Happy 46th Second Birthday to Me

 

“Eons” ago, on this very day, I was en route to my 20 kilometers / 12.5 miles distant Community College to attend my Friday broadcasting classes. Wintry precipitation was slightly complicating the flow of 8:45 a.m. rush-hour traffic.

Still harboring those foolish, “I’m invincible and immortal” delusions (like most teens do)… I didn’t deem this minor snowfall worthy of much concern.

Paying far more attention to my FM radio’s rock tunes than to my speedometer, I didn’t realize that the road conditions were deteriorating with each passing minute and mile. My collision with reality occurred upon my arrival at a freeway overpass, where a thin layer of ice had repurposed that bridge into a skating rink.

Starting to fishtail, I panicked and slammed on the brakes. As if that error hadn’t sufficiently complicated matters, there was also the prospect of the sea of oncoming headlights. Worse yet, leading that vehicular “parade” was a massive, take no prisoners, 18-wheeler.

To this very day, I still cannot fully recall the precise details to what turned out to be my “Hail Mary” / last ditch steering maneuver. Indeed, long before I had rattled off, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen,” something truly astounding occurred. Somehow, someway, I wound up back in my lane. Jumping the curb, I was now neatly “perpendicular parked” between two, closely spaced road signs.

Hell, only a veteran Hollywood stunt driver could’ve pulled that off in one “take”.

As my adrenaline level gradually ebbed, I realized [1] I had totally avoided a fatal head on crash, [2] all the other drivers, in the vicinity, were also totally unscathed and [3] I had emerged with nary a scratch to either my own body or my car’s.

The other motorists, out of consideration (or perhaps out of fear that I’d demonstrate some further boneheaded driving) had all brought their vehicles to a dead halt and were actually patiently waiting for me to shift into reverse to get back onto the highway.

Reentering the morning commute, with my newfound, heightened respect for the slippery conditions, the first song the FM DJ played was the aptly titled, inspirational Carry On Till Tomorrow.

Albeit with frayed nerves, bruised ego and my vehicle’s newly acquired, minor front-end wheel alignment problems, I did make it to my 9 a.m. class… mere minutes late.

Only after class, did the full impact of that morning’s events begin to fully sink in. This had been my first, ever, brush with death. If it hadn’t been dumb luck that had spared my life, who did? Whose hands, just in the nick of time, had guided my own on the steering wheel?

Had I collided my Chevy Nova with that massive gravel hauling truck, at the very least, I’d have come up with a whole new meaning to the phrase, “compact car”. At the very worst…

My tombstone’s date of death would’ve read November 9, 1973.

 

 

 

 

 

A Ghost Story

The following is an abridged version of my 07/11/2016 WordPress post…

Many decades ago, across the breakfast table, my mom handed me a section from our local newspaper… all neatly folded to “frame” an obituary. Said she, “I think he was a college buddy of yours.”

As surreal as it all was, there I was reading the two paragraph, final chapter to my 27-year-young friend’s all too short life. While on a photo shoot assignment up in Canada he had suffered a heart attack. How tough this sadness was to reconcile with my fond, happy memories of our classroom / recording studio days. Though I had wanted to attend his funereal in NYC, my thin wallet meant I’d be paying my respects from afar.

Well… six months passed and, in the days leading up to Halloween, no less, I found myself browsing through a record store’s bins, near mall closing time. So engrossed in reading album liner notes was I, that a familiar, cheerful voice saying, “Hi Tom” had startled me back to the real world… or maybe to the not-so-real-world?

There could be no denying who I had just heard, YET, my logic dictated this could not possibly be happening. Cautiously glancing upward and slowly turning leftward there, right before my very eyes, stood my dead friend! I blurted, “This can’t be! You’re… you’re no longer alive!”

I even entertained the possibility that I had just joined him “on the other side”. Yet, where was that out of body, floating sensation… that brilliant, white light at the end of the long, dark tunnel… so typically reported by many a Near Death Experience (NDE) returnee?

