Mud Toe Blog 1.2.17 – “Loops”

Most nights, you can find me driving in circles through my neighborhood. Steady, predictable, it quiets my brain. I can say what’s on my mind, and no one hears. The only limit is the amount of gas I can afford. If my car ran on magic and dreams, I could orbit the west side forever.

They put me on the west side for expediency’s sake. The city had just opened up a new 24-unit building for indigents like myself. Except it’s not a new building – it’s a very old one, carved up into tiny apartments. Small, but clean, and they get a fair amount of sunshine. Most of the residents stay to themselves, although the parties can get loud, and the smell of weed intense.

When I’m not working, I’m stuck at my apartment. My choices are to walk back and forth or to sleep. When it gets to be too depressing for me, I hop into the Green Ghost, otherwise known as my ’94 Chevy Lumina, and I take a spin. Up Martin Ave,. Over Sullivant, down Wilson, and back on Broad St. Fifteen to twenty minutes to do the circuit, depending on traffic, and then repeat. And again. And again. Occasionally, I stop at a convenience store for fuel and a sandwich, but I am inevitably pan-handled when I do, which does nothing for my mood. And so, back at it again, around and around, again and again, until and unless my gas runs out or my brain shuts up.

Sometimes, I pass by Wilson, and go all the way to Georgestown Rd, where I can find three reminders of my old life as a productive citizen. Turning left, I go to the mall, that memorial to middle class whitedom, where I may visit all the things I can’t buy anymore. To the immediate right, there’s a strip club that once catered to the automobile plant that was once just down the street. Third, the casino that replaced the auto plant. I’ve never gambled there, but often walk among the slot machines for exercise. A friend of mine tends the one-armed bandits, and he’s often said I’d like it there. Maybe. But I want to choose the last job I’m ever going to have, and after my last three or four missteps, I want to be goddamned sure.

One night, not long ago, a chose the long track to Georgesville, and since I had a few bucks in my pocket, I stopped at the strip club. A very sweet young lady in fishnet stockings sat with me for a while. I told her that I’d first visited this club over twenty years ago, and she seemed amazed that anything could have happened as long as twenty years ago. When my time expired, she left graciously, as did I. I fired up the Green Ghost and took it out onto Georgesville, heading south toward Broad, and home, or, more likely, another loop. The casino passed by on my right, and I thought about the old factory, which I remembered well, and imagined the people who used to work there. How did they feel when they were told it was all over? Where were they now? These are the kind of thoughts that keep me looping.

The traffic light at Broad and Georgesville was red, and I stopped at the end of a line of several cars. Glancing into my rear view mirror, I saw a pair of headlights, closing the distance between us remarkably fast. I pulled over into the next turn lane on the left, and for a moment thought I’d avoided him, but he struck me obliquely and skidded off the road.

I was fine, and the other driver was fine, but the Green Ghost was no more. Even the glancing blow had destroyed her rear quarter panel, as the other car had been going over 80 miles per hour, based on the police estimates. I filled out the reports, checked in with the EMS guy, and was given a lift home. The policeman congratulated me, saying, “I could never have been as calm as you were in this situation.” Well, once you get down past a certain level, getting angry seems like a waste of energy.

The other driver had no insurance, and the Green Ghost wasn’t worth half as much as it would have taken to repair it. A new ride was needed, so my folks and I made the usual arrangement: they own it and I drive it. Today, I ride in a very nice 2004 Buick LaSabre in silver/gray. I call it “Smoke.” For a long time, I didn’t take Smoke on the loop. More miles means more chances for an accident, and in any case, the crime rates on the west side have been steadily rising. But as this life of underemployment slowly becomes the norm for me, I find that my rides are the only thing the make me feel like a human being. Maybe it’s time to put in that resume with the casino.

JUST FOR TODAY: I will remember that a human being’s mission is to make things better. Even if it is in a small, seemingly insignificant way, I will celebrate my accomplishments, and resist succumbing to nihilism.

*** Copyright 2017 by Mud Toe Sasquatch – all rights reserved

 

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Mud Toe Blog 1.1.17 – Impatience Demon

Last night, I discovered something about myself:  I do not have the proper temperament to drive a drunk person home after a New Year’s Eve Party.

