Raw Feed

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #23 (The “25 Bottles of Thought on the Wall” Version)

So, it’s a holiday weekend, at least here in The States, which means that most people are off doing interesting or at least diverting things, far away from social media. (Okay, we know that’s a lie. Most of them have at least one mobile device clutched in their hands at all times, even if they’re playing volleyball or hooking up with that cute waiter in Nantucket.) Still, I’m pretending that no one will read this next post, which gives me the freedom to do whatever the hell I want. Plot, structure and sense can shove it. Here we go, blowing random thoughts against the wind… (still runnin’…)

1. Is there any actual cheese in Velveeta?

2. Why would chemical engineers spend time creating Velveeta instead of curing cancer?

3. Why do we still have cancer when sound engineers have managed to eliminate the need for currently-popular “singers” to carry a tune?

4. Why does the current definition of “popular singer” mean “somebody who was nobody two days ago suddenly rules the world based on one novelty song that isn’t all that good” instead of “somebody who spent decades perfecting their craft in dive bars across the country”? It used to be that you earned the right to be successful. Now it seems that the current pop stars think they have the right to earn money, regardless of talent.

5. Don’t turn your nose up at dive bars. I’ve made many long-lasting relationships in such places, I’ve picked up some amazing fashion tips, and I’ve learned the proper way to dance while holding a beer and quoting Sartre. This is an important life skill.

6. I’ve also had to visit health clinics after some of those relationships got drunkenly intimate and I picked up something else. I’m sure the eyebrows of my insurance agent are permanently raised. (When is that boy going to learn? Jeez.)

7. Why is medical insurance so expensive for the average citizen? Oh right, I don’t have a team of lobbyists performing sexual favors for people in Congress.

8. Why is it still called “Congress”? That term used to mean “a gathering of people with the purpose of working out a compromise”. Maybe we should rename it “Egress”, with nobody listening to anybody and everybody running out the door as soon as possible.

9. So, if the Egress can just leave Washington without getting anything done, does that mean I can abandon my own job whenever I don’t feel like being productive, yet I can still get reelected to the position? (Let’s not quibble about the fact that I’m retired. I may have to take another job just to pay those damn insurance premiums. One of the fundamental flaws in our country is that many older people can’t afford to get sick, yet many of the major corporations don’t pay a penny of income tax. That’s jacked up, folks.)

10. Speaking of being productive, I don’t think I have been since I retired two years ago. This annoys everyone around me, especially since they’re already ticked off that I retired so early. (Don’t blame me because I planned ahead and worked my ass off. You know those financial wizards who tell you to sock away every penny you can? They’re right.) Granted, my writing has been through the roof, and I’m happy from that perspective. But that baby tree in the backyard that is now an adolescent, growing dangerously close to the power line to the house? Yeah, it’s still there. I may not be able to publish this post if the wind gets all uppity.

11. Wait, it’s been two years? [Sounds of checking the calendar app on my phone because most people haven’t had a physical calendar since 2010.] Holy cow. Yep, two years ago to the month, I went on a retirement-celebrating, whirlwind tour of Belfast, Amsterdam, London and Derby. (You may not have heard of Derby, but it really doesn’t matter, as two of the finest women I know live there and love one another, and our time in their own manor was quite grand.)

12. I want to go back to Belfast, just for The Crown Bar. We had the best time there, nestled in a booth with three complete strangers from Australia. I’d like to recreate that scene, repeatedly. You learn so much when you take the time to just listen.

13. I could easily live in Amsterdam. It’s such a welcoming, accepting and tolerant city. Some may argue that this is the result of the infamous “coffee shops”, where herbage is legally available, but we didn’t even take part in that. (Not judging, we were just on a tight schedule.) I think it’s more that the people of Amsterdam realize that life is messy and variable and wonderful, and there’s no need to complicate things.

14. I could not live in London. The city is fascinating and busy and drenched in history. But I can’t justify spending thirty bucks for a mere appetizer at TGI Friday’s.

15. I could also live in southeastern Spain, specifically in the tiny town of Cuevas del Becerro. It’s minutes away from Ronda and less than an hour from Malaga. In fact, I’m so entranced with Spain that I’ve been teaching myself Spanish for roughly the last year. This seems a far more important endeavor than chopping down that stupid tree in the backyard.

16. Spanish, at least the Latin American version of it, is easier to learn than the French I studied for umpteen years in my youth. Both languages have that odd repositioning of sentence structure that can baffle a native English speaker, but with Latin American Spanish you give proper respect to every letter in a word. (Except for “j” and “h”. You ignore those two a lot.) It’s easier to figure out how to pronounce something. With French, you essentially ignore half of the letters in any given word. On the flip side, because Spanish gives equal opportunity to almost every letter, it can take you twenty minutes to say “Can you put this margarita in a to-go cup? Gracias.”

