Recovering From A Stroke

On July 3, 2014, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. The right side of my body was disabled. I am currently struggling to regain the use of stricken body. I continue to write and have even been able to do one drawing with my left hand. My goal is to recover enough to drive by December because my daughter is expecting.The Rain God Small

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The Four Voices Of A Frozen Heart

They are out there by the thousands—women with frozen hearts. They come from all walks of life. They have various body types, a rainbow of styles, a wide gamut of personalities, a broad spectrum of politics, and a profusion of personal stories. They share two things: all of these women need love and none of them can give it. These women will The Rain God Smallnot declare their feelings in a normal way. You need to learn the voices in which such a woman says she cannot love the man who loves her. When she does say it, believe her. It is always true. Because I am a hopeless romantic, this lesson was a long and very costly one for me to learn. Love may have five languages but a frozen heart has four voices. Learn to hear them. I have been addressed by all four of the voices so I know this: when they speak, they only say goodbye.

My tutelage has come via four relationships with women who, each in her own way, told me she could not return my love. I, steadfast in love and in the belief that love conquers all, did not believe them. On reflection, I have realized that a woman with a frozen heart cannot tell you—directly, clearly, earnestly—that she cannot love you. But, if you carefully listen to the voice in which she declares her feelings, you can discern, in the icy canyons of her heart, the bell that is tolling for you.

 

ORATOR VOICE: FORMAL DECLARATION OF FEELINGS

Since this voice comes from women who are superb imitators of love—for you and for herself—it was the most difficult to detect. I was in a romantic relationship with a woman for 13.5 years. Then she suddenly ended our relationship. During the grieving process, I was able to realize what had happened. Her first marriage had broken her spirit so completely that she would never again risk her heart. Yet, she retained a need to be in a romantic relationship. Her solution was mimicry: she would exhibit loving behaviors without actually committing her feelings. The telltale sign, which I did not see, was that all of her declarations of feelings were formal.

Each time she declared her love for me, it was in the form of a note or card or letter in language that was stilted and awkward. Never did she utter tender words while we were walking hand-in-hand along River Street in Savannah, or hiking the Route Cezanne in southern France, or when we had a candle light dinner in Paris, Rome, Lisbon, Berlin, Aix-en-Provence, or Lausanne. Never did she exclaim sweet things while we were making love in Amsterdam or Blankenese. Never did she whisper loving phrases as we nestled before a crackling fire and watched the snow falling at Lake Louise. Never did she whimper caring words any of the many times I soothed her tears. The lack of spontaneous, enthusiastic declarations of love from her should have been a clue that her behaviors towards me were not driven by love. But it was not. I never saw it. She had been telling me the whole time that she could not love me but I could not distinguish the voice.

 

PRIESTESS VOICE: INDIRECT DECLARATION OF FEELINGS

This voice comes from women who cannot speak directly about their feelings but instead rely on tokens and symbols. I was in a romantic relationship with a woman for 3.5 years before I learned this voice. When I knew what this voice meant, I ended the relationship. From the beginning, she was reticent to talk about her feelings. She said she had never been allowed to have a voice and had always been afraid to stick up for herself. She said that the result was that she was a cold person. I should have listened to her but I was too distracted by her story. She had been born in a German concentration camp. She was of a mature age but no man had ever given her flowers, not even her ex-husband.

I was sure that showing her real love would release her spirit to love. Still, she was reticent to talk about her feelings. We had plenty of sex but, instead of showing me non-sexual affection by touching, kissing, and hugging, she did things that were supposed to convey affection. We laughed a lot, we cooked feasts together, we survived Snowmageddon 2010. We lost power in the West Virginia mountains a bare half hour after the storm began. It was 8 degrees and the wind was blowing. Four feet of snow fell. We could not get out and no one could get in. Our core body temperatures began to drop. I figured out a way for us to have a small amount of hot foot in our bellies and we shoveled snow to keep warm. Never in our peril and never when we made it out did she proclaim her love for me. Instead, when we were safe, her reticence became a total withdrawal of affection and I had to end the relationship.

