Archive for October, 2012

Please Read all Posts from Bottom to top

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing

Otherwise, it will read backwards. I have been Posting a chapter at a time, starting at the beginning, which is now at the bottom….START WITH THE OCTOBER ARCHIVES.

Enter the Dream

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing

Dreamland Dancing

(Black screen. Fade in slowly on extreme close-up of very full lips, heavily covered in fire-engine red lipstick.)

Happy birthday to you”

(Slowly zoom out to face. Very tight shot of eyes, face to chin and forehead, showing blonde bangs. Very wide-eyed, and expressive face of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator.)

“Happy Birthday to you…”

(Slow zoom out to reveal MM on all fours, on top of a long table, dressed in only a black lace bra and panties. The rest of the room is dark.)

“Happy Birthday Mister President…”

Zoom out to reveal a long, tapered dinner-table candle protruding from the ass of MM. It is lit.)

Happy Birthday to You!”

(Long shot of room, lights have been turned on. MM impersonator jumps up, revealing that it is a male, gleefully clapping hands together, jumping up and down. Falsies pop out of a bra. A half-dozen men in EMS uniforms clap and generally camp it up. It is as if the entire troupe of the Village People is now in the employ of one of the local private ambulance services.)

Welcome to a private ambulance service in the early Eighties in Miami.

(Cut to close-up of the face of Jeff, a paramedic asleep in the cabin of an air ambulance. His eyes snap open in a startled expression that instantly explodes into laughter.)

All this was a replay of a memory from Jeff’s first ambulance job, about twenty years ago. As bizarre as it may seem, it is not an especially isolated event in his memory bank from this period of time, or for that matter, from any other period of time in his life. It is as if the bizarre has been the connecting thread that had run through most of his life. Then again, it all depends upon your perspective. If you focus on the bizarre, then the picture you reveal as you connect the dots will be a great deal different than if you attempt to ignore, or block out those same experiences. And of course, there is no accounting for just how much of a magnet some people are for the weird.

Take for instance, the episode that immediately prompted Jeff’s journey into the dayroom of that Miami ambulance company. He had been sleeping in the lower bunk in the crew room at their main station. It was a large room with about ten bunks in it. The overhead light was rarely ever turned on, day or night, since there was almost always someone sleeping in it. Twenty-four hour shifts, and lots of overtime, frequently resulting in forty-eight or seventy-two hours of continuous ambulance duty. (At that time, “full-time” employees were forced to work “more than” seventy-two hours per week to either get benefits as “full-time” employees, or even be paid time-and a-half rates.) One-hundred-plus hour workweeks were not uncommon then. Whenever possible, day or night, you slept.

At approximately three am, he was awakened by the steel bunk bed in which he had been sleeping creaking and rocking, accompanied by muffled groans. He eventually realized that his partner, a fellow EMT, was having sex with another (male) EMT. It was like some low-rent grade-B, XXX-rated prison movie that never ended. Now that he was awake, this kind of thing would be hard to just ignore, so he decided to go outside to have a smoke, and went by way of the dayroom so he could take a leak first, resulting in yet another indelible “Kodak Moment” being burned into his memory banks.

If this seems too disturbing, or too offensive an image to be associated with medical professionals upon whom people routinely entrust their very lives, then you really won’t like hearing about the ambulance that used to station itself every Friday afternoon in the parking lot across from the Orange Bowl, dealing cocaine to fellow ambulance personnel, and friends. Sometime before noon, an Ohaus Triple-Beam scale was extracted from a black gym bag, and grams of cocaine would be weighed and placed into tiny zip-lock baggies and sold for fifty dollars each. Just like that. It seemed like everyone knew about it, and yet it went on like it was the most natural thing in the world, either ignored, or tolerated by those in whom it held no appeal. A third of the company personnel openly smoked weed, and made no bones about it. Another third did so, but tried to keep it a secret from the third of those who didn’t.

Imagine it is your first day of work as an EMT. It is a little after 0800 hrs. Suddenly the radio begins to “broadcast” from one of the ambulances, which is to say, the microphone has gone “live” due to having the transmit button being accidentally held in, either by a leg, or some piece of personal gear. Every word being spoken in the rig is now being heard by not only dispatch, but also every other rig that is on the road, and 10-8 with the radio on. (In New York, for instance, an ambulance is called a “car”, e.g.: “six o’clock car”. In Florida, they are more likely to be called a “truck”, or a “rig”. Some locales use the initialization: “ERV” (Emergency Response Vehicle), or similar references.)

