Spent some time at 4:30 this morning reading about Tuscumbia. Tuscumbia was the old Chickasaw Chief, or maybe he was actually a shaman or rain-maker. He's described various ways by various people. One thing I know for sure is that he lived in this part of the country in the late 1700's and early 1800's near present day Tuscumbia Alabama and later moved to a spot just south of Biggersville Ms. where he lived out the remainder of his life. I happen to know where Tuscumbia ended up because as a boy I can remember the large stone marker up the hill and a short piece off the highway. This was highway 45 back when it was still a 2-lane. The marker was moved when the highway was widened. I don't know where the marker and the man was moved to, but I'm sure I'll find out sooner or later. I know the family that owns the land. The land is a family farm and it's been in their hands for 100 years or more. The actual grave was moved once when the family built their house on the site. He's (Tuscumbia) still around there somewhere. In time Tuscumbia has lent his name to a city in Alabama, a city in Oklahoma, a mountain in Alabama, a river in Mississippi. "Tuscumbia" is a close adoption of his original Chickasaw name which in their language meant "The Warrior Who Kills". The Chickasaw were a war-like tribe that carried out raids of other tribes as far away as Indiana and Illinois. They had a reputation for not wishing to work the land like their neighboring tribe the Choctaws but instead got by thru hunting and raiding. Tuscumbia had his own reputation even among his peers as being basically one crusty and spiteful, bloodthirsty old bastard. One of the meanest of the bunch.
The thought that hangs in my mind as I read this stuff at 4:30 on a Sunday morning is about how fate and the passing of time can eventually give you the finger and basically tell you to take a hike. This guy was more or less the "assistant king" of a tribe that ruled roughshod over North Alabama and Mississippi for time untold and now few people even know who he was. Even a fewer number even care. Does the medicine man hear the rumble of the diesel trucks at all hours of the day and night? Does his spirit ever wander down the highway to hand around the Citgo station? Could he be pissed-off for all eternity that the Treaty of Pontotoc is no longer being honored, or remembered or discussed? Yep, fate can sure "shoot the bird" to the famous, the proud, the spiteful, the bloody... ….and even "The Warrior Who Kills".
I spend a lot of time thinking "Whats my problem? What's wrong with me?" To be honest, maybe not a lot of time. Actually to be totally transparent, maybe I really just thought that once, but I did think it, and once was enough because the answer came to me right away. I need a segue. I need the music playing in the background of my life to introduce a new scene, exit me out of a situation, announce my arrivals and departures. I got the idea from television. That's where much of my wisdom originates. See, I'm talking about bumper music and maybe add a laugh track for added measure. I need something for when I enter a room, come on the scene. I'm not talking "Hail To The Chief", or "Here Comes The Bride" or even "Pomp And Circumstance", hell, not even "Another One Bites The Dust", but just something unique for me. I also could use something that signals when my thoughts are changing from one thing to another. As it stands, my comments are often met with a "deer in the headlights" look or sometimes a response such as "What the hell's the matter with you? There are times that I say something so profoundly intelligent and deep that the receiving party just matches my well thought out statement with nonsense. For example : ME: "Someone told me that I'm dumb to kind animals" THE LISTENER : "Gorp!" There are also times that some canned laughter in the background could come in handy. I might say something like "Sally, you have not changed a bit since high school, except of course you appear much older and seemed to have gained a lot of weight". At times like this some well-timed laughter would alert the listener that I said something funny and not something vicious or stupid. Maybe one of those studio audience groans might come in handy, maybe a long "Oooooooooh!" I would then know that now's the time to deliver my tag-line or catch phrase. Maybe it could be something like "Dyn-O-Mite!" or "Yabba-Dabba-Doo!" I'll work on it. So, what you now need to know is that if you walk into a restaurant, a church, or even a home or parking lot and you see electric signs about that say "APPLAUSE", or "LAUGH", or maybe "GROAN" you'll know that I'm probably around. Heed the signs. Feel free to do a "walk-on". Bring your own catch phrase. Now it's time for "Exit. Stage left".
It had been a very long day at work and I was glad to finally be finished with it. I didn't let the swinging door hit me on the way out of the building. During the drive home I had the impulse to stop at a local bar/restaurant and wet my whistle a bit before heading on to the house.
