Ready to Listen!

I am going to step away today from my current four-part blog-series to share a moment I had Wednesday on the phone with a Fortune 500 American corporation that provides our TV-Internet service of which we were having billing and channel-package issues. What could have been more frustration and screams at the phone that blast the cat up onto the ceiling, claws locked into the sheet rock, actually took a little unexpected turn.

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As one of my Top 100 favorite films, in the category of romantic comedies, there is a scene I laugh about every single time with Kate (Meg Ryan) and Luc Teyssier (Kevin Kline) at a Paris railway station. Luc is desperately searching for Kate amongst the crowded travelers embarking and disembarking. Let me share the scene’s details.

Why is Luc frantically searching for Kate? One, because she is unwittingly carrying his one single grapevine he has illegally smuggled into her handbag from the U.S. and into France so he can make a needed career change. Two, the Paris police are after him, almost on his heels. Luc has been a common and successful thief and pick-pocketing pro preying upon tourists and unsuspecting Parisians around street cafes, at busy airports and train stations. He and Kate have already had their sharp differences, on the flight over and in the hotel lobby. She’s become suspiciously aware of his shady dealings at her expense, like all the French, but with Luc, not entirely.

He spots her at the cashier’s window purchasing her rail ticket and quick-steps to her before he loses her again in the crowd.

Luc:  I come to make peace with your people.

(Kate is not interested and silently ignores him, Luc stares at her handbag at her feet, so close, yet so far)

Luc:  So you’re still after Charlie?

(still ignoring him; silence)

Luc:  It is incredible.

Luc:  I admire your persistence. (no response)

Luc:  It’s so American.

Kate:  I am not an American. (matter of factly) I am a soon-to-be ex-American Canadian.

(wanting to put distance between herself and Luc-the-annoying-French-Pepe le Pew, she coldly turns away toward her train)

Luc:  May I help you with your bag? (she clutches her handbag closer!)

Luc:  No. Maybe not. (they continue walking side by side, she ignoring him)

Luc:  You know, I am feeling some very strange emotions for me.

Luc:  Guilt. Remorse. My self-esteem is rock bottom.

Luc:  I’m trying to think, what can I do to say I’m sorry?

Kate:  Shut up?

Kate:  You haven’t spent 5 seconds with me when you weren’t after something.

Luc:  (to himself)Buy, sell or trade?

Luc: – It is so true. I used you, a lot. You helped me to get my vine and I left you with nothing.

Luc:  So now I ask myself, what can I possibly do to make it up to you?

(suddenly up ahead Luc notices the Police Lieutenant and officers scanning every direction for Luc’s whereabouts — Kate wants to be oblivious to him, never looking at him)

(Luc hurries his last sentence!)

Luc:  And so now, I am here… for you. (the police spot him right then and he darts the opposite direction!)

(noticing the sudden silence and half unaware, Kate turns her head his direction — no one, nothing)

Kate:  Typical.

—from the 1995 film “French Kiss”

Now fast-forward to yesterday’s phone call to Customer Support.

Beep, beep, beep-beep, beep (dialing, pushing numbers)…

Computer voice-recording:  Thank you for calling DISH Network. For English, press 1. Para el español, presione dos.

(beep)

Computer voice-recording:  If you are an existing customer and already have DISH Network, press 1. If you are wanting to subscribe to DISH, press 2.

(beep)

Computer voice-recording:  If you are calling about your bill, press 1. If you are calling to order Pay-per-View, press 2. If you are calling about your channel line-up, press 3. If you are calling about technical problems with your TV or internet service, press 4. For all other questions, press 5.

(beep)

Computer voice-recording:  If you are moving and calling to change your address and wanting to transfer your service, press 1. If you are calling to change your security password, press 2. If you are calling to discontinue your DISH service, press 3. If you are calling to report technical problems, press 4. If you are calling to speak to a Customer Support representative, press 5.

(beep — 5 to 8 minutes have passed by now)

Computer voice-recording:  Thank you for using DISH. Here at DISH, we truly care about your happiness and peace of mind. We want to hear what you have to say… and are ready to listen!

Please HOLD for the next available Support representative.