The party was at Garcia’s, a place where I once spent a lot of time during my days as a productive citizen.  On these occasional nights of celebration, I always hope to see old friends whom I’ve haven’t hobnobbed with since the place went into mothballs.  Not quite as many showed up as I would have liked, but I did see a lady who was important in my history, one who had given me some of my first work when I moved to the Big City to start a videography business.  She had introduced me to many of my contacts in the spiritual community here, including Chief Iggy, but these days, I seldom see anything of her, unless it’s in a Facebook post.

She’s chatty, with a vital personality, and she knows how to put people together for maximum business advantage, and I’ve always admired her sense of vision and direction, two things I often lack.  But she also has demons, and hers had accompanied her to the party,  An hour and a half before midnight, she was already drunk as a lord.

When she saw me, she smiled, and waved loudly.  I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s precisely what her gesture suggested to me – loud waving.  We exchanged pleasantries, and as she leaned against me to keep from falling off her high bar chair, she asked if I could give her a ride home at the end of the evening,  Without hesitation, I told her I would, and was rather proud of having scheduled my first Boy Scout good deed of 2017.  What I didn’t know was that it was to be my first big lesson of the New Year.  You see, I have demons, too, and one of them is impatience.  One thing you cannot be when dealing with a drunk person is impatient.  The drunk is like a eight-year-old child – they won’t respond to logic, and they won’t move until they are goddamned good and ready.

At one-thirty a,m, came the great disillusionment.  I won’t tell you what she did.  It’s bad enough that I told you how drunk she was, but the story doesn’t make much sense without that information.  Suffice to say, she got under my skin, and as we made random loops about the city, trying to find her house, I became angry enough to scream at her.  Another of my demons is that, when irritated, I go from zero to 60 in about eight seconds, and, when combined with impatience, this can cause me to become something unrecognizable.

I should also explain that when I’m angry, I don’t become incoherent.  Instead, my mind looks up all the information I know about the target of my anger, then organizes it into precisely targeted attacks.  I wasn’t just loud, I was verbally abusive.  So was she, but she was wasted.  What was my excuse?

After an hour and a half of roaming the city, we finally found the address she gave me.  She quietly thanked me for the ride and got out.  I thanked Spirit that that experience was over, then drove around town for another hour until my hands finally stopped shaking.  Rage is an amazing thing – moments to express, and hours, days, or years to dissipate.  Out of intensely-magnified pique, I may have ruined a great friendship, the oldest ongoing friendship I have here in The City.  How can I have worked so long, and yet understood so little, about living sober?  Sobriety isn’t just about staying away from the chemicals.  It’s also about living in the moment, and maintaining open and honest relationships with others.  Last night, I failed.

JUST FOR TODAY:  I will be mindful of my emotions, and will interdict the racing engines of my mind with calm.  I will remember that everyone around me struggles with their own demons, and when one of theirs invites mine to come out and play, I’ll say that he has homework to do.

*** Copyright 2017 by Mud Toe Sasquatch – all rights reserved

 

 

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Mud Toe Journal 12.31.16 – Ease

This blog is now a daily journal.  I will add to this compendium of writings daily until (a) I shake off the writer’s block that has plagued me for the past three years, and (b) the record no longer serves any other useful purpose.

Today’s year-ending thoughts are about how things that seem so difficult for me, seem easy for just about everyone else.  This is a complaint I have commonly presented to my therapists, yet I’ve made no progress with it.  This morning, the following idea struck me:  what if, in some past lifetime or other existence, I was a dapper fuck, with thousands of friends and dozens of lovers, and every enterprise I touched turned to gold.  From that vantage point, it would seem incredible to me that anyone could ever have any sort of trouble — in my experience, all that would be required to reverse the situation would be to exert a little effort and keep a positive attitude.  I probably wrote a least a dozen books about my success, in which I posited that if you weren’t living free and at ease with yourself and others, then you must not be doing it right (a little concept I like to call “The Axiom of Brokenness,” and it’s in these writings somewhere).  As I have observed in this lifetime, people who have enjoyed success tend to lose their empathy for those who have not.  Some lose it quickly, some slowly, but all end up with some bit of disdain at we pathetic beings who don’t know which way to turn next.

Hence, my present lifetime/existence.  Physically, I’m no Quasimodo, but I doubt I’d make the top half of most women’s fuck lists.  I’m an introvert, and seldom communicate outside of a group of very good friends.  Every career I’ve tried has turned to shit, and while I fancy myself a writer (even daring to call myself that on my Facebook page), I’ve written barely a word in the past three years.  So why did the universe declare this great reversal?

