17 July 2011

An Open Letter To The Shoobies

Dear Tourist,

I wanted to take a moment out of my busy day to thank you for all you have done for our little island and the communities here during the time from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The holidays and the summer season bring much joy to the businesses that thrive on your tourist dollar each and every year. And although my personal business does not, directly, depend upon these visits, I can't help but be appreciative of your financial contribution and close company that summer brings. For example, I was so happy to find the empty beer cans on my front lawn at the beginning of the summer when I went to get my morning newspaper. Seeing them crunched and twisted on my well manicured grass meant that the local liquor store made a profit on the alcohol you bought there. Then there was the water bottle full of urine I saw next to a parked car on a side street. That proved to me that you ate at one of our fine restaurants located here on Absecon Island and the wine probably went right through you. I also must applaud your attempts on my life as I try to cross the streets and you refuse to follow the traffic laws of New Jersey, that could only mean that you want to make sure our hospitals and police forces are doing their jobs and that they have plenty of business during what could be a slow summer season. And those colorful words you shout out in greeting as you slam on your breaks just inches away add to my already considerable vocabulary. And I do enjoy your persistent use of the actual streets to take a nice walk in the summer sun. That way, the sidewalks that cover the island from end to end can be utilized exclusively for the locals to get to their tourism industry jobs in order to serve you better. But let me add, when you do actually venture on the sidewalks, I appreciate you walking four abreast and forgetting all common courtesy, forcing me trudge over a neighbor's lawn to get around you and to my destination. That way the local gardeners have plenty to do repairing the damage done by all the foot traffic. I can only assume that the salt air and the freedom of vacation are playing havoc on your, otherwise, good manners and force you to forget them. Speaking of that, our local repair shops are overjoyed at the minor fender-benders that you cause when you playfully disregard the traffic laws of our state and drive as if you are the only one on the road.

In closing, I think I speak for all of us here at the shore when I say a hearty "Thank you!" for another fine summer full of shoobies... err... tourists who make these three months of hell... err... fun worth the nine months of peace and quiet and cleanliness when you depart.

See you next year!

