Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BLACK CATS, BAD ODORS & THINGS THAT SPEAK SPANISH IN THE NIGHT

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On August 8, 1997, a great friend of mine gave me as a birthday gift ‘HAUNTED PLACES: The National Directory’ by Dennis William Hauck. This book is essentially an encyclopedia which includes brief descriptions of various places where unearthly phenomena is reported to have occurred. However, the reader won’t find mentioned in this book what must surely be one of the strangest, most “haunted” sites in America: the building in Phoenix, Arizona, where I have been employed since March of 1998. I call the building “The Grave.”

I have no intention of making the specific whereabouts of this building known as I’m sure the attention would be unappreciated by the building management company and the business that currently occupies the 4-story structure. But I will share with you some of the paranormal activity that has been reported over the last 11 years at The Grave:
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[Full moon over "The Grave"; October 3, 2009.]
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EARLY WEIRDNESS
Due to the nature of my job, I am in the building in the evenings and sometimes entirely alone. When I first got hired there, I heard a story about a man who previously worked in my position but had to quit because he eventually decided that he was not comfortable being at the site alone at night. I recall one night not long after I got hired, when a female employee hurried by me. I said something like, “Well, you sure seem to be in a rush to get somewhere.” But she was in no joking mood. She replied, “I was supposed to be alone on the third floor, only I WASN’T alone! I’m never working in this building by myself at night ever again!” And she didn’t. I would have asked her to elaborate, but - WHOOSH! – she was out the door before I could.

One of the oddities that I experienced firsthand occurred very early in my employment. The building has an atrium area in the lobby from which one can look up to the walkways on the upper three floors and through the skylight in the roof. Occasionally, I would hear what seemed to be footsteps on the walkways of the third floor, despite the fact that I knew for certain I was the only person in the building. One weekend day, I kept hearing what sounded like doors opening and closing, and the sound of walking was so pronounced that I took the elevator up to the third floor, but the moment I arrived, the walking stopped. I remained there for about five minutes before riding the elevator back down. But the moment I got back to the first floor lobby, the walking started again. I returned to the third floor and again it immediately stopped.

There were times when I was alone in the lobby of the building and suddenly I would hear a “Ding!” and I would turn around to see one of the elevator’s doors open up revealing no one inside. I mentioned this one day to a repairman who had come to address some unrelated issue with one of the elevator cars. He gave me a very stange look and told me that what I had described to him was “impossible.” He explained that the way the elevator system is designed, a car cannot go to a floor and open its doors unless it has been called by someone pressing an elevator button. So, what I had seen happen with my own eyes numerous times was declared “impossible”, and yet . . .
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[The Grave elevators: Sometimes the doors open but nobody's home.]
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Gradually, I heard a few stories from other employees of the third floor who would say that working after hours they could sometimes hear what sounded like the shuffling of papers on the desk and the clicking of a computer keyboard in the cubicle next to theirs, but in checking to see who else was doing night work, they would find the adjacent cubicle empty. This was a rather common story. (It wasn’t until sometime much later that I would hear of similar stories from employees on the other floors as well.)

Because of my firm belief in the existence of demons and some government conspiracy scenarios, etc., people might be inclined to think that I jump to conclusions and invest belief in things prior to a thorough investigation. But the fact of the matter is that jumping to conclusions is antithetical to my nature; quite the opposite is the truth: I am very analytical and prone to practicing deep reasoning before arriving at conclusions. For me, theories are just that: theories - and nothing more. I’ll consider various theories but not make concrete claims until I am positive that the evidence supports them.

For these reasons, I was not yet anywhere near convinced that there was any authentic spiritual activity occurring in this building that I call The Grave. In fact, I was inclined to make jokes about this “stuffs.” Anytime something was misplaced or unexplained, I would jestingly blame it on “our ghost.” I still thought it was possible that there was some rational explanation for everything. The building contains a lot of electronic equipment, and I speculated that this might play a part in things.

However, I inititially felt that if there really was indeed some sort of strange phenomena happening in the building, it was probably located primarily on the third floor. I did wonder if it was possible that the spirit of a deceased former employee with an unhappy home life was revisting the job site where he or she had been more comfortable. Even now, I’m not fully convinced that this type of “ghost” really exists anywhere, but it was a theory to consider for the time being.

As time went on, I would come to realize that much of what occurs in this building definitely has no rational explanation, and whatever is in this structure can be found throughout it and even on its exterior grounds.

BAD ODORS
There have been a number of instances of nasty odors being located in certain areas of the building, unexplainably occurring and unexplainably leaving. Here are just a few notable examples:

One Saturday, I was alone in the building when I noticed a very pronounced odor of an electrical fire in a small space on one of the fourth floor walkways in the atrium area. The smell was overpowering but it seemed to be contained in a spot maybe two feet wide. As soon as I took a step or two away from the odor, it could no longer be detected. But I was certain that we had an electrical fire somewhere, so I began a search under the nearest desks expecting to find a short in some wiring. But I couldn’t find any problem anwhere, and yet that powerful odor persisted. I very nearly alerted the fire department but at the last moment I decided to just let the fire alarms do what they’re paid to do, and so I waited. And I waited. I was certain that a fire alarm was going to go off at any second, so I waited some more, but it never happened. I’m sure glad I decided not to contact the fire department, because after they rolled code three and arrived at The Grave, I would have looked pretty idiotic trying to explain why there was no smoke, no fire, and no scent of fire. For you see, after about 45 minutes, that overwhelming odor of an electrical fire was gone and didn’t return.

Late in the morning one day, an unpleasant odor took over the entire first floor lobby. I wasn’t there, but a coworker later told me that it smelled exactly as if one was standing in the middle of an onion field. He said no one could determine where it came from, including the building engineer. It seemed to permeate the first floor lobby but didn’t spread to any other areas, and after about an hour, it left as mysteriously as it had arrived.

One time, I went to the second floor Employee Dining Room to get some filtered water and the moment I walked into the room I almost gagged. There was an absolutely horrible odor in there that I can’t really describe other than to say that it smelled, I guess, the way I would imagine cooking extremely rancid meat might smell. I got my water and got out quick. But while I was in there, I noticed through the glass doors that lead to the little outdoor patio that a trio of employees were sharing a pizza. I thought to myself: What in the hell did they have put on that pizza? Less than an hour later, I encountered one of those three employees elsewhere and I asked him, “What did you guys have on that pizza? That dining room smelled terrible.” The guy told me, “That wasn’t our pizza. We were planning to eat in the dining room, but when we got there, that awful smell drove us out to the patio. I don’t know what that was.” A little while later, I returned to the room to find no trace of any unusual odor.

One night, a few employees and I were talking about some of the building’s strangeness and one woman told me that there is one large supply closet on the fourth floor and sometimes they can smell a strong flowery scent in one spot. It can’t always be detected, but when it is, it’s rather potent but in a very limited area of about one foot square. She said that if one takes but a single step off of that spot, the scent can’t be smelled. Interestingly, since most people think of the aroma of flowers to be a nice, positive thing, this is the only story of weirdness associated with The Grave that could be categorized as “Good” or positive; to my knowledge, every other unexplained phenomenon experienced in that building has been of a negative or neutral classification.

DISEMBODIED VOICES

One day I arrived at work only to have a new employee ask me if there was “something strange” about the building. I knowingly smiled and asked him, “Why?” And he proceeded to tell me how earlier that day, despite being the only human being in the building, he had heard the sound of running footsteps and a little girl laughing on one of the third floor walkways. This person in question was a good, very conservative, highly educated, genuinely religious, spiritually-minded man. There is no way he could have been lying to me. NO WAY!