I think the Buddhists would say that I needed a little bit of practice.

“Practice” is why we experience multiple lifetimes, according to some brands of Buddhist and Hindu philosophy.  There is only so much we can experience in one ordinary lifetime, and the circumstances of a particular lifetime, such as being a king, might preclude certain other, necessary experiences, such as being a beggar.

Having a certain amount of talent, and I think I’ve proven that I do, I might experience a life of great success, or of frustrating failure, or some interesting variation like that of the hyper-successful nerd.  Then, there’s always the life of the lottery winner, or the author of something that “goes viral,” wherein you never quite know if you deserved the success or not.

Me, I’m just mired in a depressingly-ordinary life, always believing that I could be more than I am, but lacking the drive, or the imagination, or the contacts, or the luck to make it happen.  In other words, I’m learning what it’s like to be one of those people I looked down my nose at in a previous lifetime.

JUST FOR TODAY:  I will not criticize those who move through the world differently that I do.  Instead, I will concentrate on my own work, and on being the best I can be.

*** Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch – all rights reserved

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The Mud Toe Manifesto (9/7/16)

It’s sad that the Unabomber gave the word “manifesto” such a bad name.  A document that states things directly, makes things clear — everybody should do one per week.  Instead, I’m going to apply it to today’s event in Mud Toe’s life.

For the past four months, I was the manager of two group homes for adults with developmental disabilities.  Earlier today, I quit.  Not the first time I’ve quit a job — in fact, it was my fifth.  Three of the first four times, I quit to go to a better job, and on the fourth occasion, my employer asked me to do something I thought was unethical.  In each case, the new job I went to lasted for less than two years.

Lesson?  Don’t quit!  That’s what my mother would say, anyway.  Her formative years were spent in the Great Depression,  and the lesson for her was, “Hold on to any job you can get, with an icy death grip.”

And yet, in total defiance of Mom’s sage wisdom, I tendered my resignation this morning, due to…<gulp> job dissatisfaction.  I never believed I’d say this, but I was happier scraping by on part-time jobs and food stamps that I was at an apparently acceptable, full-time career track job.  And with just under four months on the job, too.

How did this happen?  Two ways, mainly.  First, I was on-call 24/7.  I carried a cell phone that might compel me to leave whatever I was doing and come to work at any time.  My friends and family might dispute this, but I do value my time with them.  And I am someone who likes to know exactly where I’m going to be, and for exactly how long.  Although the phone didn’t ring all that often, my stomach would still churn whenever I remembered that it was there, buckled to my belt, ready to invade my life at any moment.  And although it never rang in the middle of the night, I still never got a good night’s sleep the whole time I had the foul and accursed thing.

Second, and this is the fun one, I just couldn’t get in the swing of doing the mountains of paperwork required by a health care company.  I don’t know how people in hospitals do it, because the volumes of required forms and reports from just the sixteen clients in my facilities was enough to drain my will to live.  I loved working with the clients, taking them places, helping them learn to do things, or get things they needed.  And the other staff there were fabulous, and great to work with.  I’d be enjoying all that stuff so much that I’d put off the paperwork, and put it off, and put it off, until it reached the point where I either couldn’t get it done on time, or could only get it done if I did it badly.

Thankfully, this never had a bad result for a client, or at least not as far as I know, but there would certainly have been consequences eventually.  I felt, therefore, that for their good and mine, I needed to get out.

“But, Mud Toe,” you cry, “Couldn’t you just have sucked it up and done the part of the job that you didn’t like better?  Couldn’t you have put you feelings aside and soldiered on, for the good of everybody?”

The answer is no.  This may seem a bit elitist, or at least ageist, but I believe I have gotten beyond the point of slogging through the mud to get to a haven that probably isn’t there.  I’ve seen a lot in my fifty-one years, and this job I had, though certainly important, is a whole lot of “been there, done that,” at least for me.  This doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else.  It only means that I’m ready to discover what I can really do.  And that’s going to take all of my time and effort.

What did I manifest in this little manifesto?  I believe that my life is more than my job.  I believe that a job I don’t enjoy thoroughly is not worth having.  I believe that I have yet to discover my true avocation.  And I look forward to the day that I love my job so much, I can’t tell the difference between my job and my “real life.”

