Monthly Archives: October 2011

If I die and I’m a Mormon, Can I Call Dibs on Saturn?

Standard

What’s going to happen when I die?  Will I become crispy like fallen leaves and dissolve into ash? Will I droop as the frost bitten flowers of yesterday’s spring? Will my soul transcend into a nether realm of eternal light? Or is the “soul” nothing more than a connection of synaptic flashes in the brain that dim under a gray winter sky?

For centuries prophets, gurus, talk show hosts, and phone mediums with fake Jamaican accents have investigated the question of death. Perhaps there isn’t one answer, but many. Egyptians have their hearts weighed by a talking alligator and Mormons inherit their own planet – I call dibs on Saturn. Would Mormon Jesus let me do that? And if he did, would I automatically have dibs on Saturn’s moons as well? Maybe I’ll convert and start my own real-estate business in the afterlife. Or maybe we’re already dead, and Adam and Eve were the Mormon souls who inherited the Earth.

I hope not. What a disappointment.

Does each animal have their own heaven too, or is heaven a human only zone? I hope for the former.

Heaven is a celestial zoo for all life-forms. There is eukaryotic heaven, prostista heaven, fungus heaven, an ethereal realm for all – except bed bugs of course; bed bugs burn in hell.

Cows roam eternal pastures of lime green grass; cats retire to the land of yarn; and goldfish swim the Elysian bowls of porcelain ivory – the clearest, bluest waters that a toilet can offer.

What happens though, if the bureaucratic process of heaven selection gets mixed up? The angelic clerks who preside over this process are privy to a mistake every now and then. Why do you think the platypus exists? God can make mistakes, okay?

What if I die, and I am accidently teleported to Lady Bug heaven, and I’m doomed to lick aphids off of leaves for an eternity. Or maybe I’m reborn as a shoe in a closet that breaches three different time zones. How I became a part of Mariah Carey’s heaven? Don’t ask me.

When I was six years old I became obsessed with the question of death. My parents weren’t particularly religious – so I was never given a finite answer about the process.

I had religious neighbors who tried to fill in that spiritual void. They were the kind of Christians who said “God Bless” on their answering machine and they wouldn’t let their daughter, Rebeccca, watch 90 out of a 100 television channels because that 90% was “satanic.”

On Sundays they took me to church, which my secular parents didn’t mind, because it was a form of free babysitting. I didn’t mind because Rebecca and I got to make glitter Jesus t-shirts.

“Only believers go to heaven,” Rebecca’s mom told me.

“What if the person is a baby, and doesn’t know about Jesus?”

She explained that all the unbaptized babies went to purgatory along with pre-Christian pagans who never had the opportunity to hear the Good Word. I conjured in my mind an image of people like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra – surrounded by a sea of screaming poopy babies.

My Catholic grandmother had a different story. According to her Jesus died for our sins, so everyone had a ticket to heaven.

“Can my pets come to heaven too?”

“Heaven is a paradise where you can have whatever you want, right?”

“Uh…yeah.”

“Therefore, if you want your pets, they’ll be there.”

My father’s story was less optimistic.

“Heaven doesn’t exist,” he said flatly. “But maybe there’s reincarnation?”

With all these conflicting opinions, I realized that I would have to find my own solution. The solution came to me in a dream. Death washed over me not as a bitter winter wind, but as a warm, amber ocean wave. I woke up on a beach of toasty sand. The angel of death stood above me, and pulled me up with her white arms. She had choppy, mosaic features like an image shining through a stained glass window. We were on the other side of the horizon, she informed me.

She took me to the beach shore, which was populated by empty Condominiums. There was no furniture, carpeting, insulation, books, supplies, or anything in these units; only hard floors of concrete and missing walls. Yet the people who lived here were blissful, content.

Death is the greatest happiness. It is peace without material supplication; Liberation from the needs of existence; a departure from Samsara – the Hindu wheel of continued existence and pain.

Stone walls do not a prison make

Nor Iron bars a cage

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for a hermitage

If I have freedom in my love

And in my soul am free

Angels alone that soar above

Enjoy such liberty

~ Richard Lovelace 1618-1657

Advertisements

Noah’s Ark and the Bunny Apocalypse

Standard

Growing up my family had pets from all five animal kingdoms: birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and fish. We had chameleons from Hawaii that my dad smuggled into the continental states, geckos, iguanas, snakes, parakeets, mice, crickets, worms, rabbits, cats, dogs, newts, salamanders, and fish – a large variety of fish. We had two of each animal. I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad had a unicorn stashed in the closet.

With multiple creatures come multiple personalities. Many of our animals were liberal spirits at heart, roaming the house quite freely – despite our best efforts to contain them. The gecko liked to hide behind paintings. Perhaps his own coloration made him identify with Van Gogh – his back was bright blue with black dots, his underbelly neon orange.

