The Year Everything Important Happened


talmadge _MG_6742 copy 2

Room at the Talmadge, photo by Bianca Dorso

Sir Edwin Arnold (June 10, 1832 – March 24, 1904) was a journalist and poet who wrote “The Light of Asia,” an epic poem about the life of Buddha and “The Song Celestial,” a poetic rendering into English of the Bhagavad Gita.

I think I’ve told you I’ve been having some body energy work done.  It’s been terribly interesting: I lie there and sense all sorts of things in and outside of my body.  I become aware of a narrative that begins playing out with flashes of landscapes and people I’ve known and sensations and emotions I’ve experienced intruding upon or overlaying the interior journey.  The hands-on work by the practitioner or cranial-sacral therapist – call him the Teacher – is quite minimal, as if he is only observing from a great distance.  There’s certainly no massaging or Rolfing or kneading or cracking of joints or rearranging of muscle tissue involved, and I keep my clothes on.  Yet afterward I feel I’ve really ‘gone somewhere;’ I am refreshed and rejuvenated and the world seems brighter.

Except for this last session.  I felt nothing beyond a little tingling here and there.  No visuals, no story unfolding, no glimpses of familiar or unfamiliar faces and places, no sense of the ceiling opening up and a celestial presence peeking in on me, nothing.  And I said so.  My Teacher responded by letting me know that what he had witnesed had been my most profound session to date.  I had dropped into still point after still point; my breathing had been in rhythm with the tides, I had gone more deeply than ever before. Or something to that effect, I was too surprised to pay close attention to what he was saying. I replied that I hadn’t noticed anything of that sort, and frankly I was a bit disappointed.

“You are intrigued by awareness,” he said.

I asked what that was supposed to mean.

“It can be another way to dissociate from the body,” he replied.  Especially for people, he continued, who are looking for some kind of high.  People, for example, who have exhausted all the fun out of drugs and alcohol, and so turn to spiritual practices in order to escape their feelings and recreate that ‘out of body’ experience they once achieved through self-induced or self-prescribed methods.  I admitted as how perhaps I had heard of such people, maybe I even knew one or two who’d already consumed their lifetime supply of controlled substances.  Was it so unreasonable to think that you might clean out the liquor cabinet and then go in search of an equally effective but less life-threatening and non-habit-forming alternative.  Was that so bad? I asked.

Not bad, my Teacher replied, as though there might be a better word for it.

“But -”

“But it can be an obstacle on the way to becoming present.”

“Being intrigued by awareness is an obstacle to awareness?”

“A distraction.”

“I see,” I said, without seeing at all.  Or maybe I could see enough to be interested but confused. Here I was just trying to Be Here Now, be in my body, be present, be conscious, be aware.  But okay, I confess maybe I was also a little bit intrigued by the possibility of some kind of pleasant side-effect for my efforts.  I wasn’t out to cop a buzz, or not exactly, but would it be so terrible if it happened?

And yet I think I knew what he meant.  There was this contradiction: I said I wanted to be in my body, but part of me was looking to get out of it as well.  Part of me was saying; fine, you can’t get loaded the old-fashioned way but hey, maybe there’s another way to zone out.  And I tell that part of me,  oh no oh no, I don’t want to zone out, I just want to be aware.  At which that other part of me, the lower part, is like, oh please.  Come on, it says, this dreary present is overrated, it’s hell, let’s get high, have a drink, you deserve it.  And I’m like, but maybe we’re missing something.  Maybe Awareness is fantastic, marvelous, a circus tent just down the road, glowing in the dark, full of promises.

And yet I wonder.  What would it really look like?  What would awareness in the light of day be like, without the thrill of a rush or a high?  What would I see?  What would I feel?  Maybe it would it be nothing out of the ordinary at all.  Blessedly simple, a relief. Like being able to breathe again.  Like walking into a quiet empty room.  Clean, well-lighted, and empty of distraction.  Just that.