Most Sincerely,


15 July 2011

A Day, Much Like The Next or; Minutiae, In Eighteen Hours

Morning came as it always does, relentless and predictable. I had spent the previous day feeling out-of-sorts, one of those days where you are unstuck from time. My life was murky, I felt like I was out of step with what was going on around me. To compensate, I sat in the bedroom with only the computer, the television and Mighty Joe, my constant feline companion, as my only company with the occasional foray into the kitchen to get some food. I ignored my mobile, turned off all the instant messaging, the only thing I did was watch the Facebook feed change and the occasional YouTube video. The television was on but I'll be damned if I can remember anything I watched the entire day. I ate. That I remember. I ate a lot.
Taking myself out of the day was my attempt to balance myself with the world.
When I fell asleep, curled next to Mighty Joe, his purring a soothing vibration next to my chest, I hoped that the new day would dawn better.
I heard the BBC news first. The timers and stations on the television dutifully set each night to turn on by themselves every morning so I don't have to actually expend any effort during that hateful time between the bliss of dreams and the knowledge of reality. There's a certain comfort to hear all about the woes of the world in a proper British accent. Mighty Joe saw me stirring and immediately pounced on me from the safety of the edge of the bed. I sleep fitfully and, although he wants to be near me, he knows I may crush him or launch him from the bed with my foot or knee. More than once I felt him extracting himself from underneath me, mewling and grumbling the entire time, when I accidentally rolled over on top of him.
I lazily reached up to scratch his purring face, listening to him meow a good morning greeting and I turned over and fell back asleep. My next conscious moment occurred when I realized I was freezing. I had kicked, pushed, rolled the covers off of me and the air conditioner was set to arctic tundra. Yes, it's an actual setting. I realized I should either get back under the covers or get up and start my day or turn the damn thing up (or is it down? I can never get it right when it's an air conditioner) to, at least, the meat locker setting.
Mighty Joe woke me again, this time in protest for falling back asleep. His favourite method is walking on my head, the pillow, my back, my arms or simply sitting on my chest and meowing loudly and constantly until I feed him. He's gotten used to an early morning feeding time and it was now three hours late. I got up this time, knowing that if I kept this up, I would have yet another day like the last and I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
I heard Rico out in the kitchen and the pack of puppies running around back and forth through the house. I dreaded having to go out of the confines of my little fortress but I needed to feed the beast that is my cat and get my day started with a healthy breakfast.
There's a certain comfort in routine. Doing things by rote may seem mundane but knowing that each day of doing things in a certain time or way, everything that needs to be done will get done. I fed the cat and myself while the coffee brewed. I cleaned the litterbox and then washed the dishes. Poured my coffee and went to the room to make the bed whilst the computer started up. Watched the morning shows and updated my Facebook, leaving the smart-aleck comment here and there on my friend's walls. The weather reports called for rain so I decided not to waste my time and water the garden. This is my usual routine, predictable, comfortable and a little boring. But I don't have the luxury of wealth to be truly and completely bored.
Before I knew it, Helene had come home from work to meet with her friend, Claudia, in preparation for their trip to Lancaster, one of Helene's favourite places to get away. We chatted for a time and she gave her bits of worry and advice before leaving, her usual "take care of the puppies" and "make sure you put the iced tea in the fridge". It's odd the things that rattle around in her head, as if we would neglect the dogs and drink warm tea. Off they went and I decided that I wanted to get myself to the gym early. My mobile, when I turned it back on, alerted me right away that there was a mixer that night and I was keen to go. The Greater AC Gay bacon, lettuce and tomato Alliance mixers are always a good time and I enjoy going to places I haven't been to yet. Tonight was Gallagher's at Resorts.
After taking care of a few more things around the house and getting a much needed shower, I decided that I should first go uptown to my bank and deposit some much needed funds into my account and then go to the gym. Every day I had planned to go to the bank after the gym but I never seemed to get there before they shut so I figured I'd reverse the order to make sure it was done. I hopped on a Jitney bus and it took forever to get across town, the cane and disabled club were out in force and they all seemed to want my Jitney. Yes, MY Jitney.
I turned in some change and did my banking, deciding that I'll walk as far as I could in the heat and then hop a bus downbeach to the gym. The local five-oh-five goes right to the doorstep of Body Architects. I did my usual tour through the Taj Mahal, which is down the block from my bank, and made my way through Resorts to the boardwalk where the heat and sunshine hit me hard as soon as I stepped through the door. Luckily I had slathered on the sunblock three thousand before I left the house, if only to keep my vampire skin the porcelain white I prefer. I marched my way down the boards, people watching as I went and marveling at the crowds. It's usually not this busy until after the Fourth of July and I was surprised at how many shoobies were out and about.
As I rounded the area near New York Avenue, where the boardwalk bends and heads downbeach, I saw a crowd had gathered and wondered what was going on. As I got closer, I could see a contraption set up out in front of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, where I used to work as a teenager when it was a fake slot palour (I could tell you the same story about many properties in this city). An escape artist was performing a stunt, hung upside down in a tank of water, arms chained and legs bound in irons. As I approached, they were pulling up the curtain to preserve the secrecy of his escape technique. I continued to walk by, living in Atlantic City for so long, I am more than used to the spectacles on the boardwalk and the unexpected and unplanned fiasco's are more exciting to me. I got a half a block away and heard the applause from the crowd around him so I assumed that he escaped his bondage successfully.
I got near Bally's Casino and decided to wander through to Caesars (the casinos are connected through a labyrinth of tunnels and connectors) since it was so hot and muggy on the boardwalk. I exited from Ceasars and once I got past Trump Plaza I realized that it was too damn hot and I took the tunnel next to Boardwalk Hall up to Pacific Avenue with the intention of hopping on a bus to Margate. Of course, as I got near the corner, a bus went by and, luck would have it, it was the exact bus I needed to get me to my destination. I waited a little longer, text messaging the little numbers they now provide to get a schedule sent to your mobile and saw that by the time the next bus comes, I could be half-way through Ventnor.
I manned up and trudged onward.
I did manage to stop at the flat for a few minutes to reapply the sunblock and then got to the gym and had a great workout. Although I've been working out on and off for the last few years, in these past four months I have seen some significant progress, more than ever before. I can't believe I'm the same person when I look in the mirror although most of the time, I still see that skinny red-headed boy with wire-framed glasses that I was at fifteen.
After reapplying the sunblock once again, I wandered home, down my usual route along Ventnor Avenue and when I returned home, I saw that Joe, my ex boyfriend, and his current beau, Angel, were there.
We talked, I ate lunch, we chatted some more. Well, mostly Joe and I. Angel was with Rico, cooking and gossiping in Spanish (with Cuban and Dominican accents).
The day moved along languidly, as summer days often do, and before I knew it, it was time to get ready for the little shindig at Resorts. I had checked the time in the confirmation email and noticed that the venue had changed, it was now being held at another restaurant in the casino, Capriccio's.
Joe and Angel were leaving to go about their business, whatever that may be, and they were kind enough to give me a lift to Resorts, once I got dressed.

