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On her way with me to fetch her little sister, The Grand Other, from after school care, The Grand Otter confided the underlying concern she'd held when agreeing to spend time with The Muse and I. Her perspective tends to shift around us, and some of the more upsetting elements of her life come into sharper focus when we're around. I have no idea why this might happen, but I could not successfully argue against this being her experience. We each hold the ability to go unconscious to frequent annoyances, and any change can bring these back into disturbing focus again.

The fundamental difficulty with any form of enlightenment seems to hover around the issue of coping. Any Jehu can stare into the eye of God, but not everyone can avoid blinding themselves with the experience. Mindfulness might bring any number of blinding revelations, none of which improve perception, absent some barely-describable ability to discern while experiencing. Full immersion too easily produces drowning sensations. Slip over here for more ...



I mentioned to The Muse that this place seems mostly populated by people who don't live here anymore. In the nearly two generations since I left my home town for the first time, almost every structure has been repurposed. New homes have sprouted on the peripheries and older ones refurbished inside. Some have gone derelict, some derelicts, refurbished. I still navigate according to a circa 1965 map, referring to places by their old names, baffling The Muse.

I can never feel certain that my eyes aren't lying to me, that I see what's there rather than what used to be there, the ghosts sometimes overwhelming my senses. I imagine my great great grandparents inside that little house that so long ago held them. Lower Main, once shoulder to shoulder taverns and bordellos now features more new construction than old. Shadows predominate. Slip over here for more ...



The Grand Otter started her first job today. She's been enraptured at the prospect, after looking for over a year with only two interviews granted in that time. She almost consigned herself to the ranks of those who would never find suitable employment until a friend vouched for her and that second interview went well. Now, performance time looms. Serving tables three to nine, her school day extended until well after dark, her days shifting from long and empty to surprisingly short and full. Slip over here for more ...


I describe my hometown, Walla Walla, Washington, as "the center of the universe, where gravity works right," because for me, it sits in the center of MY universe, and I know the place well enough that I can anticipate gravity's fickle fluctuations. Others, perhaps poisoned by early exposure to Looney Tunes cartoons, consider Walla Walla a joke location, good for a giggle and little else.

In spite of my heart-felt conviction, I began plotting my escape from this lovely little valley well before my seventeenth birthday, and I've been largely successful in my efforts to find other places to live, if not set down even remotely permanent-feeling roots. I have, instead, lived most of my adult life as a non-resident evangelist for the place I could not bear to live. Slip over here for more ...



The Scariest Person In The World can't hardly bear to go to bed at night. She's up 'till all hours, though she knows full well how early that alarm clock will ring. Her day job seems certain to exhaust her again, though she prayed hard to land it and felt especially fortunate when she did. It didn't change much.

She inherited her terror, bequeathed by her mother, and, I suppose, her mother's mother before her. A long family history of histrionics, strong-willed females exacting tribute they intended to resolve something. Whatever that something might have been, not even they ever knew for sure. Slip over here for more ...



The Grand Otter reported after the lunch stop that she had been chosen for a special program at her school. "I was like the least qualified, but they chose me anyway. It was like a five hour session on leadership."

"So, how was that?" I asked.

"You know those experiences where everything you hear just seems to mean so much, but after, you can't describe what happened?"

"Of course."

"It was like that." Slip over here for more ...



I might define culture as the set of rules delimiting the unspeakable. The unspeakable rules every human system, though we focus more intently upon what we're supposed to say so we can stay on the stepping stones and not end up slogging around in soggy shoes.

I start my consulting engagements by asking the prospective client what cannot be talked about. I explain that as an alien within their system, I could easily start yakking about forbidden topics and thereby instantly undermine my credibility. Many respond by insisting that anyone can talk about anything there, which we both recognize as absolutely unlikely, but every client's first responsibility has always been to at least try to undermine anyone they hire to help. How else could any client hope to retain their self-respect? Slip over here for more ...



He taught her to play that leaf-front girl guitar I bought her that summer before her world started falling apart. The way she took to that instrument made ducks question the depth of their relationship with water. After that first lesson, she wrote her first song. Others quickly followed.

Franklin turned out to become one of the few unconditionally positive influences in The Grand Otter's life then, for he taught her to open up just when the world seemed to insist that she just had to shut down or die. At fourteen-going-on-twenty-three, she could arrogantly ignore almost any good advice, but Franklin, side-stepping the usual defense mechanisms, invited her to open up no more than that girl guitar insisted. Girl guitars carry an insistence all their own. Slip over here for more ...



The GrandOtter says she wants to learn to drive a stick shift, and I agree to help. I feel delighted that she wants to acquire this throw-back ability. In twenty years, I figure nobody will even drive once self-driving cars become the norm, so learning to drive a stick shift will hold all the utility of knowing how to drive oxen. I, myself, never learned to drive oxen, and I deeply feel the inability. One never knows in what shape that next zombie apocalypse might leave the world, so arcane knowledge of any kind attracts my interest.

We start with the motor off, playing through shifting scenarios, intending to start imprinting that invisible gear arrangement schematic. After sixty years of stick shift driving, that pattern remains a minor mystery to me, and this blind spot becomes obvious as I set to failing to explain it. While each gear holds a specific position, finding that position relies upon more intuition, more feel, than I can explain. I realize that I have never felt completey confident I've found a gear until that gear engages. Slip over here for more ...


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