We Were There


Alida Sims Malkus, We Were There at the Battle of Gettysburg, NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1955, detail of front endpaper and back jacket flap, collection of the author

Sometimes it feels like running in water, as if you are slogging through the waves of the day, dragging everything and everyone along behind you. Because you are, of course.  All your lives are connected: the one you are living right here right now and all of those other lives you are experiencing simultaneously in alternate realities, in other times and planes and dimensions.  All of them happening in the same relentless rushing Niagara Falls of the Eternal Moment called Now.  The headache you woke up with this morning is a battle wound somewhere else, that hangnail a shadow of the pain you feel when they cut off your hand for stealing in a desperate little village in the south of medieval France.  Your annoying co-worker in this plane is one of the ruling elite in another realm known for its vicious court intrigue and corruption – you see glimpses of it bleeding through into your dreams, that vast maze of office hallways you can’t seem to find a way out of, that long shot of rush hour traffic, that mob marching toward Versailles, the crowd fleeing the Huns, the barbarians at the gates, outside the walls of Jericho, rushing the doors of Walmart,  and you are in it, connected, not separate, that bell you hear ringing is for you and every you that is or ever has been or will be, it’s your alarm clock, it’s the bells of St Mary’s, it’s the insistent tinnitus of time.

What you do matters.  What you do matters here and everywhere.  The ‘soul’ you are saving (if you want to call it that) isn’t just yours, it is your piece of consciousness tied to all the others.  Your choice for good in this reality helps heal your struggling other selves.  Forgiveness here saves a life somewhere else, the way traveling to the past and stepping on a butterfly can change the outcome of a presidential election in the present when you get back to it, as that old sci-fi story explains.  Except, you see, the notion of time being broken into parts of past and present and future is just an illusion that helps make navigation in this set of dimensions easier.  Imagine trying to get through the day if you couldn’t distinguish between “Now” and “Then.”  It is 1904.  It is 1863.  It is 2015.

I loved the “We Were There” books when I was a kid, delightful stories of two intrepid young people, a boy and a girl of impressionable age (you could identify with either, although the boy tended to have more fun), who always happened to show up alongside famous people at just the right moments in history.  With General Washington, with Lewis and Clark, with Jean Lafitte in New Orleans or Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.  At Gettysburg, at Pearl Harbor, at the Normandy Invasion.  It felt like I was there with them.  I certainly wanted to be.  I wanted to be anywhere sometimes except for the place I was.

And I was, you see, without knowing it.  I was everywhere.  I was living in 1904.  I was born in 1904.  I was spending a day in Dublin on June 16th in 1904.  I was there and I still am.  I am there now, and so are you.  We were there.  We are there now.


The Magic of Thinking

after dinner

After Dinner Sleights and Pocket Tricks by C. Lang Neil. London:  C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd, 1904

The other night some friends were talking about magical thinking and I started getting annoyed.  What did they mean?  Did they really know?  I came home and looked it up.  Google says magical thinking is a false belief in a cause and effect relationship.  Step on a crack, break your mother’s back – that sort of thing, where obviously one has nothing to do with the other.  Kiss the dice for a winning roll. Stick pins in a little wax doll and make your cheating boyfriend feel your pain.  Promise your firstborn for a parking space by the front door.  It even works, occasionally, (not the wax doll, I tried that) but of course you know there’s really no connection between the action and the outcome.  No link between some random event and equally random outcome, right?

Says who?

Don’t get me wrong,  I can be as cyncial as the next guy. I know how the world works. I’m no sucker for superstition, and  I can be very discriminating about where and when I see causation or mere  coincidence. Still, I am also an unreliable judge of my own experience.  I have no problem calling religion’s bluff, yet I fully accept that some of you can do anything.  I labor in vain, but all you have to do is roll your eyes to change the outcome of a decision, influence the course of events, shift the trajectory of a life.  I flay my soul and implore the gods to no avail; you smile and light up a room, alter the orbit of planets, save the world.

Okay I exaggerate, a little.  But you know what I mean.  Frankly, if I had the faith in me I have in you, I’d be fine.

Now, where these old ideas come from isn’t hard to figure out.  Beliefs born out of low self-esteem and envy are common enough.  Lack of faith and trust – in yourself at any rate – isn’t very unusual.  Letting go of those old ideas, old doubts, old beliefs (or lack thereof) is the real trick.  And yes, you can hold onto lack.  Lack is a burden like Can’t; it has convincing weight and depth and resistance.

Magical thinking isn’t the answer or the solution, but let’s be clear: Magic is just the word we use for Faith that seems silly, for blindly and foolishly accepting a connection that shouldn’t exist and can’t possibly hold up to examination if we could.  Magic is child’s play, the easy way out: a man pulls a rabbit out of his hat, I have no idea how and I’m delighted.  A bunny appears from thin air and I can’t t explain it but I suspend my disbelief and, unencumbered by logic, I’m charmed.