She had once told me that she was cold and that I would have to teach her how to love but I was too distracted by her personal history to listen. She also told me the same thing in her inability to naturally express her emotions. The meaning was clear—she could not love me—but I did not recognize the voice.

 

PARROT VOICE: ECHOED DECLARATION OF FEELINGS

This voice never speaks anything but your own words. I was in a romantic relationship with a woman for 2 years. I learned this language when she secretly abandoned me. She lived in Alaska and said she had the desire to move to NC. We emailed for weeks then Skyped for weeks. I flew to Alaska. We had a wonderful time and were madly attracted to each other. When I came back home, we started looking for a home for her, with some land, in NC. She flew down to NC and we drove east looking at places on the coast. She decided that she would probably rather be in the mountains. When she went back to Alaska, I searched the Internet looking for candidate properties. I flew back up to Alaska to help her pack for the move to NC. We decided that she would store her stuff in NC and live with me until she could scour the countryside to find a place. I was expecting her to join me just before Father’s Day.

Instead, she went silent. She did not take my phone calls or answer my voicemails. She turned off her Skype account. She would not respond to any of my emails. I was going crazy. Was she hurt? Why would she not talk to me? Finally, I remembered that I had her daughter’s email so I sent a message. Finally, she sent me an email. She was not in Alaska but she would not tell me where she was. She did not know what she wanted. She had to be away from almost everyone. That is the last I ever heard from her.

Looking back, I realized that she had never independently declared her feelings for me. When I told her that I loved her, she would parrot back, “Love you more.” Since she also did this with her children and her family, I thought it was just her way to say I love you. But, the truth about parroted declarations is that only you ever declare anything. The woman just speaks your words back to you without making her own declaration. She told me that she could not love me but I did not comprehend the voice.

 

STENTORIAN VOICE: BEHAVIOR CONTRAVENES DECLARATION OF FEELINGS

This voice is very loud, in its declarations and it clashes with her behavior. I was in a romantic relationship with a woman for 6 months. She told me in the beginning that she did not want to “get tied down”; that she did not want to “latch onto the first guy that came along”; that she did not “have sex with a man unless I have very deep feelings for him”; and that I was the first guy to come along since her last relationship. She told me the ground rules, in English, the language that I clearly understand.

I prefer to be in a relationship, rather than date, but I really liked this woman. For me, liking is the hard part. Lust is easy and infatuation is easy but liking—ah, there’s the rub. We went out a few times, had a lot of laughs, kiss on the cheek, then a peck on the lips. The frequency of these dates increased as she began to suggest getting together more and more. I went shopping with her, I went with her to do errands. I liked spending time with her and she said she liked spending time with me.

I took her out to dinner. Suddenly, she began to kiss me with great passion. Then we had sex. Now we were seeing each other every other day. I sent her a beautiful bouquet of flowers. She began to proofread manuscripts for me. I told her that I liked her very much and she told me the same. We were having sex now every time we got together. We went to the beach. Four glorious days we spent laughing in the sun, eating in cool joints and fine restaurants, exploring the coastal environs and messing up the sheets. Shortly after our return, we spent a day playing tennis then took in a movie. The next day, she suddenly said it was over. She had certainly, and more ardently as the days passed, behaved as my girl but, as she had told me at first, she did not want her heart to follow suit. Her behavior had been so warm that I had not picked up on the voice of chill.

When you begin a relationship with a woman, listen very attentively. One voice will tell you her history, dreams, and convictions. You can understand this clearly. Listen even closer for the voice of her heart. You will hear it in the way she declares her feelings and the harmony between her declarations and her behavior. Above all, persevere. Love is the most precious thing we humans have.

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The Sad Process Of Forgetting

Today is the first day without her. June 7 was the 6-month anniversary of our relationship. We were not in love but I thought we shared a growing affection.The Rain God Small

On June 10, we played tennis and then we to see the new Tom Cruise movie. Very early in the morning on June 11, I received an email from her saying that she “needed” to talk to me about our relationship. We met at a café and she told me that our relationship was over. She apologized for giving me mixed signals and said she did not want to get tied down. Then she was gone.