My downward glance readily confirmed my still firmly grounded feet. There were no paramedics trying to jump start my sprawled out on the carpet, lifeless body. No tunnel vision, either. Even the ambient lighting had never exceeded the above, fluorescent fixtures. I could sense the puzzled, still startled look, frozen on my own face.

My friend almost seemed to be reveling in how he was spooking me out. He could not even begin to contain his wide grin and chuckling. Oh, how typical this had been of his brand of humor. And, on this occasion, he still had his peerless sense of comedic timing down pat.

Eventually, he relented and filled in the missing details of his death. Indeed, there had been a heart attack… BUT… the person who’d actually suffered it was the thief who’d stolen his wallet. Since New York driver’s licenses of that era were issued sans photos, the Canadian authorities had only a minimal physical description… so generic it could’ve easily described tens of thousands of men. Additionally, the discovery of their error had occurred too late to “kill” his death notice.

As we parted company that evening, it had been our warm, 98.6º, firm handshake, which, ultimately, had proven that no ghostly apparitions were we!

As I drove home… alternately glancing between the the nearly deserted road ahead and crescent moon breaking through the clouds on the western horizon… I still felt haunted by the lingering aftereffects of my “NDE.”

As for my friend’s “NDE”? In a sense, he got to trick his way out of death and enjoy the treat of reading his own obituary, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridging the Great Divide ~ A Parable

 

Once upon a time, Conrad DeNier found himself debating Libby Learned. Both being nearly lifelong walkers upon the fraying, stretched thin, conservative / liberal tightrope, on that particular, fateful morning, their seemingly eons old War of Words promised to be as relentless and perilous, as ever. After all, neither party was ever willing to cede even one millimeter of ideological territory; NOT when it came down to the prospect of emerging victorious in the battle of the Haves vs. the Have-Nots.

However, this time around, Conrad would trot out his “new” ploy; totally unleash the ever-present spoiled brat, within. He’d hold his breath until Libby totally agreed with him. And so it was. Her closing point made, he first bleated out his counterpoint; next inhaled and puffed out his cheeks. Indeed, so enraged was he that, all the sudden, his heart totally gave out!

While unconscious, Conrad’s entire life flashed before his eyes; he even wound up seeing the light; both cosmically and cognitively speaking. However, as it had all been predestined, this would only be his Near Death Experience.

As the onrush of warmth gradually reanimated his lifeless body; returned him to consciousness, Conrad’s first sensations were of Libby’s relentless CPR. As he squinted through his eyelashes, “The Light” suddenly cross-faded to that of ordinary daylight. Now awash with feelings of utter stupefaction, to him, this had become the proverbial light bulb over the noggin moment.

In spite of their history of fierce animosity, when push came to shove, Libby had done the humane thing; had actually saved his very life! Seeing how she had been willing to set aside her own differences, he could not help but wonder. Could he not do the same? He even began to question the illogical nature of his own ideological selfishness. Why must he always seek more ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the less fortunate? After all, the sheer enormity of what he had already accrued, to date, could even last a spendthrift ten lifetimes.

Funny how it took a deep shade of physiological blue to get him to cede his seething, red hot intransigence; to temper it with a healthy helping of newfound, true blue hued tolerance. Conrad DeNier even wound up seeing Libby Learned in an entirely new light. Indeed, he now deemed his longtime foe a newfound friend.

The multifaceted moral to our story is fundamental…

Peaceful coexistence is vital. Allow selflessness to gain the upper hand. See the light before you see The Light.

 

 

 

 

Taking Inventory Of My Life… Before It’s Too Late (Intro)

While journeying down life’s road most of us take an occasional, over the shoulder glance. However, as of late, my peering into my “rearview mirror” can best be described as excessive and obsessive. Try as I may, it has not been easy to ignore my vivid reveries, dreams and nightmares… as well as the oft accompanying intensely felt emotions.

On the up side… so far… this has not morphed me into a 24/7 basket case. These incidents have only been occurring during my idle daytime hours and nightly REM sleep phases.

On the down side… especially re those abovementioned nightmares… I’m seeing that ominous warning:

“Objects in this mirror are closer than they appear.”