Try that with the big stuff in your life, and it’s not so simple.  Having faith means having no explanation and making a leap into the dizzying weightless thin air of uncertainty, no parachute of logic, nothing charming about it.  Faith isn’t cosy or safe; it’s letting go of your comforting old ideas about what you think will never work or shouldn’t and doing it anyway.   The real magic of thinking is thinking I can’t, and doing it anyway.  Thinking it won’t make any difference and being willing, in spite of yourself, to try.

The Politics of Story, Part Two: Disbelief and Discontent

Bird's-eye view of members seated at tables in dining area, Bohemian Grove, 1904

Bird’s Eye View of Members of the Bohemian Grove in the Dining Area,  1904

I live in a veritable mini U.N. these days: the neighbors downstairs are Chechen, there’s a South African lawyer and his wife and child above me, my dear Cuban comrade lives across the hall and a Macy’s perfume counter sales lady from Queens is right next door – you really can’t get more multicultural than that, right?  I’m also learning Spanish to add to my smattering of Hebrew, Latin and Greek so if I somehow get to Heaven when I die I’ll be able to say hello to God.  Of course, if I go in the other direction I’m already prepared: I’ve watched enough Fox News to know what the Devil looks and sounds like.

And yet, with all this colorful diversity, who am I kidding?  I operate day to day in an echo chamber of beliefs, prejudices, theories, opinions and a collective world view I share with pretty much everyone I come in contact with.  Oh, I may be acquainted with a few practicing Republicans, I might rub shoulders from time to time with one or two of the privileged elite – or those who’ve slept with them or decorated their houses or done their hair or catered their parties or even flown in their jets – and I’ve socialized with a few folks who aren’t ashamed to identify themselves as conservatives, but let’s be honest: I seriously doubt I’ve changed a single person’s perspective on any matter that really matters to me.  I’ve had plenty of folks agree with me, no question, and I have no problem finding friends on social networks to “Like” my outrage at the beating and murder of gay people, for example, or share in my abject horror and disbelief at the antics of deranged religious zealots.  However, much as I enjoy being accused of undermining the American Family, I haven’t yet talked anyone into going to Hell or made a single convert to the gay lifestyle, nor have I managed to convince one soul to renounce his or her faith in a personal savior.  Nobody’s had the scales fall from their eyes because of anything I’ve written or said.  I certainly haven’t had anyone claim I’ve helped them see the light regarding any of my deeply cherished beliefs.  Or, okay, there was that time someone said I’d made him feel something he’d never felt before, something deep and and meaningful and magical but I suspect that was just the drugs kicking in and the liquor talking.

What’s the point?  Periodically a writer or an artist says, Enough’s enough, we need New Forms of Art, we need A New Way of Seeing or Telling or Showing the Truth, but what truth is that exactly when the people we’re talking to already think and see like we do?  We don’t need a new way to agree.  What Disbelief are we suspending if we all know beforehand that what we’re about to see is what we already know?  And no, I don’t mean I’m an expert on this stuff and I don’t watch medicals shows with doctors so I’ve never had to put up with snorts and guffaws when the drama gets the medical stuff wrong, and no, I haven’t seen a single episode of ‘The West Wing’ or ‘House of Cards’ with anyone whose resume includes a stint of duty in the White House.  Preaching to the Choir means telling people what they think they already know.  Folks loved ‘The West Wing’ because it made them feel smart about what they already thought they knew about what went on in Washington behind closed doors.  ‘House of Cards’ appeals for the same reason but a little more cynically.  Okay, maybe a lot more cynically.  But don’t tell me a Russian President would never act like that, or a First Lady would never do something like that because have you been paying attention to what’s been happening in Washington lately?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings me to the heart of the matter: to whom and to what have you been paying attention?  The New York Post or the NY Times?  Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow?   Telegraph or Guardian?  Point de Vue or Charlie Hebdo?  Haaretz or the Jerusalem Post?

Where you get your news and where you are at the table determines the conversation you hear – but more importantly, what table you’re seated at makes the real difference.  In 1904 a select group of men (all white, all Christian – at least in spirit – and no women allowed) could sit down and break bread with their fellow members and know with confidence they all shared more or less the same view of the times and the country and their respective places in it.  If they argued, it was all in good spirits.  If they seemed to disagree it was only for the sake of debate.  Their voices echoed in a sacred red wood grove of privilege and elite; the laughter of presidents reverberated with the good cheer of captains of industry in that rustic outdoor chamber of power, where they could relax with kindred spirits and come to a consensus on the story they would tell about themselves, and the story they would tell the rest of us, calling it History, and Truth.