Over the years, I have spoken to several members of the sets of Hispanic nighttime cleaning crews that have been employed at The Grave, and all of them have related strange stories to me. All of them have believed the building is haunted, and some of the women have been afraid to work without a coworker beside them. I knew one girl was very frightened due to a variety of things she had experienced on the second floor. For one thing, after dusting a cabinet, she and her coworker found eyeglasses sitting on it - eyeglasses that had not been there a minute or two earlier, even though there was no one else on that floor but them. Then one night this same girl was cleaning a restroom, again on the second floor, when she heard someone laughing and what sounded like a man speaking Spanish. At first she thought her coworker was playing a joke on her, but in searching for her teammate, she found her occupied on the other side of the suite and knowing nothing about any laughter or Spanish speaking man. They found no one else in that suite. This girl quit the job shortly thereafter.

There’s a whole new cleaning crew in the building nowadays, and one of the girls is particularly afraid of the second floor. Like the girl years before her, she insists on having a teammate with her while working in The Grave.

There is only one thing the least bit odd about The Grave from a physical standpoint: rather than being built in the usual fashion as a square or rectangle, the building was constructed at a weird angle at one corner. It’s kind of pinched, causing two of its sides to form a rather sharp, unusual point. I don’t know why it was designed this way but I suppose the architechts were just trying to give the building its own unique identity. We may have gotten more than they bargained for; they may have actually given the building its own unique personalities!

There has never been a death in the building that I or anyone else I’ve ever spoken with is aware of. And I don’t think The Grave is haunted in the classic sense of “spirits of dead people” roaming around. It may be that there is really only one entity in this building, an entity who engages in shapeshifting and gender/nationality-bending. But I kind of doubt it. I suspect that we really are dealing with multiple entities. A female lawyer once told me that she never felt totally comfortable in this building, that it just didn’t “feel right.” I asked her, “Do you mean like in a feng shui kind of way?” And she replied, “Well, yeah, maybe.”

This led me to consider the possibility that perhaps the way the building has been constructed with a strange point at one end, it has (for some incomprehensible reason) caused the building to become a sort of portal for spiritual beings to enter our dimension by. I’m not saying I believe this, I’m merely throwing it out there as pure speculation; a broad theory to at least be taken into consideration. I also think that demonology is a concept that can’t be tossed away out-of-hand. Regardless, I believe that the classic ghost concept (“I see dead people”) is the least likely explanation for what happens in this building.
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[The Point of The Grave: Gateway to strange stuffs?]
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THE BLACK CAT & OTHER SPECTRES
Years ago, a young woman from the nighttime cleaning crew at that time (not either of the girls mentioned previously) told me that one night while vacuuming the carpet in a small conference room, she suddenly sensed that she was being watched. Turning, she saw the dark silhouette of a man outside the window. Now, considering the fact that this conference room is located on the fourth floor, that’s a pretty neat levitation trick the man was performing.

I knew an employee named “Sally” who worked in that suite which included this particular conference room. Sally often worked alone up there at night and she told me that she was always hearing strange noises like that of other people working: papers being shuffled, computer keyboards being operated. It freaked her out, but she needed to get her work done, so when the noises started, she would just crank up the volume on her desk radio. (Ha! That’s the same way I fix disturbing sounds emanating from the engine of my pickup truck.)

Oddly, however, about a year after the cleaning crew member’s experience with “the man in the window”, Sally told me that one night she went into that same conference room to get something and she too experienced the man levitating in the window. She was not really surprised when I informed her that a cleaning person had previously seen the same thing in that same window, but that was the last straw for Sally. She decided she was no longer comfortable enough to be up there alone at night, and she began coming in on the weekends during daylight hours. It should be noted that the conference room where “the man in the window” has appeared is located at the top of the building, right in the pinched corner where The Grave comes to an unusual, exaggerated point. Could this window at the point be the gateway into our world?
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[4th floor conference room: Home of "the man in the window."]
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Let’s ride the elevator (if you dare) back down to the second floor. A little earlier this year, I was told by a male member of the cleaning crew that one Sunday morning, a coworker of his was doing some cleaning in a second floor suite when he saw a black cat go running across the floor in front of him. He reported it to his supervisor, but no one later found a black cat anywhere on the second floor or elsewhere in the building. There are only two ways a cat could get into that suite on the second floor, and THE EASIEST way would be if it waited at the exterior stairwell door until a person decided to exit. Darting past the person who is leaving, the cat would enter the stairwell inside the building, then it would have to go up two flights of stairs and wait at the landing outside the second floor stairwell door until a human being opened THAT door also. And then running past the person exiting, the cat would finally be in the suite. Trust me, there was no “real” black cat on the second floor, but apparently there was something doing a pretty impressive impersonation of a black cat in that second floor suite that Sunday.

Alone in the building one Saturday night, about 9:00 P.M., circa 2002, I stepped outside The Grave to throw out a box of doughnuts that someone had left on a table in a kitchenette area. Immediately, I noticed something in my peripheral vision that caused me to turn and look. There was a man of medium build, about 5’11” or 6’ tall, in his mid to late 40s, wearing a white shirt and dark trousers and smoking a cigarette. He had just taken a drag on the cig so the end of it lit up cherry-red and that’s what had caught my attention. The man was just standing there on the lawn, gazing into one of the office windows on the first floor. We made eye contact but neither of us spoke. It wasn’t unusual to find people strolling around the premises, but I was surprised to see him so close to the building.

I decided that after I threw the box of doughnuts into the trash dumpster, if he had not given any indication that he was in the process of moving on, I would go speak to him and find out what he was doing here. I kept my eyes on him nearly the entire way to the dumpster as he just slowly meandered along the building, casually smoking his cigarette and directing his gaze toward the windows of the building in an absent-minded sort of way. When I got to within about 10 steps of the dumpster, I took my eyes off him for the first time. I tossed the box in and turned around and . . . the man was gone. Even if he had been the fastest man on Earth and he had known the exact moment I would take my eyes off him and he began running at that very moment, he still couldn’t have totally disappeared from my field of vision that quickly. His disappearance was “impossible.” That is the day when I stopped joking about “our ghost” in the building and realized that there truly are spiritual manifestations taking place at The Grave.

I was off from work the next two days, but when I returned to the job site at 3 PM on Tuesday, as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed “Bill”, a coworker of mine, standing next to a temporary construction fence South of the building, very near where the man had disappeared from my view three nights earlier. Bill was wearing a perplexed look. I thought that a bit odd to see him in that spot, but I parked and went into the building to begin filling out my initial paperwork. Finally, Bill entered the building and walked up to me and (although I know this is a hackneyed expression, it’s still the best description) he looked white as a sheet, as if he had seen a ghost. Bill said to me, “I just saw the strangest thing.” I was sure I already knew what he was going to say and I very nearly finished the thought for him but decided to let him tell his story . . .