I seldom drink and I almost never drink when I am alone but my mind would not stop thinking of her last night. I had a very generous drink of whisky and was able to fall asleep. This morning I began the mechanical part of forgetting. I took down the notes she had left me on the fridge. I put her photographs in a drawer. I threw away the balloons she had given me for my birthday.

I failed miserably at the behavioral part of forgetting. When I went online, I expected to see a message from her in my email. For six months, a message from her bright spirit had greeted me in the morning. There will never be another message from her.

I looked out of my window and expected to see her car in the parking lot. Her car will never appear outside my window again.

When I went out to do errands, I thought I saw her everywhere. Every dark grey SUV looked like hers. I was certain every attractive woman was her. I will never see her again.

My sheets still have her scent. She will never lie in them again. Her body had a powerful need for intimacy but her bruised heart could not reach for intimacy again. Her heart will reach out one day but it will not be for me. I wish I could punish the bastard who broke her.

Lust and infatuation are easy. Liking is the hard part. I really like her and she said she really liked me. We spent more and more time together. Perhaps, her affection for me revived her old pain. I will never know. She is gone. Soon, memories of her will be gone and that is something I cannot truly welcome.

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The War With Russia 2014 Dispatch 1

 

The Rain God Small

On August 8, 1783, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, annexed Crimea into the Russian Empire, “from now until the end of time.” On February 19, 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

 

With the current annexation of Crimea, which began in late 2013, and was escalated by the invasion of Russian troops in February 2014 and was internally formalized by the Kremlin in March of 2014, Russia, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, started a war with the West. Cowed by the former Soviet Union after World War II, western Europe seduced America into providing for its physical protection and then squandered its own rising fortunes on liberal, anti-military policies. By the time the Berlin Wall came down and Germany was re-unified, western Europe had lost the resolve, the courage and the assets to quash the evil that its persisting feudal societies necessarily generate. Once again, Europe’s political backwardness will unleash the dogs of war.

 

Following Hitler’s Kampf of ethnic Nazism, Putin inserted his storm troopers into Georgia in 2008 and annexed two provinces while the West did not even rise to the pantywaist response of appeasement. Next, Fyurer Putin deployed his goose-steppers to Ukraine, principally in Crimea, and furtively into Moldova. Russia seized Crimea without so much as a show of force from the West and is massing Russian troops on the border of Ukraine. Europe, as is its wont, convened talks as Putin convened killers. America and western Europe prattle about sanctions as the souls of Jews and Poles howl.

 

The winds of war are once again blowing on the Continent and once again the pantywaists in Washington, London, Berlin and Paris look the other way as the forerunners of a massive bloodbath again prey on the weakness of deliberating, but not deliberate, governments. If you want to know how Hitler rose to his demonic dominance while the world stood idle or how Pol Pot bludgeoned two million people to death with bamboo sticks as the world pretended not to see, just pay attention. The world is once again baiting the hounds of hell while imagining it is strewing rose petals.

 

While the United States has a weak, ineffective and incompetent president, and Europe is busy unraveling itself, Fyurer Putin will seize eastern Ukraine past Kiev to the Dnieper river. Simultaneously, Russian shock troops will invade Moldova and the rest of Georgia. One thing Putin learned in his KGB training and undoubtedly reflected upon while he was stationed in Dresden, Germany, site of Churchill’s Holocaust, was how simple the Allied strategy was that fractured and toppled the Soviet Union. Bankruptcy, induced by an arms race, got the job done. Fyurer Putin has obviously concluded that if he can bankrupt Europe, he can topple NATO. With that as a strategy, the tactics are clear.

 

Fyurer Putin will seize territory to consolidate his power, squeeze more gas and oil dollars out of western Europe and militarily menace the milksop EU. He will continue to seize more territory until a frightened Europe gives its tacit assent for the Germans to re-arm. The French and Italians are useless and the British will once more realize that they are not part of the Continent.