It's strange walking into a building I used to work in. Granted, I only worked there for a weekend, but my hopes and dreams were pinned on my job at Prohibition. I had made life plans, I begun sorting out the tangled mess of my life and saw salvation, quick and sweet, in my new job and the lucky chance it afforded me.
One stupid mistake made months earlier dashed all that against the rocks. But life has proven, time and again, that perseverance (and a little luck) will shift fortunes in my favour.
The longer I live, the more I'm getting the impression that I'm using up my lucky star, and it will peter out with the whimper of a blown out match, not a brilliant supernova worthy of my stature.

I wandered through the lobby, remembering how the casino used to look, and how it used to look before that, and before that. Atlantic City's first casino has been through many owners, long before it was a (legal) casino and after. Since moving here in nineteen eighty, I have a lengthy perspective on the changes gambling has made on the city and I see ghosts of decades past everywhere I go. I got on the elevator and hit the button that said third floor, dining. Once in the lobby, I wandered around, trying to find the right entrance to the mixer. I hear my name being called and I turn to see the table and familiar faces staring at me, waiting. I made the usual pleasantries at the door and received my required name-tag, although I inwardly laughed at that. It's not as if I'm a stranger to anyone on this island.
As soon as I entered, I saw my friend Ike working at the bar, right after the entrance on the right. We talked for a bit and I ordered, spending the last ten dollars I had to my name on a Ketel One and tonic, with lemon (Ike remembered!). As he was making it, I looked around the restaurant, getting my first impressions. It was nothing like I expected but then again, the public areas in Resorts have always surprised me in one way or another. It's one of the last buildings left from Atlantic City's "golden age" and some of the public spaces still retain the glamour and elegance of that long-ago era. I grabbed my cocktail and made my way through the restaurant to the area near the balcony, where our mixer was being held. I noticed the beautiful frescos and arches, the cheery yellow walls, the nicely dressed tables, the ceilings and the chandeliers all hearkening back to another time. I saw the buffet tables simply buckling under the weight of the food and after making small talk with those who were already there, I made my way over to sample the fare. The spread was beautiful and bountiful and I greedily took a sample of nearly everything available. Deep fried shrimp sticks, scallops wrapped in bacon, clams casino, oysters on the half shell, pate on curiously cut breads, luncheon meats of every kind, cheeses from around the world, breads and spreads, fresh cut fruits and crudités, it was an amazing gastronomic and visual feast! I loaded my plate and sat down with some friends, laughing and trading quips with those seated at the tables around me.
In the middle of stuffing my face, I see a very familiar face enter the room, my great friend Michael Waters (who has the nickname Michael Finger, for reasons I'll relate in a later entry). I was ecstatic once I saw him, it's great to see one of the original faces from my early days in Atlantic City, especially one so dear to me. I've always had an admiration and respect for him, his talents as a fine artist, his wanderlust and ability to travel in many circles both throughout this country and abroad. Once he sat down, he occupied my entire interest from that moment on and I peppered him with questions about his life since the last time I saw him. We laughed and gossiped about our mutual friends and then the mixer was called to order (this particular gathering was actually an official meeting of the Greater AC GLBT Alliance and they gave the bi-annual report on the group thus far. New recruits, current membership numbers, sponsored venues, available funds, upcoming fundraisers, the usual business one must attend to when a group of civic-minded people gather together for a single-minded cause). As it stands, after the treasurer, president and other titled members spoke their required piece, the organization is solid and growing. Huzzah! Once the business was attended to, we finished up the festivities, Michael and I stood out on the porch overlooking the boardwalk and ocean and talked to a few friends who were out there enjoying a cigarette.
The party finally wound down, the waiter begging us to eat more since there was so much food left. I was stuffed, I had several servings making like a pig at a trough up at the buffet table. I had decided to visit my dear friend Lance at the Continental, one of my favourite haunts on the island, and Michael was kind enough to give me a lift to Caesars. I said my good-bye's and promised to stop by his home soon (he lives on the border of Margate and Ventnor) during my walk home from the gym. A promise I will keep as I am very curious to see his artwork now, he's been busy over the years and I'd like to see where his talents have taken him.
Once in The Pier, I hurriedly made my way to the third floor, dodging the shoobies and trying to get on the escalator before they do. Just because the stairs are moving does not mean you don't have to. I barge in to the Continental and immediately see Jon, the general manager, and he informs me that Lance had left early.
Dejected, I figured I'd go home and I made my way back through The Pier and over the walkway to Caesars casino.