Flick the parakeet wasn’t much of a talker, but a great listener. He was my first mate who sat on my shoulder while I played pirates. While he was only a first mate, he constantly tried to promote himself to captain. When I placed him on my shoulder, he used his beak and talons to climb up my hair and stand on my head. He would also mutiny against me when I tried placing him into his cage. When I wasn’t looking, he would reach his beak through the bars of the cage, push the latch away, and escape to tease the cat, poop on the sofa, and commit other acts of pirate barbarity. I never asked where he hid his “treasures,” nor did I want to know.

Then there was Adora the gender bending rabbit. When my family first received Adora, the cashier at Pet Smart informed us that our rabbit was a girl. Shortly after, we decided that Adora needed a gal pal so she didn’t get lonely. Two weeks later our two female rabbits somehow managed to create 12 nugget sized, furless creatures. Either it was an act of immaculate conception, or Adora was more of a Hugh Hefner than a Playboy bunny.

Before Adora got married, when he was a Bachelor bunny, his nature was much more peaceful. He would amble into my lap like a self-possessed fur ball and watch TV with me. His head tucked between his front legs, his ears drooping over his sides. He would sit there calmly for hours and soon my lap would begin to feel warm, as if I was holding a loaf of freshly baked bread. I thought it was the warmth of affection, but when I looked down I realized that it was the call of nature. It’s difficult to train bunnies to use a litter box.

Yet after his bachelor days were over, our relationship changed. As I tried to hold him in my lap he would kick me with his back legs or chomp on my fingers like they were peach colored carrots. Every moment he spent away from his wife was a moment he missed out on fulfilling the creed of the Bunny profit Abraham – he needed to go forth and multiply; and bunnies were very devout to this principal.

Adora didn’t discriminate. He fulfilled the Abrahamic creed with his wife, daughters, and any object that moved. Within a month two bunnies turned to 12, and 12 bunnies turned to 30. Within a year we would’ve had a full blown bunny invasion on our hands. If the trend continued, bunnies would be popping out of cabinets, falling from the ceiling, and flooding the house in a tidal wave of poofy, fluffy fertility. A throbbing mass of button eyed cotton tailed creatures would descend upon us like a plague of locusts. It would be the final apocalypse. A bunny apocalypse; which I admit, wouldn’t be a bad way to go.

My parents decided that they couldn’t let the bunny apocalypse happen. Therefore they needed to take action. One day, the whole cotton tailed tribe vanished.

“We took them to a farm, a bunny farm.” My Dad said simply. He said it was a place where they could run free, feed off of vegetables, and get lots of fresh air and sunshine. It was bunny heaven.

Today I have to wonder if this is true, or if they simply released the poor creatures into the woods. I guess wherever they are, they’ll be a force of fur and fertility for another person and another day.

Don’t Buy a Python!

Standard

Many children grow up believing that they have a monster in their basement. The only difference with my childhood is that the monster was actually real. I was around 8 years old when my dad brought a Burmese Python home.

He let me hold the creature and even took pictures. It was three feet long and smooth like leather. Its feather light tongue flicked in the air as it slithered up my shoulders. My dad informed me that snakes guide themselves by their sense of taste. I should’ve asked it for fashion advice. It’s no wonder that so many models wear snake skin clothing.

Sometime later my dad came home from Pet Smart with a gerbil in a white box. It had moist black eyes and silk soft fur. I took the gerbil out of the box and placed it in my lap. As I stroked my new friend, I felt the pulse of his beating heart through the warmth of its tummy. I began to go through a list of possible names: “Fuzzy”, “Gerald the Gerbil”, “Fluff Ball”, “Brownie.” I got up to perform some task – I don’t remember what it was. I put the nameless creature back into his box. About thirty minutes later I heard a shrill scream from the basement, the poor guy never ended up getting a name.

It was only a few weeks later that my dad found out that it wasn’t necessary to feed a python live food, it was perfectly content to eat raw chicken wings. As the months passed into years, the belly of the beast swelled to the width of a grapefruit and it achieved a length longer than Shaquille O’Neil is tall; our snake grew to be 8 feet long.  On average, a Burmese Python can grow to 12 feet in its lifetime.

A detail I neglected to mention in this story is that my baby sister was sleeping upstairs. While the python was 8 feet long, she was about the size of a bucket of chicken wings.

When my dad was at work, my mother conceived of secret ways to kill the monster. Sometimes she would place a fan in front of its cage, and pump out the cool air at full power. Other times she sprayed it with bleach.  Yet the beast kept growing all the same. She could’ve taken the beast out of the cage and attempted to slice it with a knife – but like the rest of us, she was terrified. She could only attack from afar, if she got too close, she would’ve got bit by its razor edged fangs, or perhaps something worse.

