The Bard and Jester

Welcome Readers! Here you will find some real life experiences and musings that I'd like to share with you. So, come on in, if you have the time and I'll do my best to be entertaining... Please click on my sponsors' links!!! Established March 12, 2005.

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Location: New York, United States

I can be a clown, a poet, a fool, a romantic, a diplomat, a beast...it all depends upon the timing and circumstance.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cool Manhattan Moment


manhattan.skyline
Originally uploaded by vraven.
I always had a love/hate relationship with the city...New York City, that is.
It's where I grew up and over the years the sheer press of people, the constant noise, the potpourri stench of garbage in the summer heat, the smelly cattle-like experience of commuting to and from work in the subway...it all became too much for me and I came to loathe Manhattan most of the time.

But every now and then, there'd be a special moment that would surprise me and inspire a grudging love for the city.

One summer night, for instance, on my way home--I lived in Brooklyn about 15 minutes from Greenwhich Village--I got stuck in the gridlock of vehicles waiting to enter the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. I must've sat in that long line for at least an hour.

At some point, a bored driver a few cars behind me began to drum his or her horn. Other cars joined in and soon they had a cool honking beat going.

There was a dark luxury car directly in front of me. Suddenly, its sunroof slid back and the flared end of a trumpet emerged, adding its swirling notes to the beat of the car horns.

It was a real music video moment and I had to smile.

I whispered, "Damn you, New York, how you make me love you sometimes..."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Surprise of My Suicidal Ex-Girlfriend


deer
Originally uploaded by vraven.

Back in 1987, while in college, I dated a pretty girl named Toni-Ann. She was in a wheelchair because, eight months earlier, on Valentine's Day, she had jumped off the roof of a six-story building.

The year before, Toni-Ann had been dating a guy that she loved and he had always promised to be there for her and had told her time and again "you can lean on me".

That fateful Valentine's Day of 1987, Toni-Ann had been babysitting with a girlfriend. The doorbell rang and Toni-Ann answered. There was her boyfriend bearing flowers...but, instead of a smile, there was a look of regret on his face.

He told Toni-Ann that he was sorry, that he loved someone else and he had just gotten engaged...and that the "other woman" was downstairs waiting for him in the car.

Toni-Ann took the flowers but slammed the door in his face. She was fine for sometime after that, washing the dishes then turning on the stereo and dancing with her girlfriend.

Then the remake of the song, LEAN ON ME, from the soundtrack of the movie of the same name, came on the radio. It was the final straw that sent Toni-Ann in a mad dash out of the apartment and up the stairs toward the roof, with her girlfriend chasing and calling after her.

Toni-Ann reached the roof. Before her girlfriend could stop her, Toni-Ann vaulted the short fence at the roof's edge and plunged six stories. There was earth and grass surrounding the building, but she struck the narrow concrete ramp that angled down toward the boiler room.

How she survived was a miracle, the doctors said. Her legs were shattered (she would have iron pins placed in them and bear long ugly scars). Her lung had collapsed. Her voice was forever raspy, wrecked by the emergency tracheotomy the paramedics had to do just to get her to survive the trip to the hospital.

The doctors said she'd never walk again, but in the six months that Toni-Ann and I dated, she would go from a wheelchair to crutches to cane to walking unaided. She was a person of incredible will and an excellent testament of the power of the human spirit.

But she was also a person of incredible and irrational jealously. And she could be real nasty...the definitive bitch. She had a mean streak that made my life a misery. Three months into the relationship, a part of me knew that I should get out, but I was terrified. What if I broke up with her and she tried to kill herself again?

That song, that remake of LEAN ON ME, haunted us throughout the relationship. It got a lot of airplay in those days. We'd be having a nice time and then the bouncing opening notes of that song would come on and she'd freeze up and bright terror would fill her eyes. Then tears.

On Valentine's Day, 1988, one year after Toni-Ann's suicidal leap, she and I had returned from our holiday date. I had driven her home and we sat in the car, listening to the radio. They were taking requests and dedications. As we listened, a male caller said, "I want to dedicate this song to someone special, she's had a real tough time and I know she needs to hear this song..."

At this point, Toni-Ann froze up and whispered, "No, no, no."

The caller went on. "Could you please play LEAN ON ME for her?"

The bouncing opening notes of that damn song came on and Toni-Ann writhed in the passenger seat, screaming that the caller was talking about her. I tried to calm her down, but I couldn't. She ran home crying and wouldn't come to the phone that night.

Whenever I hear that song, I still tense up.

One night, Toni-Ann decided that she wanted to return to the roof from which she had leapt, "just to see it". Of course, I had to go along. As we stood on that roof, with Toni-Ann staring at the edge with eyes wide and glazed, her face pale, the night air seemed electric with danger. Though I stood on a wide solid surface, I had the dizzying sense of balancing on a high wire. I couldn't wait to get down.

The relationship went on and Toni-Ann's jealously and meanness became too much for me to bear. Finally, while arguing on the phone my innocence over some silly, unfounded suspicion on her part, I broke up with her.