I, rather impulsively, decided I would walk home on the beach, after putting up with the tourists on the boardwalk for a few blocks and since the sun is setting, it might be nicer to walk along the shoreline.
I walked over one of the overpasses that take you from the boardwalk beyond the protective (and controversial) dunes to the beach and took off my sandals and rolled up my jeans, looking every inch the beach bum, an image that I have tried to avoid my entire life here on Absecon Island.

The sand was cooler than I expected, as I trudged my way to the waterline where it's easier to walk and the water feels good on my feet and toes. I remember thinking that the sand feels odd, the occasional shell or detritus you feel on your soles is disconcerting, making each step an unwelcome surprise. The sand clung to my feet and between my toes where I could feel the grit rubbing with each step. I recalled a Discovery Channel show where they said sand is largely made of the waste produced by parrot fish crunching and digesting coral. People flock in droves each summer to lay on what is essentially fish poop. Who knew?
I looked downbeach towards home and saw the stragglers here and there, the couples in the distance holding hands in the waning daylight, there was a group far ahead sitting near the water's edge. A kid here, a dog there. I looked up and saw that the sunset was near and clouds and colours were going to make it spectacular. I continued on, passing two young boys still playing Frisbee, they were tanned and fit in the blush of youth, I secretly envied them and these days of their lives. The ocean waves were receding, it was low tide and each wave left a long area of moist sand in it's wake, where I walked along, splashing in the little puddles left behind. I tried to avoid the patches of broken shells and seaweed that gather together, haphazardly here and there, but most of the time I was so engrossed with the skies above and the beauty the sunset was displaying, I ignored the small pains the shells caused me when I stepped on them.
I approached the large group I had seen earlier and realized it was a family, sitting at the ocean's edge and fishing. The father was teaching his two sons how to cast the line into the surf, they had PVC pipes embedded in the sand to hold their poles steady whilst waiting for a bite from something in the great sea. There were younger children still playing at sand castles and a harried mom trying to corral them when they ran out into the surf. It was a familiar and comforting scene, even though they were total strangers.
As I continued on, the skies above began to take my attention completely. The sunset was proving to be spectacular and I was engulfed in watching every nuance of colour, the changing clouds, the subtle ebb of light and the encroaching purple of darkness, slowly taking hold. At one point, I could see the Ventnor skyline reflected in the sand when a wave receded and I found a spot where I was able to capture a picture of the moment. The shot came out a little hazy, almost dreamlike, a quality I grew to appreciate since it captured the moment perfectly. The entire walk home had that quality, the mix of nostalgia, the beauty, and the immediate present that all combines to make our memories which always have that hazy quality when we recall them. I managed to get a few more photographs of the sunset, the little camera on my mobile phone is surprisingly good at outdoor shots and I manage to capture the colours that were actually there. Sometimes, they are washed out or overly intense, the camera over or under-compensating in one way or another.
Once I got closer to my home, there were no stragglers left on the beach. I was alone with nature and my thoughts. I began to scan the dunes for the entrance to the boardwalk, almost wanting to keep walking and extend the moment for a while longer but I had had a long day and I was beat. My feet, now wet from walking in the water, quickly accumulated sand and the beach was hard to navigate, shifting under my feet as I walked to the slats that make a path between the dunes. On the ocean side, a young man was sitting by himself, dressed all in black and staring out to sea. I wondered what he was thinking as I walked by. When I emerged through the dunes, I startled a couple walking on the boardwalk, the light had almost completely drained from the sky by now and it was dark where I was walking. I stamped the extra sand off my feet and wandered down the ramp to the sidewalk, since I refuse to walk in the streets like a shoobie.
The promised rains never came and, since I had to wash the sand off my feet, I took the opportunity to water the gardens, teasing the dogs in the house since I was wandering around the premisis and I didn't come give them hugs and kisses and pets beforehand. The flowers in the front garden were getting big, my green thumb seems to be working. I watered the plants in the backyard in the complete dark, my only light coming from the lightning bugs and getting bitten by the mosquitos.
Once inside, the spell was broken, I was back to reality and the here and now. Helene and I sat and watched her true crime shows and I soon, I settled in and went to bed, Mighty Joe purring beside me.

