Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The passport office was locked up tight and vacant when I walked in. The sign on the door said they were open until four and I'd called earlier in the day to make sure I had everything I needed to get a passport.

I stood there, documents in my hand and wondered where the clerk was.

"We can't tell you how long the line will be," the woman on the phone said. "But it usually only takes about ten to fifteen minutes once we get you in the office."

That sounded good to me, even though the money --about a hundred and fifty dollars -- sounded like a lot to put down. It was scary. In my head, I could number off half a dozen things where I could probably spend the money --bills to catch up, credit cards to pay down, money to save up for future car repairs and unexpected setbacks --but this was for me. It was a lottery ticket for a dream.

Nobody moved toward the office until a hot mama in a tight blouse with too few buttons stepped toward the office, dragging a shy, nervous boy with her. At that point, the guy supposed to be overseeing the passport office came around at something just shy of a trot.

He unlocked the door and ushered the two of them in while I added, "Hey, I'm here for a passport, too."

He looked at me like he could care less --but I didn't mind. He was where he needed to be and I was where I needed to be.

As I slouched there on the bench, wondering if this was the right thing to do, if this was the right time to get a passport, a jovial man sat down next to me. He told me he was just here to update his photo.

"This is my first passport," I told him.

He smiled and asked me where I was going.

"I don't know yet," I said. "I don't have any plans. I just want to see something, you know?"

He nodded and told me he'd been to a lot of places. He did a lot of mission work and went to Africa a couple of times a year. He named countries I'd never heard of and spoke of incredible French cuisine and witchcraft.

"Real witches," he said and shook his head. "It ain't like it is over here. They got witches who sacrifice women and children. Around election time, people lock up their wives and kids --otherwise, they can lose them."

He was deadly serious, then smiled and told me, "You should go to India. The people there are just so kind, so hospitable. They'd like you."

I thought, I'd like them, too. What's not to like about ashrams, the Ganges river and the Kama Sutra? I love curry.

Eventually, the woman and her son left the office and I began the tiresome process of handing over documents, which I hoped would be sufficient, and waiting to see if this was going to work.

It seemed to go okay. He took my money and my picture.

While I was waiting for him to go over the paperwork, I said to the guy, "This is probably a dumb question, but do you have a passport?"

He groaned and sagged in his chair.

"No," he said. "I don't and I should." He shook his head. "I'd love to take my wife somewhere, but we both need them to go, you know, to the Bahamas or something." The clerk signed. "You'd think I might get a discount doing this..."

But apparently not.

Finally, everything was done and I was told I should get my passport in about a month.

On my way out, I wished the missionary on the bench a safe journey.

"Good luck to you, too," he said.

I hope so.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sargosso 2

The paperwork arrived the other day for me to sign up to become a hospice volunteer. There was more to it than I expected. I figured all that was needed was a desire to do the job.

Apparently, not.

Reasonably, not. Shuffling off the mortal coil leaves you vulnerable. The news is full of stories about people who take advantage of the dying: thieves, rapists, con artists.

And to be honest, the soon to be deceased aren't always in a good place to make decisions. A few of the people I've given rides to through the Cancer society were so glad to talk to someone; so glad to have a little human contact. I could see where they might misplace some feelings, maybe pass along valuables better intended for grandchildren or friends, write checks when they shouldn't.

So... They're going to do a background check. They've also asked for personal reference. I've already gotten two friends to sign on to stand up for me -and on a lark, I sent a note to one of the guys at Mountain Stage, asking if he wouldn't mind being one of my personal reference. My name gets muttered darkly over there from time to time.

It seemed funny at the time. If he turns me down I'll pick somebody else.

There's more than just the background check. I'm also invited to get Hepatitis B shots on their dime. That sounds like a lot of fun and after this is all over, the class starts in October. If I make the cut and take the classes, I don't know how fast they'd put me to work, but I was given a list of possible job titles.

Some of these job titles are quite grim. The worst is Kid's Path Companion Volunteer. It's the one that sends a chill up my spine and makes me tear up just reading the description.

"Supports the Kid's Path patient and family in home setting or Hubbard Hospice House. Also rocks children as needed."

I believe I have found that thing which I do not want to do but must.

Presuming, I don't get assigned to help with the gardening.

I will not do this because I believe in God or because I don't. I am not doing it because there is some sort of cosmic merit or brownie points in taking on this kind of a job. I'm a Buddhist. Karma doesn't precisely work the way it's popularly portrayed. It's only action and I do not expect to benefit from this action in any tangible way.

Because I do this, nobody is going to love me any more than they already do. Because I do this, my life is not going to be happier. I will not grow taller or live longer because of this and if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I don't think it's going to get me a better seat for the next show.

I am not doing this because I believe this will make me feel better or that it will ease the awful weight on my own heart. This might be one of the most self-destructive things I've ever done, but maybe if I do it, the world around me will seem a little better. Maybe it will be a little closer to the world I wish I lived in.

That's about all I can really hope to get out of this.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


It's been a hard thing to find any reason to write on this blog. Part of what I would occasionally write about has been surrendered to the Gazette. It fits there and that seems to be going as well as can be expected, which should leave plenty of room for my hellish misadventures and goofiness.

The problem is things have been quiet --or they have trampled into the territory of those things which I may not speak of. There are also things I just don't want to write about.

There is a lull. I don't know what to make of it.

My nerves are frayed. That much I can say without explaining the reasons why or describing in any detail the people responsible. Everything is raw. It's like an agonizing karmic sunburn. Moving in any direction hurts.

Yesterday, I went to the library, hoping to find inspiration, escape or God, if he happened to show up. I find lately that I miss talking to God or really, I miss hoping to get some sort of an answer.

As always, I follow my eyes, look at those things that draw me toward them and wonder why? It's never simple. I am always Alice following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole.

Down a block, I saw a slender woman in a figure hugging purple dress. The color was vibrant, almost hallucinagenic and completely wrong for a Monday afternoon downtown. She was pretty. In that dress, I could make out the shape of her underwear. She ought to have gone with the thong, but it wasn't exactly about sex. It was curiosity. I turned just to see where someone wearing what looked like something a woman might wear to a cocktail party would be going.

I turned the corner and saw a weary, middle-aged woman pushing a five-year old boy in a wheel chair. He was half asleep, head lolling to the side while his arms were curled rigidly to his chest.

The boy was handsome, with the well-scrubbed look of good health and a recent haircut. If he could stand, he'd be the kind of kid envious parents would say, "He should be a model." His clothes look like they'd come right off the rack that morning.

The woman's face was unspeakably sad. This was her child. This would always be her child.

I did my best not to stare and not to weep in the fucking street. The woman in purple was gone.

Instead, I continued on my path, returned a load of books I cared nothing about for another batch I hoped would show me something new or speak to me in a way that mattered. I came out with comic books about the zombie apocalypse --reading about the destruction of the world is somehow soothing --and the poet Rumi's big red book.

It was a whim, an idea that came from nowhere. Maybe there's an answer in there somewhere.

The woman in purple was on the corner across the street, waiting, when I came out. Our paths ran parallel almost until the exact place where I'd first seen her then she turned, I turned and we both disappeared.