Bill told me that he was in the parking lot when he saw a guy not far behind him crossing from the building toward a parking area. Bill waved at the man who waved back to Bill. But after taking just two steps, it dawned on Bill that he hadn’t recognized the man as an employee and wondered who he was. He immediately looked back but the man had disappeared. No way! Bill briskly walked back to where the man had been just seconds earlier but he found no evidence of him. He even looked between every single one of the cars parked against the fence in that area, but the man had vanished. It was almost as if the guy had picked up from where he left off with me three days earlier, took a few more steps toward the South and then pulled his disappearing act again for my coworker. Strangely, however, the description that Bill gave me of the man did not totally match my own. Although the guy was Caucasian in both incidents, the man Bill saw was evidently a bit shorter than the one I witnessed, and although both were wearing white shirts, the man Bill saw had some sort of printing on his shirt, as if it were a T-shirt, whereas the shirt my “ghost” was wearing was a bit more formal than that. I had a vague sense that this man had appeared and disappeared in front of Bill as a way of letting me know that I had not imagined what I had experienced that previous Saturday night. But, of course, I already knew that: I saw what I saw.

Late one night in 2006, I was in the lobby with my back toward Suite 180 and I was engaged in conversation with a woman who was part of the nighttime cleaning crew at that point. I don’t recall what we were talking about, but we were not discussing anything related to the haunting of the building. Then suddenly a queer expression came across her face and she pointed to Suite 180 behind me and asked, “Should there be someone in there right now?” I looked back and saw nothing but an empty office in the suite. “No,” I told her, “We are the only people in the building.” She said she had just seen a man cross through the illuminated office and exit into another section of the suite.

Suite 180 was relatively small and had been unoccupied for some time. During the daytime hours construction was being done to refurbish it. Inside the office where she had seen this man was a ladder and some buckets of paint and a drop cloth. This woman told me that a man dressed in overalls, like a building maintenance engineer or carpenter had just walked underneath the ladder and exited the office. I immediately entered the suite and searched every room and closet in Suite 180 but (un)naturally I found no one there. Only someone who had security clearance and who walked right past me could have entered into Suite 180, and I assure you, no one with security clearance had entered the building and walked by me that night. It was another disappearing man story. But the weirdest one was yet to come.
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[Suite 180: Site of late night ghostly construction work.]
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On the night of January 27, 2007, a woman named “Elaine” was alone in the building and in the first floor lobby. Evidently the natives were restless and making a lot of noise because in her daily report to Richard, her supervisor, she entered this comment between the hours of 4 and 5 AM:

This building is haunted, and if I have to baby-sit ghosts, I want a raise.
The jocularity was long gone by the time of her next entry:

Richard, I am requesting a meeting with you ASAP. About 5:10 AM, I saw a man walk around the table. I said “Hello” and he kept walking down the hallway. I yelled “Hello!” but he ignored me. I blinked and he disappeared.

P.S. – I am requesting a transfer; I can’t stay here and die of a heart attack. Maybe you can give someone at TSC
[*TSC is another company site] my shift and I can trade with them. Thanks,
Elaine
I saw Elaine a couple of nights later and got the full story. She was faking nothing; this woman was absolutely terrified. She had returned to work carrying a copy of The Holy Bible and wearing a massive crucifix around her neck. She told me that a man of medium build and wearing overalls, looking like a building maintenance worker, just suddenly seemed to be in the lobby with her. He walked right in front of her with both of his arms outstretched in front of him. Elaine knew that she had been alone in the building for many hours prior to this, so his sudden presence was very shocking to her. The mystery man then took a turn and headed down the first floor’s East hallway. She called out to him several times but he never acknowledged her in any way. Elaine said that although the man’s legs were moving as if he were walking, he actually appeared to be covering too much ground, as if he were actually gliding just above the carpet. Then, when he was just over a third of the way down the East hallway, he simply vanished right before her eyes. He was there one second and then gone in that same second.

Elaine told me that being alone at night in the building thereafter was making her a nervous wreck, and when three or four days passed and Richard either couldn’t or wouldn’t transfer her to a different site, Elaine quit her job.
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[Haunted Hallway: Site of Elaine's vanishing man.]
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The woman who is currently doing the same job in the building that Elaine once did has also encountered spectres when (supposedly) alone in The Grave at night: “Jane” is more spiritual-minded and apparently has some strong beliefs that save her from becoming fearful. But Jane has told me that on three or more occasions, at about 4 AM, she has had the sense that someone was watching her. Looking up to the fourth floor from the lobby, she has seen a Caucasian or possibly Hispanic man with short dark hair, probably in his mid 20s, standing between one of the fourth floor pillars and the fourth floor elevators. The man just stands up there, overlooking the lobby, and he watches Jane down below. She tells me that on a couple of occasions she has waved to “The Watcher” and he has waved back.
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["The Watcher's Perch": A Jane's-eye view of the 4th floor from The Grave lobby.]
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I share Jane’s confidence when alone at night in The Grave (although I wouldn’t be waving to a spectre if I were her; that could be misconstrued as an invitation). I have known for a long time that Jesus Christ (Yeshua) is always with me; He is able and willing to protect my sorry butt. Jesus is my Good Shepherd. Why, I couldn’t say, but looking back at my life, there are clear indications that Jesus has taken an interest in me. But there is nothing special about me; I’m just another bloke getting kicked around by life, so I can’t fully explain my relationship with The Son Of God and Savior Of The World, but my relationship with Jesus is real. In fact, so real that I call it a “REaLATIONSHIP.” I am certain that I’m safe in The Grave at night because I’m never alone with the spectres – Jesus is there too, and He’s got my back. However, Jesus makes Himself available to everyone who turns to Him. A REaLATIONSHIP with The Good Shepherd can be enjoyed by anyone who answers His knock, and He knocks on the door of every person's mind every day.

While I do not fear the appearance of a spectre at The Grave, my only concern has been that one might appear too suddenly. I really don’t want to be walking in the building late some night and turn a corner to find myself instantly nose-to-nose with an unearthly entity. Some heart attacks are better than others, and that would be one of the worst!

GRAVE ANALYSIS

I wonder if the thought that has occurred to me has also occurred to you: Remember the story of the black cat darting in front of a cleaning crew dude and the story of the mystery man walking under a ladder in Suite 180? Isn’t it odd that walking under a ladder and having a black cat cross your path are cliché superstitions that are supposedly omens of bad luck?

And how about the nonsensical laughter from unseen little girls and unseen Hispanic men? Isn’t nonsensical laughter a staple of Horror films? And zombies and other monsters walking around with their arms outstretched in front of them - isn’t that just goofy, cartoonish stuffs straight out of bad, low-budget horror shows like “Dawn Of The Dead”, “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and dozens of others?

Whether whatever is in The Grave is multiple entities or one entity that changes form, I think “they” or “it” must be aware of our superstitions and our cultural images and like using them to play games with the human targets. I would find it difficult to believe that it is mere coincidence that the spectres have managed to illustrate our bad luck omens and horror movie clichés.

While the nature of whatever inhabits or visits The Grave is certainly “bad” in that it seems to be deliberately attempting to annoy and scare people (and has succeeded to the point that a few people have left their jobs as a result of it), I’m not yet convinced that it rises to the level of evil or wickedness. It should be pointed out that there is no report of any person ever being physically hurt by any of these spectres, which may be an indication that they are unwilling or unable to actually cause that sort of harm. In fact, there is no history of a spectre even making direct or indirect physical contact with a human being at The Grave.

At this point, I am inclined to think of the entity or entities at The Grave as being more mischievous than evil, although I’m not ruling out the possibility of the latter. But up to the present, it or they seem to have been engaged in activity designed only to startle and amaze. I have to wonder if this is all much ado about nothing; a naughty spirit’s attempt to get some attention.