“Cummon, nigga! Ya gonna smoke dat whole spliff yo’ self? I toned you on yestiday, ya cheap-ass muthafucka!”

 

“You’ll get ya share when I is good an’ Goddamn ready…dat shit you braht yestaday was nuthin’ but a bunch a’ Mexican bush-weed. Dis ‘ere is da real ting…sinsemilla. Two tokes gonna put ya on da floor trippin’. So shut ya mout’ an’ wait yo’ turn, bitch!”

 

“Who is you callin’ bitch, yo’ nappy-headed assho?”

 

“Speakin’ a nappy-headed bitches, tell yo Mama I lef the money on the dressa, and I’ll see her tamarra night.”

This dialogue continued for more than twenty minutes before the supervisor eventually recognized the voices, and intercepted them at their next scheduled pickup. They were not fired, nor were they even officially identified or the subject of any known disciplinary action, only unsubstantiated rumors about their suspected complicity. Speculation aside, the conversation was real, and heard by everyone who was on duty that day, including Jeff.

Eventually, one of the company’s top collectors was arrested in uniform, with the ambulance parked outside, while trying to enter a Miami crack house while it was being busted. Phone calls were made, but it never became a news item. This was before mandatory pre-employment, or even post-accident urine testing for drugs. (Bonuses were awarded each month for drivers who collected the most money for their transports-COD. The top collector for the year usually received a paid vacation in Hawaii. Some even had credit-card imprinters (just like the most elite Miami prostitutes), and some even were known to take their patients through the drive-through lanes of local banks on the way to their destinations.)

Food for thought

Posted in Confessions of a Mad Philosopher, Memoires of a Post-Neo Dharma Bum, Zen with tags , , on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing

If you should meet the Buddha while Traveling along the Road, you should Kill him, and Feed his Body to a Hungry Dog.

(For ten years, I struggled with the meaning of this Koan. Fellow students, teachers, and mentors alike repeated it, regardless of their level of understanding of its meaning. Its words evoke strong feelings of the necessity of Dharma Action…but How? What? It wasn’t until after I Thought I had Achieved an understanding of it that I simultaneously realized what I was to Do.)

 Epiphanies are usually the result of having stripped away the layers of illusion that we create that obscure true understanding. Once these illusions are removed, we have the opportunity to see everything exactly as it is…just like this…the world as it is, before words…before thinking….just this, only this.

Would You Die for your Beliefs?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing

It should go without saying that the main character of this story is no hero, but he himself would have been the first to deny that he was a victim either. (That’s why they call it denial…) We are connected to our actions, and their results. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, and when we lose our illusions, something else will have to take their place. As long as we use words, and thoughts created by our minds to rationalize and justify our actions, we will just as likely replace one illusion with another. Labels are just as dangerous as preconceived notions, blanket judgments, and all other forms of prejudice. Jeff often did bad things for good reasons, and good things for bad reasons. Jeff was not a bad person, but it took him a long time to recognize that simply not being bad doesn’t necessarily make you very good, either.

 

Even at his very best, Jeff was like a slightly flawed or failed experiment in contradictory dialectic synergism. A degenerate saint, a knight in stolen armor, a mad scientist turned suspect philosopher, a heretic monk, a Boy Scout prankster, a hobo prince performing high-class low-brow, and a rogue gentleman with ulterior motives for acts of selfless kindness. As good as he could be, and as badly as he sometimes behaved, he was as good as he was as bad as he was. It was an addiction that for Jeff, there was no cure because no matter how much he suffered for it, it was as if it was his raison d’etre and compulsive pleasure.

the stuff of which Urban Legends are made….

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing

Long before it was a television catch phrase for a gambling resort, the unwritten
law was “What happens in the ambulance STAYS in the ambulance.” That
is not an environment that lends itself well to any sort of written account of
this industry other than propaganda, hero-worship, or whitewash, despite the
fact that every alarm, every call, has the potential to contain an entire
novel’s worth of drama, intrigue, humor, and adventure before you get back to
station. Because of the necessity of anonymity, it is the stuff of which Urban
Legends are made….

Clyde and The Tree

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing

(The Importance of Unrelenting Persistence)

 

When Jeff was hired by his first municipal 911 EMS system, all new employees were on probationary status for one full year, even if you were already paying union dues, they could not offer any protection against being fired for any reason…even no reason. That first year involved a sort of hazing of all new hires, but the ones with whom they were already familiar got off easily. The rest were considered fresh meat. The unspoken rule was to wash out two of the weakest candidates during training in order to give some opportunities to the candidates with slightly lower test scores, but a proven record within the community.