(que the elevator music for 7-10 mins)

Recommended human advice:  no matter the irony, do not suddenly laugh and scream uncontrollably into your phone falling on the floor. It takes another 20-minutes to find a step-ladder, unclaw, coax and lower your cat from the ceiling… claws still deployed in fight-or-flight mode.
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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Breathing-Coping Skills

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Closets

This past weekend was another weekend of going through Mom’s numerous closets deciding what stays and what goes. Every decision seems monumental. Every forgotten discovery the latest adventure. Discussion, ponder, story, discussion, more pondering, another story. Decision made? I’m not sure. Will this go to another closet or out into the already cluttered garage of second opinions? Her post-storied opinion, for later. Repeat.

See, Mom is sentimental. She collects things, lots of things with personal value or a unique story behind it. Then I picked “the one” up. Peculiar. Heavy without any weight. The latest frame of pictures and portraits below. “Umm, Mom! Who on Earth are these people?” I yelled. “Is there something I don’t know?” in a puzzled curious tone. “What!” she yelled back from down the hall. “Is there something you haven’t told us?

Lost Side of Family

Unknown family collage from the closet

I don’t know what you are talking about!” she screamed back. “Right, a perfect answer” whispering under my breath. I decide I should quickly pullout my phone, snap a picture or five, maybe it was eight, and have evidence for any unforeseen future inquiries… like DNA. Any sleuthing closet-cleaner worth his gumption would do the same!

Mom arrives, “What are you yelling about?” I turn the mysterious family photos to her “WHO — are — these — people, and why are they tucked in the back of the closet!?” as I glare at her. Cue the music soundtrack…

Fade camera-shot of Mom, her mind travels back in time. Me asking lots of questions, one or two prying, wrenching, and adding commentary… the story begins.

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Would this possibly be” I began, eyes squinted… “the lost side of the family?” My mind raced, wondering what else I might find buried in other closets. Things whispered about. Details sketchy. Silence when little ears from younger generations approach. Yep, I’ve seen it all before. As we near our final stage in life, many feel the need to get things off their chest. Finding relief, solace, truth, and a clear conscience often starts with closet doors!

Mom’s breathing became nervous, labored. “I guess now is as good a time as any, huh?” My expression was blank, unsure what to say, what to think. The air was thick, so thick that it was hard to breath thickly, let alone wonder where did I come from. Where am I going?

Ethan's Aunt Outta-Here AudieWe started with my son’s aunt, Aunt “Outta-here” Audie. Most friends of the family thought she was highly athletic for a girl her age. She stood out from other girls and boys at school and on the baseball diamond. “Your son gets his baseball talent from him… I MEAN HER!” she quickly corrected. The Ozarks in Tennessee have many renown ball-players from remote hilltop, small-town families, she continued. “But I thought all of our family was either in Texas or Ohio?” She sighed, “Some things from way up in the hills and deep in the woods require… discretionary reframing.

Really. Isn’t that like… lying? Or at the very least… Congressional lobbying?

A bit confused I asked “Okay, then how does Rocky Top, Tennessee fit in to all this?” A grin stretched across her face and out came “Remember I was a flight attendant. Flight attendants get around, meet many fun flyers, and pilots.” Ahh, as the cogs are spinning in my head, “That clears up a lot of things.” I want to know about the woman in the big Kentucky Derby hat.

Aunt Mata Hari Pearl & Madame Prudence below

Aunt “Mata Hari” Pearl (top) and Madame Prudence

And is this woman of the family a lady of the night or day?” Mom giggles, “No, no, no. That’s Aunt “Mata Hari” Pearl and Madame Prudence below her.” Obviously I was close with my educated guess. Should I ask about them? Why would names like that be the least bit intriguing, right? “So… the two cancel out each other or balance each other?” Mom rolls her eyes, “Stop your accounting methods! They both have their gifted ways of civil duties.” Who was the more popular of the two I asked myself. Experience has taught me when to verbalize questions and thoughts, and when not to. This seemed to be one of those times. But wait, I did have a question!

Which one was a flight attendant?

