anyway. Working in retail for years and years either led to that or greatly encouraged it. I have – by force and by choice – slowed down a bit. But, my natural state is fast.

However, I never learned to read fast. I have tried. I have skimmed pages and then not noticed one thing that was on them. I have tried to pick up the pace, but my mind wanders and I might as well not be pretending to read. I tend to subvocalize and if I try to stop I, again, might as well be riding a bicycle.

That being said, I do love to read. I love to read on a rainy day; I love to read on a sunny day. I love the thought of going to the bookstore (I don’t do libraries much because I’m not good at taking books back,) and I love to find new authors. And there are so many out there. It’s almost embarrassing the number of authors that line the shelves of the bookstores. Not all of them would I read, but I should never be at a loss for something good to curl up with. When I was younger I would read a good book, like the books from The Dark Is Rising series, and I would have to wait a while after I finished that book to begin another one. I would have to savor the one I just finished for a while. If I tried to dive right into the next book I would find that I couldn’t get into it because I was still enjoying the other one. Looking back that is another example of reading slowly, but I don’t regret it.

Every once in a while in my adult life a special book comes along. I love it when I’m at work and I’m thinking about going home and reading, because the book is so good. And, I won’t say that I read incredibly high-brow literature. As a matter of fact, I didn’t read many of the required readings while I was in school because our school didn’t really require much reading. (From what I understand their curriculum is better now.) So now I’m going back and reading a lot of the books that I probably should have read long, long ago. With mixed reactions.

Not too long ago I was in a very unfortunate financial situation. I had bought a house that I couldn’t afford. Then, I promptly lost my job. So, I wasn’t going out much. I figured that I could afford to spend less than $10 on a book because it could amuse me for a few days, whereas going to a bar or going out to eat could be $20 per night or more. I began reading a couple of mystery series’. I had a new job, earning much less than I had been earning before, and I was working either a second job or as much overtime as I could to make ends meet. On my days/time off I would read in my living room. There was a T.V. there, and I learned to watch it, but I did much better with books. One mystery would usually last me a weekend.

I decided to read Stoker’s Dracula. I picked up a nice edition that happened to have a forward by Elizabeth Kostova, who happened to have written a book called The Historian, which was also about the original vampire. I thoroughly enjoyed Dracula – and it lasted for more than a weekend. This was one of those books that I probably should have read long ago, but I loved it then. It is delicious, unnerving, fascinating and I was surprised to learn that Stoker had never actually been to Central or Eastern Europe. (If that fact is incorrect I apologize, but I don’t realistically have the means to verify it.) Plus, I learned a lot about the origin of all of the other vampire stories that have bloomed since. (Like, that a vampire has to be invited into a home before he can enter it. I saw that in the 2nd episode of True Blood, but that’s another topic for another time.)

I discovered, one day, Kostova’s book, The Historian, in the bargain book section of Barnes & Noble, which meant that I could get the hard-cover for less than the paperback would cost.

I don’t know when I have enjoyed a book so much. The old monasteries and dark crypts, the sociology – both contemporary and early 20th-century – of Eastern Europe, the love stories, the phrase that is now immediately recognizable (I won’t give it away, but read the book and you’ll know what I’m talking about)… I truly looked forward every day to going home to read this book. And, it’s a large volume; it took me lots of days to read it. I was actually sad when I finished it. I licked my fingers and relished it for days if not weeks after I was done. I’ve read a few reviews about it and some were not flattering, but who cares? They might be correct in everything they say, but I still enjoyed it tremendously, and it helped get me through a particularly depressing time. I’ve been longing for another story that could move me so much.

Several years later I found it. A few weeks ago I read, for the first time – and this is embarrassing to admit – To Kill a Mockingbird. I won’t bother to write much about the book itself – I won’t pretend to review it – because what’s left that hasn’t already been written? I can’t believe my high school didn’t require it, though I don’t know that I would have appreciated it back then. It has the magical quality that I have been longing for in a book. I avoided it for years because of the trial, because I knew how the trial turns out in the story and it’s very difficult for me to read about or watch a show about the racism that was so prevalent then. But, the book is so beautiful; the way Scout narrates it is just unbelievably… beautiful. One evening
during the time that I was reading it my roommate had guests. Part of my job as a roommate is to entertain his guests while he does more important things. However, at one point I slipped away for a few minutes and read a few pages while they sat in the living room unattended. I’ve never left a guest alone like that before and I probably won’t ever again; it’s just not right, even if they’re not my guests. But, that’s how much I wanted to read this book. Even though it reminds me of how wretched we are as human beings, it also reminds me of how beautiful life can be.