I proceeded to do exactly that and moments later I materialized at the bar and was chatting with a few people I knew and probably an equal number that I didn't. This went on smoothly for an hour or so until this lady at the bar started to grate my nerves. You have probably been around the type: mid-forties, overly made-up, proud, vain.....but the main thing is that she never shut up. It was all about her travels, her job, her boyfriends, her car, her everything. I'm now developing that mix of fatigue mingled with loathing that makes 1 hour past the work day a dangerous time for personal interaction. An idea suddenly occurs to me. It's a flash of brilliance really. I grab her by the hair and start dragging her from the bar, through the restaurant, through the kitchen, towards the office. "A witch! A witch! We've got a witch! We've found a witch! It's a witch!" Oddly, 2 or 3 patrons (mostly from the bar) joined in. "Burn the witch", "We've got a witch" "There's a witch among us" . We arrived uninvited at the restaurant Managers office and I slung her towards his desk. "We've found a witch on your premises sir!" "What shall we do with her?"
The Manager eyed me with surprise and perhaps a bit of a puzzled look began to come over him. His face began to turn red and I'm thinking "This guy must hate a witch just as much as I do". He then asked "Why do you say she's a witch?" I reply, " Well I've seen her take the form of a cat" The Manager replied "A cat!" "Have you finally lost your freakin' mind?" And I said.....well....well...eh, "Maybe I didn't exactly see it, but I know she HAS a cat, a great big one! And...I've never seen 'em together. And....and...and she turned me into a newt. That's right, she turned me into a newt I say!" "Turned you into a newt? Are you kidding me?" I could sense that he was mulling it over. Probably trying to arrive at a just and fair decision. That could be the reason for the delay. The Manager then motioned the lady from the room by a gesture from his hand at which time she bolted out the door like some kind of animal that was being released into the wild. "Have a seat over there" he says to me. So I did. In a straight chair. Shortly thereafter a couple of men came and walked me to the front door which served the establishment as both the entrance and the exit. For me it was the exit. I don't recall the exact words as they spoke their quaint and colorful languages, but I sensed that they felt that perhaps I should never return, that it might be best and less trouble for everybody if I just never came back..
Here I was thinking that maybe Salem in 1682 might have been a good idea and that maybe I could start a ground swell of movement to bring it back. There certainly are more witches today then ever. I see them everywhere. Seemed like an easy fix to an old problem. I guess I was wrong. Oh well.
So now I'm driving towards home again and I see blue flashing lights in my rear mirror. I pull to the road side and a city policeman immediately approaches. "Sir, were you not aware of the red light you just went through" he asks. I reply to him that "Yes. I'm always aware when I operate heavy machinery", "Sometimes I'm even in a state of heightened awareness as it can be very dangerous. I try to live in reality at all times". "Will that be all?" "Thanks". He seemed to be bothered by this revelation. Perhaps he mulling it over . Maybe he was trying to apply my words to to his own life. Maybe he was just taking in a moment of quiet reflection. I soon figured out that what was really happening was that he was getting a bit annoyed. Pausing to give a measured and thoughtful reply maybe he then proceeded to say "Well sir, that's against the law" I took that in before responding to him. "The law?" "What law?" " I just didn't know". "How can I be held accountable for something I was never informed of?" " It's not like they hand you a policy and procedure manual when you move here" "There's a million laws" "A person can't be expected to know them all" " Who the hell signed me up for this?" I then tried to rationalize my thoughts to him, you know, reach him at his own level. That's a trick to communication I've learned over the years. So I explain: "You are in the public safety field. You know all the laws about highway safety. It's your business. Now I sell furniture for a living. I sell many mattresses. I know that it is against the law to remove the tag from a mattress and I know why. I'll bet you don't. You don't know this even though I assume you sleep on a mattress every night. What if I were to hide in your closet and wait each night until that day arrives when you remove the tag and then spring out at you and write you a ticket?" " Now you would not find that fair at all would you?" "You see, I shouldn't expect you to know my job." With this exchange I was sure that my logic had carried the day and the conversation had been laid to rest. I was wrong. "Are you drunk?", he said. I said to him in return, "I don't think so, but you know it's all just a matter of what point you start out from, isn't it?" "If a person is acting kind of crazy to begin with and he has a couple of drinks, then where does crazy end and drunk begin? See , I guess it's all a matter of degree, right?" "Your perspective and my perspective". "Right?" That was apparently wrong. He wrote me a ticket, and said he was doing me a favor by not taking me in to the station. I accepted that. I was tired.