29 March 2011

Combating Bigotry (Letter Sent To The Press Of Atlantic City)

It's with great sorrow that I write this letter knowing now that there are people in my community who are filled with such ignorance, bigotry and misinformation and are willing to put such barbarian ideas on public display. The letters recently published concerning Leonard Pitt's column on gay marriage didn't outrage me as much as made me hang my head in shame for the woeful and deliberate ignorance of the letter writers. Mr. Drake's letter was the usual diatribe of psudo-conservative values, almost as if he was parroting the ramblings of the extreme right without any real concept of the facts nor the wherewithal to know the difference between what he believes or what he's been told to believe. Whilst I agree with him about the validity of the polls concerning the acceptance of gay marriage (you can get a poll that would dispute today is Tuesday), his assertion that gay marriage and civil unions are overwhelmingly voted down is false. Eleven states and the District of Colombia have allowed either marriage or union between consenting gay adults. And as for his claim that being homosexual is a matter of sexual behaviour and not civil rights makes me believe that he is of the mistaken mind-set that believes being gay is a matter of choice. If that is the case then I only have one question to ask Mr. Drake: When did you decide that you liked women instead of men? I know I NEVER made that choice.

I also noticed that he used the hot-button words of "sodomy" and "deviant sex" and I am most assured, without ever meeting Mr. Drake, that he has absolutely no idea what the true definition of sodomy is. If he did, he and his wife are probably practicing sodomites as much as I am.

This brings me to Pastor Ross, another bigot who stands by stereotypes and misinformation and cannot see the illogic through the religious haze he's found himself in. He's one of those people who say that the gays are a promiscious bunch who will not adhere to the sancity and monogamy of marriage and therefore, they should not marry.

Where do I begin? First, if he really wanted to protect marriage, then divorce would be illegal. Once married, always married. If there is no divorce, marriage would be a stable institution. But our lawmakers and pastors frequently have several marriages under their belt and a mistress on the side. Second, to deny gay men and women the right to marry and live together in a monogamous relationship and then complain that they are promiscuous is lunacy! And it also is hypocritical. Marrying several times over your lifetime is also a form of promisciuity, not to mention the adultery.

He also makes the ludicrious claim that all gay men and women are disease ridden. Rubbish! As a gay man who has lived in Atlantic City and knows pretty much every other gay person in the tri-state area, I can assure Pastor Ross that we are a healthy, vibrant people and that the statistics will bear out that we, as a people, have no more diseases than the general heterosexual population. And he should be ashamed of himself to make any assertions that gay men and women are the only risk group for A.I.D.S. It is a global disease and does not discriminate based on sex, race or sexual orientation. Although I am not a religious man, I find my humanity far more compassionate than this supposed man of God.

Mr. Pitts was spot-on in his column. Gay men and women deserve the RIGHT to be married under law. There is no room in this great country of ours to legalize discrimination based on outdated ideals, religious grounds or willful ignorance.