Depends what airline you flew for.” she answered half-serious. She would know too. In the 1970’s Mom worked for an airline where the stewardesses wore very short shorts, white go-go boots, and snug blouses, under a snug thin vest, and which prided itself on love, because they were based at Dallas Love Field, of course. Or was it “in love”? “In some cases it depended on who you were flying with… on private jets, like with a huge T on the tail.” Oh yes, those jets. “Stands for Trump, right?” She waved her hand at me, “No! Testosterone!” She paused, “Or is it Tonnage?

Tiny? Testicles?

Earnest & Gabrielle Cleaver with little Dexter at their Wisteria Lane home

Earnest & Gabrielle Cleaver with little Dexter at Wisteria Lane home

We moved to the next hidden-now-found family members, Earnest and Gabrielle Cleaver with their young son Dexter (Morgan?). They seemed like the perfect suburbia couple with a very cheerful boy. “Well, at least they look pretty normal.” I told Mom. But looks can be deceiving as the cliché goes. “Yes, that’s true” she answered in a dejected tone, “until Dexter became a teenager.” I asked her what she meant. “We always thought Dexter’s fondness for knives was a boy being a boy, or the makings of a great chef.” Sure, or maybe a master outdoorsman, hunter, or…

Then one day Mrs. Cleaver opened Dexter’s toy-trunk. Inside were all his past dolls, but not as whole dolls!” What in the world could she be saying? What she said next would make even Alfred Hitchcock green with envy; or red. “She found in each compartment tray were stacks of legs, arms, torsos” she took a deep breath, “…and heads.” With a horrified grumble I asked with a glimpse of hope “I suppose he didn’t become a mortician?

Cousin Dexter Cleaver pre-incarceration

Dexter Cleaver pre-incarceration

Last we heard he eliminated three guards in the kitchen at the Polunsky Max-Security Unit in Livingston.” I waited, and waited some more; she stopped. “Texas?” I asked with a raised voice! She gave me this blank look then nodded. “Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver” she continued, “gave him up for adoption and foster-care we think.” I’m thinking I’m done cleaning closets around here! “Does he know us!? Does he know where anyone lives!?” I’m also thinking where the hell is my phone, car keys, and bank statement. “That’s why the lower-left picture slot is empty. They disappeared in 1977.” Well obviously it is very smart for us to hang-on to this family collage to eliminate any doubt of familial connections. “Have any authorities asked us for tongue-swabs or DNA samples for any unsolved cold cases?” Please, please say no. “Police were able to obtain a match from Uncle Wilbur.” My eyes enlarge, “Who tha hell is Uncle Wilbur!?

No one you know.” Well duh! Now I’m stunned. “MOM! I need to know now!” She takes another one of those deep sighs, “They found his body tied to a tree in the Crockett State Forest. That’s where they got the blood sample.” I’m still not comfortable with these answers. Surely they’ve caught him by now, “So cousin Dexter has been caught and returned to Polunsky?

No. I think he is still at-large.

Since 1977?” She gives me this scowling look, “Now be nice. Our Texas law-enforcement are super busyshe explains in gradual calming, motherly voice, “catching, arresting, and imprisoning thousands and thousands of known criminals and murderers in this state. It’s a full-time job! They’re very busy you know.” After her reassuring loyalty in police matters — where more Texans own multiple weapons of multi-functions and calibers than the National Reserve all combined — I suggest to her:

Neice Dorothy & Toto

Niece Dorothy & her puppy Toto

If you EVER hear or see anything about cousin Dexter, you tell me! Alright?” I revisit my review of the Lost/Hidden Side of the Family menagerie. What’s next? Could there be more?

Who’s this?” I point to the sweet little blonde girl affectionately holding the small dog. “That’s my niece Dorothy” she smiles warmly “and that is Toto.” Hah! Right. And somewhere in this closet will be flying monkeys with a total bitch from the West. Then Mom’s face turned sad and she added…

About a year after that photo was taken” she raised her foot, “Toto chewed off three of her toes and the middle-finger of her hand.” I shrugged my shoulders and thought maybe they should give Toe-toes to cousin Dexter and start another toy-trunk collection. TV-Guide reads, “Season Premier! Epic Crime-drama expected from real-life slice ’em, dice ’em, chew ’em up Chef-n-Canine Duo!” Hmm, yeah and Season 2 in next closet!