17. I love margaritas, despite the tendency of tequila to make me share far more information with strangers than I actually should. This is how you end up with people in your Facebook friends list where you think “Who the hell is that”?

18. As a young child, I learned early on that you cannot share your true feelings with most people, at least in a red state. It’s all about status quo and party line and denial. Sad but true. Then again, if I hadn’t been subjected to closed minds, perhaps I wouldn’t have such an open one today.

19. I also learned about intolerance, essentially from day one, when the doctor spanked my ass and held me aloft for review on a cold January day. It took me roughly three seconds to realize that none of the people in that room would ever fully understand me. I had to find my own people.

20. And find them I eventually did. The early years were an arid desert, a mix of me not fully understanding what I needed and most others refusing to understand. And, to be fair, some of that was my fault. Because I was uncomfortable with myself, I had the social skills of a potato. Still do, in some respects. But eventually I would find myself in a potato salad, a place called college.

21. College opened my eyes, in many ways. I blossomed. I found the other misfits, reveled in their existence, and I even slept with a few of them. (Hormones and awkward fumbling, you’ve been there.) There was still denial, it was still Oklahoma, but I had the chance to dance, so I did.

22. The dance opened doors.

23. The doors opened life.

24. Life opened me.

25. And the me really wants to learn Spanish.


Previously published in “Bonnywood Manor”, which explains the odd “holiday weekend here in the States” when it’s not, although such is taking place NEXT weekend, a mild bit of happenstance as I wrench this one out of the archives. (The recycling of the post also explains why some of the time references are dated and therefore incorrect. I suppose I could have cleaned them up, but we had pizza tonight and I’m a bit bloaty. You know how it goes.) Very modest changes made for this revisit.

Note: Bonus points to those of you who figure out the pattern in this post. It’s really not that important, but it’s there. I just perused the comments on the previous version of this, and no one quite got the right answer, so the imaginary prize is still out there, sitting alongside my apparently mistaken belief that said pattern would be easy to spot.




21 replies »

  1. There’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK as well this weekend. I now want to spend it learning how to dance while holding a beer and quoting Sartre. That’s should be the true measure of achievements and success.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A salient detail of the first point becomes the central idea of the next point and so on. What did I win? Huh? You can tell me in Spanish. ;

    And what’s with the picking on the French? I feel like I should go for a snail sandwich, just so that I can reinforce my tattered sense of heritage. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You did, indeed, notice the general pattern, so kudos to you. A stunning award certificate may or may not be headed to you via postal pathways

      Was I picking on the French? I don’t seem to recall… oh, are you referring to the pronunciation regulations? Well, you have to admit that READING French is rather satisfying, because you can see all the letters and get a grasp of what’s going on, but speaking (and more importantly, hearing) is a much more difficult task. Giving at least minimal recognition to the letters that are normally not orated would certainly help a lot. For me, words that look quite distinguishable on paper tend to sound the same when spoken.

      Can I share an example? (It’s not my own. One of my high-school French teachers shared it with us, roughly 700 years ago.)

      English: “The green worm goes toward the green glass.” (Granted, not something one would bring up in polite conversation, but still.)

      French: “Le ver vert va vers le verre vert”. (Granted “va” could also be “se dirige” or some such, lessening the confusion, but still.)

      See what I mean? Of course, I’m sure you were just being playful and not really offended, and our relationship remains stronger than ever.

      But still…

      P.S. J’adore les escargots…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was definitely not offended and am heartily sorry if I gave you that impression. I was just, as you said, being playful (I thought I was being funny, but … I would never eat snails in a sandwich! What a waste! A good buttery garlic sauce is a must.)

        I do see what you mean. 🙂 You remember that from high school French?Amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, don’t be sorry. I was being just as playful. Sometimes things get lost in translation, so to speak. 😉

          But yes, I remember that phrase from high school. Madame Beckwith (Madame Beckavec, as we called her, and she didn’t mind at all) shared that phrase on a day when we were all feeling a bit blue with our auditory comprehension. Don’t worry, she advised. The subtle inflections come with time and practice. Sage advice.

          And Madame also used to bring in escargots in a good buttery garlic sauce for us to sample. (This was back in the day when things were more carefree in public education. Now? I doubt she could get that mess past the security checkpoints. Or the overly-protective parents who would loudly advise against her doing so. Some things change for the better. Others? Not so much.)


  3. There’s an easy flow to the post where one item follows on from the other, slightly stream of consciousness word association style, which you accentuated in the last few items – dance to doors, doors to life, life to me. Made it a pleasurable read.

    One thing I’ve noticed in writing posts is that what we see in what we write, the patterns which we know are there, is not necessarily what those who read it who are not us see in it.