 

Jeff had very high test scores, but was relatively unknown in that county, as all his previous BLS experience had been in Miami, and even that had been extremely limited. He was too slow to treat and much too cerebral in his initial approach. His transition was not easy, and his training was not going well. He seriously feared for his job. This tended to make him “choke” under pressure, so his training officers just turned up the heat that much farther. If you are going to “crack up”, they want it to happen now, rather than later.

 

By the end of three months, Jeff was desperate; his own fears and anxiety were getting the best of his considerable knowledge and skills. He could feel himself start to choke every time the alarm sounded. He already began to dread going to work for what he had considered to be his “dream job”. At thirty-seven years of age, he had made a serious commitment to a goal he had set, and he was not accustomed to failing at anything; he felt like he was going into a flat spiral.

 

Jeff had started doing Zen meditation about a year earlier, and tried to apply it to his everyday life. He applied the same diligence to his study of Zen as he had to emergency medicine. In retrospect, Jeff was probably too high-strung to work in EMS, and he probably sensed it. He wanted to believe Zen could give him the clarity and inner peace he so desperately needed.

 

Jeff also had a dog, an eighty-pound pit bull named Clyde, and he used to take Clyde to the edge of a canal that bordered their property. He would put the dog in the back of his pickup truck and drive over the dike that surrounded the development in which he lived. He would sometimes just let the dog loose, so he could chase Jeff’s truck as they raced along the edge of the canal. Other times, he would throw a tennis ball into the canal, so the dog could swim to it and retrieve the ball.

 

One day, after a particularly heavy thunderstorm, Jeff discovered that a very large tree had washed up on the bank of the canal where he and his dog would run. This was not just a log, but rather an entire tree, maybe forty feet tall, branches, roots, and everything. It was stuck on a small spit of sand along the edge of the bank. The minute that Clyde saw the tree, he ran up to it, grabbed a branch with his jaws, and tried to drag it back into the water, but it was much too big and heavy, and quite firmly stuck in the sand. The utter impossibility of the task did not deter the dog’s efforts to drag the tree as he furiously latched on and pulled with all his might. Every day was a repeat of the day before. The dog never seemed the least bit discouraged as each day, he attacked the tree with seemingly newfound intensity as soon as they returned to the canal. Both the dog’s determination and the futility of his efforts amused Jeff each time they returned.

 

The pressure at work was becoming worse, and now seemed to occupy Jeff’s every waking thought, which hung like ominous storm clouds over his head.

 

A month passed with no progress or improvement in his situation as each shift, he feared might be his last. One morning, the water level on the canal was a little higher than usual, due to heavy rains for several days. The rains had been so heavy for so long, that Jeff and Clyde did not bother to go to the canal at all for two days. On this particular morning, as the dog latched on the tree, it actually began to move. The dog barked loudly, as if jubilant over his success. As he continued to pull on the branches of the tree, it began to roll over, and pulled the surprised terrier under the water as it rolled. Clyde eventually freed himself from the branches, and continued to swim with the tree as he now tried to pull it back to shore, with absolutely no success whatsoever.

 

Jeff began to laugh hysterically as he realized the analogy that the tree seemed to point up about his own life. He let out a huge sigh of relief, and said “All right!”, if only to himself, as the dog began his swim back to the shore. (Clyde finally had to give up, as the tree quickly went nearly one hundred yards downstream in almost no time at all.)

 

Jeff always believed that this scene had been an omen that was responsible for his breakthrough. From that point on, he was more confident, less easily rattled, and filled with newfound resolve to succeed. Although Clyde had struggled daily against seemingly insurmountable odds, he never gave up. In Fact, in retrospect, the dog seemed to relish the challenge, and was clearly disappointed when his success resulted in the loss of the tree.

 

So much of what we do in our own lives is not really all that much different. Our character is as much determined by the challenges of our adversaries as we are by our successes and the support of our allies. Never give up. Failure may be just one more effort short of success, but even the victory over an adversity does not come without some loss. We may fail to recognize that the challenges we face in our lives bring out the very best in each of us, and we are in fact mutually interdependent. For Jeff, that meant whatever was meant to be would happen according to its own schedule, so long as he persevered and kept faith in his own best efforts. He had been his own worst enemy all along, and all he needed to do was simply pay attention long enough to recognize the connection and meaning of what he had just witnessed.

Tigers above, Tigers below…The Strawberries were sweet.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2012 by dreamlanddancing
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