My mom begged my dad to either sell it – or just kill the damn thing himself.

So my dad ended up calling pet stores, pet traders, snake owners, and even the zoo! But no one was interested paying for an 8 foot long Burmese Python. Then he contemplated the possibilities of releasing it into the wild, only to imagine the destruction he would cause when a few children started to go missing. Finally, he realized that he had to take the least appealing option. He had to kill his beloved monster.

He ended up placing the python into the freezer, believing this to be the most humane death possible. It’s hard for me to understand why he sympathized for a creature capable of eating children and strangling a horse. Yet he was the one who fed it, he was the one who helped it grow.

It may have been a monster, but it was his monster.

A Proposal for Internet-ocracy

Standard

Every four years we must patriotically march into an in-closed booth and pen the fate of the country within a checked box. The weight of America – and therefore the world is cast between two extremes. Two prearranged meals. On one plate you have a chili and jelly bean salad. On the other you have a fudgesicle hamburger. Neither plate makes any sense, but the issues have already been prearranged. Your choices in this schizophrenic salad bar are few.

But the decision making process doesn’t stop there. The dishes are taken to back, where a chef, known as the Electoral College, makes the final decision for you. So maybe you chose the Chili and jelly bean salad. You like jelly beans, but chili gives you gas. But hey, at least having gas is better than eating a soggy hamburger, right? Well tough luck, the chef decided that chocolate soaked burgers are his taste – so you better eat it or beat it.

What am I getting at with this extended metaphor? I’m asking this. Why, in this day and age, does “democracy” have to be representative? In the days of our forefathers, it made sense to choose a representative government. Could you imagine millions of American citizens being shoved into the white house to vote on every single decision?

If only we had some kind of system where American citizens could just stay at home, and yet simultaneously join together in an intellectual cloud to cast their votes. Oh wait…I think that’s called the internet.

What if we had a governmental system in which every citizen was permitted to vote on every issue? According to the latest data on http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm, this year 78.3 % of Americans are wired to the internet. That represents a 151% increase from the year 2000. If the trend continues, in ten years almost everyone will be on the internet.

Imagine this: once a week a citizen is e-mailed a new issue to vote on. At this juncture of my argument, one might protest that the language of a bill is entirely complex for the average citizen to understand. Have you ever seen a bill? To read one you need ten lawyers and a microscope.

Yet here is my counter argument: Bills shouldn’t be impossible for the average person to read. Current transparency laws allow any citizen to read any bill that they wish. Yet the bill is usually so convoluted that the average citizen has no hope of understanding it.

My proposal is to have the citizens of an Internet Democracy write the bills themselves. The internet democracy will work much like an internet forum. The most popular bills will be voted to the top of the list for everyone to read, while the least popular will remain at the bottom. If you frequent the website Reddit.com, you’ll be very familiar with this system.

In an internet democracy, all users will be anonymous to promote honesty and prevent corruption. In this day of mass media conglomerates, too many voters are influenced by appearances alone. Don’t you feel uncomfortable when a politician is considered a viable candidate for vice president because of their status as an Alaskan beauty queen?

Also, to further prevent corruption, social security numbers as well as birth certificates will be registered with each username to insure that an actual person is voting – and not a spambot.

Doesn’t this give away too much personal information? Isn’t this incipient to the creation of a “big brother” state? Well, consider this. The government already has all of your personal information. Also, you’re about ten years behind if you’re not aware of the Patriot Act.

The last argument I anticipate about my proposal is that it could be easily corrupted. Because of course we don’t live in an age where politicians are the paid puppets of corporations, and they certainly don’t register dead people to cast votes; Also, Florida has never hid a massive amount of votes under the rug so a certain member of the Bush family and friend of Haliburton could enter office.

For the first time in history, we’re in an age where an actual democracy is possible, and less than a few clicks away. Total anonymity will cloak biases against race and gender. The merit of the issues will speak and not the drama of politics. Forever gone will be the two party system of jelly bean chili and sog burgers. Or as Trey Parker and Matt Stone said, “a douche and a turd sandwich.”

There may be trolls, spambots, and 4chan lurking in the shadows of a future democracy – but I say that corporate funded politicians are already the biggest trolls of all. Let us ban them forever from the server of justice, and create a clean system where the most popular meme will be democracy, and the greatest internet trend will be justice.

Sic Semper Tyrannis.

A Eulogy for Borders

Standard

Today, e-readers are enabling more authors than ever before to publish their work. Stories are cheaper and thus more people around the world are reading, which is good.