    You’re a Jan babe… me too! Horny fishtail or vase with water endlessly flowing out?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I completely agree with this comment, as you nailed it rather precisely. A stream of consciousness, with one thought triggered by another. And yes, we are often too close to our words as we scribble them, so our intentions are not always as obvious as we hope.

      I’m a vase with flowing water, dribbling my way toward redemption… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Uh, clueless as to the ‘pattern’. Unless it’s taking one word from the previous ‘sentence/paragraph/grammar thingie” and using that word as the subject of the next wordie paragraphie thingie. 😐 I was going to use your eloquence as a diving board for a post of mine own, but after reading your excellent post, I realize there was no point. No plagiarism cleverly dressed up as an original post for this one. 😉 Kudos! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not so clueless, at all. A few of the folks above you essentially got it right, with one thought firing off the next. But you are the first to specifically say “one word”, which is completely on point. At least one word in every thought is repeated in the next rambling. You get the golden trophy, but you’ll just have to imagine it on your fireplace mantel, as I can’t afford to actually send you one… 😉


  5. Holy frijoles, I was too busy reading and enjoying the nostalgic tone to fuss with figuring out the process/structure thingie. Love #7. And #4 is so true. When my son last visited he commented that contemporary pop music is annoying because it’s so poorly written. Somebody hums a tune into a computer and there it is. Singing that crap when one has been trained in music is torture. It can be done, but it’s a trial. Had to sing a Twain hit at a wedding once and needed Cole Porter fix afterward. I digressed. Another great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Popular “music”, these days, is mystifying to me, for the most part. Granted, I was thoroughly invested in much of the New Wave music of the 80s, which I’m sure stymied traditionalists, but there was at least a heart and soul in those sonic experiments. (Alison Moyet and Yaz? Perfect example, as there was a lot of synth-tinkering but it was still about The Voice.) Now? The soul is just not there, replaced by vocoders and marketing….

      I’m curious, though. Who, out of the current “artists”, do you fancy? I think there are some jewels, but I don’t want to influence your response…


  6. My sister and I had an argument once when I insinuated Velveeta wasn’t real cheese and she rushed to its defense. Her chief reason for loving it so, other than its meltability, was that it had a long shelf life. I said the words “cheese” and “long shelf life” don’t belong together, ergo, it’s not real cheese.
    It’s true, I’m a cheese snob.
    Also, other than words leading into the next thought, I failed to find a pattern. My excuse is that it’s past my bedtime. Also it’s raining outside, which has nothing to do with anything but I’m still gonna use it as an excuse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are satisfyingly correct on both points. “Cheese” and “long shelf life” should not be in the same sentence. Velveeta, despite my continued and repeated return to the chemical well, is not good for our health and welfare. I suspect that archaeologists of the future, excavating the remnants of our time, will find a crate of, technically, still-edible Velveeta and a still-breathing Cher.

      And yes, the words of each entry lead into the next thought. No excuses needed, nor am I surprised that you sagely followed the dots…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I listen mostly to classical and liturgical (in 3 choirs) but I am not a fan of contemporary gospel. I like the old-timey gospel. Harry Connick fascinates me, and Adele, especially what she did with Skyfall, is amazing. I like Gaga’s understanding and respect for music. Never listen to rap and call most of it women & hate rants with a backbeat. Some of hiphop is OK but I’d never “listen” to it, mainly because it’s not my era. My son amazes me, in his late 40’s and knows all music, recognizes everybody and their timelines. My all-time forever favorite of Big Band is Sing,Sing, Sing with the divine Krupa.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved this. Such an honest chatty post, felt like we were all sat down having a cup of tea together. Word linkage is what I got from it, that stream of consciousness as described above. Beautifully threaded. I changed schools at 11/12 and had been learning French for a couple of years but in my new location it wasn’t studied at all till we went up to senior school. My school report says ‘We don’t think she really likes French’. Rather randomly, my school also taught Spanish, which I opted to take. The only school in England I knew that taught Spanish! German is more commonly the second option. So; ‘Lo pase bomba’! 😉 (P.S. That’s all I know. And it was my Auntie who taught me that.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • And really, I truly aim for the “honest chatty post” most of the time, especially if tea is involved. I think one of the failings of modern society is that there is still a hesitation in many parts of the world to simply say what we think, and why is that? We’re all much better off with open communication, even if there is the risk that you might hear something you don’t want to hear. I’d rather know up front what makes someone tick instead of finding out later that there is an incompatibility.

      Personally, on reflection, I wish I had studied Spanish from the get go, rather than French. But French seemed so exotic in my formative years, so there I went. But German? THAT language seems tough to me. Then again, I’ve never tried it, so…

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.