I’ve tried to literally write off these occurrences by typing them into a word document… in hopes that actually seeing the words appear on my computer screen would help put everything into proper perspective? No dice.

I’ve also tried to figuratively write off all of this stuff as something someone merely starts to experience once one’s cake gets set ablaze with sixty plus birthday candles… you know… once one realizes the “road” ahead has far fewer miles than the “road” behind? Again… no dice.

You see… there seems to be… correction… there IS far more happening here than my casually strolling down Memory Lane. I think I’ve been watching my life pass before my eyes. And whether this has involved pleasant experiences or not… I cannot help but wonder if this has been akin to a NDE (Near Death Experience)?

Which begs the follow up question…

Just how, pray tell, does a man (supposedly) “mens sana in corpore sano”… who hasn’t chosen a dangerous occupation… who isn’t a driver headed for an unavoidable head-on collision with an 18 wheeler… ever get to the point where he believes the final sentences within the final chapter of his life’s story are getting written?

Well, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that virtually seeing myself as a chalk-outlined lifeless body can be chalked up to the following two quotations…

“If we have nuclear weapons why can’t we use them?”

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Those above two sentences (death sentences) were, respectively, uttered and Tweeted by an unwise, unstable, un-American… one who now possesses… correction… one who is now possessed by the nuclear launch codes… namely… the unwisely elected “leader” of the “free” world… an entity I never voted for and have elected to keep nameless in my blogs.

Uh… let’s just refer to that YUGE nobody as #45.

That duly noted… before that nuclear saber rattler ever manages to deadpan, “You’re fired” to our Creator and then promptly incinerate His creation… time permitting… I do have much more to blog about.

In future posts, I’ll be taking an inventory of my life and times… in hopes that, if I’m lucky, someday, somehow, either surviving mutant earthlings or maybe even visiting ETs on an archeological mission, might still find fragments of the WordPress “universe” intact.

Why bother?

Well, primarily, to let everyone know that I have… uh… I guess I should say… I had absolute zero confidence in #45 and the same could be said regarding nearly all of his deplorable and/or delusional appointees and supporters.

I’d want future archeological diggers to know that I was a good man who had absolutely nothing to do with fascist 45’s destruction of Earth’s ecology, economy and society.

Of course, in posting my life’s inventory in the days to come… i.e., #45 permitting… there’ll be a slightly selfish fringe benefit, too. That’s because nothing / nobody ever really dies on the www. That’s because a blogger’s / author’s thoughts can speak from the grave and span millennia.

Indeed, my posts could be my one last shot at a form of immortality.

Nine Afterlife Scenarios

Is there life after death? Considering how one has to actually die to find out… we, the living, can only conjecture. As for my own theories? There are at least nine different forms of living on… in varying degrees… some of them earthbound… others otherworldly… some are somewhat short-lived… others could endure through eternity. The specifics…

Heaven Awaits Scenario ~ When the physical body expires, everything that ever made us uniquely different from everybody else… all of our memories, hopes and dreams endure. Everyone who has preceded us in death and has ever meant something special to us is present to welcome and usher us into everlasting life.

On one hand, Near Death Experience survivors corroborate. On the other hand, the skeptics contradict… claim these episodes are merely due to an end of life brain chemistry… one which causes the mind, normally accustomed to keeping us alive, to freak out when it cannot do so. Little doubt, oxygen starved brain cells and, perhaps, even some physician-administered pharmaceuticals are all in play. Factor in a lifetime’s worth of spiritual indoctrination and you’ve got the perfect recipe for hallelujah inspiring hallucinations.

My Own Experience… in an Actual Death Experience, my mother’s spoken with awe in her eyes, last words were, “They all came!” Since just prior to that we’d been engaged in a totally lucid conversation… since we were the only ones present in her nursing home room at the time… who, pray tell, were “They”?

Double Helix Scenario ~ Folks who are “fruitful and multiply” preserve their DNA… their human traits remain within the gene pool for generations to come. As for anyone who has opted out of parenthood, we’re now talking about pruned and felled family trees… bloodlines banished to oblivion.