Yet with the death of the nation’s second most prominent book store marks the end of an era. Gone are the living, breathing characters who exited the two dimensional pages of a book to come to life. Dead is the tactile interaction with lore. And even more dead is the social meeting ground for screaming twilight fans, or dressed up wizards standing in line for hours in anticipation for the midnight release of the next Harry Potter Book.

You don’t usually think of a eulogy being spoken for a bookstore. Let alone a massive retailing enterprise. The purpose of a eulogy is to say a few words about a person before they die, to honor their memory, to celebrate the prominent moments of their life, so that while their life is over, their memory is immortal.

Borders wasn’t just a friend, but it was a family for me. Amazon may offer cheaper merchandise, but they don’t have restrooms you can use if you’re having an emergency.

When I was a child, Borders represented my indoctrination into the world of books. It offered a brightly colored, tactile, and tangible jungle for me to explore. I remember roaming around the towering shelves with a sense of wonder – hoping nothing would fall on me. The newest in 90’s hits played over the speakers: the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins. The smell of coffee and chocolate banana muffins wafted into my nostrils. As I leafed through the pages of each book, a hundred different fantasies entered me through the touch of my fingers tips.

As a young adult I began my employment at Borders. Like any good book, Borders had its share of characters, and I have to wonder to myself – where will these characters make their home now?

When I signed up for the job, I was required to take an online personality test – which I failed twice – you can only imagine the effect on my self-esteem. Luckily, my friend Mel worked in the café, and as the old cliché goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.

As I worked at Borders, I realized that it was a haven for groups of people who weren’t into things like bars, clubs, or friends.

One of the gentlemen who resided in the manga section was an aspiring priest in his late twenties. Every day he wore goggles, sweat-pants, and drank an indulgence of soda water, almond, hazelnut, and coconut syrup. He described it as a carbonated Almond Joy.

Yet even more eccentric was the Mathematician. His formula for a tasty snack was a chocolate chip brownie microwaved at exactly 49 seconds. It didn’t matter what I was doing, even if I was cleaning the juice out of the garbage cans he would talk to me about his computer program that could predict the patterns of the housing market.

In addition to these lovable eccentrics, there were other story book characters who must’ve escaped from the pages of the books themselves; probably to use the restroom, or catch a nap on the sofa.

A gnome slept in the gardening section, although my boss argued that he was “Father Time”. More practical (and therefore more boring) was another co-worker’s theory that he was a hobo.

However, in this story I am going to insist that he was a gnome. But anyhow, everyday without fail, the gnome would come to the café to check the time and then ask for “a bloody cup of hot water.” What he used the hot cup of water for; I’m not sure, since he didn’t appear to have any tea on him.

One day, he gave me something he called his Business Card. It was the name of a Vision Improvement Center with directions to a pawn shop scribbled on top. He said if I wanted to make money, I should meet him there on Sundays. Perhaps he was going to show me his Gardening tools.

Santa Clause, a heavy but jolly man with white stubble, came almost nightly and always left a generous tip of five dollars.  Then he would complain about Obama, and the failure of the Borders Business model – which he ended up being right about. Perhaps this financial wisdom is what has been keeping Santa Claus in business all these centuries.

The people who weren’t regulars of Borders have consoled grieving customers by saying, “at least you can go to Barnes and Nobles;” Barnes and Nobles, a store with such a sterile atmosphere that you could safely get heart surgery on a shelf.

Borders was so friendly that we would let people sit in our cafe all day, use the internet, read books – all without buying a single thing. It was our ludicrously generous policies that ultimately put us out of business: Forty percent off coupons on everything and a free coffee for every five purchased.

If anyone let Borders fail, it was not the employees, but the poor decision making skills of the CEO. He had us try to sell “glitter balls” with each purchase, for five bucks a pop. Is it so hard to imagine why Borders failed when our best plan was “glitter balls?”

Yes, with death there is creation. We are entering an era reminiscent of the Printing Press boom of the 17th century. Scribes who embellished royal scrolls with gold leaf were replaced by legions of ink blocks. Ultimately the Printing Press was a good thing; it unlocked a world of literature for a class of people who never even held a book before.

Yet as I give this eulogy I struggle to imagine where Steve the Mathematician, the Garden gnome, Republican Santa Claus, Anime Geeks, Vampires, and Wizards will all live.

On the day that Borders died, the world became that much more two dimensional.

Flight of the Potato

Standard

Oh what fried pleasure!

Oh what baked delight!

Do I deign to observe

With my potato eye?

I’m being triple whisked off

On a magic carpet ride

Saucer shining white

Gleaming like sour cream

Shall take me off

On the flight

Of my steamiest dreams

And my friends are here too

Mr. Peas

And Ms. Stew

Bound for flights of fancy

My succulent steamy crew

But what’s this flying towards me?

Silver, pronged, and gleaming?

I think I’ve made a new friend.

I shall call him fork