I’m also left wondering if the two UFOs I saw flying side-by-side over a portion of the The Grave’s parking lot at 4:30 PM on March 26, 1999, is also somehow related to the activity that occurs inside the building. But that, my friends, is a Blog Bit for another Halloween.

This has been my TRUE
Halloween Blog Bit for YOU.
I’ll bet it sticks in your mind like GLUE
And that it’s more than you wish you KNEW.
I hope you rate it ‘Fine Wine’, or at the very least ‘YOO-HOO.’

And now I bid you ADIEU
With a very scary BOO!Toodle-OO.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Doggtor of Field Studies, Edgar Allan Poe U.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

RAISE YOUR DOUBLE (GIN!) MARTINI TO THE GREAT PERFORMERS

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In discussing my recent, somewhat disappointing, Bob Dylan concert experience with a dear friend, she wrote to me:

One of the best concerts I ever saw was with Jim Croce ("Time in a Bottle," "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "I Got A Name"). It was also one of the first concerts I ever went to. Croce was hilarious, telling colorful stories and flirting with various girls in the audience. He and his band seemed to be really enjoying themselves, and the audience responded with tremendous enthusiasm. I always thought his kind of concert was what you paid all the extra money for - everything else you could just get off a record or CD. This was just a few months before his plane crash. (It sounds really weird, but I actually cried when I heard the news of Croce's death.)
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I replied to my friend:

I like Jim Croce a lot, and I own his greatest hits album “Photographs And Memories.” …

Well, except for the flirting with girls part, [the Croce concert] sounds a lot like the four Waylon Jennings shows I saw. Waylon was my favorite live performer – two shows in one: Classic Outlaw Country Music and hilarious comedy between the songs. Now, Croce and Waylon playing a double bill – that would have been the all-time best concert, I suppose.

I would have liked to have seen Croce live. Some of his songs are VERY meaningful to me.

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It’s not at all difficult for me to believe that Croce could be hilariously funny on stage, considering that I have always thought his song ‘WORKIN’ AT THE CAR WASH BLUES’ is amongst the most amusing ever recorded, and his vocal delivery only heightens the humor:

Well, I had just got out of the county prison
Doin’ ninety days for ‘Nonsupport.’
Tried to find me an executive position
But no matter how smooth I talk
They wouldn't listen to the fact that I was genius
The man said, “We got all that we can use.”
Now I got them steadily depressin', low-down mind-messin'
Workin' At The Carwash blues

I should be sittin' in an air-conditioned office in a swivel chair
Talkin' some trash to the secretary,
Sayin', “Hey now, mama, come on over here.”
But instead, I'm stuck here rubbin' these fenders with a rag
And walkin' home in soggy old shoes
With them steadily depressin', low-down mind-messin'
Workin' At The Car Wash blues.

You know a man of my ability,
He should be smokin' on a big cigar.
But till I get myself straight I guess I'll just have to wade
In my rubber suit rubbin' these cars.

Well all I can do is shake my head -
You might not believe that it's true
But workin' at this indoor Niagra Falls
Is an undiscovered Howard Hughes.
So baby, don't 'spect to see me with no double martini
In any high-brow society news.
Cause I got them steadily depressin', low-down mind-messin'
Workin' At The Car Wash blues.
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Here’s a toast to all of the performers who really enjoy performing, who really put on a show and who don’t let their audiences down!

~ Stephen T. “Lonesome Dogg” McCarthy
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

STUCK INSIDE OF PHOENIX WITH THE AIRHEADZONA BLUES AGAIN

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[Airheadzona Fairgrounds & Veterans Memorial Coliseum.]
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Last night, my brother Napoleon and I met my buddy, The Great L.C., and his buddy, Mike, at the Arizona State Fair here in Phoenix and we attended the concert of living legend Bob Dylan. (L.C. said he liked the “Robert Johnson: King Of The Delta Blues Singers” T-shirt I was wearing. I told him I purchased it at a Robert Johnson concert but he wasn’t buyin’ that.) I had never seen Dylan before, and this was the first music performance by anyone that I have paid to see in at least fifteen years. The audience was still holding up Bic lighters the last time I paid to hear a concert.

Napoleon and I got there a few hours early so we could check out the scene and walk the fairgrounds, enjoying our glorious 102 temperature. A high of 102 on October 17th – is that sick, or what? Nappy and I had our house on the market for much of 2008, hoping to get the hell out of hell. We’d like to move to Reno, where the livin’ is easy and the booze and chicks are cheap. But thanks to the healthy condition of our economy [Cough!-Cough!], we never even got a nibble on the house. One of the many Bob Dylan songs I really like is “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” from his 1966 album Blonde On Blonde. I sometimes sing along to it at home, but I change the lyrics to “Stuck inside of Phoenix with the Airheadzona Blues again.”

On the Airheadzona State Fairgrounds there’s an arena called Veterans Memorial Coliseum which is tucked in amongst the face-painting stations, the giant alligator, the miniature horse, the big pig, the hot-dog-on-a-stick vendor and the Fried Twinkies stand. That’s where we saw the living legend perform.
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[Don't be fooled by the tree; like everything else in Phoenix (except the heat), it's fake.]
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Our seats were fairly close to the stage, near the “Exit - stage left.” The six-man band was tight and I thought the sound mix was good, as I could hear each instrument distinctly. Zimmy played keyboards on most numbers and he played the harmonica on two songs. (How can you be sure you’ve seen “The Real Zimmy” if he don’t blow a Bit O’Harp?)

I really like the voice Dylan is wearing these days. Time has turned it into a mohair sweater that has been put in the washing machine and then hung on a hanger while still wet until it has stretched out to twice its normal size. It’s all scratchy and hangs down to his knees. (During the show, Nappy asked me, “Did Bob Dylan ever have throat cancer?” Meanwhile, Mike was asking L.C., “Has Bob Dylan ever had throat cancer?”)
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[Fair Fare: Porkchop-On-A-Stick.]
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The band was dressed all in black and so was Dylan. But the leader of the band had a white stripe running down the sides of his pants - that’s how you could tell he was the quarterback of this team. Lead guitarist Charlie Sexton is about the coolest looking dude I’ve seen in a long time. With his long, lean frame and his Rockabilly hair style, he looks like an elongated reincarnation of Eddie Cochran. Now that’s “cool.”

Frankly, I was a tad disappointed that Dylan didn’t perform even one of his once-controversial Christian songs from the Slow Train Coming album, and I think The Great L.C. was a bit disappointed that Dylan didn’t do even one song from his classic heartbreak album Blood On The Tracks. Nappy was disappointed that they stopped selling beer after “All Along The Watchtower” - the evening’s final song. Mike was disappointed that he couldn’t make out any of the lyrics. And in complaining about that after the show, he delivered the evening’s funniest line: “I speak four different languages, but not THAT one.” Well, I guess it just wouldn’t be Bob Dylan if he didn’t disappoint every single fan about one thing or another.
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[Living Legend burning up in the Phoenix heat.]
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Dylan has rearranged the old songs almost beyond recognition. After one particularly hard-rocking number, I said to Nappy, “You knew that one, right?”
He asked, “What was it?”
I said, “Highway 61 Revisted.”
“You mean the one with ‘God said to Abraham, Kill me a son’?”
“Yeah”, I answered.
Nappy said, “That was THAT?!”