 

As much as Europeans fear a German military, they did defeat it on the battlefield. Against the Russians, they have no world war victories. As Germany pours money into armaments, its economy, the main engine of the EU, will sputter and begin to fail. The North/South split in Europe, fanned by another enormous Euro crisis, will fracture the EU, which will go the way of the Warsaw Pact. The non-federated countries of Europe will collapse into bankruptcy. Russia will rule Eurasia and the Chinese will grow meek and quiet. The Japanese, following the German model, will re-arm. America, gutted economically and militarily by the inane, inept policies of Obama’s hoi polloi politics, will be sidelined but the price of its vodka, in purely economic terms, will precipitously decline.

 

Alas, however, as Robert Burns observed, “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

 

Aft gang a-gley,”.

 

When the unexpected happens, and Russia, at long last in the mind of Fyurer Putin, goes to war with the West, the Europeans—except for the Germans—will dawdle and the Americans, trying to conduct foreign policy with hope and compassion, will do nothing. Only when the European corpses surpass the Jewish high water mark will America, as Japan keeps China from seizing lands to the west, finally kill the Russian bear.

 

Surveying the acres of new tombstones in Europe, people will ask, “How did we let this happen?” From their graves, the Tatars, deported from Crimea by Stalin in 1944, will answer, “The world has no memory of evil and sees it afresh each time it emerges, though it is picking its teeth and sharpening its claws all the while.”

 

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When Spring Was More Than March Madness

The Rain God SmallI was born in 1949, the final child for a blue collar family. In the late fall, after the senses had been set ablaze by the vivid red, gold, orange, and yellow leaves festooning the trees, the world turned drab. Dead leaves, grass, vines, and field crops browned as their vitality slipped away. Golf courses had not yet resorted to permanently green grass and still had few players. Countering the sadness implicit in the ubiquitous death of enveloping vegetation, men went afield, gun in hand, to quicken the pulse in pursuit of prey. Women indwelled at the homes to which winter would mostly banish their families.

 

The harvest festivals and Halloween passed in the waning light. Though the solstice, marked by displays of light, celebrated the now waxing day, it also marked the beginning of winter. The days did get longer but the dropping temperature drove the people indoors and they did not really notice. There was no such thing as sportswear so people stayed home more and more where heating the house became more and more of a challenge. The only people who went out when they were not working were hunters. No one went skiing or visited relatives. They stayed home, were quieter than usual, and waited for winter to end. Their worlds and their spirits were diminished as they longed for Spring.

 

Spring came slowly. Redbuds, deep in the forest, bloomed and were brilliant beacons against the dark brown woods. Crocus and jonquils erupted from the dirt and birds began to pair. A bright, balmy day manifest from the somber gloom. Men stayed on the front porch to smoke, wearing only a long-sleeved shirt. Crappie moved into the shallows. Trees became textured with swollen buds. Shagbark hickories unfurled their tiny leaves. A sky so blue that it hurt your eyes suddenly appeared and the world burst open. Fresh, green grass emerged from massive brown patches; the air freshened; buttercups and forsythia splashed their happy yellows everywhere and the palette powerhouses—dogwoods and azaleas—prepared their rich hues for coming display.

 

Life had come back into the vegetative world and it came back into the people as well. Once again their worlds had a cloistered inside and an expansive, exciting outside. People began visiting their friends and family. They began to walk and linger outside, to fish and to plan a picnic. They cleaned off the grills of their barbeque pits. They prepared baseball diamonds. They were happier. They were noisier, they were busier. Their spirits had been revived because once again they could fully embrace the greening natural world.

 

No one sat at home and filled out brackets. Spring had enlivened their hearts and they all were champions but these heroes quested not for glory. They wildly ranged into nature seeking the satisfaction of being human before the cyclical vibrancy of the world died again. They knew one day the swinging scythe would mow them down.

 

Those times are gone forever. Spring, except in conference context, has no consequence. Now, the world never dies for those who inhabit it because, for them, it never truly lives.