Well, now you know my secret. There are other books that I haven’t read that I should. I finally read Great Expectations and perhaps I’m just missing something, but I didn’t think it was magical. I’m glad I did so that I can understand references to it, and I’m not saying it isn’t a great book. I’ll accept it if I’m accused of having shallow, unrefined taste. Maybe another Dickens novel will read better for me, or maybe in 10 years I will have developed as a reader. (I doubt it.) I like to read Agatha Christie for fun because it doesn’t require a lot of thought. Dorothy Sayers is good, and relaxing as well. Now I’m looking for that next magical book experience. But, I’ll wait a while for it. I’m still savoring Harper Lee’s. :-)

e A r n i e

Monday, May 24, 2010

Opening Paragraphs

Because I don't already spend enough time in front of a computer I have decided to give blogging a shot. I used to do this before - in a venue I named Braulio, after my great-grandfather. In general I was writing more back then, and I want to begin doing that again. This is a way to move myself along toward that goal. When I read what I wrote in my journal a few months ago - or even a couple of years ago - I can tell that it is a shriveled-up shell of what my writing was 5 to 10 years ago. Back then I was painting, drawing and doing other creative things as well. Today I am in a much better place financially for having focused on work, but I think that there has to be a balance. Right now I feel like I'm very much inclining toward the boring side. This is one way to scootch myself back over toward the creative end of the spectrum. I don't plan to go over the edge, quit my job and begin painting murals and/or throwing pottery, trying to eek out a living that way. A nice balance will do.

Why bemol Ardiente? Many, many years ago a friend casually gave me a CD that he didn't much care for. If I remember correctly he had been living and working in Columbia (he's Puerto Rican originally) and somebody gave him a CD by a group called Son Miserables. He didn't much care for it and he thought I might get more out of it. I listened to it a couple of times and didn't really think much of it. You've probably had an experience similar to this; you have a CD (tape or LP) that you don't really think much of for the first couple of years - or even a song that you don't really notice on a CD that you otherwise like. Then one day something clicks and the song/CD/tape/LP suddenly becomes one of the most beautiful things you've ever heard. That's how it was with this CD. Several years had passed and suddenly this music came to life for me and I couldn't stop listening to it.

One song in particular struck me, Madagascar. The first couple of lines were very cryptic for me, though. Spanish isn't my first language and one of the tools I used to learn it was music, listening to songs. This was before the internet was a common part of our lives, though. Even if I'd had access to the internet, there probably wasn't the plethora of sites willing to give me the all of lyrics that I wanted to know at the click of a button. That's how it used to be for us music lovers, and I feel that in many ways we've lost a lot of the romance due to the instant access to lyrics and downloadable songs. We used to wait to hear the song on the radio and listen so closely for all the words. If we had the tape, we'd play the song over and over, trying to remember the lines or trying to understand that one part that escaped us. We'd ask our friends and we'd all sit together listening to the song, rewinding it and calling out what we thought they singer had said. Now, I can look up the words almost any time I want to and it's almost like a precocious climax. Often I simply forget to even look the lyrics up; that's how disinterested I've become with all of this instant and total gratification.

But, I digress. The poetic words beginning the song Madagascar were a puzzle for me. Although I understood the words, I couldn't understand their meaning. "En vez de un bemol ardiente, piensas que el futuro te depara nadar sola bajo el mar." I asked my friend, the one who had given me the CD to begin with. (He has a Master's degree in literature, after all.) He suggested that the bemol ardiente was a poetic way of expressing a rough spot in a life. Bemol is a flat, as in music – like an E Flat. A slump, a slight decline. The song seems to suggest that she is viewing a small downturn in her life as if the future had dumped her alone in the middle of the ocean. Well, it was certainly a slump in my life and I thought that I had never heard anything so beautiful. Not to be clichĂ©, but it was nice to pretend that he was singing those words to me. It was comforting.

So this is my way of taking that bemol Ardiente, those hard times, the unending loneliness and feelings of futility, the friends and laughter that were there, the longing and searching, the cold, dark dread I felt as I realized that the bridge was collapsing underneath me and I was about to fall to an unimaginable low... this will be part of an attempt to take those things and use them for something new. That's the idea. I don't plan to write the dark paragraphs that I did back then. They were effective, but that's where I was then, not now. I just want to find a way to take that, with other parts of my life and use them to make something good.

Thank you for reading. Do come back and visit me again.

Yours truly,

e A r n i e