The first song Dylan played in a three-song encore was something that sounded vaguely like his signature tune “Like A Rolling Stone.” (When Zimmy sang the line “Napoleon in rags and the language that he used”, I pointed my thumb at brother Napoleon who nodded . . . off to sleep.) Unfortunately, Dylan didn’t play the one song that Nappy and I had been calling out for while awaiting the encore: “Free Bird.”

Oh well, maybe he’ll do “Free Bird” the next time he returns to Airheadzona. Whenever that is, I’m sure that Nappy and I will still be stuck here.
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[Living Legend backed by special effects.]
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“Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
To be stuck inside of Phoenix
With the Airheadzona Blues again.”

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

THE AIRHEADZONA SET LIST:
Cat's In The Well
Lay, Lady, Lay
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
Love Sick
If You Ever Go To Houston
Highway 61 Revisited
Workingman's Blues #2
Thunder On The Mountain
Ballad Of A Thin Man
Like A Rolling Stone
Jolene
All Along The Watchtower
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

WE WERE DODGERLY DELIRIOUS!

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“In a year that has been so improbable, the IMPOSSIBLE has happened!”
~ Vin Scully.
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It was twenty-one years ago this very day that I witnessed the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen in my fifty years of living.

1988 World Series, Game 1, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Oakland Athletics, and I’m at Dodger Stadium in seat number 4 H 109 with brother Nappy occupying the seat next to mine. My Grandpa was a season ticket holder, and he and my Grandmother are in the good seats (best seats in Dodger stadium, actually). But season ticket holders could purchase extra tickets in "Peanut Heaven" for postseason games, and that’s where Nappy and I are. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs, runner on second, a full count on very injured pinch hitter Kirk Gibson and with The Boys In Blue trailing 4-3, Peanut Heaven is one swing of the bat away from being transformed into Heaven on Earth.

All season long, Gibson had been the heart, soul, fire, leader, and engine of "The Little Team That Could." But with two bum legs, he had been unable to start in Game One of the World Series. So, every spectator was on their feet from the moment Gibson limped out of the dugout to make a surprise appearance as a pinch hitter in the bottom half of the last inning when the chips were down.
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FLASHBACK:
Inexplicably I had selected the 1988 season to get back into baseball, which I had paid little attention to for a number of years. But for some odd reason, I was hanging on every pitch that year right from the start of Spring Training.

The Dodgers were coming off two lousy seasons in a row and I recall one 1988 Winter day that I was wearing a Dodger cap and riding my bicycle on the beach bike path in Venice when I overheard some woman say to her male companion, “You see that? That guy’s wearing a Dodger cap!” Yeah, The Boys In Blue had acquired a bad reputation, but I’ll bet that before the 1988 season concluded, that woman and her boyfriend were both also wearing Dodger caps.

As the magical season progressed, I went to many games, watched the televised games, listened to the radio broadcasts and scratched my head as the Dodgers staged one amazing comeback after another to ultimately win the division title. The bizarre but happy endings continued through the playoffs as the Dodgers bested the New York Mets who had beaten The Blue Crew 10 out of 11 regular season games.

So, a few times in the middle innings of that first World Series game, with the Dodgers down by a run, I repeatedly told Nappy, “I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but somehow the Dodgers are going to win this game.” And I really believed that. But even so, the stomach was churning and I could feel my own heart beating inside me as Kirk Gibson fouled off one pitch after another – one strike away from being defeated in Game One. When he hit that little dribbler up the first base line – an easy out - I was almost praying it: “Go foul! Go foul!” It did.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully later said that the walk-off home run Gibson hit to win the game (and, truthfully, the Series) for the Dodgers was “the most theatrical home run I’ve ever seen.”
Broadcaster Jack Buck put it this way the moment it happened: “Gibson... swings and a fly ball to deep right field. This is gonna be a home run! UNBELIEVABLE! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game, five to four; I don't believe what I just saw! I don't BELIEVE what I just saw! Is this really happening...?”
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What I saw was the single most unifying event in my lifetime; evidence of the social power of sport. Seconds after the baseball ricocheted off Gibson’s bat, Nappy yelled to me, “Is it gone? Is it gone?” I couldn’t answer him because I didn’t know; I too had lost sight of the ball. But then Gibson raised his arm, the crowd went friggin’ wild and the results were in: “Game Over.”
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Interestingly, Nappy had a mystical experience earlier in that bottom half of the ninth inning. Prior to Gibson’s plate appearance, Nappy had glanced at the Dodger Stadium scoreboard and it read: Dodgers 5 – Athletics 4. It was as if he had momentarily looked into the future and saw the final outcome of the game displayed on the electronic scoreboard – a game that was still being played out.

Not until I got home and turned on the news did I get to see Gibson’s double fist-pump as he rounded second base. We didn’t see the slugger’s famous reaction because everyone in Dodger Stadium was hugging anyone they could get their arms around. Our eyes were not on #23 at that point – we were looking for someone to hug or High-Five. It’s true, and people I’ve heard from since then have confirmed that what was happening in our section was also occurring throughout Dodger Stadium. Everyone was either screaming or crying, and total strangers were hugging each other. Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, you name it. Nappy and the Black guy next to him embraced and I somehow got caught between two total strangers who hugged each other next to me. This was proof that something as ultimately unimportant as a sporting event has the power to bring people together, the power to make people forget their differences – even if only temporarily.

Someone later said, “There were fifty-six thousand people here at Dodger Stadium tonight, but ten years from now there will be fifty-six million people claiming they were here.” I still have the laminated ticket stub to prove I was amongst the fifty-six thousand. In some ways, I’ve had a charmed life.
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The spontaneous roaring ovation that we gave Kirk Gibson and the Dodgers after that ball landed in the right field bleachers went on and on and on. I’ve never even heard of an ovation lasting that long. Just this morning, I watched the TV broadcast on DVD and from the moment Gibson hit the homer until the station went to its first commercial break, five minutes passed. The ovation is entirely unabated throughout that total time. In fact, honestly, it lasted much, much longer. As Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia later stated: "Fifty thousand fans screaming for forty-five minutes; it was- it was incredible!"

What we saw that night is universally regarded as one of the ten greatest moments in the history of professional sports, and we were actually aware of the magnitude of it even in the moment. We were consciously aware at the time that we had just witnessed something that people would still be writing about 21 years later (like I’m doing now) and well beyond.

I’m going to post a few articles below pertaining to this. A look at “Kirk Gibson Then and Now.” He’s currently a bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks (or more accurately, “the pathetic Airheadzona D-backs”). Even if you don’t wish to relive the ’88 story, please be sure you read what I post under "KIRK GIBSON NOW" because I think you’ll find it truly interesting. It relates how Kirk Gibson had a really cool interaction with a Diamondbacks fan on September 11th of this year.

Alright, let’s get on it . . .

KIRK GIBSON THEN:
This comes from PFP: SPORTS & CELEBRITY TALENT AGENCY . . .
Playing for the Dodgers in the 1988 National League Championship Series against the New York Mets, Gibson made an improbable catch in left field at a rain-soaked Shea Stadium. Racing back, he slipped on the wet grass, yet on his way down, with his knees on the ground and the rest of his body suspended, he reached out and made a full extension catch to save a Mookie Wilson double in Game 3.

In Game 4, he hit a solo home run in the top of the 12th that ended up winning the game for the Dodgers. In Game 5, he hit a two-out three-run homer in the fifth; the Dodgers ended up winning the game 7-4. His LCS heroics proved to be a prelude to his single most visible career moment.

