Sunday, June 26, 2005
Coffee is the Best Medicine...
The Strange Happenings in a Coffee Shop...
I had writer's block. I tried everything: word lists, going for a walk--you name it--I tried it. Still nothing. When I walked into the Java Junkie, my mind was in the sorriest state imaginable. The shop, with its giant neon coffee cup on the roof cut through the fog of my mind with its glare and drew me to it from two blocks away. Yes, surely a jolt of caffeine would break this writer's block. I walked in and rich brown coffee aromas drifted up my nostrils offering a promise of instant gratification if I just ordered one cup.
I edged in at the counter, although a table would have been nice for a person in my moody condition. To be antisocial would have felt good, very good; but no tables were available. Brushing toast crumbs aside with the back of my hand, I surveyed the place. It was hopping. How annoying! For a girl in my condition, noise and laughter denied me my right to be miserable. I sipped my coffee alone.
In a while I needed the restroom and rose to make my way to the back, where a crude cardboard sign marked the way with an arrow. It looked like the handiwork of a five-year old, and not a talented one at that.
The tiny room was a one-person affair, smelling of urine. A cruddy layer of grime coated the sink and yellow stains swirled on the walls inside the toilet bowl. I needed the facilities badly or I would never have gone in there at all. I squatted and did my business and had proceeded to wash my hands when as I reached for a towel, something white on top of the holder caught my eye. I wiped my hands on rough brown paper and next made a grab at the white item. I lifted it down.
A small white envelope rested in my palm. Turning it over, I saw it was not sealed. How snoopy would I be? I could put it back where I had found it and get out of the raunchy restroom; or I could open it, read it, and then put it back.
Well, what's that old saying about curiosity killing something? Of course, I opened it! It was a note. The paper was clean and white. It seemed out of place. Red handwriting like a roller coaster scrawled up and down, small letters then large...the message filled the entire sheet.
It read simply, "Help! I think someone is trying to kill me!" Well, maybe life isn't so boring after all.
Copyright 2005 JO Janoski
to be continued
to be continued
Friday, June 24, 2005
The Cut and Other Reality Shows
...As in apparent by my archive list, I love reality shows. Last night, I realized I'm beginning to enjoy The Cut even though I didn't think I would. I mean, what do I know about fashion? If I were to name my personal designer, it would be "Oscar de la Frumpa" since I live in baggy, comfortable clothes and sneakers...but I digress.
This show is about more than fashion. Tommy Hilfiger The Cut's version of Donald Trump, leads a herd of wannabe's through a succession of weekly challenges. Each episode, one more aspirant is eliminated, being told glibly to "take the runway" out the front door. The challenges are more than fashion. For the first week, the contestants (divided into the typical two teams) were required to design billboards depicting the Hilfiger line of clothing including its energy and verve. The next week, they fitted out a car with cool extras (like his name in lights in the back seat) designed specially for Fabulous. This week, they recreated The Cotton Club and Studio 54, complete with fixtures, actors, and ambience. These challenges require more than cloth and scissors.
What troubles me about this show and other reality shows is the black and white "winner" or "loser" mentality. For example, last night's "loser" was a creative fellow who put his all (which included specific knowledge of Studio 54) into offering ideas for his team to recreate the club. He did an excellent job on making the fixtures real, but somehow the entire team at work failed to produce the tingle. So he was shown the door (or for this program, the runway). The losers on reality shows are always sent away in shame.
That is what bothers me. If you're not the final winner, then you are made to look like a total loser, plastering that giant red "L" on your forehead. But none of these folks are losers; they just didn't make it to be the last one standing who takes home the prize. Heaven knows they were interviewed with thousands of others and made it to the final cut of a dozen or so.
I know! I know! Real life is like that with its slash and burn cruelty; but I think on TV, the perception is sculpted to intensify the program, and I'm troubled with the taste left in the viewer's mouth. I cringe when I accept it as "entertainment."
Sunday, June 19, 2005
His spirit jumped out at you at first. It grabbed you with both hands by the shirt collar and lifted you up to meet with his glinting blue eyes. With dominance in place, his expression would soften to look you over, head to toe, with kindness. That spirit loved to laugh, and wise-cracking, well, that was second nature. But the cracks were always funny, suiting the temperament of this Irish rogue of a fellow.
But in the next moment, his temper might flare with red blazes. That short fuse kept me in my place. But it was a happy place on most occasions.
His wit obscured a fine intelligence that spiraled about in his head, looking for amusement in all the likely places. Books strewn around the room attested to his voracious appetite for knowledge, and crossword puzzles, neatly folded and stuffed in his well worn dictionary assured me of his high pursuits.