Well I got over being tired pretty quick apparently because as I was driving by another "place" I saw a truck parked out front that I recognized as belonging to Billy Mathis. I hadn't seen Billy in a while so I thought I'd stop in and say "hello". He would like that. It was neighborly. A neighborly thing to do, right? So I stop for a while and we have a few beers. Well one thing leads to another and we're having a jolly 'ole time and at a certain point I guess the events of the evening, you know the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" started to get to me and long-story short, I upchucked on the front of my shirt out in the parking lot. I tell Billy how my wife is going to pounce on me at the front door and she already suspects that I'm some sort of maniac, How she's just not sure what sort yet, and how she's starting to believe that maybe I'm not fit material for public consumption and that maybe her "welcome home dance" will take place mostly on my head, and really that I'm now just "fit to be tied", and I don't know what to do. He has a plan to save the day. Billy says, "Look you just tell her I threw up all over your shirt". "Look, I'm sticking twenty dollars in your shirt pocket. You can pay it back whenever you see me again. You just pull the twenty dollars out as proof that it was me. You tell her I gave you that to have the shirt cleaned because I felt so bad about it and all". Well, that sounds like a plan! So I arrive at the front door and every thing is going just about as I figured, and I get to the part about the twenty dollar bill and I'm feeling good about myself, maybe even a little proud. I'm a "problem solver". Every body can appreciate that, right?
The plan works to perfection right up to the point that my wife reaches in my pocket and pulls the money out. She then says, "Why is there fifty dollars here?" "You said he gave you twenty dollars to have the shirt cleaned". Now at a loss for words I replied with the first thing that popped in my head. "Well I guess he shit in my pants too!"
Good night. It's been a long and stressful day.
I don't know why people don't seem to believe a word I say.
I am in Times Square in New York City. The area that surrounds me is a blur of motion. I am overwhelmed and in awe of the movements, the sounds of people, machines, the electricity all around me. There has to be more concrete, more cables and wires more human flesh and blood here than on any street anywhere else in the world. I stand within a stones' throw of it all. I can barely notice the sky because so much of it is blocked out by the tall buildings. As I look around I can understand at least to some extent the things I am seeing. Now I don't know how to build a skyscraper but to some degree I can understand and appreciate how others do. I have no great technical knowledge of how concrete is poured, how cars are made, or even how to maintain this large moving crowd in a civil and orderly fashion but I do have some idea of how it happens. I stop on the sidewalk and take it all in. I drop my theatre tickets and it is only as I stoop to pick them up that I notice the ant. I do not know if the ant notices me, but it's at this time, in the middle of this city jungle that my mind freezes momentarily and I consider the ant. The ant arrived here through the same path as me. His creator was my creator. He was given the tools needed to do the job he's here to do. He does not meddle in my life and I try not to meddle in his although now, for the moment I probably am meddling just a bit in his but only because I'm curious.
Like me, the ant can't build a skyscraper or wire an electric sign but that's O.K. , he really does not care . The disasters that took place nearby here on 9/11probably went unnoticed by him....not his monkey/not his show. The things that I now pause to look at in wonder might as well be the far milky-way galaxy to his world. They are so far away and out of reach that he won't strain his mind even thinking about them. What IS important to him is the tunnel he's working on at the moment. I can't diminish the importance of that tunnel any more than he can diminish the importance of the New York skyline to me. That is the difference in perception that 6 feet can make. When I am falling asleep tonight I'll think of the lights and the billboards.....he will think of the milky-way. They are one and the same.
We exist in more than one dimension and are a part of more than one reality. For all I know the earth really is flat. I can only argue that point from my own perspective. I only see my world through bent light and from narrow angles. How can I say that the ant cannot logically differ with me from his perspective? His earth is flat, at least what he knows of it, and it doesn't make him right or wrong, dumb or smart, it just makes him an ant. I must accept that the ant seemed to know just what needed to be done from day one......and I'm still trying to figure it out. I think in time the ants of this world might actually build a car if the need should ever arise to do so, and it'll be a better car than the ones we build. Could we ever build a better tunnel than the ants? I doubt it. I certainly doubt it.