*** Copyright Mud Toe Sasquatch (2016) — all rights reserved

 

 

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Shaman Tarot Reading on Opposition (7/13/16)

While my direct supervisor at work has a personality quite similar to mine, others of my superiors are more what I would call the “go-go gadget” type — if you’re not moving, you’re not working, and the written procedures are twice as holy as the Bible.  On top of that, they are much younger than me, so we have the generational thing happening.  Now, how do I make it through the sixteen years between now and social security without going crazy?

Sounds like a question for the Shaman Tarot deck.

Massimiliano Filadoro, creator of tarot decks, created the Shaman Tarot by substituting shamanistic symbols for those on the traditional Tarot deck.  Chief Iggy gifted me a Shaman Tarot deck to encourage me to develop my psychic reading skills.  I don’t know if that has happened, but I find the Shaman Tarot focuses thoughts and energy in the way that any psychic conduit would (pendulum, divining rod, crystals, etc.)  Anything will do, really — its the intention that’s important.  Iggy once did a reading for me with four bar napkins.

I asked the cards, “What opportunities are me for this possibly-contentious relationship with my superiors at work.”  I dealt eight cards, four in each of two concentric rings, each representing a Nemenhah medicine wheel, with a card at each of the four doors, West, North, East, and South.

Here’s what I got.  The Shaman divinations come from Filadoro’s instruction book.  The traditional tarot equivalents come from “Introduction to Tarot” by Susan Levitt.

INNER CIRCLE

West door (Buffalo, seeks counsel):

XIX – The Dance of the Sun.  An eagle flies in front of a bright sun in an orange sky.  Three men in native dress dance beneath the eagle.  Everything is full of light for those who know how to see it.  The card indicates new life and brotherhood.  The traditional equivalent is The Hanged Man.  I’ve reached a dead end and much make changes if I wish to move on.

North door (Wolf, heavenly beings and spirits):

The 3 of Bones – The Message of the Spirits.  A woman stands at the top of the wall.  A man and a large cat are climbing the wall, trying to reach her.  She stands for favorable prospects and unexpected help.  The tradition card is the 3 of Wands, seeking new adventures and opportunities.  Satisfaction comes from carrying out one’s duty and fulfilling one’s agreements.

East door (Eagle, sees far)

5 of Stones – Loss of the Soul.  A spiritual figure with a eerie smile stands over a group of men with vacant, lost expression, and one panicked man trapped in a crystal.  Illusions of success, false objectives.  Equivalent to the 5 of Cups, represents loss and sadness.  It is good to weep, releasing these emotions.

South door (Mouse, looks within)

Knight of Drums – Ally of the Earth.  A woman rides a white buffalo across a wasteland.  She stands for unstoppable action, and also for insensitivity to the feelings of others.  The traditional equivalent is the Knight of Pentangles, and indicated unreadiness, and a time for rest and preparation.

OUTER CIRCLE

West door (Buffalo, seeks counsel)

King of Drums – Spirit of Father Buffalo.  A man with a buffalo’s head sits on a blanket, smoking a pipe.  Loyalty and trust, slowness, reluctance to chance.  The King of Pentangles is money-connected and a success in business.

North door (Wolf, heavenly beings and spirits)

7 of Bones – Spiritual Struggle – A warrior stands up to a multi-armed giant.  Questioning the nature of one’s own fears, difficulties that are more imaginary the real.  Traditional card is the 7 of Wands, which stands for valor in struggle, standing one’s ground.

East door (Eagle, sees far):

9 of Bones – Fear.  A man sits in a pit, surrounded by bones, large cats at the rim of the pit, and the menacing head hanging over him.  Fear as an ally, saving us from danger, learning to embrace it and see past it.  The traditional card is the 9 of Wands, indicating strength in the midst of struggle, and integrity in the midst of adversity.

South door (Mouse, looks within)

6 of Bones – The Ally.  A man stands at a mountaintop, looking up at a lion on a higher mountaintop.  Harmony with one’s subconscious.  Support, social visibility, deserved rewards.  6 of Wands indicates victorious action, positive outcome, and healthy use of creative energy.

