Cliffhanger

Cliffhanger: (n) an ending that leaves the audience in suspense.

I can’t watch the movie.

I’m talking about “Cliffhanger,” with Sylvester Stallone.

There’s one scene that is just not able to be viewed. Suspended on a single rope, Stallone tries to lift a women up to him so that he can take
them both to safety on the edge of the cliff. It goes badly. Her glove slips off and she tumbles–thousands of feet?–to the ground below. The camera follows the face of a very disappointed Stallone.

Not me. I’m wondering what it’s like to fall three thousand feet to your death.

It’s why I could never jump out of an airplane. I would have to convince myself that I’m prepared to die, just in case everything fails. Because the sensation of falling is not one that is acceptable to the human psyche.

Of course, I feel that way about all deaths.

I think the old song, “The Gambler,” says it well. “The best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

Of course, that’s kind of creepy, too. You nod off and the next thing you know, well…is nothing you know.

Death truly is the greatest cliffhanger in our human journey. We’re not going to know what it’s really like until we get there, and by the time we get there, it’s much too late to build up the courage and spunk to “do it well.”

Sometimes I think about what the worst deaths would be, as compared to a more tolerable demise. But in the end, you’re either getting smashed or being forbidden air.

Great choice.

We’re all heading for the cliffhanger. Matter of fact, some of you reading this essay are already uncomfortable, wishing I would get to a final sentence and stop talking about this crazy shit.

So I will do…

 

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Chore

Chore: (n) a routine task, especially a household one.

I suddenly realized that there is no happy word to describe work.

“Labor.” That sucks.

“Effort.” Well, that takes effort

“Struggle.”

Even the word “employment” is constricting, brings a frown to one’s face.

How do we expect to ever move forward in our consciousness when everything seems to be a chore? We didn’t like chores when we were children, so are we going
to wake up one morning having accumulated enough birthdays that we will become intrigued with doing repetitious tasks?

And if we don’t like doing these “events,” what’s to guarantee that the mechanic who’s repairing the airplane doesn’t get bored and take a shortcut?

If we don’t like doing the things we’re supposed to accomplish, won’t we eventually just do them poorly?

And once mediocre becomes normal, normal is certainly dangerous.

How can we re-train ourselves to believe that work is not a chore and that chores do not need to be repetitious, but rather, gain glamor and gleam by being enhanced with new possibilities?

This is not the season to insist on tradition. The work force in America needs a revolution–a revival, if you will–of the passion that originally made us believe we wanted to do what offered us a paycheck.

Don’t ask me to do my chores.

I will rebel, go to my room and listen to the music you don’t like.

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Chloroform

Chloroform: (n) a sweet-smelling anesthetic.

I am a phony.

I’m hoping that if I admit it, I won’t have to be accosted by the critics who discover it.

Here is where my phoniness comes to the forefront: I often think about matters which I insist would be intriguing, but if offered the opportunity, I’d turn it down.

This came to my mind this morning when I looked at the word “chloroform.” I have watched television shows where a character has placed this chemical on a
handkerchief, covering the nose of an enemy, putting him or her into a deep sleep.

While viewing this I have thought to myself, I wonder what that’s like? Is there any pain, discomfort, hangover or headache that would accompany the experience? I am intrigued.

Yet if somebody walked into the room and asked, “Would you like to find out what it’s like to go under?” I would pass.

Any number of situations would fall into this pattern.

  • “I am interested.”
  • “Here you are.”
  • “No, thanks.”

It’s not that I’m a coward. I actually consider myself to be very adventurous. But it’s much easier to envision myself brave than it is to prove it in the courtroom of human events.

I occasionally watch people jumping out of an airplane and wonder if I would actually do it.

It’s ridiculous. Unless the plane was on fire and twelve feet from the ground, I would remain within.

I have avoided friendships, romantic encounters and probably passed up on a good deal or two simply because I could not pull the trigger at the right moment.

I don’t lack experience; I am not a novice. It’s just that in selected moments, I was a coward.

Or maybe I should call myself an “over-stater.”

Yes. That sounds better: “That fellow really over-states his interest level.”

And since I have grown weary of being quite this vulnerable, I shall stop my typing and chloroform this article.

 

 

 

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Cauldron

Cauldron: (n) a situation characterized by instability and strong emotions.

Putting together sentences, or even the art of making sense, is not the most difficult thing about writing. Also not writer’s block, unless you get too silly about constructing the perfect paragraph.

Actually the most difficult matter is making sure that your writing hasn’t “aged out.” In other words, do people know what the hell you’re talking about?

It happened to me several weeks ago when I was working on a passage in a novel, and decided to insert the word “cauldron”–as referring to a problem that was simmering inside my plot, without people knowing how dangerous it truly was.

The dear lady who does my typing stopped and looked at me with a quizzical face and asked, “Cauldron?”

She does this from time to time. It’s her way of saying I’ve come up with some obscure word that no one will understand and therefore they will assume that my awareness of pop culture ceased somewhere between Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

It raises the question, when are we being sensitive to the market and when are we joining into the universal “dumbing down” of our society?