In the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, Gibson -- the 1988 NL MVP -- saw only a single plate appearance in the series, but it was one of the most memorable and oft-replayed in baseball history. Gibson had severely injured both legs during the League Championship Series and had a stomach virus. He was not expected to play at all.


In Game 1 on October 15, 1988 (at Dodger Stadium), with the Dodgers trailing by a score of 4–3, Mike Davis on first, and two out in the ninth inning, manager Tommy Lasorda inserted Gibson as a pinch hitter.

Earlier, the TV camera had scanned the dugout and Vin Scully (the legendary Dodger announcer, who was calling the game with Joe Garagiola for NBC) observed that Gibson was nowhere to be found. According to legend, he was in the clubhouse undergoing physical therapy and saw this on the television, spurring him to get back in the dugout and tell Lasorda he was ready if needed.

When Gibson received the news that he would pinch-hit, he went to the clubhouse batting-cage to warm-up. Suffering through such terrible pain in his knee, it is said he was wincing and nearly collapsing after every practice swing.

Kirk Gibson hobbled up to the plate with Scully commenting, "Look who's coming up!" He was facing Dennis Eckersley. Gibson quickly got behind in the count, 0-2, but received a few outside pitches from Eckersley to work to a 3–2 count.


On the sixth pitch of his at bat, a ball, Davis stole second. The A's could have walked Gibson to face Steve Sax, but chose to pitch to him … With an awkward, almost casual swing, Gibson used pure upper-body strength to smack a 3–2 backdoor slider over the right-field fence. He hobbled around the bases and pumped his fist as his jubilant teammates stormed the field. The Dodgers won the game, 5–4.

The telecast of the home run is also notable because the shot of the ball flying over the wall also captures the taillights of the cars leaving the lot, presumably filled with fans who had either given up hope and were merely leaving early to avoid the traffic (a standard Dodger Stadium fan stereotype).
The truth is that Dodger fans don’t really leave a game earlier than some fans of other teams do. Watch a game on TV and you’ll see a small percentage of fans of almost all teams leaving in the eighth or ninth inning of games (or in the middle of the fourth quarter if it’s football). It’s true that a handful of fans do traditionally leave early (I myself have done so a few times), and Game One of the 1988 World Series was no exception for them.

I have occasionally reflected on the probable mind-set of the few people who left that game before Gibson’s at-bat. That roar from the stadium must have been the most gut-wrenching, absolutely horrifying sound imaginable to those fools. To realize in the parking lot, while walking to your parked car, that you just missed a truly historic moment in sports history must have been a shame that none ever admitted to later. And, believe me, that was no ordinary “happy crowd” sound emanating from Dodger Stadium. No one could have heard that explosion of excitement that went on seemingly forever without instantly knowing that . . . UHP! THEY WERE AN IDIOT!

Gibson later said that prior to the Series, Dodger scout Mel Didier had provided a report on Eckersley that claimed with a 3-2 count against a left-handed hitter, one could be absolutely certain that Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider. Gibson said that when the count reached 3-2, he stepped out of the batter's box and, in his mind, could hear Didier's voice, with its distinctive Southern drawl, reiterating that same piece of advice. With that thought in mind, Gibson stepped back into the batter's box; and thus when Eckersley did in fact throw a backdoor slider, it was, thanks to Didier, exactly the pitch Gibson was looking for.
This next piece comes from The Arizona Republic . . .

GIBSON’S HOME RUN STILL SERIES HIGHLIGHT
by Mike Lopresti - Oct. 6, 2008 07:48 PM
Gannett News Service

ST. LOUIS - From 20 years ago, a broadcaster's stunned call still echoes through time, about the World Series home run that replays will never let die. "The impossible has happened!" Vin Scully cried that night from Dodger Stadium, as Kirk Gibson limped around the bases.
Didn't it, though?

There have been roughly 800 home runs in the World Series, according to Elias Sports Bureau. None was quite like this one. It was hit by a man who had spent much of Game 1 of the 1988 Series watching on television in the clubhouse, with ice on his battered right knee and left hamstring, resigned to missing out. A man who suddenly emerged from the tunnel to face the most feared closer of the era with a runner on base, two out, and his Los Angeles team behind Oakland 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. A man who had only one hand on the bat when it made contact with the full-count, backdoor slider from Dennis Eckersley, sending it into the right-field bleachers for a 5-4 miracle. A man who, after that Hollywood ending, would never take another swing in a World Series. The underdog Dodgers would clinch the championship in five games without him.

But 20 years later, he understands it will last forever.

"The swing and the result are unexplainable," Gibson said recently, sitting in the dugout before a game in Busch Stadium. He is, now a coach for the Diamondbacks. "Other than maybe to say it was destiny."

Let those who lived one of the World Series' most extraordinary moments stir the memories. Gibson and his manager, Tommy Lasorda. Eckersley and his manager, Tony La Russa.

THE SITUATION:

Lasorda: "Every inning, I would go down and ask, 'How you feeling, big boy?' He kept giving me two thumbs down."

Gibson: "In the eighth inning (the TV) spanned the dugout, and Vin Scully says something to the effect, 'There will be no Kirk Gibson.' I got out of my chair and said, 'My ass.' "I started to kind of brainwash myself, that when I walked out there, there would be a very positive reaction from the crowd and I wouldn't hurt."

Lasorda: "Suddenly the clubhouse boy comes up and says, 'Gibson wants to see you.' "

Gibson: "I remember seeing Tommy waddling up from the dugout. I said, 'Yeah, I can go if you want me to.' He said, 'Damn right, I want you to.' "

Lasorda told Gibson to stay hidden and not get in the on-deck circle, so the A's would never know what was coming. Light-hitting Dave Anderson was on deck, so Eckersley pitched around Mike Davis. Two out, Davis on, last L.A. chance, and Gibson suddenly appeared.

THE AT-BAT:
Gibson: "When the count went to 0-2, I had something I called my emergency stroke. I looked out at him and thought, 'This was a full emergency.' I was just trying to survive."

Gibson fouled off a couple; the count eventually went full.

Gibson: "We had a scout, Mel Didier, and he had watched Dennis Eckersley for many years. He came up to me (before the Series) in his Southern drawl, and said, 'Pardnuh, as sure as I'm standin' here breathin', you're goin' to see a 3-2 backdoor slider.' "

THE HOME-RUN TROT:

Gibson: "I was kind of a volatile personality, very intense. Because of that, people would say things about me, and my parents had tried to defend me. I would just tell them don't worry about (it). "Between first and second base, I remember thinking, 'Here it is; you didn't have to say anything. You raised me right.' It was like, vindication right there."

La Russa: "I really thought it was a classic confrontation between two of the best competitors of our time."

Eckersley: "I knew it was out when he hit it. After that, it's all slow motion."

TWENTY YEARS LATER:
Lasorda: "I get tears in my eyes when I see it again. It still affects me."

La Russa: "Every time I see it come on, I turn away. I've seen it enough."

Eckersley: "I get numb to it. It's like that's not even me. All I can say is Kirk Gibson will have fond memories of that dinger, but I'm in the Hall of Fame. I'll take the Hall. He can replay that home run until the cows come home."

Gibson: "You ask me if it's been good, damn right it's been good."

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KIRK GIBSON NOW:
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[Gibson (left) now a coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.]

Again from The Arizona Republic (this is really neat!) . . .