To outward appearances he was a grump, surly with sales clerks and quick to call the paper boy in a huff if his Gazette was late in arriving. But buried in that tough exterior glimmered a heart of gold, but a heart pained by life. I knew there were secrets hovering inside his soul I couldn't dare to imagine. So I satisfied myself with the man I could see--the giant leprechaun with a sparkle in his eyes, towering above me and yet not ashamed to show me the world with measured explanations of its fine points. This complicated man who sought laughter with a little girl and yet had seen the worst life dishes out taught me the best he had to offer, as well he should, since he was my Dad.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Today's Blog... A Short Story
....Copyright 2005 JO Janoski
"Are you sure you don't mind?"
"No, of course not! I live alone. Remember? Just because I'm blind doesn't mean I don't go to work, keep a house, and do everything else by myself."
"Yeah, but Sally. You're not familiar with this place, where everything is."
"So I'll just stay put until you get back. Now don't worry!"
The other woman rubbed her chin in thought, "Okay. I'll try not to be long."
"Good-bye, Nancy! Good-bye!" Sally, the blind woman, bid her friend farewell and waved her hand to shoo her out the door. Settling on the sofa, she ran her long graceful fingers along the bumps on a Braille book. A tick tock from the grandfather clock in the hallway filled the room. Sally liked the rhythmic sound; it was better than silence. Eventually, the incessant noise lolled her to sleep as her head nodded over the book again and again, forcing her to stretch out on the sofa to nap.
The clang may have wakened her. Or perhaps it was the grip of fear that froze her heart before she even knew what was wrong. She woke up trembling as though another part of herself had already sensed danger and shot a warning to wake her. What was wrong?
Then the clanging. Not constant, only an occasional sound, the kind that teases, strange and unexpected, so you aren't certain if you heard it or not.
In her dark blind world, sounds had big feet. When the strange noise invaded her silence, it demanded explanation.
A clang, then an agonizing wait. Nothing...nothing...she waited...and waited until just as she was ready to call it her "imagination"...CLANG! It was back.
Nothing but blackness and the maddening sound. It was in her face with no name to put on it. Was it a danger? Was someone breaking in? What was it?
CLANG! Perhaps someone was breaking in, intent on burglarizing her friend's apartment. The thief would see a poor blind woman like herself and perhaps harm her. How could she fight back when she couldn't even see her oppressor?
CLANG! Sally trembled. Maybe he wouldn't harm her. After all, she couldn't see him; she could never identify him to the police. CLANG! If she had to hear that noise again, she would go nuts!
Fumbling to reach in her bag, Sally pulled out her radio and turned it on. Any sound would be better than that racket. Elton John's voice filled the room as she sighed in relief.
Rocket Man...Oh yes! The music was wonderful, Elton John being one of her favorites. But then once again, CLANG! The infernal sound was louder than the singer. It overtook the radio and pushed the music out of the way. Oh well, who wants to have music accompaniment to your slaughter, she mumbled nervously, switching the radio off.
Footsteps--making a shuffling noise! The walker didn't lift his feet so much as drag them. Sally's head pounded as the dragging feet came closer. If only she could see!
"What the...?" It was a voice, close by, in the room with her...
Sally couldn't speak; she couldn't move either. Fear froze her.
"I didn't think anyone was in here," the voice stated in a gravelly tone.
"P-p-please, don't hurt me!" she blurted. "I'm blind."
Sally felt a draft of air on her face. Could he be waving his hand in front of her eyes to see if she reacted...to confirm she was blind.
"Well, I'll be...I think you are blind," he murmured.
Sally heard the floor squeak as though he were moving...not far though because the footfalls sounded the same. Perhaps he was pacing back and forth close by.
"Look, I didn't think anyone was in here." He paused. "I mean, I don't mean to hurt anyone. I was just going to look for a few valuables and go."
"You were going to rob the apartment?"
"Well, yeah. I was thinking of it, but that was before I knew the owner was blind."
"Oh, I'm not..." Sally stopped herself before admitting it wasn't her apartment. "I don't know what I'd do if you robbed me."
"I know. It wouldn't be right." The burglar paused, then asked, "Are you okay? Do you need a cup of tea or anything?"
"Yes, if you wouldn't mind...a cup of tea would be nice...to calm my nerves."
"Coming right up," the burglar said. The shuffling feet moved further away and the whishing of the faucet and whoosh of the burner proved he was a man of his word. She heard cupboard doors opening and closing before she called out, "I think the tea bags are in a canister on the counter." God willing Nancy kept her tea bags there...
"Oh, yeah! Here they are! Sugar?"
"Yes, please, a teaspoonful."
The shuffling feet arrived soon, accompanied by the clink of china jiggling on a tray. A clunk indicated he had plopped the tray on the coffee table.
"I put the sugar in for you...and stirred it good."
"Thank you," she said feeling for the warmth of the cup. It felt hot in her hand as she lifted it and took a sip. The fellow made good tea.
"Well, lady! I think I'll be going now, if you have everything you need."
"I'm quite good. Thank you."