Toni-Ann, in a nasty voice, spewed a string of profanity and then threatened suicide. She said was thinking of jumping off a roof.

But at that point, I had had enough. The sum of my stress, my anxiety and guilt over her possible suicide attempt and my desire to be free of her all came together and exploded.

"Yeah?" I shouted into the phone, "Go ahead and do it then!" I slammed the receiver down.

Fortunately, she didn't jump.

However, a week later I hosted a surprise birthday party at my parent's house for my buddy, Joe, and Toni-Ann crashed it.

She walked in the house wearing her best evening gown and bearing a big box wrapped with a big bow. She had a huge maniacal smile.

Everyone fell silent and the tension rose as they watched Toni-Ann enter the dining room where Joe and I stood.

"Here, Joe," she said in that raspy voice of hers and handed him the box.

Then she left.

The silence continued as everyone watched Joe unwrap the gift. He opened the lid of the box, looked inside and then glanced up at me.

I didn't like what I saw in his eyes.

He reached in and withdrew a severed deer's leg.

People gasped and some wondered where she got the leg.

"Never mind that," I said, "What the hell did she do with the rest of the deer?" I was wondering if others and myself would receive the other portions of the deer sometime.

But, fortunately, we didn't and Toni-Ann wasn't heard from again. Joe and I always wondered what that strange gift meant.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Jim Morrison, Magic Mushrooms and the Howl


Howling Wolves
Originally uploaded by vraven.
After the Doors movie came out in 1991, my friends and I made a pact to try magic mushrooms...because we couldn't get our hands on Peyote.

So one spring weekend we drove out to the Catskill Mountains, where the father of one of my friends owned an acre of land in the woods beside a lovely stream. There we tripped on 'shrooms.

It was a defining moment for me. I was still struggling to free myself of the last of my Catholic indoctrination. I was in the midst of exploring art and spirituality and had been studying with a medicine woman who had come to the USA from South America. I had also discovered the literary works of Jim Morrison the year before and had been inspired to write a lot of poetry.

Though I was disappointed that tripping was not at all like it appeared in the desert scene in the Doors movie, with solar eclipses, shifting hallucinary terrain and totem spirits, it was still an amazing and spirtual experience and I had never before seen the world with such clarity.

Picture your perception increased by at least ten fold and you get the barest idea of what I mean.

I marveled at the rich silky detail of glistening web strands that were strung along branches. I was mesmerized by a sun-dappled clearing and its dance of shadow and light as choreographed by gentle breezes. The green seemed so vibrant, so charged with life that it appeared to glow. The dazzle of sunlight on the rippling water was like a religious experience. And through it all the wind stirring trees and bushes served as soft background music.

Actually, all of it was a religious experience and I can't really explain why; religious experiences, I believe, are very personal and lose a lot in the translation. But suffice to say that in those moments, those miraculous transcendent moments, I saw, for the first time, with my own senses, felt with my being proof of some greater mystery. It was quite different than having faith in something so neatly packaged that I was programmed to believe in since a very early age.

At some point, after spending a long time alone communing with nature, I grew lonely. Instead of calling out to my friends, however, I decided to howl like a wolf (and I can do a pretty good imitation).

All of sudden, dogs in the distance started to howl along with me. There was such a wonderful feeling of unity in that that I had never felt among my fellow humans and tears rolled down my cheeks...not the tears of sadness, but those of joy, of being deeply moved.

I got caught up in the moment and started running and yelling at the top of my lungs, "Take back the forests!"

I came back to camp, with the dogs still howling throughout the woods. My friend, Joe, whose father owned the land, was alarmed at the racket I had made and quickly hushed me.

But it was too late; at that moment, a battered old red pickup truck pulled up to our camp and the neighbor from the nearest plot of land got out.

And he was armed with a rifle.

"What the hell is going on here?" he asked, scowling at each of us with our long hair and tye dyed shirts. "Got my goddamn dogs going crazy!"

Joe approached the neighbor and apologized. It couldn't have been easy for him, high on 'shrooms and trying to appear normal, to appease an angry man with a gun. But he did it and the man in the red pickup drove away.

But the dogs howled for a while longer and I couldn't help but smile at that.

When I returned to work that Monday morning and took in the gray, soiled streets of Manhattan and moved among the press of indifferent faces and joined the long, shuffling ranks of people entering the cheerless marble lobby of my office building, I knew that all of this wasn't for me.

Tripping up in the mountains and the unity of that howling had changed me forever. It introduced me to my mind, as Black Sabbath once sang. I embarked on a new path, one filled with enlightenment, foolishness and danger...but those are stories for another day.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Sunset



The clouds in their red robes
gather round the dying fire
that is the fading sun

The steeds of twilight,
with infinite patience and slow, steady pace,
pull in the chariot of night

Distant torches
of a million marching solar systems
begin to make camp in the sky

Tree perched crows call
in honor of their arrival...
or is it a farewell song
for the sun as it sets?

Soon Luna's waxing smile rises
and breathes silver kisses of light
and rains dreams upon sleeping minds...

Patrick Von Raven 1994