We are a country who's very foundation was based on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not allowing me to marry the person I love, be they man or woman, is to deny me my basic right as an American citizen.

22 February 2011

How We Met Or: Lies, All Lies!

There's been a thing going around on Facebook. It states: "I want my Facebook friends to comment on how you met me. But I want you to LIE. That's right make it up. Copy and paste this so I can do the same."

Although I didn't "copy and paste", I did leave a few lies on my friend's pages. Here are a few of my stream-of-conscious fictions.


It was summer, one of those long hot ones where even if you get naked, you still sweat. I was in my flat, late at night, the air conditioner was on the fritz and I couldn't think. It was just too hot. I tossed and turned in my bed, the sheets soaked with the acrid smell of the vodka I drank all day seeping out of my pores and onto the bed. In a haze of heat and frustration, I heaved myself out of bed and put on a linen cabana shirt I found on the floor, the one that didn't smell like regret, pulled on a pair of shorts and lurched for the door, not having a clue where I was going to go or what would happen.

I found myself on the Jitney, traveling across the island, the wisps of hot air blowing through the windows over my head doing nothing to cool me off. I was still drunk, I could feel my head spinning with every bump of that little bus as it trundled down Pacific Avenue. Before I realized what I was doing, I yanked the cord and the bus pulled over to the corner and I got off. I staggered down the darkened street, past the usual Atlantic City denizens, the groups of young urban toughs with the low-slung jeans acting with the bravado of youth and the downtrodden homeless men, looking away as you pass by with a hand meekly held out in hopes of you giving them a coin or two.

There it was, the goal I didn't know I had, the little strip bar that used to be a gay bar that used to be a speakeasy. If you lived in this town as long as I have, you learn the history, the lore and every building or empty lot represents, it's so much more than what you see now, so much more than what is now gone. I walked up to the little window, the doorman knew me right away and buzzed me in and before I could make it to the bar, they had my drink waiting, as if they knew I was coming at that exact moment. There's Kenny, buying me a shot of..what?...Jack...I don't drink Jack...but I do it anyway, to dull the pain, the torment that has been my life for so long. The bar became a watery haze, blurred visions passed before my eyes and I looked over, in the middle of the room where the runway was and there I saw her. A goddess. A siren. A whore. A lover. Madonna, mother of God and everyday tramp all rolled into one. There she was like a light at the end of my now tunnel vision. The one I had been looking for, who would save me. There was Lady Day, spinning on a stripper pole.


The cold winds blew through me, I clutched at my thin jacket, pulling it closer to me even though I knew it was no use to block out the icy fingers of Jack Frost. The boardwalk was empty. The holiday season was coming and no one gambles, saving their meagre coins for Christmas gifts to put under the tree. I stumbled, slipping on a small patch of ice and clutched the railing to steady myself. I was sick with fever and I had nothing, I was destitute, and could not pay for medication, let alone see an actual doctor. I pulled myself together and began shuffling again down the boardwalk and a fit of coughing took me. I couldn't stop, my throat was raw and sore and the phlegm and spittle coming out of my mouth was mixed with flecks of blood. I pulled my sleeve across my face, wiping the mess away and staggered on. I knew I looked like hell but what could I do? I was in hell. One I made for myself.

The choices we make set our path and my path led to wrath and ruin.

I'll never forget that night, fifteen years before when I made the selfish decision that brought me to this point. The folly of youth, the arrogance, the sheer stupidity of those wasted days seemed to run doubly in my blood. I wanted more, I wanted it faster. I wanted it now! As the old adage says, be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

I got everything I wanted once I made that deal. I was rich. I was famous. I performed on every stage and had the accolades of my peers and the adoration of legions of fans. My youthful features never faded and I had lovers, male and female, fawning at my feet. I gorged on all of this like the glutton I was, reveling in my fame. My fortune. My all.

I never saw it coming, although I knew it would. Suddenly, in a matter of months, everything began to change. My countenance began to age when I gazed in the mirror. Slowly, at first but then the wrinkles began to show faster and faster. I broke all the mirrors in my home, my dressing room. I allowed no photographs.