Cousin Carrie in NEWLY dry-cleaned prom-wedding dress

Cousin Carrie cleaned up and purified

Who is the Looker in the wedding dress?” Mom grimaced some as she began to answer, “That is your cousin Carrie (White?) and that is her NEWLY dry-cleaned prom dress converted to a wedding dress.” Ahh, of course it is — and is it weird that I’m attracted to my hidden, lost-and-found cousin? It’s just a picture. I must have some genes from Hilly Tops and Deep Woods Tennessee!? Is that even curable? What is wrong with me!? What else should I know (or not) about our family?

Uncle Clyde-Aunt Bonnie

Not Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Clyde

And that is your…” she leans over and points to the other young couple, “Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Clyde.” In a dismayed exhale I drop my head, close my eyes “No way!” Mom begins laughing “Gotcha! Relax. Their real names are G.W. and Madeline Kahn. They live somewhere in Eastern Europe.” She looks up, “Or maybe it’s Mongolia?” I start to put the picture-frame back into the closet. Once it’s out of the closet, can you put it back? Can one not know what has become knowable? Is there a pill for that? Is that what is meant by “I cannot recall” or “I can neither confirm nor deny that statement“?

Wait! Let me guess these two.” I pick out the other brunette and blonde below her. “These two have to be Virginia and Vita Woolf-… rather Woolfenmeow! Right?” With a curious expression, “Who are they?” Cue the closet-music…

Virginai & Vita WolfenMeow

Virginia and Vita Woolfenmeow?

Obviously our lost or hidden sultry seductresses and the 20th century’s steamiest love affair in verse, and in YOUR closet!

Mom gave a devious smirk, “Oh? I guess you never quite know what you’ll find snooping around people’s closed doors, do ya?” She pulled down the hat box untying its fastening strings, “We all have our hats and masks we wear I suppose.” Good points. They are closed for a reason and they are worn for equal reasons. What I find curious, exhilarating, telling, shocking, or… smelly(?) IS THAT reason. What tap-dances or lurks behind?

What’s in that box?” I inquire with hesitant suspicion. “This was Lady Chevalier d’Éon Blake’s judo black-belt she used around the necks of eleven Nazi SS commanders, deceased of course, but strangely as eunuchs, once she had them in highly vulnerable nocturnal postures.” I stared at her to see if I could catch another dubious smirk, but she was chokingly serious! “And this was your Aunt Millie ‘Boom’ Cnockaert’s wiring-kit and motorcycle goggles. They both became closest friends after the war and when…” she paused. “When what!?” I could not determine whether she was struggling to recall events, facts, news, family stories, or whether she was sorting out omissions and disclosures. Oh the things people say… or don’t say.

When… they returned to France and Chevalier insisted on being a woman, dressing as a woman.” Whoa. Should I be proud or scared of my lost-hidden-now-found family? I want to at least lay claim to this family Believe-it-or-Not picture-collage and hang it over the fireplace mantle, or perhaps somewhere inconspicuous, say on the front or back of the coat-closet door!

Why didn’t they come to America, the home of the free, home of the brave, civil and personal liberties galore!?” Camera-shot sharpens into focus from our time-traveling. Cue closing music soundtrack. Roll credits.


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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Dream

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Crowds, People, and Strangers?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve often been told and have heard this self-perceived proud gloating about remote, rural country-living:  Living out in the country away from huge crowds, rude impolite strangers, horrible traffic and congestion, and high crime-rates are the best reasons not to live in the big city. Where I am currently living, in the central Hill Country of Texas, I am often offered this sort of bragging. I find it a very odd mindset and perception by “sweet ole” country folks. Almost naïve, if I must admit.

I was born and raised in one of Texas’ largest cities, Dallas. From only 682,000 people inside the official city-limits, Dallas has grown now to 1,300,092 in 2016. That number is strictly within the narrow city-limits. Today, the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex has a 2016 population nearing 7.2-million! Though not as large as say New York or Los Angeles, DFW is not moderately sized by any means. And with that size and diversity comes a plethora of wonderful benefits, like the Fine Arts, endless huge libraries scattered about, auditoriums, theaters, museums and sports stadiums, a very wide job-market, and in particular the means and resources to be environmentally responsibly Green! Huge perk there! Nonetheless, yes… Dallas-Ft. Worth does have its drawbacks like crime and traffic just like any major city in the U.S. and around the world.