A couple of things jump out at me right away:

- The preponderance of Bones/Wands cards

- The preponderance of images with a large, often hostile image looking down on a smaller image

- The buffalo man — is he me, or one of my superiors?

I’m going to meditate on this, and then discuss it on my radio show on Friday, July 15, on blogtalkradio.com.  Look for The Uncommon Shaman.  This presumes that technology doesn’t fail me, because I’m going to be at an event that night and won’t be able to do the show live.  If it doesn’t happen, then it’ll go up the following week, and never fear.

If you have any comments to make between now and then, please post on my Mud Toe Sasquatch Facebook page.

*** Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch — all rights reserved

 

 

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Level II (7/2/16)

My name is Mud Toe, and I am a substance abuser.  My sobriety date is April 30, 2010.  On that date, a recent female acquaintance and I brought some intoxicants to a cheap hotel room on the north side of town.  Before the evening was consummated with the coital activity I had hoped for, the young lady asked me to leave.  Evidently, she planned to use the room for a different type of business.

I left, worrying about what might happen in that room I had paid for with a credit card, and I noticed a police cruiser behind me.  The lawman was not directly behind me (there were three or four cars between us), nor were his lights on, nor was he driving particularly fast, but I was still convinced that he was following me.  Driving as perfectly as I could, I took the first opportunity to duck into a fast food restaurant’s parking lot and hid behind the dumpster.

After I had waited for over two hours, I came to know that I needed to make some changes in my life.

Next morning, I found a meeting, and recommitted to my program.  For the first time in my quest for sobriety, I found a sponsor and began formally working the 12 steps.  I liked my sponsor, whom I’ll call “Dave,” because I saw him as an older version of me, and an example of what I might become if I remained committed to sobriety.  He had a regular office job at FedEx, and he spent most of his spare time at the community center making jewelry.  As a 12-step sponsor, he was a strict and thorough taskmaster.  He was everything I hoped to be.

About a year later, Dave and I were looking over the program for a national 12-step convention we were both planning to attend.  There was a list of activities and workshops, and then, of course, there were meeting, lots and lots of meetings.  I saw that many of the meetings had Roman numeral beside the name, a I, II, or III.  I asked Dave what that was all about, and he said those meetings were for offenders.  Level I meetings were open to anybody, Level II was only for those who had committed property crimes, such as theft, and Level III was for those who had committed crimes against persons, such as killing someone in a car accident while intoxicated.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  ”I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.”

Dave looked at me quizzically.  ”How do you mean?”

“Well, I’m not an offender.”

“Hey, I’ve seen your 4th step,” Dave offered.  ”There’s no Level III stuff, luckily enough, but there’s plenty of Level II to get you into one of their meetings.”

Confidently, I replied, “But I never got caught.”

Severely, Dave replied, “What the hell difference does that make?”

None.  It makes no difference.  I’ve spent the last six years counting the days that have elapsed since certain events occurred, and calculating how close I was to the expiration of the statute of limitations.  In another year, I’ll be in the clear on everything, including that wonderful night of April 30, 2010.  But that doesn’t mean those things didn’t happen.  Each event, each indiscretion, each time I lied, each time I took money that wasn’t mine, has left a black mark on my soul.  And most of those things, I can never pay back.

But paying back isn’t the goal.  The Eighth Step says that we need to be willing to make amends, if we could, and if we can do it without causing more harm.  The scars will never heal, but I can use them to drive my willingness to pay back.

Tonight, I’ve been wondering what it’s all been for, and what Spirit might have in store for me.  I need to be mindful of the people and things around me, and of my own experience, which includes all those Level II’s.  I shouldn’t have done them, any of them, but now they are  vital components of who I am.

***** Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch – all rights reserved

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Young Embalmers in Love (4/14/16)

This is a story about a girl I remember as Red, and some experiences with her that I never had. The year I finished college and entered the working world, I was living in an improvised upstairs apartment in an old house. Not the most deluxe accommodation in the world, but I had a car, I was making good money, and I was living in a nice, small town, similar to the one I grew up in. Freedom, but in my comfort zone. Now, it was time to attract a mate.

In fact, I had already been married (briefly) while I was in college, and there was a little girl, toddling out there somewhere, whose genes were half mine. But now I was on my own, and it was time to do it right.

My first stop was the Personals column in the local newspaper.