Of course, procreation does have its limitations… can only immortalize 23 of each person’s 46 chromosomes per conception. Genetic duplicates having never been Ma Nature’s game plan, there’s virtually zero chance that anyone would ever wind up totally replicating themselves… right down to the freckles and fingerprints. Furthermore, even if such an identical copy were to exist, that person would not grow up with the same life experiences.

Send In the Clones Scenario ~ While the technology to create genetic duplicates exists, human cloning is still considered a huge no-no by principled politicians (if there are any such animals), bioethicists and theologians.

If this ‘tude were to change, someday, clones would only be physically identical since, as I’ve already mentioned above, they’d not share the unique life experiences of the original being.

Donor Gametes Scenario ~ A man and woman can procreate without having actually met… in fact… neither of them even need be alive. Harvested female and male germ cells, once thawed out from the cryogenic deepfreeze, combine in the in vitro fertilization petri dish and the surrogate mother does the rest.

Donor Organs Scenario ~ Harvested human hearts and the other major bodily organs can prolong recipients’ lives for decades. In a sense, donors can live on for many decades, maybe even longer when recipients utilize their new lease on life to become new parents. IF both parents and offspring then go onward to make something of their lives… oh… say… contribute something of great value to society… THEN (albeit indirectly) so would the organ donors.

In a horror film sense, people with “yuge” ego problems (think Donald Trump here) could, someday, even resort to some ghastly surgery… could “donate” their own heads… have them bolted onto new, recipient bodies. Fortunately… so far… and to the best of my knowledge… there are no real life equivalents of fictitious Dr. Frankenstein’s monster out there… way, Way, WAY out there.

Surviving Elements Scenario ~ The basic chemicals, which make up our bodies will eventually get recycled, at first, here on Earth (e.g. during cremation) and, eventually, back into the vast, inky dark, cold cosmos… the very place from where humanity had originally borrowed these elements.

The late astrophysicist, astronomer, philosopher, educator, author and TV host, Carl Sagan, the master of simplifying complex science, once wrote…

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Naturally, disembodied elements, (even if human brains were their original source), will not possess any intelligence… will never really be us. While it’s a virtual certainty that we’ll “survive” in this sense… we’ll never know it.

Intellectual Property Scenario ~ We live on in the memories of others. To remain a household name throughout perpetuity, one would need to be some sort of superstar scientist, physician, psychiatrist, philosopher, theologian, educator, engineer, architect, inventor, sculptor, painter, lithographer, publisher, poet, playwright, author, actor, entertainer, comedian, singer, musician or world leader (or some combination of the above). Even people who history would judge to be our worst-nightmares-come-true can be remembered… as examples of who NOT to emulate.

For the vast majority of us… who don’t make the history books… who would not even be an obscure footnote in such a publication… we’ll be forgotten as soon as all who ever knew us are dead. Even if our pictures were to appear in some handed down from generation to generation photo album, would an ancestor, three generations down the road, truly know us beyond the lifeless, two dimensional depiction? Once there’s no one to give a damn anymore, family photos will eventually wind up getting trashed. Only if today’s landfills were to become tomorrow’s archaeological dig sites would anyone ever try to remember us.

Good Mentor Scenario ~ Throughout our lifetimes, we’ve all been teachers (no formal classroom required). This face-to-face intergenerational imparting of everyday knowledge and skills is how we leave our small mark on the world. It even counts, e.g., when we demonstrate the fine art of tying shoelaces to a youngster. While this mundane stuff easily goes towards the betterment of our society, to be remembered, by name, for making such contributions is highly unlikely.

Internet Scenario ~ This involves anyone who, anywhere and at anytime, ever did anything great or small on the WWW.

Over the course of the past decade, I’ve made my own presence known here in cyberspace… at MySpace, Xanga, Blogger and WordPress. I’ve got to believe that some of what I’ve said made some small difference in the life of someone… somewhere… sometime. Maybe that person shared my thoughts with someone else… and that person did the same… and so on… and so on… and so on…

True, I’ve blogged many a time and netted not more than one “like star” click… but does that mean all is lost? Carl Sagan didn’t think so. To quote him once more, he observed…

“Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.”