GESTURE BY GIBSON IS A POSITIVE SIGN
by Dan Bickley - Oct. 1, 2009 10:30 PM
The Arizona Republic

It has been a long season of baseball. The Diamondbacks have taken the fun out of fundamentals, turning Chase Field into an empty, green cauldron.

It finally boiled over Sept. 11.

It was the game when one fan lost his marbles, picked a verbal fight with one of the grittier athletes in history and went home with Kirk Gibson's autograph.

"He's going to be one heck of a manager," said Diamondbacks fan Larry Goldstein, 46.

The unlikely confrontation occurred in the seventh inning, with the Diamondbacks trailing 6-3. Justin Upton reached on an infield single and tried to take second base when the throw got away from the first baseman. Upton was thrown out by the catcher, who was backing up on the play.

Four rows behind the home team's dugout, Goldstein had seen enough. He began screaming at Gibson, the Diamondbacks' bench coach.

"Aren't you going to say something to him? You need to talk to him!" Goldstein said.

"For hustling?" Gibson answered.

"You're down three runs!" Goldstein said.

Gibson bit his lip. A few days earlier, Upton had been removed from a game for not appearing to hustle, for spending too much time admiring one of his hits. It was a tricky time in the development of a franchise player. Besides, Goldstein was right.

"I'm not the type to heckle all the time," Goldstein said. "But stupid, non-fundamental baseball drives me nuts."

But what many people don't understand is that Gibson sees a lot of himself in Upton, an outfielder with untapped potential, a young stud with freakish athleticism. Gibson knows that pressure well, and knows about the accompanying expectations. He knows what it's like to disappoint people, mostly himself.

"I was a guy who failed miserably," Gibson said.

The words stop you cold. Failed miserably?

"I look at myself as an average player who had some very special moments," Gibson said. "I was a determined player. I had an affirmation that I loved pressure situations, because I performed my best when the reward was greater. I can visualize that. I can feel that.

"If my goal was to hit .300 for my career, maybe I could've done that, if that was my goal. But I'd have been a selfish player. My goal was to be world champion. When I stood in the on-deck circle and heard people catcall me, assault me and my family, I would say to myself, 'Enjoy it, because when I hit this game-winner right here, I'm not going to say anything to you. You'll have the scoreboard barking at you.' That's kind of what I encourage."

To most, Gibson is a baseball legend. His one-legged home run off Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series remains one of the game's defining moments. His epic home run off Goose Gossage in 1984 secured a World Series for the Tigers. He played football for Michigan State.

He had All-American courage and heart and was a great leader inside the locker room. He detests the glorification of ego, the singling out of individual players inside a team sport. He's always been the anti-Deion, and that's why a generation of sports fans still loves the guy.

But in the end, Gibson never quite reached his ceiling. Sparky Anderson once called him the "next Mickey Mantle," just like we call Upton the next Willie Mays. The sad lesson is that great prospects don't always become superstars.

"I tell Justin, whenever he (messes) up, he reminds me more and more of myself," said Gibson, laughing, walking away from the conversation.

So, yes, Gibson has a special interest in Upton. And that's why he took a special interest in the fan screaming from behind the dugout. He scribbled a note, wrapped it around a couple of pieces of bubble gum to give it some weight, and then tossed it to Goldstein. The note read:

Sir, I understand your frustration, and you need to be patient, as we do with this very talented 22-year old. We do remind him as he makes mistakes ... but he was just over hustling on that play. Dow(n) three runs it was the wrong play . . . and with our/your patience . . . he will get it right in time . . . thanks for your support.
Kirk Gibson
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You can imagine how the gesture was received, and how it lowered the temperature inside the cauldron. The note now hangs on Goldstein's wall, under glass. In a season that sits like a damp cellar, it feels like a rare moment of sunlight.
In a way, experiencing firsthand Kirk Gibson’s ultra-famous home run marked the beginning of the decline in my interest in sports. Although I do still watch some sports and do still get excited about big games every once in awhile, I simply don’t have the emotional investment I once did. I think that after a person has been “in the park” and witnessed a moment as dramatic as Gibson’s home run, it makes everything else thereafter seem anticlimactic. I mean, I know I could watch all the sporting events for the rest of my life and never see something more exciting and notable than Game One of the 1988 World Series. Certainly I could never experience a sport moment that would be more meaningful to me. I’m jaded for life now. But my friend Pooh isn’t:

Pooh was watching that World Series game on television in his Santa Monica home. He was with several people including a girl whom I feel had been kind of leading him on and whom he had no real chance of romancing. When she decided to leave during the bottom of the ninth inning, Pooh offered to walk her to her car. Now first of all, any woman who would leave during the ninth inning of a World Series game with the home team down by one run is a woman not worth chasing after.

But Pooh walked her to her car, and while they were standing in the street yakking, Kirk Gibson hit his historic homer. Pooh later told me that he could hear the entire street erupt into screaming and shouting as people inside their houses celebrated. When he caught hell from me for being outside in the street instead of being in front of his TV set, Pooh replied, “Yeah, but I got to experience it from a different perspective.” Like I was going to accept that?

In the ensuing years, Nappy and I have often given Pooh hell for that Pooh-like faux pas. Sometimes when either Nappy or myself has done something stupid and missed out on some good opportunity, one of us will say to the other, “But at least you got to experience it from a different perspective.”

What I’m trying to tell you here is: Don’t be a Pooh!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Friday, October 9, 2009

SUGGESTION BOX

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Dear Doggs & Doggettes:

We are always looking for ways to improve this Blog.
To that end, we encourage you to make us aware of any suggestions or complaints you might have. Your feedback is very important to us. Please feel free to deposit any ideas you wish to share with us into the ‘Confetti-2000 Suggestion Box.’ Your thoughts and concerns are always of tremendous interest to us and your valuable input is welcome here 24/7.
Thank you.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Saturday, October 3, 2009

THE I & I SELFHOOD TEST

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
~ Socrates

The previous installment of this Blog was titled #1 RULE OF SELFHOOD. In that Blog Bit, for all intents and purposes, I accused about 97% of the American people of being “Followers.” Only I did this in a pretty nice way (for me), so really, you ain’t got much to bitch about.

Since that posting, I have been flooded with hundreds and thousands and fifteenillion e-mails and comments asking me, “Stephen! But how can I tell if I’m really being true to myself or not? How do I KNOW if I’m truly being ME?” In fact, I received so many e-mails that it caused my computer to crash . . . into a bottle of bourbon, which sent me reeling. Luckily for me I had my seatbelt securing my glass and had some ice cubes within easy reach. An accident like that would have killed a lesser drunken man.

“What if I were to die tonight, not liking myself?”
~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Well, on the surface, a question such as “How do I KNOW if I’m being me?” seems as preposterous as Tigger’s chin. But when you stop and consider it a bit more seriously, the question is not so insane as it might at first seem. When we consider that a large segment of our population has spent so many years following the “In Crowd” and letting the Herd Mentality do the thinking and choosing for it, it’s not hard to understand that the Followers’ natural instinct of Selfhood can become dulled or atrophied. Think of a wild animal: if you continually feed it, over time its hunting instincts will go south on it. You know, like in the maxim “Use it or lose it”? We keep and sharpen that which we use, the rest gradually disappears. If a person has grown accustomed to allowing the commonly accepted social standards to dictate what he or she thinks, wears, drives, watches, listens to, etc., then at some point, this person may indeed have trouble determining what he or she is genuinely attracted to and repelled by. Fortunately for this person, there is THE IMAGINATION & INTROSPECTION SELFHOOD TEST.