I am absolutely not going to run that process down. I met a lot of great ladies and had great fun, for the most part. And even when the dates were bad, they were fun. I once met up with a lady for brunch, a she came prepared with a list of questions. And I don’t mean one or two, or even ten or twenty — I mean two pages of yellow legal pad, covered with questions, front and back. It’s amazing to listen to someone make trivial inquiries with absolute dead seriousness. Think of Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model.

“Now,” she intoned, with a wicked gleam in her eye, as if she were about to unlock my soul, “if you won the lottery, who would you tell first?”

In absolute honestly, I replied, “I’d call a lawyer.”

“You’d call a lawyer?” she scowled.

“Yeah, I mean, there’s lots of stuff to do, you know?”

She left without finishing her meal. Her banana pancake leavings were excellent. You know, that might have been a good question to add to her list — If somebody walked out on you during a meal, would you finish their food? List three reasons to support your answer.

Still, there were many more good experiences than bad. I went places I probably never would have gone on my own, met great people, and saw all kinds of amazing stuff. Finally, I met the woman who would become my second wife, and for better or worse.

But that’s a story for another time. Let me tell you about Red. She answered one of my earlier personal ads, at a time when I wasn’t that good at crafting the 50-word seduction, and I wasn’t getting many replies. The singles world is a buyer’s market from the female side, or at least it was back then, so a 22-year-old man who already had an ex-wife and a kid really needed to sharpen his tools (so to speak).

Nevertheless, Red answered my ad. I honestly don’t remember if she ever used her real name, but she said everybody called her Red because of her bright red hair. She was 26 years old, and a widow. She owned and operated her late husband’s business, a mortuary. Besides this, she’d been left with a two-year-old boy, who had cerebral palsy. She went on to write that if I ever wanted to get together and talk, she’d make me dinner at her house.

That’s all I know, and all I’ll ever know, because I didn’t reply to her. I’m ashamed to say that it was the disabled kid that put me off the most. Possibly, I just lacked the maturity to deal with that, but I’m perpetually angry with myself for having thought in those terms, on that and other occasions, and of fearing connecting to someone that was differently abled, as being a potential burden that I didn’t want to bear. God picked people for those assignments, right? Why should I go looking for them?

As time passed, I sometimes thought about Red, and her unusual situation, and my mind, as it will do, started filling in the holes. Her husband owned his own business, one that required a great deal of specialized learning and experience to operate well. Also, her husband was dead. These facts tend to indicate that Red’s late consort was quite a bit older than she was. In such matters, it is often the case that there are relatives involved, possibly children and an ex-wife, who are less than helpful to the young widow because they covet the business themselves. Add the responsibility of a child with special needs, and Red’s life must have been frenetic at best.

I pictured Red greeting me at the door, as we met for that dinner date that never happened. “Please help me,” she said, “They’re all mad to take Denny’s business away from me!” (I don’t know why I named him Denny). “I know that if we work together, we could be them, just you and me.” Then, she’d cozy up to me, and say, “Say you will. I’ll do anything for you. Anything.” And her French Maid outfit would drop to the floor. Today, I could probably sell that as a reality show. “Mud Toe at the Mortuary,” or “Young Embalmers in Love.”

Red’s life was probably not that dramatic, though. Maybe the family worked with her, or maybe they weren’t interested, and some of her husband’s friends helped her out. Perhaps she placed her own Personals ad and found herself a mortician’s mate who didn’t fear the responsibility of having a two-year-old who needed some extra help.

I still think about her sometimes.

My life is my life, and I don’t apologize for it. I’ve been a lot of places, met great people, and seen all kinds of amazing stuff. Some nights, I’m alone in my apartment, I wonder what might have been.  Two roads diverged in a wood, someone once said. My road went one way, and Red’s went another. I hope her’s led to happiness.
*****
Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch – all rights reserved

 

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A Stronger Voice (3/30/16)

Easter Sunday, one year ago, I stood next to my mother. She likes me to accompany her to Easter services, so my eternal soul does not fall into damnation. For my part, I enjoy the Eucharist service, sharing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It takes me back to my roots, and makes me feel part of something larger. Mostly, though, I enjoy the music, and Easter music is the best of the church year. Many people prefer Christmas music – with its lilting beauty, it is much more accessible. Easter music, on the other hand, smashes and crashes. Jesus is back, and he’s kicking ass and taking names. The music is big and loud, but also requires precision. You have to be a good singer to do Easter music well.