Then I lost my fame. When you refuse to perform, no one wants to see you anymore. You get a "reputation" as difficult and a "diva" and they turn on you.

My fortunes left next, without my adoring fans, I had no income to fill my coffers and I spent what I had trying to retard the ravages of age attacking my body, my beautiful face.

My lovers left my hideous form, seeking younger, beautiful companions and I was left alone.

All alone.

Now I am here. The bargin was not worth it, I realize that now and I can see the end ahead. I turned and walked down the stairway to the beach, slipping on the last two icy steps and landing in a heap at the bottom. I pushed myself up from the wet, gritty sand, trying to brush it off of my face, the last shred of my vanity showing through with this one futile gesture. I walked towards the sea, the roar of the ocean drowning out all sound, the waves crashing around my feet, the bitter cold surf biting my toes, my ankles through the threadbare shoes I wore.

The darkness ahead got darker, blacker. First a small point and then it grew, directly in front of me. Then, in the middle a point of light which also grew, quickly, developing into the visage of a woman. Taking shape ahead of me, she beckoned with her right hand, her left holding the contract for my soul. This beautiful dark angel stood there smiling as I walked up to her, striding deeper into the raging sea. She put her arm around me and whispered in my ear. I could hear her sweet voice over the pounding waves.

"I've been waiting for you. We have glorious plans for your soul, Mortimer".

And that's how I met the one you know as Hope Curran-Orkin.


The noise was deafening!


I clutched at my ears and curled up in a ball, screaming at the dreadful sound around me.


Again. And again. The shelling wouldn't stop! I huddled next to the broken wall of cinderblock and cracked mortar, dirt and rocks flying in the air and pelting me, pinging off my helmet and clogging my breath.

I looked around in a panic. I see Wilson ten feet away. Dead. He must have been taken out with shrapnel, I can see the holes in his chest, oozing blood and bits of his lungs. I know I have to move, I need to gain a better position if I'm going to survive. I'm a sitting duck and I'll get blown to bits like Wilson if I stay here much longer. I checked my ammo, still some left. Good. Time to move. We have to take out this mofo before we all die. I look around for the rest of the team. There's Schafer by the burning Humvee, looking at me, waiting. There's Einhorn crouched by the fountain in the middle of the square. I can't see him but I know he's there. I can see the smoke from his cigarette wafting over the low wall, although the fountain is spewing water everywhere. It had been hit in the last volley. Damn fool will get himself killed one of these days. I get Schafer's attention, motioning him silently to move to the end of the street. We need to get in that building on the corner and get to the top floor and take out this prick shelling us over and over.

We move, somehow Einhorn knew our plans and began running towards us, full on. Not crouching. Not sticking to the bits of cover along the way. Schafer and I make it to the corner. Both of us out of breath with both the effort and fear. Einhorn slams into the wall next to us and we are safe for the moment.


A mortar shell blasted the spot I had just been hiding behind to bits.


Another hit the shop across the way and quickly started a fire. We steeled ourselves to finish our mission.

We make our way in, following our training. Each covering part of the room we are entering, making sure there are no surprises. Here in Iraq, a surprise WILL kill you.

Most of this room had been burned out, not much left and not many places for anyone to be hiding. I motioned for them to take the stairs, and I held rear-guard, keeping our flank protected. Up the steps we went, stepping over something I think was a body. I can't worry about that now. The second floor was also blackened with soot and the next landing was covered in rubble. Part of the third floor must have caved in with the air strikes earlier in the day. We secured the second level and made our way to the third, keeping a sharp eye out.

My pulse was pounding in my head. And then, the unmistakeable whilsting of incoming!!! We all crouched together as the shell hit right outside.


Sand and brick shot in the windows to our left, clouding our vision for a few seconds. That was close!

We made sure everyone was good and then made our way up the final stairway. Slowly. Watching.

That's when I realized the shelling stopped. It had been incessant since we were dropped into this little hellhole. What was going on.

I turned and saw Evelyn standing there, helmet cocked back, cigar sticking out of her mouth and the end of her sniper rifle trailing a small bit of smoke. She smiled and strung the gun over her shoulder.