I suspect if the good Doctor S. were alive today, he’d have no problem making the words, “books” and “blogs”, interchangeable.

Beyond that, it has oft been said that once posted, nothing ever really dies on the Internet, and so, if that, indeed, is really true… well… I know that, someday, as I’m taking my last gasp of oxygen, I shall live on…

Hmmm… to leave my mark upon the world via the World Wide Web? Not bad. To maybe even witness this actually occurring, while my loved ones and I reside in our Heavenly Home throughout eternity?

Yeah… for me… that’ll do…

A Visit From / To The Great Beyond?

One spring morning, many decades ago, my Mom had handed me an edition of our local newspaper neatly folded to “frame” an obituary. She’d been wondering if the deceased had been a college buddy of mine.

The deceased’s name certainly was common enough so it could’ve been someone else… but… as I began to read, I could sense my eyes widening and jaw dropping. As surreal as this all was, the in-print particulars had left no “i” undotted; no “t” uncrossed.

Indeed, this was the same guy… we had been enrolled in the same broadcasting courses, worked together in the recording studio and eventually earned our degrees. And now… there I was reading the two paragraph final chapter to his all too short life. Short story even shorter… while my 27-year-young photographer friend was on a photo shoot assignment up in Canada, he had suffered a fatal heart attack.

Six torn off calendar pages later… in the days leading up to Halloween no less… there I was browsing, from A to Z, through a mall record store’s vinyl LP bins near closing time… so completely engrossed in reading liner notes I had barely noticed in my peripheral vision that someone was approaching me.

As it turned out, he was far from being just another nameless customer. His cheerful “Hi Tom!” amply proved that.

OMG… that oh so familiar, distinctive voice. It hadn’t been all that long ago when I had routinely heard it in my studio headphones. There was no denying who had just spoken, YET, all my sensibilities told me this could not possibly be happening. Cautiously glancing upward and leftward there, right before my very eyes, stood my reported dead friend… in the flesh?

Under the circumstances, the one and only thing I could possibly blurt out was, “You’re supposed to be dead!”

For a fleeting moment, I had wondered if I might’ve just joined him “on the other side”. I had read of near-death experience survivors who’ve unfailingly reported…

Stage One: Floating upward, out of body experiences.

Stage Two: Seeing a brilliant, white light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Stage Three: Glorious, out of this world, Heavenly family/friend reunions.

Yet, my brief downward glance confirmed that my feet were still firmly grounded; that no EMTs were frantically trying to resuscitate my sprawled out on the carpet, lifeless body. No tunnel vision, either. Even the ambient lighting had never gone beyond that provided by the overhead, fluorescent fixtures. So, if I had, indeed, just died… just how, pray tell, had I managed to skip over the preliminaries… to arrive at Stage Three?

I could sense the puzzled, still startled look, frozen on my own face. My friend almost seemed to be enjoying how he was spooking me out… could not begin to contain his wide grin and chuckling. But this had been so typical of his sense of humor and, on this occasion, he still had his comedic sense of timing down pat. Well, eventually, he realized it was time to tell me all about how he had “died”.

Indeed… there had been a heart attack… BUT… the person who had actually suffered it was the guy who had stolen his wallet. Since New York driver’s licenses of that era had been issued sans photo, the Canadian authorities only had a minimal physical description… so generic it could’ve easily described tens of thousands of men. The discovery that he was still alive had come far too late to “kill” his death notice.

As we parted company that evening, it had been our warm, 98.6-degree, firm handshake, which, ultimately, had proven that no ghostly apparition was he!

As I drove home… alternately glancing between the the nearly deserted road and crescent moon breaking through the clouds on the western horizon… I could not help but mull over all that had happened at the mall. I knew it would take some time for me to more fully shake those still lingering, unsettled feelings.

Well, the good part of this near death experience was neither my friend nor I had to even come close to dying to experience it… and while he hadn’t actually tricked his way out of death, he did get the treat of reading his own obituary.