I was a good singer, when I was young. I’d toast the Easter music, and people in nearby pews would look over at me in wonder and jealousy. It was one of the few things that got me attention, and I played it for all it was worth. But that was many years ago, and at Easter Sunday, one year ago, I struggled. Couldn’t hit the high notes, wavered on the medium notes, kept running out of breath. I got so frustrated, I didn’t even attempt the final hymn, “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds,” because I knew I couldn’t do it justice. I was pissed off all day – time and change and robbed me of yet another thing I loved.

It might have ended there, but as it happened, there was a music store next to the office where I was working, and one morning a sign appeared, advertising music lessons, First Lesson Free! It took me a few weeks to work up the nerve, but I showed up one day, and a tall, youngish guy named Neil put me through my musical paces. I told him I wanted to be able to hit the high notes at church, and he said he could help me with that. $99 for 4 weekly lessons, and we went to work.

We sang scales, church music, Elvis, and The Beatles. I could feel my voice getting stronger right away, and the stronger it got, the more I wanted to work. At the end of every month, there was a “jam session,” where all the music students were encouraged to show what they could do. I skipped the first few months, but when I finally went, I found the guitarists and bassists and drummers to be very talented and supportive. It was amazing how quickly they picked up music – I threw out “I Saw Her Standing There,” they started speaking in their guitar code —, D, C, D, 6 beats, key change — and we were performing the song in five minutes.

As I left that night, feeling better about myself than I had in months, the bass player handed me a card. “There’s a jam session on Wednesday nights at the Blue Pickle Bar,” he informed me. “Why don’t you come out and sing with us sometime?”

And so I did. Often, the guitarist, the bass player, and I were the only ones there, and I got to sing for two hours solid. Other times, other musicians would show up, and we would share the wealth. It’s become the high point of my week. Often, I think of how I might bring that energy into the rest of my life. I wonder if it isn’t about positive reinforcement, having others recognize what I do, but isn’t it also true that I never would have found that feedback if I’d never gone to that music lesson and put myself out there in the first place?

But even with the jam sessions, I hadn’t met my goal, which was to reconquer Easter. This year, I went back, with my mother at my side as always. Most of the hymns were rather pedestrian, but the closer was “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” I freakin’ nailed it.

Mud Toe’s voice is risen. It is risen indeed.

*** Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch —- all rights reserved

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Origins of Mud Toe (3/1/16)

Mud Toe Sasquatch is not the name I was born with.  The name was gifted to me by Spirit on the day I set forth on my journey as a purveyor of written and spoken words, and a healer of society.  Most people still know me by the Christian name my parents gave me, and that’s just fine with me.  I honor my original name and heritage, and I also affirm that the name “Mud Toe Sasquatch” identifies me more closely.

Where did the name originate?  I’ll start with “Sasquatch.”  Most people recognize this as the name of a legendary gigantic primate who lives in California and sells beef jerky.  More accurately, the name refers to a spirit or god recognized by the First Peoples living in the Pacific Northwest region of what is now called North America.  Similar legends with different names exist all over the continent (and South America as well, I presume), as well as in northern and central Asia, where the First Peoples originated.   I believe the name “Sasquatch” was originally introduced into pop culture on an episode of the TV series “The Bionic Woman,” but whatever the pathway, the name is now firmly associated with a mysterious, tall, hairy beast with a shy disposition.

The name found its way to me via Chief Iggy at Itsipi, or sweat lodge, on our old sacred grounds in the heart of our great City in the Midwest.  The grounds was enclosed by trees on three sides.  The Chief observed me walking along the treeline, and my loping stride reminded him of the famous film of Sasquatch, taken in the 1960′s.  The brown sweat suit I was wearing added to the look.  I resonate with the name because Sasquatch is something just about everyone knows of, but not about.  He pops out every once in a while for all to see, then disappears into the trees, and no one knows where or why.  I think of myself as someone who’s not afraid to be visible, but at the same time is reluctant to reveal much of my inner self.  The written and spoken word have become my tools to do that.