The Politics of Story


Teddy Roosevelt, from a political cartoon of 1904

The first time I binge-watched anything was the UK version of Queer as Folk and  it might have been on VHS tapes it was so long ago.  As you might imagine, it’s a life-changing experience watching that much TV all at once, absorbing that many story lines for that many charming young men who look cute with their clothes off.  Years later I would consume Breaking Bad in similar addictive fashion.  I still wake up screaming from that.  And then, glutton for punishment, last night I finished Netflix’s House of Cards Season Three,  all thirteen episodes, and along with the time change to Daylight Savings, it’s a wonder I can even get out of bed this morning.

There are NO SPOILERS here, relax.  I’m going to wait until more of you admit to getting to the end before diving in on specifics.  But may I just say that for folk living in this Other Industry Town (Hollywood, that is, as opposed to Washington D.C.) a story about politics, like a tale about the entertainment business, is bound to be unsettling.  Here, as in that other epicenter of the world’s pilgrimage for power, normal rules of How Things Work simply don’t apply.  Those who fail get promoted on such a routine basis, and those who are clever and talented and good are destroyed so cruelly and spectacularly and with such frequency you are tempted to forget there is anything unnatural or fundamentally wrong with the system.

You  may, of course, find yourself wondering if people in the nation’s heartland – sweet innocent spirits blithely living their quiet lives of discontent in safe backwaters like Ohio or Michigan – can appreciate, much less understand, just how strange the truth really is, but when you’ve become so used to suspending your disbelief that nothing shocks anymore, it’s not always easy remembering the days when you could actually say, “Well, that’s absurd; that would never happen.”  Because the minute you first uttered those words, something worse and even more unbelievable did transpire, and consequently the way you learned to expect a story to unfold, the way you came to believe anything as being innately plausible or ‘real,’ was bound to change.

How you perceive the world is altered when reality is unreal on a daily basis and that inevitably transforms the way you tell a story.  And it changes the way the storytellers – the ones entertaining you or governing you – tell you what they think you want to hear.

To be continued.

Tough Guys


WALTER BAUMHOFER (1904-1987) American illustrator, known for his pulp fiction cover paintings

There are more manly pursuits than writing.  Being a fireman, for instance, or racecar driver, or lumberjack, or violent drunk.  Even if women have had to pretend to be men in order to do it (women have had to pretend to be men to do lots of things), writing has not always been the most masculine activity.  Not exactly up there with bullfighter, as Hemingway might have told you.

James T. Farrell (February 27, 1904 – August 22, 1979) was one of those writers who helped make writing a tough guy thing.   Or, he made tough guys feel okay about writing.  His Studs Lonigan books inspired Norman Mailer to pursue a career as a writer.   The radio broadcaster and writer Louis Terkel changed his name to Studs after Farrell’s famous character.  The name alone.  What a writer.  What a stud.

Farrell, like his fictional creation Studs Lonigan, grew up among the poor Irish of Chicago’s South Side.  Being Irish certainly helps make a man a  good writer and clever with language, just look at Oscar Wilde.   Growing up poor is useful too.  “The problem with you,” a teacher told me once, “you’re not poor enough.  Or rich enough either.  If you were poor you’d have nothing to lose, and you’d starve and bust balls and take risks and write.  Or if you were rich you could do the same thing because you’d be able to afford to.”  He shook his head sadly and not without a touch of contempt in his voice he added, “but you’re middle class.  So you don’t have much but you have just enough you’re afraid of losing, and that will keep you back.”

I wasn’t Irish either, I might have added, so really it’s a wonder I’ve learned to string words together at all.   As for masculine, let’s just say my taste in literature has always leaned toward English lady novelists.  Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth Bowen, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Barbara Pym, Muriel Spark.  Tough, yes, but not quite in the way that will win you fights on the playground.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I like tough guy writers too.  “What literature does,” Farrell once said (Here) “is make life meaningful.”  And I would agree,  whether it’s meaningful in a masculine way or any other way.  Farrell also says that “the writer works out what comes and goes in the minds of other people.”  Not just what’s in  his own mind, you see; the writer projects: he (or she) looks at you and inside and beyond you, and beyond himself, and if it doesn’t kill him he tries to write what he finds.  And that’s tough, I think.  That takes guts.

