Freed Spirit Center For Blog Cleansing

A week or so ago, Prawn and Quartered took a brief respite from her “A-Team as a metaphor for life” campaign and described blogging as something of a substitute for formal psychotherapy.  I realize that she is not likely the first person to suggest that there are other sources for therapy beyond laying on a sofa and telling some guy all of your fears while he tries to stay awake.  In fact, I’m almost positive I’ve seen a motivational poster on Facebook espousing a much less expensive form of therapy involving the use of bubble wrap.

The thought stuck in my head (apparently there are a few sharp corners inside my skull and all sorts of crap gets snagged there).  I don’t quite see blogging as a substitute for psychotherapy, not that I’ve ever experienced formal therapy myself.

My personal brand of therapy tends to involve me talking to someone (anyone – who are we kidding here?) while looking at the swirling forms in the bottom of my tumbler of scotch.  As in the realm of professional therapy, the biggest challenge is for the listener to stay awake.

The ice cubes are like my emotions, swimming in a sea of The Macallan. They’re connected to one another, but separate. As time passes, they melt and merge into the scotch, which is like the outside world, only tastier. My uncle never really understood me. (Image courtesy of the author’s kitchen counter and smart phone camera)

For some subliminal reason, I couldn’t stop thinking of blogging as a different type of therapy.

In my opinion, blogging seems especially well suited to take the place of colonic therapy.  Not that I’ve ever had colonic therapy either, but you need to give me a little creative license here.  As long as we’re splitting hairs, I’m not sure putting a garden hose where the sun don’t shine necessarily makes the practitioner a “therapist” either.  Forgive me for putting you readers in such a shitty role in this process, but I keep day-dreaming about it.

In my mind, I travel to California, home of any- and all-flaky ways to cleanse ones mind and body of the toxins of the world.  My trip takes me, via an aged Subaru Outback which now runs on used vegetable oil, to a nondescript town in the northern part of the state.  My stomach tightens briefly when I see the sign, written in hippy-dippy, Grateful Dead script for the Freed Spirit Center for Blog Cleansing, High Colonics and Organic Deli .  We turn off the main drag and soon our ride, smelling of falafel, is bumping along the ruts of a gravel road, winding through the countryside.

The building comes into view, looking reminiscent of a house I once saw in a documentary on the Manson family.  There is a dusty VW bus out front and some well-worn mountain bikes.  A couple of scruffy dogs look up briefly from the porch, but dismiss us when it is apparent that we have no tennis balls.

A woman glides from the front door to greet us.  The dogs don’t pay any attention to her either.  She wears a gauzy pile of pastel colored fabric which may have once served as mosquito netting before being tie-dyed and cut into more manageable sizes.  Her feet are clad in some sort of sandals which make Birkenstocks look like Italian pumps.  Despite looking like what would pass for “eccentric homeless” in just about any other corner of the country, she glows with a healthy vigor which makes me feel even more middle aged and suburban than before.   A little voice cries out in my head, telling me there is not likely any scotch in this place.  I briefly chastise myself for not stashing a few airline bottles of some single malt in my luggage.

She introduces herself.  Her name is Lisa and she’s the blog cleansing coordinator and spirit guide.  I’m amazed by her name, as I was fully expecting something more along the lines of “Summer Meadow” or “Goddess Queef”.  She takes my bag and dismisses the driver as we head into the house.  I cast a quick glance over my shoulder and suppress the impulse to chase after the lumbering Subaru.

No papa-san chairs? Where the hell is Patty Hearst supposed to sit when she visits? (Image from apartmenttherapy.com)

The place is remarkably spare of decor, looking almost institutional in its lack of artwork and papa-san chairs.  To my surprise, there is no trace of incense, just the faint fragrance of Lisa’s patchouli.  As we move through the main hall, I catch a glimpse into a room with a couple of padded tables with hoses and various jugs and funnels lining the shelves on the walls.  I recite a silent prayer that it’s a colonic room and not part of the organic deli.

We move deeper into the house, passing closed doors until Lisa finally pushes one open.  Inside the tiny room is a computer on a desk, with a rather hi-tech, cool looking office chair.  The room is devoid of windows or even a light, other than the blue glow of the computer screen.  As my eyes get used to the gloom, I can make out a bare mattress on the floor and a commode in the opposite corner.

“Try the chair, ” Lisa says.

I sit in it and am amazed at how comfortable it is.  I swivel it to the computer.  Once the chair is facing the screen, the rotation stops and the chair locks there.  I hear Lisa over my shoulder, her voice has lost some of its health food co-op softness.

“You need to start the purging process,” she says, “Start typing, and don’t stop to worry about quality or topic.  Bare your soul and don’t concern yourself with what people will think when they read it.”  She continued, ” Don’t waste time commenting on the state of the world or kids today with their wacky iPods and gizmos – Andy Rooney is gone and need not be replaced.”