"Okay. I'll be going now." He paused. "I'm sure glad I found out you were blind before I robbed you. That would be wrong."
"Yes, I'm glad, too. Thank you for not doing so."
"Aw, it was nothing. I don't mind taking from people who have more than me...which is just about everybody. But I'm not going to take from someone who has less."
"I may not see, but life is good."
"Yeah, well, okay. Good-bye."
Sally heard his footsteps leaving by way of the apartment door. A thud indicated he locked it well as he left.
The room was quiet again. "I may not see, but I still gaze on the most amazing attributes in people," she murmured, sipping tea and leaning back to resume her nap.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
.....Another celebrity walked away unscathed! Jacko was found not guilty on every count. OJ went free; Robert Blake went free; now Michael Jackson is free. As he walked from the courthouse, Jacko didn't look like an innocent man. He appeared, frankly, like a corpse, but still walking. Where was the smile to have such an abominable burden off his shoulders? Where was the joy?
This leads me to think the man will never be free and joyful--because his conscience has cloaked him with a veil of guilt. Michael Jackson will never be free, because he can never escape himself.
And what about the prosecuters? I have long been convinced that money buys freedom in the person of hot shot lawyers, but I fear there is another side to the story. What kind of prosecutors put witnesses on the stand who turn coat and do exactly the opposite of what was planned? Or the boy's mother who rambled on like a lunatic? How much incompetence does it take to choose such hopeless witnesses? Has affirmative action dumbed down our prosecutors or are they just no match for the F. Lee Bailey's of the world? I don't think I want to know the answer.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF SHAME...I THINK...
I read a news story about community activists who hit the streets posing as hookers and street people to clean up their neighborhood of people looking for sex or cocaine.
If someone propositions one of these folks, the poor victim is promptly handed a flyer stating he is being videotaped and to be sure and check out the 11:00 news.
What a humiliation that would be--for a man to have his family and friends see video of him making a business deal with a hooker. Well, I believe in the power of shame to clean up behavior. Remember when you were little, and you had to stand in the corner wearing a dunce cap? Well, not me, of course. I was a vision of good behavior. LOL...but I digress.
How often do you think people would get drunk, steal, or buy sex if someone popped up with a flyer announcing their indiscretion would be fodder for the 11:00 news?
Really, this could be better than Superman to clean up Metropolis! Starting in our own homes--Hubby leaves the seat up? Wifey can pop out of the linen closet with her camera and flyer; taking the last cookie out of the jar--gotcha! Picking your nose! Now your experience can be shared!
And in the world outside--scratch that car in the parking lot? We saw you! You'd better put a note on the windshield! Coming out of a motel room with your secretary when you're supposed to be at a business meeting? Whoa boy! You're on the news tonight!
I only see one problem. This will make Orwell's Big Brother seem like the Angel of Goodness--the primary reason being: it wouldn't be Big Brother doing the watching...Big Brother will have become all of us. Maybe those folks masquerading as hookers should reconsider.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Back from the mall art show! Egad! Living in a 6 x 9 space for 5 straight days, 10:00 in the a.m. to 9:30 at night! I will never find that easy, although I've been doing it since 1976. It has been interesting to watch how the world has changed. In 1976, I was all of 27 years old, and the world was "ours" at that time. Hippie-dippie madness abounded. Folks walking by the booth had long hair, bell-bottoms, and said things like "Far out!" A little later, the kids started looking like yuppies, with little alligators on their shirts; and eventually a Madonna influence worked its way in--kind of a bag lady style, to my eyes anyway. Somewhere along the way, tattoos and body piercings became the look which brings us to the present. I have just spent the last five days looking at tattoos, piercings and Gawd help me, the weather got warm, the bare midriff crowd came out. I walked around at the mall thinking, with my mind pointed in their direction, "PULL YOUR PANTS UP!" -- and that refers to both male and female.
The most remarkable change over the years is technology. In 1976, they wouldn't let us plug into the mall outlets. We rolled a car battery in every show (on a little dolly) to have power for our lights. To pass the time, I read books, and getting in touch with me at the mall was impossible unless you wanted to go through the mall receptionist. If I wanted to call out, I used a pay phone. When the telephone company broke up, it was my personal crisis trying to phone home. The mall had a company I never heard of, and I never figured out how to make a call outside of their system. Stuck within their walls! I felt like I was behind the Iron Curtain. (Now there's a memory I'm glad we have a happy ending about--the Iron Curtain--NO, Youngsters, that's not an old-fashioned rock group.)
Now, it is easier to count the people without cell phones stuck to their ears, than with. To be honest, that hurts business--they used to be free to browse my photographs; now they're yakking on the phone, but I digress...I guess I like the way things are now. Many tasks are easier. If I had told you in 1976 that instead of reading, I was typing into an electronic keyboard at the show, to take home to upload to my personal computer...well, that wouldn't have made any sense at all. Those old days seem so backward now...