In the Garden



The Chateau had a view but no where to put any plants; Juliet balconies from which to admire the distant hills but no terrace, no proper patio, no place and space for growing things.  Here in the Valley I’ve got A Room with No View so I’ve decided to make my own and go native to boot.  What I know about gardening, however, I’ve learned from books by Beverley Nichols, who might have been an expert on myrtle and cyclamen and the English Garden (and guardsmen) but was clearly not going to be much help to me in this strange new land of relentless scorching sun.  A rose by any name would die out here, unless kept alive by artifical and extraordinary measures for which I have neither the resources nor the patience.  It’s pots of succulents for me and anything likely to survive a drought.  Or neglect.  I need roses that look like they’re carved from pink marble.

I grew up in the Midwest, where potted plants were dusty African violets on old lady windowsills or geraniums in tubs on front porches on the Fourth of July, and exotic was that fuzzy cucumber with thorns and lightbulb appendages we made such fun of,  sitting up there on the science teacher’s desk.    Now, thanks to the guidance and advice of the Head Gardener at an Important Museum my patio sports alien fauna like Donkey’s Tail (sedum morganiarum), Sticks on Fire (euphorbia tirucalli), Elephant’s Food (portulacaria afra) and Schwartzkopf (aeonium arboreum).  Oh my.


I think this is going to be fun and I am very very grateful to my friend R.H. for his guidance and expertise.  I see stories here, don’t you?  Not the kind Beverley told, about being seduced by Noel Coward’s boyfriend (or was it Somerset Maugham’s?), and shocking Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980), but when you’ve got sticks on fire competing with donkey’s tail, something interesting is bound to happen.

We are all the Diaspora


Great Baltimore Fire, February 7 – 8, 1904

It’s what everyone says these days, “Where will you go now?”  As if there’s just been a disaster or one is pending – old age, retirement, a lay off, a rent increase all falling under the category of Things Disastrous.   And no, I don’t think it’s just because we’re in California and there’s always the chance of an earthquake because I hear it from other people too, other places.  California is the country’s coal mine canary.

Lately it’s the astonishing rents and home prices: a friend has just sublet his three bedroom three bath condo here because he’s taken a job in San Francisco and still won’t quite break even because of what he’s paying for rent on a studio in the Mission.   “How do ordinary people manage on these salaries?” he asks.  “I mean the ones who don’t already own property, have 401Ks or wealthy parents?”

“Seattle,” another friend says firmly when asked where she’ll retire.  “It rains there and you have to think water.  There won’t be water most places, soon.”  She has a point.  The Ogallala Aquifer, the largest in the world, which lies under eight western states and supplies fresh water to more than a quarter of the agriculture of this country, also lies under the route of the Keystone Pipeline.  Only a matter of time before a leak pollutes it, and since an aquifer isn’t the Gulf of Mexico you can’t put a plug in it.  With all the fracking that will forever contaminate the fresh water of most of the midwest, however, it may be a moot point; pretty much everywhere will be uninhabitable sooner than later.   No place to run, no place to hide.

With New York, London and Paris now theme parks for the super-rich, the new world model is Hong Kong or Dubai with its palm shaped islands, if you can afford one.  Otherwise you become part of that growing mass of the planet’s migrant labor force, moving where there’s work and hoping to make enough money to escape.  It used to be Hollywood was the only place people went to make a lot of money so they could afford to go somewhere else, but now… where?

Caravans of senior citizens are traveling the nation these days, settling near malls during the Christmas season, moving on to berry fields and orchards for the picking.  Putting a brave face on it, most of them.  Always wanted to travel, don’t want to just sit about and be idle though, Welcome Walmart Shoppers.  We’re building a wall along our southern border to keep out other people’s seniors, apparently.

This is the trickle down at work, my friends.  Trickle down desperation, trickle down fear, downwardly mobile, get out while the getting’s good, On the Road but not for the fun of it.  I’m told the Irish pronounce it like it was Italian or Polari, dee-uh-SPOR-uh.   The rest of us want to say it like it only applies to the Jews, or possibly the Armenians if we’re feeling generous.  There’s also the Chinese and the African Diasporas, of course, but those would necessarily involve discussing the slave trade which is just a little too close for comfort these days.  Meanwhile, the buck no longer stops with someone else.  And that bell ringing?  Don’t ask.