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The Infinite Loneliness Of The Sole Christmas Celebrant

The Rain God SmallChristmas is a most solemn holiday because it honors the preciousness of the human spirit and the limited time that humans can partake of that spirit. Christmas is a most joyous holiday because it expresses the emergence of the human spirit from the brutality of wild existence. Christmas was a spiritual holiday long before the Christians appropriated it to their proselytizing purposes. The Solstice brought the re-birth of the Sun, the re-birth of the year, the re-birth of life and the re-birth of the human spirit.

 

Overlaying this profound acknowledgement that humans are spiritual creatures embodied in a physical form, different cultures have embroidered varying stories to make the deep energy of the holiday accessible to all, especially the children, who most need to discover that their most profound existence is inside themselves. My culture tells the story of Santa Claus and that is the narrative that I passionately passed to my own children. I remember the magic of Christmas Eve, when the world began to slip from its crass cover and the splendor of Christmas morning when we exchanged joy in a sacred time ere the world woke and began its grim churn.

 

I remember the magic of Christmas Eve with my children when we gathered before our Christmas village and told stories of the wonderful people who lived there. I remember the building excitement as the weather station radar reported the location of Santa and I conveyed it to my kids. Supper had to be completed by the time Santa reached North Dakota. Hot chocolate, cookies for Santa and stories of the Christmas village must end when Santa reached Kentucky. When that border was crossed, my children did not hesitate. They executed their bedtime preparations and jumped under the covers so they could be fast asleep when the jolly elf arrived.

 

I remember Christmas morning when my tykes, clad in footie pajamas, would burst into my bedroom before dawn and jubilantly announce that Santa had come! I remember them fidgeting as I lit the candles and started the ancient music. For a moment, the house glimmered in candlelight and brimmed with the majesty of beautiful, solemn, profound, joyous music. In such a moment, the human spirit had been born and had forever sundered the cold, mute, lifeless, eternal, infinite cosmos.

This moment on Christmas morning was brief but it bulged with import. An instant later, I turned on the lights and returned us to the terrible symmetry of the clean, efficiently illuminated spiritless world we normally inhabit. Squeals of delight and peals of laughter accompanied the opening of presents and the emptying of stockings. Feasting immediately followed the exchange of gifts and lasted the rest of the day.

 

Now my kids are grown and live in other towns. Their mother and I divorced many, many years ago. There have been several wives since those happy Christmas years. Now, alone, I put up my Christmas tree and begin to trim it. I make my holly wreath and put out my Christmas village and my candles and I search for the ancient music. My kids’ stockings are hung by the chimney with care and memory will have to suffice to fill the emptiness of my house.

 

When Christmas morning comes, I will arise before dawn. I will light my candles and I will play the ancient music. The profound moment will come again, the world will briefly shed its worldly ways, and I will be the brimming spirit that I most essentially am. In that precious time, I will be alone but I will know that for many seasons I gave that tiny slice of timelessness to my children. When I turn on the lights and fix my coffee, I will hope that my children continue to give this moment of pure spirit to themselves. I hope they give it to their children one day. I hope to share the moment of golden being with my children one more time before I am gone forever into the deadness of eternal infinity.

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The Myth Of Spiritual Growth

 

The Rain God Small

Fate has compelled me to register with multiple online dating sites. I have four ex-wives and was recently abandoned by my Alaskan girlfriend. Since I am retired, am not a member of any group, and am a writer and folk artist, I am alone most of the time. My normal life gives me no opportunity to meet women. The reason I am on multiple dating sites is that I am a man severely out of his time. I am basically Beowulf with a cell phone. Mathematically, I must meet very many women in order to have a chance to click with just one.

By now, I have reviewed thousands and thousands of dating profiles posted by women. I have commented before on some of the peculiar characteristics of these self-characterizations. Lately I was struck by a very consistent  theme that appears in these biographical cameos. I call it The Myth Of Spiritual Growth.