Didja ever notice how hungry you get for a middle eastern sandwich treat after certain kinds of cars go past you? Why hasn’t it crossed my mind how well a nice single malt would go with one of those sandwiches? (Photo by gossip.whyfame.com)

I try to glance up at her, but her hand gently but firmly turns my face back toward the computer.  I place my hands on the keyboard and tentatively type a few words about myself.  I keep it fairly light, describing the year and place of my birth, as I’m self conscious about Lisa looking over my shoulder.  I stop typing for a moment and cautiously turn my head to face her, but she’s gone.

Suddenly, her voice coos in my ear from speakers in the headrest of the chair.  “David,” she says, “you must write much more than that and don’t think this standard demographic stuff is going to effectively work as purging.  You will be able to use the commode once an hour and the mattress is available for you to sleep briefly every 30 pages.”

I smirk to myself and start reading between the lines to figure out how to satisfy the requirements without actually doing the work.  I’m starting to feel creative and energized at the idea of putting one over on these “therapists” when Lisa’s voice comes back into my ear.

“Don’t bother trying to make stuff up either, we’ve read your blog about art school psychology and we’re well aware of your penchant for creating wildly exaggerated scenes from your childhood.  By the way, ” she continued as a chill passed through me, “I just finished going through your bag and I’m surprised you didn’t pack yourself any scotch.  Not that it would have mattered, alcohol is strictly prohibited at the Freed Spirit Center”

I turn back to the computer, shaken to the core.  I start typing, slowly at first, about my childhood, my eczema, my shyness, my tendency to cry too easily as a child and too slowly as an adult.  The words pour out of me with greater ease and soon the first 30 pages are done.  I don’t even glance at the bed, as my pages cover the awkward teenage years, the awkward college years and the awkward years of my 20’s and 30’s.  Sweat trickles down my temples as the words spill out through my fingers.  The dams of my subconscious are a distant memory now as my thoughts and feelings can’t be stopped from rushing out of me onto the glowing screen.

I speed through my life, all the way up to resenting Lisa’s laundry basket attire and and my lack of foresight in the scotch department.  I describe my distaste for cars which smell like fried food instead of exhaust.  Finally, after outlining my thoughts and fears for my ever-shortening future and doubts about life after death, I stagger from the computer and collapse on the mattress.  Even with my eyes closed, I can still see the words of my massive blog-purge dancing around in my brain.  The lack of windows has left me disoriented, my internal time clock has lost its main spring.

When Lisa opens the door, I flinch and cover my eyes from the painful glare of the mid day sun.  She informs me that two days have passed since she last saw me in person.  I don’t doubt that she’s been looking at me through some sort of spy cam throughout the process.

She strolls over to the computer as my eyes continue to get used to the daylight.

“I’m glad you embraced the blog-purging dynamic”, she says, “You’re not the first one to come here and resist the truth and effort required to truly rid yourself of toxins via blogging ” she said, looking at me with something bordering on compassion.

“How do you feel, now that it’s over?” she asks.

I think about it for a moment.  I’ve been so busy typing, that I’ve lost touch with my feelings for the here and now.  After a moment of consideration I tell her.  “I feel empty” I say, surprised by the croaking sound of my own voice.

“That’s fairly common” says Lisa.  “We have a nice vegan meal prepped for you out in the deli.  Before you eat, you can take a shower.  Earth Sun will back with the Subaru in a couple of hours to take you back to the airport”

With that, she turns and faces the computer.  Before I can utter a sound, she deftly deletes every word I’ve written.  She turns to me and sees the look of shock on my face.

“We may look like counter-culture oddballs to you, David” she says,  “but we still flush when we’re done.”

Bully For You!

There’s a movement afoot.  The government is trying to outlaw bullying.

There are cynics among us could argue that the United States government knows an awful lot about bullying, having perfected it as an art form over the past couple of centuries.  For the record, I’m not one of those government bashers.  Unlike scores of celebrities and pro athletes, I pay my taxes and drive within 10 mph of the speed limit.  Seriously, I’m a good citizen, there’s no reason to audit me, none…whatsoever.

As long as I’m making disclaimers, let me get this one out of the way.  There have been tragedies, recently and over the course of modern civilization, due to bullying.  Lives have been lost, and lives have been ruined.  The following bit of writing is not making a mockery of those people who have been impacted horribly by bullying.  If you’re concerned about being offended, please stop reading now, you don’t even have to click the “Like” box.

Butch from The Little Rascals. Was he a bully, or just misunderstood?
(Image from thorninpaw.com)

A quick show of hands; has anyone here been bullied?  OK, let me say this;  either quite a few of you are amputees, or you have repressed memories.  Let me help you remember;

If you have or had an older sibling, you’ve very likely been bullied.

If you have more than one older sibling, you’ll almost certainly need counseling for the bullying you suffered – please sign up on one of the clipboards in the back of the auditorium when we break for lunch and someone will get back to you.

If you played organized sports and weren’t the star of the team, you were probably bullied.

If you didn’t play organized sports, you may have been bullied by someone who did.