Alternate Reality

Rarebit - Flying Bed 3


Frame from the comic strip “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend,” 1904 – 1913 by Winsor McCay

Last night I helped with the kidnapping of an Important Person to an alternate reality.  It was someone fairly high up in the propganda department of the ruling elite, I’m not exactly sure who but it might have been Roger Ailes.  Of course you can’t keep anyone very long in a dream landscape; still, it’s the gesture that counts.

Creating group dreamscapes, or alternate probable realities, was very big in the 60s and 70s.  The one we traveled to last night was not in the best of shape; fairly rundown in fact.  If you or possibly a friend of yours was involved in the mapping and building of these places back in the day, let me know.  You could tell it had once been a thriving community which had seen better days.  Wonderful weather, though; quite balmy and lovely Mediterranean light with an extra dusty amber cast which was probably someone’s memory of Agent Orange but minus the side-effects.

Whenever I go I am always struck by how ambitious the scheme was, cities along the lines of Brasilia but with a lot of New York and Chicago and Pittsburgh and even a little Disneyland thrown in.   You could tell where the builders were from originally, in other words.  Lots of Midwesterners, and folks from upstate New York and those of us who hail from the shores of various Great Lakes.  You are nearly always somewhere with a view of water.

There also used to be Dream Banks you could contribute to, although this was long before Google so searching the files was a bit haphazard.  I suppose they would be helpful piecing the various communities and neighborhoods and maps together but I’ve never done much with that.  I know the parts of the towns I go to, I recognize them, although there are always vast sections I’ve yet to explore such as the area we visited last night (it was afternoon there) which looked a little like the spot I would have put Evanston, Illinois if I were in charge, but someone else had made it into a high rocky peninsula swinging out into the lake in a flourish of concrete and narrow switch-back streets, with houses along the way, crowding the steep cliffside.

We must all do our part.   There was more urgency, originally, I suppose.  People protesting the Vietnam War, the arms race, the Bomb.  We had then perhaps more deeply personal reasons for wanting to build an alternative to the current reality.   I remember thinking last night, however, how clever it was, to start taking people there by force.  Show them that we have other ideas about the way the world should be.  Show them another world.  An alternate to the one they are so fiercely focused on.

Let’s Get Physical


Ed Pearce of BalletBoyz

Physical people occupy space physically.  It’s a truism but true nonetheless.  Spiritual people react to space spiritually; they tell you it is clear or cloudy and if you need to burn sage.  Aesthetic people behave aesthetically and admire your things.  A physical person lives in the world differently; he asks if he can do cartwheels in your living room (maybe later but not without moving the furniture), he asks if he can stand on the bed (yes but no jumping), in this and other physical ways he lets the neighbors know you have company.

My young physical friend comes to visit last night.  I have invited him with some reluctance because my former residence seemed somehow  – how shall I say it?  – more impressive.  It had a better address and more curb appeal.  If you’re going to do an outcall it seems to me these would be important factors.  He does not seem to mind, however.  “Big,” he observes upon entering, and keeps moving.  “Very big,” he says, moving a large mirror I have placed at the end of the hall to create a kind of ‘enfilade’ effect which I try to explain.  He says I can put it back later.

In researching a 1904 connection to Turner, I came upon an article about Debussy who ran off in February 1904 with Emma Bardac, the wife of a banker and the mother of one of Debussy’s students.  They went to the Isle of Jersey, I can’t imagine why, and when Debussy’s wife found out she tried to kill herself.  I think Emma might have been the type of young physical friend who occupied space physically.  Just a hunch.

Later I ask my young physical friend if he wants a shower.  He does and takes a very long time.  I hear noises: the curious repetition of a ‘Djee‘ sound, rather but not quite like a voice exercise, something an acting or singing coach would have you do.   I wonder if he is pursuing another career.  It continues.  I begin to be alarmed.  I wonder if it’s some kind of therapeutic ritual he does to calm down after heavy exercise, or, oh dear god, (thinking of my spiritual friend) in order to either summon or exorcise some demon.  Could it be a precursor to something worse?  Should I be alarmed?  Yet the sound has a plaintive quality to it, not really murderous, I decide, so I retreat to another room to wait.  Eventually he emerges, pulling on his shirt contentedly.  “Sorry I am long,” he explains.  “The lighting is so good I am taking selfies.”

He presents his phone to show me the results.  “I must say cheese,” he adds, “or they do not work.”  He demonstrates.  Djee…z.  He smiles, pleased with himself.  I am relieved and impressed.  I realize that physical people also notice lighting, as well as the effect of certain sounds on facial expression.

And a house is not a home until selfies get shot in it.

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