Rarely do the women use the word spirit or spiritual; instead, they fashion their fantastic tales using the contemporary euphemism for soulfulness—journey. Naturally, we are to assume that the referenced trek is not physical but rather metaphysical and that it proceeds from a lower order to a higher order. Of course, the journey must continue for the rest of your life.

According to the testaments given on dating sites, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of American women not only sanction spiritual growth but are actively engaged in it! Good news! Sound the trumpets!

Unfortunately, like the Big Bang Theory, which is based on an ontological impossibility,  spiritual growth is rather finely filigreed poppycock. In the manner of the Higgs boson, it is pure myth. Judging by the accoutrements displayed by those claiming sacred journeys, herbal tea, cats, hanging plants, yoga, and unconventional dietary habits are essential to those propagating spiritual propaganda. While claims of, and dedication to, spiritual growth are charming, they are nonetheless deceitful and false. Like redemption and salvation, spiritual growth is impossible for humans to attain.

The human spirit has four dimensions: love, honor, beauty and truth. Every second of human existence is spent  within the throes of these. When they are equally strong in the human heart, they merge of their own accord into what can only be called grace. When they are not equally strong in the human heart, one or more of them becomes perverse and becomes what can only be called evil.

The human spirit has these four dimensions but, like all dimensions, they are measures of a single entity. That entity is profundity, the understanding that humans exist only to the extent that they comprehend the meaning of experience. So, although the human spirit has dimensions by which it manifests itself, that nature of the thing revealed, spirit itself, has no dimension.

Spirit is neither volume nor capacity. Spirit is a state of being, not an attribute of being. Spirit is a stream of profundity. Like light, it either exists or it does not. Just as increasing the density of light does not change the nature of light, increasing the significance of experience does not change the nature of spirit. Unlike light, the rate of flow of spirit has no bearing on its contents, just as education has no effect upon intelligence. Humans cannot get smarter and they cannot enlarge their spirits.

So why all the prattle about spiritual growth?  What are these women trying to say with a multitude of affectations of spirit?

At first glance, they would seem to be saying that experience has given them more insight into what is truly valuable in human experience. In this, they are not to be believed. If you don’t know what a human being should be by the time you are twenty-five, you will not learn any more on that subject before they throw dirt in your face.

What these women are really saying with their fantastic tales of spiritual growth is that they are worthy of love and yearn to find it before it is too late. In this, they are truthful and I am hopeful that they, and I, succeed.

 

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Why Love Stories Can Never Be About Being In Love

The Rain God SmallRomantic fairy tales always end with, “And they lived happily thereafter.” These yarns terminate this way for a simple reason: when a man and a woman fall in love, the story is over. Consequently, all of our love stories are about finding love and losing love. Being in love, it seems, does not a good story make.

 

This curiosity is the result of the both the nature of love and the nature of story. A story is the meaning of experience rendered in experience. To be a good story, the tale must have two additional ingredients: the meaning revealed must be of interest and the rendering must be dramatic. Our concept of drama centers on conflict because we believe that the profound character of human being is in highest relief when engaging strife. Our ideas about story make it impossible to render the essence of boredom in a boring manner. That would fail the story test.

 

When we combine our notions of love with our perception of story, it becomes impossible to write a love story that is about being in love. We believe that love conquers all and that love raises our being to a higher plane. Thus, conflict in love is impossible therefore being in love cannot be dramatic and, sadly, cannot become story.

 

The foregoing is not mere sophistry: we sincerely believe that love is so precious that the quest to find it is inherently compelling and the loss of it is utterly devastating. The majority of our cultural expressions embody either the urgent pursuit of love or the bitter death of love. We do not write stories about being in love. If Adam and Eve were destined to stay in Eden, the Bible would be three pages long: boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy and girl live happily ever after.

 

We cannot write stories about being in love because love conquers all. We celebrate being in love and that is why the cultural expression for being in love is not story, it is poetry. Poetry is the truth of being rendered in perceptions of being. It does not require drama, which in turn requires conflict, rather, it requires insight.