Is it too much to ask a reader to look up a word or search for context clues? Are we a generation that is just going to squint and opine, “I don’t know that word…”

Some words should die. Maybe they represented something evil or there’s a better replacement for them in today’s language.

But sometimes a word needs to be toted from the Conestoga wagon, onto the bicycle, into the Model T Ford, placed carefully on the airplane and finally situated safely in the rocket to outer space.

 

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Aviation

Aviation: (n) the flying or operating of aircraft.dictionary with letter A

Although I am surrounded by the mob which extols the beauty and intelligence of innovation, my perspective is much more cautious. Here’s what I have discovered.

Innovation has a very short shelf life before it is interrupted by human inconsistency, selfishness and ineptness.

I am positive that Wilbur and Orville Wright, when they flew their little contraption on the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were overjoyed with the sheer brilliance of invention–breaking through a barrier to birth the beginnings of flight.

Never did they envision or comprehend that it all would eventually come down to inconvenience, stale peanuts and cramped seats.

I remember the first time I ever flew in an airplane. I thought I was a god. But in typical human style, over the years we have succeeded in taking something truly remarkable and making it miserable.

Here is the reason:

All the bratty, stupid kids who sucked up to the teachers in high school grew up and ended up in middle management, where the only power they have in their lives is to usurp authority over other people and create obstacles.

They aren’t smart enough to become CEOs. And they’re just a little too smart to be menial laborers.

So the only joy they get in their lives is exactly what they had in school: being the tattle-tales and the jerks who really insisted that you weren’t allowed to take more than one milk in the cafeteria.

So when you go to the airport you are immediately greeted by these soulless authoritarians who want to make your experience as painful as possible.

This is true whether it’s the baggage handler who is convinced that your satchel is over seventy pounds, the TSA agent who thinks your shoes look suspicious, or the flight attendant who wants to argue with you about whether your I-Pad will be suitable for use on the journey through the sky.

Add the fact that some cranky manufacturers created seats more suited to the buttocks of an 8-year-old and you have a torture chamber of inefficient nastiness.

Even though most people realize this to be true, no change is introduced because it is all glossed over with the well-rehearsed statement: “Well, it’s still the best and safest way to travel.”

I still think flying is amazing.

I just wish all the former hall monitors and teacher-ass-kissers would be permanently grounded.

 

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Aisle

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Aisle: (n) a passage between rows of seats in a building such as a church or theater, an airplane or a train: e.g. the show had the audience dancing in the aisle.

I shall use the airplane as my example. It happens in three phases.

As an adult male, I have approximately a forty-five pound ratio of wiggle in my room. What I mean by that is that sometimes my girth will soar–if that’s possible–to forty-five pounds heavier. And on other occasions I will drop that forty-five pounds, reaching my more svelte.

As you can imagine, in most intervals, I hover between.

I can tell where I am in the various phases of my evolution by walking down the aisle in an airplane. If I am peaking, I must perform the task sliding completely sideways. If I am in my lean and keen phase, I can stand and walk completely upright, facing forward, without carrying other people’s newspapers with me along the way. If I land between the two conditions, I can move forward a few feet before a buttock will catch on a seat, demanding that I shake and rattle my way free before proceeding forward.

It is a marvelous test to determine my progress or regression–perhaps even more effective than weighing on a scale.

It is the “aisle test.”

And I’ll say … preferable.

Airport

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Airport: (n) a complex of runways and buildings for the takeoff, landing and maintenance of civil aircraft with facilities for passengers.

My first visit to the airport was when I was eighteen years old, flying off to Arizona to retrieve my girlfriend from exile by her parents to a status of once again being my partner and eventually, wife.

The airport was deliciously frightening and glorious at the same time.

It was many years later before I flew in an airplane again. I was twenty-four years old, jetting off to Nashville to work on a musical project with a famous female country songwriter, and I felt like I had the wings of Mercury, surrounded by the gods of Olympus.

Much later I went to airports with my traveling companion to tour the country, sharing from one of my books and cruising through the air with the greatest of ease.

And then came 9/11.

Now, I don’t know exactly what Osama bin Laden envisioned to be the result of his vicious and treacherous plan. Certainly he ended up killing three thousand human souls. But I do feel he also put to death the great American love affair with airports, traveling and zooming through the atmosphere from one destination to another.

For the casualties of 9/11 continue:

  • It’s in our economy
  • It’s in our mistrust
  • It’s in our bungling of foreign affairs
  • It is the chip on our shoulder–proclaiming ourselves “great” without providing the goods and services to confirm the assertion

The American airport today has all the appeal of a Middle-Eastern open market on a hot desert day. It is inconvenient, pushy and unapologetic for both its prices and its surroundings.

Because I believe in my country, I think eventually we will grow tired of restrictions, anxiety and succumbing to the whims of a madman who planned our defeat in his cave in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden is dead and buried in the deep blue sea.

Maybe we can muster the courage to make traveling a commercial and private pleasure again instead of a gauntlet of endurance, athletic and patient perseverance.