"Took him out, sargent. Where to next?"

And that's how I met Evelyn Kolaitis-Seifert.

08 February 2011

First Posted 27 February 2008

Deep Thoughts With Mortimer

Current mood:depressed

I have been watching The Universe on The History Channel. It's a great series. I really love the science and physics that they discuss, not that I can even begin to totally understand some of the theories and postulations that they delve into. Believe me, even though it's "dumbed down" for a more universal audience, so to speak, an awful lot of it is still over my head.

That being said, I have a problem with what's probably one of the most accepted theories in astrophysics and astronomy.

I don't believe in the "Big Bang".

There, I said it. It needed to be said. Phew, what a weight off of my shoulders!

Now, before you think I have gone all "Bible" on you, I still maintain that I don't believe in hocus-pocus either. I am fully able to accept and love those of my friends and acquaintances that believe in the Almighty and the Word and the Trinity and there are times that I honestly, truly envy those who can live their lives with such unshakeable faith and belief. It's an incredible thing to see someone with that love instilled in him or her through the Good Book.

Unfortunately (I guess), I am not one of them. I have always had an analytical mind, questioning and searching through religions and science to make sense of this world and our existence in it. I have come to some rather stark conclusions concerning these questions and I am fully at peace with my answers. They aren't pretty but they're mine! Those other ideas are for another entry. This one deals with my problem with the universe ejaculated into being.

The Big Bang Theory: I just can't swallow it. It doesn't make logical sense to me (like religions don't make sense to me) and it pisses me off because there is so much about science and physics that makes perfect sense to me…well…scientifically. Evolution is quantifiable. I can see how one thing evolved or transmuted into another, how through millions of years and selective breeding, certain traits are favoured and over time, those traits become so different from the initial species' traits, be they a new kind of flippers, the ability to fly or frontal-lobe intelligence, that a whole new species is created. I don't need a "missing-link" to prove evolution to me. It just makes sense.

One of my problems with the Big Bang is that it doesn't answer the question of what was there before the Big Bang.

My theory is that the universe has always been there, will always be there. I believe it didn't start from a small quantum little infinitesimal…thing that exploded into the universe we know and love. It smacks of religion, actually, that something or someonewilled the universe into being and lo and behold, here we are.

I have always thought that the universe was always here and it has always confounded me that even scientists need to have that beginning, that there must have been a start to it all. Maybe it's ingrained into our humanity since we begin and end, we have watched events in history begin and end. We have to extrapolate that the universe itself must have had a beginning and, I guess, will have an end.

Hogwash! That's what I say!

I have contemplated the evidence for the Big Bang and that still doesn't convince me. There's the idea that other galaxies are moving away from us and that means that we all started from a single point. This is something that greater minds with far more powerful tools than this little Lappy I am typing this essay on have at their disposal and they have discerned these things and found them to be true. I can accept that, to a point. My idea is; the universe is so huge, the colossal distances and physics involved may just make those galaxies within our neighborhood seem to be moving away from us. I believe that it's far too large to fathom these distances with any real certainty. Because, the idea that everything is moving away from us also smacks of those pre-Galileo days when Mother Church taught that the earth was the centre of the universe and the sun, planets and stars revolve around us. It's another thing that doesn't make sense in a scientific way. We know that the earth is just a little blue planet among eight others, circling a rather small, ordinary star, albeit the only one we know of with humans in it's orbit.

Although the world revolves around me, I do know that the universe does not.

Then there's the very fact that the universe is expanding. Expanding into what? What was there before the universe existed? That also makes no sense to me because, no matter how far we look, no matter how powerful our little eyes get that peer into the universe, all we ever see is MORE UNIVERSE! Hullo, maybe that's because that's all there is, folks! Those galaxies that are traveling away from us are simply moving along out into the great beyond. The beyond that has always been there on a path of their own, not one owing to being shot out from a Big ol' Bang!

There are other "facts" that scientists tout to prove the Big Bang but I have seen a few scientists, here and there on the fringes, who seem to doubt this theory that has been etched in stone for so long. And I am inclined to agree.

That's what I think.

The universe: it's beyond old, it's beyond big and we'll never, ever know what it's all about.