 

When a man falls in love with a woman, he does not write her a love story, he writes her a love poem. His heart has just been freed from conflict so there is no story in him. Her beauty, her grace, her mystique, her allure, her enchantment, fill him with celebration because he has transcended all things that are not love. A man who has found the woman he loves will be bursting with joy—and if you can get anything out of him that is not nonsense, it will be love poetry.

 

I hope that one day soon, I will again be filled with delicious ridiculousness. I hope my brain boils with such elation that I become positively stupid. I pray that, in a day not far away, I will again soar above story and my spirit will sail on a swift stream through cerulean skies because, more precious and sacred than all else, my hear is joined to her heart. In rejoicing, the entire universe will ring with golden sounds heralding the being of love between us, forever.

My First Novel

Buy Michael Warren’s novel The Estrangement Of The Rain God now!

 

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An Operational Kitchen

The Rain God SmallMy kitchen has always been the center of , and reflective of, my emotional life. In my first marriage, because we lived in an apartment, the kitchen was tiny and cramped. On the narrow stove, I cast lead balls to shoot in my muskets. A lead spatter on the wall by the stove testifies to the result of pouring molten lead into a mold that contains a tiny drop of moisture. The oven in that stove gave rise to one of my great cooking stories.

I knew my mother had always put her turkey in the oven and cooked it all night so it would be ready on Thanksgiving morning while I was afield hunting with my male relatives. Without consulting my mother as to time and temperature, I tried her method. The next morning, my first wife and I discovered a rock-hard, blackened bird in the oven. I had to race around and find another bird, forty years ago when grocery stores were not open on Thanksgiving. I found a small frozen turkey at a convenience store. I rushed home and we thawed it with hot water. When our guests from the University arrived, I brought a covered platter to the table. Without a word, I presented the blackened bird. My guests said not a word. I broke out laughing then served them a properly cooked turkey.

In my second marriage, we had a large country kitchen which, because part of a wall had been taken out, opened into the hallway which opened into the living room. I had built a hearth in the hallway just off the kitchen and installed a wood stove. As the fire crackled, we could cook in the kitchen and speak to our guests. In that kitchen, I feed, entertained, counseled and disciplined my babies. In that kitchen, I proofed yeast and carefully weighed flour made from hard, red, winter wheat from Montana. In that kitchen, I made French bread and baked it in my baguette pans which had been dusted with cornmeal. In that kitchen, on the square table of parental justice, I explained to my babies the secret of Christmas and why people must die.

In my third marriage, divorce had driven me from my country kitchen to a condo and an L-shaped kitchen that was adequate. In that kitchen, I tried to console my sad children, whose world had been savagely destroyed by the sunder of their parents. In that kitchen, I made pie crusts with butter and lard and a special dressing I would only make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In that kitchen, I roasted goose and made real eggnog. In that kitchen, I planned the trips that let me take my son to Barcelona to see the work of his hero, Gaudi; and allowed me to take my daughter to Paris for her sixteenth birthday, have red streaks put in her hair in a salon on the Champs-Elysees and her portrait drawn on Montmartre.

In my fourth marriage, I was in a brand new kitchen in a brand new house. My fourth wife would not let me cook with her and I did not comprehend the significance of that choice. Instead, she would hand me a drink, banish me to the living room to watch the news, and then serve me a gourmet meal. I slept on sheets that she washed and IRONED. Still, I did not comprehend the import of that decision. She declared to the world that I was her soul mate yet, in the kitchen, we were split in twain. Soon, the divide was comprehensive.

Fortunately, I had kept my condo so I had someplace to go when my fourth marriage ended. Since I had been preparing to move into my new house with my fourth wife, I returned to a bare condo. Gone was my Hickory-White solid mahogany dining table and chairs, my seven-foot tall, glass front mahogany china cabinet, my China-red, exposed frame, Raku finished living room furniture with the most beautiful Oriental fabric I have ever seen, gone was my lovely Oneida flatware, and gone was my Wusthof knife set.