Dallas Skyline before Sunset 612 3

But are those drawbacks due to a location or region, or are they results of crowds, people, individuals and strangers in a strange or familiar home or place? Is it related to a number of people squeezed together or is it a fluctuating degree of people-skills, education, collaboration? Here’s the million-dollar question:  What is really implied by gloating about one’s geographical home/house or culture? I’d like to honestly understand.

As some/many of you know, I am currently displaced from my big city home and culture of Dallas, Texas. Due to family (mis)givings I am in that heaven-like(?) rural, remote small country town getting my elderly widowed Mom’s house emptied and her moved out of this large 10-acre ranchita home. We are a minimum of 66-miles from the nearest city. With that privacy and peace-of-mind, as many “round these parts” would boast, there are also some significant DISadvantages to this lifestyle. First and foremost, fast emergency attention from EMT’s! When Mom’s late husband had a critical heart-attack in 2006, it took the ambulance and EMT’s nearly 30-minutes to arrive out here, partly because there were only two ambulance services here serving about a 25-mile or more radius.

Second, and as we discovered last year needing to dispose of an old cathode ray tube (CRT) 24″ television, not only did the local garbage pickup company not accept these TV’s for the landfill, but all local businesses or recycling centers would not either. It took near two weeks to finally find an off-the-beaten-path junkyard business to reluctantly take ours, for free!

One year later we are back here again. Now it is her 44″ CRT television that weighs about as much as a small elephant! I would know, because I am the one who strained my legs, arms, and back just to get it out of the entertainment cabinet and onto the tow-dolly in front of the cabinet — only to move it 50-yards to the back patio out the wide sliding-glass doors; the only exit it would fit through. Getting out of bed the next morning I’m sure I looked like a drunk turtle on its back, legs barely swaying in the air looking for something to grab! Hell, if I had needed fast emergency care for paralysis, I’d be waiting for at least 30-minutes, which in that painfully forsaken time I could have hot tea and toast… country-style!

log cabin livingWithout delay I get on the internet and search for some business, some Green recycling establishments nearby to come and pickup this dead goliath-of-entertainment and dispose of it properly. Snap! I find no less than three! I continue reading all the various junk-items that they happily come and pickup — just type in your zip code it says and they’ll arrange for pickup. Wow, I am totally stoked about this solution! Three minutes later, I’m sorry sir. We do not service that area. It is simply too far, too remote. Talk about total deflation. We ask if they have any recommendations. “Go onto the internet and Google TV removal/disposal.” As I already discovered, all the other recycling establishments were in the same large city… yes, 66-miles away.

It begs the question: What is it again you remote country folks love about being so secluded out here away from the crowds, people, traffic, strangers and individuals — and their oft needed help and businesses — that makes this sort of living heavenish!? Where do all of you take or place your trash that landfills won’t accept? What exactly is being burned — once the burn-ban is lifted locally — around town and its outskirts? Because I always see white, blue-ish, or black smoke billowing up into our atmosphere? Oh! Another question:  When the poor or homeless or lower-middle class here cannot afford (by law) automobile* liability insurance, or driver’s license fees, or even gasoline to put IN the automobile,* is there any (very affordable) public transportation available? Which by the way, greatly cuts down on carbon emissions if utilized by more and more caring citizens! And one nationally growing medical healthcare concern is rising dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among our retired and aging. Medical research has shown that if a brain remains actively stimulated and challenged, especially during the last half of life, dementia and Alzheimer’s are noticeably reduced! Ahh, large cities and the hustle-n-bustle of many diverse people certainly offer healthy brain-game exercises! So again…

What is so grand about living far away from crowds, people, and (temporary?) strangers of whom you might one day require their kind assistance or ideal business? Tell me again?

Should we rethink this mentality? Should we better define what “community” means… fairly and accurately on several scales?

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*Sidenote — when on the streets of this small country town, it becomes glaringly obvious that 75% – 80% of vehicles on the roads here are big trucks or SUV’s.

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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