If you wore glasses as a child and you weren’t a bad ass, please don’t forget the clipboards in the back.

If at any point, you had bad skin, you were likely bullied.  If you never had bad skin, you’re a damn liar, and you should be in the damn liars group, they’re down the hall in 3-A.

If you spoke with a lisp, a funny accent or had braces, you were likely bullied.

If you had a pulse, grew up in America and actually had social interactions of some sort, you were likely bullied.

Obviously, we’re going to need a bigger auditorium, and more clipboards.

Scott Farkus! He was a bully AND he's a ginger with braces. Surely he's been on both sides of the bully dilemma. (Image from Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" - MGM)

Let’s have a little experiment.  Open the newspaper, or for you tech savvy types, your browser, and take a look at the movers and shakers.

Oh! Here’s one!  He’s one of the most powerful, rich and influential men of our time, Mr. Bill Gates.  Let’s take a look at Mr. Gates for a moment and envision him as he may have appeared as a child.  Now, let’s ask ourselves a hypothetical question: Was he the victim of bullying at some point in his childhood?  I’m going to go ahead and speculate that perhaps he suffered a wedgie or three in his early years.  Some of the more cynical among us might even speculate that it’s possible that Windows Vista is not so much an operating system as it is a gigantic F-U to the bullies of his childhood, who had to learn how to find their email all over again.

Here’s another guy, Mr. Steven Spielberg.  He’s got Academy Awards and the adoration of all of Hollywood.  He picks up his satellite phone and even creatures from other galaxies snap to attention.  Take a good long look.  Consider his career, he’s made movies like “Jaws” and “E.T.- The Extra-Terrestrial”.  Do we think perhaps Mr. Spielberg may have been bullied just a little, many years ago?  I’ll take the lead and guess that the answer is yes as well.

How about mega-best selling author, Mr. Steven King, or Oprah Winfrey?  What about Donald Trump?  For the record, I don’t necessarily think that Mr. Trump was ever a victim of bullying, but there are quite a few readers who would enjoy the thought of him getting a “swirly” with that hair of his.

So what if many of these people were actually bullied as children?  Even if we assume they were, what if they weren’t?  Would Bill Gates have been driven to do the things he did later in life?  If he had NOT been bullied, I’d likely be writing this blog on a stone tablet with a chisel and posting it in my front yard.  Would “E.T.” have touched our hearts so deeply if Spielberg had sailed through his early years without a single titty-twister?  Would Jonas Salk have invented the polio vaccine or written Braodway musicals if he had never gotten that wet-willy in 3rd grade?

You can see where I’m going with this.  Before you nay sayers, start saying “Nay” (so obvious, why not say something else – change it up a little?), let me finish.  I realize that Adolph Hitler was probably bullied as a child, I mean, look at that hair and his choice of mustaches.  I’m sure Charles Manson and Rick Santorum were bullied as well.  I accept that maybe bullying played a part in the creation of those people too.  Maybe it didn’t.  Maybe the evil of the world and the goodness of the world is there and it’s going to come out regardless.  For the record, I’m not condoning bullying – you leave your little brother alone mister, or you can forget about any dessert or parole!

So the government is going to outlaw bullying entirely.  They’ll effectively rid our culture of potential monsters and the youth of America will be able to grow up in an environment free of the unpleasantness of bullying.  Perhaps they can do something about skinned knees and splinters too.  Also, I never scored the winning run, goal or basket during my entire tenure in youth sports – can somebody legislate the pain away for me, please?

Right off the top of my shiny, hairless head, I can think of  a couple of major flaws with the premise of the government’s anti-bullying movement.

For one thing, government leaders don’t actually give a rat’s rear end about bullying.  The entire issue of bullying was just their “hot topic” of things to pretend to care about between elections.  Odds are they’ve already moved onto the next “big issue” threatening the American dream.  My guess is that the issue will be the increased use of pesticides in hair-care products currently being manufactured in 3rd world countries by out-sourcing American corporations.  Outraged bald Senators will clamor to appear to be spear-heading the issue.  The media will find some unfortunate souls with scarred but insect-free scalps to profile in hard-hitting news stories.  The whole thing will quickly fade, shortly after haircare and pesticide lobbyists descend upon the halls of power, not unlike rich, generous locusts with great hair.

Another flawed aspect of the anti-bullying legislation which no one seems to see as a problem, is that kids are pretty much immune to grown-up law.  There’s a story in the news every week about some 7 year old killing his babysitter, or a 9 year old pimping out his 6 1/2 year old sister.  Nothing ever happens to these kids.  The courts, which admittedly can’t even consistently convict guilty adults, are powerless at dealing with kids.  So the powers that be have put the onus of stopping bullying on school administrators, coaches and parents.  These people are trying to run schools, win games and keep up with mortgage payments – and that’s just the school administrators.

Mark my words America, by this time next year, we’ll all be too busy scanning the tiny print on our styling gel ingredients looking for roach poison to notice that little Jimmy is getting a purple nurple from that Thompson kid from up the street.