Now my kitchen is filled with cheap Chinese crap. Unless I can get a good agent in New York and get my novels published by a major publisher, I will not be able to restore it to its previous quality. But that is not my big problem now. My difficulty is keeping my kitchen operational. Women are better at this than men. If I get just a few dirty dishes behind, I start stacking dirty plates and pots and pans everywhere. Because my kitchen then becomes not operational, I eat out until I finally get sick of the mess and shove everything in the dishwasher. I do not like the dish washer. I prefer to hand wash and dry my dishes, just like my grandmother did.

I need for my kitchen to remain operational. I must have ready access to my nylon cutting board or I will not really cook. I require convenient access to my marble dough board or I will not make pies and cookies. As a writer and folk artist, I am disciplined enough to work in my study and my studio every day. Since I must walk for my health, I have the resolve to walk three miles a day, five times a week. But for the life of me, I cannot maintain my kitchen in an operational state.

I have no babies to cook for. I have no wife to cook with. My study and my studio are always ready for me to work in them. It is my kitchen that causes me unrest. Perhaps my kitchen languishes because there are no more great celebrations for me to prepare, no more sublime moments for me to commemorate with food and drink. I do not know. At this very moment, my kitchen is operational. When I look into it, its somber shadows seem to be saying, in a voice that thunders through my quiet, empty condo, “Something is yet amiss—put it back or you will die.”

My First Novel

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The Future Of American Marketing

The Rain God SmallFrom just after the turn of the 20th century until just after the middle of that century, the motivational driver for American marketing messages was based on the public’s desire to feel modern. The patent selling messages were about convenience and saving time and being new but the psychological message was: THIS PRODUCT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL MODERN. Merchandise from furniture to frozen fish sticks was presented thoroughly imbued with this fundamental magical promise. All marketing, in all cultures and all ages, is based on the public’s enduring belief in magic. Only the promises change.

Such a change in the marketing psychological message began slowly in 1960. The Age Of Aquarius was not about any kind of counterculture. That was just a media event. The Hippie-Dippie-Yippie-Ki-Yay movement was not even about the Great American Pointless Slaughter in Southeast Asia. The Greening Of America was about the change in the market that Madison Avenue had to address in order to keep the green flowing in the economy. The New Age was about the super-saturation of the market with college-educated people. Unlike their parents, kids of the sixties had grown up feeling modern. What they desperately wanted was to feel intelligent.

By the time I was discharged, a few years before the war ended, Madison Avenue was presenting a new psychological message, the one they spout to this very day: THIS PRODUCT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL SMART. They adopted this message prior to Women’s Liberation, although that movement played into their hands perfectly. The patent messages are about having choices and having either a clinical basis or an ethical basis for making them. Numbers and technical sounding names make people feel smart so the patent messages are loaded with them. Vague allusions to fairness make people feel superior, which is the reward for being smart. Patent messages are rife with such nonsense as “fair trade”, “natural”, and “green”.

My guess for the immediate future of American marketing is that the psychological driver will shift again to become this: THIS PRODUCT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL HUMAN. People will need this in about 50 years when they are walking around on the surface of the moon—with hearts and lungs grown from pig cells, and eyes, ears and limbs that are “facilitated” by computers and bio-membranes—as they visit their friends who have fled Earth for the completely artificial world of the lunar colonies. Moon-enthused people will no longer have the need to feel smart.

My prediction for the distant future of American marketing is that the psychological driver propelling folks in the market will result in this psychological message: THIS PRODUCT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE AN EARTHLING.

Looking farther out in time, the marketing psychological message could become: THIS PRODUCT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU BELONG IN THE MILKY WAY.

Peering forward a tiny bit more, we might discover that the marketing psychological message has become extinct. In its place, perhaps, will be a sleek, glassine chip encoding orthodox logic: THIS CODE WILL RESTORE YOUR CIRCUIT DIAGNOSTICS AND PROCESSING TO ACCEPTABLE LEVELS.

My First Novel

Buy Michael Warren’s novel The Estrangement Of The Rain God now!

 

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