“Mud Toe” landed on me at the same sweat lodge.  I had a certain prissy manner in the lodge.  I didn’t want to get dirty, but getting dirty is kind of the point.  The lodge is a place to release the trappings of society and simply be.  So, on that particular day, Spirit decided to teach me a little lesson.  Crouched down and trying to make my way to my place in the circle, I lost my balance and sunk my foot deep into a magnificent mud hole.  As a pulled my foot out, I found the big toe on my right foot was encased in mud, and I decided to leave it that way, to remind me that I’m not as clever as I sometimes think.

As the sweat got underway, I underwent a highly-emotionally-charged experience.  I saw myself standing on a path that was broken, and the only way I could continue was to build the path ahead of me myself.  As I struggled to build, my body unequal to the tast, the Ancestors and Heavenly Beings and Spirits appeared around me to help.  As I came back to the world, I was lying on my side in the mud, gasping for air, body drained of sweat.  I could feel each beat of my heart forcing thickened blood through my veins.  Another person in the lodge, to this day I don’t know who, called out, “Hey, Mud Toe, are you okay?”

At the feast afterwards, Chief Iggy suggested a number of lyrical names I might try on.  ”Swift Sloth” is one a remember, and “Green Bear.”  However, I just couldn’t shake “Mud Toe Sasquatch” from my mind.  When I hear it, I feel the way a dog must feel when his name was changed by a new owner, and he hears the old name, filtering through the mists of time.

I am Mud Toe Sasquatch, and so it is.  I have spoken – all my relations!

**** Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch – all rights reserved

 

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The Sad Brick House (2/18/16)

I stood as closely as I could to the old brick wall, then looked straight up.  Two stories of solid history, as full of past as the wall of a cave.  Fire engine red blocks sandwiching gray mortar, too much mortar, squirting out from between the bricks like rock-hard mayonnaise.  The owner told me the place was 160 years old.  How red must those bricks have been on the day the masons laid down too much mortar, built that wall, and left it here for me to find?

I look over my shoulder at the car, parked at the curb just behind me.  The girl inside, still struggling to put her shoes on.  I turn my attention back to the bricks.  I worked at a brickyard for seven years after I got out of college.  Bricks are old friends to me.  Red, brown, yellow, tan, and black.  I even saw some purple ones once.  Rectangles, squares, trapezoids, wedges, keys, wavy ones, ones with holes through them to make them lighter to carry.  I was at a class in upstate New York, and a few of my fellow brickmeisters and I saw I fellow laying down some pink ordinance for a sidewalk, and we walked over and helped out for a few minutes.  I was young, with money in my pocket, and most of the flaws that have dogged me through my life had not manifested yet.  That fair time is inextricable tied to memories of piles of clay, sieves ten feet wide, and ancient impact presses creating thousands upon thousands of bricks,to be used by the world.

And these that I admired as my lady friend finally fit her shoes over the thick, red socks I had given her, red as the bricks in that old building, bricks made with equipment even more primitive than we had used in our broken-down factory, all those years ago.  Sometimes, technology stops — there is nothing new to do, no faster you can go, no cheaper or lighter or easier to use that you can make it.  Then, the industry turns to something harder.

160 years.  If true, then the wall had held up remarkably well.  It was bowed from side to side, and probably from top to bottom as well, but by no more than a foot or so.  Given that it had passed through 160 Ohio winters, that was quite an accomplishment.  There was some spalling on the west corner, and a few bricks had fallen out of place.  I wondered if people with the expertise to fix the wall still existed, and I hoped the owner would find them.  One head shake from the building inspector, and the bulldozers would roll, just as they were doing in old neighborhoods all over the city, and just as the will here one day, no doubt.

For now, though, we still have half a dozen convenience stores like this one.  Imagine!  My date was a bit short on groceries, so I gave her my last twenty and told her to get what she wanted  I followed her up and down the aisles, aisles that sloped sharply to the south in some places — the building wasn’t in such good shape on the inside as out.  She picked up a 12-pack of soda, some lunch meat, and a frozen pizza, and we checked out.  I dropped her off on the corner, near where she was squatting with two other girls in a vacant house.  The house was brick, and you could tell it had once been beautiful.  It could be again, if someone spent a little time and effort on it.  But to all but me (it seems), the time has passed.  The sad brick house is a nest for urban blight, and the only cure is let condos roll over it.

I thought, “I wish I could save you.”  Was I was thinking of the girl or the house?

*** Copyright 2016 by Mud Toe Sasquatch — all rights reserved ***

 

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