The person who has remained true to himself all along will find the idea of a Selfhood Test to be almost funny. I mean, if I see a coat hanging on a rack, I hardly need to test myself to determine whether or not that coat is really me; I just look at the coat and think ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it.’ And that’s the end of the decision making process. But this may not be quite so easy for that person who has spent years trying to “Fit In.” His or her first thoughts might be: ‘Is anyone else wearing this coat these days?’; ‘Have I seen anything like it in Ms. Magazine?’; ‘Would Angelina Jolie put on something like this?’; ‘Is this Brad Pitt material?’; ‘What will my friends think?’; ‘Will anyone laugh at me if I wear this in public?’; ‘Will people point and say “Look!” in a good way or a bad way?’

Well, my question to YOU is, how are you going to stand up against the devil if you can't even resist the faddish temptations of "this world"? Am I talkin' to you? Yeah, I'm talkin' to you, Tattooboy. And you too, Tattoogirl.

“A mighty oak was once a little nut that stood its ground.”
~ Anonymous

But we need to have a little empathy for our Brothers and Sisters who are only now trying to break through the pattern of Following to find their own Voice; we must learn to be patient with them, to be understanding and supportive. Until the Follower regains his or her ‘Selfhood Sea Legs’, we need to accept that this person may need a kind of ‘Training Wheels’ attachment to guide them, a kind of Selfhood Test in order to reactivate the personal instincts necessary for Flying Solo.

Fortunately for Fadboy and Fadgal, The Imagination & Introspection (or, I & I) Selfhood Test is quick and easy to take. It requires just a little imagination but a lot of honest introspection. With a little practice, the test will come quicker and easier and before you know it, you’ll know You without it. Here’s how it works . . .

Anytime you find yourself questioning whether something (anything) is really “YOU” or not, you use your imagination to imagine that you are the only person in the world who will be doing this. As an example, let’s take eyebrow rings. Let’s say that you are about to get your eyebrows pierced so you can wear rings in them. Now, first we must forget that fifteenillion teenagers are already wearing eyebrow rings because they are so fashionable right now. Pretend that no one anywhere in the United States of America has ever heard of an eyebrow ring. I don’t know, try to imagine that it’s 1956 and the number one record on the charts is ‘Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)’ by Perry Como. Realize that if you go to school tomorrow with rings through your eyebrows, you are going to be the only person there with such things. Oh, people are gonna look at you alright, and they’re gonna ask you, “Midge, why do you have rings in your eyebrows?” Are you going to stand up for your “Personal Image and Self-Expression” and all that? Are you REALLY, TRULY, and HONESTLY going to get these eyebrow rings anyway and face the music day after day just because you “think” they are SO YOU?

If you answer “No” or “I’m not sure”, then eyebrow rings aren’t really you after all. If you can say with total heartfelt honesty that you WOULD have walked around with eyebrow rings in 1956 even though you were the only one in the country wearing them, even though you were TOTALLY ALONE in the Eyebrow Ring Department, then you are justified in wearing them today in 2009. But then I have one more question for you: If you are truly so brave in your “Youness” then how come you aren’t openly listening to Paris Hilton music when you know that secretly you like it? (Ha!)

But like I said before, this test requires only a little imagination but it simultaneously requires BRUTALLY HONEST INTROSPECTION. If you’re lying to yourself, you’ll know it deep inside. Don’t listen to your bravado; listen to your Still Small Voice buried beneath your bravado and your B.S. and your dirty socks and your now neglected Britney Spears CDs.

This test will work on anything, and it works from both angles up for consideration. In other words, it’s effective in determining if you are listening to Nickelback just because all the cool kids in your school do, but it’s also effective in determining whether or not you are NEGLECTING a certain facet of your personality because none of the cool kids are currently expressing a similar aspect of personality. And as I have previously stated, I consider this latter sin to be as serious as the first (“sin” means “to miss the mark”).

To illustrate this latter point, let’s take my old friend Big D whom I mentioned in #1 Rule Of Selfhood. Big D could apply The I & I Selfhood Test to see if he was refraining from expressing himself only because what he was genuinely attracted to was not currently fashionable. Big D could use his imagination to imagine that most of the men in the country were currently wearing fedoras and all the old 1940s style clothing, and then he could ask himself, “Would I too wear a fedora and 1940s style clothing under these circumstances?” That is to say, he’s attempting to determine if he would “folllow suit” if his fellowmen made it Socially Safe to do so. Well, since we know that Big D would answer “Yes” to this question (since he told me as much many years ago), then he has determined for himself that in the area of fashion, he is too afraid to be Himself. Fear of “standing out from the crowd” prevents him from expressing his True Self when it comes to clothing.

“Can you see the real me? Can you?”
~ Mr. Paulboy Prodigalman [via The ?]

The I & I Selfhood Test can help the Big Ds out there to ascertain the truth of their inner selves; unfortunately, however, it can’t help them to find the courage to overcome their fear of bucking the social trend. The courage to be Yourself, no test and no person can give to you. For that, you’ll simply need to dig deep, put on the whole armor of Selfhood and declare, “I’m here to do battle for to save My Unique Personality.”

Only that which you would think, do, wear, drive, watch, or listen to, regardless of how many other people or how few other people did the same thing, is AUTHENTICALLY YOU. Would you weally and twuly be listening to Madonna if everyone else in the world was mad about Schubert? Would you weally and twuly be watching NASCAR if the only other person in attendance was the toothless Kettle Korn vendor? Would you weally and twuly be driving that Ram 2500 4X4 Pickup Truck if every other woman in the world drove a little red Corvette? Would you weally and twuly be watching South Park if every other guy in the world was watching North Park? Would you weally and twuly drink margaritas every New Year’s Day if everyone else in the world traditionally drank urine? (Yeah, me too. It seems we may be a lot alike, you and I.) The questions you must ask yourself are:

IS THIS THE DIRECTION I WOULD GO IN EVEN IF I HAD TO GO IT ALL ALONE?

If you can unequivocally answer “Yes”, then this is The Real You.

ALTHOUGH I AM NOT CURRENTLY GOING IN THIS DIRECTION, WOULD I DO SO IF EVERYONE ELSE SUDDENLY DID, THUS MAKING IT SOCIALLY SAFE?

If you can unequivocally answer “Yes”, then due to fear, you are currently neglecting an authentic aspect of The Real You.

“You can’t have a True Friend
until you’ve found the True You.”
~ Ye Olde Philosopher

Get in the habit of posing these questions to yourself, imagining the situation and waiting for The Honest Answer, and eventually you will find your natural born instincts taking over to such a degree that you no longer need to apply The Imagination And Introspection Selfhood Test. Someday you will find that you are YOU and without having to think twice about it. The friends who have stuck with you will be “True Friends” and the new people you meet who do like you will really like YOU. And I’ll like you, too, even if I don’t like you (not that you would or should care!)

“[John] Madden is…one of those rare people who have been blessed with an absolutely clear view of themselves; he likes being popular and admired, but he doesn’t need any of that to tell him who he is.”
~ Jonathan Yardley

BOOM! There it is! We all need to be like John Madden, except in our own inimitable way. WWJD? What Would John Do?

Alright, you’re armed with all you’ll need to discover that unique person hiding underneath all your tattoos and body piercings. Now find YOURSELF and be THAT which you are. And know that we’re behind you all the way as you go to find the True You.

You’re not going dressed like THAT, are you?
Then we’re WAY behind you all the way!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
.